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?