Title Page 23
Two-Sentence Summary Regina faces off against the Evil Queen as flashbacks reveal the moment Regina realized the extent of her own self-hatred. Meanwhile, Killian battles his own past demons as they rise up to threaten his relationship with Emma.
Favorite Line “You are a part of me, and I’m a part of you—whether you like it or not. And now I love myself, which means so should you.” (Regina, to the Evil Queen)
My Thoughts Once Upon a Time is—at its very core—a love story. And what has always made it stand out is that it’s a love story that acknowledges that romantic love is just one kind of love; it’s not the only kind of love. In fact, Once Upon a Time has often shown that the most important kind of love—the kind that can change villains into heroes and lost girls into saviors—is the love we have for ourselves. True growth, happiness, and hope are only found when we are able to look at ourselves in the mirror and love the person looking back—the whole, messy, flawed person. Until that happens, a true happy ending can never be possible, because how can you be truly happy if you’re not happy with yourself?
There are no better characters to bring this theme to life than Regina and Killian, so I was thrilled to see their stories so thematically intertwined in “Page 23.” At the very beginning of Season Three, those two characters had a conversation about whether or not happiness could ever be possible for people like them—people who did terrible things but are working every day to be better than their pasts—and ever since then, I have enjoyed watching their parallel stories of redemption, hope, and self-forgiveness unfold. Those stories haven’t always been easy to watch, but they have provided much of the narrative depth in these later seasons of Once Upon a Time. And they served as the emotional core of “Page 23,” which seems fitting since the titular page was meant to be a symbol of the possibility of a happy ending for a former villain.
This was an episode that probably didn’t need a flashback (How many times do we have to revisit this period in the past?), but at least it tied in beautifully with the theme of self-hatred standing in the way of happiness. I think we could all see it coming that the person Regina hated the most wasn’t Snow White but herself, yet it was still a powerful moment to see her staring at her reflection in the broken glass. Lana Parrilla did commendable work in this episode playing three different versions of the same role, and that moment—with Regina gazing upon her broken self in the broken glass—was among the most emotional of the hour. Regina hated herself so deeply that she cut herself off from anything that could have made her truly happy—namely, a second chance at love with Robin Hood. She self-sabotaged because she felt unworthy of happiness, choosing instead to continue down a dark path because she felt that was the path she deserved to be on.
That same sense of self-loathing was a defining part of Killian’s story for so long, too. He spent centuries hating himself and falling deeper and deeper into darkness because of that self-hatred. In fact, it has been even harder for Killian to let go of that self-loathing than it has been for Regina, which almost surely comes from the fact that he spent many more years doing many more things that made him hate himself. And like Regina in the flashbacks, Killian’s self-hatred caused him to sabotage his own happiness because he felt unworthy of it.
As Captain Nemo told Killian, guilt can be corrosive to the soul, and it is certainly corrosive to relationships. A healthy amount of remorse for negative actions is a good thing, but Killian is a man of extremes. Instead of working through his guilt and self-loathing with the support of Emma, he pulled away from her, which hurt not just him but also Emma. And when faced with the choice between coming clean and working on his guilt without telling Emma, he chose a third option: erasing his memory of killing Charming’s father. He wanted to take the easy way out much like Regina did when she separated herself from her Evil Queen half—the magical shortcut (How did he get his memories into the dream catcher without magic anyway?)—and we all know that’s never the hero’s way.
That’s what Emma objected to when she found him about to destroy his memory and launched into one of the most painfully vulnerable and honest fights in the show’s history, thanks to Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison’s stunning performances. She knows her family has forgiven people for far worse than what Killian did; what hurt her was that he shut her out and would rather destroy his memories than be honest with her about himself. Both parties have kept secrets from each other too many times, and Morrison made me feel Emma’s frustration with both herself and with Killian for falling into the same pattern too often because they spent a lifetime being afraid to be vulnerable. But Emma seems to have learned from her mistakes and has reached a place of genuine vulnerability with Killian, and it hurt her to feel as if she trusted him with her whole self—every fear, weakness, dark deed, and past mistake—only to see that he didn’t trust her with his whole self.
Emma felt that Killian didn’t have faith in her and her family, but in actuality, he didn’t have faith in himself. He didn’t believe he could ever see himself as worthy of happiness and love knowing that he killed Charming’s father. It didn’t matter how many times Emma told him she loved him no matter what he did in his past or reassured him that he would be forgiven; he didn’t believe it, and belief means everything in this world. He believed in Emma but didn’t believe in himself, and that’s not enough. He needed to accept that his darkest self is a part of him that he can’t erase by burning his memories of the darkness, but he also needed to accept that his darkest self is just a part of him—not the whole of who he is. The show has always brought Killian’s past back to haunt him in painful ways (mainly because O’Donoghue is just so good at brooding), but I think this was the final test for Killian: He needed to allow himself to believe he is worthy of Emma’s love and support—to learn to love himself despite facing this terrible reminder of who he was (and who he still is because we are the sum of everything we’ve done). And by the end of this episode, it seemed he had reached a place where he was ready to stop wallowing in his guilt and shame and start embracing his happy ending.
Of course, the person who helped Killian come to that place was the queen of hope herself: Snow White. I loved seeing those two characters interact one-on-one because Snow is exactly who Killian needed in that moment of self-doubt, struggling with whether or not to leave Storybrooke because of his self-loathing. (We’ll just ignore the fact that Killian probably should know that—no matter how upset Emma may have seemed—one of her biggest fears is abandonment, so him leaving without saying goodbye would have destroyed her.) Between the gorgeous snowfall and the heartfelt warmth in Ginnifer Goodwin’s performance, that was one of the loveliest scenes in the episode. Snow telling Killian about even the Evil Queen finding happiness hit home with him because “Love can save even the darkest souls; you just have to believe it.”
That’s the entire ethos of both Regina’s journey and Killian’s. Their self-loathing closed themselves off to believing anything could save them and make them truly happy for so long that sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s possible now. But Snow reminded Killian that it is possible, and, like most characters do with Snow’s words of support and belief, he took them to heart. He was ready to go home to Emma, to finally let himself believe he deserved the love and forgiveness she and her family offer, and to start believing even he could have a happy ending. However, because the writers love Emma/Killian angst, Gideon interrupted his plan to go back to her. This will undoubtedly test Emma’s own ability to believe that someone with a past like hers could have a happy ending (The way she dejectedly leaned her forehead against the window when he didn’t come home broke my heart.), but when he comes back, both characters will finally be in a place where they are ready to start their future together with nothing left to hold them back. This means I am definitely expecting a second—and much better—proposal scene sometime soon.
For as happy as I was to see Killian and Snow talk, all I wanted from this episode was a conversation between Killian and Regina. I have always thought that both characters could benefit from a friendship, but the show has avoided that for reasons I still don’t totally understand. In this episode in particular, Regina could have offered Killian some great advice about self-acceptance, forgiveness, and the rocky road to achieving both.
Regina’s story—more than any other—has been a story of self-acceptance. She has had great romantic loves, but she has stated more than once (including in this episode) that her happy ending isn’t about romance. It’s about finding a place to belong. She found that in Storybrooke with the people who have become her family, but “Page 23” allowed her to finally see that she can also find acceptance just by looking in the mirror, which is something she never would have imagined possible before.
I loved the symbolic nature of Regina fighting the Evil Queen alone. While the idea of leaning on a support system was an important part of this episode, no one can fight your darkest self for you (which reminded me in a powerful way of Emma’s one-on-one struggle with Nimue last season). Only you can look in the mirror and decide to love every part of the person you see staring back at you. And when Regina was faced with the chance to finally destroy her darkest self, she instead chose to do what she couldn’t when she looked in the mirror all those years ago: She chose to love herself—including her worst self.
For so long, all I wanted was for Regina to acknowledge that her worst self isn’t some separate entity but is instead a part of her that she must accept in order to become her best self. She did exactly that in this episode, choosing to acknowledge both the best and worst parts of herself by melding hearts with the Evil Queen instead of crushing the dark heart. That darkness is part of her, and choosing to accept that instead of destroying it was a huge step forward for her character. It’s easy to love yourself when you only think about the good you’ve done and treat the bad things like they belong to another person; it’s much harder to love yourself and believe in yourself when you accept that you are a sum of every good and bad choice you’ve made, every moment of love and hate, every strength and weakness. Regina did the hard thing in this episode, and I could not have been happier to watch it unfold.
Ultimately, I would have loved for the Evil Queen part to be reabsorbed back into Regina, but by the end of the episode, I saw that the writers were using this story as a way to save the Regina/Robin relationship to some degree. So even though I was confused by the Evil Queen going to the Wish Realm to get her fresh start (Wasn’t there already an Evil Queen there? What’s going to happen to her in a world where everyone wants her dead?), I put those questions aside to focus on the beauty of this second chance. The Evil Queen finally apologized to Snow White, which was a stunning moment (made all the more stunning by Goodwin’s tearful reaction). We got the beautiful shot of Regina hugging her worst self, accepting everything she was, is, and could be. And somewhere, in some universe, Regina and Robin got a second chance at love because she took all the love she had been given—all the hope and belief she needed—and walked through the tavern door this time. It was a lovely way to wrap up both the Evil Queen plot and the Robin/Regina story—bringing everything full circle and showing that great things can happen when you let love guide your actions instead of hate.
“Page 23” was a story about hope, second chances, and the power that comes when you move from a place of self-hatred into a place of self-love. In short, it was the kind of empowering story that has always made Once Upon a Time special, and it made for one of my favorite episodes of the season.
• I’m sure this was just done to drag out the drama, but was anyone else annoyed that not even the Evil Queen could find a way to break the curse on Charming and Snow?
• In between having my heart broken by Emma, I was able to appreciate how beautiful both her braid and her white shirt were in this episode. It was a great look.
• It was nice to get a reminder again that Henry is the author and can actually contribute to the efforts to help in town crises. It was just nice to see Henry in general after a couple of weeks without him.
• I’m so happy Killian had Nemo to talk to in this episode. He needed a friend not connected to the Charming Family in some way to confide in, and Nemo seemed to really care about him.
• It’s sad to think that Killian is so haunted by the idea of who he once was that not even being brought back to life by Zeus can convince him that he’s worthy of a happy ending.
• I could watch the scene with Emma showing off her ring all day. I loved everyone’s giddy reaction (including Emma’s), but my favorite was Regina’s sincere happiness for her despite losing her own love. It was the perfect reminder of how far she’s come from “I shall destroy your happiness…”
This episode made me so emotional, and that doesn’t happen with me very often. First of all, the snow was just a beautiful backdrop, especially in the scene with Hook and Snow. I connect snow with Christmas which is a time of longing and hope for me personally, so that automatically brings the emotions!
I think my heart broke a little when Killian told Nemo that he needs to be a better man for Emma. It seems he can never believe that he’s good enough, even though they both have made mistakes in their relationship. I like that Emma got so emotional during their fight. His insecurities kept him from opening up to her, and she’s really wanting him to trust in their love for each other, no matter how big problem may be. They have to learn to lean on each other instead of hiding the truth.
I didn’t know what to expect, but I really did like the wrapup for the Evil Queen and Regina. She has not always been a favorite with me, but I liked the idea that she forgave the worst in herself and even chose to give that part of her the happy ending she wished she could have had. It was so wonderful to see them go back to that pivotal moment when Regina stood outside the tavern, and this time she chose to gamble on love and happiness.
I really hope to see Snow and Charming reunited in the next episode, and I hope that Emma will be able to find Killian or understand that he didn’t intend to leave her. Abandonment is something that I think could send her into a tailspin. I want her to also find the hope in her situation.
I am glad you had some enjoyable stuff to write about this week after last weeks downer!
“it hurt her to feel as if she trusted him with her whole self—every fear, weakness, dark deed, and past mistake—only to see that he didn’t trust her with his whole self.” Ouch! Man that fight was brutal, and I loved every second of it. I have been waiting for these two to get into a real fight for awhile now. I was pretty disappointed that everything got resolved so easily with the shears, but this kind of fight makes them feel like a real couple. I completely feel like Emma holds some of the blame here after cornering him last week when he was trying to do the right thing, which only makes me love it even more. Because fights are messy, and relationships are messy, and its pretty much never black and white. I also love that they are still trying to figure out how to be in a relationship. I am firmly going to go with the idea there is absolutely no way Killian would have left without telling Emma he was going. He would have at LEAST called, he just never told her because he decided against leaving before he had to (and with a decision THAT big, its not surprising he would brood over it awhile before fully committing) . And while I think its a stretch to argue that he would have considered leaving at all, I really do believe that he somehow thought that was the only way to fight for her (he didnt say he thought she was better off without him, he said he needed to be a better man for her). I mean it was a dumb thought, but its not like this is the first dumb thought he has had (i.e. every other time hes pulled this crap, so I guess he felt like it was time for some drastic soul searching). But anyway, I do like that despite the pain, this story line does allow Emma to show growth as well, even if this is all growth for both of them I thought we took care of last season.
I have long been an advocate of more Regina/Killian scenes, and I cant believe I never even thought of this missed opportunity they had in this episode until you brought it up. Regina has never been one of my favorites, and I fear that this split personality storyline just kinda wore my patience thin with both halves to a point where I just focus on the plots without her. I have to admit I enjoyed last week’s Rumple/Bae storyline much more than this one. I think they really faltered with the pacing of this arc. She was such a huge focus at the beginning, then you have a 3 month hiatus and THREE episodes without her and I lost all my interest. Maybe if I go back and watch the season continuously it would work better. I suppose there is still an opportunity for Regina to offer Emma some insight into Killian’s mindset in the next episode, but I agree a scene with Killian and Regina would be much more satisfying. And I dont think I want Regina or Snow defending Killian in the next episode, because if he HAD just packed up and left without telling her, there is no excuse for that.
-I was so excited that Tink was coming back, and then they wasted her on a pointless flashback. REALLY bummed about that one.
-I am with you on being really confused how the EQ is supposed to have a fresh start in the wish realm after everything that happened in the mid-season finale. Also this Robin was kinda a jerk, and I cant believe I am going to say this, but I think the repentant EQ probably could have done better?
-I loved how the scene where Emma gave the ring back was staged the exact opposite of last week. Instead of running down the stairs to him, she gave the ring back and walked back up stairs. It was such a great visual representation of the fact that they are on totally different levels right now.
-My vote is that Ariel will somehow be able to bring Emma a message that Killian is coming back (after Emma already figures out that something is amiss)
-When I saw Killian with that dreamcatcher, my first thought was that Emma must still have all those extras from her Dark One days in the garage, and if they are “live” she really needs to be more careful where she keeps those things. We all know Storybrooke is a town full of memory loss addicts and memory stealing dreamcatcher would probably be a hot item on the black market.
-I thought it was hilarious that Nemo gave Killian two choices (come clean or live with it) because it “will always stay with you” and Killian only heard the last part.
-For the record, after I commented on last weeks episode I was playing a fun game of coming up with the most angsty scenario I could think of that would come from this secret, and I actually settled on “Killian gets sent away and Emma thinks he left her”. I thought it was so sad I didnt even want to post it here and worry people for no reason, so of course that was what happened, lol. At least I was fully prepared for it going in. And I of course am looking forward to the reunion and a proposal done right. I said last week this could be fun! In a tortuous kind of way…
-I hope now that they wrapped up this EQ storyline they still find something for Regina to do. Am I the only one feeling like our characters are a bit aimless this season?
Perhaps we should abandon the idea of a class on the ethics of memory magic and just go with a 12-step program.
Ok, but who all is involved in the black market? The possibilities are just TOO much fun.
I’m totally on board with the Ariel scenario. And I really, really want Emma to realize something is off first.
The dwarfs, definitely. I mean, they literally have an underground railroad. All except grumpy, because they all know he has a big mouth.
“We all know Storybrooke is a town full of memory loss addicts and memory stealing dreamcatcher would probably be a hot item on the black market.” HAHAHAHAHAHA!
As always, lovely job, sweetie.
While like many, I’m not sure about how much of a “fresh start” the dream realm is going to be, I do like how they wrapped up the EQ storyline. Back in the Jekyll-Hyde portion of the show, some of us theorized that perhaps the potion didn’t separate out the evil, as much as it separated out the parts that Jekyll — or in this case Regina — didn’t like about themselves. Allowing the EQ to have her own life really works if you think about her as embodying all those things that Regina wants to get rid of or doesn’t like about herself. It’s why there’s a mixture of good and bad in both Regina and the EQ (as Regina mentions). It’s why Henry can see the EQ and see his Mom. She’s not evil incarnate. Like so many of us here, I wanted to see Regina accept these things in herself. Everyone has weakness and darkness. Everyone has to deal with it. I thought this was a fascinating way to show Regina (both sides of her) dealing with this.
I have to admit that I kept expecting Archie to appear, “Good session. Good session, ladies. Let’s pick up with that next time.”
Oh, poor Killian and Emma. I did love that what Emma was upset about was that he tried to deal with this on his own and take his memories — not what happened in the past. And yes, we had better get that epic proposal. I also really hope she doesn’t just accept that he left.
Snow and Killian. No one does happy quite like Snow. I love how excited everyone is for Emma, but also how they are happy to make Killian an official part of the family.
I hate the misunderstanding aspect of Killian on the Nautilus, but I am looking forward to more Nemo.
Henry! So, good to see you and your Author pen. (How great was the, “You still have my pen” line?) I just wish writing was that easy for me . . .
We have to go through a process to end the Ladyhawke curse?? *headdesk*
Wait, that’s all the Tinkerbell we got??
Haven’t we see King Henry do the “I’ll help you get what you want” before? That was with Cora, though, yes? I’m not remembering that incorrectly, am I? I guess maybe he thought it would work better on Regina.
Some of the details of this episode definitely relied very heavily on the old suspension of disbelief… I figured Robin and the Evil Queen would end up together somehow (they have such good chemistry) but I hurt my brain trying to make sense of their place in the wish realm. The wish realm hurts my brain in general. I can’t even remember what the point of it was or how that all played out. Oh well, at least a version of Outlaw Queen ended up happy.
And tbh I never thought about how Killian used the dreamcatcher while I was watching, so maybe they were relying on the casual viewer just accepting that without question. Some people on Tumblr think there might be a deleted scene showing who/how he managed that without having magic, but I don’t know. Who would he have gone to?
The whole time Emma was yelling at Killian about how forgiving her family has been my brain was screaming REGINA! Especially in the middle of this episode that was so Regina-focused, I felt like Hook should be reminded of all the terrible horrible cold-hearted things Snow and Charming and Emma have forgiven Regina for. Things she did specifically to hurt them, in addition to indirect general-villain-level killings like what Hook did to Charming’s papa.
Probably a good thing I didn’t know that Tink was coming back for an episode, so I was just happy to see her without being disappointed that they had so little for her to do. I spent most of her onscreen time reminding hubby that she’s a NZer (he likes to try to guess accents) and that she’s the iZombie girl too.
-Vancouver is really great at pulling out some lovely snow for important Snow scenes.
-It was nice to see Henry all grown up showing love to his EQ mother and getting to do something useful with his Author role.
-There’s a little part of me that feels like this show could wrap itself up quite nicely and I would be OK with that. I don’t get into the speculation and rumors about renewal, but something about how Regina finally made peace with herself felt like an ending. I like shows that end on their own terms before everyone is sick of them, so please forgive me for saying that I would be OK if there wasn’t too much more, if the stories were resolved well.
– I hadn’t even thought about Emma’s abandonment issues and I was still so saddened by the ending. Stupid Gideon.
– ditto on Emma’s braid. She looked so lovely. Sad, but lovely.
glad you had the motivation to comment this week!
I am with you on the feeling like this show is ready to wrap things up. I already feel like this season has been re-hashing a lot of old themes. Its great if they have a new jumping off point where they can move forward will all new characters, but I think I would prefer it to be a spin-off rather than a continuation. Let the main cast move on if they want and wrap those older stories up. Its annoying me they are almost done filming the season and the show’s status is still up in the air. I have serious trust issues when it comes to ABC.
I also thought there might be a missing scene with the dreamcatcher, but I like my theory that they are already are imbued with magic, because it really would feel weird if he went to someone. Unless he went to Regina and they ended up cutting a Killian/Regina scene we all think should have been here.
I totally forgot to comment on Emma’s braid, but I kept thinking how much better of an Elsa braid it was than the one Elsa had on the show! Emma always has pretty strong hair game. We dont see her in braids that often (have we ever seen a braid in Storybrooke?), so I wouldnt be surprised if that choice had extra significance to it.
yeah, I like your dreamcatcher theory. I guess when I was watching I sort of assumed that Killian had found a dreamcatcher left over from Emma’s Dark One stash and it had the power in it somehow. Later someone on Tumblr said something about going to Rumple or the Blue Fairy (but isn’t she unmagicked right now?) and something about going to Rumple felt really wrong. So yeah, either Regina or a pre-magicked dreamcatcher stash makes the most sense.
JMo looks so SO good with fancy braids. ❤
I was really hoping that this split Queen storyline would have an emotional epiphany moment for Regina, something similar to 4×20 “Mother” and it did. Without some kind of revelation that it was wrong to split herself, the whole plot would be a waste of time because Regina wouldn’t learn anything.
But she did have a revelation about her own self-hate. Regina has always been a complex character so the direction of the plot, it was all about Regina learning to love all aspects of herself — the good and the storyline Evil was very poignant for her character.
Was it frustrating that she needed to learn it by splitting herself and basically throw that part of herself away, for a fresh start? Hell yes because it seemed like the easy thing to do rather than accept responsibility for her own actions as the Evil Queen. Duality is an interesting theme on this show – all characters face it in one fashion or another but they actually deal with it and try their best to become a better person.
Regina does try and when that seems too hard, she takes the easy, convenient way out. Sorry honey but real life is not like that.
On the whole though, I am very satisfied with this episode and I lo K forward to updating sections in my true love meta.