Well, that was …surprising. Emotional. Heartbreaking. Which are really not things I expected to be saying, considering that, if you’d asked me before this episode started, I would have said I knew exactly where Once Upon A Time was going with …practically everything.
Captain Swan angst, check. Hook was going to continue to keep the secret, or someone else was going to tell Emma, they were going to break up; it was going to be a dramatic thing that only served to delay the inevitable happy ending. No one was going to learn anything from it.
Outlaw Queen closure, check. Robin was going to go back to his realm, Regina was going to be left alone and this whole thing was going to end up being just a cheap gimmick to appease fans.
Evil Queen? She was going to merge with Regina, or be killed, but there was not going to be any more exploration of the notion that no one, absolutely no one, is 100% good or 100% evil, people are nuanced and complicated and it only takes one right choice to, sometimes, make all the difference in the world.
How very wrong I was. I didn’t give this show enough credit. I didn’t give the writers, enough credit. And I should have because, even if this show sometimes fails to follow basic common sense rules and has thrown continuity out the window so many times no one even knows where that is anymore, it usually does well in matters of characterization.
Matters of heart.
So, let’s go into the Captain Swan heartbreak, the Outlaw Queen ending – or beginning – and the Evil Queen of “Page 23.”
I DON’T HATE ME ANYMORE
Regina took one big step last week when she finally admitted that the Evil Queen was part of her, that she’d done the things she always put on just the bad part of herself, that she was both good and evil. This week, though, she took that about 50 steps more when she defeated the Evil Queen in basically the same way Snow defeated Regina, all those years ago.
By showing her how to care. By proving that there are better things than hate and anger.
Hook’s main issue in this episode – and in general, his main obstacle in his path to redemption, was fear. Regina’s was hate. (They both come from the same place, but that’s a story for another day). And it wasn’t the hate she harbored for other people, no; it was the hate she harbored for herself. You see, Regina hated Regina so much that she had to channel that hate out, lest it consume her. That’s how she became the Evil Queen. That’s why she continued in the path of evil, even when a large part of herself would have loved to turned back.
When you’ve given in to hate it’s hard to see how to choose love. Hate becomes your normal – and love …love is that thing you wish you had, the one you desire so much that you hate everyone who does have it, because you don’t. You never will.
Regina’s path to redemption was always this – learning to accept that she did bad things, but the evil that she did didn’t have to define her entire life. Yes, she was the Evil Queen, but she could also be Regina the mother, Regina the lover, Regina the friend, Regina the sister. People are capable of putting a whole array of different hats. You’re not bound by your mistakes as much as you’re bound by your choices.
And in fighting against that hate she felt, in building up the person she wanted to be, in learning to love herself, Regina also freed the Evil Queen. Because they are one and the same – and just as Regina finally understood that she wasn’t all good, she recognized that the Evil Queen couldn’t be all evil. And if she wasn’t, there was a chance for redemption.
So, cheers to the Evil Queen – may she find something to love, in herself, and outside. And cheers to Regina, who doesn’t get a happy ending, or anything of that sort, but who does get a chance to live without carrying the mistakes of the past on her back. And that’s a bigger thing than we probably realize.
THE END – OR THE BEGINNING – OF OUTLAW QUEEN
The thing with Outlaw Queen is that, when it started, back in season 3, it looked like it had the potential to be not just a two season thing, but an epic love story. In a way, for many fans, it was. And yet, in a way, the writers also robbed us of the epicness that the story deserved.
Did they do it to further Regina’s arc? Maybe. Did they do it because the cast had grown too much and they simply didn’t have enough to do for so many characters? Perhaps. Was it just …bad planning? Maybe. What we do know – the only thing we know for sure, is that we got less than we should have gotten with these two, maybe more than we deserved.
And that is why – this ending – as much as it sucks, also, somehow, brings everything back full circle. This wasn’t Robin – not our Robin, not Regina’s Robin, not the one who could give her a happy ending. And yet he was Robin, someone’s Robin. Maybe not Regina’s, but perhaps, the Evil Queen’s?
Does it make up for way our Robin was written off? No. But nothing ever could, really. An alternate Robin wasn’t going to change that, as nice as it was to have Sean Maguire back in our TV screens. And though I’m sure this is cold comfort for hardcore Outlaw Queen fans, I do believe it is the best the show could do under the circumstances. And for that, I’m going to choose to be grateful.
Plus, I bet the fandom will come through with some rather awesome fanfic. That’s one thing you can always count on.
BRING ON THE ANGST
If you love them and they love you they’ll find a way, Snow White says, at the beginning of this tale, and that phrase has proved to be one of the most important ones ever uttered on this show. And, if you’re doubting Captain Swan right now, it’s the phrase you should repeat to yourself, over and over again, until you believe it.
This episode, that was meant to be pure angst, ended up being about tests. Not tests on Emma and Hook’s true love, they passed that one already, but tests on something maybe more important, something they both need to get over before moving forward together – their faith in each other, in their love.
Killian loves Emma. There’s no doubt of that. He respects her, and he considers her a partner in the journey of life. He doesn’t want to control her or dictate what she does, thinks or says, he just wants to be by her side, and maybe, from time to time, offer perspective if she needs it.
Emma loves Hook. There’s no doubt of that. She sees the man he is, not the man he was. She sees his heart, not his hook or his past mistakes. She doesn’t want him to be someone other than who he is, she just wants him to stay by her side, to trust her when she says she wants to be there, and to learn and grow with her.
But they both doubt each other in a fundamental way that has nothing to do with love and has everything to do with past scars. Killian doubts that he could ever be worthy of Emma, and therefore he doubts that she could see him as worthy. Emma doubts that she’s good enough for someone to stick around forever, and therefore she doubts that he would stay, even when it’s hard.
This is what this episode was about – getting over those fears. Or, at least, getting over Killian’s fear. We’ll surely be working on Emma’s next.
His fear is based, not just on his experiences, but in the belief that his past defines him. He’s a villain, and therefore, he can’t ever get a happy ending. It’s just that, instead of lashing out, Killian internalizes the hate, turns it on himself and retreats. That’s why he was leaving. Not because he didn’t care about Emma, not because his love wasn’t true, but because he wanted to spare Emma from, well, him.
And – in the end, Snow’s words seem to get through to him. The Killian at the end of the episode, that Killian seems to have finally understood that if you let fear win, you can never be happy. If you let fear rule you, then you’ll be running away forever.
Of course, because things can’t ever be easy on TV, that’s just when Gideon shows up and the Nautilius disappears for parts unknown. And now, we’re back to Emma. She’s sure Killian has left her, because she’s sure she’s the kind of person no one would stick around for. That’s her fear talking.
But, deep down, Emma also knows Killian would never leave her, not willingly. This knowledge is not just based on faith, it’s empirically supported. He’s never left her. So, for how long will Emma let herself be ruled by fear? What will break her out of it? I don’t know, but I can’t wait to find out. Because this is Emma’s test, and I’m 100% sure she will pass it.
THINGS THAT DO NOT MAKE SENSE, A LIST
- We got a close look at the ring this week – and boy, where would Hook even procure that? Does he have hidden treasure we don’t know about?
- Before the show ends, can we do something about the hearts in Regina’s vault? Something like, give them back to their owners? Final step in redemption and all that.
- Wait, that and confess to Graham’s murder.
- How did Zelena go from Wicked to Inner Circle in just one episode?
- WHERE IN THE WORLD IS BABY CHARMING?
- Also, how old is he at this point? 35?
- You’re saying Hook was going to leave town and Rumple didn’t know about it? Rumple knows everything, and this is Hook.
OTHER THINGS TO NOTE
- The flashbacks had me rolling my eyes a little bit. How many times can we watch the Regina comes into a village looking for Snow thing?
- The Evil Queen/Robin Hood banter at the beginning of the episode was reminiscent of S3 Outlaw Queen, which I guess was the point.
- I don’t know if I totally believe that Snow always knew, but I like that she said it. SHe certainly knew way before Emma.
- Henry, my boy, did Killian talk to you about proposal ideas or was this all you? Did you go on Tumblr or something? Because you’ve been giving this way too much thought.
- Regina being so happy for Emma made me smile. Those two have come a long, long way, and though they’re not BFFs, they are friends, and they care for each other.
- It’s kinda cute that Emma wanted to go tell her family right away, but it’s really sad that Killian had no one to tell and that he went to brood alone.
- Does the Evil Queen have a sweaty men kink? Why make Robin dig when she could have used magic?
- Was Emma right to give Killian back the ring? Well, just as I couldn’t judge Killian for proposing anyway, I can’t judge her for giving back the ring. He lied. She felt betrayed – not necessarily by his actions, but the lie. She has a right to her feelings.
- Understanding his reasons doesn’t mean not understanding her feelings.
- That being said, she clearly didn’t expect him to leave. She gave him back the ring, but she wasn’t really breaking up with him.
- I hope this means we get another proposal. Not that I didn’t like the first one – but it was sort of tainted by the secret.
- Sword-fighting in EQ garb must be quite a workout.
- Regina mentions love – and the first name that she says after it is Henry. I don’t have Regal Believer feels, I don’t.
- That’s a lie, I do.
- She also mentions Robin by name, and though, again, this is not the ending I wanted, it’s still nice to see that, despite everything, Robin’s influence on Regina’s life was a positive one.
- “Isn’t this against the rules”? WHEN HAS ANYONE EVER CARED ABOUT THE RULES?
- Also, Zelena pointing out that the EQ is evil is the height of irony.
- An apology from the Evil Queen. Hallelujah!
- “I’m so happy it’s you” Snow said, and I teared up. BOTH CHARMINGS APPROVE!
- Why exactly does Gideon need Killian far away? And is it about Killian per se or about Killian-Emma’s-true-love?
NEXT, ON ONCE UPON A TIME
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.