Wow. Okay. That was …wow. Painful is the word, I think? Yes, painful. And I don’t mean painful in the remote way in which you feel the pain of characters you love, even when they’re put in situations that could never, ever, happen to you, no. I mean the other kind of pain, the one that’s worse, the one that’s real.
Look, I have a sister. I can extrapolate. I know what that relationship means. I can’t even comprehend having to lose it, not for so many years, much less getting it back only to have to let it go. It’s more than my brain can process. This whole episode was more than my brain could process.
And yet, here I am, attempting to make sense of it all. For you. With you. I don’t know if I’ll succeed, but I promise you I shall try.
THE BROTHERS JONES
It’s hard to explain what this relationship means to people who don’t have a brother/sister. If forced to put into words, I would say that, most of us find romantic love at some point in our lives. Some get married, have kids, for a family. Point is, we find people that make us feel like we belong. And yet, before we go out into the world and find those people for ourselves, having a brother/sister is like having a a built-in person, a built-in place in the world. You’re never alone, never an outsider, because you have a brother/sister. Romance is all fine and well, but your brother/sister is, in a way, the very first love of your life.
Honor – the one thing we always assumed had driven Liam Jones, wasn’t exactly his driving force. It was love. He did what he did when they were younger because he cared more about his brother than about doing the right thing, and he did what he did this time because he cared more about his brother’s opinion than he cared about what was right. Now, that might not make him a hero, but it doesn’t exactly make him a villain. It makes him a flawed man, a real man. A man we can relate to.
When you make a decision like the one Liam made all those years ago, you do anything and everything you need to do to atone for it. You cover yourself with honor and self-righteousness, because if you don’t, how could you look at yourself in the mirror? How can you look at your brother in the face? So Liam made himself into this perfect role model – never realizing that the fact that he was “perfect” just made his little brother feel like he could never measure up. Liam never knew how to be honest with his brother, and because of that, Killian spent many years thinking he wasn’t good enough. That’s so much a part of who he is that even now, when faced with proof that everyone considers him good enough, he can’t accept someone else’s judgment – he can only rely on his.
And his brother’s. Killian needed Liam to go through his own journey, to find his own redemption, to show himself as he really was, and it wasn’t because he needed his brother to fail to feel better, but because he needed to see his brother as human – as someone who might get it wrong from time to time, but, in the end, doesn’t give in. Ironically, despite his faults, Liam Jones was the hero his brother needed him to. He helped Killian understand that he is worthy – not just of love, but of redemption. Of happiness. And even though they had to let go of each other in the end, Liam will be always be with his brother. You don’t forget a love like that. You can’t.
Before he leaves, though, Liam has some final words about Emma – the woman he previously dismissed as ‘not good enough’ for his brother. What he says, though, is less about admitting he’s wrong and more about letting his brother know that he understands, that even though Liam never found another love other than him, he’s proud of Killian for having found Emma. In a way, Liam is passing the torch. He’s done looking after Killian, it’s now Emma’s turn. And he can go in peace, because he knows Emma will care for him as much as he did. He might not have been ready to admit it before, but even Liam sees it. True love comes in many forms, and Killian is it – for both him and Emma
THE OTHER BROTHERS
The David/James relationship has always seemed much more straightforward than the other brotherly relationship featured in this episode, and yet, if this hour does is something is turn everything we thought we knew around. For the viewers, James never had any reason to resent David. If anything, David might have resented his brother for living in luxury for so many years. And yet, it seems the brothers are really much more alike than they seem. David never wanted the life of a Prince, and James, who seemed to really revel in it, always resented that he wasn’t the one chosen to stay behind.
I’d be tempted to mistrust Cruella, if I wasn’t for the fact that I love where this is going. Sometimes Once Upon A Time aims high and misses, but I love that it always aims high. This is one of those times. James is only interesting if he’s more than a suave, confident version of David. James as a David wannabe is much better than James the cocky Prince. The person I thought James was could never get redemption – the person Cruella paints him as? Well, he just might.
And, well, that’s a surprise.
This episode was about two things – the bond of family, and forgiving yourself. Except, forgiving yourself is not just about that, no. It’s about letting yourself accept that you deserve good things – that you are better than you think you are, that other people need you, that other people love you. And boy, is that harder than it sounds. Accepting good things is, often, much more difficult than accepting bad ones.
Regina mentioned it, and if anyone other than Killian would understand, it would be her. We’ve all made mistakes – we’ve all screwed up. But no one has screwed up quite as badly as Regina Mills, or for as long as Killian Jones. We don’t measure up. We can’t. We’re not fairy tale characters, after all.
When you don’t believe you’re worthy of something, that doesn’t mean you don’t want it. It doesn’t mean you don’t grab onto it and hold on for dear life. But it does mean, however, that you stop fighting for it at some point. And it’s not because you don’t want to fight, it’s because you think you don’t deserve to get that thing that would make you happy, or, alternatively, because you think the other person deserves better than you. It’s 100% a matter of self-worth. Nothing to do with feelings, at least, not with feelings about the other person.
Killian wants to be with Emma. He wants it so much it consumes him. And yet, he doesn’t think he deserves her. He never has, but after that whole Dark One debacle, after the way he gave into darkness, is it surprising that his self-confidence is at an all time low? We’re talking about a guy who was always trying to live up to impossible expectations and who hasn’t had someone who cared for him in over three hundred years? How can we possibly expect him to get everything right? How can we expect him to understand that he’s not in the middle of a regular love story, but an epic one?
We can’t. Emma doesn’t. And yet, what Emma does is this episode is the one thing that Killian has never had in his entire life – she comes clean, she tells him what she expects of him, what she wants, and then …then she leaves the choice in his hands. If he’s going to be with Emma it’s because he can accept that she loves him, that she wants him, and that he, maybe, deserves that. That maybe, the way he sees her is the way she sees him. It can’t be Emma’s choice – it has to be Killian’s. And in the end, it is. It takes a village, as they say, but Killian finally gets it. He’s always fought for Emma, but so far, he hasn’t really fought for himself. And yet, the final realization of this episode, and perhaps, the most important one, is that if he wants to make Emma happy he has to fight for himself. Because that’s what Emma wants. That’s what Emma needs.
Him. Just him. Killian Jones.
Whoever thought we’d get here? Not me. This seemed like a dream back when Regina was the Evil Queen and Emma was the woman meant to save the town from Regina. But they’ve both come a long way. Before, the idea of these two as friends would have been preposterous, now, it’s…well, it’s believable. Regina hasn’t always made the right choice, but this Regina is trying. This Regina cares. And, more importantly, especially when it comes to the two of them co-parenting Henry, this Regina accepts Emma’s place in her son’s life. And that’s what makes all the difference.
And it’s not all about Henry, no. The admission about her and Hook being much alike would have been impossible for the Regina of a few months ago, and yet this Regina throws it out calmly as she drinks coffee with a friend, because that’s the only way she can make Emma understand. Before, these two women were fighting about everything. Now, they’re on the same side. Completely. And that means that, where before they might have been fighting each other, now they’re fighting together.
It’s not Swan Queen, not like some people wanted it to be. It’s never going to be. But it’s still much more than we could have expected five years ago.
Henry has a lot of family. And when I say a lot, I mean a LOT. He has two mothers, two possible father-figures in Hook and Robin, more grandparents than he knows what to do with, and a whole bunch of other people who consider him family. And yet, despite all that, Henry has never had a more consistent father figure in his live that his favorite grandfather, David. Because, let’s not kid ourselves, David is his favorite. And he proves why again in this episode.
With Henry we get a glimpse of the father David could have been to Emma, if life had given him a chance. He would have been the ‘cool dad’ just as he now attempts the ‘cool grandpa’ act. And funny thing is – especially with a teenager, that usually works. Henry, after all, is just acting out because he wants to be a hero – because he wants to be like David. So when David treats him, not like a kid who needs to be told what to do, but as someone he can confide in, someone that can see reason, Henry, half because he’s grateful and half because he’s embarrassed, decides maybe he can trust his family. Maybe he can let them in. Maybe being a hero is not about going at it alone.
Not in this family.
- Where was Robin? Seriously, where was he? It’s not like Sean Maguire is getting paid by the episode.
- I love Bex Mader, but this thing where they have to shoehorn Zelena into EVERY storyline is getting a bit old.
- The whole Hades/Liam connection, as much as I understand what they were trying to do, was a bit Deux Ex Machina.
- At this point, an episode without Rumple is a good episode.
- How come no one’s keeping track of where Henry is? If I was in the Underworld I’d make sure to keep a close eye on everyone I came to the Underworld WITH.
- Oh, and Cruella’s brilliant plan of: let’s drive around and look for a signal really left something to be desired.
- If Hades can just appear anywhere he wants, then why doesn’t he just take care of all of them NOW? Why wait?
- Henry acting out was LONG overdue, if you ask me.
NEXT, ON ONCE UPON A TIME
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.