Title Souls of the Departed
Two-Sentence Summary As Regina’s relationship with both of her parents is explored in the past and present, she begins to sew the seeds of hope in the Underworld. That hope will be needed, as the quest to save Hook is revealed to be even more challenging than initially feared.
Favorite Line “If you stay, you spread hope, and that’s the best thing anyone can do.” (Henry Sr., to Regina)
My Thoughts It all started with the tick of a clock…
The pilot of Once Upon a Time ended with a ticking clock and a smiling little boy, a symbol of the possibility that things could begin to change for the better and that hope had arrived in a place long thought to be without it. The 100th episode of Once Upon a Time also featured a ticking clock in its final minutes, serving once again as a symbol of positive change in a previously hopeless world. The difference this time was in the person smiling as the clock began to tick and hope began to spread. In the pilot episode, Regina was the villain keeping everyone in a state of hopeless stasis, but 99 episodes later, she was now the hero smiling at the possibility of restoring hope and happiness in a dark world.
“Souls of the Departed” showed how much Once Upon a Time has grown over the course of 100 episodes while still honoring the hopeful tone that has always been its hallmark. And it did so through the lens of Regina’s character growth. Did we need another flashback to the Regina/Snow war? Of course not. That story’s been told an exhaustive number of times. (Although it was nice to fill in the gaps concerning how Cora came to be in possession of a shrunken version of her husband.) But it served as a nice reminder of how far Snow and Regina’s relationship and Regina’s character in general have come since the days when the story told in those flashbacks was the only story to tell for those characters. And it’s always fun to see Lana Parrilla in full “Evil Queen mode,” complete with those gorgeous costumes.
The flashbacks also set up a very nice parallel between Emma in the Once Upon a Time pilot and Regina in the show’s 100th episode. I don’t think it was a coincidence that the writers chose to set this episode’s flashback on Regina’s birthday, just as the series started on Emma’s birthday. Emma and Regina have always been positioned as two sides of a coin, characters whose journeys reflect each other in fascinating ways. And just like when Emma’s decision to stay in the pilot made the clock move, Regina’s decision to stay in this episode did the same. Both of these women have grown from being loners to being part of a loving family, and their choices to stay and be a part of something instead of running away represent the hope that we can all find it in ourselves to stay and fight for what’s right when it feels easier and safer to leave.
“Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing.”
Those words spoken by Mary Margaret Blanchard in the pilot episode of Once Upon a Time serve as the show’s mission statement. In a world that seems to be growing colder and more hopeless each day and in a media landscape that seems to be increasingly focused on antiheroes and darkness, Once Upon a Time proudly stands as a rare beacon of hope. For 99 episodes, it’s shown us that love is strength, that belief in others and in yourself can create magic, and that we all have the power be better than who we once were.
Once Upon a Time has helped its legions of passionate fans—myself included—believe in the possibility of a happy ending for ourselves. That will be this show’s legacy when all is said and done: the feelings of hope and happiness it inspired in those who watched it. And to celebrate the show’s 100th episode, which airs tomorrow night, I wanted to honor that legacy of hope and happiness by taking a look back at the show’s most hopeful moments—from the early days of Season One all the way through Episode 99.
1. Charming wakes up (1.03: Snow Falls)
“I will always find you.” Snow and Charming’s entire story is based on the hope that they will always find each other, that—no matter what dark forces separate them—they will always make their way back to each other. Not even the Dark Curse and a coma could keep them from each other, as we saw in one of the show’s best episodes, “Snow Falls.” As Snow read to a comatose Charming the story of how they fell in love (despite Snow having no idea it was their story she was telling), he grabbed her hand, proving that their love was once again strong enough to break through curses and bring them back to life. It wasn’t an easy road for Snow and Charming after he woke up, but that moment was a spark of hope that spoke to the power of True Love to do the impossible.
2. Henry wakes up (1.22: A Land Without Magic)
Emma breaking the Dark Curse with her True Love for her son remains Once Upon a Time’s defining moment. Not only did it teach us that romantic love isn’t the only true kind of love; it also taught us that even in the darkest moments, hope is not lost if there is love. Emma saved Henry not by fighting a dragon but by allowing herself to finally admit how much she loved him. By opening her heart to love—even when it meant incredible pain—Emma was able to break the curse that was cast on Henry and the curse that was cast on all of Storybrooke. This is the moment I always come back to whenever things look bleak on Once Upon a Time. It serves as my reminder that where there is love, there is hope.
Today we’re kicking off the one-week countdown to Once Upon a Time’s 100th episode with a guest post by longtime NGN Family member and passionate Oncer, Shauna! Stay tuned for plenty more OUAT-related content this week here at NGN as we gear up for one of our favorite shows hitting such an important milestone!
Shauna here—longtime Nerdy Girl Notes commenter, first time poster. I am coming to you from above the comment box because I wanted to do something special to honor Once Upon a Time’s 100th episode. And since my love of OUAT and my love of this site will always be intertwined, I am very thankful to Katie for giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with you. So without further ado, here’s my love letter to a show and a fandom that have meant more to me than I ever could have imagined:
When I first sat down to watch the pilot in 2011, I had no idea of the journey I was about to embark on. I loved the pilot, and I immediately saw myself in Emma: tough as nails on the outside, but beneath the surface, a lonely woman longing for connections and love in her life. That wasn’t necessarily the place I was at in my life when I saw the pilot, but I had been there in the past. While I might not know what it’s like to grow up an orphan, I do know loneliness. While I can never even imagine the heartbreak and guilt that comes from having to give a child away, I do know what it’s like to give up a chance to be close to someone because I felt I couldn’t handle the responsibility. My first love didn’t abandon me and send me to jail for their crime, but I do know what it’s like to be betrayed and so scared to love again that I stopped trying altogether. How exactly Emma became the woman we saw in the pilot is a unique tale, just like everyone has their own unique origin story, but the scars left from her past were easy to relate to. That connection to Emma was there on Day One, and it’s just as strong now, if not more so, 99 episodes later.
While watching Emma’s journey toward openness over the seasons and writing about it on this site, I have also become more open. When I look back, I realize it’s now much easier for me to express my feelings than it was back in 2011. I used to be someone who would cry whenever she talked about her feelings. Someone who kept her fears and insecurities so close to her chest that, when they did come out, it was a flood of emotion that could not be stopped. I used to be a person who tended to focus on the negative while ignoring the positive. A cynic, not a supporter. But I can now (usually) talk about my feelings more regularly without an emotional breakdown. I tell people how much they mean to me. I have become more empathetic and patient. I have become more articulate and a better writer. I try to look for the good in others rather than trying to find their flaws. I can be encouraging and supportive of friends and family without feeling insecure about my own worth. That’s not to say I don’t fall back into those negative habits, but it happens much less frequently now. I believe all of this is evident in my own writing and interactions with people on this site over the past few years, and I believe it is a testament to the uniquely positive tone Katie has created here at NGN.