Once Upon a Time: The Apprentice


By: Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)

Spoilers Ahead

It is remarkable how Once Upon a Time seems to be getting better and better and The Apprentice was another stellar episode in this first half of season 4, balancing sweetness and happiness with darkness and heartache. The subplots involving Henry, Regina, Will Scarlet, and the Snow Queen were all engaging, especially Henry who brings out his cunning side to go under cover and become Gold’s apprentice. But it was the main storylines I found the most entertaining. In the Enchanted Forest of the past, we see Anna strike a deal with Rumple. Anna agrees to give an old man, the sorcerer’s apprentice, a potion in exchange for answers about her parents. Fearing it is poison, Anna can’t bring herself to do it. But she is horrified to learn it was all a trick and that the concoction was actually an antidote for the poison he was given the day before. The apprentice is then turned into a mouse (shall we call him Mickey?). But in truth, Rumple needed more: a tear from someone who has faced their inner darkness and turned away. Initially it did not happen with the old man, but when she is tempted to stab Rumple to escape captivity, his plan is fulfilled and he obtains the sorcerer’s very powerful hat which collects magic and could allow Rumple to keep his Dark One power but no longer be under the dagger’s control. Luckily for Anna, the mouse saves the day, biting Rumple and allowing her to gain his dagger and the sorcerer’s hat. She orders Rumple to send her home where she is happily reunited with Kristoff. This story not only revealed many significant things, but also was an obvious parallel to what happens between Hook and Gold in the present. Anna tells Rumple he is a monster to use something as precious as Love as a weapon. And that is exactly what he does with Hook/Killian.

After Emma asks Killian out on a date, he goes to Gold to strike another deal: he’ll continue to keep quiet about the dagger if Gold reattaches his hand. The reason why is if his date goes well and Emma wants him to hold her, he wants to be able to use both hands. This phrasing is quite moving. He simply wants to be able to embrace Emma with two hands, a gesture anyone would want to do with the one they love. Importantly, every time we’ve seen him and Emma kiss, his one hand has expressed the immensity of that desire. Cradling her head, running his fingers through her hair, caressing her chin, holding onto her tightly – all of these gestures showcase how touching and understandable his wish to be able to show this affection with two hands truly is. This desire is so strong, it clouds his better judgment and he ignores Gold’s warning that reuniting him with the hand from his old self that was violent and selfish with the very much changed man he is now could have horrible consequences. Killian doesn’t believe him and leaves to plan his evening out, but this was far from over. It is apropos to still call Gold “Crocodile” as he remains cool and quiet under the surface but ready to strike with a sharp bite at any moment.

But the real moment that has been two seasons in the making had finally arrived. Not only were Emma and Killian going on their first date, but Captain Hook finally embraced being a part of this small town as Killian Jones by changing his clothes – at last! And he looked as dashing as ever, still in a leather jacket, but donning a decidedly modern look. Emma also wore something that exposed another side to her. The soft pink dress she wears for her date reflected the more open, softer Emma who has found someone special that makes her feel loved and safe. It was sweet to see how awestruck they were with how stunning the other looked, so much so on Emma’s part that she literally steps back and doesn’t initially notice the hand offering her a red rose wasn’t there before. Snow and Charming also win all the awards for most adorable parents, as Mama Snow is all smiles and excitement, taking pictures of her little girl as if she’s going to a ball, and Daddy Charming is all sternness and protectiveness. In true parent form, they wait up for her, Snow wanting to know all the details, Charming less than enthusiastic, but both simply want their daughter to be happy. And if there is one word to describe Emma and Killian’s date it would be happy.

Their lovely night consisted of smiles, flirtations, hand holding, and a natural ease that showcased how perfectly they fit together. The hand holding was most especially beautiful as Killian was finally able to do so with both hands. And despite being interrupted by Will who spills a glass of wine on Emma to which Killian grabs him, and then worries about this adverse reaction, their date goes immensely well. He walks her home, Emma wearing his jacket. And has a leather jacket ever looked so good on her? He apologized for his reaction to Will, but she reassures him it’s fine, closing the gap between them and intertwining their fingers together. She invites him in but they both laugh at the crowded quarters inside, and she discerns she needs her own place – something she incidentally says three times during the episode. He smiles as he looks down at his left hand holding her right one, still elated he is able to do so, and he quietly asks her out for another date. She says yes with a beautiful look in her eyes and for the first time they both lean in and kiss each other passionately, lovingly, and happily. And then Killian is able to do what he so deeply longed for – hold her in his arms with both hands. The emphasis put on these moments was meant to expose what this means for them both, but especially for Killian. As they pull apart, Emma is breathless and smiles sweetly as she says goodnight. Once inside, you can see her take a deep breath and express a moment of realization of how deeply she is falling in love. She is happy.

What is heartbreaking is that for Killian, his happiness is short-lived as he fears that his hand is cursed, solidified when he encounters Will and punches him. He asks Gold for his hook back, for he is not willing to risk hurting someone, especially, god forbid Emma, or someone else he cares about. But little did Killian know what master manipulator Rumple had in store for him. Getting him to agree to a deal without knowing the terms, he gets Hook to help trap the old apprentice in the hat, and then blackmail him further with a surveillance video of the incident, conveniently doctored to make Killian appear to be the only culpable one. He essentially enslaves Killian to do his bidding, and reveals that it was all for naught. His hand wasn’t cursed after all. Those reactions were his own doing. However, whether this is true or not is uncertain. What is certain is Rumple did exactly what Anna said he does – use love as a weapon. Gold used Killian’s love for Emma and played on his fears and insecurities that perhaps he still does have that darkness inside of him. I was reminded of a line Sirius Black says to Harry Potter: “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on.” Every Once character has light and dark inside of them, but our heroes choose to overcome the darkness and be good people. The difference between Gold and Killian here is that Killian doesn’t want to act on that darkness anymore. He wants to be a man worthy of Emma’s love. Gold essentially wants to have his cake and eat it too – to have the appearance of reformation but still wield all the power. As far as Gold came last season when he sacrificed himself, death was much easier because it was “final.” He is still not willing to live without power and magic and has a long way to go.

Despite his mistake, my heart broke for Killian. He is a good man who loves Emma with all of his heart, and that love was used against him. His intentions when striking deals with Gold were not malicious but rather to help Elsa, and then to be able to simply hold the woman he loves. Even the violence showed toward Will was spurned from protectiveness and annoyance, not something darkly sinister. He was so happy to be able to spend a night out with Emma and enjoy some quiet moments. Now he has his hook back and a secret plaguing him. But at least he was able to hold Emma in his arms in that one brief, but glorious moment.

What is next for Emma and Killian will be surely be heart wrenching and heartfelt. Out of the darkness will come the light. Emma is no longer running away from her feelings. She is happily embracing them with an open heart, accepting Killian’s love as she continues to fall for him. Once he let his walls down, falling for Emma Swan came as easily as breathing, and as she has let her walls come tumbling down we see how easily she loves him. The natural ease of their date proved that. Falling for each other was simple, but the journey to find that happy end never is. True Love isn’t easy but it must be fought for. Killian has fought to win her heart, the symbolic prince who willingly faces a forest of thorns to awaken his true love on the other side. And Emma’s heart has awakened from a long sleep. Killian will continue to struggle with himself, but will fight to be a good man, and Emma will no doubt fight for him too. Once Upon a Time is not about damsels in distress waiting to be rescued, but strong characters who never give up. She will fight any dragon, real or metaphoric, for the man she loves. And it will be a beautiful story to behold.

Favorite Moment: Emma and Killian’s date was one of the loveliest gifts the show has ever given us. Seeing them embark on this new step in their relationship was touching, especially seeing Killian in modern clothes (be still my heart) and him finally able to embrace her the way he wished to.

Favorite Lines:
Killian: I’ve got a date with Emma. Should things go well and she wants me to hold her, I want to use both hands.

Emma: What do I call you now, Captain Hand?

Killian: What, love? You worried you’ll find me even more irresistible after a few libations?

Emma: You wanna come in and have coffee with my parents, a newborn, and a human icemaker. (Laughing) I really need my own place.


  1. Nat WOctober 23rd, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    You know, i read a lot of reviews on Nerd Machine, and i find that most of them are very well balanced and written constructively. Sadly this has not been the case with this season of Once Upon a Time. Six out of the Seven paragraphs in this review are all about Emma and Hook. I find the blatant fangirling becoming very tedious as this seems to be the case since the start of the season.

    We get it. You ship Emma/Hook. But there are other characters on this show that deserve to be mentioned, especially in a piece of writing that is supposed to be an episode review. Where is the unbiased, well written, post episode dissect? If i was a non watcher, reading this review all i’d think is, hey this show is about these two characters Emma and Hook, and look isn’t that the Frozen people.

    Though your insight into Emma and Hooks developing relationship is well written, its starting to feel like these reviews are nothing but a soap box for you to stand on and preach your obvious ship and favorite characters. Which honestly has become quite boring and tiresome.

    I don’t believe i’ll continue to read these reviews, but i wish you well on all future writing projects.

  2. CateOctober 23rd, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    I, for one, love reading these reviews. It’s nice to see a mention of other characters and how they’re finally getting screen time in comparison to a character whose value has been completely over inflated since the beginning of the show (Regina, I’m talking about Regina…)

    Constructive criticism is one thing, but that first comment is just blatantly mean. The episode revolved around the dynamic between Hook/Emma and Hook/Rumple. What was the reviewer meant to write about? I wish people would just admit they’re bitter about their ship not happening, rather than being mean to people who either do ship it or enjoy the show and review it.

  3. AnisaOctober 23rd, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    I always look forward to reading your reviews and this is great – fantastic insight, as usual! Emma and Hook were one of main focuses of this episode, let’s be honest, they’re going to be the entire season because main characters.. And it’s lovely reading your well written thoughts on the two of them and the episode as a whole. I especially loved the part where you mention the Harry Potter quote regarding the characters light and darkness. I can’t wait to find out how Killian overcomes his darkness (because let’s be real, of course he’s going to and Emma’s part of his light awww). And ahhhhh their date was adorable, I’m definitely going to have to fess up to squealing just a little when he pulled out her chair for her. SO CUTE! Anyway, just wanted to say how much I adore your reviews – you always have such an eloquent way of expressing yourself and help me digest the episode even further, and it’s very interesting and fun to read. Fantastic job, can’t wait for next week’s review!

  4. KatieOctober 23rd, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    This was a beautiful review. I disagree with Nat W. Yes, there is a lot of Hook and Emma but that is because she is the main character of the show and he is her significant other. The theme this season is not giving up on each other and for that to happen, Once Upon A Time has to lay the foundation of them in a relationship. Up until now it has all been about yearning and getting through the issues that each has in order to pave the way to being together. Early on in the show we had so much of Snow and Charming and their love story, but now is the time to focus on the main character. It is her story. She found her family, she accepted her home, she embraced being a mother, and is working on her magic and now is the time that she finally opens heart after years of being closed off and she has found the man to do that with. Obviously this season they will have roadblocks, but the show needed to begin the season by showing just how much they want to be together. Also, Hook is getting a story with Rumple as well as insight into his own backstory this season because guess what? He is an important part of this story. Not only is he a fan favorite, but Colin O’Donoghue brings huge talent to the show and Killian Jones is a fascinating character. I understand you may not ship Emma and Hook- but Emma is the main character so no matter who is writing the review they will be in it. They were heavily featured this episode because it was their first date. We got to see how open and happy Emma was- something Emma fans have been waiting for since we were introduced to a woman filled with walls and loneliness. He was introduced a long time ago and she resisted for so long so the fans have been waiting for this to happen. It is finally time for Emma to have her romance and I personally cannot wait to see where the story goes. It is Emma’s story and the writers will emphasize that so I think complaining that they are in the review a lot makes no sense. If you don’t want to read about them you may just have to give up on any reviewer who actually watches the show and pays attention to what the writers are doing because their story is no where near over.

  5. Gissane HOctober 23rd, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    I just wanted to chime in and say that I love how this review is one of the very few that actually focuses on the main character — Emma Swan. So often we forget that the story is being told through her perspective. She’s the savior. She’s essentially the main character. Though there’s a fantastic ensemble cast I deeply adore I’m glad these reviews focus a lot on Emma’s arc and what she’s doing. And this one especially is beautiful because it focuses on how much Emma’s opened up within the last few episodes. Objectively speaking, we’re given so much insight on other characters that it feels our main doesn’t get too shine too often. So thank you for being a light and providing readers with a thoughtful, well written, beautiful analysis on all characters and Emma especially. Your reviews are ALWAYS exceptional!

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