2018 Year in Review: Favorite Television Performances, Relationships, Moments, and More

Performances:
Actresses:

5. Teresa Palmer (A Discovery of Witches) diana 1.gif

Diana Bishop is an incredibly strong, intelligent and loving character. Thrust into danger with power awakening inside her, Diana overcomes past fears and denials as she learns to embrace the extraordinary magic within her, subsequently awakening a fierce strength as well. While falling deeply in love illuminates all of these qualities tenfold. And Palmer showcased all of these qualities with grace, nuance and beauty. She maintained an authentic balance of fierce confidence are understandable fears and it was lovely to watch.

4. Alex Borstein (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) alex

Susie is tough as nails, brash and harsh with just about everyone. It would be easy to come off as a one note character. But there is more to this character and Borstein showcases the layers to her character so well, most especially in moments where we see how much she cares about Midge, and when others show true care and affection towards her. When her fellow workers in the Catskills shower her with love and relief after believing she had been missing, you both laugh and are touched watching a woman who clearly had not experienced many moments like this. Borstein perfectly portrays a woman who doesn’t always know how to show or accept affection, but its meaning is not lost on her. It’s written all over her face.

3. Melissa Roxburgh (Manifest) melissa

Michaela Stone boarded Flight 828 unsure of her future, wracked with guilt over a car accident that resulted in her friend’s death, but with her brother’s advice and her mother’s unfailing love and wisdom in her ears. She departed the plane feeling more hopeful and ready to accept her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, only to have that all come crashing down learning that not only have 5 years have passed, but her mother has passed away, and her boyfriend had married her best friend. Heartbreak is then met with strange voices and callings and dangers abound. Through it all Roxburgh has showcased Michaela’s heartbreak, anger, confusion, and determination to find her place and inner strength with grace and authenticity. Her performance is indeed one of the show’s finest aspects.

2. Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) mrs-maisel-thank-you-goodnight-1515699518

Miriam Maisel is a witty, effervescent, strong, intelligent, caring, verbose, beautiful, incredible and dynamic woman and it takes a brilliant performer to portray such a dynamic character. Brosnahan more than accomplishes this task. She has a radiant presence that is also very grounded in moments where Miriam is standing up for herself in a male dominated profession, when she falters when dealing with her father’s knowledge of her stand-up, and dealing with a turning point in her life professionally and personally. Midge Maisel is a realistic, marvelous gal we all can relate to and aspire to be like and it’s due to Brosnahan’s wonderful performance.

1. Mandy Moore (This Is Us) mandy

Many Moore is an incredible talent, whom I have been a fan since the beginning of her career. And it’s been a true joy and honor to bot only watch her continue to grow as a performer but also achieve great success. In This is Us, Moore is given the chance to shine and showcase her tremendous range and abilities. In 2018, we saw these exemplary talents on full display throughout many stages of Rebecca’s life:as a young and hopeful ingénue, falling in love, a happy wife, supportive mother, and grieving widow. The latter gave us the most devastating moment and brilliant performance of this season (perhaps even series) when the knowledge that Jack has died becomes reality when she walks into that hospital room and the camera focuses only on her. We feel every blinking moment of disbelief, every breath, and every tear, and cry of devastation. She gives a deeply affecting performance in her moments of grief, but beautifully balances those with soft moments of brave vulnerability and tender understanding, with countless members of her family. Moore’s performance is a exquisite balance of quiet beauty and authentic fierceness and an absolute wonder to watch.

Special Recognition: Amber Stevens West (Happy Together) amber

As Claire, Stevens West is bright and lovely, funny and sweet, a wonderful scene partner for Wayans Jr. and undeniably and effortlessly likable. Sitcom characters can often feel unrealistic but Stevens West brings a kind of natural grace and warmth that makes Claire feel real and relatable.

Actors:

5. Damon Wayans Jr. (Happy Together) damon

Not many performers can make me laugh as much, and indeed smile as much, as Wayans Jr. Always the scene stealer in Happy Endings and New Girl, as Jake in Happy Together, he infuses each scene with the same natural charm, hilarity, and sweetness now as the leading man, which greatly pleases me. It is so easy to love his performance bringing forth age old idea how laughter is truly infectious.

4. Tony Shalhoub (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) tony

Shalhoub has always been brilliant in my humble opinion, most especially as the OCD detective Adrian Monk. I was so pleased see him grace our screens again, in a completely different sort of role. A sort of long suffering, straight as an arrow, loving, but not without his quirks or strong opinions that go against what a modern audience, would deem right. And Shalhoub manages to make not only Abe Weisman lovable, but real and empathetic. Most especially in Season 2, when Abe’s wife leaves without him noticing, he discovers his daughter’s stand up, and has tribulations with his new job he is forced to re-examine his life and viewpoints and comes out all the better for it. Shalhoub is absolutely wonderful and provides some of Mrs. Maisel’s finest moments in 2018.

3. Josh Dallas (Manifest) josh

Forever in as our hearts as Prince Charming in Once Upon a Time, #CharmAttacks may not happen as much, but 2018 brought back Dallas to our screens in a dynamic and most welcome way- in a different kind of role, though with some humorous similarities (time jumps and not aging), with much more serious, darker and mysterious material. Ben Stone is a loving husband, father and brother, who loses 5 years with his family, who grieved and moved on when they believed him to be dead. He finds himself “replaced” somewhat by another man with his wife and daughter, is trying to wrap his head around the strange callings he and fellow passengers share and tirelessly wants to discover the truth behind the underlying government conspiracy that won’t leave them be. He only wants to protect his family and is pulled in every direction imaginable. We knew Dallas could portray a loving father beautifully, and this continues on Manifest as a very rational man who doesn’t hesitate to take action. Dallas’s performance is strong and stalwart with a quiet and melancholy vulnerability, and like Roxburgh’s performance, one of the finest attribute’s to Manifest.

2. Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us) jack 1

Ventimiglia has always portrayed Jack Pearson brilliantly, and 2018 was no different and in fact, showcased some of his finest work as we finally saw the cause of Jack’s untimely death, as well as learning more about the root of his need to protect others- it stems from protecting his younger brother at an early age from his abusive father, going well into adulthood when said brother is drafted into the Vietnam War. The combination of the new and illuminating, and very different look at a part of Jack’s life with the looks at his early love story with Rebecca and unconditional support of his children provided quite the poignant drama, made every so moving by the warmth, nuance and quiet strength in Ventimiglia’s performance.

1. Matthew Goode (A Discovery of Witches) matthew

Goode is a performer I have loved for years in both film and television, with Leap Year and Downton Abbey being two personal favorites. As the centuries old Matthew Clairmont, the brooding but passionate, strong and enigmatic vampire, Goode feels tailor made for the role and portrays his character as if it was written specifically for him- as is he is literally leaping of the page and onto our screens to give us chills and capture our hearts. Clairmont may be immortal, but what Goode brings to the part is undeniably human. He must be at times mysterious and dangerous and others times gentle and romantic. It’s a delicate balance but Goode brings charisma, warmth, and nuance brilliantly creating a captivating character and perfect partner in a love story of epic proportions. He is invigorating to watch.

Special Recognition: Andrew J. West (Once Upon a Time) andrew

It was a tall order to fill the shoes of an established character but now as a grown adult, and although the storyline was not perfect, West’s performance was admirable as it is clear he both studied Jared Gilmore’s performance as Henry in order to maintain the feel for the character, while bringing his own maturity and warmth. It helped to create a seamless transition and this is to be admired.

Casts:

3. The Series of Unfortunate Events Cast olafbaudelaires

What can I say about the cast of this unique series except that I never want to look away from such exceptional talent and we all out fortunate to witness this story unfold in such extraordinary hands. They all manage to bring levity to the serious, heart and pathos to the absurd and move and excite us with each tantalizing episode. Neil Patrick Harris is a true master of disguise as Count Olaf and it is a truly masterful performance while the Baudelaire siblings Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes and Pressley Smith bring so much heart and inspiration to the children who must employ their wits and bravery in this perpetual series of unfortunate events in their lives.

2. The Good Place Cast good place

The most unusual mix of characters continue to delight and move us in this colorful, absurd and yet grounded series about the afterlife and what it means to be human and every single person brings their own form of humor and charm, each with defining characteristics, so much so that while this is for the entire cast we must take special note of D’arcy Carden who as Janet performed an episode where this entity embodied every single character and embodied their speech patterns, mannerisms so spot on that it felt like you were actually watching them. It was incredible! But indeed, Kristen Bell is a riot as the guarded and tough but deep down vulnerable Eleanor, William Jackson Harper as Chidi makes his indecisiveness endearing instead of frustrating, Jameela Jamil’s Tahani seems out of touch and snobbish, but is hilariously endearing as we see her insecurities and good heart shine through, Manny Jacinto as the dim but sweet natured Jason is undeniably likable, and the incomparable Ted Danson makes a demon feel like the most innocent creature in the universe in what may be my favorite performance of his career. The show is called The Good Place, but the cast is absolutely Great!

1. The Timeless Cast

timeless 2

In the final season of the time traveling series, every single person shined and played a significant part in the plot of the last episodes, but each performance also helped make their respective characters and indeed the show its remarkable self- so much so that they all must be recognized. Abigail Spencer, Matt Lanter, Malcolm Barrett, Paterson Joseph, Sakina Jaffrey, Claudia Doumit, Goran Visnjic, and Annie Wersching were all incredibly powerful performers, knowing when to give and take with their scene partners, show the proper range of emotion from fear to delight to regret and hope. A show is only as good as the actors who breathe life into the written words, and this cast made a story out of time and space always remain firmly on the ground and still make us believe in a possible future. We laugh and cried and rooted for the end of Rittenhouse and for our Time team to not only save the day but find love, salvation and happiness. And these performers created indelibly timeless performances.

Favorite Returns:

Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Josh Dallas (Once Upon a Time) captain swan 3snowing

Could the fairy tale series really close the last page of its storybook without once again seeing the characters whose journey started it all? Thankfully, that answer was an unequivocal no and we once again saw Emma Swan and her parents Snow White and Prince Charming. And when we saw each character both re-appear and we took our last look at these iconic characters I have no doubt each audience member leapt from their seats, smiled and then wiped away a few tears. The show would not have been its magical self without them so it’s only fitting they provided beautiful, significant and heartwarming moments that made the series end what it should be: a final showcase of adventure, love, and hope.

Use of Music:

2. “The Good Queen” and “Leaving Storybrooke”- Mark Isham, Cindy O’Connor, Michael D. Simon (Once Upon a Time)

The music of the fairy tale show has always been one of the consistently beautiful and most universally loved part of the series, and in the final episode, that proved no different. In particular, the final two music queues were not only gorgeous but moving in the way they reflected what was on screen, but also brought back some of the show’s most beautiful and steadfast musical themes in new variations. The beginning of “The Good Queen” was light, lovely and regal, but I opening admit to bursting into tears when Emma and Killian’s appearance brought forth a final and triumphant variation on “Emma’s theme” followed by an exquisitely light and jovial variation of Emma’s and Killian’s theme meant to be for their baby Hope. And “Leaving Storybrooke” was a touching tribute to everything that came before and a final bow to this show, it’s sleepy little town and its inhabitants who came to mean so much to us hearing the “Storybrooke,” “Snow and Charming,” and “True Love” themes in new and lovely ways. These final moments were made ever more beautiful by the perfect musical ending.

1. “Time After Time”- Joseph William Morgan (Timeless)

Not only is the cover of this 80’s song perfect in the beautiful, melancholy and yet hopeful tone, but it also brings so much to scenes that would be already emotional from the images alone. Moreover, the song is the ideal choice to encapsulate what the show and the characters have been through. Yes the time travel aspect seems an obvious connection. But it’s more than that. The lyrics to the song reflect not only how they felt in their adventures through time, but how they all came to mean something profound to each other.”Caught up in circles/Confusion is nothing new/Flashback, warm nights/Almost left behind/Suitcases of memories/Time after Time/ If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me/Time after time/If you fall I will catch you/I will be waiting/Time after time.”These lyrics are a gorgeous reflection of what the “Time Team” is. Through all the confusion and nearly losing one another, they will always be there to catch each other if they fall, in love and friendship, time and time again. Always.

Relationships:

2. The Baudelaire Children (A Series of Unfortunate Events) tumblr_p1vp8zj1i61thu2vbo2_500

As I wrote in the 2018 Year in Review: Favorite Television of the Year, when you watch the story of the Baudelaire orphans “you find yourself deeply invested and rooting for these children who are wise, mature and intelligent beyond their years not only in terms of being well read and clever but emotionally as well. The three all have their special strengths that they utilize as they continuously must escape the clutches of Count Olaf surrounded by people who will not always listen, while trying to maintain their own courage, faith and humanity.” In the second season they face darker and darker times and encounter some of the most dangerous, and unfortunate events yet, and while things grow more murky and the children struggle to keep their hope, they manage to remember that there can be people who are altruistic and generous, that bravery may be difficult but not impossible, and to cling to each other because the bond of the family who truly love you is unbreakable.

1. The Time Team (Timeless) timeless 3

Although Season 2 may have featured a little less of the Season 1 “Time Team” in fact the still employed them a great deal. That is because the time team became more than a trio as the fight to take down Rittenhouse not only included Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus but now expanded to include fellow scientist Jiya, inventor Conor Mason, Agent Christopher, and former enemy Garcia Flynn, all working together and proving that heroism and salvation is never impossible and that family is not only defined by blood, but by those who we are willing to give our blood for.

Couples:

5. Randall and Beth Pearson (This is Us) randall beth

Although 2018 brought some unanswered questions and angst to the couple, Randall and Beth remain a beautiful example of a healthy, supportive and communicative relationship. They also have their fair share of romantic and oh so cute moments that show a real sweetness and understanding between the two. They are best friends who are crazy about each other and who wouldn’t want to aspire to that.

4. Jake and Claire (Happy Together) jake claire.gif

Another absolutely adorable couple who clearly are each other’s best friends, what make Jake and Claire such a joy to watch is not only the natural chemistry between the actors, but the way they fit together so well. They share similarities and differences that balance each other and bring out the best in each other. They also just bring so much humor and warmth to our screens.

3. Lucy Preston and Wyatt Logan (Timeless) lyatt

Every since The Pilot and Wyatt helped Lucy with her seat belt and called her ma’am, I just knew that we would be in for a great story. And while 2018 brought them turmoil, sadness and drama, after they finally admitted how much they mean to each other, the year ended with one final mission and coming together with forgiveness and true love. There may have been other’s they cared for, but for Lucy and Wyatt the only one they truly want to spend their lives with is each other. They found a family through their time travel adventures, and their love created one that honored those they lost. It was a beautiful to watch their love story reach its happy end.

2. Rebecca and Jack Pearson (This Is Us) jack rebecca

A unique aspect of This Is Us is seeing all of these characters and relationships at different stages of their lives. In 2018 we saw Rebecca and Jack at multiple ones, the most significant being when they first met and fell in love and when a fire resulted in Jack’s tragic death. It resulted in a wide spectrum of emotion not only for the characters but the audience as well as this couple proved to be the epitome of devotion, understanding and profound love. Moreover, what was beautiful to watch was the magical mystery of finding the one who is truly meant for you- an instant connection filled with both passion and sweetness, bringing forth feelings you have never felt before. Rebecca was able to find some form of happiness in her later life, but Jack and Rebecca were the love of each other’s lives- and that kind of love lasts forever.

1. Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont (A Discovery of Witches) bismont 4

A destined love story that can bring together people who were have always been on opposite sides, and one filled with passion, danger, tenderness, and beauty on epic proportions and quiet moments of real connection- that is the love story between Diana and Matthew that is part Shakespearean and part supernatural but all together lovely and mystical. The chemistry between the actors is palpable and a significant part of what makes this couple one of the greatest to grace our screens in years, along with the exquisite showcase of the way love makes us stronger and ignites our very souls.

and lastly, because I would never fail to include them if I could, with a tie for the top spot…

1. Emma Swan and Killian Jones (Once Upon a Time) captain swan

Their moments on screen together in 2018 may have been ever brief, but they were still was infused with the same radiance as moments with this exquisite couple of fairy tale beauty and relatable modernity always are. That is because a mere few moments with them shine brighter than all the stars that aligned that brought them together. In these moments they arrived late to a coronation dressed to the nines in true Emma and Killian fashion, with some wonderful additions- Killian in traditional pirate garb with a pink protector on his hook and Emma’s red jacket over a soft pink gown, a diaper bag thrown over her arm. That was because the most important addition for this couple was their baby daughter Hope, as well as a glow of happiness from another happy beginning. With simplicity and beauty and showcasing what makes them so special, in their last appearance on screen, Emma and Killian proved once again to be one of the finest couples to ever grace our screens.

Favorite Moments:

Special Recognition: Max tells DJ about Missing His Dad (Fuller House)

If there was one thing I thought that had not been touched upon enough in the first seasons of Fuller House it was how the death of their father affected the Fuller children. So I was pleasantly surprised that in perhaps the most touching moment of the series we see the middle child Max express how seeing other children with their fathers waiting to see Santa Claus brought out feelings that he had buried a great deal, and that he really misses him. Young Elias Harger is mostly giving sassy one liners, but this young boy has the ability to do more and I hope we see more grounded moments like this in the future.

5. Abe Weismann sees daughter Miriam performing stand up (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)

abe

Some of the best moments of the second season of Mrs. Maisel came from the incomparable Tony Shalhoub’s Abe Weisman, most especially when he sees his daughter perform her stand-up comedy show. The first came as a complete shock to him and his daughter when he unexpectedly sees her take the stage at a club in the Catskills, and finds himself shocked, angry and confused. The second is when Midge performs on a telethon and as he hears laughter coming from a nearby apartment and he sees a young couple watching her, laughing at her performance. And there is this beautiful moment of recognition of not only her talent and the joy she is bringing to others, but that he may have been wrong in judging her. There is no doubt a long road still ahead, but this was a wonderful first step in their relationship.

4. Rebecca sings and Jack cries (This is Us) jack cries

In an episodes that shows the couple taking a road trip and slowly and surely falling in love, the final scene is a truly moving moment that showcased why these two souls were meant to be together. Earlier on their trip the two danced and Jack revealed that he never cried as he had to learn to bury his emotions when dealing with his father, while Rebecca went to a music producer full of hope that they may sign her to a record deal. When he picks up her, disappointed that her trip proved fruitless, we see that it did not for they had bonded and connected in a way that has changed their lives forever. As he called her “Bec,” something she had never been called that fell off his tongue naturally, he asks to hear her song. And while her insecurities are still fresh, she begins to sweetly sing her song, and Jack is so moved that tears fall from his eyes. This was the moment that was the end of life as they knew it. And that it came from something as simple as a song and few tears shed from a heart being touched is simply beautiful.

3. Matthew and Diana pledge their love for each other (A Discovery of Witches) bismontbismont 2

It did not take long for this witch and vampire to fall in love and when they did, they fell completely and deeply, forging an unbreakable bond- and two lovely moments epitomized this bond, the gravity of what they meant seen through the brilliant chemistry between Goode and Palmer and the aesthetics and specific aspects of their scenes. In the first, Matthew kisses her deeply for the first time after she recuperated from an overwhelming use of her magic, letting her know his feelings through his kiss and his action of taking her hand as they head to his home for safety. The second is when they undeniably express their love for one another, Matthew coming back to her and pledging that from that moment one they shall be one, intertwining their hands together and capturing her lips in a ardent kiss. It was an exquisite expression of love and devotion that only the finest performances and film making can accomplish.

2. A Final Mission/Montage (Timeless) timeless 4

When the series finale jumped ahead to see what the future held for the Time Team family, it was filled with heartfelt and moving moments from seeing how far Rufus and Jiya have gone in their careers, still happy and in love, to Lucy and Wyatt, happily married, living their best lives career wise and with twins named Amy and Flynn. How could one not shed tears over this. But it was their final mission to make sure Flynn still went on his journey in the same way- and yet it’s different, for there is more hope there. And as the musical montage began it was utter perfection. As said in the 2018 Year in Review: Favorite Television of the Year, ” The show’s ending montage set to Joseph William Morgan’s cover of the song “Time After Time” resulted in many a tear, as we watched the beautiful journey of all of these characters through time: The love, the loss, the strength, the courage, the perseverance, the belief in each other, and the hope for a beautiful future where history is not forgotten, but preserved, and learned from laying the foundation for whatever is yet to be. And above all you see that history is made up not only of events but people. In this case it’s a about professors, scholars, soldiers, scientists , inventors, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons. Heroes.  This moment was a exquisite showcase of what makes this show so profound, special, and above all Timeless.”

1. Emma and Killian’s happy ending with daughter Hope (Once Upon a Time) cs hope

In the final episode of the series, it was only fitting that much of the centerpiece of its final moments focused on the character whose journey started it all. Emma Swan and her husband Killian Jones may have gotten their happy beginning at the end of the previous season, but the show could not end with seeing their happy ending, as it not only encapsulates the end of an exquisite fairy tale but also what the show has always embodied. For it is ever apropos for two characters who found True Love and overcame even the darkest of times – and for the show’s main character- to name their daughter after the show’s most steadfast theme: Hope. In a world of their own, Emma and Killian loving looked down at their baby girl and gently leaned their heads against each other, as Emma took a contented breath in a well deserved moment of utter solace and joy with Hope in their hearts and their arms. It was a gloriously beautiful and perfect moment and last page in a truly magical storybook of the happiest ending of all.

2018 Year in Review: Favorite Television of the Year

Getting back into Year in Reviews after a break last year, 2018 in television was one filled with wonder with shows new and old. Some ending, some just beginning to intrigue us, some continuing to delight us after a few seasons. One thing all these have in common is that they brought a lot of warmth, heart, intrigue, tears and happiness to our screens. These are my Top 10 Favorites for 2018.

10. Christmas Made for TV Movies of Hallmark and Lifetimechristmas moviesChristmas films on television have been a staple of the season and more and more seem to be made every year. We know they can be predictable, filled with common romantic tropes, and may be a little corny. But in today’s day in age, these can be welcome and lovely things and that is often what these films provide: sweet and heartfelt escapism wrapped in cozy and festive warmth. In this year’s abundance of holiday fare, 5 in particular stood out.

A Veteran’s Christmas re-pairs Eloise Mumford and Sean Faris who co-starred in another favorite Christmas With Holly. This story follows a Marine recently returning home, unsure of her place and missing her dog who was part of her canine unit, who stumbles into a small town and falls in love with a kind judge and the entire town who embraces her. It’s a tender and sweet story and the two actors play beautifully off each other. And any true dog lover will no doubt shed tears at its happy conclusion.

Christmas Pen Pals stars Sarah Drew and Niall Matter who have a sweet chemistry and play former college sweethearts who both sign up for a holiday Pen Pal project in their hometown. It’s a lovely little story with a very romantic tone and fine acting.

Christmas Perfection with Caitlin Thompson and James Henri-Thomas is cute as can be, romantic and truly, truly funny. For the Captain Swan fans out there, I felt like I was watching a CS AU come to life to a degree so I was in heaven. But even without that comparison, it’s an absolutely delightful gem following a woman who is obsessed with having everything perfect including a little Christmas village she puts up every year. When she and her best friend argue over her need for perfection she suddenly wakes up in her village, where it’s Christmas every day, her parents are back together and everyone is Irish! What follows is pure, silly, but perfect Christmas perfection.

Once Upon a Christmas Miracle is based on a true story of a young woman who needs an organ transplant and miraculously find a donor from a stranger whom she then forms a strong connection with. It’s a sweet and moving story, made ever the more lovely because it’s based on two real people. True kindness and sacrifice can come from anywhere and it’s a beautiful reminder than can restore your faith in the humanity of others.

And lastly, Christmas at Pemberley Manor is a light take on the Pride and Prejudice story made enjoyable by its warmth, sweet take on the classic story and likable actors Michael Rady and Jessica Lowndes. In keeping in the Christmas mood I must also recommend the other past Christmas films with Rady, whom is wonderful in all he does, Christmas in Homestead and A Joyous Christmas. While Lowndes is equally lovely in the ever romantic December Bride which pairs her with When Calls the Heart’s ever talented and handsome Daniel Lissing.

9. Happy TogetherhappyIt’s been a while since I’ve found a comedy that is light and sweet and truly makes me laugh out loud. What I want most when watching a sitcom however is to feel happy watching it, and just like its namesake, I most certainly do. A great deal of this show’s charm is due in no small part to the its leads, the hilarious and charming Damon Wayans Jr. (whom I just adore in everything he does) and Amber Stevens West, an equally funny and effervescent scene partner. The two play a happily married couple who are simply adorable in that they feel like a real couple in their natural chemistry and attempts to seem cool for their house guest, an Australian pop star they open their home up to when he wants to feel normalcy in his life. Rounding out the laughs come from Stephanie Weir and Victor Williams who play West’s parents, two doctors with no filter and a lot of time on their hands now that they’re retired. The show is wacky but heartfelt and always leaves me feeling good. I hope more audiences discover this show because it’s a sheer delight.

8. Fuller Housefuller

Getting back into form, the fourth season of the Netflix family comedy was filled with lots of heart, more wacky adventures from the “She-Wolf” pack, DJ and Steve finally trying to make it work as a couple complete with a fun little musical number (DJ and Steve 4ever!) and hilarity and tenderness with Kimmy acting as Stephanie’s surrogate. Other highlights included Danny going back to Wake Up San Francisco with Rebecca, replacing the egotistical male co-host, Jesse embracing being a stay at home father, and Charlie’s Angels’s themed “70s” cruise on the SS Papouli (a sweet nod to the great grandfather from the original series). What makes Fuller House work is that it does not take itself too seriously, but rather unabashedly embraces its corniness. But what made this season enjoyable was that, like it did in Season 1, when it had its more serious moments, there was so sign of parody or goofiness- in particular when Kimmy gives birth with Stephanie right beside her to welcome her baby into the world, and when DJ’s middle boy Max, known for his one liners and over top antics, shares a very grounded and moving moment about deeply missing his father. Fuller House remains a welcome little gem.

7. The Marvelous Mrs. MaiselmaiselFull disclosure, when the second season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel was released at that end of 2018, I binged watched the first and second season in extremely quick succession, so this praise is a bit about both seasons. Forever a fan of Amy Sherman Pallidino’s Gilmore Girls, I am not surprised how much I adore this similarly fast talking, delightful, colorful and sweet, meaningful and poignant, funny and effervescent, female empowering, and yes completely marvelous, series. Each episode is like stepping into a candy colored, bubbly musical time machine to the 1960s which is fun and lively, but not without turmoil or drama. At times it feels heightened in true Pallidino style, at other times completely grounded in very real, relatable truths about life. The best comedians are ones that observe life and can find humor in the everyday, and that is what Miriam, aka Midge does, who stumbles into comedy after her husband leaves her out of the blue and she learns to picks herself up and discovers even more about herself along the way. She has to fight to be accepted and that is something that a modern audience can still relate to. Led by incredible Rachel Brosnahan, the show’s second season continues on what season 1 so well established, but continues to grow and evolve as Midge struggles in finding her place while not losing what is important to her, while her family is dealing with their own issues that relate not only to Midge but their own journeys in life. It’s lovely and fun, moving and marvelous! p.s can we please bring back the name Midge, because it’s too cute.

6. This is UsThis Is Us - Season 2For fans of This is Us, 2018 will always be the year that finally revealed how Jack Pearson died, and it was as heartbreaking and tough to watch as we imagined. The cause was something so trivial as a malfunctioning crock pot, but the reason was something that is embedded into Jack’s character- putting others and what they care about above himself, even sacrificing his own safety. And the fact that it was delayed, giving the Pearson’s (and the audience) a false sense of peace and relief made it all the more devastating. And it’s the moment that Rebecca’s learns and sees her husband is gone that will remain one of the most heart wrenching (and brilliantly performed of the series). But Jack’s death wasn’t the only thing that was profound about This is Us in 2018. On the contrary, each and every interweaving and multi-generational storyline was captivating to watch, from the beginning of Rebecca and Jack’s love story, to his time in Vietnam with his brother, to Kate and Toby’s journey to have a child, and their individual journeys dealing with job woes and depression, to Randall and Beth’s struggles as they foster a child and begin and end careers, to Kevin’s evolving film career and desire to learn more about his father, and to the mysterious twists and time jumps, the lives of the Pearson family remain ones that are ever relatable and moving.

5. The Good PlaceThe Good Place - Season 2The Good Place is one of the cleverest, funniest, sweetest and most profound shows on television, with one of its finest qualities being that in its absurdity lies relatable truths and complexities about choices, free will, and the human condition- with both characters that are and are not human, which is remarkable. It tugs at our heartstrings and makes us laugh so hard we cry. The cast is absolutely stellar and hilarious while managing to infuse authenticity in the more grounded moments with each other- in both season 2 and 3- especially as this group travels back to earth and must learn about themselves and what it means to be, most especially, an empathetic person. Like Michael Shur’s previous shows, this series, infuses heart and realism, in this case despite the concept, and everyone who watches is all the better for it. The Good Place is utter joy.

4. ManifestManifest - PilotIntriguing, melancholy, gripping, and thought provoking, the comparisons to LOST were inevitable, but let it be said that Manifest is its own show and one that mixes and perfectly balances unexplained phenomena, crime procedural and family drama, matched with an impressive cast led but the wonderful Josh Dallas and Melissa Roxburgh as brother and sister Ben and Michaela Stone, who returned home to a world that had changed so much. Of course we all want to know what happened to Flight 828 that caused them to somehow become lost in time to the rest of the world and lose 5 years. Ben and his son return to a family that grieved and grew and learned to move on, Michalea heartbreakingly returned to learn the man she was planning to marry, has now married her best friend. Ben’s son Cal, who had been suffering from cancer, returns home and miraculously begins responding to treatment. But in truth it’s not just the Stone family drama that leaves us so captivated. It’s also the questions of what caused this anomaly and is there some grand conspiracy behind everything? But most especially one of the most profound aspects of Manifest is that it leaves the audience with the question of “what if?” What if you returned to a world much changed and how to do begin to live your life again where it feels like you have been left behind or no longer fit? And if you are beginning to feel a purpose (which we see in the callings each of the passengers experiences) in a way that cannot rationally be explained, do you follow or fight it? The contrasting perspectives of Ben and Michaela, and the ways they all seem connected showcase these questions beautifully and intriguingly so, and make this show not only one of the best new shows, but best overall shows of the year.

3. A Series of Unfortunate EventseventsThe Netflix original series based on the children’s books of the same name is dark and filled with gruesome scenarios that befall the unfortunate Baudelaire orphans, and yet it remains sweet and touching. If you are a fan of the series Pushing Daisies, you will no doubt enjoy this one as well as it is not only similar in tone and visuals, but it also shares director and executive producer Barry Sonnenfeld. The first season was incredible and so too was 2018’s second season. The highlights of the series include a steampunk-esque visual feast for the eyes, its intelligent writing, which actually gives you vocabulary lessons in each episode in a way that is so entertaining you crave it, hilarious absurdity, and an amazing cast of both leads (led by incredible Neil Patrick Harris and the fantastic group of Baudelaire siblings Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes and Pressley Smith) and guest stars (which in Season 2 includes Nathan Fillion, Tony Hale and Sara Rue.) The story of the Baudelaire children may be an unfortunate one but you will not want to “look away” as the theme song and narrator (the wonderfully sardonic Patrick Warburton) often advises the audience to do. Instead you find yourself deeply invested and rooting for these children who are wise, mature and intelligent beyond their years not only in terms of being well read and clever but emotionally as well. The three all have their special strengths that they utilize as they continuously must escape the clutches of Count Olaf surrounded by people who will not always listen, while trying to maintain their own courage, faith and humanity. The contrast of the absurd situations, breathtaking visuals and profound meaning of this material is astonishing. And having watched Season 3 already, it’s an indisputable truth that A Series of Unfortunate Events will also be on next year’s list for the best in television.

2. A Discovery of WitcheswotchesWith the exception of the show that is at #1 on this list, it’s been a long time, since a series has so quickly and thoroughly captivated me from the very beginning. Between the amazing cast, beautifully locales and exquisite cinematography, there is so much to be mesmerized by. Although I have watched similar media at times, I would never call myself someone who LOVES witches or vampires or the supernatural the way some do, but perhaps that is because, while A Discovery of Withes is undoubtedly about witches, vampires and demons existing right alongside side us who are completely unaware of their existence, in truth these really feel like a metaphor for what every human can experience, relate to, or sympathize with: fear, prejudice, courage, friendship and above all else love. For this show is about learning to cast aside those fears and prejudices and learn that we all equal, because we all can universally understand the desire and right to be accepted and loved. And this series is most especially a love story- a kind of Romeo and Juliet love story between a witch and a vampire, two species who have always been on opposite, adversarial sides, who are instantly drawn to each other and form a unbreakable bond and love that transcends all, and defies obstacles, and proves that LOVE knows no bounds. The love story between Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont is already a beautiful and profound one that I am certain will continue to enthrall in the coming seasons as there will be one for each of Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy. Both strong, passionate characters, who are surrounded by equally enthralling characters, Diana and Matthew love and protect each other with and open heart, a mutual respect and admiration, and a strength to overcome all that might separate them, because blood may be crave worthy, and fear may be easier than bravery, but love is what truly satiates every thirst or desire, fuels our inner courage, and ignites our very souls.

1. TimelesstimelessTimeless is a magical show. And although 2018 brought the series to a close, it will live on in a way that is immeasurable. This series is the perfect blend of adventure, history, humor, drama and mystery with amazing characters and relationships. Timeless brings history to life with both well known figures, but also nuances and individuals who are not, illuminating eras and inspiring people, while managing to enthrall its audience, never going for cheap shocks but rather interesting twists. It’s a labyrinth of wonder and the way it continued in 2018 with its second season was the most magical part of television in 2018. Season 2 may have done some things a bit differently with a bit less focus on the “Time Team” unit together on missions, but the individuals highlighted such as Hedy Lamarr, Alice Paul and Robert Johnson, and evolving relationships still remained the heartbeat of the show, encapsulated in the series finale movie where saving Rufus was paramount, Wyatt and Lucy finally came together in love and Flynn went on his incredible final journey of heroics and redemption- all of which were not only captivating but so moving. The show’s ending montage set to Joseph William Morgan’s cover of the song “Time After Time” resulted in many a tear, as we watched the beautiful journey of all of these characters through time: The love, the loss, the strength, the courage, the perseverance, the belief in each other, and the hope for a beautiful future where history is not forgotten, but preserved, and learned from laying the foundation for whatever is yet to be. And above all you see that history is made up not only of events but people. In this case it’s a about professors, scholars, soldiers, scientists, inventors, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, daughters, sons. Heroes.  This moment was a exquisite showcase of what makes this show so profound, special, and above all Timeless.

A Trip to “That’s From Disneyland” Pop-Up Exhibition and Auction

This past week I had the immense pleasure of attending “That’s from Disneyland,” an extraordinary 40,000 square feet pop-up exhibition featuring the largest ever collection of Disneyland memorabilia and collectibles from collector Richard Kraft and his son Nicholas. From now until August 24 you can visit the exhibit in Sherman Oaks, CA for free and marvel at these astounding pieces from attraction posters, paintings and signs, to ride vehicles of such treasured attractions as Dumbo (which once took up residence in the Kraft living room) the People Mover and Skyway, to the 50 foot Sea Serpent from the previous version of the Submarine Voyage. After the exhibit concludes, on August 25 and 26, every item will be auctioned off in person, and via phone and online to the highest bidders. Even if these items are out of one’s price range, if you have the opportunity to visit this you should, especially for those who love Disneyland, nostalgia and a healthy dose of magic. There are plenty of photo opportunities and lots of fun of fun to be had. Lastly, I want to thank Richard and Nicholas for their generosity in setting up this exhibition. As a lifelong fan of all these Disney and a frequent visitor to the Disneyland Park since I was a young child, this exhibition was a true wonder to behold and I found myself amazed, delighted, and often overwhelmed, nostalgic and moved. Just like Disneyland itself, this truly is for the young and young at heart.

Take a look below at many of the items from this collection (including some comparisons from pictures taken during many past trips). This doesn’t even scratch the surface of what is up for auction. And for more information visit ThatsFromDisneyland.com

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Why I’m Thankful for Emma Swan (and Jennifer Morrison)

The crowning glory of Once Upon a Time will always be Emma Swan. The main character of the series, this unique, beautiful, strong original fairy tale creation is their greatest hero, and along with Killian Jones, their greatest character. But even beyond the series, Emma Swan will forever be one of the most remarkable characters of all time, from her profound and moving journey and development, to the impeccable performance by Jennifer Morrison, the resulting gratitude, joy and inspiration is indeed boundless. And she is not the greatest hero or character simply because she’s a strong woman who can equally wield a sword or a gun or her magic- though that certainly is a large part of it. Rather, it is because Emma Swan is a real, well rounded and relatable woman who shows us there’s more than one way to be strong and courageous- physically, emotionally, and through vulnerability with a willingness to completely open her heart. She represents that ideal balance while still remaining ever realistic. And from the brilliantly profound performance and choices of Morrison, to the storytelling and writing, and even the costumes and iconic imagery of her character, Emma Swan truly is remarkable.

It’s easy to be thankful such a character from a storytelling perspective alone, but all the other elements add to the richness of Emma, providing so much, as I said, relatability, inspiration and joy. Her development is so moving and extraordinary. Emma went from orphan, to bail bonds person, to mother, Sheriff, friend, lover, Savior, hero, wife and mother again. Indeed, Emma went from feeling like an unwanted orphan and a little lost girl, unloved and like she didn’t matter and never would, to a young woman opening her heart only to be betrayed, making her grow hardened and jaded. And yet goodness remained, and hope still resided deep within the cracks of her heart, brought to the surface with her heart healing with the love she found with her parents, her son Henry, her friends, her eventual husband Killian, and her own sense of self worth. She didn’t think she could be a mother or open her heart romantically again and yet she found the courage to do so. The world can be cruel but you need not become such. And what is so beautiful and special about Emma is that duality of bringing back the happy endings for others and in the end finding her own.

With her iconic red leather jacket and bright yellow VW Bug she represents color being brought back into the cold, grey world. Her true love brings her son back to life and awakens Storybrooke from its sleep, and her heroics and indeed very being inspires Killian out of the darkness, reawakening both of their hearts from their long, long sleep. She saves others and saves herself, learns to love fully and love herself, her strength only growing as her vulnerability does. She could equally defeat a villain and help inspire and redeem them. Indeed, so many adjectives and superlatives can be attributed to Emma, who is truly a complex and well rounded character.

emma savior

Strong

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Brave

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Heroic

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Guarded

emma stubborn

Stubborn

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Kind

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Compassionate

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Sweet

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Overwhelmed

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Vulnerable

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Inspiring

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Self-sacrificing

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Awestruck

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Motherly

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Sassy

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Smart

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Funny

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Forgiving

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Powerful

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Beautiful

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Adorable

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Flirtatious

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Loving

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Blissful

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Affectionate

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Gentle

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Comforting

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Tough

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Badass

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Fierce

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Special

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Passionate

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Happy

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Peaceful

How can one not be captivated by the richness and beauty of such a story- a modern fairy tale character and story that will continue to inspire and delight. Emma Swan also inspires what Once Upon a Time exemplifies: Hope. She is light and the living embodiment of Hope, inspiring it in others, and rekindling it in her own heart when she had long lost it. She continues to be a beacon, now passing that onto her and Killian’s daughter of the same namesake bringing the show, her story and character full circle. It is truly beautiful.

If one is thankful for Emma Swan, so much of that lies within the beautifully brilliant performance of Jennifer Morrison. I cannot imagine another actor portraying Emma, especially with the same amount of depth, beauty, care and understanding that Morrison brought to the role year after year. She showcased all of Emma’s facets of the real and well-rounded woman she is always in such a deep and profound and brilliant way- with vitality, with humor, with softness, with subtlety and nuance, and with strength. For Emma is smart and witty, sometimes sarcastic and funny, sometimes hard and jaded, sometimes lost and heartbroken, sometimes soft and tender. She will wear a leather jacket, jeans and boots one moment, a soft pink dress another, and a beautiful ball gown another- a symbolic visual representation of the fullness of her character. No matter the scene Morrison expressed Emma’s strength, warmth and radiance, through her tears, her smiles, her expressive eyes , and her mannerisms. She spoke the words but also showed us Emma’s soul. I must also note how wonderful McKenna Grace and Abby Ross were as young Emma, both portraying fundamental pieces of Emma’s demeanor, psyche and development beautifully. They both clearly studied Morrison’s performance and did a fine job of maintaining consistencies and expressions, and physicality.

This is reason enough to be thankful, but beyond that, in the case of Morrison, not only did she breathe life into Emma, but did so with such care, consistency and understanding that is truly special. Morrison read memoirs of those who grew up in the foster system to understand their lives and experiences more thoroughly, and developed a special way Emma dealt with food, mimicking the way a child like Emma have to fight for her share in crowded group homes . She would cradle the head of those she loved when she hugged them, much like her father. Her smiles and expressions varied depending on the scene partner showcasing the variances in each relationship. In particular, one of the loveliest consistencies is the way she’d have Emma stand with Killian, her arm around him, often her head on his shoulder, and always with her hand resting over his heart in a loving and even protective manner- all done after his character had his heart taken and then restored by her. All of these consistencies bring beauty and depth to an already grand performance infusing subtleties that only the most gifted would even think of, let alone express so warmly, beautifully and with such reality. She always speaks about Emma’s journey with eloquence and complete and utter understanding. Instead of trying duplicate her words I’ll let them speak for themselves.

“Do you know how strong you have to be, to be vulnerable? I think you have to be even stronger to be vulnerable than to be defensive. And so I see it as an evolution of her strength for her to feel that she has it in her to be this vulnerable, to be this open, to risk getting hurt. I think that takes an incredible amount of strength.”

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“She has grown to a place where she’s capable of being strong and in love. And I think that that is what makes that really special for her. Is that after everything she’s been through and after all journeys that she’s been through and all of the obstacles that she’s faced, she’s surrounded by her family and friends and someone who loves her for who she truly is and she loves him for who he truly is. I think it’s nice that she’s being portrayed as being in a relationship where they know the good and the bad of each other. It’s not just we are happy go lucky and everything is great. They’re very aware of each other’s flaws and very aware of the times they’ve failed. And they accept the broken parts of each other. Just as they accept the healthy parts of each other. I think for her she feels like for the first time in her life she’s in a safe place. She is with someone who is truly her side and truly by their side. And I think that’s ultimately the best happy ending I could imagine for her after everything she’s been through. She started her life completely abandoned and sort of abused in certain ways. So to come to a place where she’s healing from all that, and she’s loved and supported by her family and by her now husband, I think it’s great.”

As is often the case, an actor’s fine work in one thing and can result in seeking out others. A few seasons into Once Upon a Time I found her wonderful work on House and How I Met Your Mother as well as re-watching Star Trek and discovering Warrior. A film like Sun Dogs (a review for this will be on here soon) may have never been on my radar but I’m so happy to be following Morrison’s career and obvious multifaceted talent, and look forward to whatever future projects are on the horizon. She also brought to light worthwhile causes which I was proud to be a part of: Dressember which helps to combat human trafficking, and the “Be the Hero” campaign which benefited research to battle Jacobson Syndrome. And beyond this, Morrison is an inspiring, kind soul that myself and countless others are thankful for- for her kindness, humbleness, and generosity of spirit, beyond her immense talent. I was moved by her words when I had the privilege of attending her panel at NerdHQ:

 

“And I think a lot of the time we like to  categorize things and say it’s all one thing or all another. It’s like if you’re strong then ‘you’re hard and you’re tough and you never cry and you don’t need anyone and you don’t need a man’ and  if you’re vulnerable then it’s like ‘you’re soft and sweet and take care of some guy.’ People like to delineate those two categories.  I’m not all one and I’m not all the other.  I can be extremely strong and really tough and I can stand up for myself and I can take care of myself. But there’s also things that hurt me, there’s also things that make me very vulnerable.  And there’s also  people I care about and I’m very open with them and I let them  close enough that they could hurt me.  I think it’s really important to try to bring wholeness to these characters otherwise you’re setting up young girls to have an unrealistic expectation of what it means to be strong.”

And I was extremely touched by her kind words about my writing for The Nerd Machine- to hear the appreciation, and praise and hear one’s writing called lovely and thoughtful means more than I could ever express. Morrison is an inspiring, lovely, truly nice person and I’m thankful for her being the one to bring Emma to life and everything beyond.

Emma Swan inspires me and I can easily say that she (and indeed Morrison) changed my life. It has not been as dark as Emma’s, but I can most definitely relate to feelings of insecurity, loneliness, and self worth having suffered from bullying, anxiety and other things. Emma is a character for anyone who has ever in some way felt like they weren’t enough- that they were an ugly duckling- to remind us that we were never nothing and that we have the power within ourselves to be the swan. To remember that love and hope spring eternal and that we have the ability to change our lives. Emma inspires the best in us all. To love without limits or walls up, to pull yourself up and fight for your happy beginning, middle and end. Emma Swan is the hero, the woman we needed for this generation and for all time. So thank you Emma Swan and Jennifer Morrison for inspiring us all and being a light in the world.

Bonus: Take a pictorial journey through 40 defining moments for Emma Swan

1. Emma makes a wish to not be alone on her birthday and Henry shows up at her doorgif-02agif-02b

2. Emma and Henry make their first real connection at his “castle”emma henry 6.gif

3. Emma shows what she is capable of when she takes a chainsaw to Regina’s treeemma tree.gif

4. Emma gives Ashley wise advice about lifeemma-speech.gif

5. Emma makes a deal with Gold to ensure Ashley can keep her babyemma ashley 1

6. Emma displays a flicker of hope that her heart could open in a moment with Grahamemma graham

7. Emma helps reunite two orphaned twins with their fatheremma compassionate

8. Emma breaks down after Augusts tells her she is Storybrooke’s only hopeemma angry (2)

9. Emma touches the Storybook and finally believes in magicemma believes.gif

10. Emma fights a dragon to help save Henrygif-16a

11. Emma saves Henry with True Love’s Kiss and breaks the curse on Storybrookegif-17

12. Emma shows vulnerability with her mother after seeing everything she sacrificedemma cry 2.gif

13. Emma finds a kindred spirit in Killian and admits she was once in loveemma was once.gif

14. Emma is set up to take the fall for Neal’s crime and is arrestedemma arrested 1

15. The magic inside of Emma shines through as she says “Love is strength”emma magic1

16. Emma gives an impassioned and inspiring speech about the best way to save Henry Emma Speech 1.gif

17. Emma reveals to her mother how she’s always felt like a lost girl who didn’t matteremma lost girl 3

18. Emma kisses Killian for the first timeemma kisses hook.gif

19. Emma saves Killian’s life, sacrificing her magic in the processcs back to me

20. Emma shares a romantic waltz with Killiancs dance 4

21. Emma witnesses the moment her parnets fall in loveemma watches parents.gif

22. Emma tells Killian Storybrooke is her true home, getting her magic and their way home back. She returns calling her parents Mom and Dadgif-32gif-33

23. Emma opens her heart and kisses Killian after hearing of his great sacrifice of the Jolly Roger to bring her homegif-35b

24. Emma reveals she’s pulling away out of fear of losing Killianemma can't lose you

25. Emma makes a brave, personal stride and asks Killian out on a dateemma asks hook 1.gif

26. Emma shares some childhood mementos for the first time with anyonecs share 1

27. Emma accepts herself as she is and gains control of her magicemma magic 6

28. Emma reveals her true love for Killian and regrets in not expressing itemma guarded 1

29. Emma becomes the Dark One to save everyone in Storybrooke from the darknessemma strong

30. Emma fights backs against the darkness declaring she was “never nothing!”gif-64

31. Emma fully turns into the Dark Swan when she tethers Killian to Excaliburemma dark one 1.gif

32. Emma proclaims her family’s motto marching into the Underworld to save Killiangif-49

33. Emma takes the last name “Swan” as a sign of what she wants to bebaby emma

34. Emma takes a big step in stating her love in a normal, peaceful momentemma love you

35. Emma begins therapy revealing she fears her happy ending is an illusionemma happy ending.gif

36. Emma makes her final transformation into the swan, who is strong and not alone- and never has been- in her song “Emma’s Theme”gif-marianneproject53c

37. Emma marries her True Love Killianemma wedding

38. Emma chooses to be the hero Henry tells her she isemma awakes1.gif

39. Emma has her Final Battle as the Savioremma savior 2

40. Emma has her first child with Killian, naming her Hopecs hope

 

Gif sources: shoedonym, doomsdayy, lumadreamland, onceland, odonowest, captainswanouat, captainswansource, ceeyoutea, onceuponadaily, jemmablossom, swanemma, once-upon-a-captain-swan, someone-like-robsten, killiancomeback2me, dashingrapskillian, emmaswaln, kimidakewooooo, dianasofthemyscira , ohmycaptn, youseetherealme, warriorswan, swanshope, handsomeswan, captainpoe, captainswaan, Joyce Scott, tough-lass, once-land

Why I’m Thankful for Killian Jones (and Colin O’Donoghue)

There is so much one can say about such an extraordinary character as Once Upon a Time’s Killian Jones. For myself and countless others this version of the classic character has not only become our favorite depiction of the pirate captain, but arguably also the best, and certainly, along with Emma Swan, the show’s greatest character. Even though Killian may not be what one would automatically think of when imagining Captain Hook, because of the unique take on the character, the depth, the moving story, the inherent characteristics, and especially the exemplary performance of Colin O’Donoghue, Killian Jones is the greatest Captain Hook to ever grace the screen, and that is assuredly a reason to be thankful.

Indeed the intrinsic qualities, character development and overall storyline of Killian Jones is truly exceptional. Worthy of praise and gratitude from an audience perspective for anyone who enjoys a grand story, as well as from a deeper and more meaningful standpoint, Killian and his journey is the type that stays with you forever. Initially, Killian is what one may expect a swash buckling pirate to be- roguishly charming and cocky- someone who could flash you a disarming smile one moment and then kill you the next. He was both established as a villain and foil to Rumplestlitskin as well as a kindred spirit and match for the show’s leading lady Emma Swan. And he could easily be a one note character. But in addition to these established roles he is so much more. Killian is a deep and profound character who goes on an extraordinary journey. He goes from wide eyed boy who wants to be just like his father, to a heartbroken, abandoned orphan, to a ship’s slave for a cruel captain, to hopeful lieutenant in the Royal Navy with honor in his heart and dreams of great heroics. But then to a shattered young man due to the tragic death of his brother, making him the pirate Captain Jones who does as he pleases and serves no one, to the vengeful pirate Captain Hook, hell bent on avenging the woman he loved no matter the cost, even his own life. And so he lived for centuries in darkness, until the day he looked up and saw the Savior, who would inspire him to remember the man of honor he wanted to be- the man he truly is deep within his soul. A man who indeed loves and lives with his entire soul and becomes a true hero, the true love to Emma Swan, a stepfather to her son Henry, husband to his beloved, and finally father to their precious daughter Hope. There’s so many superlatives and characteristics that can be attributed to him and make Killian such a remarkable man.

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Strong

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Brave

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Heroic

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Devoted

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Loyal

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Honorable

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Handsome

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Sexy

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Flirtatious

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Self-Deprecating

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Humble

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Comforting

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Determined

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Overwhelmed

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Intelligent

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Wise

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Blissful

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Awestruck

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Vulnerable

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Selfless

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Supportive

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Sweet

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Passionate

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Tender

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Loving

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Happy

In the greatest redemption arc of the series, and indeed one of the best ever, Killian’s journey back towards the light may have been inspired by Emma, but importantly he did so for himself. And so often Killian felt undeserving and unworthy of forgiveness and love despite earning it from others, so had to learn to forgive himself, and work to become worthy in his mind and heart of those treasured intangibles. It is a captivating and moving story about falling from grace and treading a dark path but learning how “all sins can be forgiven when someone loves you” and finding the light again. It is a beautiful story of redemption and rebirth brilliantly told most especially because of the incomparable talent of Colin O’Donoghue. He never hit a false note and it takes a gifted actor to come into an established series and truly make an indelible impression. O’Donoghue did that and tenfold, masterfully creating an extraordinary character who can be anything from dark and sinister, to brooding and heartbroken, to charming and roguish, to funny and lovable, to sweet and tender, with often a single or subtle expression or a specific demeanor. What’s remarkable is that in addition to the distinct costumes and specific writing, what O’Donoghue brought with his performance was astounding, developing a precise way of standing, moving and speaking with the amazing ability to show us Killian’s soul through his ever expressive eyes. He developed specific mannerisms and timbres of his voice depending on the situation, timeline and who he shared a scene with. Different smiles, different looks, even tones of voice. He could make your heart beat or break, make you laugh or cry. Even such subtleties such as a clench of his jaw when he felt tense or upset, a scratch behind the ear when he felt unsure but a desire to be flirtatious with Emma, and the ways he had to move or do things differently because he only had one hand and a hook instead such as tying a scarf with his teeth, which ended up being both practical and heart pounding for Emma and the audience, was nothing short of astounding. It’s a marvel that only the most talented can accomplish. Captain Hook has never before been such a deep and real man, and it’s because of the brilliance of O’Donoghue.

One cannot be thankful for the performance of O’Donoghue as it made the character who he is. But also for myself and so many others, we are thankful not only for what he brought to Killian Jones but also for the kindness, generosity and humility he demonstrates. And it helps bring to light and attention on other films in which he stars- ones we might not have known otherwise such as The Rite, The Dust Storm and Carrie Pilby, all amazing films worthy of praise. And there’s much anticipation for What Still Remains, set for release later this summer. On a personal note, I will be forever grateful for O’Donghue’s attention and praise for the writing I did on Once Upon a Time and his films for The Nerd Machine. As a writer you always hope it can make any kind of impact, or bring joy or appreciation, especially if it’s from those with whom you are writing about. It’s an indescribable feeling, but you are left with a deep feeling of gratitude and happiness.

Killian Jones is one of the finest pirates, captain, men, individuals to ever grace the screen providing such inspiration to never lose hope that life is not only worth living, but that you can find someone who makes it all worth it, as well as simply doing it for yourself. There is always light and hope at the end of a dark path. Your soul can be reawakened and reborn. For everything the character Killian Jones and Colin O’Donoghue has given us and will no doubt continue to do so- thank you so very much! My life and the lives of so many have changed and been made infinitely better by Killian and by O’Donoghue himself. The pirate, the hero, the man will live in our hearts and continue to delight and inspire that duality of spirit- the pirate and the hero in all of us.

Bonus: Take a pictorial journey through 20 defining moments for Killian Jones

1. Lieutenant Jones becomes Captain Joneshook captain

2. Killian Jones becomes Captain Hookhook hook

3. Killian’s heart is stirred as he finds a kindred spirit in Emma Swankillian tall.gif

4. Killian comes back with the magic bean offering his ship and services to save Henryhookcomesback1

5. Killian saves David’s life in Neverlandhook wink

6. Killian reveals what’s in his heart for Emmahook met you

7. Killian tells Emma his sincere intentions to win her heartgif-24

8. A remorseful Killian swears on the name of his love that he still believes in itgif-27

9. Killian reveals he traded the Jolly Roger for Emmagif-34

10. Killian reveals the truth to Emma about his dealings with Gold hook forgive

11. Killian tries to save Emma’s life and in turn has his heart stolen by Goldkillian hero 1

12. Deckhand Killian sacrifices himself to ensure Emma and Henry’s escapehook stab

13. Killian becomes a Dark Onekillian tortured

14. Killian fights back against the darkness and sacrifices his life to save everyonegif-48a

15. Killian helps a young girl escape form a dungeon in the Underworldhook underworld 1.gif

16. Killian accepts his fate and is ready to move on and is sent back to where he belongs: to Storybrooke and Emmakilliancs reunion

17. Killian tells Belle he still is on the road to forgiving himselfkillian proud

18. Killian sings about his quest for revengegif-marianneproject53b

19. Killian marries his True Love Emmakillian wedding

20. Killian and Emma have their first child cs hope

Gif sources: captainswanouat, captainswansource, odonowest, pearlmackie, swanscaptn, just-be-magnificent, high-seas-swan, onceland, daeneryskairipa, emmakillian, kimidakewooooo, handsomeswan, odonorable, ladyswanjones, captainheroism, ahoymilady, emmasawn, officerrogers, adrina-stark, doomsdayy.