Sorry for the slight delay, dear readers! This one took longer to write than I’d anticipated.
Winter finale season is upon us! On Sunday, Once Upon a Time broke all our hearts with a stunning and surprising winter finale, but, thankfully, Brooklyn Nine-Nine spread lots of happiness with an episode focused on Jake and Rosa’s friendship. On Tuesday, the winter finale of The Muppets brought Mindy Kaling to the show to play (and sing!), and The Flash took us into the hiatus with the introduction of Wally West and about a million more reasons to care about Patty Spivot. Also on Tuesday, The Mindy Project gave us a look into the past to send a surprising sign about Mindy and Danny’s future. Wednesday’s Nashville ended this half-season with a proposal, a rare moment of joy amid a depressing start to the season. Finally, my Buffalo pride came out in full force during ESPN’s excellent 30 for 30 special “The Four Falls of Buffalo,” and Saturday Night Live gave us another thoroughly entertaining episode—this one featuring the return of Will Ferrell as George W. Bush and Chris Hemsworth as its charming host.
A lot of big things happened on television this week: Mindy took her apartment off the market, Joe West met his son, and Deacon and Rayna got engaged—just to name a few. But nothing has stayed with me like the events of Once Upon a Time‘s midseason finale, namely, the death of Killian Jones. It wasn’t just the most moving moment I saw on television this week; it was the most moving moment I’ve seen on television all season so far. And that was all because of the complete vulnerability displayed by Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison in that moment.
Once Upon a Time is a fairytale, and almost all fairytales have a moment like this one—the moment when the hero believes their love is lost to them forever. But the thing that’s always set Once Upon a Time apart is the fact that it’s a fairytale about a woman who didn’t grow up in a fairytale world. Emma Swan has always been and will always be the character who grounds this show in reality, and Morrison grounded this scene in the painful reality of grief. She held nothing back in her performance, and her fearlessness created a moment of raw emotion unlike anything we’ve ever seen on this show.
Killian’s death was a devastating moment of loss, but it was also a triumphant moment of love. It was this arc’s climactic reminder that love is stronger than darkness, that love can make us brave, and that love can bring out the best version of who we are. Knowing what this show was all about, it was easy to guess that Killian would ultimately find his way out of the darkness, but watching him break free of its hold on him was more powerful than I ever could have imagined. The way O’Donoghue showed—in just the smallest change in his facial expression—that Killian’s love for Emma once again lit a spark in the darkest corners of his heart was masterful.
I could write a million words about why Killian telling the darkness “That’s enough!” meant so much to me (and hopefully I will write all those words someday), but for now I’ll just say that moment was such a strong reminder that we all have the ability to choose how we’re defined. Even when we feel defined by our darkness, we can fight back. We can choose to be the kind of person we never felt brave enough to believe we could be. There’s still hope for us, even when the darkness in our own mind and heart feels overwhelming; we’re not a lost cause just because we feel like one. In that moment, Killian finally stopped letting his past define and control him, and that said so much about the ability we all have to acknowledge who we were but to choose to become who we want to be.
Killian Jones wanted to be a hero—the kind of man who is driven by love instead of hate, the kind of man who saves instead of destroys. And even though he didn’t save his own life, he saved his heart and the heart of the woman he loves from the grip of the darkness. The light of their love proved strong enough to destroy the darkness once again, as they changed from Dark Hook and Dark Swan to Killian and Emma before he died in her arms. That shot—with their foreheads touching like they have after so many intimate moments dating back to their first kiss—was such a powerful image: Killian and Emma taking one last moment to savor the love that helped them grow into the best versions of themselves. It was gut-wrenching to watch Emma lose him again, but this is how he wanted to die: in the arms of the woman he loves after knowing she was free of the darkness, looking one last time on the face of his Swan—not the Dark Swan.
While Killian’s death was brutal to watch, it was also beautiful (in no small way because we all know that Emma is going to march into the Underworld and get him back—that’s what this show is all about). It was a reminder of the strength we all have inside us, and it was a testament to the transformative power of love. It was a moment straight out of an epic fairytale, balanced with complex and realistic emotions—and I can think of no higher compliment to give a scene on Once Upon a Time.
What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?