Once Upon a Time: 12 Most Underrated Actors/Characters

One of Once Upon a Time’s greatest attributes has always been its colorful characters and high caliber performances. Over the years we’ve seen high and rightful praise for its lead actors Jennifer Morrison, Colin O’Donoghue, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla and Rebecca Mader, while guest stars such as Robbie Kay, Victoria Smurfit, Joanna Garcia-Swisher, Elizabeth Mitchell and the other Frozen cast members Georgina Haig, Elizabeth Lail and Scott Michael Foster were loved and adored by many. But there have been many more wonderful characters and actors worthy of such praise that often have been overlooked. As the show approaches its end, it’s time to celebrate them as well.

12. Charles Mesure (Blackbeard)
Favorite Quote: “This trunk will make sure you die without fin-terference.”blackbeard

Blackbeard is the kind of villain I absolutely love- dastardly, but suave, cunning but funny, and this pirate captain and rival to Captain Hook fits the bill perfectly. The bonus is that he looks just like the traditional depiction of the Captain Hook character and when he is on screen with his rival it’s absolutely golden. But not matter who Mesure shared his scenes with, he portrayed the pillaging pirate with great charisma. You were never rooting for him but loved every dastardly moment he appeared on screen.

11. Jamie Chung (Mulan)
Favorite Quotes: “Love is sacrifice.”
“It is dangerous to confuse justice with vengeance.” mulan

Mulan is a brave and fierce warrior who wore strong armor literally, and much like our beloved Savior, figuratively. But she also showed moments of vulnerability and wisdom. She would sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of others, and in my heart I hope she found her own happy ending somewhere. Jaime Chung so wonderfully portrayed Mulan’s layers- strong, often headstrong, but so, so caring.

10. Jessy Schram (Cinderella/Ashley)
Favorite Quotes: “If I can get a happy ending, anyone can.”
“You just said it, I have to throw the punch. You can’t do it for me this time.”ella

Her story and character may follow the traditional attributes we know, but with the familiar also came a new and poignant story about a mother and girl taking control of her life, with the help of a certain Savior. But after Emma inspires her, Ashley’s finds her own happiness and redemption for a past wrong with her step sister. This Cinderella is strong and relatable, sweet and audacious, finding her happy ending with her husband, daughter and own sense of self by running her own day care in Storybrooke. And Jessy Schram made the character feel ever so real- like a real woman you’d want to be friends with and also be inspired by.

9. Rose McIver (Tinkerbell)
Favorite Quotes: “I can’t believe you want me to ignore someone who needs help. That’s not very fairy like.”
“For the record, I know why you risked your life back there and it wasn’t for yourself or revenge. It was for Emma.”

tink2

Rose McIver brings everything you’d expect for the Tinkerbell character: spunk, humor, grace, and beauty. But there’s more to this fairy and McIver also brought such warmth and poignancy to her story of betrayal, loss of faith (and her wings), and finally learning to believe in herself again and becoming a hero when she needed to be. Like a good fairy, she always wants everyone to find love and happiness, and like a good person, she learns to never give up on others and herself despite the obstacles. She’s as powerful as pixie dust!

8. Beverley Elliott (Granny)
Favorite Quotes: “Wolf’s hearing is not all it’s cracked up to be, especially when you run a hotel.”
“Meatloaf back home. What a bitch!”granny1

The best things about Granny’s character are not only that she brings the warmth you would expect from a Grandmotherly character, but also that there is so much more depth than you could have ever expected, brought to life perfectly by Beverley Elliott. Not only does she treat us with endless humor and one liners, but she 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. Whether she is wielding a knitting needle or a cross bow, Granny is a force to be reckoned with.

7. Liam Garrigan (King Arthur)
Favorite Quotes: “I was once prophesized to repair a broken kingdom. My mistake was thinking that kingdom was Camelot.”
“I’ve had victories and I’ve had losses. And I’ve learned it’s the losses that require us to be brave.”

arthur

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- a good man who let a quest darken his soul so much that he lost sight of really mattered- his love for Guinevere and purpose to lead and restore a broken kingdom. Liam Garrigan was brilliant as the corrupt king, showcasing charisma and vitality, and in the end true heroism as he finds redemption after death, finding his true destiny- restoring peace to the kingdom he was meant to repair: the Underworld.

6. Meghan Ory (Ruby Lucas)
Favorite Quotes: “I should be out there having adventures with lemurs!”
“I sort of found someone in myself, and it was more than I expected.”ruby

In one of the show’s greatest twists ever Ruby also became one of the show’s most interesting and relatable characters. With a beauty inside and out her warmth, bravery, and the journeys she went through were very poignant and Meghan Ory brought a gentle vulnerability to the girl in the red cloak who was also the wolf. Ruby was a true friend, funny, sweet, courageous, and relatable in the ways she found herself through the love for others and herself.

5. David Anders (Dr. Whale/Victor Frankenstein)
Favorite Quotes: “Are the nuns still nuns or can they, you know, date?”
“So Emma changes her hair and no one makes a fuss, but I get ridiculed.”whale.gif

For a long time, the audience did not know who Dr. Whale’s fairy tale counterpart was, and when it was finally revealed, it was one of the most dynamic, interesting and captivating of the series. The resident doctor in Storybrooke, and the legendary scientist in the Land Without Color, Whale is wonderfully (but mildly) smarmy, widely intelligent, funny, but deep down sad and insecure. David Anders was the perfect choice to balance not only the two sides to him, but also the many layers of the character, simultaneously able to make us laugh (even when he’s being a letch) and sympathize and love him. We always wanted to see more of “The Doctor.”

4. Eion Bailey (August Booth)
Favorite Quotes: “I’ve lived a life of selfishness, cowardice and dishonesty. And only I can cure that. Not magic, not science. Just me.”
“You know when you picked Swan, it made me happy. I figured it meant that you got it. That you were on your way to becoming the person you wanted to be.”
“Let’s just say I’m a believer. And I’m here to help others see the light.”august smile1

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. Eion Bailey always brought a magnetism, warmth and mystery to the character who 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.

3. Raphael Sbarge (Archie Hopper/Jiminey Cricket)
Favorite Quotes: “Maybe it’s not about how you end things. Maybe it’s about how you live them.”
“Or what, you’ll ruin my life? You’ll do your worst? Because I will always do my best.”archie1

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, due in no small part to the brilliance of Rapahel Sbarge who showcases such wisdom, sweetness and non judgment no matter the person. Not free from his own tragic backstory, he spent his life dedicated to helping others and 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 people he helped was simply just a beautiful addition to an already wonderful character.

2. Sean Maguire (Robin Hood)
Favorite Quotes: “My mind was in the forest but my heart took me here.”
“A thief who steals from those in need has no honor.”
“Use my heart for the both of us.” robinhood smile

The legendary character of Robin is beloved by many and Sean Maguire’s characterization is one of the finest we’ve ever seen as he showcased such charisma and soulfulness. 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. From his love for his son and his soulmate Regina, his character is one of great heart and courage and ultimately sacrifice, laying down his life for the woman he loved. And we will love him forever.

1. Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas (Snow White/Mary Margaret Blanchard and Prince Charming/David Nolan)
Favorite Quotes: (Snow) “Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing.”
“And what exactly do you think fairy tales are? They are a reminder that things will get better, if we just hold onto hope.”
“An ending isn’t happiness. Being together is.”
(Charming) “True Love isn’t easy, but it must be fought for. Because once you find it, it can never be replaced.”
“There’s always people in this world who want you to give up. Don’t make their jobs any easier.”
“There’s more to life than just looking for the next fight. You’ve got to look for the moments. Good ones, bad ones, there’ll all worth living.”snow 1charming 1

Seeing the beloved Snow White and Prince Charming at the top of this list, you may wonder, are they underrated? While they definitely are loved and rightfully praised, often the other main characters would receive much more. Both individually and as an on screen couple, Snow and Charming brought so much heart, depth, beauty, purity and inspiration not only to their characters and story but the series as a whole, with their versions of these fairy tale characters being the best to ever grace the screen.

Snow White is deemed the fairest of them all, and she is undoubtedly beautiful, but her inner beauty and strength is what makes her special. Snow is strong, wise, endlessly caring, 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. You never have to doubt the depth of her love. It is always beautifully written on her face. Goodwin gorgeously portrays this woman who is equally amazing with her abilities with a bow and arrow and her steadfast speeches of hope, to her heart that is so incredibly strong, she could share half of it with her husband to bring him back to life. Goodwin displays Snow’s sweetness, strength and complexities with utter warmth and vitality. It was truly a wonder to behold.

For the courageous and handsome Prince, it takes a lot to live up to the name Charming, but David certainly does. He is kind, brave, heroic, selfless, caring, and honorable. He is “Princely” in every way imaginable despite being raised as a poor shepherd. He is a devoted husband who loves his wife unconditionally and is always willing to fight for her, and is an endlessly supportive and protective father. And he is never too proud to show his emotions and cry, proving to be an ideal combination of masculine strength and sensitive tenderness. Josh Dallas brought so much to this incredible man displaying Charming’s gentleness and strength with equal authenticity and fervor, brilliant in both moments of quiet wisdom and love and traditionally brave heroics. Whether he’s fighting a dragon or proclaiming to always find the woman he loves, Dallas made this Prince Charming one for the ages.

And the two together left an indelible impression on what made Once Upon Time the show it was.

 

Once Upon a Time 100th Episode Celebration: Top 10 Best Season 4 Episodes

season 4

Season 4 of Once Upon a Time was one of my personal favorites, and although it is a bit divisive, it is also all around excellent and one of the best. While the second half had some slow and muddled bits, there were some amazing episodes and one truly stellar ending. And while technically the Frozen arc consisted of potentially” too much” screen time for the guest stars, these characters were also so fantastic and the overall story so well paced and moving that even with the rushed ending, it was one of the overall best arcs of the series. I loved Season 4 to pieces. Here are the best of the bunch.

1. “Operation Mongoose” (Season 4, Episode 21/22)

Much like the season 3 finale, season 4 ended on an emotional high note, taking our characters to new places and giving each poignant and truly gripping material while allowing our actors to explore new territory. It was eerie seeing Storybrooke empty except for Henry while everyone was transported into Isaac’s alternate fairytale universe. Literally inside a book (how cool is that), I loved seeing Henry in hero mode working to make sure everything was set right in this topsy-turvy world. And how wonderful was it to see our characters in these reversed roles – Snow and Charming as the Evil Queen and Huntsman, Regina the bandit running for her life, Robin Hood about to marry Zelena, Rumple as the “Light One,” married to Belle and a great hero, Killian as a lowly and meek deckhand, with only Emma retaining her memories, but trapped in a tower, powerless and nearly going mad. What was moving was seeing their true hearts emerge in their interactions with Henry, especially Regina and Killian. The adventure Henry and Killian go on to rescue Emma resulted in some of the most fairytale moments ever as the two captain a ship together, while Emma and her Killian show not only the undeniable true love connection between them in their fourth “first meeting” with Emma looking at him with all the love and adoration in the world and Killian completely awestruck and speechless, but also their ability to always make quite the team as the two literally slay a dragon together. His shyness is endearing as she teaches him to sword fight, and the true courage that emerges from him truly moving as he sacrifices himself to save Emma and Henry. And despite barely knowing Henry, Regina also sacrifices herself for him, choosing to save his life rather than stop Robin’s wedding in a very powerful moment, of motherly love, and romantic connection when Robin holds her hand and promises she won’t die alone. These scenes of heroism were beautiful and matched by Henry taking Isaac’s pen and becoming the next author. In the end it was the truest believer who saved everyone and restored the characters back to normal. Of course, as is always the case, it was Emma’s journey for the season that also came to a beautiful conclusion, culminating in such a dramatic and gripping way that left us in tears. From Emma learning to truly understand and forgive her parents, to opening her heart without fear, and the threat of her turning dark, “Operation Mongoose” centered around all these aspects, especially her love for Killian and fear of telling him “I love you.” The pain of losing him in the alternate universe was potent, her joy in finding him alive beautiful, and heart ache when she finally tells him those words poignant and she sacrifices herself and becomes the new Dark One. This was one of the best endings of a season ever as she disappears and all that is left is the dagger with her name engraved upon it. That’s taking dramatica cliffhanger to a new level.

2. “Fall” (Season 4, Episode 9)

One of the best episodes in terms of giving every single character a moment of real emotional poignancy in an engaging and lovely story, “Fall” is the type of episode that demonstrates how special the series is. Fast-moving in a race against the clock, our heroes prepare for Ingrid’s spell of “Shattered Sight” which will turn them into their worst selves, while in Arendelle, Anna and Kristoff are captured by Blackbeard and thrown into the sea. Moments of villainy and true love were so effective and moving and had us gasping, crying and completely captivated. Blackbeard and Hans were so great at their dastardly villainy, while Rumple so despicable as he forces Killian, whose heart he controls, to trap the fairies in the Sorcerer’s hat and thwart the heroes’ their plants to stop the spell. And the love filled moments were nothing short of breathtaking and thoroughly heartwarming: Regina and Robin sharing a lovely goodbye wanting to remember this moment as true, real, and filled with looks of love, Elsa and Anna’s strong sisterly bond with Elsa’s wish to find her sister being so pure it miraculously reunites them, Anna and Kristoff swearing their love, hands clasped believing they’re about to drown, Emma and Killian saying goodbye in a heart wrenching moment with Killian believing it to be for the last time, kissing her as he never has before and Emma proving how love can make you brave and change you for the better as she becomes a “tearful goodbye kiss person.” and finally Snow and David not only demonstrating unfailing faith in their love for each other, but also in Emma’s ability to always succeed. The episode flies by and the ending montage with the emotional musical score was the perfect example of how Once Upon a Time can be so beautiful aesthetically and dramatically. And the final shot of Snow and David as their expressions change from love to utter disdain was absolutely chilling!

3. “Poor Unfortunate Soul” (Season 4, Episode 15)

Episodes with Killian back stories are always thoroughly profound and captivating, but what makes this episode so special was that in addition to intriguing flashbacks that complemented the present perfectly, the drama in Storybrooke was fast-paced, well-balanced, and featured some of the best character moments and expressions of profound themes of series. In the past we see how much Killian’s code of honor meant to him and that his soul could be soothed from heart ache, but that, unlike the present where he has true love in his life, in the past we see how tragically his quest for revenge and no one to inspire him leads him to go back on his word to Ursula, stealing her singing voice. But in the present he wants to make amends and help restore her happy ending which will also help and their fight against Gold and the other Queens of Darkness. The reappearance of characters like August and Ariel, which were lovely and revealed truths about the right way to get a happy ending and the power of believing in yourself, and gave us scenes of unexpected profundity and sweetness. Seeing Emma reunite with her friend August was so heartwarming as was the one where Killian brings Poseidon back to Ursula and her singing voice is restored. It was a beautiful expression of how bad choices can be rectified, forgiveness is always possible, as well as redemption, especially when you realize the error of your ways. But it was a moment of pure vulnerability and heart between Killian and Emma that provided not only the episode’s best moment, but one of the show’s finest ever. When Killian tells Emma she is his happy ending, both are so overcome with emotion over the brevity of his meaning, Killian letting out a small breath of emotion and a single tear falling from Emma’s cheek as they slowly kiss. It was a moment of beautiful perfection that is the epitome of true love.

4. “The Apprentice” (Season 4, Episode 4)

This episode was a beautiful gift. Not only were we treated to Emma and Killian finally going on their first date, but also heartwarming Charming Family moments, the fantastic dynamic between perpetual foils Killian and Rumplestilskin, and a fantastic flashback for Anna and Rumple that established a poignant theme that has continued ever since. Of all the wonderful Frozen characters, Anna was my personal favorite and she was given so much wonderful comedic and dramatic material. This episode showcased this in abundance in the significant flashback with Rumple and the Sorcerer’s apprentice which solidified that theme that “love is a weapon.” What was moving was seeing that even after Rumple used her love for Elsa against her, she was able to get the best of him. It was a striking parallel to present day Storybrooke where Rumple uses Killian’s love for Emma and desire to be good enough for her against him. Killian may have blackmailed Rumple to get his hand back but his motivations were heart-wrenching – if Emma wants him to, he would like to be able to hold her with both hands. So seeing his fear that his hand was cursed was actually heartbreaking not because he loses it once again, but that it stems from a place of insecurity. But for the happier parts of the episode – the parts where dreams were made a reality- there was nothing but beautiful sweetness and heart. It was so lovely seeing Snow and David’s dream of sending their daughter to a ball come true as they watch Emma prepare for her date, waiting up to hear all about it. Seeing Emma and Killian being able to enjoy time just for themselves on a date with flirtatious smiles, hand holding, jacket sharing, and a spine tingling romantic goodnight kiss that left them both breathless was a real gift. For Killian it was moving that his desire to be able to hold her the way he surely always wanted to came true, brief as it was, and for Emma it was so poignant to see her finally be able to have a night off without having to think of danger or villains, but also that she finally has found someone that she feel safe enough to be vulnerable with and express her softer and romantic side, seen in the beautiful pink dress she wears. When she’s back home and must compose herself for a moment, it was clear she had fallen completely in love – and everything changed. 

5. “White Out” (Season 4, Episode 2)

The best centric for Prince Charming is the sweet-hearted and light (comparatively speaking) episode which showcases the importance of friendship, family, never giving up, and living a life with no regrets. As I have said, there’s something about David’s character that always brings forth important things for the series and lessons we can all learn from an aspire to in our own lives. Seeing that David was not always so confident and stalwart in his beliefs because of the loss of his father and the torturing of the warlord Bo Peep, and that he learned not only how to sword fight but also how to fight back in life from Anna was so moving and special and the perfect example of how to include a new character into the framework of the existing story, giving new layers to the characters we already love. Seeing David find his courage in the past was the perfect parallel to David and Killian working together to save Emma after Elsa accidentally traps them in an ice cave. We see the continued friendship between the two men, who despite the uniqueness of the relationship and David’s protectiveness over a “pirate “dating his daughter, work perfectly together – as well as brothers. The friendship formed for Anna and David helped him find the person that was in there all along, while Elsa and Emma formed an instant kindred bond over shared experiences, which was something Emma really needed in her life. It was an episode all about those bonds that change us and finding the inner strength we may not have to have believed we have. Snow was able to restore power to Storybrooke all on her own, and Elsa, who insisted she needed her sister to help control her magic, was able to free her new friend. And for Emma and Killian who had just begun their relationship they pass that first threshold of intimacy in beautiful ways as we see Killian’s desperation to break through the ice to her, their joint relief when they cling to each other after she is saved, and newfound closeness as they hold hands and seek comfort in each other’s arms. They were becoming everything to each other and as David says that their family never gives up and vows to find Elsa’s sister, we see that all of these characters have formed a beautiful new familial bond that has only grown stronger ever since.

6. “Smash the Mirror” (Season 4, Episode 8)

This exciting two-part episode was the centerpiece of the arc and moved the story and characters in intense dramatic directions not only for the story, but as individual characters. Perhaps the scenes were long, but the flashbacks in Arendelle were necessary and captivating as Elsa and Anna’s bond is shattered by Ingrid’s evil spell and we discover the missing pieces to how Elsa found herself trapped in the urn and in Rumple’s possession. The Storybrooke drama was a mixture of so much: hopeful romance as Robin and Regina bask in the afterglow of their first night together and discover an alternate page of the storybook that gives them a new found sense of hope for a happy ending together, family drama as Snow and Charming battle their consciences and wanting to make sure their daughter is happy while ultimately realizing, with a touching self-aware confession by Regina, that you should never let your children give up that what makes them special and who they are. There were also heart wrenching confessions and attempts at rescue as Killian leaves a tearful voicemail for Emma, admitting his mistakes with Rumple, hoping she never forgives and because it would mean she is safe, and villainy as Rumple stops him from coming to her rescue by taking his heart – a key ingredient he needs for ultimate power from the Sorcerer’s hat. But it was Emma’s journey of self acceptance that was the most significant and touching moment as she contemplates getting rid of her magic forever to protect her loved ones from getting hurt. And when she really needed a friend, Elsa was there, her hand outstretched without fear who helps Emma learn not to be afraid of herself, to accept her magic – a metaphor for us to accept ourselves as we truly are. When she saves herself from making a grave decision our tears were matched by Emma’s, and her joys were matched by the passionate kiss Killian gives her, and in the hugs and smiles on her family’s faces when they find her safe. Like her true love, she was on her way of being a fan of every part of herself and the look of pride and glee at her creating a magical display of fireworks was as beautiful an expression on her face as we have ever seen.

7. “Unforgiven” (Season 4, Episode 12)

It is always a treat to see more of Snow and Charming in their days as newlyweds paralleled with them dealing with something in Storybrooke, because it’s often displayed that no matter what they are doing, they are doing it together. Whether their decisions are good or misguided they always come around to the better path, standing side by side to give support. This half of the season began with the threat of Emma’s heart turning dark and the mystery of a great secret the Charming’s were keeping from their daughter. The fact that they went to extremes to keep Emma light, and that they were responsible for Maleficent losing her child was shocking as they are the epitome a virtue. But it gave them new depth as it showed that even the finest people can make a mistake. But “Unforgiven” is also filled with so many more golden moments: Ursula and Cruella chewing up the scenery with their comedic villainy, Regina sharing a true and moving moment of contrition with Marco, and after Killian is afraid to tell Emma the truth about his ugly past with Ursula, she tells him she believes in the man he is now, and two promise to always see the best in each other. As the show ends with the kind of evocative montage that Once does so exquisitely, we see how far our characters have gone, Snow’s voice over providing the poignancy of the scene as we see Henry hopeful, Rumple devastated, and Emma and Killian beaming and as happy as we’ve ever seen. This episode hit all the right emotional notes.

8. “Rocky Road” (Season 4, Episode 3)

New engaging characters, romantic confessions, and moments of intrigue and mystery surrounding Ingrid’s Snow Queen, this episode so wonderful. From seeing the perfect characterizations of Elsa and Kristoff becoming friends, to Elsa and Killian sharing a mutual concern for Emma and desire to find out exactly who the Snow Queen is, to Regina probably promising she’ll help unfreeze Marion but Robin confessing that he truly loves Regina, to Emma revealing to Killian she was pulling away for fear of losing him and him promising he is a survivor, all our characters were on a rocky road of love and discovery that was heartfelt and a joy to watch. With the introduction to one of the most chilling villains ever, the mystery of her identity was set up perfectly leaving the audience wondering what exactly were her motivations. This is an all-around terrific episode.

9. “Sympathy for the DeVil” (Season 4, Episode 18)

If an episode is going to focus heavily on a guest star then it must be interesting and compelling in order to keep our interest. Normally I find the episodes with the main cast focused on as the best. But there are certain episodes that stand out in dynamic ways. Such is the case with “Sympathy for the Devil.” I loved Cruella from the first moment she appeared on screen, and her backstory was fantastic in every way. Completely unique and unlike anything we’ve ever seen on the show, the 1920’s Gatsby-esque, Art Deco world she lives in was a glittering, champagne soaked, jazzy delight. And the way the episode was filmed was reminiscent of a noir film from the 1940s that would have starred Humphrey Bogart or Veronica Lake. This was not a fairytale but that’s what makes it all the more fascinating to watch as we see one of the best twists on the show ever – not only that she is just inherently evil and psychotic for no reason whatsoever, but also that she, thanks to Isaac’s quick thinking, was not able to kill anyone, making the moment Emma kills her to save Henry’s life all the more dramatic. The look on Emma’s face after that moment was chilling and the perfect ending to a deliciously dark episode.

10. “A Tale of Two Sisters” (Season 4, Episode 1)

An absolutely sweet and lovely introduction to what we now dub the “Frozen Arc,” the beginning of season 4 began with a well-balanced, light episode where all of the characters had moments of touching emotion. The backstory of Anna and Elsa in Arendelle could not have been more delightful as they seem to have leapt from the film and into the Once universe, and our hearts, with beautiful ease. Regina was heartbroken that Robin’s wife was back but it established her journey that would take the whole season of her discovering the right way to find her happy ending, as well as Emma being a good and forgiving person and sincerely offering her a sense of sisterly friendship. Even though in the end Rumple cannot resist the allure of power once again, the iconic Beauty and the Beast dance which were re-created in a truly beautiful way, surely made Rumbelle fans cry. And lastly, it was a delight to see, after sharing a moment of love and a passionate kiss, Emma and Killian try to discuss the relationship amidst snow monsters and long-lost wives of friends resurrected from the dead! When Emma kisses him,  asking him to “be patient” you can see she is almost ready to take that next step, but a fear is holding her back, and that she is thankful to have someone who will not only wait but can recognize there is something else going on inside her heart. Of course this was also a humorous wink to the audience asking us to “be patient” with their relationship, which has always been developing slowly and steadily. But that is what makes it all the more special.

 

Once Upon a Time 100th Episode Celebration: Top 10 Best Season 1 Episodes

season 1

Season 1 of this magical show was just that- magical. It was filled with mystery, intrigue and beautiful romance with introductions to so many characters and new and unexpected twists on fairy tales we know and love. There were quite a few back stories for characters now rarely seen, so indeed where they really triumphed in this first season was with the main storylines specifically the love story between Snow and Charming, Emma’s journey in her destiny as a mother and the Savior, and Regina and Rumple’s deliciously evil plots as well as moments of true humanity. Here are the best from the enchanting beginning of the series.

1. “The Land Without Magic” (Season 1, Episode 22)

Every character went through a season-long journey and every story reached their gripping conclusion with the promise of more to come in the beautiful and compelling first season finale of the series: from Emma finally believing in magic, Rumple reuniting with Belle, Regina admitting the curse is real and displaying real vulnerability at the thought of losing Henry, to Snow and Charming proving how magical a true love reunion can be. The exciting and lovely flashbacks revealed David’s heroics to find and awaken Snow and  bookended the “Pilot” in a lovely way, most especially paralleling Emma’s heroics to save her son Henry. Both father and daughter were aided by Rumple (with him having ulterior motives) fought Maleficent in Dragon form, and woke a loved one with true love’s kiss. So many bold and compelling choices were made from the curse being broken to showing that true love need not only be romantic . Indeed, a mother’s love is deep and endless, and Emma’s journey of belief in magic was matched in her journey of learning to open her heart to her son. This episode was beautiful and poignant and the perfect way to end an amazing first season.

2. “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)

The episode that started it all is not only one of the best of the series, but also one of the best pilots ever. Establishing the tone of the series perfectly we see mystery, magic, family drama, epic love, hope and belief are abundant and showcased exquisitely with each character in different ways. The approaching of the dark curse was intense, evocative and dramatic. And the beginning of Emma’s story was sad but hopeful as we see a woman who is strong but deeply wounded. She may be cynical but still buys a cupcake on her birthday and makes a wish. And then her life irrevocably changes. That belief that love and happiness are possible and that things can get better is the theme of the show and is demonstrated touchingly by Emma’s wish as well as the final image of Henry as he sees the Storybrooke clock tower move for the first time in his life. These images epitomize that beautiful and timeless theme: hope.

3. “Snow Falls” (Season1, Episode 3)

This was the story of how Snow White and Prince Charming fell in love and while it was undeniably sweet and fairy tale romantic, it was also a new kind of romantic story that Once does so perfectly. As creator Edward Kitsis says, sometimes true love starts by hitting the other in the head with a rock. Indeed their love story was not all hearts and flowers – she stole his mother’s ring, he trapped her in a net, they argued and went on an adventure fighting black Knights and trolls, and somewhere along the way love blossoms seen in the beautiful moment that she tries that ring on her finger. They may have parted but it was the start of the journey – a journey mirrored so beautifully with Mary Margaret awakening David in Storybrooke with the story and a kiss, and Emma slowly awakening her heart by seeking friendship and moving into Mary Margaret’s spare room. This is a heartfelt, lovely episode.

4. “Hat Trick” (Season 1, Episode 17)

One of the episodes with a decidedly darker tone is also unique and fantastic with the insertion of a new and intriguing character. Once Upon a Time’s version of the Mad Hatter is named Jefferson and in this episode he is simultaneously sympathetic in his heartbreaking backstory where he is separated from his daughter, and frightening when he kidnaps Mary Margaret and Emma insisting the Savior can make his array of hats “work” with her magic. Jefferson implores that the problem with the world is “everybody wants a magical solution to their problems but everyone refuses to believe in magic.” It is true. Real or metaphorical, if we stop to see the magic around us, if we believe in something, if we bravely open ourselves up the way Emma does when she calls Mary Margaret family, that is the real “trick “of life.

5. “Heart of Darkness” (Season 1, Episode 16)

Seeing Snow White as a badass bandit with gumption and heart was definitely a new take on the character. But seeing the sweet natured princess with a thirst for revenge and no belief in love was something entirely new and fantastic to watch. Of course what made this moving was that her dark turn was the result of a loss of love, or more specifically memories of the one she loves. And when he does everything in his power to protect her heart, we see one of the most poignant and romantic moments of the series, and definitely a prelude to the love story their daughter would soon experience with Hook. These moving flashbacks combined with the intense, heartbreaking contrast with present-day Storybrooke showcase the beautiful theme that still is so prevalent on the series: true love is stronger than darkness.

6. “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” (Season 1, Episode 7)

Somber, intriguing, and melancholy with a tinge of hope, this was the first episode where it really felt as if that irony surrounding hearts occurred: a show that often involves hearts been ripped from people’s chests made us feel as if we were experiencing the same. It was indeed heart-wrenching to finally learn more about Sheriff Graham only for him to die at episode’s end. We learn he was the Huntsman who was sent to kill Snow White but showed her mercy and suffered enslavement because of it, and his journey in present-day Storybrooke to find his missing heart, growing close to Emma, and regaining his memories thanks to a Savior magic filled kiss, was deeply profound despite the sad ending. With lovely performances and a evocative atmosphere, we see that we can break free from our bounds real or metaphorical, and that our souls are strong showcased with Graham feeling deeply and choosing to take control of his life despite his heart not beating inside his chest. And for Emma, we see what this honorable man represented for her character and her journey – that flicker of hope that she can move on and open her heart to a man. His death was heartbreaking but audacious and compelling storytelling.

7. “7:15 a.m.” (Season 1, Episode 10)

Many of Season One’s best moments was that of the love story of Snow White and Prince Charming and the one we so desperately wanted between David and Mary Margaret. Despite knowing that they would indeed find each other in the past, that did not lessen the beauty nor intriguing aspect of their story and seeing Charming want to defy the king and risk everything for love, and seeing Snow make the difficult sacrifice and deny her love to save his life was wonderfully romantic drama and made you want David and Mary Margaret to come together all the more. The idea that love can never be denied despite obstacles and curses set the precedent for the series and those final moments where despite purposefully changing their routines the two still “found “each other and shared an amazing kiss, showcased that some things are truly meant to be.

8. “The Stable Boy” (Season 1, Episode 18)

Well into the series now, it’s always great to revisit how we arrived here and this was the first episode that truly showed Regina, not the Evil Queen. And as horrible as she was that season, this backstory made her into a sympathetic character, and it was indeed sad to see her relationship with a child Snow White go south so drastically and to see Regina’s own mother do exactly what a mother should not do – destroy her child’s happiness because they think they know what’s best. And while you still were not rooting for Regina and Storybrooke during her quest for revenge, especially in the chilling scene where she taunts a sobbing and apologetic Mary Margaret knowing she’s innocent, “The Stable Boy” emphasized how tragedy affects everyone differently and can send you toward a very dark path and that life is often very complicated.

9. “Skin Deep” (Season 1, Episode 12)

As Once Upon a Time does so wonderfully, classic fairytale characters are never exactly what we expect, and it was definitely unexpected to see that Rumpelstiltskin was also the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, and that this very dark, manipulative character had fallen in love and shown a soft and vulnerable side. The best part of this episode was that it explored something deeper than someone feeling ugly and being brutish. It was much more complex than that and indeed the love story of Rumple and Belle is complicated and fraught with heartache as Rumple not only wants to maintain power but cannot believe she would love him, hence why true love’s kiss did not fully work. So much has happened since but in this episode we saw most especially that love can come in the most unexpected places.

10. “The Stranger” (Season 1, Episode 20)

When the leather clad, handsome and mysterious stranger rode into town on his motorcycle, with us soon learning his sole purpose was to help Emma believe, we wondered who exactly he was. The truth resulted in a compelling, heart-wrenching tale that brought more of Emma’s past to light and saw her really open up about her insecurities and unwillingness to believe in her destiny. From the flashbacks of little Pinocchio, to the climatic and intense scene where August brings Emma to the tree they were magically transferred transported to this world in, begging her to believe saying they all need her, one could help but be moved. It was a dramatic push the story needed and the best episode for the “typewriter wrapped in an enigma wrapped in stubble.”