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.”

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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.”

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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: Season 6 and Beyond Wishlist

As the start of Season 6 of Once Upon a Time approaches, there are always the inevitable hopes for what we would most like to see for our favorite characters. In Season 5, I made such a list– and some came true. But some still have not happened so those most definitely remain, along with some other new great wishes. Of course there is a healthy dose of Captain Swan wishes here, but there is also a lot from many characters. Here are my greatest wishes for Season 6 and beyond. MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!

1. Emma and Killian Domestic, Quiet, and Happy Moments:
Now that Emma and Killian overcome darkness and even death, have a beautiful house that represents a future together, and are both “safe” in Storybrooke, I would love to see some quiet, romantic moments for the couple. Of course there will be drama and dangers, but in the mix I want to see quieter and happy scenes too. Dinner date nights out or in, strolling down the street holding hands, little or passionate kisses, and most especially moments in their house together whether it’s sharing a meal, a dance, or cuddling on the couch. Overall, I think it’s finally time for them to “go home and see what’s on Netflix.”

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2. Emma and Killian have “coffee”:
Relating to my number one hope, a wish I had from Season 5 was for Emma and Killian to finally consummate their relationship. Although some believe this has already happened, because there has never been a visual or verbal reference while other couples have had similar scenes, I still believe they have yet to take a step. And they certainly deserve it. They’ve endured so much turmoil. As Emma said before reaffirming her love, they have been through so much: “darkness, Hades, and being separated by realms.” And now that they’ve confirmed their love to be true, it’s time they are finally able to express that love physically. As I wrote “You can have a beautiful and sensual scene while still being subtle. I most hope to see them holding each other in their arms with adoring looks in their eyes.” Bonus points if we see Emma wearing one of Killian’s shirts, or maybe his old pirate coat. Here’s hoping for a scene (or multiple scenes) of such beautiful sensuality.

3. The Charmings call Killian “family”:
As I said last season on my wishlist, Snow and David showing support for Emma and Killian’s relationship was a silent way of accepting him into their family, but I hoped they would show this even more so, be more verbal and maybe even bestow a hug upon our dear captain. Many of these wishes definitely came true as Snow defended Emma turning Killian in a Dark One because that’s what their family does – they save people. This family also finds people, and as they followed their daughter into the Underworld to find and save Killian it was clear they consider him a member of their family, especially when he returned from the dead and David greeted him with a hug. However, there is still so much that can be said between them, and we have yet to hear them actually call him “family.” It would also be lovely to see another hug whether it be from David or Snow, but this time in the foreground of the scene.

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4. Henry and Killian bonding:
I have always loved seeing Henry and Killian moments. Captain Cobra scenes are often fun and ever so heartwarming. We’ve gotten some great scenes between them from going to rescue Emma, to Killian sharing stories of Henry’s father; but some of their best moments happened off screen – Killian taking Henry sailing and the two picking out a house in Storybrooke and creating Operation Light Swan. In Season 6 I hope to see more bonding between Emma’s two true loves. Henry was devastated when Killian died but we saw no real reaction to his miraculous return. Let’s hope to see that happiness he surely feels and lots of sweet moments on screen.

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And as we heard at San Diego Comic Con, Henry will be giving Killian list of movies to watch. Not only is this heartwarming and sweet but potentially could be hilarious, golden television. What should be on that list? I vote for The Princess Bride, Peter Pan, , Pirates of the Caribbean, Hook, and of course Back to the Future because Killian should finally know who Marty McFly is.

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5. More David and Killian moments:
As we heard from San Diego Comic Con, this is one wish that is going to come true as Josh and Colin told us that the Captain Charming bromance is going to be blossoming and I cannot be happier about that. Whatever is ahead I hope for some fun and meaningful moments. Two of my favorite episodes are “Good Form” and “White Out” and while these two have troubling admitting it, they work well together and do care about the other. I hope we get another hug or more verbal discussions of their growing friendship. It’s definitely an unique relationship. They have both lost brothers but have become brothers in arms. But of course Killian is also dating David’s daughter’s so a discussion about that relationship and perhaps asking for a blessing before proposing would also be a joy to watch.

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6. Captain Swan and Snowing Adventures/Charming Family and more Moments:
While I long for individual adventures for my favorite couples I would also absolutely love Season 6 to have these beautiful pairs working together on adventures, facing villains or enjoying some family time together – dinner at Granny’s or at the loft complete with Snow being the happy, doting mother asking lots of questions and David in overprotective Dad mode.

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Much like the end of Season 3 and 5, I would also be great to see lots of family moments, with all the characters together – time to breathe, be together and rejoice, or as is often necessary, to kick ass together because when teamed up they are all a force to be reckoned with. I want to see everyone: Emma, Killian, Henry, Snow and Charming, Regina, Zelena, Belle, Rumple, the Dwarves, Granny and any other members of the Storybrooke community.

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7. Another Captain Swan Adventure:
As I said last season, I love episodes that focus on this couple on a grand scale and we did have a few episodes like this – “Birth” and “Broken Heart,” and to a lesser extent “Swan Song” and “Firebird,” but those were more individually based. Of course they were amazing and beautiful episodes, but thoroughly heart-wrenching. Given that Season 6 is sure to be a bit lighter, I hope we see another adventure for Emma and Killian akin to “Tallahassee”, “Snow Drifts/There’s No Place Like Home” or “Operation Mongoose.” They make quite the team and whether it be in Storybrooke or somehow the Enchanted Forest again, I’d love to see the couple on some fun, fairy tale, romantic, and perhaps even swashbuckling, adventure together.

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8. More Snow and Charming Adventures and Romantic moments:
The show’s original True Love couple has had a bit less screen time over the past few seasons (in no small part to Ginnifer Goodwin’s pregnancies and evolution of the story), but they still have had their fair share stories where they face whatever may come their way together. They’re steadfast love and devotion to each other is beautiful and I hope Season 6 we see even more of them back in action and further exploring what the happy ending they are living entails, whether in adventures together like “The New Neverland,” romantic and moving scenes, like “Lady of the Lake,” or realistically working through an argument and coming out the other side united, like in “The Broken Kingdom.”

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9. A Captain Swan scene on the Jolly Roger:
I always say there is never enough of the Jolly Roger. The Ship is such an icon for Hook’s character and the show, so I always love scenes that feature this marvel of the vessel. We’ve seen Emma and Killian on the Jolly Roger a handful of times, the best being their fairy tale adventures in the Season 3 and 4 finales. But in both of those cases Killian did not know Emma, save for present time Killian who punched his past self. And in season 5 we had Emma trying to re-create their first date, but it was a very sad scene. This season I hope to see a happy moment for the couple-maybe a date on the deck of the ship, Killian and Emma at the helm and taking a romantic sail in Storybrooke’s harbor, or some amorous activities in the Captain’s Quarters. Whatever the scenario, I’d love see these two on this beautiful ship again.

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10. Captain Swan Engagement or Wedding:
I will admit, I truly thought the end of Season 5 was going to involve Emma and Killian getting engaged, given the literal Hell they went through. However, we got the next best thing – the most blatantly obvious piece of foreshadowing in an already long line of such, with a wedding dress perfectly centered in between the couple before Emma says “I love you.” While I don’t expect a proposal right away, I think it’s clear that wedding bells are on the horizon. The questions are – Will Killian ask David and Snow’s blessing, who will be the best man and maid of honor (my vote goes to David or Henry and Elsa), and of course who will be the one to propose – Killian or Emma?

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11. Time Periods and Characters We’ve Never or Have Rarely Seen:
It’s certain that many things have been seen on abundance on the show: Regina’s feud with Snow and Charming and Rumple’s time as the Dark One to name a few, so it’ll be nice to see something they have yet to or rarely explore. High on that list would be any Emma’s early childhood with the family who gave her last name, Swan. And now that we got the origin of her red leather jacket I would love to know the origin of her flower tattoo. I would also love to explore more of Killian’s childhood and meet his mother, as well as meet David’s father and see his childhood. David is one of the few characters we’ve never seen as a child on the show, and more backstory separate from Snow, for his character deserves to be explored. I also would to see how Killian made the transition from Lieutenant to a pirate– the time between him renaming the Jewel of the Realm to the Jolly Roger to when he first met Milah. His younger self is quite different and that charisma was surely something that developed over time. He mentioned visiting cities where the air smells of spices and women are carried on jeweled chairs. That sounds a lot like Agrabah, does it not? With Aladdin coming it sounds like the perfect opportunity to explore more of this time period. And for that matter what’s the origin of his wardrobe? They always parallel Emma and Killian so it would be amazing to see how Killian chose his long leather coat to parallel Emma choosing hers. I would also like to see a very young Henry in Storybrooke and how he interacted with Regina, meet Rumple’s mother, and see some of Hook’s time in Neverland because Robbie Kay was severely underused during the Underworld Arc.

12. Interesting Character Dynamics:
Of course I have my favorite character dynamics but there are some we have definitely not seen a lot of that I would love to see more of: Rumple and Emma, Killian and Snow, Killian and Belle, David and Henry, and Emma and Belle. I would also love to see the Snow and Emma relationship brought back to significance as well as Emma and Henry perhaps creating a new operation together.

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13. More of the Rumple/Killian rivalry:
Even though Killian has given up his revenge, as we’ve seen since Season 4 on, there is still no love lost between the characters and it’s always a treat to see these two characters and brilliant actors play off each other. I of course certainly do not want Killian’s heart to be controlled again, but I would love to see them continue to explore how they are very much foils to each other. They have been connected since Killian’s first episode and since the darkness was not destroyed, and Rumple is once again the Dark One, I’d love to see further exploration of what is surely an integral part of the overall story.

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14. The Evil Queen split does not take the entire season/Regina & Zelena bonding:
While I don’t want to fully judge until I see how it begins to play out, and I think this split will in the end help Regina further learn to take responsibility for her actions and accept that her dark instincts as part of her and not a curse or separate entity, the idea of this taking an entire season does not sound appealing. In fact it could grow very repetitive and tedious early on. The solution is simple – she needs to accept that part of herself and work to overcome it, not destroy as if it never happened or doesn’t exist. That is truly the only way she will ever find peace within herself. Moreover, I really enjoyed seeing that Regina and Zelena were actually close as children, so I hope to see them continue to mend and work of their very complicated relationship.

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15. More Familiar Faces Returning:
My season 5 Wishlist included hope for some familiar faces to return and we got some of them – Liam, Cruella, and Peter Pan. This season, we know that we will be seeing Archie, Dr. Whale, and Cinderella and Thomas (a.k.a. Ashley and Sean) again. I would love it if August will pop up again and maybe help Henry with his authoring, Ariel, Tink, or Elsa to reappear for some plucky wisdom and great friendship moments, and Ursula and Blackbeard for some seafaring or pirate adventures. And whether it’s in a flashback, a brief scene or even a reference, I’d love to see Arthur taking care of the Underworld and Lancelot and Guinevere hopefully together ruling Camelot together. Lastly, there’s still so much unfinished left to explore with Merlin, as well as Killian’s Father Brennan Jones and his half-brother Liam II. What happened to him? That story should be re-addressed.

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Season 6 and Beyond:
Since we do not know how many more seasons the series will be on, these last wishes are general hopes I have for the show.

We see the moment Killian traded the Jolly Roger to Blackbeard for a magic bean:
This was on last season’s wishlist as well. It was such a meaningful and significant moment for his character and I have ALWAYS wanted to see it play out in screen.

Emma and Killian Start a Family:
Whenever this is meant to happen, I would love to see these two have children of their own. Not only would it be nice to see Henry have a sibling, as well as Emma be able to experience what she never did with her son, but also the thought of Killian holding a baby and being a father is so sweet. It wouldn’t surprise me if they also adopted a few kids given their similar childhoods.

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Robin Hood Returns or is at Peace/Regina Finds Peace:
The charming outlaw was definitely a favorite character of mine so I was very, very sad to see him leave. I will lament what could have been. But of course this is very common on television nowadays, and I’ve lost many a favorite character before. I will accept it if need be, but I would love it if he was able to somehow come back to life. If that’s not meant to be then I hope we hear that contrary to what Hades said, his soul was able to move on and be at peace. And I know many may disagree with me, but if Robin cannot return then I do not want to see Regina given another love interest. At this point it would feel rushed, unsatisfying and even hurtful to those who loved Outlaw Queen. I actually would enjoy instead for Regina to find peace and happiness within herself instead of something or someone external. That would be refreshing and would make a great deal of sense for her character who has battled her inner darkness.

A Holiday Episode:
Whether it be Christmas (which is my number one choice), Thanksgiving, or another holiday I love to see what our characters would do on a special day like that. So far the only holiday we’ve seen is Valentine’s Day. It would be nice to revisit that day, or maybe a spooky Halloween episode, or a crazy and sweet Thanksgiving(which David mentioned would be difficult but certainly funny). But Christmas just holds so many lovely possibilities – the town building snowmen, tree trimming, opening presents, sipping hot cocoa and cinnamon by the fire, and fun with mistletoe. I know it’s unlikely to happen, but it still would be amazing to see on the show.

A Ball or a Dance in Storybrooke:
It’s no secret that I have adored the Royal Balls we’ve seen over the course of the series. They are beautiful and romantic grandeur. We may not revisit the Enchanted Forest or Camelot this season in the present day, but that does not mean Storybrooke cannot hold its very own dance, and I for one would love to see it.

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We Learn Mr. Gold’s First Name:
I know his real name is Rumpelstiltskin and it may simply be a running joke that we don’t know Gold’s first name, but it would be amazing if that fact that we’ve never learned it means they will be doing their own twist on the original Rumplestiltskin fairy tale. If you don’t know or are unfamiliar with the story, there have already been some elements incorporated in the show – namely in “The Miller’s Daughter” and his ability to spin straw into gold. But there is a part of the story we haven’t seen – a girl must guess Rumpelstiltskin’s real name or give up her child. In one case, going off this meta by hooks-and-feathers (which I agree with) – the placement of Gold in between the nursery crib and Emma and Killian in “Devil’s Due” is deliberate foreshadowing. And it most definitely could be an indicator of a story involving Gold’s name and the future child of Emma and Killian. And I’d love it!

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An It’s A Wonderful Life/What if the curse never happened/S1 curse Revisited Scenario: The show has done its fair share of alternate universes, memory loss, and crossover over adventures and when it comes down to it the show really soars when they do. The season 3 and 4 finales were astounding and beautiful, and the memory loss in 5A they created such an amazing air of mystery and made the reveal that Killian was also a Dark One even more surprising. I would love to see an episode where the curse never happened and see how the characters would interact, find each other and eventually set things right. For without the curse would Henry ever exist, would Rumple have found his son, would Regina have found happiness, and would Emma have met Captain Hook? Although many are tired of the memory loss trope, it is one of my favorites aspects of the show. And for Emma and Killian specifically, they hold a unique distinction of not having ever been cursed with memory loss or not knowing each other at the same time. I would love an episode where neither has memories of the other, but as always are drawn to each other and regain their memories in some magical or romantic fashion, perhaps having flashes of these memories along the way. How beautiful and amazing would that be!

Emma Celebrates Her Birthday:
It’s long been a theory of mine that the series will end with Emma celebrating her birthday to parallel the “Pilot,” only this time with her family, friends and, hopefully by then, husband beside her. I don’t just want to see this. I NEED TO SEE THIS!!! It would be such a poignant way of bringing the series and characters full circle. Emma would no longer be a lonely, lost girl, but a woman who is beyond loved and would no longer even need to make a wish. She would have everything she ever wished for.

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Once Upon a Time: Firebird, Last Rites, An Untold Story and more Further Thoughts

A Journey of True Love:
It’s been a long and beautiful journey of True Love for Emma and Killian, and such a remarkable story indeed. Even without proof it was clear that the love they share is special and true. Emma marching into the Underworld to save Killian by sharing her heart with him was enough to prove the depth of her affection. And although it would’ve been a beautiful parallel to what her parents share, True Love is never easy. It never has been for these two and what was really moving was the way in which they proved their love – through selflessness and sacrifice. Moreover, in the end, although it may not seem as such, Emma and Killian’s hearts were still shared – they are entwined and it was both that connection and their love for each other, and what it inspired in each of them, that granted Killian his life back. True Love did save him. One of the most poignant parts of their True Love test was that it was Emma’s love that was in question. It’s interesting how Emma doesn’t question his love for her. At this point it’s beautiful that there’s not even a doubt of it because he’s proved his love for her over and over again; but then the fact that after all they’ve been through he still isn’t sure he’s worthy enough of the “rarest magic of all” is heartrending. But their test is about both of them ultimately. After nothing happens after Emma places her heart on the pedestal and they both look on devastated, that was the moment the test truly began. Emma fell over in pain needing her heart back in her chest while Killian was engulfed in flames in excruciating torment. But he tells her to get her heart and she saves him from the flames instead. The other person’s well-being was more important than whatever they were suffering. True Love encompasses many things but above all it’s about selflessness – loving someone so much that all that matters is their happiness, their life. This is what allowed them to let go of each other – heartbreaking as it was – and ultimately what saved him.

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Emma and Killian do not physically share a heart but there is a spiritual and inexplicable connection between them that exists on a profound level. It transcends realms and even death. And it’s what makes their farewell promises to each other so significant. Knowing that there is no leaving Underworld and moving on until one’s unfinished business is complete is why Killian was physically unable to move on. He promised Emma she would not be his unfinished business but he knows that Emma and her family are still in danger from Hades. It’s impossible for him to move on until he knows she is safe. For Emma, she can feel that he is still trapped, still in pain and she cannot grieve for him knowing such. This is what makes Killian’s quest so important for it is not only his love for Emma, but what she inspired within him that saved his life. She inspired the heroism that was always embedded in his soul, and he wouldn’t rest until those he loves were safe. That is beautiful. His peace was knowing they were free from danger. He helped get Emma what she needed and could just feel that she had succeeded, his path to heaven opening up that very instant. And when Zeus tells him it’s time to take him where he belongs it was clear where that was. He belongs with Emma and in the end their connection was his salvation. True Love prevailed.

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Amazing Parallels:
There were so many lovely and significant parallels in the end of the season with episodes that so often remain key to the story, as well as episodes from this season, namely the “Pilot,” “A Land Without Magic,” “Tallahassee,” “New York City Serenade,” and “Swan Song.” I loved seeing a direct mirror of Emma’s walk across the street to catch the man jumping bail in the “Pilot” to Cleo Fox doing the same thing to Emma.

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It became clear in “Firebird” how much Emma learned from Cleo and that much of her personality was just a mask – her armor was firmly on. It was good for making her brave and confident but it also left her closed off. It’s what makes the Emma we see now such an inspiration. She stronger and braver than she’s ever been for she is not only fierce and confident physically, but emotionally as well, her heart completely open to love, brave enough to love without walls and without condition. The parallels between “Firebird” and “Tallahassee” are also so remarkable – both of the episodes written by Jane Espenson and both revealing key moments in Emma’s past that shaped her life as well as both proving the importance of Killian in her life. The symmetry is so interesting visually and emotionally. They climbed up the beanstalk and descended down into the depths of the Underworld. And in both episodes Emma left Killian behind, the first time because she wasn’t ready to trust her heart, and the last because her heart was filled with True Love.

“Firebird” also parallels “A Land Without Magic” in striking ways. In both episodes Emma goes down the elevator in the library to retrieve something to save one of her true loves – Henry with the golden egg, Killian with the ambrosia. Also both times, what Emma sought is not what eventually saved them, it was the true love that did – a True Love’s kiss with Henry and her True Love with Killian that was selfless enough to let each other go and then help him on his quest that granted him his life back.

The parallel between their True Love moment and Killian’s sacrifice in “Swan Song” is also significant. In both moments we see one of them in horrible pain but technically not able to die. In “Swan Song” Emma as the Dark One is immortal but she can still feel pain and when Nimue chokes her, Killian wakes up from the darkness and comes back to the light, unwilling to watch the woman he loves in pain. “Firebird” is very much the same. Killian is dead but seeing him being engulfed in a sea of flames was too much for Emma to bear, so she chooses him over her beating heart. They always choose each other. How could anyone doubt the depth of their affection?

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Lastly the parallels we’ve seem to Once Upon a Time in Wonderland this season have been significant most especially the ones between Alice and Cyrus and Emma and Killian, from dialogue to the emotional similarities to their love stories. Both couples share a spiritual connection, their hearts entwined, always emphasizing that when you love someone you don’t need proof, you can just sense what they feel. Just like Alice never stops fighting for Cyrus, determined to save his life, so too does Killian and Emma who fight for each other. And although in the end they come together in very different ways, both journeys are built on an unbreakable bond and unfailing faith in each other. It’s also quite interesting that the wedding dress we’ve see in the window and Storybrooke is no longer the same one but now the one Alice wore on her wedding day. Look at the all of these amazing parallels:

Their hearts are entwined, sharing a spiritual connection.

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Cyrus and Killian both want their true loves to let them go, but Alice and Emma are determined to save them.

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When you truly love someone you can just feel what they are feeling and sense when they are near. 

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Tearful, intense moments where one lay dying and the other begs them not to leave.

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They can feel each other’s pain and just know and can sense what that they have done.

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Alice and Emma risked everything, traveling realms to save Cyrus and Killian, and both men are eternally grateful.

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Beautiful, Joyous Reunions

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Choices and People Saved:
We are products of our choices. That is an indisputable truth. Moreover, the dialogue employed on Once Upon a Time more often than not is deliberate and is reiterated in emotional, thematic, and plot levels. In my review for the premiere for 5B I wrote:

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Although some people were saved and some were lost that premise still rang true until the very end and like the endless tapestry of stories that Once Upon a Time is, each and every choice matters. If you take one thing away it changes the course of the story. It’s interesting how in season two Cora told Killian about Emma “You chose her.”At the time Cora considered it a betrayal. We don’t know how things may have been different if he hadn’t made that first choice. But that choice was the first step in what led them to fall in love and they were all now in the Underworld because of it.  And it helped Cora not only able to bring her daughters back together, but helped her find peace with herself and forgiveness from and between her girls. And in the end isn’t it poignant that Killian chooses to forgive Arthur and go on a quest with him that ends up restoring hope in a place that had been desolate for countless souls for years. Arthur found his broken kingdom to restore, so hopefully those souls will no longer be trapped and able to sort through their unfinished business without a vile villain lording over them. And all because of the true love of two very extraordinary heroes.

Beautiful Kisses:
The kisses Emma and Killian shared in the last episodes of season 5 were all so different but each exquisitely moving and beautiful moments for their characters made that way by the real and raw performances of Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue. Seeing Killian truly cry for the first time was moving on its own but the moment he took Emma’s hand and kissed it – a moment that that was unscripted – was what made the scene even more stirring. Killian has always been one to hold it together and be strong for Emma. But this goodbye was different. We know how hard it was for Emma but it was also just as hard for him. He had hoped that the life he wanted to share with Emma was going to come true. But here their hope was gone, so saying goodbye was even more devastating. They don’t want to let go but they do – they just want to hold on as long as they can to each other. So he takes her hand and kisses it to show her that loving her was his great honor and grasps it for as long as he can, the looks on their faces ones of devastation and desperation. We’ve never seen that expression or such tears before from him, nor a kiss like this. And it was all made so moving by their extraordinary acting.

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The kiss that they shared when he miraculously returned is not only one of the most beautiful moments of the series but also one of the most beautifully performed. And I just loved their expressions, signs of affection and the way they try to make sense out of this miracle. They’re incredulous looks were matched in the way they approach each other. Killian can’t quite believe it whilst Emma runs into his arms so overcome with emotion. And the moment when they kiss is so beautiful. When he grabs her tighter, it’s like he couldn’t quite believe she was really there until she was in his arms and once he realizes that he’s going to hold on as tightly as possible.

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Emma’s amazed, overwhelmed expression here is also as moving as can be as he tries to explain what must’ve happened and she is just watching him with such love and incredible gratitude and that he is there. She still can’t quite believe it and cannot help but kiss him again.

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Her sweet cheek kisses and their smiles are also as pure as ever. After so much pain and heartache they were able to share a moment of unencumbered joy, before they hold each other looking onto their fallen friend, expressing the way we will cling tighter to those we love in times of tragedy and in times of overwhelming emotion and love. They are grateful but their expressions quickly turn to ones of sadness. No more smiles, just solemn sorrow. So perfectly performed and deeply felt.

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Equally profound and perfectly performed was the way Killian and Emma kissed after an “I Love You” that was in a moment of normalcy and it was such a special moment for their characters. As I said in my review:

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What is lovely to know is that for as many passionate and heartfelt kisses as they’ve shared he has never picked her up in such an ardent, romantic way. One might think that such a kiss wouldn’t come after a simple “I Love You” but Killian knows how much of a brave step this was for. And consider this: if they kiss like this after an “I love you,” can you imagine the affection they will show each other when they finally express that love physically, as well as ask to share their lives together in marriage. Those will surely be incredible moments of beauty to behold.

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Little Moments:
Sometimes it’s the small things that touch us so much – those little moments that make an already special scene even more so. These were the ones that moved me from the end of 5B.

– Gentle, Profound Affection:
The way they hold each other, the tears, the touches of her face, the way they cradles each other’s heads. It’s so beautiful, intimate and affecting. No one can compare to the beautiful authenticity these two bring to their shared moments.

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As if kissing her hand wasn’t poignant enough, the way Killian holds Emma’s hand as she slowly ascends, caressing her fingers so tenderly, it’s such a small but meaningful gesture. Their hands entwined has always been a significant part of their story, but what I love in this moment was that whether it was conscious or not, he’s stroking her ring finger. Although we know now that their future can still be bright, at this moment it’s as if he’s telling her he would’ve married her and no matter what their bond will never be broken.

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– Holding His Hook:
It warms my heart every time Emma holds Killian’s hook. It’s such a sweet and loving way of showing she accepts every part of him and for viewers with similarities I can only imagine how lovely it is to see such a positive depiction.

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– A Hug Between Brothers:
It has been a long time coming but seeing David hug Killian made me cry. These two men sure have come a long way – from unlikely allies to friends to family. Killian may be family now because of Emma but he also has become like a brother to David, so the fact that both men lost their brothers again in the Underworld is not lost on me. And seeing David reach out to him, after being so reluctant to trust him for so long is incredibly touching. I would’ve liked a longer, more prominent scene and some dialogue but there’s always next season. For now we have this hug to smile about.

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– A Last Kiss:
In what may be their final have a happy moment together (the incurable optimist in me still believes he perhaps can come back), Robin kisses Regina sweetly, gently rubbing his nose against hers. These little gestures of affection are not only sweet but showcase of realness that is truly lovely. And what I love is that it’s a gesture we’ve seen before. The morning after the first time they made love he does the same thing. In both scenes, they hold onto this moment of intimacy with a gentleness that is so beautiful.

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– A Charming Reunion:
David is a favorite character of for a myriad of reasons, one of which is that he is such an affectionate, caring father. We’ve not had many moments with him and his son, but when he takes his baby boy in his arms when he returns from the Underworld smiling and holding him with such adoration I was touched. And see him embracing his wife with the baby between them was so heartwarming. Is that not the picture of true love in all its forms? And perhaps it made him even more grateful because he saw his daughter had to leave her True Love behind for what they thought was forever. Of course now Snow and Charming will no doubt be delighted their daughter can have a happy ending with the man she truly loves. And I long to see before the series ends a similar moment between Emma and Killian with a child of their own.

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Unanswered questions:
As is often the case they will always be questions that remain unanswered each season. Many I can let go of and forgive but because the finale didn’t resolve everything from season 5 but instead introduced what is essentially next season’s story, there are some significant things that went by the waste side that I still wonder about.

– Was the dark curse Killian cast broken? It must have been because they were able to leave town without befalling the same fate as Dopey. So when was it broken? When Killian sacrificed himself? Because he was the one who cast it did his death undo it?

-Did Guinevere ever get cured of her Sands of Avalon curse? Was she back to herself once Arthur died? I certainly hope so and that when all of the Camelot folks left she was back to herself and would be able to be reunited with Lancelot.

-Why did Merlin have a dark curse brewing before Killian arrived and why did he say Nimue was the only one who could help them to defeat the Dark One? This is perhaps the most glaring unanswered question. There’s so much significance to Merlin’s character and still so much mystery around him, so I hope we’ve not seen the last of him.

An Homage to Snow White?:
It recently occurred to me that the fountain in New York that they all threw pennies into, making wishes might be a loose homage to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, specifically the very first wish Henry made. He knew his mom was lonely so wished their family could be complete. And Hook arrived only a few days later. Let’s look at the lyrics to the song “I’m Wishing” Snow White sings at a wishing well:

I’m wishing (I’m wishing)
For the one I love
To find me (to find me)
Today

Henry’s wish came true. The one that Emma loves, the one that loves Emma, found her, and their family became complete. It wouldn’t be the first time water was used as a magical entity. There is a wishing well in Storybrooke connected with the mystical Lake Nostos, the very water that made Emma’s existence possible. There are connections everywhere it seems.

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What’s Ahead in Season 6:
Right now it’s unclear what exactly to expect next season. We know the Evil Queen has returned now separated from Regina, but clearly cannot be destroyed because you must learn to live with all you have done no matter how bad it is. Hopefully Regina will learn that. Jekyll and Hyde will also being in Storybrooke, but to what point and purpose I’m not sure. As interesting as these are I do hope there are other big focuses because after a few episodes it may be bit dreary and even repetitive to the 4B storyline. Moreover, Emma is still the main character and every arc has ultimately come back around to her story, so I hope for that to continue. There has not been much talk of what to expect except the possibility of seeing Ruby and Dorothy as well as Maleficent and Lily again. Ruby and Dorothy are cute and sweet, but when it comes to side characters returning they should be compelling if they are to garner screen time, and have a significant connection to the main story. Their episode along with Merida’s in 5A were nice and enjoyable stories out of context but had very little connection to what was going on with the main characters. At this point in the series, I have grown leery and tired of screen time taken away from the main characters. Much like Ariel and Eric, Aurora and Philip, or Cinderella and Thomas, Ruby and Dorothy represent a sweet true love story, but for me if any of these couples are seen again there needs to be a significant link to the main story arc. And honestly I care more about our mains. We shall see what transpires with them. They could be included in a good way. Unlike the new couple whom I like, I cannot say the same for Maleficent and Lily. Well, I actually do like Maleficent, though she was my personal least favorite of the Queens of Darkness. In contrast I could watch Cruella all day long. But Lily on the other hand, similar to the Bae/Neal, I enjoyed the younger persona, but found their older self to be a grating, annoying and very unlikable characterization. Do we really need to know who Lily’s father is? Does a story with her sound compelling and engaging? I know some may disagree, but for me at this point it’s a no.

However, I always try to take a positive attitude and not prejudge a story arc until I’ve seen it. Sure there are characters I would rather see return like August, Merlin or Elsa (and they may some day) but we do not dictate the story. We must watch and enjoy what we get. And they have done a beautiful job every year so far. I also thought of ways in which all the things we may see could actually be great, tying into with some scenes with Emma that may ending up being foreshadowing. With the return of the Evil Queen I would love the idea of Emma and Killian being placed in the same position that Snow and Charming were in since the “Pilot,” their love and happiness threatened by the queen. I recently re-watched the episode from Season 4 “Shattered Sight” and wonder if it was a little peak into what we may expect. And I honestly loved that episode. The way Regina reacted against Emma, Snow and David may very be what we will see with the Evil Queen in Season 6. The line Emma said to provoke her so they could get their ribbons off was interesting too: “I wanted you to see me and Hook together- to see the happiness you could never have.” Could that now be foreshadowing of how they will be targeted for having happiness she cannot have? That could be a great story!

Moreover, there have been a few scenes that may be foreshadowing that Emma may fall under a sleeping curse: when Emma says she will “sleep for weeks” once Hades is defeated and in 5×23 when Regina pricks Emma’s finger for a tracking spell and Regina asked her why she was hesitant: ” Worried I might make you taken an eternal nap on a bus bench?” If Maleficent does indeed return I could not think of a more amazing thing than to finally see a scene like the iconic hypnotization of Aurora from Sleeping Beauty. In fact, when Maleficent was said to return in 4B I had theorized we might see that with Emma. Alas we did not, but we did see Emma and Killian under a sleeping spell. Might we see a sleeping curse for Emma now? If anyone could pull off this scene in an eerie and compelling way it would be Jennifer. And I for one would love, love, love to see it. And now that she and Killian have been confirmed as True love wouldn’t that be a beautiful parallel to Snow and David’s True Love’s kiss in the show’s very first scene. And remember what happened after that scene- a wedding.

Wedding Foreshadowing:
Once Upon a Time has done its fair share of foreshadowing, some subtle and some quite obvious. In relation to Emma and Killian there has been hints since the very beginning of wedding foreshadowing This season especially the visual and verbal cues have been more and more prevalent so much so that I thought the end of the season would end with a proposal. Although that didn’t happen, instead we got perhaps the final hint of wedding foreshadowing with a dress seen in between the couple, something that has been developing for a while now along with the many other hints and clues. Some may not agree that this last one was done on purpose but I still believe it was it was a final clue that lets the audience know a wedding is on the horizon. My mother, who is a good representative of a general audience member noticed it instantly- and loved it of course. Let’s explore all of the possible foreshadowing and clues we’ve seen so far:

2×6 “Tallahasse”
Killian is down on one knee, offering his hand to Emma.

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3×14 “The Tower”
Killian asks Emma if she was considering marrying Walsh, something she does not discuss with anyone else besides Henry.

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3×21 “Snow Drifts”
Past Captain Hook carries Emma bridal style onto the Jolly Roger.

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Emma is down on her knees and holds up a wedding ring to Killian.

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3×22 “There’s No Place Like Home”
Emma tries her mother’s wedding ring on her ring finger- the ring that “true love follows wherever it goes.”

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4×4 “The Apprentice”

During their first date, Emma mentions that Walsh set the bar high by proposing on the date Killian had seen her go on.

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4×5 “Breaking Glass” Killian holds up a mood ring from Emma’s box of childhood mementos.

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4×13 “Unforgiven”
The vows to see the best in each other sound a bit like wedding vows. This one may be a stretch but is still lovely.

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5×2 “The Price”
The ball at Camelot looks as if it’s a wedding from Snow helping Emma prepare, to her beautiful white lace dress, to the way she walks toward Killian as he looks at her much like a groom looks onto a bride. The dance they share looks like a wedding!

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5×4 “The Broken Kingdom”
Killian and Emma “ride off into the sunset” on a horse, sharing a romantic love affirmation moment during sunrise in a field of hundreds of pink Middlemist flowers with Emma adorned in a lovely white dress and cloak with a long train.

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5×7 “Nimue”
Killian gives Emma a ring saying he’s not proposing, but giving her a symbol of protection and love.

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5×10 “Broken Heart”

Merida talks about taking an arrow to Emma’s knee, an allusion to a wedding and Emma marches down an aisle slowing in the field of Middlemist flowers.

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When it comes to the wedding dress, I knew we had seen it before, so I decided to go back through every episode (and I mean EVERY episode) to see when it first showed up. And what I found was pretty amazing. At the very least, what has been in this window of the shop “Modern Fashions” since Season 2 has always been tied to Emma, but I would argue it’s been there since Season 1, perhaps not intentional at first, but since season 4 it has undoubtedly been so.

In Season 1, you see a Pink dress in the window. No, it’s not Emma’s dress she wore on her date, but it does have that feel. We see this in a few episodes throughout Season 1.

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In Season 2, the first and truly only time you see the window with any kind of partiality is in 2×10 “The Cricket Game.” The dress is gone, replaced by a sign, as if the store is in transition, (Kind of like Emma). Interesting enough this is the episode right after Killian arrives in Storybrooke.

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In Season 3, we see the sign remains and we can now see what it says: Coming Soon: One Stop Cobbling. It’s a sign with a shoe. This is striking to me for many reasons. Not only that these scenes are all scenes with Emma in 3×10 “The New Neverland,” 3×12 “New York City Serenade,” and 3×19 “A Curious Thing,” but also that two of these also included Killian.

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Additionally, shoes are associated with weddings with the tradition of throwing shoes and rice at weddings (Remember that line in Sinatra song The Tender Trap– “the folks are throwing shoes and rice”), as well as tying shoes and cans to couple’s car along with a “Just Married” sign.

From Season 4 onward, I have no doubt that what is in this window is connected to Emma. It is pretty remarkable actually. With the exception of the first clear view of the dress and one very important moment, we only see this window in scenes that feature at least one of either Emma or Killian. There are a few instances of groups shots, but we never see a scene with the window in a scene that does not feature either Emma or Killian. That is pretty significant, in my opinion.

The wedding dress first appears in 4×1 “A Tale of Two Sisters.” There is a blurry view of it in the group shot at the beginning but it was not clear what it was yet. The first clear view is a scene where Elsa walks down the street- a transition to her remembering Anna trying on her wedding dress.

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Some may argue that makes the dress connected to Elsa, but in truth it is meant to be related to Emma. Emma and Elsa form a friendship and sisterly bond much like she and Anna. Moreover, every time we see it after that scene it’s with Emma or the man she is destined to marry- Killian. It’s no coincidence that after Emma and Killian shared their first real kiss in 3×22 “There’s No Place Like Home” and are about to embark on a relationship, the sign goes away and the wedding dress is put into the window.

The next time we see the dress is the first confirmation that the dress in this window (wedding or otherwise) has a undeniable connection to Emma. AND IT IS MIND BLOWING!!! In 4×2 “White Out,” as the power goes out we see a shot of the window, the light still on and the wedding dress clearly seen. What is amazing is what is in front of the window. It is a bench with the year 1983 on it. WELL 1983 IS THE YEAR EMMA SWAN WAS BORN! As we know, the show began in 2011 and that Emma turned 28 in the “Pilot,” making her birthday October 23, 1983.

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The next episode with the dress is as significant as can be. In 4×3 “Rocky Road” Killian walks right by the shop and quite importantly, Emma admits that she can’t lose Killian and he assures her the he is a survivor. From that moment Emma’s walls were minimal and the two continued to fall deeper in love. The dress is seen in between the couple right before her admission “I Can’t Lose You Too.”

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In 4×10 “Shattered Sight” it is prominently seen behind Emma, and Killian briefly walks by it.

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In 4×13 “Unforgiven” we see it behind Emma and Killian as they walk hand in hand to Granny’s This is the last time we see the window in season 4.

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In Season 5, the dress is seen in two significant scenes at the beginning and end of the season. In between, what we see solidifies that the dress in this shop window is meant to be connected to Emma.

In 5×2 “The Price” we see the wedding dress in a scene with Dark Swan Emma as she looks on at her loved ones in Granny’s. It’s a powerful image that represents her isolation, her dark present and her bright future. The contrast and dark and light is significant.

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And then comes something amazing. The next time we see the window is in 5×11 “Swan Song.” The wedding dress has disappeared and replaced with another dress- Emma’s black fitted dress she wore in 5×2. This was most likely a signification that the Dark Swan was able to “die” and indeed in this episode Savior Emma returns.

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What is mind blowing again is that in the Underworld her dress remains in that window.

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The underworld is meant to have an equivalent to everything in Storybrooke, so if Emma’s dress is in the window in the Underworld then whatever is in the shop in Storybrooke is meant to be hers as well.

Finally, we when arrive back in Storybrooke and the window is seen again, the last and perhaps final and most significant scene occurs. A wedding dress is back in the window to Modern Fashions in 5×23 “An Untold Story.” What’s interesting is that is different dress than the one that we’d seen before- the one Alice wore on her wedding day.

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Perhaps there is no significance to that, but I do think it’s significant that the season was bookended by two very different scenes with the dress: one where Emma is alone at night- the darkness still within her and Killian, and then with the two of them during the day, free from the darkness and ready for a bright future together.

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In this moment Emma tells Killian she loves him for the first time simply because she wants to. The placement of the gown is also important as the dress is in clear and beautiful view, perfectly centered between them – the first time that has ever happened. This is the final exquisite sign that this wedding dress in meant for her. It always has been.

We don’t know when, but a wedding is surely on the horizon for Emma and Killian. The signs are there. They have proven their True Love. And when they finally have their happy day it will undoubtedly be as beautiful as anything we’ve ever seen.

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Once Upon a Time 100th Episode Celebration: Top 5 Best Season 5A Episodes & More Further Thoughts

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The first half of Season 5 of Once Upon a Time was one of the most extraordinary the series has ever seen. Compelling and truly moving storytelling at its finest, the choice to turn your heroine into the “villain” was brave and bold. But of course, things are not always what they seemed and Emma’s journey, though fraught with darkness and mistakes, was really about love, and the ways in which the story unfolded with the unexpected twist that Killian was also a Dark One was amazing. Her love story was finally brought into focus after her other relationships had been established firmly and it was glorious. But that is not to say, the season solely rested on their shoulders. With so many overarching themes and moments for every character, Season 5A was rich with romance, heartbreak, wonderful new and returning characters, and exquisite new real in Camelot,  and remarkable performances. With half of the season now concluded let us revisit the best moments so far.

1. “Birth” (Season 5, Episode 8)

Absolutely heart wrenching, fast-paced, intense, and filled with outstanding performances, “Birth” is the type of remarkable episode that makes you believe in television’s ability to move you deeply. The pinnacle episode of the “Dark Swan” arc, the truth behind Emma’s motivations was finally revealed – but this truth was even more devastating than we could have possibly imagined. Between the flashbacks in Camelot and the present day in Storybrooke, things were intense and the stakes were never higher. Of course what Once Upon a Time does so well is parallel the past and present and when it does it spectacularly we are left in awe, especially when each twist is more shocking than the next. “Birth” seemed to be a reference to Zelena giving birth, but it was also an allusion to the birth of a second Dark One in Killian, finding out the captain had been cursed the entire time, and by Emma in order to save his life. It was something I did not see coming at all. This episode had everything that makes this show so wonderful: levity in the form of Dr. Whale’s return, excitement and inspiration in the scene where Merlin and Emma face off in an unwitting duel of the greatest magic ever, heartwarming moments in Henry revealing a plan he and Killian had devised called “Operation Light Swan,” a house in Storybrooke that represented the promise of a future together, romantic scenes of Emma and Killian most especially their kiss igniting the Promethean flame as Emma was ready to begin that future and give up the darkness, and lastly family drama as all our heroes surround Killian as he laid dying, telling Emma not to be hasty in her actions, and Emma angry and desperate refusing to let the man she loves die. The scene where Emma transports her and Killian into the field of Middlemist flowers was as powerful a moment as we’ve ever seen. This episode proves the lengths we go to for love in a way so gripping and heart-wrenching that it is destined to stay with many viewers for years to come.

2. “Swan Song” (Season 5, Episode 11)

Rivaling the most emotional and heartbreaking episodes of the series, what makes “Swan Song” so special is the power in its emotion. It stems from deep inside of us and taps into issues of abandonment, betrayal, forgiveness, and true love. Our hearts were broken right along with Emma’s seeing Killian completely overtaken by the darkness, and when her entire family is marked for death to go to the Underworld they’re forced to make difficult decisions. Her family doesn’t want to give up but also doesn’t want to spend their final moments fraught with worry pouring over books, but rather sharing a meal together at Granny’s enjoying a happy moment together, while Emma, being the noble and brave woman she is, decides to channel all of the darkness into herself and make the ultimate sacrifice for her loved ones. Once upon a Time is built on the idea that love is often self sacrificial and that redemption and forgiveness is always possible. “Swan Song” beautifully exemplifies this in the contrast between Killian’s flashbacks and his present struggles as the Dark One. Little by little we’ve learned about Killian’s past and not only do we see another piece of the puzzle, but this also brought the “Dark Swan” arc to it’s stunning and gripping conclusion. Abandoned by a father he adored,  and sold into servitude, only to find his father alive centuries later, he was willing to forgive him until he learns that he’d had another son and named him Liam as if he was replacing his older brother. The fact that he kills his father was tragic but every circumstance of his past explained his actions in the present especially when he remembers the wise advice from his father – it’s never too late to change. And Killian becomes the man he wants to be – a good, heroic man, making up for his weakness by being strong, and fighting back against the greatest evil by channeling all the darkness into Excalibur asking Emma to kill him. Neither want to lose the other but they must let go – they must sacrifice their happy ending in order to save everyone else and it was the most heartbreaking moment of the series, but also one of the most beautiful as the couple proves that True Love is indeed stronger than darkness. Killian loses his life but Emma, who learns that Gold has betrayed them again by becoming the Dark One once more, finds hope once again, proving to be more determined and stronger than she’s ever been, vowing to march into the Underworld to share her heart with Killian and bring him back home. As we hear those final words of Emma’s, “Hook I will find you. I will always find you,” we are brought back to the heart of the series and the moving theme that we’ve witnessed since day one: no matter the distance or obstacle you will always find your true love. And Emma embracing her family’s steadfast motto is as beautiful moment as we’ve ever seen.

3. “The Broken Kingdom” (Season 5, Episode 4)

An episode filled with fairy tale romance, intrigue, subterfuge, and one of the most beautiful visuals in television history, this episode was key in establishing the truth in the heart of Camelot characters, as well as Snow and Charming and Emma and Killian. The timeless theme that power can corrupt someone was potently expressed in the flashbacks to Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. The most famous of triangle history was wonderful as this was a new depiction of a woman who loves her husband but seeing his obsession to make Excalibur whole turn him into a madman, led her heart elsewhere. It was what made the sincere connection she makes was Lancelot so lovely, and the moment that Arthur betrays her trust by taking away her agency with the Sands of Avalon even more tragic. Seeing that all of Camelot is a complete illusion – that in truth it’s still a broken kingdom that at any moment can be shattered was not only unexpected and intriguing storytelling but a moving parallel to what our characters were experiencing in Camelot’s present. Snow and Charming working together, while in a very real argument with each other, proved that no fancy title could come between them, break the trust that exists, nor break their resolve to do anything to save their daughter. Emma and Killian also proved that the darkness that is plaguing Emma could not break their bond, nor Killian’s resolve to fight for their future of a “white picket fence life” in Storybrooke. After a horse ride that got her heart racing, Killian leads her into a field of pink blossoms and when she realizes the dark voice in her head had disappeared the two share a kiss as the camera pans about them in the most breathtakingly beautiful scene ever. It was a symbolic and exquisite moment of idyllic fairy tale beauty that demonstrated what Once epitomizes. Through trust and vulnerability, true love can slowly blossom, and through hope and belief in each other, even the greatest darkness can be vanquished.

4. “Nimue” (Season 5, Episode 7)

Extraordinary in its meaning, significant in its mythology, and filled with staggering performances “Nimue” told the backstory of Merlin and his true love, which portrayed the origins of the Middlemist flowers which had become a symbol of love for the season, as well as the full story of how the first Dark One came to be. Itt was born from the Holy Grail and became a weapon of evil when vengeance and an evil act by Nimue destroyed what Merlin hoped Excalibur would do – cut his immortal ties so he could live a single life with the woman he loves. Their relationship and their characters were meant to showcase the exquisite themes that Once has always showcased and ones that we could all learn from, as well as contrast how their failures would not be repeated in the present. Although eventually some mistakes were indeed repeated, in “Nimue” we see just how far Emma has come not only in her journey as the Dark Swan but indeed her journey since day one. We see her happier than ever in the scene where Killian gives her his brother’s ring as a sign of his love, asking her to promise to return home to him, made beautiful because it was the first time he told her he loved her. And we also see Emma as strong as we’ve ever seen when she fights back against Nimue who tries to make her give into the darkness and not go back to being nothing. In an extraordinary moment Emma exclaims “I am not nothing! I was never nothing! “which for a woman who lived a life feeling unloved and insignificant is an astounding revelation that anyone who has had moments of despair could find help from. Most especially, this wonderful episode shows us that life is made of precious moments all of which should be cherished and that one lifetime of moments is far grander than an endless sea of a everlasting ones. As our heroes break into Camelot to obtain Excalibur only to be captured and for the very worst to happen, the story is perpetuated to an exciting, intense conclusion leaving us wanting the next chapter with even more anticipation.

5. “The Price” (Season 5, Episode 2)

After a brilliant introduction (“The Dark Swan” would’ve been next on the list), the second episode of the season was a gem of beautiful romantic grandeur, moments of family and romantic love, and melancholy and moving sadness with a tinge of hope and anticipation for the rest of the arc. The ball at Camelot with an exquisite gift wrapped in golden brocade, wistful dances, and radiant smiles from Snow and Charming beaming at Henry experiencing his first crush, to Robin in Regina so happy and lost in each other that they forget their next steps, and Emma and Killian looking as if they were attending their own wedding. The ball was a lovely and light part of the episode. It was a perfect balance to the pathos of the episode which included Regina’s desperation to save Robin in the past, to her doubting her ability to inspire anyone’s belief, and then her brave offering of her own life in place of his when a fury from the Underworld comes to claim him. This moment was a big step for her character and when the others join alongside her, they demonstrated the strength of familial bonds even if it’s not by blood, and belief that we can succeed with the power of teamwork. It was the perfect way of foreshadowing the way the characters would come together at the end of the season for Emma and Killian. Speaking of the couple, they provided the melancholy of episode from the concern, to the devastation of failed true love kisses. to the feeling of isolation, while in the end we are still left with the hope that he won’t give up on her  because True Love never gives up on each other.

Hands and Hearts Entwined continued:
Before season 5 began I wrote an article that discussed the emphasis that Emma and Killian’s story has had with hands and hearts entwined. I expected it to continue because it had been there since the beginning. But little did I imagine how much emphasis we would see in 5A. The emphasis was seemingly in overdrive from the first episode from the amount of close-ups of their hands entwined, to how much we saw them holding hands, to the number of heart references and plot points, it was not even close to being subtle. Wondering early on if perhaps Emma and Killian were sharing a heart thinking that was how the curse was cast, these predictions were not accurate, but simply premature. For in the final episode we see Emma’s plan to share her heart with Killian to bring back him to life and save him in the underworld. What is beautiful is that this is far more exquisite and poignant than what we originally predicted. Instead of sharing a heart to cast a dark curse, with dark magic, we could see them sharing a heart with light magic – with true love. And whether they end up sharing a heart, the fact that Emma wants to and believes it will work shows just how far she has come. From someone who had completely closed off her heart to a woman now who believes in the love she and Killian have so deeply that she believes he can come overcome everything, even death. No matter what their hearts truly beat as one.
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Paralleled Love Stories:

Before the season began I loved what Josh Dallas said in the season 5 special about the ways Snow and David have paralleled Emma and Killian They are similar but different.

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Of course we did not know we’d see the ultimate parallel – a heartbreaking one where one had to kill the other. In season 3 we saw Snow crush Charming’s heart to cast the curse and it was heart wrenching. But I would say seeing Emma stab Killian was perhaps even more heartbreaking and painful. Of Course we knew that Charming was okay because he was alive in Storybrooke. But also, taking that out of account, just examining their feelings in this situation, Snow losing David was devastating for her, but they had lived a life together (short but still substantial), but also Snow was pregnant and a symbol of their love would live on in another person. As Charming said she would be able to see him live on every time she looks into their child’s eyes. But Emma and Killian had no such things. They were together but a joint future was still just an unlived dream. And that is why it’s more heartbreaking – an unlived life, and the things they never got to do would forever haunt Emma. Luckily, she will find a way to save their future together.

Minor quibbles:
In a remarkable season perhaps the only flaws were with the inclusion or lack thereof of certain characters. I really hope there is more Robin Hood soon because I adore his character. And while the characters and storylines were objectively on their own enjoyable, Merida and by extension Ruby and Mulan, were inserted with no real connection to the overall story, so I hope however they are brought back is more inclusive and connected. I will say, while Merida was good in her scenes in “The Dark Swan” and in Storybrooke, having two episodes of her backstory felt wasteful and it would have been better to have seen a bit more of Merlin or Lancelot who had more bearing into the main storyline. And I will be sad if Ruby never returns to Storybrooke because I found it sad and hard to believe that she would really leave Granny and all her friends forever. But these were just minor flaws in a spectacular arc.

A New Kind of Expression:
There was something about Jennifer Morrison’s performance in the scene in “Swan Song ” when she finds out about Gold’s betrayal. The expression on Emma’s face – the anger, disdain, and strength- was amazing! There was just something about that look in her eyes and tone in her voice that Morrison expressed so brilliantly. We’ve never seen her like this. But she has never been in this position before. It just further shows how our characters continue to display new layers and evolve. It’s fantastic!

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A Look of Encouragement:
The look Snow and David give Emma before she steps onto the lake at the end of “Swan Song” was so meaningful. That little nod of encouragement shows the support for their daughter and it is exactly what she needed at that moment. It was a sign of hope that they truly believe they will succeed.

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Finding Each Other:

Since the “Pilot” the beautiful theme we’ve seen more than any other is that no matter the insurmountable obstacles, love can always be found. Having become synonymous with the series and all for which it stands for, Once Upon a Time’s most iconic quote “I will always find you” was spoken within the first few moments of the show when Prince Charming awoke Snow White from a sleeping curse with True Love’s Kiss, while Snow White’s first-line spoken on-screen was “You found me.” This lovely motif was established instantly within the story and while some may attribute it to simply being associated with Snow and Charming, it is actually the belief of the Charming family, and indeed is the heart of the series. We saw that not even a dark curse or memory loss could erase this belief. It is still residing within Mary Margaret’s heart as she implores this to her students in the very first episode.

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That belief in love both romantic and familial is what drives our story and gives it its beauty and pathos. It is what motivates our characters when faced with the darkest of times and moments of hopelessness or despair. The “Pilot” made this pristinely clear. When Henry was feeling isolated he found Emma in Boston. When Snow was under an evil spell, Charming found and awakened her. And when the dark curse was nearly upon them, Charming kissed his newborn daughter Emma and placed her inside the magical wardrobe and said “Find Us.” And that is what she did with the help of her son Henry. It’s why Snow’s first line after the curse is broken “You found us” is so moving and meaningful. They will always find each other and when they do it awakens their hearts, their souls, and their true selves. Henry finding Emma in Boston awakened her from her lonely life where she was an orphan without a family or belief in happy endings. When Emma broke Storybooke’s curse with True Love’s Kiss, she awakened the town from its 28 year sleep, memories of their true selves being restored. For Emma, her heart was truly awakening, first opening up to her son and then to her parents. And when she meets Captain Hook her heart truly awakens to romantic love for the first time in over 10 years. She is the one who finds him laying amongst Cora’s victims and they’ve continued to find each other again and again, no matter the place and no matter the time. Much like Henry finding her in Boston, when Killian finds Emma in New York City he awakens her from her sleep of a false life, restoring her memories and bringing her back home. He found her despite the odds proving that love will always do so. And so we’ve arrived at the middle of season five, which ends with Emma speaking those iconic words for her beloved, ready to march into the Underworld to find and save him. This is so incredibly special, moving and tremendously beautiful as it solidifies that steadfast belief of her family. She has now come to embody this unfailing faith that her parents, her son and indeed the man she loves have shown her countless times. She learned how to be a hero and how to hope even in times of despair. It’s why she smiles and cries saying “I knew you’d find me” when Henry finds her in the alternate universe. She believes her family will always find her and now she’s demonstrating that faith in the darkest time imaginable. Her vow to find Killian not only solidifies him as part of her family and her truelove, but also beautifully showcases that next step in Emma Swan’s  and indeed Once Upon a Time’s exquisite journey, bringing her character and the show full circle with tremendous meaning. And her strength and resolve in this moment is unparalleled. Her family has found her, she has found her family. Her heart awakened from its long sleep when she fell in love with Killian and now she is going to find him, share the heart that he was able to bring back to life, awaken his soul from its sleeping death, and prove once again that true love will always find you.

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Once Upon a Time: “The Broken Kingdom” Further Thoughts

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This week’s Further Thoughts are, like last week, a bit shorter as I was able to cover a lot in my Nerd Machine review. A lot of this is basically reliving the glorious moments of my favorite episode of Season 5 thus far. I loved every single moment!!

The Meadow Kiss:

I don’t think I will ever grow tired of watching or discussing this beautiful scene. It’s the most gorgeous, romantic, fairy tale perfect moment I have ever seen Once Upon a Time! I spoke a lot about the symbolism of the pink blossoms in my review, but I stumbled across this amazing post on tumblr which has some additional, and very apropos thoughts. Bravo to justalilblondemama for your research and thoughts!!

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I am also reminded of a paper I wrote in college about the symbolic use of nature in Pride and Prejudice. In that I discussed when the characters are outdoors they are more free and honest with their feelings, as opposed to when they are inside where they are more repressed. This feels quite similar to the way this scene played out. Away from the confines of the castle she is able to breathe again. Outside, Emma is honest and able to share and trust Killian, helping quiet the darkness inside of her. Moreover, this further reiterates the difference between the ways the flowers are presented for Emma and Killian and Arthur and Guinevere. Inside the castle tower, Arthur creates a bouquet for Guinevere with the sands of Avalon and takes always her freedom to choose. Inside the castle she is living a repressed, false life.  But for Emma and Killian they are outside in a glorious meadow created by nature, where they both are choosing to believe and trust in each other and their love. It is no wonder, this special moment garnered such stunning direction to match the beauty of what this means for this true love couple.

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Lovely Parallels:

Speaking of Pride and Prejudice, although the Captain Swan moment was unique and lovely, I could not help but be reminded of the scene from 2005 version with Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen, also known as one of the most resplendent films in history. The scene where Darcy walks across the meadow towards Elizabeth and the two share a romantic moment as the sun rises behind them is simply glorious, and when the sunlight was peaking through the trees behind Emma and Killian it was so reminiscent of the Darcy and Elizabeth moment. The sunlight represents love, renewal of feelings, and a promise of fidelity. The sun always rises each day, and the love for these couples remains as constant.

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This scene on the meadow was also reminiscent of another sweet, beautiful fairy tale like moment. When I watched the show with my Mom it was the first words out of her mouth. She said “It’s just like Pushing Daisies.” And she was right. Both pan to a felid of flowers as a couple shares a sweet romantic moment. I still miss this show every day.

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The Look of Love:

Jennifer Morrison is such a remarkable actress for many reasons, one of these being her consistency. She does gestures and expressions consistently for Emma. Any time Emma is rendered speechless and her love is as clear as the look on her eyes, so gives an expression where you can see her try to say something but simply cannot, so she lets her eyes (and often her lips) do the taking. We have seen this many times, but was there any more beautiful than the one on this episode. Similar to Jennifer, Colin is also a brilliant and consistent actor with his portrayal of Killian, and I think we all swoon anytime he arches his eyebrow. This moment in particular is wonderful because it is a combination of recognition of what she means with her words “Now that we’re alone,” and love, as his affection for her is shining right there in his eyes.

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Unity in Speech:

Although they have done it before, this episode seemed to be the first time that both Emma and Killian used so much dialogue that referred to them as not only a united couple but one that has a future together. We can see that they are not only together (which we already know), but for the first time on both their parts that they want this to be forever. “We” can get back to the white picket fence life. I will never stop fighting for “us.” Emma and Killian are strong individuals but together they are unstoppable and more importantly they are united and joined by the bonds of love, and want to be forever!

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Gentle Affection and Passion:

One of things I have always loved about the development of the Captain Swan relationship has been the gentle, tender affection between the two as well as the intense passion they share. They are the ideal combination of the two, and what I find true is that you can see the passion they share in these gentle signs of affection. There were so many in the episode- his soft touch of her arm, the way she strokes his hand, the way they hold hands, the tilt of their heads to deepen their kiss, and finally the way Emma puts his arms round his neck, pulling him closer in that last final moment. All of these feel like they are saying “I love you so much and I always will. Let me hold you forever. I don’t ever want to let go.”

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The last moment especially makes me think of this beautiful quote:

“I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.”- James Joyce

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Family Dynamics:

I just had to mention this adorable scene between Emma, Killian and Henry again. They are going to have such a cute family dynamic- heck they already do. Emma will be the supportive but cautious mother. Killian will be the playfully teasing “That’s my boy” kind of step dad. It’s all kinds of adorable and sweet and I hope we see more Captain Cobra Swan scenes in the future because they’re golden.

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Wedding Foreshadowing:

The wedding foreshadowing seems to be in overdrive this season, first with “The Price” and now in “The Broken Kingdom” and I do not believe we are reading too much into it. We are seeing things that are common marriage, wedding and happily ever after visuals and aspects. Emma and Killian ride off into the sunset, she is wearing a white dress and cloak with a long train, she holds a flower (while they are surrounded by flowers) while they kiss after promising to always fight for their future together. I think the question is not if Emma and Killian wed, it’s only a matter of when.

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“Hearts that beat as one”:

I found Arthur’s line to Snow and Charming about himself and Guinevere  so interesting. He says, “You’re not the only couple whose hearts beat as one,” and it makes me wonder if this is a foreshadowing clue. We know that Snow and Charming share a heart, but we also know that what Arthur is claiming about him and his wife is far from the truth. And I doubt it will ever be the case. I wonder if it is a hint that Emma and Killian may end up sharing one. It is just interesting that we hear this line in the episode where Emma shares her burden with Killian and it helps her quiet the darkness. The love they share can defeat anything, it seems like the possibility that they may share a heart even more likely.

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Lancelot’s Fate:

The fact that we have not seen Lancelot in Storybrooke is alarming and I hope his character has not died, mostly because I really love him. His love for Guinevere feels true as he was able to tell she was not herself and under a spell, something only a true love would be able to recognize. I already adored him because without his (and Ruth’s) actions Emma would never have been born. I hope nothing has happened to this gallant knight.

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Is Arthur the rightful ruler of Camelot?:

What I find intriguing about Merlin’s prophecy that Arthur is the one to pull Excalibur from the stone and be the rightful ruler of Camelot, is that it is only from Arhur’s perspective. Right now we have only heard Merlin say his warning to Emma as a child. As far as his other prophecies they are all though Arthur. Did he misunderstand or assume things? Is Arthur even the rightful ruler? He is not acting very kingly because a true ruler would not have to use magic to fix his kingdom.  Could Merlin’s prophecy be referring to somebody else?