Once Upon a Time: Mother’s Little Helper Review
By: Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)
“Mother’s Little Helper” was most definitely the type of Once Upon a Time episode that can be described as multidimensional in terms of its wide range of emotions. Very dark moments, light moments, and ones that were in between; feelings and sympathies went through a wave of changes in the episode that, like last week, had great scenes and performances from the main story/characters as well as the guest stars; and illuminated some crucial things, but also raised many questions that are leading towards the end of the season.
Up until now, there has been little to no sympathy for Gideon as he seemed beyond misguided in pursuit of killing Emma, last week concocting an elaborate plan that was very cruel toward her. Throughout this episode, my feelings toward him were excessively different and kept changing depending on whether we were watching flashbacks or the present day. Many characters on Once Upon a Time have had painful and traumatic childhoods (Emma, Zelena, Killian, and Rumple probably being the worst), and the way Gideon was raised most definitely ranks with those as well, possibly even topping them. It was believed to be bad, but actually seeing what he endured is a whole other story. While it doesn’t excuse his behavior, it explains it. And explain it did – Gideon suffered great, emotional abuse and definitely seems to be suffering a bit from Stockholm syndrome. He inherited his father’s cowardice it seems, but one can hardly blame a child for being scared to speak up and take action when his friend was taken away. But when he grew up, his tortured soul was beginning to find courage against the Black Fairy, who is a truly twisted character. She smiles and calls people “Dearie” while doing horrendous things such as kidnapping and torturing children and forcing them to work in mines to gather dark fairy dust, locking them in cages and messing with their minds for her own amusement and agenda. She does this to Gideon while also calling him the son she loves. She reminds me a bit of a combination of Disney’s Maleficent and Mother Gothel, elegant and smiling through each and every maniacal act, playing psychological games with her victims to the point where they feel as if their suffering is their own fault. She’s as dark as can be, so it would seem Gideon’s actions become clearer. The sympathy for Gideon was high in the flashbacks and it made the present day seem jarring as those feelings kept changing. But like always, things are not always what they seem to be, and there were multiple twists and changes of emotions towards him.
In the present day, our feelings towards Gideon were very much aligned with Emma – angry and not willing to accept any more, willing to help him if he can offer something in good faith, and then back to anger when he betrays her and leaves her to die a gruesome death at the hand, or multiple legs, of a giant spider he summoned through a portal. Emma ends the episode understandably fed up, having tried to help and once again nearly getting killed. But the audience then becomes privy to a twist we should have seen coming given the frequency on the show, but it still completely surprised me. After standing up to the Black Fairy, wanting to find the Savior to help him rescue all the children from the Dark Realm, we discover two crucial things. Not only was she the creator of the dark curse and is continuing to harvest dust for most likely another one, but she also knows all about Emma and apparently has plans for her. But also importantly, in regards to Gideon, we see that he is not culpable in his actions because the Black Fairy has taken his heart and is controlling him, telling him to kill Emma which would allow her powers to be channeled into the sword and open a portal for the Black Fairy to get to Storybrooke. And when Gideon left Emma, the Savior’s life faltered just long enough for that to happen, which led to some really intriguing contemplations as to what the Black Fairy ultimately wants, and what this means for Gideon. It also begs the question as to which actions and words – particularly in this episode – are his own and which were either an act or a part of the Black Fairy’s control over him? Two scenes in the present day with Gideon – one with the Black Fairy and one with Emma that bookended the episode – were especially emotional, dark, and intriguing.
When the Black Fairy reveals herself to Gideon at the end of the episode, we see the extent of the complex, tragic, and twisted dynamic between the two. Uncontrolled, he wants nothing more than to defeat her, but having been raised and I’m guessing essentially brainwashed by her, he cringes but agrees when she says that part of him is happy and wants her to succeed. He is clearly a product of psychological manipulations and it’s horrible to witness. Talk about a change in attitude towards him. What’s not horrible to watch is that as dark as this is, these scenes draw you in because of the stellar performances of Jamie Murray and Giles Matthey. Murray portrays the type of villain that is truly terrifying because she is unpredictable, and her coldness and cruelty is masked with her twisted version of love. She saunters and smiles in elegant fashion and it’s easy to see why Gideon would fall prey to her. Matthey has been wonderful in each of his episodes so far, but “Mother’s Little Helper” really allowed him to showcase a true duality to his character knowing that his actions and words are not his own, at least not all of them. That is what makes the scene with Emma at the beginning much more illuminating in hindsight. When he left Emma for dead, it seemed as if everything he said about his contrition and what he had suffered was an act to fool her and gain her empathy. But I do believe these were Gideon’s real words as Emma holds nothing back verbally and physically, with Gideon sparring back about not being afraid, that his suffering has been so acute and he must stop the Black Fairy no matter what. Matthey was terrific at displaying just what a tortured soul Gideon truly is.
When it comes to Emma Swan, one of the episode’s highlights was seeing her fierce, take-no-prisoners determination to not only get Killian back home, but to also defend herself against those who were threatening her life and those she loves. When it comes to the people she loves, she will stop at nothing to protect them. And hearing her say, “Let’s get my pirate back,” was beyond beautiful and significant. He is her pirate as she is his princess. But even more so, it shows that this man, the one she loves so deeply and truly, is loved for exactly who he is. No longer is pirate used as a term of disdain or mistrust but one of affection, devotion, and acceptance and that is truly beautiful. Moreover, in this episode she further demonstrated her selfless and giving nature, willing to help Gideon despite his actions because she wanted to be the one to give hope to someone. She may think he’s irredeemable in the end, but one cannot blame her. Additionally, when she was looking death in the face, she was not begging for her own life but instead still asking about what will happen to Killian. “Mother’s Little Helper” most assuredly showcased that Emma and Killian are determined to be reunited with each other. And as an audience member, my one qualm was that after two episodes, I was sad and disappointed to see they had not gotten any closer to figuring how he can return home. But importantly, their fervent determination is a beautiful example of how true love will fight with everything they have to be together no matter how insurmountable the obstacle. Although nothing is as insurmountable as death, they are now faced with being separated by realms with seemingly no way of him getting back. However they are reunited, it’s time for it to happen so they can move forward with a happy future together, their final hurdles overcome in powerful ways.
Equally determined to find his way home and back to Emma, it made my heart soar to see that once again Killian was willing to trade the Jolly Roger for a magic bean, and it’s beautiful to think about the differences and similarities in both situations. We never saw the moment onscreen when Killian needed a bean to get to Emma in New York City, so I’m so happy to see a continuation of that theme that both the show and Killian’s character embodies: the willingness to sacrifice anything for the person you love. There is much to love about this scene revisited, like that Blackbeard asked Killian why he’s willing to risk his ship again, Killian saying to get back to the woman he loves, and Blackbeard asking if it’s the same woman as before. It’s lovely to see further confirmation of how deep his love for Emma had been at the time and that he had been completely forthright with a man who would balk at the idea of doing something for a “wench.” But what’s even more lovely is that there was not only a sign, albeit brief, of recognition and perhaps understanding in Blackbeard’s voice, but also that Killian has come so far. Before, he was trading his ship to bring Emma back home and now he was doing so to get back home to her. But importantly in both regards, no matter if this time had been like the last, it would not have changed his actions or motivations. Killing Jones loves Emma Swan more than anything and always puts her happiness above his own.
Beyond the meaningful nature of the scenes between Killian and Blackbeard as Killian is desperately trying to make his way home to Emma, their scenes were just a sheer delight in terms of fun, banter, and good old-fashioned pirate shenanigans. What I loved was that we see Killian in all his glory, demonstrating his cunning, sarcastic pirate side simultaneously with the side that is sincere, devoted, and in love because they are both a part of him and what makes him who he is. And that is the man Emma loves. The way he shuffles a deck of cards with one hand surely was amazing, and I for one couldn’t help but smile at his cheeky deception of Blackbeard when he essentially lost the card game on purpose because the Jolly Roger is obviously not in the Enchanted Forest. And when they end up in Neverland, the laughs did not end, despite the precarious situation of Lost Boys hunting them down. I would honestly watch an entire episode of these two captains and their antagonistic and utterly delightful to watch dynamic. It’s a bit akin to Jack Sparrow and Will Turner of Pirates of the Caribbean, as there is little to no trust between them, and certainly no love lost. But isn’t it always fun to watch to people like that thrust into a situation together? And Charles Mesure portrays Blackbeard’s villainy with both levity and roguishness. You should clearly never turn your back on him or you’ll end up with a blow to the head (as Killian discovers), but at the same time, he probably would save your life if it were advantageous to him. I hope Mesure can return for more Pirate one-upmanship between him and Killian because he and O’Donoghue are truly golden together.
There are some intriguing moments, questions raised, and parallels in “Mother’s Little Helper” that bear mentioning. This episode is not the first time that parallels between Once Upon a Time and Lord of the Rings could be applied. There have been beautiful parallels between the love stories of Killian and Emma and Aragorn and Arwen, and Sam’s speech about great stories and dark times is very much akin to Once Upon a Time’s themes. In this episode, I defy anyone to not watch Emma’s battle with a giant spider and not think of Frodo’s battle with Shelob right up to being wrapped up in a web, nearly dying, and being led there by someone they thought they could trust. Of course both Gollum and Gideon are corrupted, but Gideon was not acting on his own free will, and unlike Sam with Frodo, someone very unexpected saved Emma. I was relieved when Rumple showed up and saved Emma and it was quite an interesting moment as he tries to wake her up. I think this was not only the very first time he had addressed her as “Emma,” but also perhaps the first time we hear genuine concern in his voice over her. That’s his humanity shining through and something I loved much more than his turn when he once again threatens her if she defends herself against Gideon. One can’t blame either of them for their attitudes, but I must also wonder what Rumple and Belle have been doing while Gideon managed to cause such havoc. Why have they not been able to find him, considering Rumple is the most powerful Dark One ever, and why do they not have Belle appeal to him? She is his mother, after all. I hope to see that in future episodes. Other questions include what does the Black Fairy have planned for Emma? Is she creating another dark curse? Why did Killian end up in Neverland when he was thinking of getting home to Emma? Was it because that was where he fell in love with her, essentially making home and Emma synonymous? And why does Blackbeard have so many magic beans when they are supposed to be rare? Does he have a supplier or a magic being farm or something? The final question deals with the episode’s other intriguing elements. Henry’s authoring skills are taking control of him in freakish ways and the final chapter of the book is now complete, and according to the former author Isaac, involving a final battle for the Savior that they will not want to be around for. Firstly, I must say that I love the scenes with Isaac because it was such a funny moment when he requested Hamilton tickets in exchange for information, but also because Patrick Fischler is just amazing in this role. He is a creepy jackass but also hilarious and I love it. But as for a more pressing matter, the question is, what happens in this final chapter and final battle? Will Emma’s fate still come to pass? It is said that all Saviors die but when it comes to Emma Swan, she had learned that she makes her own fate. So whatever this final battle is, I have no doubt that the final chapter is merely the end of her story of breaking the curse and saving herself and her loved ones, and then a new book will begin filled with a story of a beautiful Savior living her happy ending with a long road of joy and love outstretched before her.
Favorite Moments: I know what was not my favorite moment: the giant spider! Please, no more spiders. But what I did love were the scenes between Killian and Blackbeard, which were a welcome source of levity in a dark episode, with a fantastic rapport between Mesure and O’Donoghue as two pirates and their hijinks. And of course the devotion that Killian showed was heartwarming, as well as he was willing to give up his ship again. Likewise, I loved seeing Emma fight so hard for “her pirate,” and that Gideon was not the evil man he appears to be. The momentum of 6B is in full force and I can’t wait for what’s next.
Emma: Since I am sure we have work to do, let’s get my pirate back.
Blackbeard: What’s so important that you’d be willing to trade your beloved ship for a magic bean, again?
Killian: I’ve been separated from the woman I love, and now she’s in danger.
Blackbeard: Same woman as last time?
Emma: Okay Charlotte, let’s do this!
Isaac: I’m guessing the Hamilton tickets are a no? Yeah, no one’s magic’s that powerful.