Two-Sentence Summary As Emma and Gideon team up to defeat the Black Fairy, flashbacks reveal the extent of the damage she caused for all the children in her realm—especially for her grandson. Meanwhile, Killian and Blackbeard form a shaky alliance and end up in Neverland, and Regina works with Isaac to get answers about Henry’s author powers taking over his body and mind.
Isaac: What did I do to you that was so bad?
Regina: Tried to kill us all.
My Thoughts For being almost a purely plot-driven episode, “Mother’s Little Helper” was one of the better episodes of this season. It was entertaining in the way only this show can be—with villains whose darkness is at once terrifying and fascinating, unexpected character pairings, and a sense of humor that comes from an understanding that sometimes a show about fairytales should just lean into its premise and embrace the fact that it can be fun for no other reason than the fact that it’s a show about fairytales.
This episode’s present-day plots featured three character pairings that seemed to have no connection to each other on the surface but were actually incredibly similar when looked at more closely. Emma/Gideon, Killian/Blackbeard, and Regina/Isaac were all pairings featuring one hero and one villain working together because they each have something the other needs: Emma needs her pirate back, Gideon needs someone to help him defeat the Black Fairy (or so we thought), Killian needs a magic bean to get back to Emma, Blackbeard needs a ship, Regina needs answers about Henry, and Isaac needs his freedom. And by the end of the episode, these three storylines also had one more thing in common: The hero was double-crossed by the villain. (I know Isaac didn’t really double-cross Regina, but he wasn’t much help, either.)
I think the reason I enjoyed “Mother’s Little Helper” so much despite the fact that it wasn’t the deepest or most emotional hour of the show (and despite the fact that Emma and Killian are STILL separated) was because it kept me guessing at every turn. It was filled with betrayals and twists, and each one felt genuinely surprising, building to the episode’s biggest twist involving Gideon and the Black Fairy.
Gideon’s story and our experience of discovering it in this episode was a true emotional roller coaster. I love that Giles Matthey has created a character who is believable as both a heartless villain and a broken young man who still has some good in him that even the darkest forces couldn’t snuff out. I thought he and Jennifer Morrison played off one another very well, whether they were antagonizing each other (I could watch Emma Swan smack people cross the mouth every day; I love when she’s too angry for magic—when her pain is personal and she wants to make their pain more personal, too.) or reaching a kind of uneasy understanding. Both characters were abandoned children, left on their own in cold, unforgiving worlds with only the smallest signs that they had been loved (Emma’s blanket and Gideon’s book). However, Gideon ultimately had it even worse than Emma, raised under the thumb of perhaps the most chilling villain this show has ever depicted.
That’s why Gideon’s apology was such a touching moment. Knowing what we do now about his free will, I’d still like to think this was the real Gideon breaking through and apologizing not just for what he did but for what he knew he was still doing. There was such sincerity in Matthey’s performance in that moment, and I want to believe that Gideon truly does feel remorse for hurting Emma; he just can’t do anything about it because his actions are no longer his to control.
The two twists involving Gideon were among the biggest surprises this show has given me in quite some time. First, I was shocked that Gideon was actually still trying to kill Emma; then, I was shocked that it wasn’t Gideon at all who wanted Emma dead—it was the Black Fairy. Gideon’s plan from the start had been to enlist Emma’s help instead of killing her (a nice way to acknowledge that the “kill the Savior to get Savior powers” plan was stupid), but the Black Fairy had other plans for the woman who broke her darkest curse.
The Black Fairy is legitimately evil, perhaps the most unsympathetic villain this show has ever presented us with. I think much of the discomfort and distress I had surrounding her was the fact that her targets were children, whom she kidnapped, forced into labor, and tortured. The physical pain she inflicted on the children was hard to watch, but it was the psychological mind games she played with her own grandson that truly broke my heart. To be told about Gideon’s “test” with his friend was one thing; to see it was another. Even at such a young age, Gideon was so broken by what the Black Fairy had taught him that he couldn’t be the hero his friend needed him to be. Instead, he was a coward, like his father before him.
However, when faced with the chance to do the right thing later in life, Gideon proved to be more than his father’s son. Throughout the history of the show, the story of the men on this side of Henry’s family tree has been the story of sons initially committing the sins of the father (namely, cowardice and abandoning those they love) but then choosing to be better than their father was. Gideon’s story fell perfectly into this pattern, so when he came face-to-face with the young man he once shared imprisonment with, he was brave and chose to fight beside him instead of leaving him to suffer alone. Matthey’s performance in that scene was beautiful; I felt every ounce of regret in Gideon’s soul for not being strong enough to fight for his friend as a boy, which made his choice to fight now as a man even more powerful.
Ultimately, though, the Black Fairy proved to be too strong and too dark to be defeated for the time being. She took her own grandson’s heart, forcing him into the darkness he tried so hard to resist. While it’s always been hard to see characters have their free will taken away in this manner, it’s even more painful when it happens to a character who has worked hard to overcome their worst impulses and had finally chosen a better path for themselves.
The reveal of both the Black Fairy’s possession of Gideon’s heart and her entrance into Storybrooke made for the perfect one-two punch at the conclusion of the episode. Although it once again seemed a little “magically convenient” that the sword opens portals and that Emma didn’t have to be completely dead—just close to it—to transfer her powers to it, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to have the Black Fairy in town, ready to wreak havoc. (I’m just excited to have a villain on this show who I don’t have to feel conflicted about rooting against, and Jaime Murray is doing such deliciously devious work in this role.)
Before the strongest force of light magic (Emma) can clash with the strongest force of dark magic (the Black Fairy), Emma needs her whole support system back. That means Regina figuring out a way to wake up her father (since Emma and her mother have been enjoying their bonding time threatening villains—one of my favorite badass Snow moments in a while) and Killian making his way back to her. Both seem complicated right now, but the latter made for some great fun in this episode.
It’s been a while since we’ve been treated to the snarky, swashbuckling style of Killian Jones: Pirate Captain. I’d forgotten how much I missed seeing that roughish twinkle in his eyes and confident swagger in his step. Colin O’Donoghue is so good at every facet of this role, and the fact that he clearly has a lot of fun bringing the pirate side of Killian to life made his performance my favorite in the episode. After weeks (and, really, seasons) of angst, it was nice to have fun watching Killian again—even if he was separated from Emma. Whether he was shuffling a deck of cards with one hand, smiling that devilish smile when he challenged Blackbeard to a game of cards, or revealing his plan to get Blackbeard to take him Storybrooke win or lose, I couldn’t stop smiling every minute he was on my screen.
For as much fun as Killian’s story was to watch, it was also a sweet reminder of how Emma has become his home. As Blackbeard reminded us, Killian already traded his ship—his freedom, his home—for a way to get to Emma back in Season Three. This time, though, Emma is also fighting for him to get back to her in any way she can. I love watching these two characters work together even when separated by great distances, fighting for each other and for their chance at a happy ending. Although they weren’t reunited in this episode, I’m hopeful that the fact that we’ve had to wait so long means that when they do find their way back to each other, their reunion (and the subsequent second proposal that will surely come with) will be worth the wait.
Killian needs to get back to Emma before the final battle truly begins. As we discovered from Isaac, the story is ending, and that impending ending is causing Henry’s author powers to overwhelm his mind and body. That was a truly frightening moment, but I was happy Henry had one of his mothers with him to help him. Regina’s maternal side is always lovely to see, and I think Lana Parrilla does a great job of making us believe just how deeply Regina loves her son. So I completely bought that she would free Isaac if he told her what was going on with Henry. But he didn’t really give her any information that would help; he simply told her the fits would become more frequent and that they were leading up to the writing of a final battle no one should be excited to see. I did, however, adore Patrick Fischler’s disappointed and jealous delivery of his line about knowing about Henry’s trance but never experiencing one himself. I’d missed his particular brand of crazy more than I expected.
It seems everything in this universe is gearing up for a final chapter, a final battle between good (Emma and her family) and evil (the Black Fairy, Gideon—unless he can break free or be freed, and Rumplestiltskin—who seemed to choose his side the minute he threatened Emma). I loved that the final battle seems to be one between the Charming Family and the “Stiltskin Family,” as those have always been the two major opposing forces on this show. In the end, it will come down to choices: Will Gideon find a way to fight with the heroes he always wanted to be? Will Rumplestiltskin be brave enough to sacrifice himself to defeat his other parent the way he did with his father back in Season Three? Where will Belle choose to stand?
Whatever happens, there is a sense of finality to this story that this show has never had before. I know there are rumors swirling all around the show and I try not to let them influence my viewing and my writing, but it does seem that major stories, arcs, and conflicts are coming to an end, and I’m okay with that. If there is more story to tell after this, I will always be happy to go along for the magical ride, but if this final battle is really the final battle, I won’t feel cheated (or at least I don’t right now). All stories must come to an end, and maybe this is the right time to end this particular story. As long as every character is given an ending that feels earned and makes sense for their journey, I will be able to close the book with tears in my eyes but contentment in my heart. And I will continue to enjoy my travels down their paths with them for as long as I can until that ending comes.
• Do you think the symbols Henry was drawing while in his trance meant anything?
• What happens when the last chapter is written? Does Henry die? (Obviously no—this is a show about hope, so Henry could NEVER die.) Does he get transported to a new realm to write a new story? What happens to these people when their last chapter plays out? Why can’t Henry just get a new book and keep writing their stories? Why do I care so much about the rules of being an author when this will clearly never be fully explained to me?
• Regina being very specific about what part of the newt she needed for her spell cracked me up, as did her listing of everything she fixed that the Evil Queen damaged.
• As someone with a slight but not overwhelming fear of spiders, I was freaked out but in a fun, monster-movie kind of way by the giant spider chasing Emma and Gideon. However, all that fun went away when Emma was wrapped up in the web and almost died; that was legitimately stressful to watch.
• Rumplestiltskin saving Emma was another nice twist in an episode full of them. This was one of those episodes that highlighted the character’s complexity in really great way. I still think he’s done too much harm to root for him and I still want Belle to stay away from him, but there is still a part of me that believes he’s going to do the brave thing in the end, sacrificing himself for his loved ones.
• Killian ending up in Neverland when he just wanted to go home was just further proof that the poor guy can’t catch a break.
• Can’t someone guard the clock tower, since it’s clearly where all the villains hang out in Storybrooke?
Great review! I enjoyed the episode and I thought it was very entertaining. Not only was it a pleasure to see Killian effortlessly slip back into snarky, smug pirate mode, but it was wonderful to have Charles Mesure back as Blackbeard. He is such a fun character and it’s endlessly entertaining to watch Killian antagonize him. Such a great dynamic! Kudos to both Jen & Giles in this episode. I really enjoyed their scenes together and I loved seeing Emma’s determination to both defeat the Black Fairy and save Killian. I also find Giles incredibly compelling to watch. I think he brings so much depth to Gideon. Random thought, but this episode reminded how often I wish Emma and Belle had more scenes together, especially now that Belle is also a mother. We know Belle would do anything to protect her son, and even though Emma is ready to kill Gideon should he threaten her again, I’m sure she also sympathizes with Belle. Emma would do anything to keep Henry safe, so she can easily understand Belle’s perspective. Speaking of Belle, she seems so conflicted and I feel terrible for her. She so deeply wants to believe that there is goodness left in her boy, but his behavior certainly hasn’t shown it. Can’t wait to see what happens next.
Ooooo. Now I want some Emma-Belle scenes . . . I do think it would be good if Belle and Emma could talk to each other — without anyone else around. (Rumple is too inclined to make everything a battle.)
I agree. I would love to see them sit down and talk, mother to mother. I think they have a nice dynamic, so it’s unfortunate that they share so few scenes.
Lovely job, sweets. This was a fun episode.
FOILS!!!! I do adore foils . . . I love how each member of the pair represents what could have been for the other member. Killian could well have turned into Blackbeard (and Killian is a glimpse of what a redeemed Blackbeard might look like.) Emma could have been Gideon had she fallen into similar hands. In Emma, Gideon sees the hero he could be were it not for the Black Fairy. Isaac sees in Henry what he never had as an Author, and Isaac is what Henry wants to avoid being as Author. I could wallow in this ALL DAY.
I first wondered if Gideon might not be working for the Black Fairy when he and Emma first tried to open the portal (when the spider came through). It would make sense given that he’s spent his entire life being manipulated by a pro. That kind of abuse is hard to break free from. I was happy to see that perhaps I was wrong . . . and then, wait, oh, he is helping her out. I did love the twist that, yes, he’s “working” for the Black Fairy, but only because she has his heart. That shot of him with the tear running down his face? That hurt. Having your free will taken from you? That’s pretty ultimate evil right there.
Poor Henry. I have NO idea what’s going on with those symbols. I should think they would have some sort of meaning . . . I’m curious to see how this plays out. It would help if we knew more about the Author powers . . .
Killian and Blackbeard. That was awesome. I am glad to see the swagger and mischievousness back. (You had 6 aces!) I should have known he wouldn’t leave anything to chance to get back to Emma. Killian’s journey has been about being a better man, a better version of himself. I do like that he’s embracing the pirate-ness that he needs to get back to Emma — and that’s not a bad thing. He can draw on those strengths. Captain Hook survives. I love that Emma wants “her pirate” back. She’s always accepted him as both Hook and Killian.
— Wow does Murray kill as the Black Fairy. (Although if you’ve ever seen her as Stahma in “Defiance,” this is not surprising.) I cannot WAIT for Murray-Carlisle scenes.
— Where was the scene where everyone GROVELED for having misjudged Killian? Someone fan-fic me up.
— Of course Isaac wants the impossible: Hamilton tickets.
— What do you mean not everyone watched the spider scenes through their fingers?? (Seriously. DO. NOT. LIKE. SPIDERS.)
— Yep, laughed way too hard at the Dr. Dolittle line.
— I kinda want to see that Mother-Daughter bonding time.
As much as I liked certain aspects of this episode, I kept getting this feeling that we’re now in a mad rush to this ‘Final Battle’, and possibly a ‘Series’ Finale. We finally learned more about the Black Fairy, but rather than wasting all the time that was spent on Hyde and the EQ, shouldn’t more attention have been paid to her from the start of this season rather than in the latter half? I mean she’s been alluded to all this time and now you bring her in as the big, bad villain for the remaining episodes?
Emma was right not to lay her trust in Gideon, but I did like that she wanted to give him a chance, and when it finally comes to light that the Black Fairy is forcing him to do what she wants by having his heart, I felt a little sympathy for him, but not much. He’s taken Killian from her.. I wouldn’t be as trusting or as forgiving.
It was nice to see Emma and Snow working together(albeit only briefly) I’ll be happy when the Sleeping Curse is finally broken and the Charming family is back together.
It’s also a bit late in the game to be bringing Henry’s Author powers into play.. They’ve been on the back burner for so long you forget he’s got them.
My favorite scenes from this episode were all the ones with Hook and Black Beard.. And there certainly weren’t enough of them. I could watch the banter between them all day long.
And you can keep the spider. What is it with my favorite tv shows/movie franchises having spiders in them?
With 6 episodes left.. I certainly hope it doesn’t end up with story lines running pell mell for an ending we weren’t prepared for. Because I don’t think I’m ready for Once to be over just yet. Like you though, if this is it, I think I can be okay with it. I’m just going to miss this show A LOT.
Great review Katie!!
As you mentioned, this was a pretty plot heavy episode, but it was still enjoyable. It did succeed in making me sympathize with Gideon. As soon as that kid came out of the crowd and asked for his help in the flashbacks I knew he was being played.
I love how we didnt see the heart thing coming. Its so obvious but it was still a surprise, and those are the best kinds of twists.
Since I knew Tiger Lily was supposed to make an appearance I wasn’t expecting Killian to make it back from Neverland in this ep so the lack of a reunion wasn’t a surprise. I am actually enjoying that this forced separation between Killian and Emma is allowing them to have significant interactions with other characters, even if the drama that lead to that separation seemed completely unnecessary. I think I would like to see them back together by the end of the next episode though. I think it would be pretty epic if what breaks the Charming’s sleeping curse also breaks this curse keeping Killian from returning to Storybrooke.
And I also agree it was fabulous to see the pirate side of Killian again. I firmly believe that the “one handed shuffle” was 100% Colin’s idea. Sometimes I think he has TOO much fun playing this character. I wonder how many takes it took?
I loved that despite being attacked by a very traumatizing giant spider, Emma ‘I cant believe this is my life’ Swan still found time to make a bunch of spider jokes. Although I do love how easily she just accepts absurdity now. Even last week, she just so casually accepted that real Aesop was the owner of Aesop’s Tables.
I am encouraged by this “final chapter” storyline. For six seasons we have seen these characters in almost a constant unrelenting battle, and if a quiet “happily ever after” isn’t on-screen worthy, I am happy to believe they are living one off screen. I wouldn’t be sad if this ended with Emma fulfilling her savior role and then being able to live a somewhat normal life with her family and friends.
Lots of “ditto” and “yep” and nodding in agreement for this comment. 🙂
“Why do I care so much about the rules of being an author when this will clearly never be fully explained to me?” haha! That’s what fandom is for.
This show is pretty good about keeping its central messages clear so I wasn’t too surprised when Gideon failed his first test but made a different choice later. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the heart control either, because that’s the kind of thing that always seems to happen to people who make a better choice, but yeah, no, totally didn’t see that coming, even though I was suspicious of the Black Fairy’s involvement the whole time.
I enjoyed the return of pirate Killian too. Killian plays all his roles so well, but I have a certain fondness for the pirate.
I’m sorry for everyone with spider issues. Every really good story needs a giant spider almost killing the hero though.
Every time they go down into the basement to talk to someone they’ve locked up I wonder who its going to be, because I always forget who they’ve gotten rid of and who they’ve imprisoned until they can be useful in the plot again. Glad they were able to work Hamilton tickets into the narrative.
I’d forgotten that Henry had Author powers… (I have the same goldfish problem as Jake Peralta apparently – sometimes I forget that Henry exists until he shows up again, and then I’m like “Henry! You’re important. You started it all! Where have you been?!”). Hopefully they give him some good stuff to do with that leading up to the final battle. TBH I was a little relieved when I heard the words “final battle.” Not that I’m eager for the show to end, but I want it to end WELL, and it sounds like this final battle is the point of the whole thing, and will be designed to wrap things up properly (I’m assuming). I trust this show to do a pretty good job of that, so in some ways I’m looking forward to it. I want the show to end on its own terms with a story that feels complete, and preferably one that feels like it was planned from the beginning but also makes sense given all the twists and turns they’ve accommodated along the way. Fingers crossed. If anyone can do it these guys can.
It was a joy to have Blackbeard back. As a villain, he’s good to have in small doses like this, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing him and Killian play off each other.
I feel like after all this time of our heroes encountering villains without their oarents, they should have created a spell to tell them if the villain of the week they are fighting has a heart or currently missing one.
Am I right?
And I think that this is the first time we’ve seen someone’s heart be controlled across realms, too.
Thanks for your review, Katie!