Once Upon a Time: Lily Review

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By: Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)

The second half of season 4 has been tackling the concept of darkness a great deal, so it’s apropos that the episodes have grown considerably darker as well. Although lighter than last week, “Lily” still proved to be serious and emotional, with shocking moments, and the further exploration of fate versus free will that is both deep and at times confusing. Some of the most emotional moments featured flashbacks to young Emma’s life with a foster family. In a very clean cut household with family dinners and chore wheels, Emma looked truly happy. She finally thought she’d found a home with people who cared about her. And they did. But when Lily shows up asking for Emma’s help, on the run from the police for aiding in a robbery with her boyfriend, Emma’s good situation is ruined. She promises Lily some allowance money but tells her she must leave; but first Lily begs Emma to retrieve a necklace for her and while she does Lily steals money from Emma’s foster family, who learn the sordid history between the girls. In anger, they question Emma’s intentions in letting Lily into their home, breaking her heart and leading to her departure from the first place she may have been able to call home. Once again she is an orphaned runaway who is “better off alone.” Lily finds her at the bus stop expecting a thank you, but Emma understandably pushes Lily away despite her insistence that no matter what she does, she keeps making bad decisions, as if she is cursed. My heart broke for Emma when she told Lily she has no idea what it’s truly like to be an orphan and Abby Ross brought such sincere poignancy to the scene that illuminated crucial aspects to Emma’s character. The more we learn about Emma’s early life, the more we understand what shaped her into the woman she became. We can see with even more clarity why Emma was so closed off and resistant to let people into her heart. Each time she had done so in the past (with Lily, Ingrid, and Neal) she was lied to, let down, or betrayed. That sad truth combined with the fact that she went years seeing other children be adopted by loving families, enduring living in foster homes with those who did not truly care for her, and finally believing she had found one only to lose it just as quickly, all contributed to the way she related to people. And yet, despite this heartache, she still yearned for family and love; even when she had difficultly letting love in when it began to come her way, she still wanted it deep in her heart. This is what makes seeing Emma finally open her heart that much more beautiful, and her inherent goodness so exquisite. But is her inherent goodness the result of a spell that transferred any potential for darkness into Lily? This where the concept of fate versus free will comes into play, with some confusion. As we see in another flashback the Sorcerer tells his Apprentice that Emma and Lily will remain entwined as they always were, so even without the spell we are to believe there was always a fated connection between them. Moreover, are we to take Lily’s feelings that no matter what she does she still makes bad decisions as gospel since she is filled with a darkness that could have been Emma’s? I cannot believe it is ever that simple, nor that the show is truly saying so. It’s not fate or free will, one or the other, but instead the two working together. Many things are a result of fate but our actions and choices are still our own. Lily always felt like she didn’t belong which is understandable given her origin, but when the Apprentice tells her who she is (as a way to assuage his guilt I suppose) it felt as if Lily used that as an excuse to perpetuate her feelings and choose to start down a path filled with even more darkness and a need for revenge. This was not forced upon her. Her heart was not ripped from her chest, somebody controlling her every move. She chose this path of her own free will. These choices are explored even further when Emma and Lily meet again as adults.

In present day Storybrooke, Emma looks considerably better but you can still see her weariness weighing her down. Maleficent interrupts a family meeting and offers a truce. She no longer wants to align with Gold. She only wants her daughter and so asks Emma to find her. When Maleficent explains her daughter’s history and that her name is Lilith, Emma knows right away who she is and rushes out of the diner. Regina finds her and suggests that they help each other out and go on a road trip. She has to go to New York to rescue Robin from Zelena, so they can find Lily as well. It broke my heart to hear Emma say that the one person she thought was her friend was not even her friend by choice, but because of the hands of fate. But it was wonderful see Regina genuinely relate and tell her that perhaps it is time to push back and beat fate. I really enjoyed seeing her true concern, camaraderie and self awareness about what life entails. This was another step toward an actual friendship. Before they depart, Emma says a goodbye to her loved ones that revealed where she is as a character and how far she has come. She still holds anger toward her parents and can only bring herself to coldly tell them to take care of Henry. But she doesn’t do so with Killian. In one of the episode’s loveliest moments, as Killian tells Emma to be careful, we see her smile for the first time in ages. Beautifully so, the moment he moves closer to her and takes her hand the light returns to her eyes in a way only he can inspire. He urges her to resist the darkness, knowing how tempting it can be. She asks him with no judgment or derision, but rather a soft tone, why he could not. He tells her it was because he had nothing to live for, but reminds Emma that she does- she has her parents and Henry. And then she includes him and the way he smiles back at her is so exquisite, bringing a light into his eyes that he just brought into hers. He mirrors her declaration; he has her too. She is what’s kept him out of the darkness. He tells her to do whatever she can to do the same and they sweetly kiss goodbye. Although this moment was brief, it was no less significant in meaning and beauty. The couple have expressed love for each other in countless ways without ever uttering the words: “Come back to me,” “I’d go to the end of the world for her,”Until I met you,” “I can’t lose you,” “I’m going to choose to see the best in you,” “And I with you,” “It’s you,” and now “Aye me, and aye, you.” In all of these heartfelt moments their love is evident, but we also see how powerful the word “You” can be. It is such a simple word. 3 little letters, like the 3 little words in that ultimate declaration, and 2 more letters than its counterpart “Me.” It is a kind of lovely symbol of how when you fall in love you add one more person to your life. Moreover, hearing the couple say that they live for each other and acknowledge in both words and expressions the light they bring to one another’s lives was beyond moving. Ever since Killian told Emma that she is his happy ending, there is often a gentle grace in the softness of his smile and brightness of his eyes. It’s like a weight has been lifted off his shoulders. And the way she smiles so sweetly back at him, among the darkness surrounding her that is trying to creep into her soul, is a thing of beauty. It is clear that Emma and Killian are the love, and lights, of each other’s lives.

Killian’s urging to stay on that path of light proves crucial when she finds Lily and discovers that she knows the truth about everything. Her former friend even has a stalker-ish board with clues and pictures, complete with “Revenge” style red Xs drawn over her targets. An intense car chase leads to a standoff between the two and Emma’s fierce protectiveness once again comes out when Lily threatens Snow and David. When Emma pulls a gun on her, Lily baits her to put her out of her misery, because thanks to Emma, she is hard wired for bad decisions and will destroy everything Emma holds dear. The cold edge necessary to make this character believable after such a short amount of screen time is a tough task, bit Agnes Bruckner pulled it off well. As Emma aims her gun, Regina steps forward, knowing firsthand what crossing that line can do, and tells her to put her weapon down- that she is better than this. As I suspected it wasn’t killing Cruella that would lead to darkness, it would be her reaction to it. Even though she was protecting her son, Emma calls herself a murderer, but Regina tells her that was not the case. But killing Lily would not be the same. You can see the struggle in Emma eyes and temptation to pull that trigger. But three people help her resist that darkness, quite movingly. Regina is physically there to tell her what Emma needs to hear in that moment, knowing quite well what she is going through. In her heart and mind Killian is with Emma, his words of wisdom strong and resolute in her memory. If they are living for each other, they must also be able to live with themselves. And lastly, Emma has herself. Fate may have entwined her and Lily’s lives, but no matter what they still made their own choices. In this moment Emma chooses the light. She chooses compassion and to no longer push Lily away, but instead reunite her with her mother.

The episode’s other significant moments were both sad and shocking. Will is surprised by Gold in his shop ready to fight the Dark One if he had to. Instead, Gold orders him to steal back Belle’s heart so he can return it to her. Belle did not remember that she was without her heart, and when she is made whole again, there is a look of sadness when Gold says goodbye to her. He did a good thing in admitting that he should have tried to make his wife happy instead of deceiving her, but he remains on his path to destroy Emma and does not tell Belle about it. This is a such a complex situation and I honestly can’t foresee where it will lead. And as much as I enjoy the sweetness between Belle and Will, I still desperately wonder what happened to Anastasia, with whom he shared a love that was deep and true. Where is she? In the show’s final moments we see another shocking twist courtesy of Zelena. Regina finds Robin and embraces her love, nearly in tears as she says how much she missed him. She then tells him of Marian’s true identity. At first in disbelief, poor Robin is shaken to the core when Zelena reveals herself. But Regina is equally shaken when he says he can’t leave her because she is pregnant! Though it sounds like the plot of a soap opera, this definitely does create juicy drama. Shocking and sad as this revelation is, their story is far from over and wickedness cannot stop love forever. With only one episode left before the finale we shall see whether the dark or the light will prevail.

Favorite Moments:
Emma’s choices are what proved to be the most moving in this episode- choosing to tell Killian that she lives for him, choosing to show Lily compassion, and choosing not to give into the darkness.

Favorite Lines:
Killian: I didn’t have anything to live for. You have your parents, Henry…
Emma: You.
Killian: Aye, me. And I, you.

Gold: I need something stolen…Belle’s heart.
Will: Already in the process of doing that. Sorry, mate.


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