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:

story.gif

(X)

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.

Secrets of Storybrooke

A Loving Father:

robin.jpg

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.”

robin2

robin1.gif

(X) (X)

Snow and Charming’s Lullaby:

lullaby2.gif

lulaby.giflullaby1.gif

(X) (X)

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.

robin1

baby neal.gif

(X)

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.

babies1.gif

babies2

(X)

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!!

diner.PNG

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.

tlk snowing.gif

tlk emma

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?

flower

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.

cs flowers1cs flowers

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.

firebird.gif

light

light1

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.

bug.gif

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.

 (X) (X)  (X) (X)  (X) (X)

Once Upon a Time: “The Brothers Jones” Further Thoughts

The Brothers Jones was one of my favorite episodes of the series and it moved me deeply. I poured my heart into my review for The Nerd Machine, and would love for you all to check it out. Of course there arr always things that I do not have proper room for in those review, which is why I do these further thoughts. Hope you enjoy!

Home and the Future:

As I wrote earlier in the season,“home and the future” have always been ingrained in Emma’s journey and in turn her love story with Killian. Consistency is one of the things that I find remarkable and OUAT has certainly done this, especially the season. The amount of times “home” and the “future” have been referred to is astounding and there are consistencies not only in writing but also the music. In 5A “home” and “future” we’re a large part of the episode “Birth” and “The Broken Kingdom,” written by David H, Goodman and Jerome Schwartz, so it’s not surprising that their episode “The Brothers Jones” continued these references, making it an essential part of it. The moment Killian returns to Emma is an exquisite continuation of the home and future they’re fighting for. Killian’s line to Emma says it all.

future2.gif

future.giffuture1.gif

(X) (X)

But what’s really beautiful is that the same musical cue that played in the scene where Emma and Killian ignite the Promethean flame, ready for their future together, was played in this moment as well. It should go ahead and just be entitled “Emma and Killian’s Future. “Consistencies like this demonstrate how beautiful and carefully crafted every aspect of the story truly is.

Brilliant Acting:

OUAT always seems to inspire wonderful performances from its actors and in this episode it was Colin O’Donoghue and Bernard Curry. Especially impressive were the similar nuances that made us feel as if they are truly siblings, and not just the one natural ease between them we first saw “Good Form” but also the expressions and mannerisms that are spot on similar, specifically the shy and uncomfortable smile when they are receiving praise. In Bernard’s case, this is an actor who obviously studied Colin’s performance so he can mimic a similar expression.

smile.gifsmile1.gif

colin acting 2.gif

(X) (X)

What I love about the last gif here is that Killian deserves all the praise his brother is giving him in this moment and his expression, while still shy is less uncomfortable. It’s humble but accepting, the way you appreciate someone you love complementing you. This is just wonderful acting here. But Colin was truly brilliant not just in one scene in particular but in many. One astounding one was the confrontation between him, Emma and Liam. When Killian is upset he often clenches his jaw and in this moment when Emma says he could come home if you just forgave himself, he’s clenching so tightly, tears brimming in his eyes, unable to even look at Emma. It shows just how torn he is about his decision not to return to Storybrooke. Deep down he longs to, but his self-loathing is so strong at the moment he cannot bring himself to admit it, nor does he think he even deserves it. His pain and torment is all seen in his heartbreaking expression.

acting.gif

acting1.gif

acting2.gif

(X)

Of course he was so good and all his other scenes. Just see for yourself. He conveys much in his eyes and his mannerisms.

colin acting 1.gif

colin acting 3.gif

(X) (X)

Killian’s Self-loathing:

The Killian we’ve known has always been a combination of confidence and bravado mixed with deeply rooted self-loathing and shame for his fault and mistakes. If there were moments and expressions that demonstrated this hatred it would be these and it breaks my heart because in one he’s so young and in the other he is loved so deeply by a woman who sees him as a hero. He’s broken without much hope and his moments of weakness make him feel great shame. He thinks he can never be the brother Liam, and the man that Emma deserves. If only he knew the great strength he is capable of.

loathing1.gif

loathing.gif

(X) (X)

A Lucky Ring:

It was already beautiful that Killian gave Emma Liam’s ring saying “bring her home to me.” But now that we’ve seen the exact moment where Liam’s bestows this ring to his brother, the meaning feels even more significant. His lucky ring was the one that always “brought him safely home” so it’s so moving that not only Killian believed it kept him alive and safe, but that he gave its “power “or “luck “to Emma. Equally moving is that now Emma still keeps that ring close to her heart in her quest to bring Killian home. Whether its power is metaphorical or real remains to be seen. It is interesting that after Liam agrees to Hades’ deal that he gives Killian the ring. Was it enchanted to keep him alive? It does seem coincidental that when Killian then gives it away to Emma he is mortally wounded. Regardless, the ring is beautiful symbol of Emma and Killian’s journey to return safely home – a journey Liam began and gave to his brother always wanting the best for him.

ring1ring2

ring3.gifring4.gif

(X)

Symbolism:

When Killian tells Emma he plans to come home with her, to have the future Liam wanted for him, it’s beautiful and touching. Aesthetically I love the symbolic aspects of the scene. When they kiss and break apart, foreheads still touching light behind their faces shines through symbolizing that there is a light behind them guiding them safely home. The wide shot revealed a painting on the wall behind them of a ship – a ship resembling the one that Liam just departed on. The ones we love are always with us and Liam will always be in Killian’s heart. But now they are both at peace, neither no longer tormented or in pain with how they said goodbye. Seeing the painting there was a way of showing Liam’s guidance to indeed fight for the future he tried to ensure for his brother.

cs light.gif

cs light1.gif

(X)

cs ship.gif

(X)

painting.jpg

A Final Goodbye:

One of the things that always haunted Killian was the way in which Liam died, helpless and unable to say goodbye. In “Good Form” he tells David that he is fortunate he got to say goodbye to his loved ones for what he thought would be the last time. The fact that he finally got to bid his brother farewell and know that he was a peace was so significant. It gives him the closer that he was once denied, and allows him to move forward in his life with that weight lifted off his shoulders.

goodbye2.gif

goodbye.gif

goodbye1.gif

(X) (X)

“You’re Safe”:

I was moved by Killian’s saying to Liam “you’re safe.” Not “you’re okay or alright” but “safe.” It is difficult to put into words but it is so beautiful to me. He is safe from danger or harm. He will be safe in his journey to the afterlife. From a religious perspective like myself, He will be safe in the arms of the Lord. It is a much more profound word than any other because it reflects peace and comfort and a sense that his pain is gone.

safe.gif

sage1.gif

(X)

“Not Until Emma and I Defeat Hades”:

defea.gif

(X)

I love this line for several reasons. One, it proclaims a sense of true heroism because it’s not just about saving himself. Everyone came to the Underworld with the intention of saving Killian not defeating Hades necessarily. They discovered they could help other souls move on, but now there is another objective- to defeat Hades once and for all. I also love that Killian says “Emma and I” displaying the  equality between them and how he continues to see them as quite the team. No matter what they do, they do it together, whether it’s fighting an evil snowman or defeating an immortal God. He says it so matter of fact as well. He believes they will succeed because of his faith and Emma, and the faith he is beginning to have in himself.

It’s such a pretty ship:

pretty ship.gif

(X)

There was something so endearing about Killian calling The Jewel of the Realm, later the Jolly Roger, “pretty.” It reflects his innocence and inherent sweetness that is part of his character. It was love at first sight for him and the ship became a symbol of freedom so many times – first from servitude, then from correction. It makes the fact that he gave her up even more meaningful, as he truly did give up what had been a source of freedom for hundreds of years. But giving up the Jolly Roger he did not shirk him of that freedom. Instead it freed him from his loneliness and heartbreak and he would make the same choice again and again if it meant a chance to be with Emma.

Henry as the author and his love for Family:

I so look forward to seeing Henry work as author, especially now that he wants to use his power the right way. But I was really touched by two specific things they chose to have Henry focus on when he spoke to the Apprentice about his feeling of hopelessness to stop certain things.

henry1.gifhnery1.gif

(X)

It’s not surprising that he feel that way about his mom, but seeing the steady development of affection Henry has for Killian is really heartwarming. Beyond just wanting to see his mother happy, he now really cares about him and it’s lovely. We went from him not being sure about his mom dating him, to being taught to sail, to going on adventures to save Emma, to Henry watching Killian die, completely devastated. And he may be experiencing growing pains that all teenagers go through, but he loves his family-  all of them and that now includes not only Emma, Snow, David, Regina and Robin but also Killian.

Flashbacks of the Brothers Jones:

bros.gif

(X)

What I loved about these flashbacks besides being thoroughly engaging and just plain amazing to watch, was how they helped explain Killian and Liam’s characters. Killian’s behavior especially makes pristine sense, even more so than before. In “Swan Song” we saw Killian as a child look up to his father, wanting to be just like him. Hours later he abandons his sons and sells them into servitude. Given how much he looked up to his father it’s only natural Liam tried to be this good and honorable man, to inspire and his younger brother and always forgive him his vices. He never wanted to abandon him like their father did. Moreover, after they are the only survivors of their crew, Liam knowing why, Killian simply grateful for his brothers heroism, their straight-laced way of life – the good form, never indulging in alcohol, longing for a heroes journey and goodness for their family lineage- is even more understandable.

Where was Robin:

Robin’s absence from this episode was the one glaring flaw because it may know sense. Where was he? He should’ve been right alongside everyone else in the loft and the quest to the Apprentice’s house, unlike Gold who we know is in his shop. I’ve been longing for more screen time for him and being completely missing from this episode fell off. There should have been at the very least a single line explaining where he was.

More Liam Jones and missed opportunities:

The only other missed opportunity for this episode was not having a scene between David and Liam. They are definitely similar, and the way Killian and David bonded in “Good Form” over talking about him, it’s a shame they didn’t have a scene together. Moreover, I know Liam’s character has moved on, but two episodes is not enough. My love of pirate and nautical stories withstanding, Killian could always use more back stories, so we definitely need to see Liam again in flashbacks.

A Beautiful Video:

I love to highlight talent in the fandom, and this video by XxMitikaSanaxX is so stunning. I think it highlights their journey and bring some parallels to Liam so amazingly so. It’s so well done, I believe it could make a non-viewer want to watch the show and instantly make them fall him up with Emma and Killian’s story.

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

season 5

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.
cs hand 1

(X) cs hands 1.gif

(X)

hands

(x)

hands2

hands1

(X) (X)cs share

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.

josh captain swan1.gif

(x)

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!

emma angry 2.gif

emma angry 3.gif

(X) (X)

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.

snowing look.gif

(x)

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.

snow,findyou

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.

once4

 

 

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

season 4

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

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

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

2. “Fall” (Season 4, Episode 9)

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

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

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

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

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

5. “White Out” (Season 4, Episode 2)

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

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

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

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

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

8. “Rocky Road” (Season 4, Episode 3)

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

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

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

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

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

 

Once Upon a Time 100th Episode Celebration: Top 10 Best Season 3 Episodes

season 3

Season 3 of Once Upon a Time is one of the best of the series with both arcs being captivating and moving as we were treated to new lands, fantastic villains, growth from our characters, and so much heart in terms of romance and family relationships. Moments that had us opening weeping as well as moments that had us smiling endlessly, Season 3 was remarkable in every way and still includes the best episode the series has ever created. Here are the best from this magical season.

1. “Snow Drifts/There’s No Place Like Home” (Season 3, Episode 21/22)

If any episode of Once Upon a Time could be described as perfect, it would be the two-part season 3 finale. An epic, romantic, exquisitely poignant fairytale adventure if there ever was one, it had everything: time travel, sword fights, romantic waltzes, intrigues, a wedding, and magic, with true love once again prevailing. Creator Eddy Kitsis called this episode “wish fulfillment” and indeed this stunning conclusion to the season was like a dream come true. There were countless amazing moments: we see the first meeting of Snow and Charming interrupted but Emma and Hook working to make sure things are restored to normal, showing the couple still falling in love in very much the same way, and proving that some things are meant to be. Emma entering the fairy tale world, experiencing things she’s never done in her life was very significant, and witnessing her parents fall in love mirroring her own heart as she was opening up to Hook. Their adventures brought them closer together in truly extraordinary moments from Emma seducing a past Captain Hook, to which he punches this version of himself, to him teaching her to waltz, to him lending a shoulder and understanding ear and she realizes how much your parents mean to her and that Storybrooke is her home. And indeed magic as glorious Emma’s was created. Every character had their time to shine in truly delightful ways: Rumpelstiltskin in his hilarious, impish self contrasting with his softer (albeit still deceitful) but sincere marriage vows to Belle, as well as Regina in her evil queen grandeur showing just how far she has come especially in finding happiness as she rejoices in her time with Robin Hood. The true love couple montage at the end of the episode was poignant and truly beautiful with each vow reflecting what our characters have gone through on their journeys toward love. For Emma and Hook, the moment he revealed he traded his ship for her was an exquisitely moving scene and it demonstrated the great beauty of true love. Emma’s journey has been a long one and her walls were a mile high. But with a single word her walls came tumbling down as the two share the most beautiful kiss the show has ever seen. He gave up his home to bring her back to hers and in a show about shared hearts and true love’s kiss this moment of sincerity and love was just as pure and magical. This episode fulfilled that theme Once Upon a Time demonstrates so perfectly: true love is indeed the most powerful magic of all. And there has never been a more magical episode.

2.  “New York City Serenade”  (Season 3, Episode 12)

The mid season premiere of season 3 was one of the most different and yet beautifully familiar episodes ever. With significant and lovely parallels to the “Pilot,” this episode reinvigorated series in such a dynamic way and it was fantastic to watch. With flashbacks to our heroes just after they’ve been transported back to the Enchanted Forest, we see how far they’ve come especially for Regina, Snow and Charming. As they work their way back to their home united and determined, we bear witness to the wonderful, hopeful new chance at love when Regina meets the dashing outlaw Robin Hood as well as the truly touching moment where Regina and Snow share the heartache of leaving their children behind. The present-day scenes of Hook finding Emma in New York City were equally fantastic – amusing in their fish out of water scenario, and poignant in the undeniable connection we see between them in the moment where she takes the leap of faith, trusts him, and has her memories restored. And in the journey back home to Storybrooke complete with dialogue, music, and camera angles that perfectly parallel the “Pilot,” we see that just like her other true love Henry, Hook was bringing her back to Storybrooke with the hope of breaking the curse, but was actually bringing her home. This episode was amazing in every way.

3. “Going Home” (Season 3, Episode 11)

Tied with “Swan Song” as the episode that has made me cry the most, the dramatic and heart-wrenching finale to the first half of season 3 gave every character significant moments both in flashbacks and present-day Storybrooke as our heroes tried to stop Peter Pan and his dark curse that threatened their lives. From the flashbacks of Snow and Charming recalling the days before the first dark curse choosing to have hope that everything will be okay, to Rumple lighting a candle for Baelfire’s birthday, to Hook meeting Tinkerbell in Neverland claiming that he’d risk his life for love or revenge, and Henry first receiving the storybook from Mary Margaret sparking that belief in hope and his quest towards finding Emma, all of these flashbacks reflected the present day drama in profound ways. Rumple made the ultimate sacrifice fulfilling his arc for this half of the season, laying down his life most especially for Neal and Belle but saving everyone from Peter Pan. Regina had to say goodbye to Henry to stop the curse and in Henry’s eyes the woman was no longer a villain but simply his mother and she was able to spare Henry and Emma from the curse with the gift of new and happy memories but ones that erased Storybrooke and the memories of all them from their minds. In these moments where Emma said goodbye to her friends, to Hook who promised to think of her every day, and finally, with a heavy heart, to her parents, I openly wept as they crossed that town line and our fairytale tale heroes and Storybrooke vanished in a cloud of magic. And in a pure stroke of unexpected genius, when  I saw the one year flash forward to Emma and Henry in New York City with Hook showing up at her door, trying True Love’s Kiss to restore her memories, I literally lept from my seat, my heart so full after having been broken moments before. It was a perfect representation of the theme to never lose hope and that no matter the distance,  love will always find you.

4. “Good Form” (Season 3, Episode 5)

This episode truly had it all in terms of new and fantastic dynamics being explored, heart, unexpected moments, and flashbacks that not only informed what was going on in the present but also helped delve deeper into a character and indeed the over arching story. It was wonderful to see “Team Mom” working together – essentially three generations of family doing anything to get a message to Henry – to give him hope and let him know they were coming for him in “Operation Cobra Rescue.” Equally fantastic was Hook and David traveling to Dead Man’s Peak to retrieve a sextant, while in truth it being a quest to the magical water to cure David dreamshade poisoning. The reluctant alliance soon turns to mutual understanding and an unlikely but real friendship was formed. It was a poignant parallel to the flashbacks to not Captain Hook, but the true man he is. Lieutenant Killian Jones was sweet, earnest, and honorable, worshiped his brother Liam, and wanted to be a hero. Seeing shades of this his brother in David no doubt motivated Killian as well as wanting to save him Emma’s sake. It was heartbreaking to see how Liam died in his arms and that his path towards piracy was the result of the loss of love and betrayal from a corrupt king. These flashbacks were not only engaging, wonderful drama but perfectly established the idea of the longing to be a hero even if you’ve faltered along the way. Honor remained in Killian as he saved David’s life and respected his wishes for discretion about the truth of his condition. But he’s also has evolved and the cheeky charmer cannot help but flirt and ask Emma for a kiss, no doubt never believing she actually would do so. And what a kiss it was! Passionate and intense, it was the result of the pent up sexual tension between them with genuine feelings being revealed as the two are completely overwhelmed after their amorous moment. Emma and Hook, and indeed the show, have not looked back since.

5. “Ariel” (Season 3, Episode6)

The Little Mermaid was my favorite Disney film as a child so I was so excited to see Once Upon a Time’s take on the iconic character. And they did not disappoint. Not only did Joanna Garcia Swisher’s characterization perfectly capture  Ariel’s sweetness, spunk, and romantic sensibilities, but she beautifully reflected what our characters were experiencing in Neverland. In the past, Snow helps Ariel find her courage to go after love, even if she is afraid because love is always worth the risk; she also proved to be a a kind, selfless soul choosing friendship and saving Snow’s life over the chance to be with Eric. These flashbacks were whimsical and lovely with a tinge of heartache when Ariel reaches Eric and is unable to speak. It was an effective and moving parallel to our heroes journey to rescue Neal in the Echo Cave where they had to reveal their darkest secret – where their voices were what was necessary. These confessions were some of the most heartrending of the series, each of which were profound and affecting for everyone but especially Emma and her journey of love, forgiveness, and healing. From David’s tearful secret about his fate, to Snow revealing how much she loves Emma but desires to have another baby to experience what she missed with her daughter, to Hook confessing that their kiss revealed that he never thought he could let go of his first love and move on until he met Emma, and finally to Emma telling Neal she had hoped him being alive had been a trick, this heart-wrenching confession that his death would be easier to move on from rather facing all their pain again. These confessions were undeniably dramatic and compelling and irrevocably changed everything for our characters.

6. “Dark Hollow”  (Season 3, Episode 7)

One of the most complimentary, fast-moving, and well-balanced episodes of the series, “Dark Hollow” finally brought the action back to Storybrooke after a long absence, with events happening concurrently with the events in Neverland – a type of timeline rarely seen on the show. Ariel and Belle work together to retrieve Pandora’s box proving crucial in the “Nevengers” quest to defeat Pan and proving that quick thinking, cleverness, and compassion and understanding are just as important as physical strength. I loved their scenes and the friendship they formed. Meanwhile in Neverland, the heroes all split up with different tasks, but meaningful truths were revealed. Snow finally expressed her anger towards David, while he admitted his fears and contrition as the two were reminded that they must always be honest and believe in their love and each other. Truth of the heart also embodied the trek Emma, Hook, and Neal made to Dark Hollow to retrieve Pan’s shadow. Hook and Neal may have had tension between them, but the real tension and truth was in the romantically spine tingling moment where Hook completely lays his heart on the line and vow to win Emma’s heart, but that it will be only because she wants him. That beautiful honesty may have been too much for her to handle at the moment, but when the shadows attack both men, she not only was able to use her magic to save them, but screams Hook’s name in terror, her true feelings beginning to come to the surface and showcasing what Once Upon a Time does so well: demonstrate that moments of fear and darkness can reveal what truly lies within our hearts.

7. “The Jolly Roger” (Season 3, Episode 17)

Melancholy, sweet, and captivating, this episode revealed more crucial moments from the missing year in the Enchanted Forest, while also showing how much our characters have grown into a family, and ended in a way that had us audibly gasping in heartbreak – all of this necessary to move the story forward while moving us in very deep ways. In some lighter moments, it was great to see Emma being taught how to hone her magic by Regina; her methods were extreme but Emma’s instincts proved to be amazing. David teaching Henry to drive was one of the funniest moments of the series and provided much-needed levity, while seeing them all happily eating dinner together at Granny’s we witnessed how forgiveness can repair and create a happy family. Snow’s expression, matched by one from earlier in the episode, was particularly telling. Despite everything I think Snow just wanted her stepmother back and she finally is. It was the person who was missing from the family dinner that provided the heartache of the episode. In the past we see how hard Hook was trying to forget Emma and go back to his old way of life, but struggling to do so. These flashbacks, complete with swashbuckling gloriousness with a pirate duel with Blackbeard aboard the Jolly Roger provided the captivating adventure, while the sadness of his mistake and going back on his word to Ariel provided the brevity. It was a brevity punctuated with profundity with his confession to Ariel in the present which resulted in him swearing on the name of his true love Emma Swan. Profound on its own it was also shocking when we discovered that Ariel was Zelena in disguise who cursed Killian’s lips, leaving him shocked, trapped, and so heartbroken that he feels he can’t accept Emma’s dinner invitation and sincere sign that she’s ready to open her heart to him. As he watched from afar, his heartbreak was potent and unforgettable.

8. “Kansas”  (Season 3, Episode 20)

So much to find captivating and moving in this episode, we see fun and unique flashbacks to Zelena’s trip to Oz and her inability to stay free from envy which tied right into the present-day excitement that found her eventually defeated but her essence still remaining to cause trouble for our characters. The birth of Snow and David’s baby boy was done so movingly, paralleling the “Pilot” when he is snatched from her arms moments after his birth. The raw pain was heart wrenching, which made the pure joy when David returns, a bright smile upon his face, placing the baby back in her arms even more beautiful. When Emma and Henry join them, happily welcoming the new member of the Charming clan, the moment is sweet and joyful but punctuated with sadness as we see Hook, outside the room, physically and still metaphorically separated from my family he longs to be a part of. He longs to be with Emma, and knows that she cares deeply – something she realizes herself when she gave up her magic to save him from drowning, begging for him to come back to her. The moment is poignant and emphasizes her fear of losing him. But it’s a fear that is still under the surface, blocked by her fears of an uncertain future, resulting in her saying she’s going back to New York. Lastly the defeat of Zelena – the showdown between sisters- was absolutely fantastic as we see Regina fight back, find her courage (and I might add a moment after Robin retrieved her heart) and proving that you can change. She found light magic within herself and proved to be a real hero.

9. “Lost Girl” (Season 3, Episode 2)

A truly touching episode that paralleled mother and daughter, “Lost Girl” is apristine example of the way Once Upon a Time so perfectly can balance family and romantic moments with adventure and poignancy. Seeing how much faith David has in Snow was lovely as it is revealed that the quest to find Excalibur was simply a ruse for her to realize that she had the courage inside of her all the time. When she stood up to Regina and vowed to fight for her kingdom she showed that is not outside essentials that determine our heroism, but rather the truth of our hearts. Snow was lost but with a little help from her true love she found herself. It was a moving parallel to Emma in Neverland, who needed to admit who she really was in order for Pan’s map to Henry to be revealed. Of course the episode also showed the birth of the “Nevengers “as they banded together in a battle against the Lost Boys; but the true heart of the episode was Emma admitting to her mother that she doesn’t feel like a hero or a savior. She feels like an orphan, seeing the same look of despair in the eyes of a lost boy that she has had. Her admittance of the pain she experienced as a child when she cried herself to sleep, wanting her parents, never understanding why they gave her up was heart-wrenching and beautifully performed. It was another step in Emma’s journey of her heart slowly beginning to heal and open up. This step was lastly demonstrated when Hook honestly says he would like to know who she really is and she walks away not quite ready to open up to him. This is a truly lovely episode.

10. “The Tower”
(Season 3, Episode 14)

There are not nearly enough episodes that are center around David’s character, but when there are they never disappoint. This one in particular was a powerful one for his character and the show itself. As is often the case, he brings out the show’s timeless themes in moving ways. In this case, it is a flashback that centered around searching for a root to rid himself of his nightmares but instead had him finding Rapunzel in a tower, afraid to leave, bringing forth the idea that our fears must always be faced head-on. The melancholy dream David has of teaching Emma to dance only for her to be pulled away from him show his fears of failing his children, something any parent can relate to. When he physically faces a version of himself that taunts these deepest, darkest fears that he has, he found his courage and realized that bravery doesn’t mean the absence of fear, but rather recognizing and facing it anyway. It may be a fantastical situation, but moving and relatable nonetheless. Complete with a sweet moment between Henry and Regina, and evocative and romantic one where Emma opens up about getting her heartbroken with Hook saying he’s glad because it means it still works, “The Tower” is all around fantastic.