Why I’m Thankful for Emma Swan (and Jennifer Morrison)

The crowning glory of Once Upon a Time will always be Emma Swan. The main character of the series, this unique, beautiful, strong original fairy tale creation is their greatest hero, and along with Killian Jones, their greatest character. But even beyond the series, Emma Swan will forever be one of the most remarkable characters of all time, from her profound and moving journey and development, to the impeccable performance by Jennifer Morrison, the resulting gratitude, joy and inspiration is indeed boundless. And she is not the greatest hero or character simply because she’s a strong woman who can equally wield a sword or a gun or her magic- though that certainly is a large part of it. Rather, it is because Emma Swan is a real, well rounded and relatable woman who shows us there’s more than one way to be strong and courageous- physically, emotionally, and through vulnerability with a willingness to completely open her heart. She represents that ideal balance while still remaining ever realistic. And from the brilliantly profound performance and choices of Morrison, to the storytelling and writing, and even the costumes and iconic imagery of her character, Emma Swan truly is remarkable.

It’s easy to be thankful such a character from a storytelling perspective alone, but all the other elements add to the richness of Emma, providing so much, as I said, relatability, inspiration and joy. Her development is so moving and extraordinary. Emma went from orphan, to bail bonds person, to mother, Sheriff, friend, lover, Savior, hero, wife and mother again. Indeed, Emma went from feeling like an unwanted orphan and a little lost girl, unloved and like she didn’t matter and never would, to a young woman opening her heart only to be betrayed, making her grow hardened and jaded. And yet goodness remained, and hope still resided deep within the cracks of her heart, brought to the surface with her heart healing with the love she found with her parents, her son Henry, her friends, her eventual husband Killian, and her own sense of self worth. She didn’t think she could be a mother or open her heart romantically again and yet she found the courage to do so. The world can be cruel but you need not become such. And what is so beautiful and special about Emma is that duality of bringing back the happy endings for others and in the end finding her own.

With her iconic red leather jacket and bright yellow VW Bug she represents color being brought back into the cold, grey world. Her true love brings her son back to life and awakens Storybrooke from its sleep, and her heroics and indeed very being inspires Killian out of the darkness, reawakening both of their hearts from their long, long sleep. She saves others and saves herself, learns to love fully and love herself, her strength only growing as her vulnerability does. She could equally defeat a villain and help inspire and redeem them. Indeed, so many adjectives and superlatives can be attributed to Emma, who is truly a complex and well rounded character.

emma savior

Strong

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Brave

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Heroic

emma guarded 3 stubborn

Guarded

emma stubborn

Stubborn

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Kind

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Compassionate

emma henry 1

Sweet

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Overwhelmed

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Vulnerable

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Inspiring

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Self-sacrificing

emma awestruck

Awestruck

emma mom

Motherly

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Sassy

emma smart 1

Smart

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Funny

emma forgive

Forgiving

emma magic 5

Powerful

emma camelot

Beautiful

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Adorable

emma flirty

Flirtatious

cs sweet

Loving

emma happy

Blissful

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Affectionate

emma gentle

Gentle

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Comforting

emma angry

Tough

emma punch

Badass

emma tough

Fierce

emma magic 4

Special

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Passionate

emma happy 3

Happy

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Peaceful

How can one not be captivated by the richness and beauty of such a story- a modern fairy tale character and story that will continue to inspire and delight. Emma Swan also inspires what Once Upon a Time exemplifies: Hope. She is light and the living embodiment of Hope, inspiring it in others, and rekindling it in her own heart when she had long lost it. She continues to be a beacon, now passing that onto her and Killian’s daughter of the same namesake bringing the show, her story and character full circle. It is truly beautiful.

If one is thankful for Emma Swan, so much of that lies within the beautifully brilliant performance of Jennifer Morrison. I cannot imagine another actor portraying Emma, especially with the same amount of depth, beauty, care and understanding that Morrison brought to the role year after year. She showcased all of Emma’s facets of the real and well-rounded woman she is always in such a deep and profound and brilliant way- with vitality, with humor, with softness, with subtlety and nuance, and with strength. For Emma is smart and witty, sometimes sarcastic and funny, sometimes hard and jaded, sometimes lost and heartbroken, sometimes soft and tender. She will wear a leather jacket, jeans and boots one moment, a soft pink dress another, and a beautiful ball gown another- a symbolic visual representation of the fullness of her character. No matter the scene Morrison expressed Emma’s strength, warmth and radiance, through her tears, her smiles, her expressive eyes , and her mannerisms. She spoke the words but also showed us Emma’s soul. I must also note how wonderful McKenna Grace and Abby Ross were as young Emma, both portraying fundamental pieces of Emma’s demeanor, psyche and development beautifully. They both clearly studied Morrison’s performance and did a fine job of maintaining consistencies and expressions, and physicality.

This is reason enough to be thankful, but beyond that, in the case of Morrison, not only did she breathe life into Emma, but did so with such care, consistency and understanding that is truly special. Morrison read memoirs of those who grew up in the foster system to understand their lives and experiences more thoroughly, and developed a special way Emma dealt with food, mimicking the way a child like Emma have to fight for her share in crowded group homes . She would cradle the head of those she loved when she hugged them, much like her father. Her smiles and expressions varied depending on the scene partner showcasing the variances in each relationship. In particular, one of the loveliest consistencies is the way she’d have Emma stand with Killian, her arm around him, often her head on his shoulder, and always with her hand resting over his heart in a loving and even protective manner- all done after his character had his heart taken and then restored by her. All of these consistencies bring beauty and depth to an already grand performance infusing subtleties that only the most gifted would even think of, let alone express so warmly, beautifully and with such reality. She always speaks about Emma’s journey with eloquence and complete and utter understanding. Instead of trying duplicate her words I’ll let them speak for themselves.

“Do you know how strong you have to be, to be vulnerable? I think you have to be even stronger to be vulnerable than to be defensive. And so I see it as an evolution of her strength for her to feel that she has it in her to be this vulnerable, to be this open, to risk getting hurt. I think that takes an incredible amount of strength.”

emma sword promo

 

“She has grown to a place where she’s capable of being strong and in love. And I think that that is what makes that really special for her. Is that after everything she’s been through and after all journeys that she’s been through and all of the obstacles that she’s faced, she’s surrounded by her family and friends and someone who loves her for who she truly is and she loves him for who he truly is. I think it’s nice that she’s being portrayed as being in a relationship where they know the good and the bad of each other. It’s not just we are happy go lucky and everything is great. They’re very aware of each other’s flaws and very aware of the times they’ve failed. And they accept the broken parts of each other. Just as they accept the healthy parts of each other. I think for her she feels like for the first time in her life she’s in a safe place. She is with someone who is truly her side and truly by their side. And I think that’s ultimately the best happy ending I could imagine for her after everything she’s been through. She started her life completely abandoned and sort of abused in certain ways. So to come to a place where she’s healing from all that, and she’s loved and supported by her family and by her now husband, I think it’s great.”

As is often the case, an actor’s fine work in one thing and can result in seeking out others. A few seasons into Once Upon a Time I found her wonderful work on House and How I Met Your Mother as well as re-watching Star Trek and discovering Warrior. A film like Sun Dogs (a review for this will be on here soon) may have never been on my radar but I’m so happy to be following Morrison’s career and obvious multifaceted talent, and look forward to whatever future projects are on the horizon. She also brought to light worthwhile causes which I was proud to be a part of: Dressember which helps to combat human trafficking, and the “Be the Hero” campaign which benefited research to battle Jacobson Syndrome. And beyond this, Morrison is an inspiring, kind soul that myself and countless others are thankful for- for her kindness, humbleness, and generosity of spirit, beyond her immense talent. I was moved by her words when I had the privilege of attending her panel at NerdHQ:

 

“And I think a lot of the time we like to  categorize things and say it’s all one thing or all another. It’s like if you’re strong then ‘you’re hard and you’re tough and you never cry and you don’t need anyone and you don’t need a man’ and  if you’re vulnerable then it’s like ‘you’re soft and sweet and take care of some guy.’ People like to delineate those two categories.  I’m not all one and I’m not all the other.  I can be extremely strong and really tough and I can stand up for myself and I can take care of myself. But there’s also things that hurt me, there’s also things that make me very vulnerable.  And there’s also  people I care about and I’m very open with them and I let them  close enough that they could hurt me.  I think it’s really important to try to bring wholeness to these characters otherwise you’re setting up young girls to have an unrealistic expectation of what it means to be strong.”

And I was extremely touched by her kind words about my writing for The Nerd Machine- to hear the appreciation, and praise and hear one’s writing called lovely and thoughtful means more than I could ever express. Morrison is an inspiring, lovely, truly nice person and I’m thankful for her being the one to bring Emma to life and everything beyond.

Emma Swan inspires me and I can easily say that she (and indeed Morrison) changed my life. It has not been as dark as Emma’s, but I can most definitely relate to feelings of insecurity, loneliness, and self worth having suffered from bullying, anxiety and other things. Emma is a character for anyone who has ever in some way felt like they weren’t enough- that they were an ugly duckling- to remind us that we were never nothing and that we have the power within ourselves to be the swan. To remember that love and hope spring eternal and that we have the ability to change our lives. Emma inspires the best in us all. To love without limits or walls up, to pull yourself up and fight for your happy beginning, middle and end. Emma Swan is the hero, the woman we needed for this generation and for all time. So thank you Emma Swan and Jennifer Morrison for inspiring us all and being a light in the world.

Bonus: Take a pictorial journey through 40 defining moments for Emma Swan

1. Emma makes a wish to not be alone on her birthday and Henry shows up at her doorgif-02agif-02b

2. Emma and Henry make their first real connection at his “castle”emma henry 6.gif

3. Emma shows what she is capable of when she takes a chainsaw to Regina’s treeemma tree.gif

4. Emma gives Ashley wise advice about lifeemma-speech.gif

5. Emma makes a deal with Gold to ensure Ashley can keep her babyemma ashley 1

6. Emma displays a flicker of hope that her heart could open in a moment with Grahamemma graham

7. Emma helps reunite two orphaned twins with their fatheremma compassionate

8. Emma breaks down after Augusts tells her she is Storybrooke’s only hopeemma angry (2)

9. Emma touches the Storybook and finally believes in magicemma believes.gif

10. Emma fights a dragon to help save Henrygif-16a

11. Emma saves Henry with True Love’s Kiss and breaks the curse on Storybrookegif-17

12. Emma shows vulnerability with her mother after seeing everything she sacrificedemma cry 2.gif

13. Emma finds a kindred spirit in Killian and admits she was once in loveemma was once.gif

14. Emma is set up to take the fall for Neal’s crime and is arrestedemma arrested 1

15. The magic inside of Emma shines through as she says “Love is strength”emma magic1

16. Emma gives an impassioned and inspiring speech about the best way to save Henry Emma Speech 1.gif

17. Emma reveals to her mother how she’s always felt like a lost girl who didn’t matteremma lost girl 3

18. Emma kisses Killian for the first timeemma kisses hook.gif

19. Emma saves Killian’s life, sacrificing her magic in the processcs back to me

20. Emma shares a romantic waltz with Killiancs dance 4

21. Emma witnesses the moment her parnets fall in loveemma watches parents.gif

22. Emma tells Killian Storybrooke is her true home, getting her magic and their way home back. She returns calling her parents Mom and Dadgif-32gif-33

23. Emma opens her heart and kisses Killian after hearing of his great sacrifice of the Jolly Roger to bring her homegif-35b

24. Emma reveals she’s pulling away out of fear of losing Killianemma can't lose you

25. Emma makes a brave, personal stride and asks Killian out on a dateemma asks hook 1.gif

26. Emma shares some childhood mementos for the first time with anyonecs share 1

27. Emma accepts herself as she is and gains control of her magicemma magic 6

28. Emma reveals her true love for Killian and regrets in not expressing itemma guarded 1

29. Emma becomes the Dark One to save everyone in Storybrooke from the darknessemma strong

30. Emma fights backs against the darkness declaring she was “never nothing!”gif-64

31. Emma fully turns into the Dark Swan when she tethers Killian to Excaliburemma dark one 1.gif

32. Emma proclaims her family’s motto marching into the Underworld to save Killiangif-49

33. Emma takes the last name “Swan” as a sign of what she wants to bebaby emma

34. Emma takes a big step in stating her love in a normal, peaceful momentemma love you

35. Emma begins therapy revealing she fears her happy ending is an illusionemma happy ending.gif

36. Emma makes her final transformation into the swan, who is strong and not alone- and never has been- in her song “Emma’s Theme”gif-marianneproject53c

37. Emma marries her True Love Killianemma wedding

38. Emma chooses to be the hero Henry tells her she isemma awakes1.gif

39. Emma has her Final Battle as the Savioremma savior 2

40. Emma has her first child with Killian, naming her Hopecs hope

 

Gif sources: shoedonym, doomsdayy, lumadreamland, onceland, odonowest, captainswanouat, captainswansource, ceeyoutea, onceuponadaily, jemmablossom, swanemma, once-upon-a-captain-swan, someone-like-robsten, killiancomeback2me, dashingrapskillian, emmaswaln, kimidakewooooo, dianasofthemyscira , ohmycaptn, youseetherealme, warriorswan, swanshope, handsomeswan, captainpoe, captainswaan, Joyce Scott, tough-lass, once-land

Why I’m Thankful for Killian Jones (and Colin O’Donoghue)

There is so much once can say about such an extraordinary character as Once Upon a Time’s Killian Jones. For myself and countless others this version of the classic character has not only become our favorite depiction of the pirate captain, but arguably also the best, and certainly, along with Emma Swan, the show’s greatest character. Even though Killian may not be what one would automatically think of when imagining Captain Hook, because of the unique take on the character, the depth, the moving story, the inherent characteristics, and especially the exemplary performance of Colin O’Donoghue, Killian Jones is the greatest Captain Hook to ever grace the screen, and that is assuredly a reason to be thankful.

Indeed the intrinsic qualities, character development and overall storyline of Killian Jones is truly exceptional. Worthy of praise and gratitude from an audience perspective for anyone who enjoys a grand story, as well as from a deeper and more meaningful standpoint as Killian and his journey is the type that stays with you forever. Initially, Killian is what one may expect a swash buckling pirate to be- roguishly charming and cocky- someone who could flash you a disarming smile one moment and then kill you the next. He was both established as a villain and foil to Rumplestlitskin as well as a kindred spirit and match for the show’s leading lady Emma Swan. And he could easily be a one note character. But in addition to these established roles he is so much more. Killian is a deep and profound character who goes on an extraordinary journey. He goes from wide eyed boy who wants to be just like his father, to heartbroken, abandoned orphan, to a ship’s slave for a cruel captain, to hopeful lieutenant in the Royal Navy with honor in his heart and dreams of great heroics. But then to a shattered young man due to the tragic death of his brother, making him the pirate Captain Jones who does as he pleases and serves no one, to the vengeful pirate Captain Hook, hell bent on avenging the woman he loved no matter the cost, even his own life. And so he lived for centuries in darkness, until the day he looked up and saw the Savior, who would inspire him to remember the man of honor he wanted to be- the man he truly is deep in his soul. A man who indeed loves and lives with his entire soul and becomes a true hero, the true love to Emma Swan, a stepfather to her son Henry, husband to his beloved, and finally father to their precious daughter Hope. There’s so many superlatives and characteristics that can be attributed to him and make Killian such a remarkable man.

killian excaliber

Strong

killian fierce

Brave

hook hero

Heroic

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Devoted

killian loyal

Loyal

killian navy

Honorable

hook sexy

Handsome

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Sexy

killian flirt

Flirtatious

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Self-Deprecating

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Humble

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Comforting

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Determined

killian overwhelmed

Overwhelmed

killian knows greek

Intelligent

hook sins

Wise

killian smile 4

Blissful

killian smile 5

Awestruck

killian happy ending

Vulnerable

killian selfless

Selfless

killian helpful

Supportive

killian baby

Sweet

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Passionate

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Tender

killian in love

Loving

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Happy

In the greatest redemption arcs of the series, and indeed one of the best ever, Killian’s journey back towards the light may have been inspired by Emma, but importantly he did so for himself. And so often Killian felt undeserving and unworthy of forgiveness and love despite earning it from others, so had to learn to forgive himself, and work to become worthy in his mind and heart of those treasured intangibles. It is a captivating and moving story about falling from grace and treading a dark path but learning how “all sins can be forgiven when someone loves you” and finding the light again. It is a beautiful story of redemption and rebirth brilliantly told most especially because of the incomparable talent of Colin O’Donoghue. He never hit a false note and it takes a gifted actor to come into an established series and truly make an indelible impression. O’Donoghue did that and tenfold, masterfully creating an extraordinary character who can be anything from dark and sinister, to brooding and heartbroken, to charming and roguish, to funny and lovable, to sweet and tender, with often a single or subtle expression or a specific demeanor. What’s remarkable is that in addition to the distinct costumes and specific writing, what O’Donoghue brought with his performance was astounding, developing a precise way of standing, moving and speaking with the amazing ability to show us Killian’s soul through his ever expressive eyes. He developed specific mannerisms and timbers depending on the situation, timeline and who he shared a scene with. Different smiles, different looks, even tones of voice. He could make your heart beat or break, make you laugh or cry. Even such subtleties such as a clench of his jaw when he felt tense or upset, a scratch behind the ear when he felt unsure but a desire to be flirtatious with Emma, and the ways he had to move or do things differently because he only had one hand and a hook instead such as tying a scarf with his teeth, which ended up being both practical and heart pounding for Emma and the audience, was nothing short of astounding. It’s a marvel that only the most talented can accomplish. Captain Hook has never before been such a deep and real man, and it’s because of the brilliance of O’Donoghue.

One cannot be thankful for the performance of O’Donoghue as it made the character who he is. But also for myself and so many others, we are thankful not only for what he brought to Killian Jones but also for the kindness, generosity and humility he demonstrates. And it helps bring to light and attention on other films in which he stars- ones we might not have known otherwise such as The Rite, The Dust Storm and Carrie Pilby, all amazing films worthy of praise. And there’s much anticipation for What Still Remains, set for release later this summer. On a personal note, I will be forever grateful for O’Donghue’s attention and praise for the writing I did on Once Upon a Time and his films for The Nerd Machine. As a writer you always hope it can make any kind of impact, or bring joy or appreciation, especially if it’s from those with whom you are writing about. It’s an indescribable feeling, but you are left with a deep feeling of gratitude and happiness.

Killian Jones is one of the finest pirates, captain, men, individuals to ever grace the screen providing such inspiration to never lose hope that life is not only worth living, but that you can find someone who makes it all worth it, as well as simply doing it for yourself. There is always light and hope at the end of a dark path. Your soul can be reawakened and reborn. For everything the character Killian Jones and Colin O’Donoghue has given us and will no doubt continue to do so- thank you so very much! My life and the lives of so many have changed and been made infinitely better by Killian and by O’Donoghue himself. The pirate, the hero, the man will live in our hearts and continue to delight and inspire that duality of spirit- the pirate and the hero in all of us.

Bonus: Take a pictorial journey through 20 defining moments for Killian Jones

1. Lieutenant Jones becomes Captain Joneshook captain

2. Killian Jones becomes Captain Hookhook hook

3. Killian’s heart is stirred as he finds a kindred spirit in Emma Swankillian tall.gif

4. Killian comes back with the magic bean offering his ship and services to save Henryhookcomesback1

5. Killian saves David’d life in Neverlandhook wink

6. Killian reveals what’s in his heart for Emmahook met you

7. Killian tells Emma his sincere intentions to win her heartgif-24

8. A remorseful Killian swears on the name of his love that he still believes in itgif-27

9. Killian reveals he traded the Jolly Roger for Emmagif-34

10. Killian reveals the truth to Emma about his dealings with Gold hook forgive

11. Killian tries to save Emma’s life and in turn has his heart stolen by Goldkillian hero 1

12. Deckhand Killian sacrifices himself to ensure Emma and Henry’s escapehook stab

13. Killian becomes a Dark Onekillian tortured

14. Killian fights back against the darkness and sacrifices his life to save everyonegif-48a

15. Killian helps a young girl escape form a dungeon in the Underworldhook underworld 1.gif

16. Killian accepts his fate and is ready to move on and is sent back to where he belongs: to Storybrooke and Emmakilliancs reunion

17. Killian tells Belle he still is on the road to forgiving himselfkillian proud

18. Killian sings about his quest for revengegif-marianneproject53b

19. Killian marries his True Love Emmakillian wedding

20. Killian and Emma have their first child cs hope

Gif sources: captainswanouat, captainswansource, odonowest, pearlmackie, swanscaptn, just-be-magnificent, high-seas-swan, onceland, daeneryskairipa, emmakillian, kimidakewooooo, handsomeswan, odonorable, ladyswanjones, captainheroism, ahoymilady, emmasawn, officerrogers, adrina-stark, doomsdayy.