Once Upon a Time: “The Song in Your Heart” Review

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By: Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)

There have always been certain episodes of Once Upon a Time that can be called truly beautiful gems. Episodes that tug at our heartstrings in powerful and poignant ways. Episodes that can make us smile and cry, and that feel incredibly special. I can name many that these attributes apply to. But there was something about “The Song in Your Heart” that brought that beauty to an even deeper level. The season three finale “Snow Drifts/There’s No Place Like Home” has long held the title of my favorite episode. “The Song in My Heart,” while perhaps not surpassing it, now resides right alongside those at the top of that peak, but with the added bonus of it not only being the wedding for Emma and Killian, but also the long-requested musical episode, both of which I have long dreamed of seeing on the show. Being a great fan of musicals, Disney or otherwise, I always wanted to see an episode like this. And for five seasons, I dreamed of seeing Emma and Killian saying “I do” because I knew early on they were destined to be a great love story. Little did I know how amazing their story would become and that both great dreams would come true at one time. Written by Andrew Chambers and David H. Goodman, with music composed by Alan Zachary and Michael Weiner (with one written with Once upon a Time’s illustrious composer Mark Isham), “The Song in Your Heart” surpassed those dreams. It was a breathtakingly beautiful, grand and glorious, magical, musical masterpiece. I will surely run out of superlatives to describe its beauty, but needless to say it was filled with music and moments that made my heart sing and soar, and will resound there forever.

The best musicals are the ones that marry story and song seamlessly with music that reflects the character and the narrative in a way that feels not only natural, but also adds to the beauty of the story. Some are light, some are serious, some vary in emotions, but the best ones make us feel. Some of my personal favorites include the film and theater versions of The Little Mermaid, Mary Poppins, and Beauty the Beast; countless Disney classics like Tangled, Aladdin, Frozen, and Enchanted; and classic musical staples like Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, The Sound of Music, West Side Story, and Wicked. Given my taste, it’s not surprising that I might want to see a musical episode of Once Upon a Time, especially when it’s the perfect show to tackle such an endeavor. And I can safely say that “The Song in Your Heart ” is now a pristine favorite with the rest of these classics.

The songs, which have been playing on repeat in my home, are all fantastic, ranging from fun and catchy to completely enthralling and glorious. And the remarkably talented cast more than prove themselves to be exceptional singers and performers. “Powerful Magic” is so amazingly Disney: fun and sweet, with definite Enchanted vibes, and Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas sound lovely together. A veteran of the West End in London, I love that Dallas got a chance to showcase his astounding voice that truly does soar. My favorite moments were when both were astonished that they were singing, but just went with it with gusto and hope. I could not stop smiling. “Love Doesn’t Stand a Chance” is dark fun that Lana Parrilla handled very well, singing in a definite Evil Queen range, while the other characters included in the song – the Dwarves, the Magic Mirror, Granny and Gepetto – had me grinning from ear to ear. “Revenge is Gonna be Mine” is pure perfection – a sort of pirate-y version of a Freddie Mercury song that not only has an amazing hook, but the benefit of O’Donoghue’s exceptional talent in voice and performance. He sings with passion, fervor and flair, and all the pirates that join him in song were jaunty fun. “Wicked Always Wins” is wonderfully fun and delicious in true Zelena fashion, with Mader’s sweet voice combining with devilishly fun antics. It was definitely her own “Defying Gravity.” “Emma’s Theme” was set to the melody of the theme composed by Mark Isham and was the emotional heart of the episode. It was beautiful, poignant, and powerful, with Jennifer Morrison giving a remarkable performance vocally and emotionally. Tears were shed for this culmination of Emma’s journey, and all three composers along with Morrison should feel proud of this exquisite song. “A Happy Beginning” is not only my favorite of the songs, and another that is so quintessentially Disney, but one that also encompasses everything that these characters and Once Upon a Time embodies. Sung at Emma and Killian’s wedding, it begins as a lovely and moving duet between the couple, transforming into a grand chorus of them and all of their loved ones in Storybrooke singing in unison. It is a true masterpiece in lyric, performance, and meaning. Morrison and O’Donoghue’s voices blend together as beautifully as the sea and the sky, and when they’re all joined together, it’s beyond magnificent. Joyful singing and dancing and pure happiness, it was a celebration of love and hope that no matter what the future holds, happiness is always possible. That is what Once Upon a Time encompasses: love and family and the power of hope and belief. Many tears were also shed at the beauty of this song, the love of this remarkable couple being celebrated, and in turn, the representation of everything the series has taught and inspired in us, and at the sheer beauty of voices raised song in such a resplendent, unabashedly hopeful way. It was the perfect ending to the episode and the story. I also find it so special that Morrison once said she liked to think of Happy Endings as Happy Beginnings and that they drew inspiration in that from which she hoped for her character. More than anything, everyone involved in making “The Song in Your Heart” should be exceptionally proud of the masterfully crafted gem they’ve created, not just musically speaking or television wise, but in terms of any and all art forms. Period. And I am going to need to hear “Powerful Magic ” and “A Happy Beginning” the next time I visit Disneyland. That’s mandatory! I also would love to see Dallas show off his musical skills in many future projects, and O’Donoghue and Morrison as well in film, theater, television, or even an album. Can Dallas and Goodwin record a Disney cover album? Can we hear O’Donoghue recorded an album with another duet with Morrison? Where do we start the campaigns?

What makes “The Song of Your Heart” such a success for not only a musical episode and fine Once Upon a Time episode, but also as golden television, was that everything flowed, everything fit perfectly, and the music and story perfectly reflected who the characters were, and who they are in the present, contributing to the overall narrative of the series in a truly poignant way. This was not done for the sake of doing a fun episode, it was crafted into the show’s framework seamlessly with each character’s song being a natural reflection of their personality and their story. In the past, Snow and Charming were surprised but quickly gave in, and their naturally optimistic attitudes shone through, as they believed the music would help them defeat the Evil Queen and save Emma, because love expressed through song is sure to be powerful. The Evil Queen was angry and annoyed, but also backed down a flashy and aggressive manner. Zelena revels in it and thinks it could be used to her advantage to finally prove Rumple chose the wrong sister to cast his curse. And Captain Hook doesn’t seem surprised at all, revenge still his main motivator, simply expressing it like the sexy pirate rock star that he is. The reason for their singing is not only simple, but also very special. Snow makes a wish that their unborn daughter could have a chance of a happy ending. The wish is granted by making everyone break into song. Snowing and Charming’s song does prove powerful against the Evil Queen, but unknowingly to her, and thanks to Zelena’s magic, she captures the songs and transports the couple back home, completely devastated. It’s only when the Blue Fairy arrives that hope returns because she says the song was never meant to fight the Evil Queen. It was meant for Emma – the music would reside in her heart for when she alone must face a difficult battle. But Snow realizes she won’t be alone because the songs of the people who love her will be inside her heart. And that was episode’s brilliant and beautiful twist because of how true it ends up being. It wasn’t just her parents’ song and whose love was always strong even though they were separated from her, but also everyone’s – and from people who have come to care for and be inspired by Emma. I loved that Regina and Zelena’s songs were also so representative of their respective journeys and the contrast we see to their present-day characters. Regina was full of hate over what she had lost, and Zelena was full of jealousy over her sister, both only thinking selfishly of what they wanted. In the present, Regina wanted to make sure Emma’s wedding day wasn’t ruined and she and Zelena work together to try to stop the Black Fairy’s curse from coming. No hate, no jealousy, just camaraderie and selfless teamwork with each other and to help their friend. It’s a lovely showcase of how far they have come not only as sisters, but also as people who want to help and genuinely care for Emma. It’s also a rather beautiful realization that Captain Hook was singing about revenge, but also about sailing toward the horizon where happiness waited until that was taken away, and so thought revenge was his right path. It’s so poignant because Emma became the one who truly inspired him to find the true right path – one filled with love and joy where revenge no longer mattered. She did something no one else could. All this brings a touch of poetic destiny to the story even more in a truly lovely way. For Killian especially, it’s always been a remarkable aspect of his story that it was designed for him to survive hundreds of years so that he can meet and fall in love with Emma. And all of these songs remained in Emma’s heart and became part of her. It’s a beautiful metaphor and literal truth for her character and her journey, providing some of the most powerful and remarkably moving moments of the entire series.

For six seasons, it has been Emma Swan that has remained the most resonant and inspiring to me. The journey from a lonely orphan to a brave and heroic woman who does the most courageous thing possible – she opens her heart and learns to be truly vulnerable, finding self acceptance and love in all its forms by lowering her walls and completely opening her heart. For all her scars and fears, one thing about Emma Swan has always been true – her strong and loving heart. When the episode opens, we see young Emma practicing singing into a tape recorder for a talent show, when another kid from the group home she’s living in comes in to tell her that no one cares and that just like the rest of them, she is all alone. These wounds cut Emma and left her deeply scarred as she felt this many times throughout her life, becoming jaded and feeling like she was never enough for anybody. But despite that, her kindness and compassion remained, and her desire for love and family still prevailed, even if she never really believed she would ever find it. There was always a crack in that rough exterior and a way for the softness and vulnerability to come through. Throughout the series, Emma has grown and overcome her fears and wounds, becoming the savior and a true hero, but more importantly, a real, deeply relatable, profoundly inspiring woman. She makes mistakes but learns from them, even when those scars resurface as they did in this episode when the Black Fairy played on her deeply-rooted fears, insecurities, and childhood pain, trying to make her believe that she’ll always be that lonely orphan, all alone in the world. But Emma’s heart is stronger than that. With love and courage it has healed. It’s why when Emma, ever the hero, agrees to give up her heart, her family frozen beside her, that it doesn’t work. The Black Fairy tries to crush it but cannot. Its strength literally burns her and it’s because of the song that has resided inside her all of her life. The music she thought represented her weakness, her tendency to run and not be brave in reality is no such thing. With a beautiful parallel to when Cora tries to steal Emma’s heart, the love in her, and the song in her heart. It’s not her weakness. It’s her strength. And with that came an exceptionally resounding moment for Emma and an exquisite song that is a beautifully moving culmination of her life’s journey.

It was heartbreaking to see Emma come see Killian, trying to convince him not to worry, and that he was able to read her like an open book as always and figure out that she was saying goodbye just in case. And when she kisses him as he stands frozen beside her other family members, it broke me. To see her selfless heroism has always proved moving, but it’s those moments of strength and love prevailing when she realizes that she is more powerful than whatever darkness may come that have always proved to be even more poignant and “Emma’s Theme” will indelibly remain one of Emma Swan’s crowning moments. The first time we ever hear this melody, she made a wish on a single cupcake that she didn’t have to be alone. And now, six seasons later, she is singing that song, about the darkness and hopelessness she lived through, but the knowledge that the song in her heart is representative of the strength she now gathers from the love she feels and accepts. Between the lyrics and Morrison’s stunning performance, I was moved to tears. As she clasps her parents’ hands, she sings, “All these years of running; no not anymore. I know what I’m living for.” And she sings to Killian, “I’m no longer searching, turns out all along, the answer was inside me with the song.” And even without her heart beating in her chest, she breaks the curse on them, solidifying the Emma is no longer alone. She never was. The love she believes in makes her stronger and brings light to the darkness, proving that the strength of her heart is more powerful than any spell. It makes Emma’s already beautiful story an even more powerful and inspiring one because it showcases that timeless truth: as long as you have love in your heart, you will never be alone.

The culmination of Emma’s journey from lonely orphan to a woman completely open to love and vulnerabilities was most assuredly expressed in “Emma’s Theme,” but it was truly encapsulated in her wedding to Killian Jones, which was so exquisitely beautiful because it not only represents her journey but his as well, their love story being a modern fairy tale for the ages. This is quite possibly my favorite scene of the entire series and most definitely the most glorious television wedding I’ve ever experienced. It was a precious gift and worthy of a story that has spanned five seasons and transcended realms, curses, memory loss, darkness, and even death. For two such remarkable characters and for a love story this special, their wedding was an incandescent dream. Every single aspect was wonderful: the rooftop setting at sunset, overlooking the place they had their first real kiss is a couple; Emma’s real-life Princess Grace Kelly-inspired wedding gown, a perfect reflection of her inner and outer beauty and wholeness as a person; Killian’s handsome velvet suit; both of Emma’s parents both walking her down the aisle; Emma’s baby brother dressed in a little tuxedo; the smiles of their loved ones; David shaking Killian’s hand; their honest, reflective, and profound wedding vows to each other; and lastly, the song and dance at the reception, a happy celebration where we see the couple, their family, and everyone from the dwarves to other characters like Marco, Archie (who I was overjoyed officiated), and Granny so amazingly joyful. For their happy beginning, I’ve never been happier watching this show than these precious moments of pure radiant bliss and beauty. Their vows to each other were not only lovely, but also honest, and Morrison and O’Donoghue gave us some of their greatest, loveliest, most authentic, and reverent performances we’ve ever seen. Killian says that Emma was able to do what no one ever could – show him that revenge is empty and that the most precious thing in the world is a heart full of love. He says a captain’s heart may belong to a ship but for him, now, as it has been since he scarified his ship, his heart belongs to her. Emma says that so much of her life, she had been alone but thanks to Henry who found her and helped her find the rest of her family, she no longer is. But just because she learned that she came from True Love, it didn’t mean she ever believed she would find it. But with him, she truly has. He helped her find a true love she never thought she would. These were as beautiful and perfect of wedding vows as there ever were, matched by their promise to be partners in life and love each other not till death do them part, because not even death could separate them. They promise to love each other for all eternity, solidifying what they share will endure forever and always. Their love is never ending, and their tears and beaming smiles with these promises were so radiantly beautiful, Morrison glowing with immaculate beauty, and O’Donoghue smiling with a purity that was truly breathtaking. And with their first kiss as husband and wife, he spins his true love around and they sweetly sing, blissfully happily that what they share is not a happy ending. It’s a happy beginning, which is a truly moving look at what love, marriage, and this next step in life represents. Life is always uncertain, but with your true love by your side, what you can always be certain of is that with their love, you will have everything you need. They’re finally leaving their scars behind, their hearts healed, joined together, beating as one, as they face the world together hand-in-hand. When they began their journey together by climbing a beanstalk, Killian said, “Everything we need is right in front of us.” Now as husband and wife, the path before them has an unknown future, but they have everything they need because they have each other. Is that not what True Love encompasses – a belief and promise that they will endure and never falter, in good times and in dark times, so long as their hearts are beating?

And what an absolute joy it was to see Emma and Killian, who have gone through so much turmoil and grown so much, be able to experience this sublime moment of love and happiness, dancing, smiling, and singing together. And what a joy it must have been for Morrison and O’Donoghue to be able to project that happiness onscreen. They’ve lived and breathed these characters for so long, showcasing moments that beautifully and authentically demonstrate strength, courage, sincerity, and profound affection. And now they were able to celebrate that with their characters. But what was so incredibly special was that Emma and Killian’s wedding was not only a meaningful and glorious new happy beginning for their journey, but also one that becomes a celebration and symbol for what Once Upon a Time embodies: hope, love, and family. And by choosing their wedding to demonstrate these timeless themes solidifies the specialness and reverence to not only Emma as a character, but also her and Killian’s love story. The joyous song, which was sung in unison, was not only celebrating their love, but also the love of family and community. They can outrun any storm, find the sun and the stars through any dark clouds, a happy beginning and a new chapter of the book filled with the promise of endless possibilities, but also with the certainty that they will have everything they need with a love that will last for all eternity. As they all watch the curse approach them, uncertain of where it will take them, Emma resoundingly tells her husband that it matters not because they will win. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” And for Emma and Killian and all of their family, what resides within their hearts is unfailing faith in love, family, and hope that good will always triumph over evil. As the curse envelops Emma and Killian last, one thing is for sure: with love they have everything, and no matter what, they can weather any storm, the horizon of their happy beginning filled with a sunrise of everlasting love.

Whatever the future of the show is, tomorrow’s season finale will be the end of Once Upon a Time as we know it, many of the stories reaching their beautiful culmination. But “The Song in Your Heart” will remain an episode that will always be a dream come true. It was a glorious masterpiece of story and song, and a celebration of strength, courage, and True Love, featuring Emma’s final transformation from ugly duckling to beautiful swan, and a happy beginning for the remarkable story of Emma Swan and Killian Jones. It’s the kind of incredibly special episode that I will always be grateful for. I will symbolically encase it in bronze, and place it on a shelf to always take down and watch whenever I need a reminder about the powerful magic of True Love. I shall love “The Song in Your Heart” for as long as Emma and Killian shall love each other – for all eternity.

Favorite Moments:

Can I say the entirety of the episode was my favorite moment? I must reiterate that this was the happiest I’ve ever felt watching an episode of Once Upon a Time, and Emma and Killian’s wedding and the song “A Happy Beginning” were perhaps my favorite moments of the entire series. Their vows were lovely and moving, the singing was divine, and the pure joy showcased throughout was utterly sublime. The entire sequence was filled with little radiant gems, and you see more with each viewing. I loved the dwarves dancing and smiling, Regina and Zelena dancing together, the Charmings and the new couple all singing together, and seeing Emma and Killian so completely happy and able to celebrate their love. Of course, every single song was a pure delight and the episode was filled with moments big and small that I adored: Snowing’s sweet Disney singing styles, Charming’s zealous enthusiasm, Killian’s rousing Pirate jaunt, Zelena giving the Black Fairy the stink eye and reveling in her wickedness, and especially Emma’s emotional journey of acceptance and strength of the power of the song in her heart. Every single moment was sheer, beautiful, profound perfection.

Favorite Lines:

Killian: Emma, when we met, there was just one thing that mattered to me: getting my revenge. And then you did something that no one else could. You showed me that a heart full of love was the most precious treasure of all. And one that I don’t intend to lose. They say that a captain’s heart belongs to his ship. And with this ring, it now belongs to you.
Emma: Killian, I spent so much of my life on my own. And then Henry found me, and brought me to Storybrooke, and helped me find the rest of my family. But just because you learn that you come from True Love, doesn’t mean that you believe you’ll ever find it. But thanks to you, now I have.

Killian: You did it, Swan. You got your happy ending.
Emma: That’s not what this is. It’s something else.
Killian: What then?
Emma: A happy beginning.

Henry: You don’t have to be afraid of being alone, because you never have been. Their song has been inside you this whole time. It’s not your weakness. It’s your strength.

Blue Fairy: You wished that she could have a chance at a happy ending. And now, with everyone’s song in her heart, she will.

Snow: She won’t be alone. She’ll have the voices of everyone who loves her inside her heart.

Emma: What matters is you were with me. You were with me my whole life.

Killian: Where do you think it’s taking us?
Emma: It doesn’t matter. Wherever we end up, we’re gonna win.

Favorite Lyrics:

Emma: “Tomorrow is uncertain. Who knows what it will bring.”
Killian: “But one thing is for sure, love. With you I have everything.”
Both: “And happily ever after, is the way these stories go.”
Emma: “Used to think that’s what I wanted. But now I finally know. There’s no storm we can’t outrun.”
Killian: “We will always find the sun.”
Both: “A happy beginning now is ours.”
Snow: “We celebrate together. A longtime wish come true.”
Charming: “What makes it even better, today our story starts anew.”
Regina: “Let villains cast their curses.”
Regina & Zelena: “We can overcome them all.”
Zelena: “If we all stand strong together.”
Henry: “There’s no way we can fall.”
All: If we’re facing endless night, take my hand and join the fight. Past the clouds, we’ll find the stars. A happy beginning now is ours.” – A Happy Beginning

Emma: “All those years of running, no not anymore. I know what I’m living for. I’m no longer searching, turns out all along. The answer was inside me, with a song.” – Emma’s Theme

Snow/Charming: “There’s a powerful magic when two hearts are one. A powerful magic bright as the sun.”
Charming: “Goodness will triumph and evil’s undone, when you dare to heed love’s call.”
Snow/Charming: “Cause love is the most powerful magic of all.” – Powerful Magic

Charming: “My voice just soars. Had no idea it could. Now I’m singing out, and my, do I sound good!” – Powerful Magic

Hook: “Sing a yo ho, you can beg, plead and whine. But yo ho, you are wasting your time. That croc got my hand, wanna tear out his spine. Revenge, revenge, revenge is gonna be mine. Revenge, revenge, revenge is gonna be mine.” – Revenge is Gonna Be Mine

Hook: “Once I sailed toward a horizon, where I might find happiness waiting. Until that croc destroyed my life and filled me with hate unabating. Some say let it go, but I say hell no. I’m finally on the right path. Soon the Dark One will feel the fire of this pirate’s wrath.” – Revenge is Gonna Be Mine

Zelena: “What they call green with envy, I just call looking good.” – Wicked Always Wins


    3 Comments

  1. LenMay 13th, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    What a beautiful review of this episode. Most important the character of Emma Swan and journey. And the beautiful love story of Emma and Hook… which as you said spans for 5 seasons and they have been thought alot as a couple and fight for each other and even been through alot as individuals. They are fighters and strong and brave.
    This modern fairytale of true love will be remembered and it is Emma Swan the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming who marries her true love Captain Hook. That’s a fairytale. And it is so poetic just how much it is so meant to be and written in the stars when we looks back at this man who had to live for centuries through curses and realms to meet her, and also had his song in her too. Destiny and Fate.

    I did enjoy the soundtrack very Disney like and very well fitted in the show.
    My four faves are Emma’s theme, A happy Beginning, Revenge is gonna be mine, Powerful Magic (damn what a entrance Charming lol). And I am with you that Jen/Colin should do another song, what a blend of voices and even Josh/Ginny. I just need to say Emma”s theme just moving and Jennifer Morrison beautifully sung it.

    What can I say about the wedding which you already said. I was teary eyed the moment we got to the scene and it was the music that set me off that beautiful music playing (Mark Isham just knows how to give music to moment esp these Emma/Hook themes) and then came Henry and Hook operation best man moment (I enjoy their scenes) seeing Snowing walk down their daughter down the aisle to marry the man she loves and Emma and Hook looking at each other and the cue the most beautiful vows. And all I can say is “do you take this man/woman….. to love him/her…. For All Eternity…. ” FOR ALL ETERNITY.

    Thank you for the review. Every week.

  2. JoMay 14th, 2017 at 3:27 am

    Once again you didn’t disappoint. What a fantastic review, you captured the perfection of that episode!!

  3. EmilyMay 14th, 2017 at 4:17 am

    I think one of my favorite lyrics and you touched on it in the review, “leave the past and all its scars a happy beginning now is ours.” This lyric truly embodies where Hook and Emma both came from as individuals, but it’s true for everyone else as well. Zelena’s scars were obvious as the Wicked Witch, but now she’s a mother with no magic and a sister she loves and she is just happy. Henry was alone for 10 years, and now his family is finally complete. These ideas of everyone having scars also include Regina, Snow,and Charming but as long as you never give up, it will get easier,and there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.

    Beaitiful Review. This review is exactly how I felt watching the episode and it truly goes down as my favorite for sure. Thank you for writing what so many people are feeling. Oncers truly did love this episode.

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