Remember the first episode? Remember that wide-eyed kid who knocked on Emma’s door and brought with him magic and adventure? Remember that looking at him and realizing he really, really believed? Remember that little face full of hope and trust and wonder? Remember thinking he was the only one who actually got it? Remember the feels young Henry gave you?
I always do.
Once Upon A Time is a show about old favorites, abut true love, scary villains and grand adventures, about reimaging the stories we thought we knew. As such, Henry might seem like a plot device more than actual person with hopes and dreams. He’s, after all, one of the few original characters this show has. You could even say he’s the only character these writers created from scratch. Coming up with Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter had to be easier than creating Snow White and Prince Charming’s grandson, who, by the way, is also related to Rumplestiltskin on his father’s side, oh, and who was later adopted by the Evil Queen.
That’s quite a pedigree for a boy who wasn’t really part of these stories to begin with.
Despite the lineage, however, Henry is an easy character to take for granted. Sure, his presence drives the story, but he’s always been far too young to actually be involved in the action. At least – until now.
But that doesn’t mean Henry is not important, no.
He’s important to Rumplesiltskin, the last remnant he has of the beloved son he failed. He’s important to Snow White and Prince Charming, the grandson that’s almost like a son, because they didn’t get to see Emma grow up, but Henry is there, and he could use the role models. He’s important to Regina, the son she never realized she’d give everything for until she almost lost him. He’s important to Emma, the mother who tried to give him his best choice only to realize that included her.
And he’s even important to characters he’s only been tangentially involved with. He’s Emma’s son, so, of course, he’s important to Hook. Same goes with Robin – if he’s important to Regina, he’s important to him. He even has a connection with Belle and Zelena!
Why is Henry important to us, you ask? Is it only because he’s important to characters we care about? When has Henry done anything to make us care about who he is and not who he’s related to? Where’s his story? Where’s his arc?
To which I answer, that’s a very, very good question. I hope we get an answer soon.
(What? I didn’t say I had all the answers)
Frankly, Henry has been an under-utilized character in the first four seasons of Once Upon A Time. Some of it has to do with the fact that, well, he’s a kid. How believable it is to bring him in each and every adventure? Add that to the fact that Jared Gilmore is just 15 and can’t pull of the filming hours older actors can pull, and the writer’s hands are sort of tied.
But 5B looks like it might change it all. Henry looked devastated at the loss of Hook, and he fought both his mother’s for the chance to come rescue him in the Underworld. That means this is the first time that Henry will be in the thick of things by his own choosing. This is finally Henry’s turn to shine, and we should be thankful for it.
Henry is, after all, the embodiment of the good things about this show. Henry is hope, and faith, family and a happy ending. Henry is the author we dreamed we could have. And Henry’s happily ever after, with both his moms happy, with his family complete, looks very much like our dream ending for Once Upon A Time. So, no, we don’t want it to end, not yet ….but we wouldn’t mind seeing more of Henry as our characters work towards that elusive happily ever after.
That’s what authors are for, after all.
Once Upon A Time returns to ABC with new episodes on Sunday March 6th, at 8/7c.