The series takes a step back this week from more complicated episodes to focus again on Emma's past.
Picking up where we left off, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Captain Hook (Colin O'Donoghue) head up the beanstalk to steal the magical compass.
Between bouts of witty repartee and open flirting (on his part, at least), they manage to abscond with said compass.
Emma makes sure Hook gets left behind, though. But it's okay because she has discovered that the giant (Jorge Garcia) isn't such a bad guy after all.
Meanwhile, 11 years ago, a thieving young Emma hooks up with a fellow thief named Neal Cassidy (Michael Raymond-James) and heads off on a life of crime with him.
August Booth (Eion Bailey) shows up and (very conveniently) convinces Neal to abandon Emma. August says he must do so in order for Emma to fulfill her destiny to break the Curse instead of living as a fugitive in Canada.
Emma is devastated by Neal's betrayal. Neal is revealed to be Henry's biological father. And August is presumably the one who sent Neal the postcard in "Broken."
And as a footnote, it turns out that Aurora (Sarah Bolger) and Henry (Jared Gilmore) seem to be having the same nightmare of being stuck in a very specific burning red room.
"Tallahassee" worked on a lot of levels. It was more focused than many recent episodes, wisely limiting the story to just revolve around Emma. This allowed the writers some room to breathe and build her character.
The Hook & Emma show! These two had great chemistry and were fun to raid a giant's cave with. Here's hoping that Hook gets out of that cave and finds his way back to the girls before too long. Who knew that Captain Hook could make female fans swoon?
"Lost" fan-favorite Jorge Garcia brought as much life to the Giant as anyone could have in such a short time.
Snow White and Aurora's Sleeping Curse bonding was nice, and it finally gave Aurora something to do. Although she is still annoying.
Finally, who is Neal Cassidy, really? While appearing to answer the identity question opened in "Broken," the use of what seems to be a fake name made it clear that his story is not over.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK
Is it fair to harp on the CGI again? Realistically, there was no way to create the Giants' realm without heavy CGI usage. And they tried, they really did. But once the humans left the somewhat-believable beanstalk, the fakery was really horrendous.
Did August steal that wad of cash from Emma? And wasn't he being a bit of a stalker too? And what made him so certain that she had to separate from Neal in order to fulfill her destiny? While it's nice to know that he was belatedly trying to fulfill his promise to his father, his methods in going about it where a little muddled.
And what on earth was in that box, aside from a terribly convenient plot device?
Can't anyone on this series solve their problems by sitting down and having a reasonable conversation with their loved ones? Everyone seems to be deciding (or convincing everyone else) to disappear without proper explanation. Enough with that plot device, writers.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
"Tallahassee" was directed by David Barrett. It was written by Christine Boylan and Jane Espenson.
"Once Upon a Time" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
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