Title Street Rats
Two-Sentence Summary After Jasmine reveals that Aladdin was also a Savior, Emma leads the charge to try to find him alive, with her family’s full knowledge of her visions and how Aladdin’s fate is tied to hers. When Aladdin is found, he gives Emma a pair of shears that can sever her fate and save her life by making her no longer the Savior.
Favorite Line “I have actual magic in my life—I have you. If I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing.” (Emma, to Henry)
My Thoughts Honesty is power. We’re at our strongest when we’re honest with ourselves about who we are, and our relationships are at their strongest when we’re honest with those we love. Accepting the truth—both our own truth and the truth that lives in the hearts of those we love—is the key to developing into the best version of ourselves and creating strong and stable relationships.
Honesty seems to be turning into a major theme this season on Once Upon a Time. For as strange as the Evil Queen and Zelena’s spa day was (and it was incredibly strange), it brought up a central concept for this season: owning who you are and what you’ve done. Although the last thing I want is for Zelena to raise her daughter to only know her mother as the Wicked Witch, the Evil Queen brought up a good point about how she can’t hide that part of her identity from her daughter. She was right; Henry hated the fact that Regina lied to him and made him feel like he was crazy for so much of his life. It was only when she became honest with him about who she was and her struggle to be a better version of herself that he could find it in his heart to love and forgive her.
Zelena’s little girl should know who her mother was, but she should also know the better person her mother was trying to be. For as much as Zelena is the Wicked Witch, she is also the woman who wanted to be more than that not so long ago. She needs to be honest with herself about the fact that the good part of her is as much a part of her as the wicked part. And the only way she can do that is by getting away from the Evil Queen, who wants to bring out her worst self.
The Evil Queen was at her worst in this episode, encouraging Zelena to embrace her darkness (Poor Archie!), taking a page out of her mother’s playbook and taking the form of someone else in order to get information and create discord (Poor Archie again!), and killing an innocent because she wouldn’t help her. (Looks like I was wrong about the seer being Jafar in disguise.) But I must admit that I didn’t mind that she ended up being the plot device that led to Emma’s secret being out in the open. It was past time it happened, and if it took the Evil Queen masquerading as Archie to force Emma’s hand, then so be it.
Jennifer Morrison’s acting in the scene in which Emma was forced to tell her secret was heartbreakingly honest. She didn’t oversell the emotions, but you could feel her fear and exhaustion finally spilling out as she confessed. I also thought it was a nice choice to have her lock eyes with Killian throughout her confession; it added an intimacy to the scene that was incredibly poignant. But the poignancy of that direct delivery to the man she loves was negated somewhat by the fact that we never got to see them really talk about both her secret and what her visions could mean. It could happen later on, but I wouldn’t have minded a scene that gave voice to the feelings that were all over Colin O’Donoghue’s handsomely brooding face throughout the episode. Although he managed to convey Killian’s anger about Emma keeping things from him and his fear over the fact that he might lose her in just his facial expressions, giving those two characters a chance to really talk through those issues would have been even better than the nice kiss and talk of fireplaces and rum that ended the episode. (I know, I can’t believe I’m saying I could have done without a kiss and a cute domestic moment, but if it means more substance, than yes, I’ll sacrifice a kiss or two.)
Part of me was expecting more dialogue between Emma and Killian because Snow seemed to be setting them up for it. I always love the rare moments of mother/daughter bonding we get between Snow and Emma these days, and this was no exception. Snow was right; Emma may have been scared, but that’s when she should go to her mom. Handling life’s scariest moments alone is a hard habit for Emma to break, but I thought it was nice that her mother was the one to remind her that she can trust her and the rest of her loved ones with the whole truth—even when it’s scary and painful.
However, I had to roll my eyes at the irony of Snow telling Emma that she and Killian needed to be more like her and Charming when it comes to honesty. Oh Snow, first of all, your husband essentially kept the same kind of secret from you that Emma kept from Killian back in Never Land when he thought he was going to die. And second, you don’t know it yet, but he’s keeping another big secret from you now after he didn’t destroy the information about his father’s death like you asked. No relationship is perfect, and it’ll be good see Snow and Charming deal with this when his secret inevitably comes out (because I know Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin will ace whatever material they’re given). But with all the secrets already happening this season, Charming’s secret just feels like overkill at this point. But I suppose it all fits with the season’s theme of every character and every relationship having good in them and darkness in them. Even the show’s most perfect marriage isn’t immune when it comes to dishonesty.
I know Snow and Charming will overcome his secret because they have True Love, and this episode reminded me that True Love can overcome any obstacle. And the best thing about that reminder was that it came from the show’s foundational True Love: the love between Emma and Henry. The way this episode focused on their relationship out of all Emma’s relationships was lovely and incredibly important.
“Street Rats” was a great episode for Henry. I thought his scene with Jasmine was one of the most emotional in the episode, and so much of that came from the way both characters were honest with each other and themselves about the guilt they were feeling. Karen David was excellent throughout the episode, but she was particularly stunning in that scene, projecting a vulnerability that made Jasmine feel so human in that moment. That scene created a wonderfully unexpected parallel between Aladdin and Jasmine and Emma and Henry, with Jasmine and Henry able to lean on each other as they dealt with feeling responsible for the ones they love taking on a role that means certain death.
Not only was Henry able to be honest with Jasmine about his guilt, he shared his true feelings with his mother as soon as he got the chance. I loved that Henry was one of the few characters who wasn’t keeping secrets in this episode; he was feeling burdened by his guilt, and he shared that burden with his mom—just like Snow wanted Emma to do with her. And in doing so, both he and Emma found comfort and strength. That’s what True Love does.
Henry and Emma’s scene was the most moving moment Once Upon a Time has had so far this season, and it harkened back to some of their earliest scenes just in time to celebrate the anniversary of the show’s pilot episode. Morrison was fantastic in that scene. You could feel the maternal love radiating off of her, and I believed every word of what Emma said to him in that scene, which made me cry upon thinking about how Emma has grown from a woman who felt she couldn’t be a mother to a woman who doesn’t regret a path that might lead to certain death because it also led her to her son.
Emma might be afraid, but her truth is simple: She does not regret anything that brought her to this point—even if it means she might die. Because she’s right; endings usually suck in real life. What matters is having a happy middle, making the most of the time you have so that when the end comes, you feel like you’ve lived your best life. And Henry has given Emma her best life. He might have thought his belief couldn’t save her from being fated to die, but his belief saved her already by giving her a life worth living. He gave her a family, he gave her the truth about who she was, and he gave her the chance to be his mom, which she so beautifully referred to as the source of magic in her life. Henry is the best thing to ever happen to her, and even if she died because of the path she was placed on the day he came to her door, it was clear in this scene that Emma thinks it was all worth it because she got the chance to be the truest and best version of herself, and that’s not the Savior; that’s Henry’s mom. Henry’s love has always been Emma’s greatest source of magic and the key to her accepting who she truly is, and it was lovely to see it back in the spotlight when Emma needed it the most.
It was interesting to see Emma and Henry’s relationship reflected in Aladdin and Jasmine’s relationship in the flashbacks because it allowed the latter’s relationship to feel more developed than a lot of other one-episode love stories because we could draw parallels between it and one of the show’s formative relationships. Further parallels could be drawn between them and nearly every other “True Love” romance on Once Upon a Time: Nearly every couple fell in love on a journey to collect a magical object to defeat a foe, and Aladdin and Jasmine were no different. I thought Karen David and Deniz Akdeniz had amazing chemistry, but I actually ended up somewhat confused by how Jasmine really felt. At the end of the flashbacks, I thought Jasmine didn’t want to go with Aladdin because it paralleled Emma always putting her relationships on hold until villains were defeated and threats were neutralized. But then when Aladdin came back to her in Storybrooke, I was a bit annoyed that her first reaction was to tell him she needed the Savior to help her people. I know that was the setup for him to explain that he’s not the Savior anymore, but it made me wonder how much Jasmine cares for Aladdin as Aladdin and how much she cares about what he can do for her people.
By contrast, we know for sure that those who love Emma—her parents, her son, Killian—love Emma not for what she can do for them but for who she is. They love her for every part of her—the street rat, the diamond in the rough, and the Savior. Like Aladdin, Emma was a common thief who rose to become a hero, but she has a bigger team behind her than he had, which might be the difference between her fate and his.
Right now, it seems Aladdin is no longer the Savior, cutting his ties to his fate with the magical shears Jafar gave him. (I love a good magical deus ex machina, especially one that symbolizes the idea of physically separating yourself from an unwanted aspect of your life!) But his willingness to accept that story of how his life would play out made me think about the fact that the only people who have said that Saviors have to die are villains. Why should anyone believe them? I was proud of Emma at the end of this episode for choosing to believe that she could find another way that will allow her to remain the Savior and still live. And I was so happy that her family supported her choice, because that support and belief is the key to Emma feeling strong enough to push back against the visions and villains trying to tell her what her fate will be.
Of course, those happy feelings couldn’t last forever, so, of course, Killian had to go against Emma’s wishes and keep the shears just in case they couldn’t find another way. O’Donoghue did a great job of showing that something was off with Killian in that last scene, but in the spirit of honesty, I have to admit that I groaned when he pulled the shears out of his pocket.
Do I understand why Killian kept the shears? Of course—just like I understand why Emma kept her secret from him. He doesn’t want to lose her, especially after having to say goodbye to her so many times. Saving the shears gives him the opportunity to save her if her life really is in jeopardy, and we all know that he loves her as Emma and not as the Savior anyway; he doesn’t need her to be the Savior. It makes sense that he would feel desperate enough to go against her wishes and hold on to the one thing that could keep her alive. In that way, his actions reminded me of Emma going against his wishes in last season’s “Birth” in order to save his life, which was a controversial decision I really didn’t need to see repeated.
Ultimately, what frustrated me the most with this scene is that it was clearly meant to prolong the angst between Emma and Killian, which seems wholly unnecessary at this point. Emma’s agency has always meant a lot to me, and I always loved the fact that Killian never tried to get in the way of her making her own choices—until now. Emma made a clear choice to get rid of the shears, and she trusted him enough to ask him to do that for her. But instead of honoring her choice or talking to her about why he didn’t agree with it, we were shown a Killian who went behind her back and ignored her choice—right after she told him that there should be no more secrets between them. In that way, this felt like a contrived decision to continue the theme of lies and secrecy when that has already felt too prevalent this season after such a dark Season Five.
I don’t ask for fictional relationships to be perfect or to be without conflict. However, I like it best when those conflicts feel organic. I’d love to see Killian and Emma tackling problems as a team—including fighting about whether or not she should keep the shears—instead of creating more conflicts by keeping things from each other. Relationships don’t always need this kind of drama to be interesting on television. It’s okay to have characters talk through things like adults. But if Snow and Charming can’t even do that right now, I suppose it’s a lot to ask of any couple on this show.
I have no doubt that the truth will come out soon enough and Emma and Killian will emerge from this stronger than ever, but it would be nice to have a few episodes where I don’t have to work to convince myself of that same thing over and over again. This is a show about hope, but at times this season it’s felt more like a show about secrets. And while that makes for some interesting themes to examine, it doesn’t make for the kind of uplifting, unique television Once Upon a Time can be when it’s at its best.
• I may not have liked the aftermath of the scene between Killian and Emma at the docks, but the idea of the two of them eating pizza or Chinese and drinking rum in their house is adorable.
• I don’t know what was sadder: Regina thinking she wasn’t in Emma’s vision because she was dead or Regina realizing Emma thinks she’s not in her vision because she’s the one who kills her.
• All the Aladdin references were so much fun—from the apple and the scarab to the magic carpet and the sultan’s toy palace.
• I’m a sucker for a good almost-kiss, so you can imagine how much I enjoyed that motif with Aladdin and Jasmine. It’s a great way to judge a pairing’s chemistry, and, as I said previously, those two have it in spades.
• I was so happy to see the return of Emma’s superpower when she was interrogating Jasmine.
• I know O’Donoghue makes brooding look great, but it would be great to see him genuinely smile again sometime soon.