What I Loved in 2020 in Television

When times are crazy and uncertain, it’s important to find things that will bring you joy, peace, escapist fun, hope and many other positive intangibles that make life worth it. 2020 was a tough year for us all, and I was no exception. It’s probably why it’s already well into January, 2021 and this is now coming to you all. Television and movies became even more of a staple in my household and I consumed a great deal, from new shows that captivated and delighted me, to re-watches of some all time favorites which brought a sense of comfort and reinvigorated my love for them. The world may be uncertain but the television I loved this year brought a sense of normalcy and happiness whether it be a fictional, documentary series, TV movie or what not. These were my favorites…

Drama or Comedy Series

Virgin River (Netflix)

Without a doubt my favorite fictional series of the year was Virgin River. Beautifully filmed and performed, this show follows a Nurse practitioner who goes to work in the small town of Virgin River after some tragic and traumatic events in attempt to revitalize herself and her life. She must deal with the old fashioned doctor who does not want her there, finds kinship with a charming bartender, and learns to rekindle her heart and soul through her work and the small town cast of characters. This gentle natured, often sweet and romantic, while still serious original Netflix series may deal with some dark issues such as death, abuse and drugs, but it is never too melodramatic nor too saccharine. It’s slow pace is welcome and soothing in times like these, while the chemistry between leads Alexandra Breckenridge and Martin Henderson is palpable, natural and gentle. There are definitely some similarities to the show Hart of Dixie, particularly with the concept and in Tim Matheson’s character of Dr. Mullins who is very similar to his Hart of Dixie character Dr. Breeland, but there are differences for sure. However in both instances Matheson is wonderful, as is his on screen sparring partner Annette O’Toole. There is so much to love from the Zen like beautiful scenery, to the characters that are salt of the earth, good people. But what is truly exceptional is the compassionate, realistic, thoughtful and sensitive way it handles the grief and trauma of Mel and Jack’s characters especially. Virgin River is about healing and second chances and it  thoroughly captured my heart.

Fuller House (Netflix)

Bringing its series run to a close, the affable, unabashedly corny and sweet natured reboot Fuller House ended on a lovely and often hilarious note with a finale I actually enjoyed more than the original series finale. Further misadventures of the Tanner, Fuller, Gibbler extended family which included a delightful musical proposal that was 20+ years in the making, and a triple wedding for the She-Wolf pack and their true loves, I love every minute in abundance, so much so that once finished, a few weeks later, I restarted and binged the entire series over again. And it not only improved upon with repeat reviewing but it was the balm my soul needed during a rough time. What I love is that it normalizes close knit families who choose to spend their lives together and raise their families as a unit, and that affectionate and loving relationships are not only romantic. Friendship and family are just as important for our souls and I think living in a Fuller House is something to aspire to.

Emily in Paris (Netflix)

Another welcome balm was the frothy, colorful, and delightful Emily in Paris, led by the lovely and amiable Lily Collins. From the creator of Sex and the City I like to call this a lighter version with similar aesthetics and mindsets, but we trade in New York for the gorgeous Parisian life, from sidewalk cafes , to Classic architecture, to the Eiffel Tower herself. When we see Paris in films and TV, it often will spark that desire of wanderlust and have us dreaming of falling in love, eating delicious French pastries and wandering luminous cobblestone streets of the City of Lights. Emily in Paris certainly makes the city look like an incandescent dreamy painting of France’s jewel. But beyond this beauty, what I loved about this series was its familiarity in its romantic, comedic and feminist tropes. It’s not groundbreaking storytelling and that’s okay. What it does is show a relatable young woman who is learning to navigate a job she is more than capable of doing in a place she is completely unfamiliar with. She’s a combination of naïveté, confidence, intelligence. And while romance is a key player, (the French are known for their amorous people after all), it is the friendships that are superlative and sometimes complicated, that make the show, especially with the first friend Emily makes portrayed by the wonderful Ashley Park. Moreover, it’s Emily who is effervescent and feisty who works hard at her job no matter what’s thrown at her, all of which strikes a chord because of the actors, especially Collins. Emily in Paris explores the often shallow nature of social media and influencers, but never completely mocks them either. Rather, it highlights and exposes the authentic and artifice of the modern world and that we should find a way to enjoy our lives in happy and genuine ways, which can include taking that perfect photo for Instagram.

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (NBC)

ZOEY’S EXTRAORDINARY PLAYLIST — “I’ve Got The Music In Me” Episode 102 — Pictured: (l-r) Skylar Astin as Max; Jane Levy as Zoey Clarke; John Clarence Stewart as Simon — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/NBC)

Creative and effervescent, brimming with talent and color, as well as real and relatable emotions and issues surrounding the pain of loss and grief, insecurities, and love unrequited, long lasting and otherwise, Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist is a breath of fresh air. Any lover of musicals will adore this show about a girl who, after an earthquake during an MRI, can suddenly hear people’s inner most thoughts through song. It causes many wacky moments as well and ones of sorrow, and uses this concept as a way of expressing how universal a language music can be. Zoey hears everyone’s “heart songs,” and it makes you believe in the power of music, and how it can deeply help us cope with whatever we are feeling: love, joy, fear, sadness. There is also this question to ponder: what would be on your playlist at any given moment? And for the record in case you were wondering: I am Team Max!!

Dash and Lily (Netflix)

Dash & Lily provided some adorable, cozy and sweet Christmas comfort at the end of the year for certain. Undoubtedly modern in its style and wonderfully diverse cast, it’s also filled with classic rom com tropes and sensibilities. The characters are young but I would venture to guess that The Shop Around the Corner/You’ve Got Mail-esque story involving a pair of would be lovers who write letters, notes and scavengers hunts in a red notebook, helping each other heal and be brave, is relatable to people of all ages. Fair warning- it’s the type of show you could watch in one sitting. I did it in two. But it’s addictive and a sweet cup of Yuletide romance.

Bridgerton (Netflix)

The show that was all the Buzz at the end of 2020 and continuing into the new year, Bridgerton was another fun, frothy and gorgeous looking romantic romp that again may not be the most groundbreaking storytelling but does offer new and exciting diversity and vitality into the Period Drama genre while giving the audience all the romantic tropes we love to indulge in and get swept away by. Highly addictive, well acted, and a beautiful feast for the eyes that could feed an entire village. Although I think some loved it more than I, and it’s more racy and explicit than my typical viewing, that didn’t prevent me from being captivated by the complicated and tantalizing love story of Simon and Daphne filled with fake dating, deception and loving desire, the complicated but swoon worthy Anthony as he struggles with letting go and finding his true place in the world, the sublime wit of Eloise and  sweet earnestness of Penelope and their sweet friendship, the divineness of the likes of Lady Danbury and the Queen Charlotte herself, to speculating who town gossip Lady Whistledown truly was. From the  wonderful cast, to the lovely rainbow colored costumes, to the landscape and cinematography, breathtaking with a fluidity and movement that was glorious to watch, there was an abundance to admire in Bridgerton. And the reveal of Whistledown was truly a great twist!

The Haunting of Bly Manor (Netflix)

The Haunting of Bly Manor was not something I planned on watching as I am a self proclaimed “scaredy-cat,” but I do enjoy gothic mysteries and spooky stories such as The Others, and I couldn’t help but be drawn into this story that was loosely based on the works of Henry James, most notably The Turn of the Screw. It was mysterious and scary with a wonderful cast, especially its child performers (and my personal favorites being Rahul Kohli and T’Nia Miller), with a surprisingly touching love story that ended the mini-series on a very poignant note.

Will and Grace tribute to I Love Lucy (NBC)

WILL & GRACE — “We Love Lucy” Episode 316 — Pictured: (l-r) — (Photo by: Dave Bjerke/NBC)

Admittedly I fell behind on the Will & Grace reboot and have yet to catch up, but when I heard they were doing a tribute episode devoted to my all time favorite show I Love Lucy, I knew I had to tune in. And it did not disappoint as a part hilarious homage, part spoof, part spot on recreation of famous moments from the comedy series, while bringing in touches that only the Will & Grace characters can do. Who played Lucy, Ricky, Fred and Ethel changed and Lucy and Desi’s daughter Lucy Arnaz made a special appearance in the delightful tribute.

Documentary Series

The Imagineering Story (Disney+)

While many of you may have watched this extensive, fascinating emotional series right away, I savored this show during 2020. Directed by Leslie Iwerks (the daughter of Disney legend Ub Iwerks), each episode tackles a different era of Disney Parks, from the inception of Disneyland, to the parks in Asia, all the way up to Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge. If you are a fan of Disney history and seeing all the creative ingenuity it takes to make some of the most innovative and breathtaking pieces of living art there is, then you will easily become engrossed in this captivating and very honest six part documentary. I admittedly cried and was moved a great many times, as well as surprised and in awe of  not only the very revealing details, stories and footage unknown to me previously , as well as marveling at the masterful creative of these individuals. Lovers of Disney and theme parks alike will no doubt be completed mesmerized by The Imagineering Story.

Prop Culture (Disney+)

Like The Imagineering Story, Prop Culture is thoroughly engrossing, interesting and taps into nostalgia and emotions, but possibly even more so. As someone who devours behind the scenes footage and documentaries about the making of film and television (I have The Lord of the Rings Extended Editions Appendices DVD sets to thank for sparking that love), and someone who is fascinated with the research and artistry of props, textiles, etc, Prop Culture is the ideal show. Each episode features collector Dan Lanigan as he travels around the world meeting with creators, artists and actors alike connected to whichever film the episode is devoted to including Mary Poppins, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Honey I Shrunk the Kids and The Muppet Movie. Engrossing and funny with the ability to make you shed some tears, this show reached into my heart and took up permanent residence.

The World According to Jeff Goldblum (Disney+)

Another Disney+ docu-series that brought such joy to my household was The World According to Jeff Goldblum with each episode being about something simple, or some may even say mundane such as denim, bicycles, pools or ice cream. But using each broad topic as a jumping off point, we are treated to both a history and modern exploration with the unique and quirky way that only Goldblum could do. He is one of a kind. But each experience is not only interesting but also sweet, informative, entertaining and featuring good natured, hard working, creative and joyful everyday folks.

TV Movie

Psych 2: Lassie Come Home (Peacock)

After the dramedy/mystery show Psych ended in 2014, I was completely satisfied but knew there was always a possibility for more. After the success and love for the first Psych movie in 2017, I was thrilled when a second was announced. Although we had to wait for Timothy Omundson to recover so they could include Lassiter the way he deserves, it was more than worth it. Psych 2: Lassie Come Home picks up right where the first left off with Shawn and Gus and their antics, but now Shawn and Juliet are now happily married, while Gus has finally found his other half in the formidable Selene. The dynamic crime solving duo aid in the search of who shot Detective Lassiter, and we see the hilarious one liners and silliness we’re used to and love, while the story involving Lassiter’s recovery involving remembering the lessons his father taught him including never giving up despite our struggles was deeply touching.

Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings “JJ Sneed”(Netflix)

Dolly Patton’s Heartstrings TV movies, each one based on one of her songs is something I want to tackle more of in 2021. But in 2020 I only got to “JJ Sneed” for one unsurprising reason- it stars Once Upon a Time’s Colin O’Donoghue in the title role of the handsome and charismatic outlaw. As someone who loves a good classic western and O’Donoghue as a performer, especially when he shows his range which he did here as someone who can be charming and witty one moment and then ruthless, selfish and dangerous the next, “JJ Sneed” was quite entertaining especially seeing that Sneed meets his formidable match in the clever woman who literally gives him a run for his money. There’s room for more story here and I do hope we see it.

TV Christmas Films

Each year we see many Christmas films on television but most especially, The Hallmark Channel has become a staple in Holiday entertainment providing an abundance of films that are no doubt formulaic and full of common tropes- and that’s what we love about them. They are cozy, happy fare and their consistency in storytelling can provide a tremendous source of comfort. And when we combine that with likable performers it’s a lovely combination. Although there were some I didn’t manage to get to, those I did were all excellent and some of the best I have seen in years.

The Christmas Waltz paired Hallmark Channel darling, the immensely talented Lacey Chabert, with Reign’s equally talented and charming (not to mention handsome) Will Kemp in a sweet and inspiring story of how dance, kinship and belief in yourself can help your heart heal and inspire you to reach for your dreams and be your best self. The chemistry between the two is lovely and the nods to classic musicals made this one sheer delight from curtains to the final bow.

Speaking of natural and lovely chemistry, this was beautifully exemplified between Broadway veterans Laura Osnes and Aaron Tveit, two exceptionally talented performers whose talents shined through in the sweetly romantic One Royal Holiday. This type of story between your average girl meeting a prince of some fictional kingdom had been seen a lot, but this may be the gentlest and dare I say most natural, cozy and funny of them all as we see a royal family spend time with a dedicated nurse at her Father’s Bed and Breakfast for the holidays. We see how love, compassion and kindness are the most beautiful and magical things in this world, and the strength they can bring us. It is an unabashedly romantic gift wrapped with sparkling paper and tied with a shimmering bow complete with snowball fights, carriage rides, perfectly choreographed waltzes and one clever nod to Cinderella whom Osnes portrayed on Broadway. One Royal Holiday is a treat I want to indulge in every year.

Holding the spot of the funniest of the year, and one of the funniest Hallmark has ever produced, Five Star Christmas, which stars Bethany Joy Lenz and Victor Webster actually had me laughing out loud as a family masquerades as guests at a bed and breakfast in order to impress whom they think is a renowned travel writer. It is funny for sure, but the quieter moments are wonderful too, with a little Elvis Presley tribute that left me grinning from ear to ear.

Christmas by Starlight paired Paul Campbell and Kimberly Sustad once again in a sweet natured and extremely relatable love story with the plot being one of trying to save a family business that we’ve seen before but with the great chemistry and likability of Campbell and Sustad who bring something special to the table.

The Christmas Carousel is another royal story but the lovely Rachel Boston and Neal Bledsoe have gentle banter between them, and the carousel that grants wishes helps bring them together as well as push them to find their path in life. Perhaps it’s my love of carousels and these actors that drew me in the most.

Christmas Comes Twice was another familiar story of the chance live and redo a part of your life over again- to fix your mistakes and get your life back on track. The difference is a more diverse cast including Tamera Mowry-Housley  and Michael Xavier who were fantastic together. Mowry’s character is driven, kind and smart but also willing to admit her mistakes. And the way she is able to find her heart and have a second chance to tell her mentor how she changed her life, as well as find love in an unexpected place with her childhood rival was all a beautiful package.

A Timeless Christmas was a sweet and more unique concept with the handsome and underrated Ryan Paevy as the inventor and man out of time who meets lovely Erin Cahill as the kind and intelligent woman who helps him discover where he truly belongs, finding the right path for herself along the way. If you love Kate & Leopold this charmer is for you.

Cross Country Christmas
was a funny romp through a winter wonderland as two former high school acquaintances fall in love while trying to back to their home town- many a difficultly thrown their way. The always cheery but feisty Rachel Leigh Cook soars well with Grayston Holt were wonderful in this adorable flick.

Lastly, A Little Christmas Charm with Ashley Greene and Brendan Penny has an old fashioned, for lack of a better word, charm to it, showcasing the true beauty of love stories, the great fun of solving a mystery, the craftsmanship of jewelry making, and the importance of finding, as they say in Tangled, your new dream, whatever it is and whoever it’s with. And if you can find it at Christmas then it’s all the more magical.

Re-watching and Rediscovering Classic Shows

There was also television that wasn’t new to me but brought a sense of comfort, joy, stability and anticipation. Starting with shows I hadn’t watched since they originally aired, I started two teen dramas that I loved back in the day: Felicity and Dawson’s Creek. I haven’t gotten through them yet but hope to this year.

A show I did finish, or more accurately quickly consumed with gusto was Alias, a show I remember loving but except for a few plot points, did not retain much of. So it was almost like watching it for the first time and I loved every thrilling moment. It would be fun to go in depth sometime but for now my few key takeaways are: Sydney and Vaughn are one of my favorite couples and definitely have OTP status, but I must admit to liking Bradley Cooper’s Will a bit more and a part of me would have been good if they explored a Sydney and Will relationship. Also Will’s character deserved better. RIP Francie, #NoCoffeeIceCream and Merrin Dungey is amazing! David Anders is so good at being swarming yet charming jackass. Can Greg Grunberg be in everything? The Sydney and Dixon friendship is one of the greatest ever and Dixon is low key my favorite on the show besides Sydney. Jack Bristow is one of the greatest and most badass TV Dads ever and I weeped during so many of his moments. On the opposite end, Irina and Sloane and two of the worst parents ever and show the dangers of obsession with power. #NadiaDeservedBetter. And lastly, Alias is what made me a fan of Jennifer Garner which I still am one today, and Sydney Bristow is a remarkable woman. She is a kick-ass, kind and intelligent superwoman and I want to be her when I grow up!

Similarly to Alias, the other show I rewatched for the first time was The Mentalist, a show that was high on my list of Favorites of the Decade, with one of the greatest characters ever in Patrick Jane. Like Alias, watching it in quick succession not only seems to improve the quality of the show, but makes it easier to follow and therefore more enjoyable. The last two seasons after the discovery of Red John’s identity made big changes, and I definitely missed Rigsby and Van Pelt, but it ended on such a high note with Jane and Lisbon’s happily ever after as one of the most satisfying finales ever.

Other shows I rewatched were ones that go to frequently because I love, love, love them and all had too short of a series run: Timeless, Smash, Pan Am, Forever and Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, each bringing such joy to revisit.

Cast Reunions and Fun

The Cast of Chuck Virtual Table read of “Chuck vs. the Beard”

The year 2020 brought many casts back together for virtual reunions, and this one where the Cast and Crew of one of my all time favorite shows Chuck came back together for a table read of the episode that was star Zachary Levi’s directorial debut was an absolute delight as these individuals clearly all still adore each other, but also haven’t missed a beat, stepping right back into their characters like it was yesterday. If you love this show and want a heartfelt laugh, check out their reunion here: https://youtu.be/ZAZfE6OHSb0

Parks and Recreation Reunion and New Episode reading

Speaking of not missing a beat and stepping right back into stride, the cast and writers of Parks and Recreation brought us a brand new episode of the sitcom that focused on how each character was handling the social distancing that was required during the pandemic and bringing the heart and silliness we expect from this loveable group of characters from Pawnee, Indiana. This warmed my heart and was like seeing an old friend we’d early missed and got right back into normal conversation. This was adorable. You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/FxX6snjZB2c

What were favorite you watched on television in 2020? Did I mention any here!! Let me know in the comments!

Top 30 Once Upon a Time Characters

To celebrate Once Upon a Upon a Time coming to the Disney Plus streaming services I thought it would be a good time to revisit the series and countdown some favorites. Here, we rank the Top 30 Characters from the fairy tale series. Of course any kind of ranking is all relative. The following list could be very different from you the reader, or it could be strikingly similar. And of course there is a difference between personal favorite characters and ranking them in other terms. If that was the case my list would look a little different. For this list it was a difficult process but I ranked them by a combination of the following categories (in order):

  • Character dynamics and likability, whether they be hero or villain
  • How well the character was written
  • Importance to the plot
  • Development or growth (if applicable)
  • Acting
  • Legacy and importance to the series overall

So, let’s take a look back at a wide array of wonderful characters, varied and beautiful enough to fill any number of magical storybooks.

30. Tinkerbell (portrayed by Rose McIver)

Smart, spunky, and sweet, this fairy who once lost her wings, learned to believe in herself with just a little faith, trust and pixie dust. She forgave Regina for her betrayal and encouraged her to go after love. She also killed Pan’s shadow which restored the Blue Fairy’s life and was one of the contributing factors that helped the heroes to escape Pan’s curse, proving instrumental in one of the show’s most crucial moments. Above all she just wanted to help those in need and for them to find their happy endings, a lovely quality that defines what it means to be a fairy.

29. Sheriff Graham Humbert/The Huntsman (portrayed by Jamie Dornan)

As the Huntsman he was a sensitive and compassionate soul, as Sheriff of Storybrooke he was a charming and strong man who decided to find his heart and choose his own path. In the Enchanted Forest, he helped Charming escape Regina’s castle, and as Henry sweetly points out, he spared Snow’s life. Without both of these moments, Emma would have never been born, solidifying a connection between them that was established in Storybrooke in an emotional and heartbreaking moment. We were able to see the type of man Emma would be attracted to while showing us a brief flicker of hope that her heart could open to someone worthy. His death was an early game changer and showcased the gravity of the curse, how we could lose anyone and how precious life is, making each subsequent time he showed up extremely satisfying.

28. Ursula (portrayed by Merrin Dungey and Tiffany Boone)

Once a mermaid full of sadness over the loss of her mother, but kindness in her heart, she loved to sing and bring people joy. After a betrayal from Hook and her father, she turned herself into another sea creature after losing her singing voice, not wanting to ever let her father use it to lure sailors to their doom. As an adult she lost her way, but with the help of Captain Hook and a reconciliation with her father, both she forgives, her voice and beautiful spirit were returned and restored, leading to crucial information for the heroes to defeat the latest threat. She was fun as one of the Queens of Darkness, but it was lovely to see her return to the light.

27. Grumpy/Dreamy/Leroy (portrayed by Lee Arenberg)

When it comes to Dwarfs, their pick axe will choose their name. This dwarf was born as Dreamy, but a broken heart turned him Grumpy. Despite that, both in the Enchanted Forest and in Storybrooke as Leroy, he as he says need his pain, it’s only because it’s a reminder of what in life we fight for. Grumpy is loyal  and stubborn, gruff but sweet. And if there is any gossip that needs repeating he is just the Dwarf for the job.

26. Lancelot (portrayed by Sinqua Walls)

A former Knight of the Round Table, Lancelot was a courageous man with honor, selflessness and a kind and loving heart. Not only did he perform the wedding ceremony for Snow and Charming, making sure Charming’s mother’s final moments were happy ones, he made sure Snow received the water which would break her infertility curse. Without him there would be no Emma, and therefore no Savior, making him one of the show’s most important characters. On his own, he loved Guinevere truly, and looked after her when Arthur was obsessing over Excalibur, while also being willing to sacrifice himself to the darkness for her. Hopefully he found her again and they are living happily ever after in a restored and no longer broken kingdom.

25. Granny Lucas (portrayed by Beverley Elliot)

Granny Lucas is tough as nails, sassy, overcame tragedy, is fiercely protective, loving, supportive of her granddaughter, and never takes guff from anyone-especially over her cooking. A former wolf herself, she sheltered Ruby from the truth, but learned to help her embrace it, while she wanted nothing more than to leave Granny’s Diner to her. She loved her family, blood and otherwise and whether she was wielding a knitting needle or a cross bow, Granny was a force to be reckoned with. 

24. Merlin (portrayed by Elliot Knight)

As a stroke of genius and in a great form of subversion, the iconic wizard who traditionally was an old man with a long white beard, here is a young and dynamic man of color who was brilliant and disarming. As Emma once told him he was the greatest Sorcerer that ever lived and indeed, Merlin was so powerful he was able to break free from the darkest and strongest control when he needed to most. As a young man and founder of the Holy Grail, his immortal life gave him wisdom and a peaceful nature. Although he was often cryptic and had moments of failure, it gave the wizard a relatable, human quality, on top of being charming and brave. His loss was a great one, but his legacy remained.

23. King Arthur (portrayed by Liam Garrigan and Webb Hayes)

One of the more complex and interesting villains the show ever did, the traditionally heroic King Arthur character became a man consumed by prophesies and his destiny. As a child he was sweet despite being made to feel inferior. But as an adult he was a good man who let a quest darken his soul so much that he lost sight of what really mattered- his love for Guinevere and his purpose to lead and restore a broken kingdom. A corrupt king, showcasing charisma and vitality, in the end, although quick, he found one of the show’s most satisfying and believable paths to redemption. After his death, he found his true destiny. Restoring peace to the kingdom he was meant to repair- the Underworld.

22. Cora Mills (portrayed by Barbara Hershey and Rose McGowan)

A woman obsessed with power and getting what she thought she deserved, Cora was manipulative and often frightening in her cruel behavior and demeanor, but it made her one of the most realistic villains of the show. Believing love is weakness, she never let her emotions get in the way of her grand ambitions. She betrayed Rumple, abandoned her first child Zelena, and when she married and had her daughter Regina, ripped her own heart out, so she would always stay true to the path of gaining royal power. She was unflinching, devious and twisted, and we loved to hate her.

21. Mulan (portrayed by Jamie Chung)

Mulan was a brave and fierce warrior who wore strong armor literally and figuratively. Guarded with her emotions, she also showed moments of vulnerability and wisdom when it came to matters of the heart and life. Strong, often headstrong, but so, so caring, Mulan was also incredibly clever, helping our heroes multiple times, becoming a member of Robin Hood’s gang, a guide and mentor to Merida, and faithful friend to Ruby. She would sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of others and felt the deep pangs of an unrequited love for Aurora. But despite never seeing it on screen I hope she found her own happy ending somewhere.

20. Dr. Archie Hopper/Jiminy Cricket (portrayed by Raphael Sbarge and Adam Young)

Perhaps the purest character of the series, literally playing a conscience without coming across preachy or self righteous is a tall order. But the opposite is true of Dr. Hopper, who showcases such wisdom, sweetness and non judgment no matter the person. Not free from his own tragic backstory, he was tricked and inadvertently and irrevocably hurt Gepetto’s parents, and so wished nothing more than to be a cricket and dedicate his life to helping and guiding others. In Storybrooke he was a healthy and wonderful example of the benefit self reflection and therapy. The fact that he also became a wedding officiant, rejoicing in the happiness of the people he helped was a beautiful addition to an already wonderful character.

19. Ingrid (portrayed by Elizabeth Mitchell and Brighton Sharbino)

Also known as the Snow Queen, the Aunt to Anna and Elsa had even more tragic backstory than that of her nieces. As an young girl Ingrid discovered she had ice powers, and while she became even more reserved and hid from the world, she and her sisters remained dedicated to each other’s happiness. It was only when a devastating accident led to one of her sister’s death with the other trapping her for years in an urn, that Ingrid became the monster she thought everyone would call her. With an icy and chilling demeanor, this was merely masking a heart that was deeply wounded, and underneath it all, true. Determined to find sisters that will love her unconditionally, all it took was knowing her sister’s deep regret, belief and love for her, for Ingrid to realize her grave mistake, reverse her spell of Shattered Sight and sacrifice herself in the process, leading her back to her sisters in the end. And despite the deception, her affection for Emma was sincere and she proved an important figure in her life. Ingrid’s character was poignant and her sacrifice was a moment of true redemption that was deeply emotional and beautifully moving.

18. August Booth/Pinocchio (portrayed by Eion Bailey, Jacob Davies and Rustin Gresiuk)

Emma once described August as a “typewriter wrapped in an enigma, wrapped in stubble.” And that’s definitely a fair assessment. He’s enigmatic, charming, and a writer. But he’s also much more. A friend and protector of Emma, he strayed from this path and much like the true Pinocchio character, inherently and deeply struggled with being truthful and unselfish. But he paid the ultimate price, and worked hard to make up for his mistakes and find redemption, for his friend, to make his father proud,  but also for himself.  Much like the Pinocchio of the original novel, his desire and penchant for less than honorable and deceiving behavior was an inherent quality he had to constantly battle. As a young child he leaves Emma alone, but deeply regrets it and so keeps tabs to makes he she remains on her path and not lose faith. And when he fails as an adult in that, he tries everything to make up for his failings and be the friend and guardian angel Emma deserves. With a magnetism, warmth and mystery to the character he was such a source of mythology and knowledge, as well as a true believer. August W. Booth made mistakes, but like Pinocchio learned how to be selfless, brave and true.

17. Belle French (portrayed Emilie De Ravin)

A true beauty inside and out, what was so beautiful about Belle’s character was that it demonstrated heroism in unconventional, but poignant ways that are not seen nearly enough. Her strength, beauty and heroism came in the form selflessness, compassion, forgiveness, intelligence and cleverness. When her kingdom needed her, she agreed to be Rumplestilskin’s servant so her people would be saved. When another kingdom was at the mercy of the Yaoguai, this intelligent bookworm single handedly tracked it down in a day, realized this so called “monster” was in pain, understood it and saved it as it was truly a cursed Prince Philip. She forgave those who hurt her, always endeavored others to follow their hearts, saw the good in Rumplestilskin and encouraged him endlessly, had the courage to banish him when he reached one of his lowest points, and although Rumplestilskin was often undeserving of her love and forgiveness, she bestowed it with belief and conviction. Some may disagree with her choices, and indeed her end was very sad, but her unfailing faith in others proved the depth of her compassionate heart. She remained a kind soul, loving wife and mother until the very end.

16. Ariel (portrayed by Joanna Garcia-Swisher)

Sweet, optimistic, naive but courageous, Ariel was an absolutely delightful character and as wonderful a depiction as any Little Mermaid fan surely dreamed of. On land she literally was a fish out of water not knowing or understanding certain human things calling forks “mini tridents” and not being afraid of a gun because she didn’t know what is was, resulting in adorable moments. But these moments of humor were matched by her moments of wisdom and belief in true love not only for herself with the handsome Prince Eric but for the friends she meets along the way such as Snow White and Captain Hook. She saves Snow from the Evil Queen twice, is instrumental in helping rescue Henry in Neverland, rescued Hook from drowning and from himself as she helped open his eyes on more than one occasion showing him how True Love does indeed mean more than a ship ever could, and never fill the void left from a broken heart, and importantly that villains will never find happiness until their attempts to find happy endings must change for the better, becoming his friend in the process, and helping him communicate with Emma when they needed it the most. Whether on land or under the sea, Ariel, was a sweet, unassuming and beautiful part of the series.

15. Zelena Mills (portrayed by Rebecca Mader and Isabelle Blake-Thomas)

The infamous Wicked of Witch in the Once of Upon a Time universe is a great depiction of the iconic character as she is layered and interesting, evoking moments of terror, hatred, amusement and even sympathy. Abandoned as a baby, bullied for being different and abused by her father as a child, these sufferings led her to seek some place and someone who would love and accept her. Sadly, her suffering turned to envy and resentment towards others (especially her sister Regina) having what she was always deprived of, leading her down a dark path of revenge. And as that infamous villain she was captivating to watch with a cool demeanor one moment and maniacal tirade the next. Her wicked ways only changed when she found people willing to forgive her and let her try to be a mother to her daughter. The one blemish on the character was the troubling way she became a mother which was never properly and rightly addressed. But overall, when she learned to live her life unselfishly and be the mother her daughter deserved, she found that seemingly illusive, happy and peaceful place where bluebirds fly, no broomstick required.

14. Elsa (portrayed by Georgina Haig)

If there ever was a timely addition and example of characters who feel like they leapt off the silver and into the small screen in the Once Upon a Time universe, it would be with the characters of Frozen. The arrival of the Ice Queen of Arendelle Elsa was a surprise for both the character and the audience and she could not have been more perfectly cast, nor beautifully and seamlessly integrated into the story. Elsa was kind, reserved, but warm, ironically, and a faithful sister and friend. A natural and relatable kindred spirit for Emma, they formed a fast friendship when Elsa creates an ice wall around town as leverage to help find her sister Anna and accidentally traps Emma inside. Unbothered by the cold, she was able to save her new friend’s life, finding strength within herself and gaining control of her magic. The beauty of her character is that her own struggles, wisdom, and belief give Elsa a richness and sweetness while also mirroring and guiding those in Storybrooke, most especially Emma. She helped Emma learn to accept every part of herself in the same way she had to, giving our Savior a moment of self True Love. And she never gave up on finding her sister, her pure heart saving both Anna and Kristoff from a watery grave, giving us two of the most beautiful moments of the series. Although a return to Arendelle was imminent, her indelible impression on Storybrooke was everlasting, making it possible to believe she would remain friends with Emma forever, and may even be a certain baby girl’s Ice Queen godmother.

13. Anna (portrayed by Elizabeth Lail)

Spunky, incessantly adorable chatterer, sweet-natured Anna is just as lovely and perfect a characterization as her sister Elsa in the Once Upon a Time story. Nearly identical to her animated film counterpart, this Anna had all of her fine qualities while also bringing equal parts gravitas, pathos and beauty to the role. When the sisters discover that their parents had journeyed to the Kingdom of Mist Haven to hopefully learn more about Elsa’s powers, but ultimately perished, Anna takes it upon herself to finish what her parents began, wanting nothing more than her sister’s happiness, even delaying her wedding to Kristoff. She faced off against Rumplestiltskin, Ingrid and Prince Hans proving herself brave and resourceful even when he felt like she failed because it was her pure heart and constant support of Elsa’s that made her sister return that support in kind. Their bond saved Anna’s life because she is willing to die for those she loves. She even taught our beloved Prince Charming not only how to wield a sword but to stand up to his persecutors, relaying the profound truth that it’s not just about surviving; You have to live. A lover of sandwiches, her sister and man named Kristoff that she finally married at the end of this story arc, Princess Anna of Arendelle is a shining example of Once Upon a Time’s most prominent theme: to always have hope.

12. Cruella De Vil (portrayed by Victoria Smurfit)

The sardonic, gin soaked reckless driver with an inherent propensity for evil, Cruella lived up to her name in spades and was the most fabulous villains that ever was! Once Upon a Time almost always portrayed their villains with sympathetic lives making their turn towards evil understandable. With Cruella, it was a refreshing change of pace to see a villain be evil for evil’s sake. With one of the most creative and interesting backstories, Cruella lived in a 1920s land of flappers and jazz, where the silver tongued tale of being abused she told to the Storybook’s author, was the opposite of the gruesome twist. Cruella was cold and evil since childhood, poisoning her father, tricking the author into giving her power to control animals, killing her step mother and then her dogs and sewing their fur into a coat- all in one chilling night! Her treachery proved to be her downfall as her appearance and ability to kill was forever taken from her, making her threat to Henry moot when Emma killed her to save her son. But she was such a delightfully viscous and fun villain to watch that when we saw her again in the Underworld, it was a fabulous surprise for all us darlings.

11. Henry Mills (portrayed by Jared Gilmore and Andrew J. West)

One of life’s most precious gifts is the privilege of seeing a child grow up, discover the world and mature into the person they will become. When the series began little Henry Mills was a 10 year old precocious and sweet child determined to make his mother Emma break the curse so she can bring back all the happy endings to the people of Storybrooke. His belief in the curse and in Emma proved so strong that his greatest hope came true. Possessing the Heart of the Truest Believer, Henry truly became the heart of the series in that he brought characters together through their love for him inspiring many an “Operation” that our heroes embarked on to defeat villains, break curses and save lives. And we bore witness to this brave boy growing into a kind, forgiving, wise young man who never ever lost hope in any of his family. He became the next author of the Storybook earning the lofty job through his pure heart, courage and conviction, overcame mistakes by helping others find hope and wanted nothing more than both his mothers to be happy. And although the plot point to have adult Henry stay in the Enchanted forest for years instead of returning to Storybrooke felt out of character, his finest qualities remained as he was a loving and faithful man- a devoted son and step son, gentle and kind father, loving husband, sweet big brother and valiant warrior just as he always dreamed of becoming as a child. Family is everything to Henry.

10. Regina Mills/The Evil Queen (portrayed by Lana Parrilla and Ava Acres)

Regina Mills, known in the Enchanted Forest as The Evil Queen, is a character that is undeniably complex. When the series begins, she is a bitterly vengeful villain with a flair for the dramatic, as the Queen of misplaced anger, living what she thought would be her happy ending with an entire kingdom cursed in Storybrooke where time was frozen and its residents couldn’t remember their true selves, Regina being the only one aware of that fact. But when her adopted son Henry brings his birth mother Emma to town, who also happens to be the only one who could break this curse and miraculously does, Regina had to begin a path towards change for the better, learning to love her son in healthier and more supportive way, to stop relying on dark magic and underhanded and manipulative ways, and put away her evil tendencies. It was a huge struggle for her character but she eventually began to put aside her revenge on Snow and Charming, who compassionately let her back in, stopped trying to separate Emma and Henry, gave her sister a second chance at family, no longer ran from the possibility of love, embracing her destined soulmate Robin Hood, and tried to be a better mother to Henry. If only judging on the first 4 seasons the character would be ranked higher, but after that unfortunately the redemptive storyline became inconsistent, most especially a misguided story of splitting herself in two and remaining that way, as well as, like Zelena, some crimes and atrocities never being addressed and dealt with as they should have been. While early on the Evil Queen was fun in a love to hate way, this eventual inconsistency with her progress was a disservice. However, in the end the “Evil” moniker was no longer truly applicable with her finest moments being where she finally realized (and showed others like her sister) the strength love and hope can give you if you truly believe in it.

9. Robin Hood (portrayed by Sean Maguire and Tom Ellis)

The legendary character of Robin Hood is one of the most beloved ever and one that’s been depicted countless times. On Once Upon a Time we see one of the finest characterizations. Originally played by Ellis for one episode in Season 2, the role was then recast by Maguire (the difference in appearance cleverly explained in a Season 4 episode.) This Robin of Locksley and Sherwood Forest was just as one would expect as the iconic thief and leader of a band of Merry Men who stole from the rich and gave to the poor, fought against injustice and tyranny in the Enchanted Forest, and then becoming a protector Storybrooke when a curse brings them to the sleepy town. Robin is noble, brave, cheeky and charming. He’s a lovable rogue who is a decent man who follows his heart and his beliefs, steadfastly and until the end, without being saccharine or unbelievable as he falters and makes mistakes in his romantic entanglements. Ultimately, this charming archer, had a heart of gold, with a deep and unending love for his children and his soulmate Regina, whom he sacrificed his life for, making him the one loss in the show that I personally will forever deeply lament. Robin Hood left an indelible impression that always hit the bulls eye.

8. Jefferson/The Mad Hatter (portrayed by Sebastian Stan)

Never before has the classic Alice in Wonderland character of The Mad Hatter been as complex and captivating as Once Upon a Time’s Jefferson. Charismatic, obsessive, and extremely intelligent, this deeply layered character was not only brilliant individually but his choices, abilities and interactions with key characters proved to be integral to the plot of the series, so much so that nothing would be the same without his presence. Neither a fully fledged villain nor a virtuous hero, Jefferson was once a procurer of difficult to find items and the master of a magical hat that can help you to travel to any realm. He was key to Regina embracing her dark side, and his presence in Storybrooke created a kernel of belief in the validity of the curse in Emma’s mind. Without him, and therefore his magical piece of millinery, the poison apple would have never came to Storybrooke, and therefore the curse would not have been broken in the way it was, Emma never would had met Killian Jones, while him finding a crystal ball for Rumple helped the would be couple make sure another couple, Snow and Charming, fell in love. A good man who only wanted to give his daughter everything, he feared after leaving her, she would never forgive him even though he was tricked. His time in Wonderland drove him mad, and in Strybrooke his curse was having both sets of memories, seemingly like a maniac one moment, kidnapping Mary Margaret and Emma all so Emma could get his hat to work, to a hero to Belle the next, releasing her from her asylum prison, to a sweet and sympathetic father who is reunited with his daughter Grace, embracing her and finally finding his happy ending. The magnetic and brilliant Jefferson left an indelible impression to marvel at. No pun intended.

7. Ruby Lucas/Red Riding Hood (portrayed by Meghan Ory)

A classic, iconic and rich fairy tale tradition as there ever was, the tale and character of Little Red Riding Hood is a cautionary one to be weary of strangers and be smart and safe. But Once Upon a Time gave us another subversive twist on the tale by making Ruby not only a sweet girl in a red hood who loves her Granny, but also the dreaded wolf herself, who cannot remember those she kills when she turns into the creature. In doing so it not only was one of the show’s greatest twists ever, but Ruby also became one of the show’s most interesting and relatable characters. With a beauty inside and out, her warmth, bravery, and gentle vulnerability, as well as the journeys she went through were very poignant as she learned to control her time as a wolf, a emotional and prescient metaphor to not be afraid of who we are but instead embrace it and celebrate it. Her cursed Storybrooke persona was one of a boldness and defiance, but when things change and the curse is broken we see that was partly a mask to hide her insecurities which transform into courage to fight for herself. As she tells her Granny, she found someone in herself and it was more than she expected. Loyal and ever protective of her best friend Snow, she helped her in immeasurable ways, which Snow returns when Ruby is frightened of love and encourages her to open her heart to Dorothy. Ruby was a true friend, funny, sweet, courageous, and relatable in the ways she found herself through the love for others and herself. 

6. Peter Pan/Malcolm (portrayed by Robbie Kay and Stephen Lord)

When we imagine Peter Pan, chances are we either imagine the mischievous but ultimately good hearted boy who never grows up from the 1950’s animated film, or the 1990’s version, portrayed by Robin Williams, of the boy who grew up, had a family and now must rescue them by remembering who he is. Both are heartwarming tales. What Once Upon a Time does is take elements from the original character that could be twisted and upsetting and make them even darker and more sinister. This Peter Pan was once a man: a cowardly one who abandoned his son Rumplestiltskin because he couldn’t deal with being a father, using Pixie dust to turn himself into a boy who never ages. He is the ruler of Neverland, who uses his shadow to lure children who feel neglected away from their homes, essentially kidnapping them and turning them into The Lost Boys, who more closely resemble the murderous boys from Lord of the Flies, rather than cute ragamuffin orphans. This Pan is truly the darkest villain in the sense that he hunts down the innocent for his own gain and amusement, eventually setting his sights on Henry, needing the Heart of the Truest Believer to save his own dying organ. He manipulates Henry, tortures his family with needless riddles and pain, and does it all with a cool and sinister smirk on his face, and magnetic villainy. And it’s engrossing to watch. He takes pleasure in the evil he does, and is so selfish that it makes the moments his son gets the best of him so incredibly rewarding. As admirable a foe as the heroes ever faced Pan was a bloody demon with the face of a seemingly innocent boy.

5. Snow White/Mary Margaret Blanchard (portrayed by Ginnifer Goodwin and Bailee Madison)

One of the most timeless characters of all time is given an iconic and remarkable characterization in Once Upon a Time as a woman who is not only beautiful, but incredibly strong, wise, forgiving, and endlessly caring. She is a loyal friend, a loving wife and mother, is inherently protective and self sacrificing, and has an ability to hope and forgive that is very poignant, with the ability the give the appropriate speech of hope when some need it the most. As a child, she had to learn humility and that sacrifice for your own gain will only turn your heart dark, not to mention how the evil can manipulate us. She was innocent and while these moments led to pain, they helped shape her into the good person she is. And although she had moments where her sense of morality and hope waivered, and struggled with how to be a mother to Emma, in the end she overcame these moments. When she was cursed as Mary Margaret , her true self was stifled but she remained under the surface as she found herself in love with David, physical strength coming through, and felt a profound familial connection to Emma almost instantly. As her true self of Snow White, her love for others is boundless, literally sharing her heart with her husband, forgiving and welcoming Regina into her family regardless of the past, and giving her daughter the only cure for her shared sleeping curse to help Emma reach Hook, deeply lamenting how Emma grew up without her and not wanting to take any more from her, displaying both a beautiful moment of motherly love and hope in her daughter to find another way to save them. Snow is sweet and strong and as capable with a bow and arrow as she is with her steadfast hope speeches. She is the fairest of them all in every way possible.

4. Rumplestliskin/Mr.Gold (portrayed by Robert Carlyle and Wyatt Oleff)

The classic fairy tale trickster, obsessed with the unborn, with the ability to spin straw into gold, is certainly seen in that way on Once Upon a Time, but there is so much more to the impish and flamboyant Rumplestiltskin  who has the penchant for making unbreakable deals and calling others “dearie,” in turn creating the most iconic version of the character we’ve ever seen. This Rumplestiltskin is known in Storybrooke as Mr. Gold,  but in truth is also the Beast to Belle and the Crocodile to Captain Hook, as well as infamous and ever feared Dark One, who is the most powerful dark wizard of them all. Abandoned as a child, he grows up to be a man so scared of losing his life in war, when he finds out he was to be a father that he purposefully injures himself, losing the respect and love of his wife. Letting fear bring out his worst qualities when he becomes The Dark One he allows that darkness to take hold of him, completely succumbing and controlled by the power he had felt denied of all his life. Plagued with self loathing and cowardice, he always struggles with choosing power over love, and is so often the master manipulator and puppeteer of everyone’s lives. And yet still we see how much he wants to love and be loved, often garnering empathy, particularly when he came to his quest to find his son and his deep love for Belle. One moment he is vindictive and dishonest, the next he shows true vulnerability and honesty. With the ability to be heroic he sacrificed himself to save everyone from Peter Pan, while he also proved to be dark and manipulative, even without the power of the darkness inside of him, when he transfers all of the darkness inside of Hook and Emma back to himself, betraying them and making Hook die, at least in that moment, in vain. It took the death of his wife for him to fully overcome his constant desire for immortality and power. No matter what, Rumplestiltskin is an endlessly complex and dynamic character that is always fascinating to watch.

3. Prince Charming/David Nolan (portrayed by Josh Dallas)

A classic Disney Prince if there ever was one, this Prince Charming, real name David Nolan, wanted to be known for more than awakening a sleeping Princess, even if doing so brought him great happiness. Indeed, this charming prince is so much more, with more complexities in both his origin story and personality. When he was cursed he literally was unable to overcome his confusion and bad choices but when that curse was lifted the wonderful Prince finally shined through. Perhaps not as flashy as the villains on the series, David, as the traditional leading man successfully showcases amazing qualities and captivating moments in ways that are both traditionally heroic and epic as well as understated and quiet. Raised as a shepherd he learned the value of hard work and true love from his mother, and when he became a prince it was to save her and his entire kingdom, determined to not let anyone suffer. Only when he meets Snow White does he realize the that he can stand up against the tyrannical King George and fight for and always find his True Love Snow. Stubborn and often hard headed one moment, he is also kind, brave, heroic, selfless, caring, and honorable. His traditionally heroic moments of fighting a dragon, or palace guards with his newborn daughter in his arms, are matched not only in the beautiful romantic moments with Snow White such as sacrificing himself on more than one occasion to keep her safe or putting himself under a sleeping curse, but also in his moments with Emma proving to be a gentle, protective and truly understanding father, as well as grandfather to Henry, offering advice, guidance or comfort whenever it was needed. He also learned to overcome prejudice and past wrongs and forgave the likes of Hook and Regina. This Prince Charming is the ideal combination of masculine strength and sensitive tenderness, brilliant in both moments of quiet wisdom and love and brave heroics, proving that the traditional fairy tale prince can be a modern, inspiring and relatable character.

2. Killian Jones/Captain Hook (portrayed by Colin O’Donoghue and Oliver Bell)

The character of Captain Hook has seen countless interpretations since the original iteration and none have ever been quite as extraordinary as Once Upon a Time’s Killian Jones. As a boy he and his older brother were sold into indentured servitude, suffering years of abuse but retaining a sense of honor along with his idolization of his brother Liam. When a treacherous King’s lies leads to Liam’s death, the young man who dreamed of a hero’s journey became the infamous pirate, and Captain of the Jolly Roger, one day falling in love and running away with Rumplestlskin’s wife, who, now as the Dark One, kills Milah, and cuts off Killian’s hand, leading to the birth of his more colorful moniker, Captain Hook; and a long and dark path of villainy and revenge against Rumple, spanning a century, with fate leading him towards another path: one of love, heroics and redemption. Killian Jones is an old fashioned, swashbuckling, sexy, charming, handsome, flirtatious, and adventurous pirate, who deems himself a dashing rapscallion, but is also sincere, loving, gentle and tender, as well strong in his motivations and convictions. When he met Emma it was as if he was seeing the sun again for the first time in centuries and she inspired him as he learned to hope again, to move past vengeance and tread the path of good. Although he falters and letting go of his revenge proved difficult, once he decided that revenge is not the way, he worked hard to prove himself worthy of Emma’s love, letting his feelings be apparent but letting her lead the way, showcasing an earnest respect.  

Indeed, meeting Emma Swan changed his life in a remarkable way and he found that love was not only possible again, but that it could be the most beautiful and extraordinary love imaginable and inspire you to be a better person. But importantly, though he had hope and confidence, he wanted to be a better man regardless of whether she ever returned those feelings. He supported and encouraged Emma to be her true and miraculous self, helped David find a cure for Dreamshade and find Henry in Neverland, gave up his ship so she could return home to her family, sought forgiveness and often protected Belle from harm after he hurt her deeply in the past, protected Henry from harm numerous times, and made sure Charming did not follow a path of revenge himself, knowing the pain it causes. When he realized he had been turned into a Dark One, he faltered and let it consume him, but soon turned around and made the ultimate sacrifice. When Emma is unable to bring him home he makes sure she will let him go, and proves crucial in the defeat of the villainous Hades, his sins forgiven by Zeus, allowing him to be resurrected, reborn, and returned to where he belongs: with Emma. Killian Jones will always retain the dashing pirate charm, but he also became a devoted husband, caring father and step father, loyal friend, and true hero. He is truly the greatest version of Captain Hook to ever sail the seven seas.

1. Emma Swan (portrayed by Jennifer Morrison, Mckenna Grace and Abby Ross)

When it came to choosing Once Upon a Time’s finest character, the most apropos choices had to be Emma Swan, the heroine and main character for the show’s first six seasons, and the one whose legacy, inspiration, and spiritual presence remained until she returned in the beginning and end of the final season, closing out the series in a beautiful, satisfyingly profound way that brought the series, and her character full circle. Emma is the lens for the audience and in turn the most relatable character as she grew up in the real world and dealt with real world struggles, pain, and heartbreak. A beautiful, complex, intelligent, resourceful, determined, empathetic, kind, and loving woman, she began the series very lonely and guarded, terrified of being truly vulnerable with anyone. But over the course of the series she found courage to open her heart with her son, her family, her friends, and the man she falls truly in love with. Born as the Savior, and the one who could bring back the happy endings, she was spared from the curse and sent to the Land Without Magic and grew up with a sense of abandonment and unworthiness, that only continued with painful experiences with both Ingrid and Neal which perpetuated her reluctance to trust, leading to a strong sense of self reliance and thick skin, but never hardening her heart completely. Through all the pain, she remained guarded but deep down never lost that kindness or desire to help others, adopting early on the surname Swan, which became a metaphor for her journey from the ugly duckling rejected as a child and feeling as she didn’t matter to anyone, to the person she truly was an wanted to be- the beautiful swan and the Savior, a destined hero but one whose choices and true goodness made her such. The magic that resides inside her takes times to hone but that is just another example of how Emma is like us all in the ways we must learn to not only find our place in the world but become our best selves.

Through her tears and her smiles, you feel every single heart beat of Emma’s journey of self discovery as she embraces her role as the Savior, begins to learns magic, and most importantly begins to heal the wounds she had carried with her all of her life. It takes a while for her to believe in magic and who she is but the love she forms for her son Henry breaks the first curse of Storybrooke, her True Love saving her son’s life and awakening the town from its 28 year sleep. But it is not smooth sailing from then on. She remained guarded around her parents but in time she learns to forgive, embracing Storybrooke and her family as the home she always wished for- a place you know when you just miss it. Her journey towards true romantic love is a rocky one, but when she opens her heart and begins to believe in hope, and believe in Killian’s sincerity, her heart awakens from its long sleep, and they find a deep and everlasting bond that survives both succumbing to the Darkness, and a test of True Love ordained by the Gods. In the final step in her journey and the final battle she overcomes her fears and makes the ultimate sacrifice, solidifying her position in the series as its greatest hero and Savior as she sacrifices her life for everyone, only to be resurrected with love. Despite the magical aspects to Emma’s character, she remained the most grounded character of the series. And importantly, Emma Swan is emblematic of the kind of inspiring hero, as well as showcasing qualities that many of us face every day. She is a beautiful depiction of a woman who exemplifies what it means to be human. Like all of us, she is neither all tough and hard, nor all soft and gentle. Emma Swan indeed is a hero, but she is more importantly a woman who taught us all that we decide the kind of person we are no matter what the world may tell us, and that strength comes not just from physicality and defeating monsters, metaphorical or otherwise, but by being vulnerable enough to open your heart to forgiveness and love. And that is why the woman with red leather jacket and yellow bug, the metaphorical color that arrives in Storybrooke, is such a profound character. And it is why Emma Swan, the lonely soul who becomes the strong, resilient, triumphant hero, Princess, Savoir, Sheriff of Stoybrooke, caring daughter, gentle and wise mother, and deeply loving wife, who realizes that her happy ending is truly a happy beginning, is Once Upon a Time’s greatest character.

Honorable Mentions: Ruth, Dr, Whale/Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Isaac (The Author), The Blue Fairy/Mother Superior, Sidney Glass/Magic Mirror, Tiana/Sabine, Merida, Alice/Tilly, Blackbeard.

Special recognition: Alice, Cyrus, Will Scarlet, Anastasia and Jafar from Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (These are all wonderful characters and although Will and Jafar both appeared in the main show, their true greatness lies with Wonderland along with the other main characters of the series.)

Top 10 Favorite On Screen Pirates

Avast ye matey’s, yesterday be International Talk Like a Pirate Day, so I thought I would look at all of the pirates that have ever swash buckled their way into our hearts and count down my favorites from film and television. Some are dastardly villains, some are humorous foes, some are romantic heroes, and some are every thing in the book. But all definitely have a flair for the dramatic, a distinctive personality and have tongues and wits as sharp as their swords!

10. “Captain Hook” portrayed by Hans Conried (Peter Pan)

disney hook

This version of the classic character may be a codfish, and one we can find humor in more so than be frightened of, like other Disney villain’s. But make no mistake, this pirate may often be fooled by his nemesis Peter Pan, but also has his moments of intelligence, clarity and downright evil, and against those who are very young including Tiger Lily, the Darling children and Pan himself. Thank goodness Tinkbell’s bravery out shined her vanity, and in the end Peter was saved and the Crocodile will continue to give the captain what he deserves.

9. “Blackbeard” portrayed by Charles Mesure (Once Upon a Time)

blackbeard
Much more of villain than his on screen nemesis’ Killian Jones, this dastardly pirate looks more like a traditional version of Captain Hook than the show’s actual Hook with his long red coat and dark long hair. He is elegant, deceitful, but also quite funny, with a great chemistry between Mesure and O’Donoghue to boot, making this pirate one of the show’s best recurring characters.

8. “Captain Hector Barbossa” portrayed by Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean)

barbossa
The brilliant chameleon of an actor Geoffrey Rush manages to take a wicked, typical pirate villain and turn him into a well layered and compelling character that is more than villain throughout the course of the franchise. He is killed, then resurrected and continues in his cunning pirate ways, only for us to discover that there is an actual heart that is vulnerable and sympathetic to others, from the couple he married aboard his ship during an epic battle, to the daughter he never knew he had. I can’t believe I ended up crying over Barbossa, but I did!

7. “John Merrick” portrayed by Gabriel Byrne (Shiprecked)

shipwreckedgabrielbyrne2
A pirate who is most definitely dark and evil, this understated pirate carries out his sinister work in the shadows and in disguise as the Naval Captain he murdered. Taking over a crew of good, hard working sailors, he slowly poisons a good Captain, delves out harsh punishments and is willing to hurt the young and innocent, all in the name of money. What a true pirate definitely was in reality, this is a grounded and effective character indeed.

6. “Elizabeth Swann” portrayed by Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean)

elizabeth swann
The beautiful Elizabeth was born into a world of propriety and wealth, but all her life longed for adventure and was drawn to more. Make no mistake, the girl who showed us all that life is more than corsets, gowns and arranged marriages, learns inner strength as well as the ways of a Pirate life and found her way as both a capable woman and swashbuckling pirate in her own right. Eventually she is elected Captain Swann, a pirate King leading all of the crews of the world in an epic battle for freedom. She is fearless, strong and willing to do anything for those she loves. But like her eventual husband Will, always remains on the side of honor. Her story was one of resilience and patience as she is finally reunited with her beloved Will permanently, True Love knowing no bounds.

5. “Captain James Hook” portrayed by Dustin Hoffman (Hook)

hook dustin
There is not a more traditional version of J.M. Barrie’s Captain Hook more brilliant than Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of the villain. Many years after Peter Pan left Neverland and had a family, Hook kidnaps Pan’s two children, wanting revenge and war against the “boy’ who cut off his hand and threw it to the crocodile. An evocative, delight of a film, what makes it stand out is definitely this Hook who is sardonic, sour, slimy and yet charming. He is funny but never ridiculous, cunning and resourceful but not without his moments levity. Hoffman’s Hook is dastardly perfection.

4. “Will Turner” portrayed by Orlando Bloom (Pirates of the Caribbean)

will turner.gif
The more traditional heroic pirate of the series, comparatively, the handsome and steadfast William Turner, son of the pirate “Bootstrap” Bill Turner, didn’t even start out in this role. Beginning the franchise as a humble blacksmith who turned his nose up at those filthy, low life pirates he encountered as he vowed to rescue his love Elizabeth from, he soon became the ideal combination of pirate and hero as he teamed up, and sometimes became at odds with, Jack Sparrow, Barbarossa, Davy Jones and a vast crew of miscreants. However, he always remained on the side which was honorable and in the best interest as those he loved. Will Turner is the pirate who went on a great journey all in the name of love and family.

3. “Captain Jack Sparrow” portrayed by Johnny Depp (Pirates of the Caribbean)

jack sparrow
Is there any other character like Captain Jack Sparrow? I had seen many a pirate film, and had been on the ride in which the film is based on countless times. But when Jack first appeared on screen in the 2003 film, it was an indicator of exactly the kind of unique, wonderful and instantly beloved character he would become. Standing tall on the mast of a ship, the salty sea wind in his face, he looks proud and resolute, until we see he is on a modest boat that is sinking in which he sails right into the dock on the boat’s final moments afloat. He’s hilarious and unlike any other pirate we’ve seen. The seemingly perpetually drunk Captain Jack Sparrow is a character we can laugh at and root for despite his look out for himself ways. The franchise would not be what it is without this clever, funny, and resilient pirate, who simply wants freedom, respect, and above all rum.

2. “Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts” portrayed by Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride)

westley
As Wesley’s portrayer Cary Elwes so perfectly stated recently, there’s a shortage of perfect films out there, and I would say that not only is The Princess Bride one of those films, but one of the main reasons is due to the character of Westley, and the incomparable performance by Elwes. After being presumed dead by his True Love Buttercup, poor farm boy Westley returns as the Dread Pirate Roberts, ‘kidnapping” (but truly rescuing) the princess and only revealing himself after a tumble down a cliff and an exclaim of those famous words of I Love You, “As You Wish.” Like the film itself, this pirate is charming, funny, and full of line after line of wisdom, truths, and flair. Westley is strong, romantic, brave, and all in all the perfect fairy tale pirate hero.

1. “Killian Jones/Captain Hook” portrayed by Colin O’Donoghue (Once Upon a Time)

killian smile 7

Was there any doubt as to who my number 1 pick would be. The dashing rapscallion of the beloved fairy tale series didn’t appear until Season 2, but soon became not only a fan favorite, but one of the best characters in the show with the brilliant performance by O’Donoghue and excellent character and story development. Going from a charming villain whose allegiances often simply aligned with whoever he could benefit the most from, this version of Hook, real name Killian Jones, became a fully fledged romantic hero, helping to save Storybrooke and many characters numerous times and winning the heart of the show’s leading lady, the Savoir herself Emma Swan. His story ended in a beautiful way as he retained his pirate flair, charm, and intelligence, while becoming a hero, husband and father. This modern version of Captain Hook is one for the ages!

What are your favorite on screen pirates? Did I mention some of yours? Let me know in the comment section!!

 

Shipwrecked Image Credit (x)

2018 Year in Review: Favorite Films of the Year

With Awards Season in full swing and many “Best Films” of the year being shared, here at The Girly Nerd, it is high time to share what were my favorite films in 2018. And there were an abundance of amazing ones. Common denominators certainly were abound: Netflix, post apocalyptic drama, super heroes, the return of the rom-com, welcome and meaningful diversity, and the beauty of stories and recapturing our childhoods and what truly matters. Without further ado here are my favorites for 2018, with some special acknowledge of standout performers and outstanding directors.

10. Dumplin’ dumplin_004.0

Dolly Parton once said “Find out who you are, and do it on purpose” and that is definitely the mantra that Dumplin’ employs so beautifully as Willowdean, the daughter of a former beauty queen, along with some fellow “revolutionaries” join their local pageant to prove a point about what pageants are, only for everyone involved to discover something profound about themselves and life. Dumplin’ is about embracing who you truly are, learning to forgive and not to judge others, and living and loving your best life, brought to life with great humor and heart.

9. What Still Remains what-still-remains

An evocative, thought provoking post apocalyptic drama, What Still Remains examines an extreme but profound “what if” scenario. What if you were living in a desolate world where so much of the population was gone and some that remained were lost in the most inhuman way imaginable. Would you in turn lose your humanity, in order to “survive” or would you maintain it because losing that would be equally devastating- because essentially you would be losing yourself. In this story that is what Anna encounters, when fellow survivor Peter brings her to his village which seems welcoming but underneath it all, does what cults do- twist religion and abandon the concept of free will and choice. Led by a nuanced and often chilling performance by Colin O’Donoghue, we see with Peter how the charismatic can be hiding something truly sinister within themselves (and casting someone as striking and charming as he is talented as O’Donoghue is brilliant), as well as the devastation of dark choices that cause us to lose our own humanity and try to take away those of others. Perhaps their world is bleak, but we must never lose ourselves or hope that something brighter is within reach.

8. Black Pantherblack-panther-movie-characters

The world of Wakanda is an extraordinary one and I have no doubt that most who were captivated by this world, found themselves chanting “Wakanda Forever” as the credits to Black Panther rolled and beyond. We first met the new king of Wakanda T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War and right away were drawn into his story and fine character. But Black Panther not only expands his story but the entirely of this world with even more remarkable characters, my personal favorite being T’Challa’s sister, and true genius Shuri. The accomplishments and exemplary thing about this film are two-fold. Not only is the story engrossing, acting wonderful, aesthetics gorgeous, and themes resonant, but we see representation with real, full and non stereotypical characters. This should be and hopefully will begin to be commonplace. But above all Black Panther is simply a wonderful and captivating film. A comic book film it may be with extraordinary circumstances, and heroes and villains alike. But at its heart, it’s resonant story about integrity and honor and learning how the world and the motivations of others are more complicated than we perhaps thought.

7. A Quiet Placejohn-krasinski-a-quiet-place-1200x675

Can you imagine a world where sound was your damnation? Where if you make any kind of loud noise, your life will most likely be lost, hunted down by a monster? That is the haunting concept of A Quiet Place, which is an extraordinarily artistic and evocative take on the classic thriller, post apocalyptic world. In truth, this film is about the power of love between family, most especially that between parent and child.  Anyone who is a parent is no doubt deeply moved by this tale of a family in a desolate world where sound, and the monstrous creatures that attack when they hear it, is their daily enemy. One of their children is deaf, and that combined with their necessary situation, provided such an effective usage of sound and sign language. When we are in young Regan’s perspective the film is almost completely silent to represent her point of view and it is truly affecting. The anxieties of the family are high when the birth of another child is imminent and they are separated. Not only on the edge of your seat in the traditional thriller way, A Quiet Place accomplishes what many films of the same nature do not. It deeply moves us. Director John Kraskinski said this was a love letter to his daughters, and with his on and off screen wife Emily Blunt, they created a story of true love, sacrifice and hope abound with the significance of always striving to learn and invent, and most especially to not just listen with our ears, but with our hearts and minds. A Quiet Place is a quietly profound film.

6. Crazy Rich Asianscrazy ricj

Funny, sweet, hilarious and another welcome and profoundly diverse film, I could not say it better than the wonderful Michelle Yeoh about what this films accomplishes so wonderfully, “To be represented- we’re not just a token for diversity. Real representation means you have a meaningful character with hopes and dreams and in Crazy Rich Asians that’s what we all have.” Diversity is not a trend, and something that should be done haphazardly or without much thought. It should be done, (and is in this film it is) in a beautiful and meaningful way. The world is a large place and everyone should be able to see themselves at some point on screen in a significant way that has us crying or laughing and having that moment of true recognition. What is also special about Crazy Rich Asians is that it’s about both diversity and universality, and it’s a celebration of that. We have seen this kind of romance story before with love having to overcome class differences, and pressures from family. What’s different is who is portraying these characters. It’s both specific in culture but also universal thematically. It’s about family, love and traditions that are specific to the Asian culture but can be relatable to all. But even if it weren’t it still would remain praiseworthy. Crazy Rich Asians is the type of film that I truly love and hope to see more and more in years to come.

5. Avengers: Infinity Waravengers

A film that is the culmination of over 10 years and 18 films is bound to have a great deal riding on its shoulders. And the first part of this climatic cinematic event, in one of the most spectacular cinematic universes of story and character was just that- absolutely spectacular! Marvel is most certainly a master of creating dynamic films filled with real emotion and amazing action, and with so many characters filling the screen, the task of balancing all of them, giving them sufficient screen time, all while managing to create a coherent and compelling story that was 10 years in the making, is indeed a tall order. And boy did they deliver. The first two Avengers films were amazing films, as are so many of the other individual films for every character, but there was something special about this one. What was most compelling was the way this truly centered on the villain- Thanos- as he is hell bent on erasing half of the universe, and like most villains feels he is totally justified.  You feel every moment and are on the edge of your seat, and the film flies by until it reaches the climatic battle which was one of the most, again, compelling spectacles to ever grace the screen- and for one very significant reason. It wasn’t just about the amazing effects and cool imagery. It was because it felt human. And when Thanos wins with a snap of his fingers of that coveted Infinity Gauntlet, we felt the depth of this “victory” down to own very souls.

4. Mary Poppins Returnsmp retirns

Magical, colorful, a feast for the eyes and ears, and a wonder for the heart and soul, Mary Poppins Returns accomplishes something that seemed impossible. It created a new and wondrous version of the practically perfect nanny and her adventurous and wise ways, infused with heart, poignancy and above all, magic. And I will be perfectly honest- when I first heard about the film I was adamantly against attempting to recreate the perfection that is the 1964 classic. But as time moved on and I saw who was involved, from the top notch casting of Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, to director Rob Marshall who has proven to immensely talented at bringing musicals to life with vitality with Chicago and Into the Woods, and lastly to composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Whitman whose songs for the TV series Smash play on repeat in my home on a regular basis, I went from opposition to cautious optimism, to out right hope and excitement. And that shift in feelings was more than warranted. It may not reach the levels as the original in story and song, but more than succeeds in bringing warmth and heart into characters new and old as well as simply being stunning in its visuals and orchestration.

Emily Blunt more than makes the character her own with wit and cheekiness and the oh so important subtle emotion when dealing with Michael Banks and his children who have lost their mother and may lose their home. Lin-Manuel Miranda is the perfect blend of charming and sweet, much like Bert was with an added depth and connection to Jane Banks that was both unexpected and lovely. Ben Whishaw feels so much like his late father (portrayed originally by David Tomlinson) that it’s uncanny, while Emily Mortimer was a lovely blend of tried and true giggly effervescent Jane and social activist that would make her Suffragette mother proud. The greatest songs are without a doubt, the lovely and soft “The Place Where Lost Things Go,” the rousing  “Trip a Little Light Fantastic” and above all “Nowhere to Go But Up” which literally soars and is the film’s, most timeless tune. The cameos by Dick Van Dyke and Angela Landsbury will make your heart happy, the music smile and the story cry. Mary Poppins Returns is magical in every way and shows us that things are never truly lost because they will always remain in our hearts.

3. Sun Dogssundogsjennifermorrison

Some of the finest films are simple stories, well told. Sun Dogs is a beautifully crafted film with moving performances, immaculate direction, and affecting themes in a story that is poignant, humorous and touching all at once. A lovely marriage of story and artistry, this film that takes place in a post 9-11 world, where the earnest Ned Chipley, who has dealt with a mental deficiency since birth, wants more than anything to join the Marines, help keep the country safe, and above all save lives. And when he thinks he stumbles onto a possible terrorist threat, he and a young girl named Tally go on a journey of self discovery, that is often mirrored in that of his parents and indeed the audience. Fine performances by Michael Angarano, Melissa Benoist, Ed O’Neil and Allison Janney, you feel deeply for all of these characters, and will simultaneously laugh and cry. Sensitive issues it may be, but they are handled with tender care and respect. You feel and sympathize with Ned, but you don’t pity him. His earnestness is so heartfelt even when everything is not what it seems. And above all the themes combined with these characters draw you into the story in a way that is truly gripping.

The full length feature directorial debut of Jennifer Morrison (whose talent is superb and surely has a fine directing career ahead of her), the direction of the film is sublime in its subtlety and specificity, visually interesting and reflective of the film’s main themes. (In fact, look out for a more in depth film study on this one soon.) As Morrison said, “Sun Dogs shines a light on the idea that every person has a purpose in life. I believe that we are all misfits in one way or another. We feel misunderstood. We fail. We struggle. We hope. It’s what makes us unique in our search for meaning.” And therein lies the true heart of the film. Through Ned, and indeed all of the characters, we see and can relate to feeling lost or needing someone to believe in us, hold our hand and be there in sincere understanding or compassion. Moreover, the phrase, “Hello, how are you today?” takes on new meaning as we learn that even the simplest of gesture can save someone’s life in more ways than one. We all are searching for that meaning in life and our purpose and in Sun Dogs that is expressed in a truly beautiful and meaningful way.

2. Christopher Robinchristopher robin

Can a film have heartbeat? Does a film have the ability to simply and effortlessly tap into childhood nostalgia and the remembrance of life’s true wonders and beauties in a way that reaches your very soul? In the case of Christopher Robin, the answer is unequivocally a resounding YES!! The Winnie the Pooh stories by A.A. Milne, 1977 Disney film, and other incarnations of the classic characters have always held a special place in my heart, but this latest film perhaps made me feel more than all the others combined, as we once again ask, is it possible to say an audible “Awww” throughout an entire movie? The heart of Christopher Robin lies within its ability to tap into feelings beyond comparison, with visuals that are so realistic you actually believe that Pooh and his friends truly are real and have returned to Christopher’s life when he needed them the most, with fine performances by Ewan McGregor and Hayley Atwell as well as the immaculate voice work and artistry  of every single person who brought Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore and the rest of the 100 Acre Wood to life.

Visually and thematically, Christopher Robin is brilliant and beautiful in its simplicity, subtlety and unabashed sweetness. With muted colors that reflect the time period, and a subtle use of vibrancy seen in Pooh and his friends and single red balloon, as well as a gentle direction and similar themes to director Marc Forster’s equally stunning Finding Neverland, this film can makes us smile and cry and touch our hearts with its poignant wisdom about life, friendship and family. We all must grow up and mature, but we need not lose that ability to find joy in life’s simplest treasures and never lose our child like wonder. We may be lost but we can always be found when we open our hearts to tthat wonder and joy, found as easily as a bright red balloon in a vast sea of gray. And that is something truly special.

1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society guernsey

Acclaimed author Stephen King said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic,” and is that ever the case. And although King’s works and Guernsey couldn’t be more different, his assessment is attune to what the book and this subsequent original Netflix film expresses. But Guernsey indeed takes this even steps further in an exquisitely delicate and moving depiction of a group of people who come together under the darkest of circumstances in the shadow of the Nazi occupation of World War II, showcasing the ways they manage to find joy and comfort despite everything. Make no mistake, the fear and loss this society formed out of self preservation experiences is profound, but when a young author connects with this group of individuals young and old, they all find something they truly needed: a collective family who understand the importance and resplendent joy of the written word, and truly human connections.

Guernsey is the type of period movie, so exquisitely filmed that your eyes are in a constant state of awe from the London golden parties to its cobblestone streets. And most especially, you will wish you could transport to every single beautiful local in this seaside British town. Indeed, from the cinematography, to the costumes, to the score, Guernsey is a wondrous delight, while the performances and story, much like Christopher Robin, have the ability to awaken and move the soul in a profound way. For we see how books can bring people together- reach across time and space and not only make us feel, but help us feel connected to others. Isn’t that what the finest books, or films, or music, or art can accomplish- create an unique kind of radiant magic that can help create unbreakable bonds of love, family and friendship. In a world filed with darkness, this is a glowing beacon of light and hope. The Guernsey Society may have created a group to save their lives in the literal sense, but the way it truly saved them can never truly be measured. And that is why this film sits at the top of this year’s finest.

Honorable Mentions: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, When We First Met
Yet to See: Ralph Breaks the Internet, The Incredibles 2

Stand Out Performers:
Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place & Mary Poppins Returns)
Michael Angarano (Sun Dogs)
Awkafina (Crazy Rich Asians)
Josh Brolin (Avengers: Infinity War)
Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther)
Lily James (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society)
Colin O’Donoghue (What Still Remains)
Ben Whishaw (Mary Poppins Returns)

Outstanding Directors:
Jennifer Morrison (Sun Dogs)
John Krasinski (A Quiet Place)
Marc Forster (Christopher Robin)
Rob Marshall (Mary Poppins Returns)
Mike Newell (The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society)

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.

killian excaliber

Strong

killian fierce

Brave

hook hero

Heroic

killian end of world

Devoted

killian loyal

Loyal

killian navy

Honorable

hook sexy

Handsome

killian sexy 1

Sexy

killian flirt

Flirtatious

hook sassy 1

Self-Deprecating

killian humblr

Humble

cs comfort

Comforting

killian determined 1

Determined

killian overwhelmed

Overwhelmed

killian knows greek

Intelligent

hook sins

Wise

killian smile 4

Blissful

killian smile 5

Awestruck

killian happy ending

Vulnerable

killian selfless

Selfless

killian helpful

Supportive

killian baby

Sweet

cs passion1

Passionate

cs-nose

Tender

killian in love

Loving

cs hope 1

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.