Once Upon a Time: Mother Review


By: Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)

This week’s Once Upon a Time was an emotional and heartfelt one focusing on love, family, and most specifically the complex relationship between mothers and daughters. In the Enchanted Forest of the past, Cora returns from Wonderland to see her daughter Regina on the anniversary Daniel’s death. Cora says she has come to help Regina find that final piece that could complete her happiness- love. She goes looking for Robin but instead has the Sheriff of Nottingham pretend to be Regina’s soul mate, thinking they would be a good match. The Sheriff, who is as slimy as they come equating weakness with femininity, does not fool Regina. She knows he does not feel like a soul mate and finds out the reason behind her mother’s deception. At first I was not sure the point to these scenes but a final moment between mother and daughter made it abundantly clear. Cora wanted Regina to have a child, but Regina is so angry that out of spite she drinks a potion that would prevent her from doing so. You can see the pain and instant regret when she does so and it was utterly heartbreaking. Although it is difficult to see when Cora is being sincere, in this case I believe she was. Misguided as she was, she did truly want her daughter to be happy. Not only was this a powerful moment wonderful portrayed by Lana Parrilla and Barbara Hershey, but it also tied to Regina’s current frame of mind, and indeed the themes of this season, in significant ways. Cora tells Regina an indisputable truth. The only person standing in the way of her happiness is herself. In the present day, Regina and Robin are trying to figure out how to move forward now that Zelena is pregnant. At first I did understand her line, played with sad resignation, that Robin and Zelena would be now tied in a way she and Robin never will be. We know now it’s because she cannot have children. This situation motivates her to find the author and have him finally write her a happy ending. Regina obtains the dark savior blood needed to charge the ink from Lily, and she and the scribe visit Zelena in her asylum cell. Zelena gloats to her sister but her face drops when she realizes what the author plans to do. He is going to writer Zelena out of the story as if she never even existed. Both Parrilla and Rebecca Mader played the moment with superb nuance so different than their exaggerated counterparts. And when Zelena says Regina is acting exactly as their mother did, abandoning a child in the blink of an eye, Regina realizes how wrong her plan is. My favorite moments for Regina are always ones that show her growth and self awareness and this was perhaps her finest. Regina says her happy ending is not banishing Zelena from their memories, nor is it simply the love of Robin. Her happy ending is feeling at home in the world. I loved this realization and the power of this message. Regina’s happiness of course includes those she loves that are a part of that world especially Henry and Robin, but more importantly it’s about feeling good about the person she is, and no longer finding a happy ending at the expense of others. She discovers what surely all of our characters have or must learn. We are responsible for our own happiness; nobody can give it to us. No author or magic spell can ever create what we can do for ourselves.

Another relationship explored was between a mother and daughter meeting for the first time. Maleficent and Lily are reunited but this reunion is not what either of them expected. Lily was hoping for a “crazy dragon bitch” who would join her in seeking revenge on Snow and Charming, while Maleficent simply wants to move forward and enjoy their time together. Lily quickly balks back at her mother and says she’s leaving town, so Mal goes to Snow and David for help and advice. What is so interesting is how much this paralleled the way Emma was when first arriving in Storybrooke. Snow and David even say as much, explaining how she had walls and was reluctant to open up because every time she had, she was let down. The three parents look for Lily and find that she has transformed into an out of control dragon. Mal approaches her daughter, as does Snow wanting to help, but dragon Lily knocks over Snow, who hits her head badly on a rock. When David and Mal try to help, Lily unleashes her literal fire power. It was a brief moment but it’s worth mentioning how David instinctively puts his arm in front of Mal to protect her from the fire. This is a commendable and consistent acting choice on Josh Dallas’ part as we so often see this caring and protective side come out in these instinctual gestures no matter who he is interacting with. When Lily is back in human form we see a surprisingly sweet moment between Lily and her mother. She is very much like Emma but in many ways is also her opposite having received her potential for darkness. She is scared to open up, but not in fear of others letting her down. Lily is the one afraid to let people down. It was touching to see Mal not as an evil witch but what she truly is- a mother who just wants to know her daughter and I loved seeing them embrace when Lily agrees to stay in town.

Since the beginning, the true heart of the series has been Emma Swan’s journey and her evolving relationships. This journey is emblematic of the show’s themes of love in all its forms, family, courage, resilience, and forgiveness. And all of these themes were beautifully exemplified in Emma’s scenes with her parents and with Killian. When Emma returns to Storybrooke having just faced and fought against her darkness, she has a look of pure joy and comfort as she hugs her son and then Killian. We often say that we can find home safe in someone’s loving arms, and that solace is evident as she hugs the man she loves as if they’d been apart for a year. As happy as Emma was to embrace her loved ones she still backs away from her mother, and importantly Killian notices. This leads to one of their loveliest moments ever because it was not only about the two of them individually and as a couple, but also Emma’s family. Killian takes Emma to the docks, hoping gazing upon the horizon will be calming, to which she says it is. But I think the real calming presence is Emma’s life is Killian. You see the comfort and openness she has with him now in both mannerism and expression. She sits between his legs, and any kind of tension she feels is alleviated the moment she looks into his eyes. Killian says he knows her heart is still uneasy and he feels like it’s his job, or at least he hopes it’s his job, to protect her heart. Emma assures him that she no longer needs protection from Gold, but that is not who he is talking about. The truth of what he speaks is so exquisite and further solidifies not only what an astute and loving man he is towards Emma, but also her family. When Killian traveled back in time he could see how much her parents mean to her. So seeing her push them away, he understands the pain they’re all experiencing and it affects him deeply. Colin O’Donoghue played this scene so gorgeously with tender sincerity as Killian explains that perhaps they did not tell her everything because they were ashamed and they wanted her to like them; and he wisely explains how they tried to protect her because they wanted her to be happy and to make her proud. For a moment Emma deflects saying she would have liked to have known how they turned themselves around saying how she likes when people find their good hearts along the way, an obvious reference to the man sitting before her. And Jennifer Morrison shows in an instant how much Emma admires and loves Killian with a sense of pride in her smile and voice. As much as Killian surely appreciates it, he knows that’s not what is important in this moment. This is why this scene is so exemplary. Not only is it moving to realize Killian perfectly understands the feeling of shame for past wrongs, not wanting to tell Emma for fear of losing her, but we also see just how much he cares about her on a profound level. True love inspires us to be our best selves and fight to stay on a path of light, love, bravery and forgiveness. He could have easily simply held and kissed Emma, enjoying a quiet moment for themselves they so rarely are granted. But he knows she is in pain and if he can guide her towards forgiving her parents he will. He is a fan of every part of her- the stubborn woman she can often be, but also the loving and forgiving soul who showed him that life could once again be filled with light and love. And indeed Killian’s honesty and wisdom helps Emma back towards that light with Snow and David. For when she finds out her mother has been hurt, she rushes to her side, heals he wound and tells her mother she needs to stop punishing her for her mistakes. These mistakes do not change the good person she became, nor who she is- her mother. She forgives her mother and the two happily and tearfully embrace in this very moving moment for the mother and daughter. David smiles at Killian with a wonderful knowing look of gratitude, realizing he helped guide Emma to this place, and he is thankful. In these two touching scenes we see the strength of forgiveness. It is much easier to hold onto anger, but that will also leave you miserable. But opening your heart and seeing the best in others can inspire the purest form of love that is honest and true. The love between Snow and David, between Emma and Killian, between Emma and her parents, and even the growing relationship between Killian and the Charmings all demonstrate these beautiful qualities and a truth about family that can be applied to many more residents of Storybrooke. One of my favorite films Nicholas Nickelby says, “Family need not be defined merely as though with whom we share blood, but as those for whom we would give our blood.” Regina may not have given birth to Henry, but she is his mother. And she not only has a family with him and, as we should not forget, her step-daughter Snow and all of the her family, but is also adding to that with Robin, his son Roland, and his unborn child. Emma undoubtedly loves Henry and her parents who are of her own flesh and blood, and will do anything to protect this family she never thought she would have. And with Killian she has found someone to add to that family. He is another person to love and protect with all her heart, and someone who has lost all the family he has ever known. Love and family are precious gifts and each of our characters cherish them profoundly. What happens next is anyone’s guess as the author, with an assistance form Gold, has begun writing in a new book called “Heroes and Villains.” One thing we so know for sure- everything is about to change!

Favorite Moments:
The scenes with Emma and Killian at the docks and Emma forgiving her parents were loving and poignant and what this show always does so perfectly. Seeing Regina come to the realization that she creates her own happy ending was also great and what I have been hoping to see all season.

Favorite Lines:
Killian: Before you were born [your parents] wanted to make you happy. And when they found you again, they wanted to make you proud.

Regina: My happy ending is finally feeling at home in the world. Robin’s just a part of that world.

Emma: You’re a hero. If it happened at my expense it doesn’t change the good person you became. And it doesn’t change what you are…My Mom.


  1. JoanMay 5th, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Great review, I especially loved your comments about Emma and her relationships with her parents and Killian. Emma is my favourite character and I love seeing how much she has grown over the 4 seasons. I can’t wait for the finale!

  2. SarahMay 5th, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    *Loves it* You were dead-on about the Captain Swan moments. Killian really showed how much he loves Emma and how much it pained him to see her at odds with her parents. Love him!!

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