Title Lost Girl
Two-Sentence Summary After Peter Pan gives Emma a magical map to Henry, she must come to terms with her own past as a lost girl in order to read it. However, it seems Pan has more nefarious deeds in mind than just keeping Henry from her; his goal is to make Henry embrace his own past as a lost boy in order to keep him on the island—and to turn Emma from a woman who still feels like an orphan into a woman who is an orphan, which seems to be slowly happening as Charming is wounded by a poisoned arrow.
Hook: Just who are you, Swan?
Emma: Wouldn’t you like to know?
Hook: Perhaps I would.
My Thoughts Once Upon a Time began as Emma Swan’s story, and somewhere along the way it got lost in all the other cool stories springing up around her, which I think was a huge reason Season Two struggled as much as it did. I will never be upset with an occasional look into Regina’s psyche, a Rumplestiltskin-centric episode or two, or even a chunk of time devoted to developing a new character. I love how many deep and interesting characters inhabit this show’s various realms, but every show needs a focus—and Once Upon a Time is most successful when that focus is on Emma Swan and the relationships she’s forming with the characters around her.
The character of Emma Swan grounds this show in realism, and sometimes that result is funny but, even more often, that result is heartbreaking. In a show built around magical conflicts and fairytale love stories, Emma’s story is a very human—very real—story about a woman who was broken so many times by so many different abandonments that she can’t be magically fixed. She can only slowly grow and learn how to heal, and while that growth and healing might not make for action-packed storytelling, it creates something even better: real character development, not just for Emma but for everyone around her.
I thought “Lost Girl” was an even stronger episode than last week’s premiere. Everyone has their reasons for watching Once Upon a Time, and mine has always been the development of the characters within the “Charming Family.” Needless to say, I was blown away by the emotional power of this episode. It allowed each character to do what they do best, and, therefore, it allowed every member of the cast to shine.
Let’s begin from the outer edges of the episode and work our way to its emotional center. I think the decision to separate Rumplestiltskin from the rest of the Neverland group was very smart. If any actor can compel viewers with a solitary storyline, it’s Robert Carlyle. I was captivated just watching him walk through the jungle, unable to get away from the doll his father gave to him. (Thanks for answer that so quickly, writers!) I’m not sure we needed Belle in order to see his inner struggle to do the right thing, but it was a lovely reminder that he’s always believed her to be his conscience, his heart. Belle has always seen who Rumplestiltskin really is, and she believes in what he can be. And in this episode, that’s what true love is all about.
The theme of true love being belief in the one you love (even after they’ve lost faith in themselves) has always been a part of Snow White and Prince Charming’s story, and it was the focal point of their flashbacks in this episode. What I love about Snow and Charming’s relationship is that it might wear the very idealistic label of “true love,” but it’s so much more than just a one-dimensional, “fairytale” romance. It’s not an idealized love story; rather, it’s a love story about two people with flaws and faults and weak moments who can lean on each other for support when they don’t feel like heroes.
I enjoyed seeing the way Snow’s identity crisis paralleled Emma’s in this episode. I wish Emma knew all the things about Snow we learn from these flashbacks because it’s so important to remember that Snow was an orphan, too, but she learned to move on from letting that define her to become the leader she needed to be for her people.
Did the flashbacks reveal anything groundbreaking in terms of the overall plot of this show? No. They featured some great moments of Regina in all her Evil Queen glory (and gorgeous gowns), some overprotective “big brother” dwarves, and a nice twist on the classic story of the Sword in the Stone—none of which moved the plot along or revealed important information. But that’s not to say they were a waste of time. They served as a great reminder that Snow and Charming aren’t these far-off legends Emma seems to view them as. They’re as human as she is, with plenty of self-doubt and moments where they are anything but “infuriatingly optimistic.”
And more than anything else, these flashbacks were a wonderful reminder of the power of true love. Yes, it breaks curses and creates saviors. But the real power of true love is in its ability to help us be our best selves—and that’s what Charming did for Snow in this episode. His faith in his wife has always been such a beautiful thing to see, and so much of that comes from the earnest way Josh Dallas plays Charming. Somehow, Charming’s belief in Snow never comes across as sappy or unrealistic. It’s genuine and believable in a way that makes me not only want that it my own life; it makes me feel like it’s attainable. Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin have such a special chemistry, and I will never turn down a set of flashbacks where I get to watch them flirt and kiss and remind us all what true love really looks like.
The flashbacks also served to remind us how wonderful Charming is as a character just in time to see him get shot in the chest with a poison arrow (while protecting Snow, need I remind you). Is keeping his mortal wound a secret a good idea? No, but it’s a completely in-character one. The most important thing in Charming’s life is his family, and he wouldn’t want to get in the way of finding his grandson. Charming is selfless to a fault, and he doesn’t always think clearly where his family is concerned. But I do hope someone finds out soon—and I really hope it’s Hook. They’re budding bromance is all kinds of fun and interesting on several levels (the whole “impressing the protective dad” thing, for starters, and the fact that Hook and Charming aren’t all that different—both are men whose primary motivating factor is love).
I think Hook finding out about Charming before anyone else would open up some really interesting avenues of storytelling, and I also want to hold off on the emotional trauma of Snow (and Emma) finding out for as long as possible. Because let’s all admit it: Goodwin and Dallas are going to be brilliant—but devastating—in the scene where Snow finds out her husband is dying.
Charming’s impending death is all part of Peter Pan’s big plan for Emma. I love the psychological gamesmanship going on with Pan; it’s creepy and unsettling, and I love it. I think Pan’s desire for Emma to accept her life as a lost girl stems from him wanting her to stay in Neverland. Peter Pan always did want to keep Wendy there to be their mother—what if something similar is behind his actions with Emma? No matter his motivations, I think we can all agree that Pan is a great villain so far. Robbie Kay is deliciously devious, and his last line to Emma about becoming an orphan was such a shockingly chilling way to end the episode. I love when Once Upon a Time surprises me, and I haven’t had a good “gasp” moment from this show in a long time—until that scene.
I like to be surprised when I watch television, and nothing on television right now is surprising me more than Captain Hook’s sincere feelings for Emma. Their initial flirtation in this episode was very cute (the bit about perms was hilarious), and I liked that Emma actually seemed to be bantering with him and flirting with him rather than just rolling her eyes. The girl needs something to make her smile, and I think Hook could be exactly that.
All of that initial flirting culminated in the scene where Hook once again offers Emma rum to heal her wounds. I’m continually impressed with just how intuitive Hook is concerning Emma; he can read her so well, and he offers her a kind of comfort she can accept because it’s simple. He’s not trying too hard like her parents; he’s just a pirate with a flask of rum and a knack for knowing exactly when she needs it.
I loved the way that scene progressed, from the simple intimacy of drinking together from the same flask to the way Emma suggestively says, “Wouldn’t you like to know?” But then the whole flirtatious tone of the scene shifts when Hook tells her that he does want to know her. The sincerity O’Donoghue gave to that line reading was brilliant; it floored me as much as it floored Emma. There was something so honest, so vulnerable, about Hook in that moment. He wants to know Emma—to know who she is at her core. That’s not just a rogue looking for a conquest; that’s a man developing real feelings for a woman he genuinely cares for.
The interesting thing about Hook’s desire to know Emma’s truest self is that he already knows it. It took Emma until this episode to admit that she still feels like an orphan, a lost girl. But Hook saw that in her the moment he first found himself alone with her. In an episode where true love was shown as understanding of who a person is at their core (Belle helping Rumplestiltskin see his goodness, Charming helping Snow see her leadership abilities), I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Emma sees in herself exactly what Hook saw when he first looked at her.
Emma admitting to still feeling like an orphan was such a huge moment of character development for both her and her mother. That scene between Morrison and Goodwin was some of the best work either has ever done on this show. Morrison’s delivery of Emma’s monologue about her lonely times in foster care was so heartbreaking because it was filled with unforced emotion. Neither actress tried to upstage the other in terms of creating emotional impact; neither ever came close to overacting. They both grounded that scene in such human emotions—regret, loneliness, and longing for a relationship that can never be. There was such a bittersweet tone to that scene; there was never any direct anger or blame, but that’s what made it even more heartbreaking. Both of these women want to love each other, but Emma is still so realistically damaged by decades of believing she was unwanted and unloved. Morrison is just so good at making Emma’s emotions feel real, for letting us see the broken little girl still hiding behind her walls. (The moment when her voice broke when she said the word “parents” really got to me.) And Goodwin was the picture of grief in this scene, looking at the daughter she gave up and realizing that no reason—however noble or good—could make up for the years of pain her baby endured.
I always say that the best moments on Once Upon a Time are the human moments in the middle of the fairytales. This was one of the most painfully human moments in the show’s first three seasons. And it’s no coincidence that it’s also one of the best moments—in one of the best episodes of Once Upon a Time in a long time.