TV Time: Once Upon a Time 4.20



Title Mother

Two-Sentence Summary When Emma and Regina return to Storybrooke with Lily and Zelena (and Robin and Roland), Regina makes a decision to team up with the Author to finally get him to write her a happy ending, but she first needs to get blood filled with the savior’s darkness to activate the magical ink. In flashbacks, we see another attempt by Regina to control how her story ends after Cora returns to the Enchanted Forest with plans to help her find love.

Favorite Lines
Zelena: Another woman defining her happiness relative to the love of a man—sad, really.
Regina: Robin isn’t my happy ending. My happy ending is finally feeling at home in the world. Robin’s just a part of that world.

My Thoughts One of my favorite things about Once Upon a Time is that it’s a story primarily about women. It’s a show where the women are heroes, villains, rulers, and saviors. And it’s also a show where almost all of these fierce, flawed, interesting women are also mothers. On so many shows, motherhood seems to render characters less interesting than they were before. On Once Upon a Time, the opposite is true. Motherhood adds even more layers, nuances, strengths, and weaknesses to these female characters. As such, it seems fitting that an episode entitled “Mother” would be one of the most satisfying episodes of the season (and perhaps the series) in terms of the growth and depth shown by Once Upon a Time’s impressive variety of female characters.

It’s also fitting that this episode was written by Jane Espenson, whose ability to weave a cohesive theme through multiple storylines has made her one of my personal favorite Once Upon a Time writers. “Mother” benefitted strongly from Espenson’s sense of thematic cohesion. Not only did each storyline (except Rumplestiltskin’s) deal with the relationships between mothers and daughters, they also all explored the idea that happy endings can be achieved by choosing to be happy with what you have and letting go of anger and resentment. As such, this episode gave me exactly what I’d been hoping to see since this “Operation Mongoose” storyline began: the realization that you don’t need an Author to write your happy ending for you; you have the power to create your own happiness. A “happy ending” isn’t a “perfect ending.” It’s simply a decision to let yourself be happy instead of focusing on emotions that make you feel miserable and dark. Emma, Regina, and Lily spent so long blocking their own paths to happiness by letting themselves believe they were destined to be unhappy. And in this episode, all three women took huge strides toward their own happy endings by letting love fill their hearts instead of hopelessness. It takes real maturity to move beyond wanting to hurt those who hurt you, and all three women grew up in a big way in “Mother.”

Lily started this episode with one goal: to get her revenge against Snow and Charming. She believed it was their fault that she was destined to live a life of darkness and loneliness. And while Lily’s anger was justified, it was blinding her to the fact that her mother was finally there, reaching out to her and offering her a chance at real happiness for the first time in her life. Lily’s rejection of Maleficent broke my heart because it was downright mean. (I also feel like Agnes Bruckner is still a little stiff in this role, but she got better as the episode went on.) For as much as Charming tried to relate Lily to Emma, Lily’s rejection of Maleficent was much more brutal than Emma’s initial reaction to learning the true identity of her parents. However, both women felt the same sense of bitterness that—no matter how much they were told their parents wanted to fight for them—they ended up alone for their entire lives. That’s not a feeling that goes away immediately. Emma is still dealing with it. Lily just so happens to have a lot more darkness working against her process of acceptance.

But Lily isn’t alone anymore. She has a mother who loves her and wants to help her be her best self. I love Once Upon a Time’s version of Maleficent. Kristen Bauer van Straten is so good in this role—so open and wise and vulnerable without it coming across as sappy. There’s a grace to Maleficent that sets her apart. And it was with true grace that she uttered the most important line in this episode:

We can be happy in the future, or we can be angry about the past.

Maleficent doesn’t want to waste any more time being angry. She’s chosen to be happy with her daughter instead of dwelling on punishing the people who kept them apart. That enlightenment inspired Lily to attempt to do the same at the end of the episode—to focus on making the best of what she has right now instead of dwelling on what happened to her long ago. Maleficent helped her daughter be a better version of herself not just by helping her move beyond her need for vengeance but also by helping her feel loved for exactly who she is. Darkness doesn’t scare Maleficent, and I loved that she told Lily that. Maleficent and Lily aren’t perfect. They’ll never have a perfect relationship. But what they can have is a good one, a happy one. And I want that for both of these women—but especially for Maleficent, whom I have grown to love beyond anything I was expecting when this half-season began.

Maleficent was someone who once lost herself to darkness and the belief that happiness could only come from causing others pain. (Although I still don’t know if I buy Chernabog pointing her out as having the greatest potential for darkness when Cruella was in the same cave.) But the love she felt for her daughter inspired her to move beyond her anger and choose a better path for herself. That same journey from darkness to inspiring enlightenment was taken by Hook after realizing his quest for vengeance against Rumplestiltskin wasn’t going to make him happy and after finding hope for happiness with Emma. I thought the parallels between Maleficent and Hook were very smartly written in this episode. Both characters reached out to the women they love who were so consumed by a desire to punish Snow and Charming for their actions in the past that they were hurting themselves in the present.

True love on Once Upon a Time is the kind of love that inspires a person to be their best self. It’s a kind of love that believes in the best a person can be while also accepting that no one can be their best self all the time. As such, it’s also a kind of love that offers support during those times when characters are struggling. Emma and Hook may not have had a True Love’s Kiss (yet), but this episode showed that their love has grown into something I  believe is true enough to break a curse should the situation ever arise.

Hook makes Emma happy. That was as clear as it’s ever been when she hugged him upon her return to Storybrooke. I thought Jennifer Morrison did a great job of showing in that embrace that Emma felt a real sense of comfort and safety in that moment after being tested and tempted by darkness during her time away. But Hook’s not the only one who makes Emma happy (and that’s a good thing). I loved seeing Emma hug Henry, too, but it was painful to watch her walk past Snow and Charming—because in punishing them for what they did, she’s punishing herself by shutting out the parents she grew to love and want in her life.

While Hook and Emma’s hug was a sweet moment, the scene that best showcased the strength of their relationship was the one that took place by the docks. The emotional intimacy and openness between them was beautiful. It was lovely to see Emma tell Hook she likes when people find their good hearts, because it was so clear she was talking about him. But it was even lovelier to see Hook so focused on Emma’s happiness beyond just their relationship. His happy ending isn’t just being with Emma; it’s helping Emma to be happy, too. And he understands Emma can never be truly happy if she can’t forgive her parents.

Hook’s advice to Emma was about as perfect as it gets. It was delivered with the kind of gentle sincerity that Colin O’Donoghue has in spades, as well as with the kind of experience a character like Hook has after living in darkness for 300 years. Not only does he understand Emma’s anger; he understands Snow and Charming’s shame, which allowed him to offer a different perspective on their actions than Emma had previously considered.

Hook’s words helped inspire Emma to take that final step and forgive her parents—especially her mother—for what they did. Did the actual moment of forgiveness feel a little rushed for something that festered for over three episodes? Yes. But I’ll let it slide because the resolution was still emotionally satisfying. I actually cried when Emma told Snow what she did in the past doesn’t change the fact the she’s her mom. In this episode, both Emma and Lily had to face the idea that, as we become adults, we learn our parents are real people with both light and dark sides. Lily was disappointed that Maleficent wasn’t as evil as she wanted her to be, and Emma was disappointed that Snow wasn’t as good as she thought she was. No one can match an idealized image of a person—not even moms. By accepting Snow’s flaws and Snow’s love, Emma could finally come to a place of true forgiveness. And that’s where real happiness starts.

The look Emma and Hook shared when she finally forgave her mother was genuinely moving, and it was only topped by the look Hook and Charming shared as they watched the women they love embrace. Hook’s job is to protect Emma’s heart, which means helping that heart be as light and bright as possible by inspiring Emma to be her best and strongest self. Emma has done that for him for so long, and it was wonderful to see him get the chance to inspire her like she’s inspired him. And with Hook’s encouragement, Emma was able to finally choose to let herself be happy once again with her entire family—Henry, Hook, and her parents—as well as with herself. And that’s exactly what I want for Emma as a character: to accept that she can be happy and loved after so many years spent letting herself believe happiness and love weren’t in the cards for her.

Regina is another character who let herself fall into the trap of believing she could never be happy or loved without having the Author change her story. And Zelena’s pregnancy only seemed to offer further proof of that. It was sad to see Regina in “desperation mode” upon returning to Storybrooke, focusing once again on doing whatever it took to get her happy ending from Isaac. I did appreciate her ability to come up with another plan to get dark savior blood without turning Emma dark (pragmatic Regina strikes again), but she didn’t think of the consequences of riling up a woman with a family history of turning into a dragon (or she thought of it and didn’t care). She also didn’t think about the consequences of giving Isaac the quill and ink (which reminded me of Emma not thinking about the consequences of bringing Marian back in last season’s finale).

Like Emma and Lily, Regina was letting her inability let go of anger stand in the way of her happiness. All three women were justified in their feelings; they had reasons to be reluctant to forgive. But that doesn’t mean it’s healthy to keep holding on to bitterness.

I love when the flashbacks in an episode don’t feel like filler. The flashbacks in “Mother” brought back Cora and gave us that brilliant scene of Regina lashing out at the unbelievably sexist Sherriff of Nottingham. But what they really did was further explore another mother-daughter relationship and present a dark counterbalance to the happy resolutions for the stories of Maleficent/Lily and Emma/Snow. Regina was so damaged by what her mother did to her that she was willing to do anything to feel like she had some control in her life. If that meant rendering herself infertile, then that was a price worth paying.

I thought the infertility twist was marvelous. It helped explain so much about Regina’s reaction not just to Zelena’s pregnancy but also to Emma and Henry’s relationship as far back as Season One. (I am so happy Regina was still able to have a chance to be a mother, too.) However, I do think Cora believed she was helping Regina. It’s just that—without her heart—she was never able to understand the difference between helping her daughter gain power and destroying her daughter’s spirit in the process.

Cora messed up both of her daughters: one through abandonment and one through abusive levels of control. And once Regina understood that, she was finally able to let go of her need to punish Zelena and see that she was, once again, hurting herself in the process. Regina’s true happy ending wasn’t about a man; it was about feeling at home. And that meant feeling at home in a group of people (which she has with Robin, Henry, and the Charmings) and also in her own skin. That’s why accepting happiness without Isaac’s help was so important to her overall growth. It meant that she was finally starting to believe she could be happy in both her relationships with others and with herself. Both needed to happen in order for her to be truly happy, which is why no ending Isaac wrote could have ever been as happy as the one she chose for herself.

Robin isn’t the entirety of Regina’s happy ending, but he is a part of it. And I love that Once Upon a Time acknowledged that romantic love shouldn’t be the only thing that makes a person happy, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong to have it as part of your happy ending. What matters the most is believing in your own ability to choose to be happy, especially when things look bleak. Happy endings aren’t created by outside forces; they’re chosen by people who look for the good moments—the happy moments—even in the darkest times. And the only way that’s possible is by letting go of self-destructive emotions, which Regina was finally able to do all on her own.

However, Regina’s initial doubts about her happy ending are going to come back to bite everyone, as Isaac is now free to start writing new stories, and he teamed up once again with Rumplestiltskin in order to do so at the end of the episode. Unlike the ladies of Once Upon a Time (and Hook), Rumplestiltskin never learned to let go of his self-destructive emotions and let happiness in. When he had happiness in his grasp (with Bae and with Belle), he continued to let fear control him. And the end result of all of those years of holding on to negative emotions is his dying heart. With all that darkness threatening to destroy him, his hopelessness drove him to get Isaac to write a new story in which villains and heroes have their roles reversed.

I thought that Isaac writing “Once upon a time…” in the new book was the perfect way to pique my interest for what’s sure to be an epic finale next week. I’m so intrigued by all the alternate versions of the characters we’re going to see. I also want to know what role Henry is going to play in this story, and if Hook’s taunting of Rumplestiltskin and Isaac at Granny’s means he’s going to have an even more painful fate in this new universe than he would have had before. I can’t wait to see how everyone rediscovers their true selves (because we all know they will), and I also can’t wait to see how these characters will grow from their experiences. If nothing else, it’s sure to be a wild ride!

28 thoughts on “TV Time: Once Upon a Time 4.20

  1. Great review! I loved this episode…it was a great follow-up to “Lily” which I was kind of iffy about tbh. This on the other hand…this was firing on all cylinders. 🙂 The mother/daughter parallel storylines and the BRILLIANT use of flashbacks to add a further layer of understanding to Regina’s history (and her relationship w/ Cora) were masterfully wrought on-screen.

    Loved Hook gently encouraging Emma to reach out to Mary Margaret. Love the fact that he’s secure enough in their relationship, love that he loves her enough to speak the truth even when it’s uncomfortable or she might not want to hear it. Love how he truly wants the best for her and possesses an unswerving belief in the rightness of her heart and potential.

    Regina’s realization that she didn’t need to use the Author to achieve her happy ending was everything I hoped she’d realize when she first embarked on the Operation Mongoose storyline. Love how she knows she doesn’t “need” Robin to be complete but even with the baggage they each bring to the relationship, she wants him in her life because it complements her, expands her life…not simply trying to fill a hole in her heart. She’s accepted where she’s at and where she’s come from and that’s what allows her to show her sister some level of mercy and let Robin in.

    Cannot WAIT to see how the finale plays out. The preview had me in stitches…Once does “opposites day”! 😉

    • I loved reading your thoughts on both Hook/Emma and Regina/Robin. What you said about Hook feeling secure enough in their relationship to speak the hard truth is so true. That’s the sign of a strong relationship; when one partner is able to openly and honestly tell the other what needs to be said instead of what will just appease the one they love. A sign of an even stronger relationship is when the other partner actually listens to that hard truth and takes it to heart because they know it’s coming from a place of love and respect, which is exactly what Emma did.

      I also loved that you made the distinction between Regina wanting Robin and not needing him. It’s a much healthier kind of love, and I’m so happy she’s chosen that for herself.

  2. Yes! This kind of episode is why I continue to have such faith in the writers of this show, even when things look a bit iffy! They really are writing the show we think they are writing, they do believe in the things they’ve been showing us up until now, they’re not suddenly going to backtrack on who these characters are and what is important to them. Sure, they surprise us, a lot, all the time. Sometimes they don’t quite get things perfect. Most of the time it’s hard to see where they’re going. But it is still the Once Upon a Time that we love. And they know what they’re doing. They have a plan. (That is SO important to me, to know that they know what they’re doing and it’s probably going to be exactly what I hope for, even if I can’t imagine what that’ll look like.)

    And then then next week we get the crazy bit. I am SO looking forward to that insanity!

    I don’t even know what else to say. I might be back later with more to say. I’m planning to re-watch it with my hubby soon since he had to miss the second half last night. I might have formed some actual thoughts by then.

    • I totally agree with you, Jo. No matter what craziness seems to happen on this show, its heart doesn’t change. It was nice to see this storyline with Regina play out as I’d hoped it would back when it all started because it reminded me to have faith in these writers. We all know this isn’t a perfect show, but its heart is generally in the right place. And that’s all I need to know.

  3. Yes! Let me jump on the happy bandwagon. I was glad to see how some of these story-lines are coming together. My random thoughts:

    I’ve been wanting Regina to come to this realization for quite some time now, and it felt right that the journey took this long. It makes it feel more earned and like it will “stick” better. I loved that her happy ending is feeling at home — and part of that is with people who will simply let her be. Thanks, Katie, for the point that romantic love is part, but not necessarily all of that. I must admit that I am curious about Regina’s initial plan for Zelena . . . and oh, how I laughed at the Sheriff hanging upside down after he equated “weak” and “feminine.” (Yes, I am terrible. We established this a few weeks ago when I laughed at the poor squished Oz guard.) This episode reminds us again how deeply Regina feels (as she rips out the heart of the bridegroom on the anniversary of Daniel’s death) and just how far she’s come. And yet, she still remains Regina in all her practicality.

    I’m glad that poor Roland’s situation was acknowledged. While I was never happy about the Arendelle troll’s tendency to wipe memories at the drop of a hat, doing so here seemed like a good solution. I’m glad the writers tidied up that bit of plot.

    Goopy alert: I am about to talk about Hook. While it might not have been the smartest move to taunt the Dark One, I did love the return of rapscallion Hook as he slides into the booth at Granny’s. I continue to love the relationship between Hook and Emma and how he seems to know exactly how to reach her. I love that he continues to ground her in the “quiet moments” such as looking at the horizon to calm her — and that she’s learning to enjoy those moments even if she is wondering if the horizon is going to do something. I love that Hook is not only trying to be the best version of himself, he wants to help her be the best version of herself — which means making peace with her family — the family that was suspicious of him for a long time, so Charming’s acknowledgment of Hook’s role in Emma’s forgiveness was nice to see.

    Maleficent’s interaction with Lily was great. I loved watching her wait while everyone else piles out of the VW bug (and all the attendant hugs) — trying so hard to be patient when her daughter is so close. I also adored her concern that she needs to teach Lily to fly because Lily’s flying too low and could hurt herself . . . and that she will teach Lily how to be a dragon b—–.

    I am so used to Rumple’s long cons that I halfway expected that having Regina take the quill was part of his plan or a back-up plan. I was somewhat skeptical of his assertion that he’d lose the ability to love, so I loved the reveal that it’s not just the ability to love that disappears, it’s Rumple that goes. THAT makes sense.

    I’m curious to see where the new “once upon a time” goes. What does Rumple have in store for everyone? How much will be him and how much the author?

    • Oh grand pappy, that troll really had some nerve. BFFs with the blue fairy for sure.

      I have such a love/hate relationship with Zelena. She is ridiculous, but at the same time its so fun watching her revel in her own evil plans. The way she embraced her padded cell cracked me up. ‘Oooo visitors! I’ll put the kettle on!”. Dying.

    • I’m so glad you brought up the stuff with Roland because this was the first time in the show’s history that I was actually happy about someone getting their memories wiped. That poor boy has been through too much for someone so young, so it seemed like an act of genuine kindness in this case. And I was thrilled to see Roland actually addressed instead of ignored. (Speaking of ignored kids, this reminded me: Where has baby Neal been this half-season? Belle must be earning a lot of babysitting money.)

      I’m also happy you brought up Hook taunting Rumple because it was honestly one of my favorite little things in this episode. Was it a smart move? Nope. Was it included to give Rumple and the Author a reason to make his fate miserable in this new story? Probably. But there was something so delicious about his pride that the woman he loves was strong enough to fight Rumple’s manipulations. And after everything Rumple did or even just planned to do to both Hook and Emma in just this season alone, I think his taunting was justified. Even as I knew I should have been saying, “Don’t do this, Hook,” I was thinking, “Keep going,” because I can be a very shallow person, and I find that confident side of Hook ridiculously hot. 😉

  4. Oh Jane, you rarely let me down! I will admit, there were times when this episode dragged a bit for me, but we needed these things wrapped up before the finale, so I am for it.

    Since this episode was all about mothers and daughters, I will start there.

    Mal/Lily: Is it just me, or is Mal actually winning the “best fairytale Mom” contest right now? On a show where 95% of the characters have serious mommy/daddy issues, Mal is one of the few parents that didn’t intentionally abandon or manipulate her child. As soon as she was pregnant she reached out to Snow for help to protect her child from Regina’s curse. She pleaded for her child’s life again when Snow and Charming came for the egg. In the present day, rather than waste her energy getting revenge on Snow and Charming, she mostly stays focused on getting her daughter back, and even goes to Emma to ask for help when she realizes Rumple (and even Regina) are too selfish to actually help her. And now that she has her daughter back she wants nothing more than to be together and move forward. You go Mal. I also loved the little call back to the pilot where Emma planned to stay in Storybrooke “just one week”. Now its Lily’s turn.

    Emma/Snow: Despite Snow continuing to be annoying (what is that the third time she’s tried to force a hug on Emma? Take a hint woman! As someone who REALLY values personal space, especially when upset, Snow should be lucky a cold shoulder is all she got) I am glad Emma was able to forgive her and David before we hit the finale drama. You mentioned you thought this seemed a bit rushed, but for me it didn’t. One of Emma’s main things last season was her not wanting to live in the past, and I have really felt that Emma’s anger these past few episodes has been more of her just being mad for the sake of being mad. That’s not to say she wasn’t justified in being mad, and I was far from thinking she should have just “gotten over it already”, I just I think a part of her has always known that holding this against them now wont solve anything. I totally get the desire to just “be bad” or deny affection out of spite. Ive done it myself in the past, and I still default to that reaction from time to time. Its not the mature thing to do by any means, but it is a human thing to do, especially for someone who was alone for so long. And that makes the fact that she has Killian to support her is so freaking important. I dont think Killian told Emma anything she didnt already know deep down, but sometimes you just need someone to call you on your shit, especially when you are stubborn and independent like Emma. And how Killian manages to help Emma look past the spite without being harsh or accusatory (VERY IMPORTANT) is a skill few people can master, but one he excels at. I loved him telling her that they hid certain truths because they wanted her to be proud of them, obviously speaking from experience. He is so damn perfect for her its disgusting (and by disgusting I mean perfect and the best thing ever). I also got quite emotional over Emma’s “you’re my mom” there at the end.

    Regina/Cora: The flashbacks were probably my least favorite part of this episode, but I did like the conclusion it drew, especially in contrast to Emma. Regina was so angry with her mother she hurt herself in almost an unthinkable way purely out of spite. She didnt have anyone she trusted looking out for her at that moment to help comfort her. She was alone and her vengeance was all she had. Contrast that to current times, when she finally realizes that vengeance and spite have never, and will never, make her happy. I think its kinda funny that after a whole season of Regina being completely oblivious to this fact, and nobody even calling her on it, I thought her revelation here actually seemed rush. How that is possible I do not know, but it did for me. But it wouldn’t be the first time I have thought this show has drug out a character’s denial longer than I thought was necessary (i.e Emma’s need to go back to NY last season) in order for a more dramatic payoff in the end. And for the most part I am ok with it, as long as you don’t push TOO far, and this came close. I also find it kinda amusing that Zelena apparently is the only person that brings out the best in Regina. From the light magic, to the forgiveness last season, and her revelation here, where would Regina be today if Zelena wasn’t around to antagonize her? Its almost like Regina needed her own true personal villain in order to rise to the occasion of being a hero. I am not trying to downplay her growth by any means, I have loved watching her grow these past few seasons, and she has made small strides into selflessness (her protection of Henry, letting Robin leave town, wanting to protect Emma from Gold) but she still has a ways to go in that department.

    Other random thoughts:

    -I am very curious to see if Killian’s gloating comes back to haunt him in the finale. It could be that it was nothing more than using Killian as a messenger to relay that information to Rumple, but my gut tells me it will have bigger implications. The author looked pretty annoyed with him too.

    -So I guess the show is telling us for certain that the dark one and Rumple are two separate entities? Have we known this for sure before? I feel like I need to go back and do dark one/dagger research before the finale.

    -My dream wasnt prophetic, boo! This episode didn’t need it, but seriously, its getting a little ridiculous at this point. Its not just shipping, I am legit sexually frustrated for them and they aren’t even real. Just put us out of our misery already.

    -The CGI in the episode was actually quite good. Lily made an awesome dragon, and yes, that lion tattoo effect was pretty cool.

    -I love Killian’s adorable little “yes swan thats cute but I am trying to be serious” head roll he does when Emma tries to skirt a serious conversation by teasing him.

    -I LOVED Emma’s demanding of the rum. It started out as such a simple gesture between them and now its a comforting tradition and it makes me highly emotional. Don’t imagine the two of them eloping and toasting rum out of his flask to each other on the deck of the Jolly Roger, because you might end up in a ball on the floor. And more sexually frustrated.

    -I am pretty much clueless when it comes to this finale, but excited, and encourage by the promise that Henry gets to do more than eat donuts.

    • Love the comments on Mal — if there were blog sound effects, imagine me going “oohhhhhhhhhhh” — and the fact that she can become a dragon just ups the cool factor. (Or maybe that’s just me.) Going back to Katie’s comment about Mal being the target of the Chernabog (rather than Cruella), I assumed that like Emma, Mal’s potential for darkness was greater because it stood in contrast to her potential good. (And honestly, Lily, do not mock the Annie Hall look.)

      And amen on the value of personal space. (One of my pet peeves as a child was people who wanted hugs. Do NOT demand affection from me.) It’s one of the reasons I love the Hook/Emma relationship.

      As for Regina, maybe she’s come around on this point because she finally paid attention to all of us yelling at the TV. 🙂

    • Im going to write a retraction to my Zelena being the ONLY one to bring out good in Regina before I anger everyone that doesnt know I was exaggerating, because I hate absolutes and I dont really mean them. But I still stand by Zelena and her intense coveting and obsession with ruining Regina’s life as getting through to her in a way that others haven’t. Whats that saying about others praying for the things we take for granted?

    • I completely agree with you about Mal being the best fairytale mom we’ve seen on this show. She’s such a surprisingly gentle character, and I love the contrast between that gentle side and the fact that she can turn into a dragon. I really hope the spoilers indicating that Lily is sticking around into Season 5 mean that Mal is going to stick around, too.

      As far as Emma and her parents are concerned, I didn’t really think Emma’s decision to forgive them felt rushed so much as the actual scene itself. I agree that she was holding on to that anger more for the sake of being mad than anything else, and once Killian called her on her shit (which is wonderful because everyone needs that in their lives, especially people who can do it without being harsh or invalidating the other’s feelings) she was able to make the decision she wanted to make but was pushing away because she’s the wonderfully stubborn Emma we know and love. I just wished the actual discussion between her and Snow would have been a little longer and more in-depth, and I wish it would have included Charming, too, because Snow wasn’t the only one who messed up. But since this was an episode about mothers and daughters and there wasn’t 40 minutes to devote to characters talking through their issues, I understand the need for the scene to play out the way it did.

      I think we all know that I found the “Regina thinks the Author is the reason she’s unhappy” story frustrating from Day One, so I share your belief that it dragged on in a very similar way to Emma’s desire to go back to NY last season (although maybe in a less immediately annoying way because it wasn’t brought up in every single episode like the NYC stuff was in 3B). However, I was just so happy that she came to such a wonderful, empowering conclusion in this episode that I was willing to forgive how long it took to get there. I’m an easy sell like that. 😉

      And now I’m going to go think about that Emma/Hook private wedding on the Jolly Roger and try not to cry at my desk.

  5. My problem with this episode is that I felt this was the one time that Regina’s realization wasn’t exactly true or maybe it’s more accurate to say that it wasn’t complete? Regina does stand in the way of her own happiness sometimes, but sometimes there really is someone working to make Regina unhappy. I think when there is a legitimate outside force, it’s a fine line between being empowered by taking responsibility for your emotions/choices and taking on false guilt by blaming yourself for another person’s actions.

    I don’t think Regina would have been wrong to write Zelena out of existence or at least out of her and Robin’s lives. Regina gave Zelena a second chance, and Zelena used it to kill innocent Marian, force Regina and Robin apart, and to deceive Robin into a sexual and romantic relationship that resulted in a child. The only emotion Zelena’s shown about all of this is glee that she think she’s actually going to wreck Regina’s life. Zelena is mentally unstable and dangerous. People have gotten out of the magic cuff before. I don’t think Regina would have been doing anything dark to protect herself, Robin, Roland, Henry, and general Storybrooke residents from Zelena by having the author write something. At the very least, she should have had the author permanently take away Zelena’s magic and get the Cruella treatment of not being able to harm anyone.

    I also think it’s a problem that the show did not have Robin explicitly discuss whether he wants to have the baby. There was a possible solution with having the Author write something as simple as “Zelena reveals she was lying about the pregnancy” or something a little more intense that would essentially transfer the pregnancy from Zelena to Regina. Given Zelena’s actions and that this is a fictional TV show where magical rewriting of reality is possible, I don’t think Zelena’s wishes needed to be respected. But I do think it should have been and needed to have been Robin’s call. He was standing right there, and the scene fell flat to me with Regina making the decision for him.

    I also didn’t think the show had earned Regina choosing to stay in a relationship with Robin, and it was hurt to root for her making that decision given how wishy-washy Robin’s been. I’m pretty sure Regina can do better, and I’d like her to. (nothing against Sean Maguire, who I think has done the best he can with the scripts he’s given. It’s just the writing for his character)

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Your concerns are definitely valid, especially about choosing to stay in a relationship with Robin, who we still know so little about. I just see it as Regina choosing to be happy, and if he makes her happy, then as a Regina fan I’m okay with it (especially because the writers made it explicitly clear that he’s not her whole happy ending—thank goodness, because I was worried she’d forgotten Henry). I’m still hoping for even more Robin character development, though, but the show is always going develop its female characters more than its male ones (besides Rumple), and I can live with that.

      I also agree that this was an instance where there was someone actively working against Regina’s happiness, but I think the point of this episode was to say that Regina wasn’t so much taking on false guilt as she was saying that Zelena did do something terrible but she’s going to choose to be happy anyway. And by choosing to be the bigger person and not destroy Zelena’s life (even when she could have found the justification to do so), I think Regina showed real growth. And I think it’s a pretty big punishment for Zelena to have to live knowing she doesn’t have the power to take away Regina’s happy ending anymore simply because Regina made the choice to be happy.

      • The growth felt cheap to me rather than earned, which was so disappointing. When the author plot started, I think we all knew it would end with Regina choosing not to rewrite her life and realizing she had the power to create her happy ending. And of course, that’s what we got. That we also got her happy ending not being Robin but the pitch perfect and beautiful feeling at home in the world was, for me, actually a surprise (because I underestimated the writers).

        However, I feel cheated of seeing the actual journey from Point A to Point B. Why did Regina decide she didn’t need the author to write her a happy ending? How did she decide Robin wasn’t her happy ending? How did she figure out her happy ending was feeling at home in the world? I love Regina’s realization, but it didn’t feel true to me that the events with Zelena would be what would lead to it. That should have come from support from Snow, Emma, Henry, (and ideally, the general Storybrooke residents). Instead, Emma, Snow, and Charming were off dealing with Lily while Regina was left to deal with Robin and Zelena on her own and IIRC, we never saw any hint of where Henry was. I know there were scenes filmed that didn’t make it to air, but if they don’t make it to air, they don’t count.

        To me, it felt like the Zelena-Marian/Robin/Regina plot was something that had been pitched for 4A and then punted to 4B when Frozen went through with none of the writers realizing that it just didn’t make sense for 4B. I had wanted a part 2 to Zelena’s story at the end of 3B, but by this point, I’d moved on as a viewer. Zelena seems like an interruption rather than an interesting continuation. If Robin had returned to Marian after she reappeared from the dead, spent 4A struggling with why he couldn’t love Marian and wondering if his feelings for Regina were in the way, and then the Zelena reveal happened, Robin would be more sympathetic and coherent. Now, he seems fickle. I don’t even want Regina to be with him anymore; I think she deserves better.

        • I also felt like Regina’s ultimate epiphany seemed to come out of left field. I compared the dragging of this to Emma and her desire to go back to NY last season, but Emma’s revelation was clearly shown. She thought her mother was gone, and when she got her back, she wasn’t really her mother, and Emma finally understood where her home was. Here with Regina it was just a split second change of heart that seemed to only come about because Zelena pushed the right button. I think we as viewers deserved something a little more substaintial after stringing us along all season!!

  6. Hi Katie

    Yes Yes Yes to all of your thoughts, this was a great episode by Jane. I loved Regina finally having the epiphany that the author didn’t have to give her a happy ending and that she herself could be the author of her fate, I have been waiting since the start of the season so I must admit there was fist pumping and jumping for joy on my end. Her interactions with Cora was heartbreaking.

    I have felt that Emma’s reluctance to forgive her parents was in character especially since in the earlier episodes she had felt so confident that her parents would never lie to her. In some ways Emma having met Neal and Lily growing up in the Land Without Magic has made her lack of agency even worse, I suppose I am looking at how I would react thinking that my whole life was mapped out by other peoples decisions and actions or even a mystical force. By holding onto her grievance was this the only control that she had on her life -I think I would react like that myself.( OK I would hold the grudge for a lot longer lol) But her speech to Snow was what I wanted it to be, loving but blunt as only Emma can be.

    I loved Killian in this episode with the pirate swagger when he was in the diner throwing shade on the crocodile ( or toothless old dog as he called him) As the last time he was face to face with Rumple it was under very different circumstances with Killian facing his death so a little bit of crowing was definitely called for-It wasn’t the best and smartest move but for “Hook” It was needed ! But nothing to me was more special than the scene at the docks having a quiet moment ,the dynamic of him supporting Emma physically and mentally just was breathtaking, I like the way he always has her back, in this case literally. But it was the gentle prodding for Emma to become her best self and move beyond looking at not only her parents actions but the motivations behind what her parents did was amazing. It to me reflects that he is letting Emma choose to act in her own time which for her is needed.

    I felt the Lily storyline was great for Mal and I think Snow could take some notes of how to relate to an adult daughter ! Next week just looks to be a wild ride, I get the feeling that the power of the dagger will be let out and our Saviour will need to step up…sigh Can’t we all just be happy …please. I hope to see Henry live out his dream of being a hero, I love the twist to the tale and I am sure that OUAT will pull it off.

    • Hi Emma!

      Thanks for sharing your take on the episode with us. I loved what you said about Hook’s scene with Rumple not being the smartest but being a moment he needed. After all the things Rumple has done to him and wanted to do to Emma, I totally understood his desire to rub it in a little bit. I also loved the idea that Rumple wanted to take Hook’s love from him again—this time by turning Emma dark—but he couldn’t do it this time. If I was Hook, I would have wanted to brag about that, too.

  7. I never pay attention to writers of particular episodes but I feel like I should have known this was a Jane episode. I love the way she writes for this show so much and this episode was no exception.

    I’ve never been particularly attached to Maleficent in any way but this episode completely changed that for me. Kristen Bauer van Straten was completely fantastic in this episode. I loved her openness and longing to know her daughter even after being rejected. She saw the hurt behind all of Lily’s anger and frustrated and wanted to be apart of a future spent healing that hurt together. She missed out on a lot with her child and she can never have that time back, but she embraced the possibility of a future rather than trying to make up for the past. It’s not the life they would have known if she had gotten to keep her daughter but it doesn’t have to be to be enough.

    Emma’s face and entire demeanor every time she’s around Hook fills me with so much joy. She’s safe with him and she’s at home. There is a beautiful openness that fills every scene with them and it’s nice to see Emma let that guard down. There are multiple people that she trusts at this point but he’s still the one she’ll let her guard down the most fully around. She can be who she needs to be at that moment, good or bad, and know that he’s not going anywhere. It’s a remarkable thing to see and some fantastic growth and I’m enjoying every second of it.

    Part of the benefit of that level of openness is the trust that the other person will say what needs to be said, not just what you want to hear from them. Hook understands what it means to have considered yourself to be a good person who made some terrible decisions. He recognizes that even the best people will let you down if you expect perfection from them and that’s something Emma needed to see. Like she said, she likes it when people find their good hearts, but she’s had a harder time recognizing that even people with good hearts can go astray. It’s easy for her to accept the grey when someone is starting as a “villain” but harder when they start as “hero”. I’m glad she heard him and took what he said to heart and that relationship is mostly healed heading into the finale. I agree, it felt a little rushed to me, but “you’re my mom” made me feel so proud of Emma that I don’t really care. That’s a much better label for Snow than either hero or villain.

    Finally, happiness looks really good on Regina. I love that she realized that she can stop fighting others for her happy ending, she just needed to reach out and grab it. Now, her reunion with Robin was also a little quick for me and there genuinely was someone standing in the way of that aspect of her happy ending for a season, but the message is still a lovely one all the same. She has a child she loves, a new group of friends who care about her, and I think maybe finally she has the man she loves back. Hurting Zelena (in a way other than making her watch Regina’s happiness) wouldn’t have made her any happier and that’s the biggest lesson Regina has learned. With her, someone has always needed to pay for what they’ve done and this time, she chose to go a different way. She took the path Maleficent did and chose to look forward instead of back and I’m so proud of her for coming to that realization.

    • I love how we can all agree on Maleficent’s perfection as a mother. The OUAT fandom can be so divided that it’s nice to see things we can all agree on, and this week everyone seems to think Mal is doing everything right when it comes to being the mom Lily needs right now.

      Speaking of people needed by others, Hook is exactly who Emma needs in her life in terms of a sounding board. He never judges her, never pities her, never forces her to do anything she’s no comfortable with—but he will tell her when she’s not being her best self, and he’ll remind her of who that best self is. I totally agree that Emma is her truest self around him; she lets her guard down completely with him, which is a thing everyone needs in their life. I loved that she was a little whiny and stubborn with him because that’s who she really is, and she doesn’t have to hide those emotions with him because they’re not perfect or because they might bother him. She can come as she is, and he loves for it. And that creates a kind of safe space I am so happy Emma has found. ❤

  8. This episode for me moved a little too quickly. There were things that I really would have liked to have been explored more such as, Regina and Robin’s development from the the bar scene to the kiss in the asylum. That felt incredibly rushed and it bugged me a bit. Despite that though, I really loved this episode and it may have been one of my favs this season.

    The convo between Emma and Hook was a really sweet moment. I loved what he said about them trying to make her happy then and trying to make her proud now and them feeling ashamed. Emma and Snow’s reunion speech was really beautiful, it kinda reminded me of Henry & Regina’s “you’re not a villain, you’re my mom” moment and I’m glad they’ve managed to get past this. I do wonder why Snow seems to be taking more blame than Charming though. He was equally responsible. Charming slightly got on my nerves between calling Lily an “IT” and then brushing off Maleficent’s concern with Lily potentially being hurt, with the potential that she’s hurt others. It almost still felt slightly insulting like he’s viewing her as a dangerous villain (which she may be but, he made her that way).

    Kristin did such a great job with Maleficent. I loved all of her scenes in this episode. I love that Maleficent wasn’t even worried about getting revenge and just wanted to move forward. I love that she went to the Charmings for help. The scene by the log was definitely my fave tho. For Lily to have always felt like a massive screw up who can’t do anything right, is constantly destroying everything around her & is stuck with all this darkness that drives people away, that has to feel overwhelming. To find her mom (A queen of darkness) who literally understands her darkness, really doesn’t mind it and is willing to love her unconditionally must feel like the most terrifying (because it probably feels too good to be true) but amazing (because it is true) thing in the world. It goes back to the whole feeling at home in your world happy ending. Lily being able to let go of the anger and just embrace her mom and her future was a great moment.

    The flashbacks really tied everything up nicely for Regina’s arc this season.
    Out of all of the titles Regina has acquired throughout her life such as Wife (Leopold), Step Mother (Snow), Queen, Sorceress & Mother, the only one that she really wanted was mother. Watching her surrender that one title that she actually would have wanted because she felt (with very good reason) that she was being manipulated by Cora to her own and her future child’s detriment, and her face after doing it were heartbreaking. This flashback/memory played such an important role for Regina in this episode because her choice was very strongly tied to who she is now and what she’s going through at this moment. She stood in her own way by giving up the one title that essentially led to her redemption and finding herself and in doing so, cursed herself into about 20 more years of misery until she took the title back by adopting Henry. For Regina being a mother has opened her heart up so much to both give and accept love. I think this is also why she was able to move past the obstacles with Robin & Zelena quicker than she usually would. She realizes that this baby isn’t the main obstacle, she’s more than capable of loving the child of someone she doesn’t like, not long after adopting Henry she found out he was the grandchild of the woman she despised and she still went ahead and loved and raised him. With Robin she could’ve either hung onto her anger and pushed him away even though she still wanted to be with him or she could’ve stopped standing in the way of her happiness and moved past it and she did. There are definitely still conversations that need to be had & they’ll have problems, but if you genuinely love and want to be with someone you’ll find a way to make it work. With Zelena, she and Regina aren’t that different, their stories mirror each other. I can imagine that while Regina probably wants to choke her, she also has a unique understanding of what Zelena is feeling because she’s been there, and her ability to show mercy to Zelena comes from people showing her mercy when she was in that position. Regina having loved ones & feeling at home in her world gives her passion and purpose in life, and when you have these things it somewhat gives you the ability to have compassion for those who truly don’t. It’s the same with Emma and Lily. Regina’s happy ending was basically a new beginning, one where she doesn’t feel isolated and uncomfortable in her world. This time around she’s getting a chance to reclaim all those titles, but in a way she wants to. She’s Mayor (Queen) not by force, but because Snow and co. believe she’s better suited for it and she’s also not an outcast in her town. She’s a sorceress, who uses her magic to protect the town & those she loves, instead of casting fear into everyone. She’s a mother to Henry, eventually might be a wife to Robin and step mother to Roland, and she’s also gained an additional title of friend to the charming clan. I was really happy & proud that she was able to realize that she had already found her happy ending and pull herself back. I also loved that she made it clear that Robin was just a part of her happy ending. The look of complete adoration on Robin face when she made her speech made me smile. I’ve definitely been kinda annoyed with him lately, but I understand why he did what he did and what he was probably feeling. I think my frustration might actually be more to do with him being underdeveloped as a character and somewhat of a plot device with limited POV, hopefully next season he’ll be promoted to regular and we’ll get more form his view. I also wish the two OQ scenes from outside Granny’s upon returning to SB and inside the asylum weren’t cut because they probably would have made it feel less rushed.

    (That was a lot)

    Not sure if I’m supposed to feel for Rumple, but I don’t… He better not die though because I love Robert Carlyle.

    – The scene with the Sheriff and the lion was the most entertaining moment of this episode.

    You have no idea how much I look forward to your OUAT reviews, they’re literally the highlight of my Monday’s. Thank you for them. 😊

    • Thank you so much, Kaydee. If I’m being honest, reading your comments is one of the highlights on my week as a blog-runner. I always look forward to reading what you have to say, and I feel honored that you choose to share your thoughts here. 🙂

      I literally have nothing to add to your thoughts on Regina other than one big YES. You always analyze her with such love and depth, and this comment may have been my favorite yet of yours in terms of your understanding and love for Regina shining through. It was a true pleasure to read.

      As far as other aspects of the episode are concerned, I also found it bothersome that Charming was just a bystander to Snow and Emma’s moment of forgiveness. This wasn’t all Snow’s fault. In fact, Charming was the one who wanted to continue to lie to Emma about it. I understand that this was an episode about mothers and daughters, but I would have liked a little bit of recognition that Charming was at fault, too. And I also thought the resolution to all of the Regina/Robin stuff was rushed. I could have used one more scene between them to get them from the scene in the bar to the moment in the asylum.

      I also think we need to start a petition to keep Maleficent around for as long as possible because everyone seems to agree that she’s just all kinds of wonderful.

      • Aww, thank you! 😊
        I totally agree about Maleficent, I definitely would love for her to hang around for next season. Her character has so much potential that I feel like we’ve only just started to see and explore, plus Kristin is really great in this role.

    • I love reading your thoughts on Regina! While I am probably overly empathetic towards Emma, Regina has never been a character I have been able to connect with, but I love hearing others talk about her with such passion. And I love how we have been able to watch her role as a mother go from one of possession and power in the pilot to more nurturing and selfless over the course of these 4 seasons. I am curious to see if this emphasis on motherhood carries over into the AU finale world!

  9. I truly loved this episode. Jane’s episodes never disappoint; she is a flawless writer and you’re right, it was great to see so much emotional growth from different women in this episode.

    And finally, we got Regina’s epiphany, that she doesn’t need the Author to rewrite her story because she has everything that she needs already, right in front of her and the only person standing in the way of her happy ending, is herself. I thought that part of the episode was so powerful and beautifully written.

    I have a love/hate relationship with this Operation Mongoose storyline, but what bothered me since it started, was Regina’s thinking that she has no control over what happens in her life and the way to solve all her problems was to get the Author to rewrite her story.

    Throughout the mess, I was hoping and hoping, that there would be some big emotional payoff and Regina would realize that the only person in control of her happy ending, was herself and we finally got that moment, and I seriously could not be more happy.

    I think perhaps, the only gripe I had with this episode was the inconsistency when it came to Regina’s magic in the flashback. Earlier this arc, we saw a young Regina who couldn’t even conjure up fireballs (and that episode’s flashback was set, presumably, a year after Daniel died); and then this past episode’s flashback was set, again, a year later and Regina can crush hearts.

    Other than that, I really loved this episode. One of the best this half season, I’d even rank it #2, next to Poor Unfortunate Soul, primarily because it was character driven. The story had less to do with plot moving stuff and more to do with individual character development arcs.

    I feel like if Once did more episode like ‘Mother’ and ‘Poor Unfortunate Soul’ instead of making every episode, plot driven, this show could go on for a very long time and I need that!

  10. Pingback: The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (5/3 – 5/10) | Nerdy Girl Notes

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