‘Once Upon A Time’ – I’m Thankful for Hook

A few months ago I started this series with Emma, and it feels somewhat fitting that I’m ending it today, with Captain Hook. I like, or at least appreciate things, about most of the characters in this show, but my two favorites are, without a doubt, Emma Swan and Killian Jones.

Oh, a shipper, you might say. And yes, I won’t deny it. I ship Captain Swan. I ship it hardcore. This is the ship, and I’m sailing away in it. But that has nothing (all right, maybe it has something) to do with my appreciation for these two characters as individuals. Fact is, to ship two characters, you first have to like them. Separately, And I already raved about Emma, the true hero of this story, so it’s now my turn to do the same about Killian Jones – the pirate turned hero.

I’m a sucker for redemption stories. In a way, I think we all are. Literature has conditioned us to love the bad boy turned good (Literature has also, so often ascribed the redemption arc to the male character that the term bad boy is part of our culture). In fact, literature has done its job so well that, sometimes, we are even guilty of loving the bad boy without even asking for the redemption. It’s all in the possibility, you see.

Not so with Captain Hook.

Killian Jones was written to be redeemed.

Creating a believable character is all about leaving crumbs. An honorable officer turns pirate to rebel against the King he blames for his brother’s death, and fixates on revenge after Rumplestiltskin murders the woman he loves – that’s not the story of a villain. You might even say there are no villain stories, not fully. People (characters) make choices, and if you understand why they make them, where they’re coming from, then you can relate to them.

It just so happens that some make the right choices, and others don’t.

Writer intent is important in redemption stories. I’d argue is important in every story, but people will see characters the way they want, even if it goes against the writer’s vision. In this case, however, we have to consider this question: Why was Killian Jones written as a man who lost his head over love not once, but twice? Why was Regina written the same way? Characters are not constructed by chance. If Killian Jones was written like that, it was clearly to send a message. That’s not to say that only people who’ve committed evil deeds for this reason deserve redemption, no. But on a show about hope, true love, and happily ever after, the intention behind these choices is crystal clear.

Emma was always meant to be Killan’s redemption. Or, maybe, it’s best to say that Emma was always meant to be the path Killian would take towards redemption. After all, a man who makes wrong choices for love is just as likely to make the right ones for the same reason.

Fact is, you can never change, not fully, for someone else. You have to do it for yourself. You can find a reason, a guide, a person who makes you want to be better, but the decision to actually be a hero, to be good, kind, selfless – that comes from you, and you alone.

Killian Jones is a hero. Plain and simple. Not because someone made him or because he had no choice, but because he decided that’s who he wanted to be. And, if there’s something we’ve learned from literature, is that it takes a choice. That’s not all it takes, of course, but that’s how it starts. How it always starts.

Doesn’t mean it’s easy after that, no. It hasn’t been for Killian. He’s stumbled a few times. He hasn’t always made the right choices. But that’s part of the journey, isn’t it? How are we supposed to learn a lesson, really learn it, if we don’t have to struggle, if we don’t have to fight?

This series was all about being thankful for this show and for the characters that populate it. Sometimes, while I was writing it, I had trouble finding something to be grateful. I have no problems finding it when it comes to the character of Captain Hook.

Maybe it’s because my expectations were …low. I remember, when the casting was announced, I though, oh, good-looking man and …that’s it. That’s all I thought.  I didn’t expect to find him interesting, I didn’t expect the perfectly constructed backstory and I certainly didn’t expect the sparks that flew every time he and Jennifer Morrison were on-screen together.

And I’m thankful. I’m thankful for the wonderful casting, and the superb writing choices. Once Upon A Time is not perfect, no show is, but Hook/Killian Jones is clearly an example of what this team can do when they really, really care about a character.

They can make us care too.

Not only for Captain Hook, but for Killian Jones, the man he once was and the man he’s still trying to become. Not just for his individual story arc, but for his relationship with Emma, and Henry, and the extended family that he’s managed to find in Storybrooke.

But mostly, because good characters are nothing without good actors, I’m thankful for Colin O’Donoghue. I’m thankful for the fact that I never, ever question his rage or his love. I’m thankful for the intensity and dedication he brings to a role he clearly understands and cares for. And I’m thankful for the fact that many people, most people agree with me. It means we’ll get to enjoy the actor (and the character) for a while.

Once Upon A Time returns to ABC on Sunday, March 6th, at 8/7c.

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