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

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

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

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

2. “Fall” (Season 4, Episode 9)

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

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

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

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

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

5. “White Out” (Season 4, Episode 2)

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

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

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

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

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

8. “Rocky Road” (Season 4, Episode 3)

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

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

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

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

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