“I will always find you.” It’s a quote that has become synonymous with Once Upon a Time. A beautiful sentiment that encompasses love stories both romantic and familial and one that is the very heart of the series. Before the second half of Season 5 began, I wrote about this as Emma echoing the line was a moving way of bringing the theme for circle. I wrote:
What is beautiful is that while this may have began with Snow White awakened by Prince Charming, the concept of finding each other is undeniably part of the Charming family as a whole.
It always has been and always will be something the characters reiterate time and time again, so that when Emma says the iconic line vowing to find Killian, it not only solidifies Emma’s love for Killian as the type of strong and steadfast affection that she shares with her parents and her son, but also that Killian is now included as part of this family.
When examining the series as a whole, it’s clear that the “I will always find you” concept is abundant and strong. But what is remarkable is that this is not the only concept that is reiterated time and time again with the romantic and family stories of Emma and Killian, Snow and David, Henry and Emma, and the Charming Family as a whole. “I will always find you” could continue with “you will always come back to me.” And what is also remarkable is not only the consistency in which these two concepts are employed, but also that they are linked and share a similar pattern. Although there are some exceptions, it is usually David who finds Snow, Henry who finds Emma, and Emma who finds Killian. While it does vary, they all come back to each other, often demonstrating striking parallels. Importantly, the concepts are both physical and emotional, while the number of times we see these motifs are astounding, showcasing a clear inherent trait to these characters and their journeys with Snow and Charming initiating, Henry and the family continuing and finally Emma and Killian solidifying these exquisite themes transcending and propelling them to new heights, giving, unsurprisingly, the Savior the most remarkable love story of all in terms of just how much this patterns is showcased . But make no mistake these are all connected, meant to be so, each story building upon the other and written as such to express what the true love you find with a lover and with your family can and should encompass. Let’s explore each and every journey and the ways these characters will always find and come back to each other.
Snow White and Prince Charming:
The very first scene of the series is Charming finding Snow. Her gives her a True Love’s Kiss and she comes back to him and he says the iconic line is “I Will Always Find You.”
1×3 Snow Falls:
In the Enchanted Forest, the first meeting of Snow and Charming was a memorable one and Charming vows and makes good on his promise to always find her– at first meant in a non romantic way- but establishing the concept from the very beginning of their relationship.
Later, their journey took a romantic turn when the two are battling trolls. As they try to escape Snow realizes he is not with her, comes back to Charming and saves his life (Something that is repeated even when the timeline is altered in 3×22).
At the ending of the episode, the iconic line then changes to a romantic one and the rest is history.
In Storybrooke, Mary Margaret finds David, nearly drowned, saying “No, no no I found you!” She performs CPR and a bit of a kiss, and asks him to come back to her (Something that is later paralleled to Emma and Killian).
It’s important to note that with the exception of the next episode, Snow (Mary Margaret) pleading for Charming (David) to come back to her established the pattern and he is the one who does so multiple times, something that is later paralleled with Emma and Killian’s relationship, but on a grander scale.
1×16 Heart of Darkness:
Charming finds Snow, who has no memory of him. He tries True Love’s Kiss, but is knocked out by the princess. But after he risks his own like to protect her heart, she kisses him and she comes back to him. As Regina’s guards approach they take Charming away and Snow now echoes the line he first said.
1×21 An Apple Red as Blood:
Snow thinks she finds Charming, but only finds his reflection, as he is in another castle. Wondering is this will always be their life, Charming assures her that they will truly find each other again.
1×22 A Land Without Magic:
After the curse is broken Snow and Charming find each other and echo the same lines they said in the Pilot.
2×8 Into the Deep:
Putting himself under a sleeping curse, Charming finds Snow in the Netherworld and gives Snow the hope she needs that they will always find each other.
2×9 The Queen of Hearts:
After a separation Snow and Charming both come back to each other, she returning to Storybrooke, he after she awakens him with True Love’s Kiss.
3×5 Good Form:
After Charming had left Snow for what he thought would be the last time, he comes back to her, cured from the dreamshade poisoning, thanks to Hook (A situation later very much akin to Emma and Killian in Season 4 when he has his heart returned).
3×19 A Curious Thing:
After sacrificing his heart to enact the dark curse, Charming comes back to Snow when gives shes him half of her heart.
3×21/22 Snow Drifts/There’s No Place Like Home:
Much like Snow Falls, despite the timeline being altered Snow and Charming’s story plays out in a very similar way, with the same lines being echoed and their story arriving back at the same place.
Emma and Henry and The Charming Family:
Although the frequency of the pattern is less so with Emma and her son, the important thing is that in the first season we see the first and last episode employ both concepts and from that moment on the entire family begins to work more as a unit, slowly but surely encompassing the finding and coming back to each other. We see this verbally and physically and eventually it becomes part of Emma in a more substantial way most especially in her romantic journey with Killian. But first let’s look at Emma’s family.
Henry finds Emma in Boston and she comes back with him to Storybrooke.
Charming places a newborn Emma into the wardrobe and whispers “Find Us” sending her into the Land Without Magic.
1×22 A Land Without Magic:
After willingly falling under a sleeping curse, Henry comes back to Emma when she gives him True Love’s Kiss and breaks the curse on Storybrooke.
Seeing their daughter for the first time since the curse is broken, Snow and Charming embrace Emma, Snow saying “You Found Us” a moving line as Charming’s last words spoken to her as a baby were for her to find them.
2×2 We Are Both:
Charming assures Henry that he knows Emma and Snow are okay and that he will find them, as he always does.
3×8/9 Think Lovely Thoughts/Save Henry:
After finally finding Henry in Neverland and battling Pan, Henry’s heart is returned to him and he comes back to his entire family.
4×2 White Out:
Giving Elsa hope, Charming says what their family does is find people– importantly with family surrounding him: Snow, Emma. Henry and Killian.
4×22/23 Operation Mongoose:
One by one Henry finds members of his family (Regina, Killian and Emma) in the alternate universe to try to set things right. Significantly Henry finds Emma with Killian’s help and she not only remembers her son but with a bright smile of pride and love relays that beautiful hopeful line that her family has come to embody “I knew you’d find me” because that’s what their family always does.
Captain Swan and The Charming Family:
The pattern of “I will always find you” and “you will always come back to me” was firmly established by Snow and Charming, Henry and the Charming family, so that when Emma was ready to open her heart romantically, she would find someone who fits into this so mold perfectly. And that is by design – Killian was meant to be her romantic true love and the ways in which they not only follow this, but propel these themes to new depths and intensity are significant and beautiful. And it’s also by design that it is simply intrinsically part of their characters individually. Since the beginning Emma has inherently followed in the genetic footsteps of her family mentality. It’s a part of the her make up and importantly was in her without her ever having known her parents growing up – only a whisper from her father when she was minutes old of “find us.” But as we have seen since day one and something that has continued as more pieces of her past have been revealed, finding people is what she does. Mary Margaret asks her about this in Episode 3 Snow Falls.
Mary Margaret: It’s an interesting job- finding people. How’d you fall into it?
Emma: Looking for people is just what I’ve done- for as long as I can remember.
Mary Margaret: What made you start? You’re parents? Henry told me that you were from a similar situation to his own.
Did you ever find them?
Emma: Depends who you ask.
And we later learn in 5×20 Firebird that as a young adult she was trying to find her parents, shifting that desire to her new job as a bail bonds person. This was always a part of her. As for Killian, something inherently part of his character is that he is a survivor, having lived for over 300 years thanks to Neverland, curses and a lucky ring (and perhaps even more that we don’t know). His ability to survive is in no small part to his tenacity, and it makes him someone who could always come back. But it’s more than being a survivor. It’s the fierceness and the brevity with which he feels that makes Killian someone who fits the mold of the Charming family so perfectly. The romantic journey of Emma and Killian starts out in the same steady progression as its predecessors.
2×5 The Doctor:
Emma finds Hook laying among Cora’s deceased victims (now a foreshadow to Emma finding Killian among the dead in the Underworld). It’s important to note that despite 3 other characters bring there, Emma is the one to find him, with the camera making a deliberate shot of Killian turning his head to look up at Emma. This was only the beginning.
2×12 In the Name of the Brother:
Both a case of finding and coming back, Emma is the one to find Killian on the side of the road, he coming back to her in a way after she left him via a portal in the Enchanted Forest, thinking he had no way to follow.
2×22 And Straight On Til Morning:
After taking the last magic bean, planning to leave Storybrooke to its fate, Killian comes back to Emma and the rest of the Charming Family. Importantly, this is after Emma offers him a chance to be a part of something- essentially to be part of the town. That, combined with him offering his ship to help follow Henry to Neverland, is the first step of Killian becoming part of this family. And you cannot help but notice the deliberate way the camera pans onto to Emma specifically as she sees that it is he who is coming back.
3×1 The Heart of the Truest Believer
After nearly drowning, Emma comes back to her family, the camera panning to Killian multiple times as he looks on relieved.
3×11 Going Home:
After a tearful but heartfelt goodbye in Storybrooke for what they believed would be forever, Killian does both things in a sense. He finds and comes back to Emma in New York one year later, trying True Love’s Kiss to restore her memories.
3×12 New York City Serenade:
Determined to help restore her memories, Killian finds Emma at a restaurant on her date with Walsh. Later, she finds him in the park and then the police station and after an impassioned speech Emma takes a leap of faith and drinks the memory potion Killian gives to her. Emma’s memory is restored and her true self comes back to Killian. Later, over a shared drink Killian admits that he came back to save her.
3×13 Witch Hunt:
As she said at the end of the previous episode, Emma once again relates how “Hook found me.”
In a beautiful parallel to Snow and Charming, Killian nearly drowns and Emma saves his life pleading for him to come back to her. And he does. Also interesting is the way Zelena phrases her remark to them, “Instead of of looking for each other.” Shouldn’t it be looking at each other? This is obviously a commentary by the writers of the way they are always looking for and finding each other.
3×21 Snow Drifts:
In Storybrooke Killian finds Emma on a bench and the two have a heart to heart about what home truly is.
3×22 There’s No Place Like Home:
When Emma and Killian return from their trip to the past the first thing Emma does is run to find her parents and embraces them when she finds them in Granny’s. She had found her family and her home and missed them terribly.
But minutes later Emma turns and looks wistful because someone is not there- the one missing person. You don’t have a home until you miss it. Well, Emma missed Killian’s presence so she goes in search of him and found him sitting alone outside of Granny’s. He finally reveals that he was able to find her with the use of a magic bean that he traded his ship for. And she kisses him- letting down her walls and opening her heart. She had found her home with her parents, her son, and now with Killian. Of course this was just the official beginning of their relationship and there was more to come.
4×2 White Out:
After being trapped in an ice cave with Elsa, Emma’s new friend frees them both and Emma comes back to a relieved Killian, falling into his embrace as they cling tightly to each other.
4×8 Smash the Mirror:
After deciding to keep her magic Killian finds Emma in the Sorcerer’s Mansion, hugging her fiercely.
4×9/11 Fall/Heroes and Villians:
A heartless Killian says goodbye to Emma for what he believes will be the last time. Kissing her passionately, she can sense something is not right with him. After discovering Gold’s deception Emma finds Killian, whose heart was just saved by Belle. When they are alone Emma places Killian’s heart back into his chest and Killian comes back to her, once again kissing her passionately, but now as his complete self.
4×15 Poor Unfortunate Soul:
Once again Killian comes back to Emma after nearly drowning, this time revealing to her that she is his happy ending.
By the time we reach the end of Season 4 and head into Season 5 there is no doubt that Emma and Killian are deeply in love, but the ways in which the relationship follows the pattern is not only beautiful but remarkable in the ways they continually find and come back to each other. In season 5 we often have Emma’s soul and Killian’s life in danger, as well as both so often asking them to come back to them in other words. It takes a while and it is an emotional concept but in 5A this is prevalent. In 5B, it is more of a physical concept as the finding and coming back continues in a significant way not only for them as a couple but for each of them as a family. Emma and Killian not only parallel Emma’s parents, but take it to a new level, and eventually reaching a point where Killian is undeniably part of Emma’s family.
4×22 Operation Mongoose:
This is the episode that began to propel the pattern between Killian, Emma and her family to a new level with the number of times each concept was both emphasized and employed. In the alternate universe, Henry finds Killian and then the two venture to rescue Emma and find her locked away in a tower. In a deleted scene Henry emphasizes that he was able to find her with the help of Hook, and when they retreat down the tower Emma runs right into Killian’s arms.
To save Emma and Henry, Killian sacrifices himself, leaving Emma devastated. When things are restored and they return to Storybrooke, Emma finds Killian in the loft who has come back to her, happily embracing him. This is the first time Killian dies and then comes back to Emma, and the second time he does after a near death experience, the first being when she saves him from drowning in Kansas.
Season 4 ends on a dramatic note setting up the repeated and combined pattern for Emma and Killian as she saves everyone by becoming the Dark One, disappearing and leaving only the dagger with her name now inscribed on it behind. As the camera pans to Killian we are left knowing that Emma not only must be found, but her true self will have to come back to her family.
5×1 The Dark Swan:
When Emma is transported to the Enchanted Forest her family does everything they can to reach her. They all find her, but importantly it is Killian who calls out “Swan!” and approaches her first. As Emma is struggling with the dark voice inside her head and nearly crushes Merida’s heart, Killian is able to break through and she comes back to him, returning Merida’s heart and falling into Killian’s arms.
5×2 The Price:
In Storybroooke, Emma finds Killian after he summons her and she takes him to her house. He tries to get the real Emma to come back to him by attempting True Love’s Kiss. This is one of the many times throughout 5A Killian tries to bring the real Emma back. In this case he’s unaware TLK could not work because they are both Dark Ones.
5×3 Siege Perilous:
In Storybrooke, Emma once again finds Killian, this time on the Jolly Roger, asking him to meet her as she tries to recreate their first date. And once again Killian wants to real Emma to come back to him telling her that the Emma he loves isn’t here. As Emma isn’t ready to reveal the truth and Killian tells her he loved her, Emma leaves. This is the second occurrence of the frequent pattern of finding and an attempt for Emma to come back to Killian in an emotional regard. In Storybrooke these instances are very different than Camelot, and we slowly learn why.
5×4 The Broken Kingdom:
In Camelot, Killian finds Emma late at night struggling with the voice of Rumplestlskin taunting her in her head. He approaches her slowly and holds her tenderly trying to once again bring the real Emma back, but still unaware of her plight.
Later when she tells him about this voice, he devises a way to help her- to quiet the darkness so the real Emma, at least in some sense, can come back to him. He takes her for a horse ride and then leads her in to a field of flowers, and it works. The voice is gone and Emma feels less burdened because she can share it will Killian. The two then share a passionate and romantic kiss, with the darkness, for now, kept at bay.
Before Emma departs with Merlin to obtain the Promethean flame, Killian reminds Emma that only “The Dark One” is immortal, asking her to bring the real Emma home – to come back to him– giving her a ring that has kept him safe as a reminder of his love for her.
In Storybrooke, Emma continually finds Killian when he was in “danger” in order to gain his trust, finally reveal the truth and destroy the darkness. In Camelot, after refusing to admit why she is scared to give up the darkness whilst Regina uses the dagger to force her to, Killian finds Emma in the forest, upset, with the Promethean flame still not lit. With understanding, Emma tells him the truth and once again he is able to get the real Emma to come back to him, as she lets go of her fears of the future. Kissing Killian, the Promethean flame alights as she is ready to rid herself of the darkness and start her future with Killian.
At the end of the episode, Killian’s wound opens and to save his life Emma tether’s him to Excalibur, setting up the next episode for the pattern to continue.
5×10 Broken Heart:
After tethering him to Excalibur, Emma finds the new Dark One Killian in the Camelot forest. Angry, with the unrelenting the voice of Rumple in his head, it is now Emma who is able to break through the darkness and get the real Killian to come back to her, quieting he darkness and then sharing a kiss, paralleling their moment in 5×4.
After Killian’s learns Emma lied to him about Excalibur, he feels betrayed and lets the darkness overtake him. Nimue, through him, is able to kill Merlin to enact the Dark Curse, so Emma puts all her loved ones to sleep and erases their memories. Before the curse sends them back home, Emma cradles Killian’s face and says when they wake up he will be his true self- the man she loves, the man who loves her. She is asking him once again to come back to her.
5×11 Swan Song:
A pivotal and emotional chapter in their journey, this episode not only has Emma and Killian’s true selves coming back to each other, but the monumental and moving moment of Emma uttering her family’s steadfast motto. In Storybrooke, Nimue and all the other Dark One’s have taken over as Killian’s allows the darkness to consume him. But when Nimue chokes Emma and he sees he in pain, Killian fights back. He comes back to Emma, absorbing all of the darkness into Excalibur and sacrificing his life to save Emma and everyone else. His sacrifice allows the real Emma to come back to Killian as she magically transforms back into the Savior. True Love proved stronger than darkness, but Killian loses his life.
Heartbroken and numb as to what to do next, Emma learns Killian’s sacrifice did not destroy the darkness but instead channeled it back into Rumplestlskin, so Emma vows to got to the Underworld to get him back. Ready to save the man she loves and fight for her happy ending, Emma speaks those iconic words “I Will Always Find You,” for the first time expressing in words what she and Killian have been doing since they first met, but now fully committed. These words not only demonstrate Emma’s love and that she undeniably has embraced her family’s intrinsic motto, but it also sets up the continued pattern and places Killian firmly into the Charming Family.
In the second half of Season 5, Emma and Killian’s journey not only continues to be prevalent with these beautiful concepts, but also with Henry even more than he once did, and Snow and Charming. They include Killian as part of their family in the way they continually emphasize finding him. Even though they must leave him behind in the end, the season ends in a VERY significant way with all of the family members.
5×12 Souls of the Departed:
Entering the Underworld, Emma and her loved ones try to find Killian and use the ale of Dunbroch to communicate with him. Severely injured the connection with Killian is unsteady, leaving Emma devastated. But Snow and Charming implore they will find him and not leave until they so. Together.
5×14 Devil’s Due:
In the depths of the Underworld Emma finds Killian and saves him from the River of Lost Souls. Although he says she should have let him go, in this moment he comes back to Emma as they cling to each other.
5×15 The Brothers Jones:
Feeling unworthy of saving and unable to forgive himself of his sins, Killian tells Emma he does not plan to return home to Storybrooke with her. But after an emotional and illuminating reunion with his brother Liam, Killian learns to do just that. In the end he comes back to Emma, passionately kissing her, ready for their future together.
5×20/21 Firebird/Last Rites:
After confirming what they already knew in their hearts, Emma and Killian pass a test of True Love. But they are unable to find a way to restore his life, so Emma and Killian must let each other go. Tearful goodbyes and selfless promises made, they kiss each other one last time, and grasp hands for as long as possible. Both are heartbroken, but this sets up the continued pattern in the next episode in a truly dramatic way. In Last Rites, Killian and Emma sense what each other is feeling and Killian is able to help get Emma the crucial information they need to defeat Hades. Once he knows Emma is safe, the light to move on finally appears to Killian. He is then greeted by Zues with gratitude who escorts him onward, sending him to where he belongs- with Emma. Killian’s life is restored as he appears on his grave and finds Emma in the cemetery. He comes back to Emma in the most miraculous way possible, back to where he truly belongs- the arms of his True Love Emma.
5×22/23 Only You and An Untold Story:
With Killian’s life restored he was able to come back to Emma, but he also came back to the family he is now a part of. Dialogue and actions are always deliberate, so as he says “Now I’m back” accepting a hug from Charming, they are not only welcoming home their friend, and the man their daughter loves, but someone who is also another member of their family.
In these meaningful final moments of Season 5 we see that this repeated pattern of the series of always finding and coming back to each other is not only a staple with Emma, Killian, Snow, Charming, Henry and the Charmings, but also a way showcasing that all of these characters are indeed family. When Emma and Henry were living in New York with false memories, Henry could tell Emma was lonely (despite being in a relationship). So he threw a coin in a fountain and made a wish for his family to be complete. And a few days later Killian showed up on Emma’s doorstep, and the three returned to Storybrooke and were reunited with their family. But even more so this showed that Killian was the final missing piece of the puzzle. He not only found and came back to Emma through his own determination to save Emma, but also with a bit of magic and a wish from a boy who wished for his family to be complete.
So when they are faced with another separation from their family they made wishes once again, and with Henry’s faith and ability to make the world believe, their family came back them. And whether by blood, step relations, adoption, and creating and choosing they are all one crazy extended unconventional family (Snow, Charming, Emma, Henry, Killian, Regina, Zelena, Rumple, Belle). But it remains the ones that repeatedly follow these beautiful patterns that also do so here. And when Killian hugs Emma saying “I Knew You’d Find Us” with Emma relaying that this time it was Henry who did, it is pristinely clear that the boy who started it all by finding his mother in Boston once again, thanks to a heartfelt wish, found his family- each and every one of them.
When the family return home to Storybrooke and Emma and Killian take a moment for themselves, Emma takes the chance to express her love in a moment of peace and normalcy. After everything they went through- darkness, Hades, and being separated by realms, it was clear that not even death could part them with a love now confirmed as true. But all of these obstacles they went through demonstrated so profoundly that no matter what trials and tribulations they face- just like Snow and Charming, just like Henry and Emma, just like the entire Charming family- these words will always spoken, felt and showcased- “I will always find you. You will always come back to me.”