"Once Upon a Time" returned Sunday night, with our heroes and villains sailing straight into the strange new world (that we've briefly visited before) of Neverland in pursuit of Henry, who's been kidnapped from his Storybrooke home. How do you start the new season off? By showing the event that pretty much started the show on its path. The birth of Henry, and Emma's rejection of him -- a possible theme for the coming season.
We join our unhappily grouped crew -- Regina/Evil Queen, Emma Swan, Captain Hook, Mary Margaret/Snow White, David/Prince Charming, and Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin -- as they journey to Neverland aboard Hook's ship to retrieve the kidnapped Henry from the nefarious Peter Pan.
No jovial little boy in green tights here, the mysterious Pan enlisted Mendel and Tamara to nab Henry and destroy Storybrooke. They were able to make off with Henry and return to Neverland, but promptly somehow lose all contact with the outside world. Henry quickly figures out that these two were just pawns.
Back aboard the ship, Emma finally voices her festering resentment of Snow and Charming -- though now it seems that she just hates how cheery they are in the face of all the bad stuff that's happened. Rumpel dons his Dark One persona once more, as Hook notes by his inappropriate "wardrobe change." Rumpel is going to rescue Henry alone. He especially won't take Emma because she doesn't believe in anything: magic, her parents, and even herself. That could be a dangerous thing because, as he says, "Neverland is a place where imagination runs wild, and sadly, yours doesn't." Poof, he's gone.
Tamara is starting to question her mission to destroy magic and her superiors, right as they show up. The Lost Boys, and they're not so little or so nice. Mendel understands that they've been led astray in their mission, but it's too late. A shadow swoops down and seemingly rips out Mendel's soul, while the Lost Boys shoot Tamara with an arrow. Henry luckily escapes, and is helped out by an ex-Lost Boy who pulls him aside. What luck!
As Hook and Emma drink to Neal's/Baelfire's health, we cut to Neal waking up in the Enchanted Forest. Surrounded by Prince Philip, Princess Aurora and Mulan, Neal tells them that he needs to get back to Emma and Snow to make sure they're all right.
Back on Hook's ship, an attack by mermaids almost capsizes the ship. They're mean fish people, but Regina is powerful and flames up a bunch of them in one pass. Snow and Emma capture one, and the mermaid calls forth a storm that feeds off of the anger and dissension in the group. Emma figures this out and tries to stop the group from fighting by throwing herself overboard -- well, because no one was listening, that's why. She probably doesn't plan on being knocked out while in the water and having to be rescued by Charming. Either way, it works, and the group stops fighting which disperses the storm.
In the Enchanted Forest, Bael tells Mulan that our world thinks they're all fairy tales, and that they made a good movie about her. "What's a movie?" Too much to explain. He and Mulan need to go find a way to get back to Emma and the others when Aurora is unable to contact anyone through the dream world. Off to Rumpelstilskin's castle for a magical solution.
Meanwhile, Rumpel finds the struggling Tamara and heals her. She tells him that Henry escaped, and asks for his forgiveness. She didn't know who she was working for. Rumpel's not the forgiving type ... and he takes her heart from her, turning it to dust.
Neal and Mulan, now in Rumpelstiltskin's castle, meet Robin Hood, who's temporarily taken control of the castle in Rumpel's absence. They actually become fast friends as Neal looks for some sort of magical item that may help him get back to the group. He does find something, but all the magical snow globe tells him is that Emma is now in Neverland, a place we know he's been before.
Back in Neverland, one of Pan's minions confronts Rumpelstiltskin, and after a threatening exchange, gives him a mysterious doll that makes Rumpel cry. Curious, but no sympathy here.
Henry and the lost boy -- who looks like a younger version of Michael Cera -- are on the run from the other lost boys. At what looks to be a dead end, Henry grabs some pixie dust from the lost boy, and they escape by flying away on the power of Henry's belief. Problem is, once they land, Henry is dismayed to find out that the boy, his fast friend and savior, is actually Peter Pan himself. Pan was looking for Henry because he needed to find the heart of the truest believer. And now that Henry is here and has proved his heart, Pan has what he needs. For what purpose exactly? We don't yet know, but it looks like a promising start to the season.