Is there anything more magical than a wedding? On Sunday, Emma Swan and Killian Jones are finally tying the knot during Once Upon a Time’s musical episode extravaganza, and to prepare for their walk down the aisle, I thought it was the perfect occasion to take a walk down memory lane, reliving our favorite moments in their fairytale romance.
There’s never been a love story on television like Emma and Killian’s. From the very start, it’s been the perfect blend of sweeping fairytale and relatable realism. This pirate and princess have taken us on a journey that’s spanned years and realms; have found each other through lost memories, alternate realities, and a ridiculous number of curses; and have gone to the Underworld and back again for each other. Along the way, they’ve struggled with their own demons, fears, and emotional walls—forces of darkness just as strong as any villain they’ve ever faced—but they’ve emerged from those battles stronger as individuals and as partners.
Killian and Emma have proven their True Love many times—sacrificing for each other, choosing each other, fighting for each other, supporting each other, and making each other happy when they thought happiness might not be in the cards for them anymore. They’ve given each other hope, and in the process, they’ve given hope to so many people watching.
So before the next chapter in this love story begins, let’s take a look back at my 10 favorite moments along the way—from Never Land to the Underworld and from time-traveling adventures to breakfast table kisses. Don’t forget to share your favorites in the comments!
1. “Perhaps I would…” (3.02: Lost Girl)
There’s a moment in every “shipper’s” life when you go from liking the idea of a pairing and thinking they have good chemistry to being completely sold on what this relationship could be, and this moment of startling sincerity from Killian Jones was that moment for me. I appreciated Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison’s chemistry and could see the potential in pairing their two character together as far back as “Tallahassee,” but this was the moment I went all in. The way the scene shifted from playful and flirtatious to suddenly sincere stopped me in my tracks, and it made me realize that what Emma Swan truly deserved in a partner was exactly what Killian Jones was offering her in that moment (and would continue to offer her from them on): someone who would love her for everything she is and would patiently wait for her to let him see the true Emma behind her armor.
2. The first kiss (3.05: Good Form)
The week the spoilers for this kiss came out is still one of my favorite weeks I’ve ever experienced as a fangirl. The excitement I shared with my fellow fans that week makes this a very special moment for me, but even without those memories, the kiss itself was a game-changer for Emma and Killian. I loved that this scene—like every major moment between them—was all about Emma taking charge. And when she took charge, she grabbed what she wanted with both hands and gave us a steamy moment that neither the audience nor Killian would soon forget. While the kiss itself was wonderful, it was his reaction to it that sold the moment. O’Donoghue allowed us to see Killian’s entire life change in the aftermath of that kiss—he looked like a man who’d seen the sun after 200 years of darkness, and that look said everything we needed to know about the light and hope that kiss brought into his life. He couldn’t handle it, and neither could we.
3. “When I win your heart…” (3.07: Dark Hollow)
If you need someone to deliver a romantic speech, call Colin O’Donoghue. This moment was the perfect balance of sexy confidence and supportive sincerity, making for one of the most romantic speeches in Once Upon a Time history. If “a man unwilling to fight for what he wants deserves what he gets,” this was Killian Jones fighting for what he wanted—Emma’s heart. But as he so correctly stated, that heart needed to be freely, and that kind of respect for Emma’s choices has always been one of the ways this character stood apart from the pack. And by following up his profession of his intentions with the perfect statement of belief in her ability to find Henry, he cemented his place as one of the cornerstones of her support system, a place he’s held with honor ever since.
4. A “good” goodbye (3.11: Going Home)
For much of the beginning of Season Three, we were very aware of Killian’s feelings toward Emma but less sure of her feelings toward him. We knew she was physically attracted to him and sought out his support and advice, but the extent of her feelings were still very much left up to interpretation—until she had to say goodbye. Faced with the prospect of not only being separated from him forever but also losing her memories of knowing him, he once again reassured her that his feelings would remain unchanged by telling her that not a day would go by that he wouldn’t think of her. And then Emma responded with one word that said so much: “Good.” With that one word, Emma told Killian that she wanted him to think of her, which was a major revelation for a woman who typically pushed away people’s expressions of affection and ran away from emotional attachments. By accepting his devotion and giving him that affirmation (which meant a lot because Emma hates giving false hope), Emma ignited a spark of hope that eventually brought Killian back to her in New York City and brought her home to Storybrooke and her true self.
5. The end of the “Captain Swan Movie” (3.22: There’s No Place Like Home)
The entire Season Three finale was basically a movie that could have been titled “Emma and Killian’s Time-Traveling Adventure.” So many moments from that episode could have made this list—dancing at Emma’s first ball, comforting hugs, promises to go to the end of the world for her, or tears wiped gently from faces. But my all-time favorite moment between these two characters is their conversation and kiss at the end of the episode, because that’s when their romantic relationship truly began. That’s when Emma made the conscious choice—played beautifully by Morrison throughout the scene—to allow herself to hope that this love that Killian was freely offering wouldn’t leave her broken. Their banter in this scene was warmer and more affectionate than it had been before, and it added a lovely layer of tenderness to the moment. And when they finally kissed, you knew there was no going back. The gentle intimacy of the kiss spoke to the idea that these two people knew to treat this love as something precious, two people who knew that love could bring pain but were trusting that this time they could be happy. I think of this moment as the true start of their Happy Beginning.
6. Emma tells the truth about her fears (4.03: Rocky Road)
Vulnerability is hard for Emma Swan, and that’s what made this scene so special. By finally opening up to Killian about her fears of losing him after losing everyone else she’d ever loved, she let down her guard in a way we’d never seen before. And it foreshadowed the struggles she would later face letting him go because she couldn’t lose him—not didn’t want to, couldn’t. But Killian’s sweet reassurance that he’s a survivor allowed Emma to hope in that moment—for perhaps the first time since Neal left her—that she had someone by her side who wouldn’t disappear. It was yet another reminder of the care the writers took to make Killian the right partner for her, and it was sealed with one of their best and most passionate kisses.
7. Killian looks into Emma’s past (4.05: Breaking Glass)
I like to think of this scene as an extension of the “Perhaps I would” moment in “Lost Girl.” In this moment, Emma finally let Killian see exactly what made her who she is; she shared her box of trinkets from her past, the few things she kept from her hard and lonely childhood. I will always believe this is one of the bravest things Emma has ever done. To let someone see and hold the remnants of your messy past takes incredible courage and strength, and I loved that this moment was played by Morrison with just the right amount of nervous hesitation and by O’Donoghue with just the right sense that Killian sees this as a great honor that he doesn’t take lightly. It was the perfect way to bring Emma’s walls down just a little bit farther and to show that she chose the right person to let those walls down with.
8. The Underworld goodbye (5.20: Firebird)
Killian and Emma have had more than their share of tragic goodbyes, but none were more painful than their farewell in the Underworld. Earlier in the episode, a test proved that their love was True, but this felt like their true “True Love” moment. This was Emma finally loving Killian enough to let him go, and it was Killian loving Emma enough to help her do that. Love is sacrifice, but it’s also strength. And their love helped them both find the strength to sacrifice for each other as they said goodbye. The quiet intimacy of the moment and the powerfully vulnerable performances by the actors made this a powerfully poignant scene. Even knowing that they find their way back to each other, it’s hard to watch Killian kiss her hand before it slips out of his grasp without crying.
9. Proposing the right way (6.17: Awake)
I knew that if Killian Jones was given a second chance at a proposal—a real chance—he’d do it the right way, and he didn’t disappoint. From calling Emma “Swan” to promising to always be by her side, it was a proposal only Killian could give, and that’s what made it so beautiful. Killian has always stood by Emma’s side—his devotion is his defining character trait, which has made him the perfect partner for a woman who has been abandoned so many times in her life. Instead of leaving Emma to fend for herself because of her destiny, Killian promised to always be by her side. It was the ideal promise for Emma, who has spent her whole life dealing with the fear that she was always meant to be alone because of a destiny she didn’t choose. And by accepting his proposal, Emma finally chose to let herself believe she could be happy even with the future being uncertain.
10. Making pancakes (6.18: Where Bluebirds Fly)
Love should make you happy. Yes, it should support you in hard times, and it may even give you cause to shed a tear or two. But it should bring joy and fun into your life. And finally, FINALLY, we got to see the fun begin for Killian and Emma after he proposed. It was nice to be able to watch them have some time alone to enjoy being happy together after so much angst. Watching them kiss all over their kitchen, bask in their mutual happiness, and be comically interrupted by Snow just as things started to get heated was like a breath of fresh air. This scene was what I’d always imagined their life would look like together without any monsters or curses (or even just in between dealing with those), and it was nice to get such a blissful peek into what “Happily Ever After” looks like for them.