Love is weakness, Cora said once, a long time ago, but a show like this never forgets. And when I say it doesn’t forget, I mean it never loses an opportunity to prove that phrase wrong – again and again and again.
Once Upon A Time does like its messages. And it likes to reinforce them, as many times as possible.
Tonight it was Henry’s turn to finally get a say in this story – and not a moment too soon. If seeing him get ready for the dance reinforced something it’s that he’s no longer the little boy who went to NY to find Emma. He’s grown into a smart, capable young man who, like it or not, will be more involved in what happens to his family.
And that’s not a bad thing. His moms have, after all, raised him well.
So, let’s dig into “I’ll Be Your Mirror”:
I MISS YOU
Let me start at the end. There’s a moment, in the last scene we see of Snow and Charming together but not together, where Snow says something to Charming, and as soon as he wakes up, he responds. Now, it might just be coincidence or wishful thinking, but this is TV, so it’s probably not.
What does it mean that these two can seemingly still communicate with each other while they under a shared sleeping curse? Is this another of this my love is way more pure than yours things? Or has this just never come up because no one has been in their position before? Who knows, but you can bet it’s something they’ll use to their advantage – once they can figure out what’s going on, that is.
For now, it seems like we might as well get used to the separation. There’s no quick fix for what ails Snowing. And though I have no doubt that they’ll come out of this stronger and more in love than ever, can we just, perhaps, tone it down with the upbeat songs montage? It’s borderline depressing, Once. It truly is.
The strength of Once Upon A Time has always been in its female characters – and in the way it presents family as an entity made of people who love each other, despite blood bonds. This week, the message seemed much more important as we awoke in a world that’s, perhaps, less tolerant than we thought it was.
Henry has two mothers, and they both love him equally, they both want the best for him, and that makes the two of them family, of sorts. They don’t have to be together to be family, heck, they don’t even need to like each other, as long as they make Henry their priority. And Emma and Regina have always been able to do this, through good times and bad.
Fact is, these two women have come far from the Pilot episode – far from the days when they resented each thing Henry gave the other. Right now, they’re friends, allies in this adventure of raising Henry. And, just as Emma once asked Regina to kill her if it needed, and Regina returned the favor, in this episode, they worked together to save themselves because they understand that it’s not about Henry being able to make it with just one of them – it’s about Henry loving both of them and deserving a full family.
I always joke that Henry’s family three is something he wouldn’t want to explain to anyone outside of Storybrooke, but truth is, Henry’s lucky. He’s got plenty of people who love him. And that’s what family’s all about.
NOT FOOLING ME
The Evil Queen wasn’t exactly great at playing Regina, but that’s not what tipped Hook off to what was going on. The Evil Queen was discovered by the person who knew her best, Henry – and Emma’s disappearance, well, that was noticed by the person who knows her best – Hook.
Emma wouldn’t just leave for New York like that without saying something, not with her parents cursed. Also, her voice-mail was very not-Emma. She didn’t even say I love you! And trust me; they’re still in the honeymoon stage of the relationship. There’s a lot of declarations going on. But it’s not even those things that tipped Hook off; it’s the combination of them and the fact that …he knows her. He trusts her.
Past Emma might have decided to run, for one reason or another. She might have been overwhelmed; she might have needed time alone. This Emma? The one he’s living with now – the one who’s making secrets a thing of the past? That Emma wouldn’t just disappear, not without a better explanation than the one in that pathetic voicemail.
The Evil Queen didn’t just underestimate Hook in this regard, she underestimated Captain Swan. She underestimated their relationship, just as she underestimated his relationship with Henry before. She’s tried very, very hard to get at this family, to burn it to the ground so she can make one for herself out of its ashes, and it’s just not going to work.
So, what does she do now?
LOVE IS WEAKNESS
Her planning hasn’t been stellar so far – to say the least, but at least we’re finally starting to see what her endgame is. The Evil Queen wants a family. Just like when she cast the curse, what she really wanted was not just to take away everyone’s happy endings, but to get one of her own.
And Henry has always been that happy ending – for Regina and for the Evil Queen. It’s clear the EQ loves Henry, even if her version of love is twisted. Her love is not freedom, her love is possession. Her love is about her mother, yes, her mother, the once she desperately wants to prove wrong, even as she’s proving her right.
Love is weakness, Cora said. Love is strength, Emma countered, and time has proven Emma right, again and again. But Regina doesn’t think love is strength. She thinks love is weakness. And yet, she yearns for it, in a way that makes her wholly human. Because she’s not pure evil, she can feel. And yet, because she’s mostly evil, she can’t take that step forward.
It’d be sad if it weren’t so …human.
THAT’S IT, I QUIT
I’ve talked about Rumbelle more than I’ve ever wanted to talk about them in my entire life. Review after review I’m forced to rehash their relationship, because …well, because the show keeps giving me reasons to. This week I’d promised myself that I wasn’t going to rant about them, once again, mostly because I’m trying to be respectful to the people who still have hope. Because hope is a beautiful thing and we should all strive to keep hope alive.
Except when it comes to Rumbelle.
No, seriously. This is my advice – protect your heart. Cut your losses and run. Very, very far. Because there’s not happy ending to be had here. There shouldn’t be.
Rumple’s gone way past the point of no return. At this point, he can’t even see the point, that’s how far past he’s gone. He’s taken Belle’s free will away from her again and again, and he’s justified his actions by talking love. Except his words of love are just that, words. He doesn’t know how to love. He doesn’t understand it. He’s like the Evil Queen in that respect.
His love is possession instead of freedom, and true love isn’t that. True love is putting the other person’s needs ahead of yours. True love is providing support, yes, but space as well. True love is selfless. And just like the Evil Queen, Rumple will never be that.
We wanted Beauty and the Beast, but all we’ve gotten from this story is a real Beast. One our Beauty would be well advised to stay far, far away from.
THINGS THAT DO NOT MAKE SENSE, A LIST
The show’s getting better, I’ll give it that.
- The Evil Queen seemingly forgetting that she can’t harm Regina – at least until Henry points it out.
- Rumple forgetting he can’t harm Zelena until SHE points it out.
OTHER THINGS TO NOTE
- These characters really, really enjoy Star Wars.
- I really hope someone has taken the time to show Killian these movies now that he’s living with Emma and Henry.
- And by someone, I mean Henry, of course.
- With Emma/Regina gone and Snow/Charming busy being cursed, it fell to Killian to help Henry get ready for the school dance.
- Such a small moment, but it means so much to anyone with step-parents. Or, anyone who’s part of a less than conventional family.
- I swear, if Regina tried to pass as the EQ, she’d do a much better job than the EQ did of passing as Regina. SHE WAS SO, SO OBVIOUS. I’m surprised she didn’t crack when Snow was being nice to her, or when Hook was questioning her, but the things she told Henry? Come on.
- Was she even trying? Did she want Henry to end up in the vault, one way or another?
- If the key to getting out of the world behind the mirror is being good at puzzles I’d be stuck there forever.
- The Aladdin moment when he’s talking about the Genie and saying he’s moved on was a fitting tribute to Robin Williams. Yes, Genie. You’re now free.
- The white rose – tip from Killian, I bet.
- I’m very close to feeling bad for Zelena – and I didn’t think THAT was possible.
- Can Rumple and the EQ stop making out? We get it now. Just STOP. It makes me a tad queasy.
NEXT, ON ONCE UPON A TIME
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.