Title Dark Waters
Two-Sentence Summary After Henry discovers that Killian kept the shears that could cut Emma’s ties to being the Savior, the two of them are forced to work out their issues 20,000 leagues under the sea while being held captive by Killian’s half-brother. Meanwhile, Belle faces her first ultrasound appointment, and Emma and Aladdin bond over being reluctant Saviors.
Killian: What made you come back?
Henry: You said you couldn’t ruin one more family…Neither could I.
My Thoughts One of my favorite things about Once Upon a Time is that it is uniquely focused on women and their relationships with one another. However, that doesn’t mean that its male characters are left without proper development and compelling relationships in their own right. “Dark Waters” was an episode that centered on the complex family dynamics between some of the male characters on this show, and, its tight focus on one compelling relationship in particular (the often-underdeveloped one between Killian and Henry) made it one of the best episodes of this sixth season.
First of all, say what you want about the Evil Queen (and all I’ll say for now is that her Southern accent in this episode was the weirdest acting choice I’ve ever seen Lana Parrilla make), but she gets things done. I appreciate a woman who doesn’t let secrets stay secrets for long, and if having her around means no unnecessary angst lasts longer than an episode, then I guess I can handle her meddling in the lives of our heroes for a little while longer.
The Evil Queen will never be successful, though, because she consistently underestimates her opponents. If you’ll permit me a Harry Potter reference, it’s like Voldemort’s weakness being his inability to understand love. The Evil Queen thinks that everyone will react to things the way she would—with grudges that last a lifetime. But that’s not how heroes operate. As Rumplestiltskin said, forgiveness is a virtue, but it’s one the Evil Queen does not understand, which foiled her plans to drive the Charming Family apart.
Forgiveness played an important role in “Dark Waters,” and it’s always been an important theme on Once Upon a Time because it’s connected to the core of the show: hope. Showing someone forgiveness means showing them hope that you can move beyond your pain. And that’s what made Henry’s inability to forgive Killian at the start of the episode so sad—we were seeing the show’s most hopeful character lose hope in Killian.
It was about time Henry and Killian’s relationship was explored with some real depth, and that’s exactly what we got in “Dark Waters.” I loved that it started with typical teenage angst—Henry getting annoyed that Killian threw out his Pop Tarts (Teenage Katie would have been mad, too.) and wanted him to take out the trash—and escalated into something deeper. I understood why Henry was so upset with Killian at first, because I was upset with him at the end of the last episode, too. Killian betrayed Emma’s trust by lying to her about the shears, but, because Henry is a teenage boy, he took it about 1,000 steps further and acted like Killian was going to use them whenever he felt like it, which no one who knows Killian at all would ever believe.
For a lot of this episode, Jared Gilmore had to do something he usually isn’t asked to do, and that was make Henry petulant and sullen. But he did such a good job of grounding Henry’s melodramatic mood swings in a very real concept: a teenage boy’s wariness toward the man who will one day be his stepfather. Henry is protective of Emma, and that’s why it broke my heart when he sincerely told Killian that Emma being the Savior is what brought him and his mom together. So much of their relationship is wrapped up in Henry getting her to believe in that part of herself, and I felt his fear that taking away that part of her would take away that special thing they share. Being the Savior isn’t what makes Emma special or what makes Henry love her, but I understood why the idea of Killian taking that away from Emma bothered Henry. Killian keeping the shears also represented a failure of belief that Emma could write a new destiny for herself with the help of her loved ones , and we know how important belief is to Henry.
Therefore, while it was hard to see Henry shut Killian out, I understood it. But that doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt to hear him tell Killian he wasn’t part of their family. Henry was right when he told Regina that Killian isn’t his father, and we’ve never been shown that Killian has any intention of taking Neal’s place in that regard. But this episode also showed that family is about more than blood; it’s about who is there for you, who believes in you, and who puts you above themselves. You don’t have to be connected by blood to be family; you simply need to choose to love each other like family. And it is clear that Killian has chosen to love Henry as his family, filling the hole in his life that has been empty for centuries.
Captain Nemo was right in the flashbacks when he said that Killian wanted to be part of a family more than anything. He wanted that with his older brother before he died. He wanted that with Milah before she died. And he wanted that with Bae before the boy found out who he really was. Killian’s destiny has seemed to always be to lose the family he wanted to build, but this is a season about pushing back against your destiny. So, of course, Killian wasn’t going to lose those he loves this time around.
In order to make things right with Henry, though, Killian needed to be honest with him. Killian has always owned up to his darkness in his past, but there was still one secret left to tell: He left his half-brother an orphan when he killed his father. Colin O’Donoghue was excellent throughout this episode, but some of his best work was in his guilt-stricken delivery of that confession to Henry. And by opening up to Henry about who he was at his worst, he earned his trust back. Sharing this secret didn’t make Henry push him away; it brought them closer. That seems to be another recurring theme this season: Honesty may be hard, but it’s worth it.
Once Killian starting talking about his half-brother, it dawned on me that the mysterious first mate who had sought revenge on the person who left him an orphan in the flashbacks was none other than Liam himself. I really enjoyed that twist, even I’m still trying to piece together how that would work given the timeline. I couldn’t believe they brought that story up again, and it was such a pleasant surprise to see it given the development it deserved. This was one of the last great sins of Killian’s past he had to atone for, and it was good to see him have to face the damage he caused and emerge a stronger and better man for having dealt with that part of his past instead of running from it like he tried to in the flashbacks.
I found myself incredibly impressed with Captain Nemo in the flashbacks. It seemed Nemo’s words were what Killian took to heart at the end of Season Two when he first started questioning whether his quest for revenge was worth it. Nemo was an example of a man who learned the hard way that vengeance doesn’t fill the hole in your heart left by loss. The only thing that can fill it is love. In Nemo’s case, he filled his heart by helping others find peace and a sense of family instead of revenge for their losses, and that is one of the noblest goals any hero has tried to achieve on this show. Nemo even put himself in danger to keep Liam from killing his brother, and his heroic actions were why I was so happy to learn that he was the mysterious patient in the hospital. His was a happy ending I was thrilled to see play out, a great example of a character introduced in one episode who I instantly came to care about far more than I expected.
In the end, Nemo was right: Family means more than vengeance. That was the reason why Killian put aside his quest to destroy the Dark One; he’d found a family he wanted to be a part of, a family whose love filled the empty places in his heart. And Henry is a big part of that family. In his darkest days, Killian destroyed a family by killing his father, but now he was willing to sacrifice his own life to protect the family he loves. When he revealed that he knew there was only one diving suit and helmet, I was reminded of all the times Killian has put Henry above himself—from going to Never Land to save him all the way through this moment. Henry deserves a stepfather who is brave enough to put Henry and his relationship with Emma above even his own life. And Killian is that man.
That sacrifice—that selflessness—was all the confirmation Henry needed to know how much Killian loves both him and his mother. So he came back for him—because that’s what their family does. Killian didn’t want to destroy another family, and neither did Henry. That confirmation that Henry considers Killian part of his family was such a powerful moment (and such a realistic one with the “Don’t push it.”), punctuated by the most heartwarming smile imaginable from Gilmore. The boy who always felt destined to lose father figures fought to change that destiny this time, and the man who felt destined to lose every chance at building a family finally had a family willing to fight for him to be part of it.
I loved seeing Killian and Henry reach a place of understanding as far as the shears were concerned. For as much as Killian wanted to keep Emma safe, he also wanted to respect Henry’s wishes. So Emma’s two True Loves decided to band together to find another way to ensure her safety without disrespecting her wishes. I’m so excited to see them work together to help Emma, continuing to protect the family they love so much, especially now that the Evil Queen gave the shears to Rumplestiltskin.
Before Killian and Henry could formulate a plan, though, they had to be honest with Emma about what happened. I was so happy I could have cried (and I almost did) when Killian volunteered to tell Emma the truth. So many parts of this episode were moments I’d wanted to see for a while, but this was the one I needed to see most to feel better about what happened in last week’s episode. And the actors and the writers handled it beautifully.
In order to understand Emma’s reaction, we needed that lovely scene between her and Aladdin when she confessed to all the times she tried to run away from being the Savior, including her fear that she would use the shears on herself if she kept them around. There is still a part of Emma that doesn’t want to bear the burden of being the Savior anymore, especially if it means knowing her family will have to watch her die. (The fact that she is more upset by her family having to watch than her actually dying speaks so much to who she is.) So when Killian told Emma he kept the shears at first but then did what she asked with them, the flicker of disappointment in Emma’s eyes made so much sense. There was a part of her that secretly wished he would have kept them, and the way Jennifer Morrison showed that in just her face as he hugged her was incredibly affecting.
Although my heart broke for Emma, I was thrilled to see her and Killian actually talking about the secret he kept and why he did what he did. It allowed them to have the kind of honest, adult conversation the best relationships are built on. If you needed an example of why Emma and Killian have one of the strongest relationships on this show, look no further than this scene.
Killian’s conscience was perhaps as clear as it’s ever been in that moment, especially after the scene that came before it. I loved seeing him watch overLiam as he slept in the hospital, finally acting like a protective older brother. But nothing in that scene moved me as much as Liam’s admission that he didn’t hurt Killian after seeing Henry because he didn’t want to continue the cycle of leaving a boy without his father figure. The growth Liam showed in that moment was stunning. Some of the most powerful stories on this show have been about breaking cycles of abandonment, vengeance, and loss, and Liam chose to carve out a new path for himself the moment he saw that Killian had a boy in his life who would have been broken by his death the same way he was broken by his father’s death.
In response to that beautiful confession, Killian revealed that Liam hadn’t lost his whole family as he’d feared when he stabbed Nemo; his captain was alive and was in the hospital bed next to him. The sight of Nemo and Liam holding hands, connecting with each other as a chosen family after everything they’d been through—deeply moved me. It was a lovely visual, inspiring the kind of hope that the best Once Upon a Time episodes instill in me as a viewer.
Speaking of hope and families, I love the direction Belle’s storyline is heading in right now. While it was sad to see her go to her first ultrasound appointment by herself (Why couldn’t Snow have volunteered to go with her?), I really appreciate that the writers are having her stick to her guns right now as far as a reunion with Rumplestiltskin is concerned. It really does feel like she’s done letting herself be mistreated by him, but I did like that she still wants him to have a relationship with his son. Belle has hope that the dream she had doesn’t have to be their fate; she can choose to create an environment where there is hope for her son to love his father and for Rumplestiltskin to know and love his son. And she took the first step toward realizing that hope by sharing the sonogram pictures with Rumplestiltskin.
However, it seems that Rumplestiltskin has other plans for having a relationship with his son. Instead of putting in the hard work or giving up his power, he wants to use the shears to separate Belle and their son from what he thinks is their destiny based on the dream he was part of during Belle’s time under the sleeping curse. Once again, Rumplestiltskin’s lack of hope has led him to turn to a magical solution to a problem he could solve by just trying to be a better person. I am angry with myself because I actually thought he wanted to use the shears to separate himself from the Dark One, but I should have known better.
Despite Rumplestiltskin’s plan, “Dark Waters” reminded us that the only thing that can change your destiny is you. It also reminded us that families are built on openness and trust. And once you have found a family, it’s worth everything you were afraid to do before finding them—from putting aside vengeance to being honest to risking your own life to protect those you love.
• I’m actively trying to forget that the horrifically awkward seduction of Rumplestiltskin by the Evil Queen ever happened. However, the one good thing to come out of this awful plot is that it seems to be the one thing this very divided fandom can agree on: We all think it needs to stop ASAP.
• I loved seeing Regina, Snow, and Charming team up to free Archie. They make a pretty formidable threesome.
• Snow looking at the flowers in the hospital was a sweet little nod to the flowers she used to bring to David when they were cursed and he was in his coma.
• This week in “Killian Doesn’t Understand the Modern World”: I’m not sure which I thought was cuter—his confusion over video game controllers or his attempts to pronounce Wookie (which had to be stretch for O’Donoghue, given his love for all things nerdy).
• What happened to Agrabah? Anyone have any theories?
• I enjoyed the little bit of domesticity we got in the scene with Killian, Henry, and Emma in their kitchen. More of this, please!