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.
Great review and i agree with everything
I definately see what you saw in Emma-Hook, there is so much there and so much telling and to have them in a Snowing and Rumbelle episode to get to core of who they are
Jen was awesome, i am glad ppl are seeing this 🙂
Thanks so much for the comment! And I’m so happy to see someone else out there who loves Jennifer’s acting; I always think she’s one of the most under-appreciated members of this very talented cast.
I thought this week’s episode was actually even better than the premiere, and I’m really enjoying the season so far!
I totally agree with you about the show’s focus (overall) needing to be Emma. For me, part of why Season 2 failed was that there were so many relationships that I had wanted to see how the curse being broken would affect, and the one I wanted to see the most was the relationship between Emma, Snow, and Charming. The girl who we began our story with, who we were introduced to so early on as having no family and (as far as we could tell) no friends, and who was so alone and lonely, hardened from a life of being on her own all the time. To not get to see more of how she was dealing with suddenly having these people who were her parents around, not to mention having them be the same age as her, was one of my biggest disappointments of last season, and I’m so glad that it appears that at least part of this season will deal with the storyline of Emma’s relationship with her parents.
(I wrote all of that ^^ before reading your second and third paragraphs and then laughed at how similar we are in what we want from OUAT lol.)
Personally one of my favorite things about this season so far is that we have a theme of belief – Henry being the “truest believer”; Emma being told she’d have trouble with Neverland because it was a place of belief and imagination, not proof; Charming’s unwavering belief in Snow; our whole group needing to believe in each other and that they could find Henry if they work together. And speaking of true love, I’ve kind of wondered for a while now if Henry himself was going to be powerful, because you could say that he might be the product of two generations of true love – Snow + Charming, and then Emma + Neal – but perhaps instead it gave him the “heart of the truest believer.” I like that actually, since it makes Henry special without suddenly giving him magical powers that would feel a bit strange for his character – Henry’s biggest power in my opinion has always been his good heart and his ability to believe (in his family, in the truth of the curse, in the idea that people can change and be good).
That scene between Emma and Snow was probably my favorite of the whole episode. I have a feeling that watching Emma and her parents meet each other in the middle of their experiences and really grow to understand one another is going to be a beautiful journey, and I’m so glad that it looks like we’re exploring that this season.
I love how similar our views on this show are—we have OUaT telepathy! 😉
I completely agree with your assessment on the running theme of this season so far. Belief is a huge part of Neverland’s mythology (“Faith, trust, and pixie dust!”), so it seems incredibly fitting for this season to be about so many different kinds of belief. It also allows for so much character development with Emma because she’s a woman who for so long had no one to believe in her and nothing to believe in—and that kind of self-doubt and loneliness doesn’t just magically disappear once you find your family. Watching her come to believe in herself—not as a lost girl or a savior but as Emma Swan, a flawed but capable leader and someone worthy of love from both herself and those around her—is going to be (and has already been) such a great thing to watch.
“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.”
I think that’s the juxtaposition that will be at the heart of this 11 episode arc in Neverland. Because here’s the thing, true love, parents who cherish her are all things that Emma never had and it needs to be earned by Snow and Charming. Reason being at the core security and belief for a child doesn’t come from a shared experience with their parent; they simply require their presence and love. Emma never had that, Snow did in her father. I see it in my own experiences with my daughter. She doesn’t care that I shared parallel experiences, she cares that I protect and defend her against the bad and cruel in the world. Emma never had that and it has colored her approach and outlook on all things, including her quest to get Henry back. The cruel irony of Emma Swan is that she is the product of true love and she is the last to put faith in it.
I agree wholeheartedly that the show is at its best when we are anchored by Emma. She is the touchstone for the mythology. She, unlike Henry, is not a true believer she is a survivor. That is what Snow and Charming have to learn and earn. I appreciated that it wasn’t just Emma who realized what was true, but Snow as well. Understanding the past doesn’t forgive it, nor does it alter the present actions they need to take to earn Emma’s love and belief. It only offers perspective and the ability to want to move forward towards forgiveness. That is what I think Emma’s journey in Neverland is going to be, one of forgiveness.
Now I also have a crazy theory – That Henry is bait for Emma and that Pan truly wants her in Neverland. So making her a true orphan is the path to fulfilling that goal.
I will also sign up for the Hook – Charming bromance. Their back and forth was so much fun in this episode and I think his discovering Charming’s fate first would make for some truly wonderful storytelling. O’Donaghue’s line read just might be my favorite moment of television this week. It was utterly surprising, deeply sincere and overwhelmingly vulnerable. Neal is in for a tough return if that keeps up.
I love your comments so much because they make me think so much more deeply about storylines that I find really important. Your thoughts on Snow, Emma, and the differences in their lives were really well-written. I also see this journey in Neverland as being one of forgiveness for Emma and her parents, and I think part of that is going to be her parents (especially Snow) learning to see Emma not as a little girl that they get a second chance to parent but as a woman they get a second chance to love unconditionally. And I see a lot of this journey as being a journey towards Emma being able to accept other people’s love, and that’s a journey I can’t wait to see.
I think your theory about Henry and Emma isn’t too far off. I have a feeling Pan wants her to stick around, too.
And I also agree about your thoughts on Hook’s sincerity and vulnerability coming through in that one line. Between that moment and Emma and Snow’s scene, I knew as soon as this episode was over that another show would have to blow me away in order to beat this show in terms of having the best moment of the week.
Excellent analysis! I agree that Carlyle has the gravitas to pull off the solo venture into the jungle, but I think pulling Belle in was brilliantly done on the writers’ part. She represents (as his True Love) the “best version” of himself, and a scene with a conjured vision of that better angel plays much better than if Carlyle were dialoguing with himself (even if they stitched two separate performances together). It gives us a sense that Belle is more than just an idea; she has literally found a place in his heart and is so much a part of him, that his Superego has taken on her personality. This is incredibly refreshing, because so often last season, even with her physically present with him, Rumplestiltskin could not keep his cowardly, nefarious intentions at bay. Plus, the chemistry between Emilie and Robert is always electric, no more so when they are arguing over his need for Darkness and magic; furthermore, putting her in the beloved blue gown hearkens back to her days of innocence with regard to life in general and the evil that clouds his nature. He is darkness; she is light; and both find expression in a man trying desperately to do the right thing while faced with his own track record of doing things the easy way. For all that he deals with magic and the impossible, Carlyle imbues the character with a tragic, flawed humanity reminiscent of Lear, whose own foolish choices are ultimately his downfall.
Thank you so much for the very thoughtful comment!
Your analysis of Belle’s presence in the episode is fantastic. I especially loved this line:
“He is darkness; she is light; and both find expression in a man trying desperately to do the right thing while faced with his own track record of doing things the easy way.”
I wish I had more to add, but I couldn’t say anything better than you just did!
your analysis of hook and emma is the most beautiful thing i’ve read about them. you understand their characters so well it was an absolute pleasure reading this
Thank you for the kind words!
So, as I (im)patiently wait for the 3B premiere this week I have been going back and reading your early 3A reviews since I dont think I found your blog until around episode 7 when my obsession was reaching its peak. This review in particular made me laugh because my comment on your Emma Swan essay last week is so similar to what you bring up here. I think its pretty clear we have similar tastes when it comes to favorite characters and episodes.
I feel like the 3B premiere is just going to be an Emma lover’s dream and I cant wait to discuss it here afterward. The ‘Pilot’, ‘Tallahassee’, and ‘Manhattan’ are all in my top 5 Once episodes so far due to their Emma focus and their presence in our world outside of Storybrooke, and I have a feeling that ‘New York City Serenade’ is going to fit right in!
We really do have similar tastes in OUaT characters and episodes! The pilot and “Manhattan” are definitely two of my Top 5 episodes, and I loved learning more about Emma in “Tallahassee.” I think you’re right—”New York City Serenade” seems poised to join those on my list of beloved OUaT episodes, and I cannot wait to discuss it after it airs!
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