Top 30 Once Upon a Time Characters

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

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

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

30. Tinkerbell (portrayed by Rose McIver)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26. Lancelot (portrayed by Sinqua Walls)

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

25. Granny Lucas (portrayed by Beverley Elliot)

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

24. Merlin (portrayed by Elliot Knight)

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

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

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

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

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

21. Mulan (portrayed by Jamie Chung)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17. Belle French (portrayed Emilie De Ravin)

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

16. Ariel (portrayed by Joanna Garcia-Swisher)

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

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

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

14. Elsa (portrayed by Georgina Haig)

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

13. Anna (portrayed by Elizabeth Lail)

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

12. Cruella De Vil (portrayed by Victoria Smurfit)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once Upon a Time: 62 Iconic Moments

Once Upon a Time has had no shortage of beautiful, profound, funny, exciting and poignant moments since the series debuted October 23, 2011. With the show coming to a close I thought it was time to celebrate its conclusion with a look back at some of the show’s most iconic moments. What makes an iconic moment? There are a myriad of things but when it comes down to it, these are moments that I think of when I think “what is Once Upon a Time?” They are the moments that embody its finest themes, most breathtaking visuals, the sweet and heart wrenching, the moving and adventurous- the moments that truly defined the series. All of the gifs were made by the lovely and ever talented Ashley at @cptnswan_ouat  on Twitter and captainswanouat on Tumblr and here she was able to capture all of the richness, beauty, wonder and emotion in her creations. She was one of the first fandom people I ever followed and such a beautiful person. She is also an amazing photographer and you can check out her photos here. Without further ado these are 62 Iconic Moments, seen in chronological order. Yes I know that seems to be a random  and arbitrary number and that may seem like a lot and trust me, I had to eliminate some for fear of going completely overboard. But I couldn’t list everything. So, these are the moments to look back on that I truly believe will be remembered as the most iconic of the fairy tale series.

1. The opening shot of Charming riding on his horse and then awakening Snow with a True Love’s Kiss (“Pilot”)
It was true love at first sight as we saw Prince Charming on his mighty steed. The moment that started it all was absolute magic, and one that unsurprisingly was revisited many times throughout the series. The score, the magic of the real snow that began to fall, the soft performances from Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas, this moment set the tone for the series in a beautiful way and gave us the first instance of the steadfast and iconic line “I Will Always Find You.”gif-01agif-01b

2. Emma makes a birthday wish on a Cupcake, and Henry shows up at her door, and they head to Storybrooke (1×1 “Pilot”)
The start of a truly beautiful journey, we saw right away that this strong woman was also very lonely and longed for more, and her wish comes true when the son she gave up for adoption appears just as she blows out the candle. A sweet and vulnerable moment with a hint of magical fate. And when Emma’s drives her bright yellow bug into the gray, sleepy town, it’s a beautiful metaphor for the magic and color, she is literally and figuratively bringing to Storybrooke.gif-02agif-02bgif-03

3. Charming sword fights with baby Emma in his arms (1×1 “Pilot”)
Prince Charming will protect his family with his dying breath, and that was almost the case as he fights off the Evil Queen’s guards with his daughter who was born merely moments before in his arms. It’s equally heroic, impressive and filled with emotion.gif-04.gif

4. The Dark Curse envelops Regina and Snow and Charming (1×1 “Pilot”)
As the Evil Queen stands for what she believes is her victory and Snow cradles her husband, the moment is powerful and intense both emotionally and visually.gif-05

5. Henry watches Storybrooke clock move for the first time (1×1 “Pilot”)
Emma deciding to stay in Storybrooke was the beginning of her journey as the Savior, causing the clock to move for the first time in 28 years, and Henry’s smile realizing that things are about to change for the better was not only sweet, but the first instance of one of the show’s most prolific themes: Hope.gif-06.gif

6. Once Upon a Time is great at characters introductions, especially establishing shots that show a sense of style and confidence. These are the best and most iconic. 

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Emma Swan

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The Evil Queen/Regina Mills

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Captain Hook/Killian Jones

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August Booth

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Zelena Mills

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Elsa

7. Charming catches Snow in a net (1×3 “Snow Falls”)
Isn’t he a real Prince Charming. It may not have been love at first sight for these two, but the snarky rapport between them was a sheer delight. It’s playful and funny and a sign of their amazing chemistry, and shows that the Charming’s line “I Will Always find You” began in a much different context, making it all the more meaningful when its altered to a sign of love and hope. It’s easy to understand why actors Goodwin and Dallas always keep this episode at the top of their list of favorites.gif-08.gif

8. Snow tries on Charming’s Mother’s ring (1×3 “Snow Falls”)
This was the first moment that true love sparked between them and the look on Charming’s faces as she puts on this ring says it all. He fell in love in that moment, and so too did she, but it took a while for them to admit these feelings. Such a lovely, important, and iconic moment.gif-09.gif

9. Emma gives Ashley wise and inspiring advice (1×4 “The Price of Gold”)
One of not only the most profound quotes from Emma, but also the entire series, this speech of Emma’s lays out inspiring truths that we all should endeavor to follow. We get to decide who we are and should never let anyone say otherwise. The choice is ours.gif-10

10. Rumplestiltskin catches Belle when she falls off the curtain in his castle (1×12 “Skin Deep”)
A sweet moment of rare vulnerability for the Dark One. We see both of their hearts begin to stir in this classically romantic moment.gif-11.gif

11. Rumplestilskin’s Dark One curse is nearly broken with True Love’s Kiss (1×12 “Skin Deep”)
We see how powerful true love can be when Belle’s kiss begins to turned Rumple back into a real man. He stops it moments later, but for an instant it was lovely to see.gif-12.gif

12. Ruby discovers she is the wolf (1×15 “Red-Handed”)
Once of the first and still best twists to a fairy tale the show has ever done, this moment is not only iconic because it was completely unexpected and unique, but also because of the emotion and drama behind it. Discovering who you are and feeling terrified of it leads Ruby to a beautiful journey of self discovery and acceptance of her true self, and learning that you can save yourself that the show did often, and most especially well with the Red Riding Hood character.gif-58

13. Jefferson lays out some truths to Emma about the reality of the world and magic. (1×17 “Hat Trick”)
In an truly underrated episode, Jefferson may be a little mad, but here is completely lucid about the reality of people, their expectations and unwillingness to believe. And it’s not only a great turning point and iconic moment for the series, but a fine metaphor about faith and belief in the real world.gif-13

14. Rumple let’s Baelfire go through portal (1×19 “The Return”)
The moment everything went wrong for the Dark One. This heart wrenching moment Rumple let’s his fear and unwillingness to relent power and magic was the catalyst for his entire storyline. Not only iconic but one of the most important plot and emotional moments of the series.gif-14
15. Snow eats the poison apple/Henry eats the poisoned apple turnover (1×21 “An Apple as Red as Blood”)
The paralleled poignant moments not only are reminiscent of the original Snow White film, but are so moving because they were done to help those they love the most. Self sacrifice and protection and hope, both are framed and shot in the same angle with is brilliant in its aesthetics.gif-15agif-15b

16. Charming and Emma fight Maleficent the dragon (1×22 “A Land Without Magic”)
Emma takes after her father in many ways and in true fairy tale form, one of these became having to fight a dragon to save a loved one from a sleeping curse, or so they thought. The cross cutting between the two was so well done, and these moments were not only adventurous but show the lengths these two heroes will go to for their family.gif-16agif-16b
17. Emma saves Henry with True Love’s Kiss and breaks the curse on Storybrooke (1×22 “A Land Without Magic”)
Iconic, beautiful and extremely touching, this is such a profound moment for Emma and the series as a whole as it shows the power of mother’s love for their child, and the power that Emma possesses in her very being. She is the savior and she awoke the town form it’s long sleep with her belief and love. Between Emma and Henry and Snow and Charming beautifully reunited, it’s such a powerful moment in meaning, and evocative in its visuals performances and musical score.gif-17

18. Magic comes to Storybrooke (1×22 “A Land Without Magic”)
One of the first of the show’s powerful montages, the end to the first season concluded with a cloud of purple magic enveloping the citizens of Storybrooke, and it was a wonder to behold. The image of Snow and Charming in particularly clutching each other as purple smoke approaches them is emotional and yes, iconic.gif-18

19. Snow and Charming, memories restored, reunite with Emma (2×1 “Broken”)
I am sure many a tear was shed when Snow and Charming knowingly embrace their daughter for the first time since she was born. The family was reunited and it was sweet and moving, and Henry breaks up the emotion by calling Charming “Grandpa.” It was truly perfect!
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20. Lancelot officiates Snow and Charming’s wedding (2×3 “Lady of the Lake”)
Their wedding in the “Pilot” was beautiful and grand, but this one was about them- quiet and simple and about their love that they share they will remain eternal and true. It is made even lovelier by not only the fact that this is the last thing Charming’s mother sees, and she passes away at peace and overjoyed for her son, but also that the water they drink breaks the curse on Snow, making Emma’s existence possible.gif-20

21. Rumplestiltskin and Captain Hook sword fight (2×4 “The Crocodile”)
What is more fairy tale adventure than a good old classic sword fight? And one between the Dark One and Captain Hook is an amazing one indeed, in the episode that introduced the Captain Hook character and his rivalry with Rumple.gif-21.gif

22. Emma and Hook climb the beanstalk (2×6 “Tallahassee”)
The beginning of their beautiful journey began with a precarious climb up a beanstalk to retrieve a magical compass. Plot wise and visually it’s so fairy tale fun and lovely, but emotionally and metaphorically we see that these two are beginning to climb the walls that are surrounding each other’s hearts as they connect and can sense important truths about one another, their past loves and the ways they guard themselves. It’s a climb toward a future together.gif-22

23. Rumplestiltskin and Neal reunite (2×14 “Manhattan”)
A reunion that was a long time coming and the entire reason Rumple set the curse in motion, when father and son finally reunite it is wrought with tension, heartache and a sense that no matter how each is feeling in this moment, their relationship, strained as it is, is not impossibly repaired. It’s a sad moment indeed, but a memorable one.gif-59

24. The family boards the Jolly Roger and follows Henry through a portal to Neverland (2×22 “And Straight On Til Morning”)
Season finales should pack a punch and leave you wanting more, and the end to Season 2 definitely delivered on that regard. The family all joining together to save Henry is iconic enough but ending the season seeing the Jolly Roger sinking into the whirlpool portal with a whoosh and a dramatic musical score was amazing, making the audience ever so eager to see what happens next.gif-60

25. Emma and Hook’s first kiss in Neverland (3×5 “Good Form”)
A challenge, a moment of feeling good, and a relief of sexual tension, the first kiss between the beloved couple was not only sexy, passionate, and as the script said “lusty and hot,” but also deep and meaningful as we saw a combination of what makes them such a great match- a powerful attraction, playfulness in their flirtations, and an undeniable deep connection and awakening of feelings they never thought they would feel again, and that no one else could bring out in them. There was no going back from this point on. They couldn’t handle it and neither could the audience.gif-23

26. Hook vows to win Emma’s heart (3×7 “Dark Hollow”)
How many hearts were unequivocally stirred by Killian’s vow to win Emma’s heart without any trickery but because she will truly want him? Despite her walls still being up you can see the affect he has on here as his vow is sincere, heartfelt, confident but also an ever so vulnerable moment for the pirate captain, who had fallen in love with this amazing woman and wants her to know that he cares for her, is willing to fight for her, but that ultimately the choice to be with him will be hers. It’s deeply romantic and significant in its meaning.gif-24

27. Rumplestiltskin sacrifices himself and kills Peter Pan (3×11 “Going Home”)
A moment of heroism, Rumple sacrifices himself to save everyone from Peter Pan and it’s a truly powerful moment for his character and the series. He found his strength and his courage when he needed it and it’s both powerful and heart breaking. He believes this is his end so most especially to save Belle and Neal, he kills his own father and with his dagger and they disappear in a burst of magic.gif-25

28. Regina stops Pan’s curse, Storybrooke disappears, and Killian shows up at Emma’s door 1 year later (3×11 “Going Home”)
A dramatic, powerful, heart wrenching moment, the score and the meaning of this scene was truly one of the greatest of the series. Many tears were no doubt shed as Emma and Henry drive away, their memories of their loved ones gone, as Regina does what she needs to do and sends them all back to the Enchanted Forest in a cloud of magic. As this curse envelops all of Storybrooke and we see the town line disappear as a melancholy version of “Emma’s Theme” plays, the show made an important and indelible shift. This was bold and extremely poignant. And when Killian knocks on Emma’s door one year later, the excitement and drama was palpable and the show would never be the same again!gif-26agif-26bgif-marianneproject26c.gif

29. Hook swears on the name of his love, Emma, and his lips are cursed (3×17 “The Jolly Roger”)
” I Swear on Emma Swan”- it is such a poignant moment for Hook’s character as he finally says out loud what he feels in his heart for Emma after a year of trying to push down his feels, and makes mistakes while trying to be like his former dastardly pirate self, but finding himself feeling empty. His heart was broken without Emma and Zelena exploits his love by disguising herself as Ariel, to get him to reveal his feelings and curse his lips. It’s heartbreaking to watch, but made so dramatic and moving by this surprising twist and O’Donoghue’s performance.gif-27

30. Regina and Robin’s first kiss (3×18″Bleeding Through”)
Even without her heart Regina decided to follow her developing and strong feelings for Robin and throws caution to the wind and kisses him. The attraction was there from the beginning and is evident here in this first passionate kiss between the soulmates. But this was more about attraction, and bathed in firelight they share a romantic moment of true connection and fervor. gif-28

31. Snow gives Charming half of her heart to save his life (3×19 “A Curious Thing”)
Before sacrificing his own heart to enact the dark curse, Charming tells Snow “we’ve always shared one heart.” And then moments later they prove it. Snow’s heart the love the she feels proves strong enough to revive her husband in this romantic, deeply moving and beautiful moment for the couple and the entire series. And the fact that Regina is the one to help them after having to hurt them for so long is especially poignant.
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32. Regina defeats Zelena (3×20 “Kansas”)
One of the best moments for Regina’s character- she defeats her sister with light magic proving that your power not only comes from within but you can choose to change if you truly want to. You can learn to and begin to make up for past mistakes. Light magic proved more powerful than dark, in this penultimate moment of Season 3.gif-30

33. Emma and Killian share a waltz at King Midas’s Ball (3×21 “Snow Drifts”)
For the first time in her life Emma felt like a fairy tale princess and part of her parent’s world but also recognized that Killian was someone she could completely give her heart to in this undeniably sweet and romantic fairy tale moment. A glittering ball room, sumptuous costumes, a sweet waltz, the aesthetic beauties were matched by the deeper meaning of seeing Emma get to experience something so special for the first time, share it with someone who makes her feel special and cherished. And the looks in their eyes are lovely as she has found a real partner who knows what he’s doing- not just on the dance floor, but with her heart.gif-31

34. Emma says Storybrooke is her home and call Snow and David Mom and Dad (3×22 “There’s No Place Like Home”)
It’s such a lovely moment to see Emma get her magic back by realizing that Storybrooke is her home. After all the pain she went through, she realizes just how much her parents mean to her and that where she belongs is this sleepy little town. That is lovely in itself but as she embraces her parents and call them Mom and Dad for the first time in a moment of happiness instead of fear, it’s a turning point for her character and her relationship with Snow and Charming.gif-32gif-33

35. Killian says he traded ship for Emma (3×22 “There’s No Place Like Home”)
Once of the most romantic moments to ever grace the screen, the mystery surrounding what happened to the Jolly Roger and how Killian was able to reach Emma in New York City was revealed to be even more meaningful than we could have imagined. Killian gave up his home to bring Emma back to hers, because he loves her and it was the right thing to do, but also just to see her again, never knowing if she would ever return his feelings. And in this moment her astonishment is beautiful and realization that their feelings for each other are deep is evident in the unbridled kiss they share. There was not magical curse to break, but it was a moment of True Love.gif-34.gif

36. Montage of the happy couples (3×22 “There’s No Place Like Home”)
Once Upon a Time does montages really well, and this one of the two most iconic and happiest of the series as it shows all of the couples delight in their love, all in different stages of a relationship: Emma and Hook at the start, being tender, passionate and sweet, Snow and Charming, content and at peace with their new baby, Rumple and Belle, emotional as they wed, and Regina and Robin, joyful and delighting in simply being together. Combined with the gorgeous musical cue, this scene is simply beautiful in every way.gif-35agif-35bgif-35cgif-35d

37. Rumplestiltskin and Belle dance to “Beauty and the Beast” (4×1 “A Tale of two Sisters”)
One of the sweetest, happiest and loveliest moments for the couple, on their honeymoon the two donned costumes very similar to the animated counterparts and danced to a beautiful instrumental of the classic song. It’s one the Disney-est moments of the series. gif-36.gif

38. Elsa helps Emma accept her magic (4×8 “Smash the Mirror)
It’s a poignant theme to accept every part of yourself and when Emma accepts her magic as part of her, she learns to control it, and does so with the help of a true kindred friend. There are many parallels between Emma and Elsa, and many wonderful moments in Emma’s journey, and this one both beautifully and visually in meaning was one of the most powerful.
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39. Montage of the characters preparing for the Snow Queen’s spell (4×9 “Fall)
Another gorgeous montage in true Once Upon a Time fashion. Beautiful montages are often the mix of score, visuals and story that can bring forth lovely results. This montage was very dramatic and aesthetically filmed in such a dynamic way as we see every character ready for the spell that’s about to befall them. It ups the drama in an amazing way.gif-38agif-38bgif-38cgif-38dgif-38egif-38fgif-38ggif-38hgif-38igif-38j

40. Regina and Robin part at the Storybrooke town line (4×11 “Heroes and Villains”)
Heartbreaking to say the least, Regina and Robin had to part so he could be with Marian, both having to sacrifice being together for the good of other. As sad as it was to watch, it is shot in such a beautifully melancholy and romantic way as they hold hands and he steps backwards across the town line, Storybrooke and Regina, disappearing from Robin’s view with a single tear falling from his eye. It is heart wrenching but unforgettable.gif-39

41. Emma and Regina use magic to fight the Chernabog (4×12 “Darkness on the Edge of Town”)
These two women possess such powerful magic individually so it’s a no brainer that when they both use their magic together, it’s even more powerful and it’s a great demonstration of former enemies coming together for the greater good. But it’s the image of them both, in their individual style blasting their magic at the Chernabog in unison that was a great iconic moment in imagery. gif-40bgif-40a

42. Killian tells Emma she’s his happy ending (4×15 “Poor Unfortunate Soul”)
Once Upon a Time is all about happy endings, but for Emma and Killian, both had so much sadness in their lives that finding someone who can be yours is overwhelming. And in this tender, vulnerable moment both are overwhelmed in emotion, Killian admitting what he is so afraid to lose, and Emma that she could possibly mean so much to someone she equally cares for. Between the tender performances, the softness of the scene, and the single tear that Emma sheds, this moment is exquisitely iconic. gif-41.gifgif-41b.gif

43. Robin Hood rides a horse in streets of New York (4×18 “Heart of Gold”)
The kind of scene that could only happen in Once Upon a Time, the combination of classic heroic fairy tale moment with the loud and crowded modernity of New York City was wonderful both in concept and for the character of Robin to show off his heroism in classic fashion.
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44. Henry becomes the new Author (4×22 “Operation Mongoose Part 2”)
When Henry picks up the magic quill and is chosen to be the next author of the illustrious book of fairy tales- an honor only bestowed to those truly worthy, Henry gets to be the hero he always wanted to be. But what was special was that this came from within because of the person he is, and because of that Henry saved everyone and returned things to how they were meant to be. It’s possibly the best moment for his character.
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45. Emma becomes the Dark One 4×22 (“Operation Mongoose Part 2”)
One of Emma’s most heroic and self sacrificial moments, and truly on the most powerful of the series, Emma tether’s herself to the darkness threatening to snuff out the entire town and everyone there, saving everyone’s lives. But not before asking her parents to be the heroes they are and find a way to get the darkness out of her, and telling Killian she loves him for the first time- offering a sense of hope for her loved ones. This intense and dramatic moment as the darkness engulfs her showcases the strength of this Savior, and the look she gives Killian before she disappears showcases the strength of this woman. And as she disappears and all that remains is the Dark One’s dagger with her name engraved upon it, we were left with the most powerful season finale cliffhanger of the series.
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46. Emma and Killian kiss in the Middlemist Field (5×4 “The Broken Kingdom”)
The most idyllic, fairy tale beautiful scene of the series, True Love proved more powerful than the darkness plaguing Emma. By trusting Killian with her burden, the images of Rumple disappear, leaving just the two of them, feeling peaceful and happy in a field of gorgeous Middlemist flowers, a symbol for the way love and hope springs eternal. As they passionately kiss and the camera pans up to see the couple surrounded by thousands of flowers, we witness an exquisite image of love in its purest form. gif-45.gif

47. Emma frees Merlin (5×5 “Dreamcatcher)
One of the most intense, powerful and iconic displays of magic, Emma controls both light and dark in an amazingly captivating ways as she frees the illustrious wizard from his prison. The visual effects, the score, the performance of Morrison which includes looks of satisfaction and power, made this scene incredible. gif-46

48. Emma fights back against the Darkness and says “I am not nothing!” (5×7 “Nimue”)
Emma Swan went through an incredible personal journey over the course of the series and once of the moments important moments for her, and indeed the entire show was this moment when Emma fought back against the darkness and Nimue’s taunting that she needs the power or she would simply go back to being “nothing.” As a person who struggled with feeling like enough, Emma punched back and declared that not only is she not nothing- but was never nothing. For anyone who has ever struggled with dark thoughts and low feelings of self worth, this was a profound and inspiring moment of a woman who had finally learned her value and that she is worthy simply by being herself.gif-64.gif

49. Emma turns Killian into a Dark One in the Middlemist field (5×9 “Birth)
One of the most unexpected and heart wrenching twists of the series, this scene was also beautiful in its intimacy of emotion. While Killian clinging to life, the couple share a moment in the place where their love had proved stronger than darkness, Emma fraught with fear of losing him, Killian wiling t die if it means she has a future. Its romantic, it’s heartbreaking, it’s captivating, gorgeous and powerful visually, musically and in terms of storytelling and authentic performances. It’s truly iconic. gif-47.gif

50. Killian’s makes the ultimate sacrifice (5×11 “Swan Song)
All it took was seeing Emma in pain for Killian to overcome that darkness that was consuming him and be the man he always wanted, and could be- a hero. Killian asks Emma to do the heartbreaking and unthinkable- kill him with Excalibur to save everyone and, as they believed, destroy the darkness forever. He sacrifices his life in this gut wrenching moment and the last thing he sees is the image of his beloved Emma restored to her glorious Savior clad in her iconic red leather jacket. This image, the contrast of light and dark, the raw emotion and the sight of Emma sobbing over her true love, are things the audience will not long forget.gif-48agif-48bgif-48c

51. Emma proclaims the Charming family motto “I Will Always Find You” as she and her family march towards the Underworld to save Killian (5×11 “Swan Song”)
This quote has become synonymous with Once Upon a Time, the Charming Family, and the strength that True Love can give us. It was beautiful and remarkable enough for Emma to decide to march into literal Hell to save the man she loves. It’s even more special to hear Emma proclaim the words that are iconic in itself. It further solidified that the love they share is eternal, as Morrison says, become brave enough to love completely with no walls up, and that Emma has truly embraced her family’s sense of steadfast belief and hope. gif-49

52. Emma and Killian say goodbye in the Underworld (5×20 “Firebird”)
If their scene in the Middlemist field from “Birth” was their fairy tale heartbreaking moment, then this moment was their all too real heartbreaking moment- and even more dramatically so. Despite being in the Underworld, this felt like a real goodbye. Raw, emotional, tender, the farewell promises were selfless and a beautiful depiction of True Love, while the goodbye kisses, including one on Emma’ hands, which they held onto until the last possible moment made this moment intimate and authentic- making it a truly iconic moment for the couple and one of the most profound of the series. gif-61bgif-61c

53. Robin Hood sacrifices his life for Regina (5×21 “Last Rites”)
The one death that myself, and many fans could never get over, Robin Hood was a true hero and this moment, as heartbreaking as it was only further proved the kind of man he was. He was brave, passionate and selfless and here he sacrifices his life for the woman he loved. He did not even hesitate to jump in front of Regina to save her. It’s the kind of moment that breaks our hearts and reminds how quickly everything can change. His life was lost that day, but Robin will live in our hearts always.
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50. Killian’s life is restored and he is reunited with Emma (5×21 “Last Rites”)
Symbolically and emotionally exquisite, Killian returns to Emma and as they embrace and kiss, completely overcome with emotion to be back in each other’s arms, the soft rain falls down upon them, a symbol of life renewed. Unencumbered joy, beautiful colors and music, and true love abound, is there anything more glorious than love overcoming even the greatest of obstacles. gif-50

49. Emma tells Killian she loves him for the first time in a peaceful situation with a wedding dress seen in the background (5×23 “An Untold Story”)
It was a tremendous moment of growth for Emma to tell Killian she loves him in a moment of peace and normalcy and what made this moment so lovely and iconic was this display of growth, affection as we’ve never seen as he lifts her into his arms to kiss her, so happy to hear these words because he knows what this means to her, and especially as it was one of the sweetest forms of foreshadowing of the series as a wedding dress was perfectly centered in a shop window behind them, signifying that marriage was soon to be the next step in their story. gif-51bgif-51

56. Killian reads Emma the storybook and kisses her hand (6×7 “Heartless)
Swoon worthy in its romanticism, beautiful in its simplicity, Killian reads to Emma her story to help calm her shaking hand, and build up her confidence. It’s sweet and lovely but iconic as it brings in the storybook, who Emma is (the product of True Love), and the beauty and interweaving nature of two love stories. Ending with a tender kiss of the hand, Emma is left with a sense of hope, belief in herself, and the feeling of being truly cherished.gif-marianneproject52

57. The town breaks Snow and Charming’s sleeping curse (6×17 “Awake”)
Symbolic, and touching, the curse on Sow and Charming was finally broken when the town each drank a bit of their curse, falling into a quiet slumber, but diluted enough because so many were sharing it. The family that exists both by blood and with the one they created in the little town of Storybrooke is indelibly bonded and seeing everyone give back to the people who gave up so much was very moving. Moreover, the circular nature of life is visually seen in a beautiful way when Show and David awaken from their curse with everyone asleep encircled around them. That image of their loved ones surrounding them is symbolic of what this show represents: love, faith, sacrifice, family, and a willingness to do anything for those we care about, and in a way that is circular- boundless and has no end. gif-63a

58. The Musical Episode: Snow and Charming’s Song “Powerful Magic”, The Evil Queen’s “Love Doesn’t Stand Chance”, Killian’s Song “Revenge is Gonna Be Mine”, Zelana’s “Wicked Always Wins”, Emma’s Song “Emma’s Theme”, (6×20 “The Song in Your Heart”)
The entirely of the musical episode of one of the most iconic of the series, but these songs (along with the wedding song which will be discussed as well), have a true specialness about them. Snow and Charming’s song was perfectly sweet and delightful and optimistic- it’s so Disney and so them. Ginnifer and Josh are so perfect together! Zelena’s was such a fun “Defying Gravity” kind of moment and maybe the best kind of iconic moment for her character, while the Evil Queen’s really felt sassy and so her. Killian’s pirate jaunt about revenge is also so indelibly him; a bit saucy but tinged with heartache underneath. And Colin performed it amazingly! And like Snow and Charming’s you can’t help but sing along and smile. And Emma’s song is such a beautiful culmination of her journey from ugly duckling to a swan savior, filled with power and beauty and gorgeously performed.gif-marianneproject53agif-marianneproject53bgif-marianneproject53egif-marianneproject53fgif-marianneproject53c

59. Emma and Killian’s Wedding (6×20 “The Song in Your Heart”)
The entire musical episode was a delightful but if was the final song and final scene that was the most beautiful and iconic as if was not only the culmination of a beautiful love story with Emma and Killian’s wedding, complete with profound marriage vows, exquisite performances, and stunning visuals. But also, their song “A Happy Beginning,” is not only a sweet duet about their love and how they are everything to each other, but also a celebration of the couple and indeed everyone and all the beautiful things the show embodies. It’s a musical masterpiece about true love, family, hope and the ability to overcome anything, leave your scars behind and pass the dark clouds to find the stars. Hope and love springs eternal. gif-marianneproject54gif-marianneproject53d

60. Emma’s Final Battle with Gideon (6×22 “The Final Battle Part 2”)
It was always Emma’s destiny to be the Savior and it was long journey of self discovery and overcoming her past to reach the point in the Final b=Battle where she fully understands and accepts what this means. She was incredibly brave and fierce in this moment, and her speech about who she is and that while light will not destroy but simply create more light, her face of resilience and resignation, courage was a wonder to behold. The image of the light bursting from this amazing woman was long forgotten and her journey and what the show represents was gorgeously encapsulated in this poignant moment. She is light. She is hope. gif-marianneproject55agif-marianneproject55b

61. Happy Endings Montage (6×22 “The Final Battle Part 2”)
In one of the most glorious montages of the series, this was all about what the show embodies: love and family as it highlights all of the characters and their happy beginnings. Their moments of peace and happiness after a such an arduous journey, they found the light and the places they belong. It’s emotional affecting, sweet, and truly profound made special by the emotive and gorgeous musical score, culminating in a final scene of the entire extended family at Granny’s. This was not an ending; It was simply another beginning to their happily ever afters, with the image becoming yet another image in the storybook. Though for many reasons, this could have concluded the series, regardless, it’s beauty and perfection will indelibly live on forever.gif-marianneproject56agif-marianneproject56bgif-marianneproject56egif-marianneproject56dgif-marianneproject56fgif-marianneproject56cgif-marianneproject56g

62. Killian’s touches Emma’s pregnant stomach before they leave through portal (7×2 “A Pirate’s Life”)
Another happy beginning for the iconic couple- it was bittersweet to say goodbye to her son, but she is doing what a good mother does and letting him find his happiness, while she and her husband are preparing for the birth their own child. The happily married couple are expecting a baby and with joint hands over her pregnant stomach and tears in Emma’s eyes, the couple return home to continue to live their happily ever after with hope that family will all be together again. gif-marianneproject57

And that concludes this list of the most iconic moments from Once Upon a Time– the ones that I believe will be the most remembered, revered, and looked back upon as the imprint of the series. I suspect that one scene in particular will be added to this list when the finale airs, perhaps a few more, but until then, let s celebrate these moments and remember what made us love this show about true love, storytelling, family and hope.

 

 

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: “Our Decay ” Further Thoughts

This episode was a real treat and pleasant surprise. I covered most everything in my Nerd Machine review, but there were some things I wanted to further discuss because they warmed my heart, gave me hope, and set the wheels in my brain turning for the rest of this arc to make Operation Firebird successful.

A Beautiful Reading:

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Hearing Emma read a page from the Storybook about her parents singing a lullaby to her little brother was one of my favorite scenes the show has ever done. It was so pure, heartwarming and lovely and Jennifer Morison has the ability to convey so much warmth with her soothing voice.

Watch the lovely scene over again

But another reason why this scene struck me so deeply was because it gave me hope that this is a moment that is foreshadowing something I have longed predicted and wished for. For a long time I have had two moments in my head that would happen at the end of the series. One of these would be Emma blowing out a candle on her birthday, mirroring the “Pilot” and bringing everything full circle. Only this time she will not be alone but surrounded by family and friends. But the other scene I have imagined is one where Emma is reading the Storybook to her and Killian’s baby, with him sitting beside her or watching from afar, smiling with love and wonderment. Hearing Emma read this moment, especially given that it was about parents and their child, gives me tremendous hope that a scene like this may actually materialize in the series finale. And if it does, I will be exceptionally moved, happy an probably cry for days.

Want to hear further proof that Jennifer can narrate in an engaging and melodic way. Just listen to her narration on this amazing special “The Secrets of Storybrooke” which aired before the premiere of season 4B, which is just plain fantastic in its own right.

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A Loving Father:

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I love Robin Hood’s character. His true heart, sense of honor, and fierce bravery are some of the qualities I love most. But another is that we’ve always seen him be such a loving and protective father. I have wanted to see more of character in this arc but sadly his screen time has not been what I hoped for. But in this episode at least we got to see further examples of his beautiful characteristics. Robin is right. Setting a good example- helping friends and being heroic- is important. It can give his children something to look up to and learn by. The best moments in this episode were him holding his baby girl. Wasn’t the scene where he and Regina lovingly look at her, she commenting that the baby has Robin’s eyes enough to make your heart soar. And As I said in my Nerd Machine review:

“I could not help but be choked up when his daughter was back in his protective arms as he cradles and kisses her saying, “Daddy’s got you.” If your heart did not melt in that moment then perhaps it’s made of stone, for this thief has certainly stolen mine.”

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Snow and Charming’s Lullaby:

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When the scene came and Snow suggested that they sing a lullaby to their son as they try to contact him from the Underworld, who else wanted to hear it? What song did they sing? A musical episode may be too much to hope for, but given the musical talent of so many cast members, hearing them sing a lullaby is certainly plausible. What song do you imagine they sung to baby Neal? These are some of my favorite lullabies.

“All Through the Night” (Road to Avonlea)- Cedric Smith

“Baby Mine” (Dumbo) – Allison Kraus

“Hushabye Mountain” (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)- Dick Van Dyke

Babies, Babies, Babies:

There is certainly a baby boom in Storybrooke and this episode reminded us of such as babies were the topic of just about every aspect of the episode: Snow and Charming’s boy, Robin and Zelena’s girl, and Rumple and Belle’s unborn child.

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I do find it interesting that, as fellow blogger Shira pointed out on her site tough-lass, Killian was looking at Robin’s baby, and we still have the scene from the previous episode to remember and ruminate on. There was a specific direction for Killian to look at the nursery in the script, and it cannot simply be for fun that Emma and Killian’s house is filled with children’s toys. This is not merely a reflection of Emma’s lost childhood. That is part of it. But I refuse to believe it is that alone. Everything has a purpose on this show. Emma and Killian are surrounded by examples of what their future can look like: children to hold, love, and comfort and sing off to sleep. I would love to hear them discuss this in some form on screen because it would be lovely. But if they don’t we know this is not for nothing. These are deliberate, visual cues. Emma and Killian will have a family and a happily ever after someday. I just know it.

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Diner Prices:

I was amused that everything in the diner is the exact same price: $10.95. I am not sure what the significance of that number is but it’s hilarious that no matter what you order you must pay the same steep price. I mean 11 bucks for a piece of dry wheat toast. This is Hell!!

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Hades’s Torture:

Now that we have learned the backstory for Hades and Zelena, and that he loves her, we know what Hades was so angry at Cora and served her such harsh punishment. He did it undoubtedly in defense of Zelena for abandoning her. And we know that he tortured her to learn when Zelena’s birthday was. And yet we still don’t know why he was so brutally torturing Killian. There has to be more of an explanation and we need to know.

Light Magic, True Love, and Rebirth: (Slight Spoilers Ahead)

I was speaking with some friends the other day about the fact that Emma’s magic has been working perfectly in the Underworld and yet Regina and Zelena’s has not. I think the reason why is simple. Emma is the Savior and has LIGHT Magic- the lightest of anyone. And Light magic is too strong to be subdued, contained or stopped in the Underworld. Light magic is also a great weakness to Hades. I believe this will all be connected with how Killian is resurrected because what is the greatest source of light magic- True Love. When you share True Love’s Kiss that is the most powerful magic of all. It restores life and brings light to the darkness.

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Adam and Eddy said Emma’s role as the Savior is just beginning and her presence in the Underworld is a sign of such not only in rescuing the man she loves, but bringing life to a place that had none. As Hades said, “The Underworld is a place for destruction. Despite my best intentions, things don’t grow here. They decay.” But when looking at a still for the next episode “Her Handsome Hero”  Hades finds that a flower had miraculously grown. How is this possible?

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I believe Emma’s presence more than anything is a contributing factor. She represents hope and light. And Nature in itself is a miraculous thing. It can sprout in places that seem impossible. A single flower can grow through cement. It’s quite beautiful that the writers are continuing the symbolic use of flowers to represent love, hope and rebirth. Those scenes in 5A in the field of Middllemist flowers were more than just visually beautiful. They were each representation of something. The first two especially were significant. The first was about hope renewed and love reaffirmed. The second was about love lost and then reborn as Emma restored Killian’s life by turning him a Dark One. As tragically different as the second scene was in essentials, it’s beauty and symbolism remained the same. These scene were all connected and the continued use of growth in the Underworld proves that when it comes to Emma (and Killian) love will endure and hope is never lost.

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Moreover, it important to combine these symbolic elements with other crucial aspects of this arc: the name of the mission to save Killian, and the moment he and Liam shared before Liam was able to move onto a better place.

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A firebird is like a phoenix- a mystical bird hat rises from the ashes and is reborn after death. Coincidentally there is an upcoming episode entitled “Firebird,” that will center around Emma’s character and we suspect her time in, importantly Phoenix. Moreover, the moment between brothers was  I beelive a moment of true love. Liam’s sacrifice allowed Heaven to open up to him and his crewman and the look on Hades’ face says it all. He was completely shocked. A moment of true love, a moment of light magic, are clear foreshadows to the way in which Killian’s life will be restored. His rebirth will be because of true love. But what is important to remember is that beyond saving Killian’s life, more souls may be saved as well. So many have already been.. If indeed a pulse of true love sweeps over the Underworld, it will bathe this place of darkness with light. What will happen as a result of that? Emma is the savior after all. Will she be Killian’s savior? She already has been in so many ways. But is there more to the power of her light magic, power that will stem from True Love? We shall see, but whatever may come, it sure to be filled with great beauty and meaning.

Think about the times Emma arrived in Storybrooke bringing life to a town that was asleep, her yellow bug and red leather jacket representing the color that the town was devoid of, it’s residents living a gray monotonous existence.

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But Emma brought color to their lives- she brought hope and life. And now I suspect she is doing the very same thing in the Underworld. Only this time she is filled with a love so great, in a heart she is willing to share. That is not only shows tremendous growth but is very powerful. If the Savior has a moment true love that is sure to be more powerful than anyone could possibly imagine.

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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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