This was one of my favorite episodes of the series ever, so it is only natural that I would have a lot of additional thoughts on top of my Nerd Machine review. This is somewhat speculative on some levels as well, so I hope you enjoy!!
-The Dark Swan’s Motivations and Behavior:
There are so many questions and mysteries surrounding Emma’s motivations. What happened in Camelot? Why did she bring them all back to Storybrooke and erase their memories? What exactly does the Dark Swan want and how is that reflected in her demeanor and behavior? She says she wants to punish those who failed her in Camelot and she is isolating herself from everyone except Killian and Henry. She wants to forge the dagger with Excalibur so she can do what all other Dark Ones failed to do- snuff out the light forever. The light they are always pulled towards filled with those they love and those that love them. But what would she gain by snuffing out this light? Ultimate power? Total darkness in the world, meaning complete isolation from love? That does not sound like something Emma would want, especially since as the Dark One, your qualities are simply amplified. Though the darkness can also twist things and lead to bad decisions. That is what makes Emma’s motivations so unclear and enigmatic. Some of her behavior can be analyzed, however, if you imagine all of her characteristics put under a microscope and magnified, the good and the bad ones. More importantly, I think her behavior is related to the way she grew up, her new responsibilities as the Savior, and her insecurities. And frankly much of this is empathetic. She grew up without a real home, so the house she takes up residence in is a beautiful, spacious Victorian complete with a white picket fence. It’s the type of idyllic home a young Emma would have dreamed of living in with a family that loved her. But inside the home lacks warmth. The tables only have two chairs, there are no photos on the walls, and in the end she is sitting alone in the dark at her kitchen table. Emma may have a house, but not a home.
Additionally, Emma has always been afraid of opening her heart because those she did so with left her, so she seems quite possessive of Killian.
But her insecurities also come into play. She has often felt unloved and not good enough, so when Killian refused her advances, heartbroken his kiss did not work, she says it’s because this is who she is now, and does not understand why he can’t accept that. This is what makes the relationship between them so dramatic.
– The Push and Pull between Emma & Killian:
The push and pull between Captain Swan in this episode during the present day Storybrooke was set up so beautifully. They deeply, truly, and passionately love each other. There is no question about that. But when he tells her “this isn’t you” she is hurt, feeling like once again like she is not good enough. Of course this is not true. Killian loves Emma for who she is through and through. But there is bound to be this constant push and pull between them in this half of the season, because this is not the true Emma. She is in there, but the Dark One persona is overriding her. Belle understood why True Love’s kiss did not work with Rumple, but she still chose to be with him. She accepted him as the Dark One because she believed he could be that and a good man. While it’s important to accept those we love unconditionally, at the same time this did not help Rumple at all. No one would fault Belle, but true love should inspire us to be our best selves, and he only descended deeper into darkness. For Killian, he just wants the Emma he knows, to save her from the darkness. Obviously, this is a good thing, but she is hurt he isn’t accepting her as she is. The journey for Emma and Killian is sure to be somewhere in between these two states. Loving accepting each other as they are, but also inspiring each other to be their best selves- to be good people. In the end this kind of true love will be stronger than the darkness.
– The Emphasis on Hands & Isolation:
Once again hands proved significant, and for all of the characters. The moment Regina, Snow, David, Leroy, and Arthur all joined hands and fought off the fury we see the symbolism of hands united that has been prevalent on the show. Together they are stronger and can defeat anything.
For Emma, we saw the beginning of her isolation from her loved ones with this emphasis on hands, and also significantly, paralleling where Killian once was. After she heals Robin we see her let go of Killian’s hand and leave him, a shot they made an effort to clearly show in frame.
When she returns, she stands in the doorway, physically and symbolically separated from her loved ones, even at this early stage. It is so reminiscent of when Killian stood the doorway of the hospital room, looking in at the happy Charming family. In both cases, there is a separation from the family they care for, and a sadness because of it.
And just like when Killian stood alone across from Granny’s looking in at the Diner with sadness and longing in his eyes, at the end of this episode we see Emma do the same. That is the real Emma in that moment. This cannot be what she wants. And what was so heart wrenching in that moment was what Emma does with her hands. Not long ago, she was walking down the street, Killian’s hand entwined with hers. Now she isolated from him, so to fill this void, she clasps her hands together. She holds her own hand.
This is heartbreaking, but just the beginning of her journey. When she realizes this path of darkness will not lead her towards what she truly wants, she will reach out her hand towards light and love again.
– Passionate Kisses:
There was something so moving in the similarities between the two attempts at True Love’s Kiss. They really mirrored each other. Killian kissed Emma in Storybrooke, Emma kissed Killian in Camelot. Both were incredibly passionate, loving, and desperate attempts to destroy the darkness. And both times Killian pulled away out of concern and confusion. You feel both anguish and melancholy and love and hope in both kisses. And significantly, you don’t have two attempts (on top of Killian’s other attempt), if a truly successful one was not on the horizon. That would be cruel to both the characters and the audience, and while they do have moments that make us cry, they also believe in happy endings. Once Upon a Time is not a show about despair, but rather hope. Maybe it’s not just about choosing love over power. Perhaps it’s not just about destroying darkness but restoring love.
– The Ball at Camelot:
The Ball was one of the loveliest gifts the show has ever bestowed upon us, and one of the most beautiful moments was seeing Emma hold Killian’s hook while they were dancing. He has always been a bit self conscious about it, going so far as to have his hand reattached for their first date. But to Emma it does not matter whether he has two hands or not. And that was clear as we see them dancing, her holding onto his hook with the same gentleness and natural ease as a hand. She loves him exactly the way he is.
The way Robin and Regina danced was also so incredibly sweet. I liked seeing them have a moment lost in each other. There is not much else to say about the moment below except that it is absolutely adorable, and it also looks like it could be the actors simply laughing. Either way, it works, and it’s as cute as all get out.
– Wedding Foreshadowing:
There has always been a great deal of wedding allusions and hints of foreshadowing for Emma and Killian, from them holding up rings to each other, to so often a wedding dress being visible in a storefront behind them in many scenes. You may say that is simply a coincidence, but they could have anything in these store windows. Why a wedding dress? I for one think nothing is by chance on this show.
Moreover, the way in which the Ball was filmed was like a beautiful prelude to what a wedding would look like for their characters. From Emma’s white lace dress that was so reminiscent of a wedding gown, to the smile on Killian’s face filed with all the love and amazement that a groom would express watching his bride walk down the aisle, it is impossible for me to believe this was not PURPOSEFULLY meant to resemble a wedding.
-Does Killian have a connection to Camelot?:
Is Killian connected to this mystical realm? No I do not think he has any kind of obvious connection because I think he would be forthcoming about that. I do however, feel like there may be some kind of unexpected connection, even to him. There did seem to be a pull between him and Excalibur. Not only was he immediately drawn to the door leading to it, but in the promotional poster for the season (seen below in an uncompleted state where he is more visible), we see him not only very close to King Arthur, but he is holding a sword. To my recollection there are rarely any promotional images of him holding a blade. Is this a clue? Will he be the one Emma needs to pull Excalibur from the stone? But what would the price be for doing so? It is sure to be steep and Emma may not even fully understand it. The image of Rumple in her head hardly seems infallible and trustworthy. What if the price she would pay would be losing Killian?
– Henry & Violet:
True Love couples share the distinction of meeting each other multiple times, sometimes unaware of the fact. Emma and Killian hold the record at 4 first meetings, Regina and Robin have met 3 times, while Snow and David twice. Henry and his first crush Violet have now met each other twice and it was very similar to the way in which Regina and Robin did in Season 3, the conversation (song) making them feel as if it’s happened before. It is uncertain what the future hold for Violet’s character, but I hope whoever her family is decides to stay in Storybrooke, so Henry will not suffer the pangs of adolescent heartbreak.
– Arthur & Guinevere:
Before the season began I had the feeling that no one in Camelot could be fully trusted. While Arthur is not being completely truthful of altruistic about wanting to reunite the dagger with Excalibur and make it whole, he did earn some trust by standing with our heroes to help save Robin Hood. Of course that could still be a facade. But Guinevere on the other hand seems far more untrustworthy at the moment and her preoccupation with Excalibur is suspicious.