Its colorful premise stood out among the endless cycle of police and medical procedurals. How could a show about a cool 28 year old woman who finds herself in Storybrooke, Maine, a town where fairy tale characters have been cursed to forget who they are by the evil queen, not be amazingly entertaining, especially to a Disney fan like me?
The pilot aired and happily, I was right. Once Upon a Time caught my attention from the first moment to the last. The show was the breathe of fresh air that I needed. It was a show filled with hope. It was (and still is) escapism at its best.
We're running up on nearly six complete seasons of Once Upon a Time with a "rebooted" seventh season on the way. Along the way, there have been a few shake ups, with last minute plot changes made to accommodate new character additions, dropping ratings and, most recently, the loss of half of the original cast (some by choice, others not so much). Among the lows, however, there have been many highs. That is what this post is going to celebrate: the best of Once Upon a Time.
Life is made up of moments, as Prince Charming aka David Nolan, has been known to say. There have been so many moments in Once Upon a Time that have touched me in some way, whether they made me laugh, cry or smile. Below are a few of my favorites.
Episode 01x02, The Thing You Love Most:
Regina, who has yet to embrace her good side, isn't too happy that Emma is looking at staying in Storybrooke. After attempting to run her out of town, Emma takes issue with Regina's tactics and takes a chainsaw to one of the Evil Queen's apple trees. The apple tree scene is a great example of how good showrunners Adam Horowitz and Eddie Kitsis are. This one scene gives us so much insight into Emma (and Regina's) characters and is great fun to watch.
Episode 01x7, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
Remember Sheriff Graham, played by Jamie Dornan? Regina's one time casual lover and Storybrooke's original Sheriff? Well, this death was devastating. Once Upon a Time surprised all of us with the death of this fan favorite character so early into the season. For a show about hope, this scene was shocking. I still miss him! (Also notice Emma's curly princess hair. That only lasted a season, I think!)
Episode 01x17, Hat Trick
Jefferson, oh Jefferson. Jefferson, played by the Sebastian Stan, was used a handful of times in season 1 of Once Upon a Time before he hit it big in the Marvel films. Hat Trick is the best Hatter themed episode and features a moment that I love. In this episode, Jefferson, aka the Mad Hatter, kidnaps Emma in order to have her recreate the magical hat he used in the Enchanted Forest to jump realms. Jefferson represented the only character to actually remember his fairy tale past. In this scene, he tries to convince Emma that magic is real, that it exists. Besides seeing some progression on the idea that Emma might one day believe Henry's story about the origin of the town and its inhabitants, it also has a bit of (unintentional) romantic tension (though this angle was never explored in the show).
Episode 1x22, A Land Without Magic
Raise your hand if you were shocked to see Emma break the curse so early into the series. I was, too! My favorite moment of that episode wasn't the kiss in the hospital or the 'what the heck just happened' expression on Emma's face. It was Snow, played by Ginny Goodwin, and Charming, played by Josh Dallas, seeing each other on the street, running to each other and embracing.
Episode 2x06, Tallahassee
Holy Shipping, Batman, Emma and Hook forever! This episode had so many moments for me. Hook, played by Colin O'Donohue, and Emma's natural chemistry was clearly on display in this episode. On top of that, we got to learn about Neal, who would eventually play a huge roll in Emma's growth as an adult (and, of course, helped spawn Henry). This episode started me on the path of shipping my beloved Captain Swan.
Episode 2x14, Manhattan
Sometimes, just due to the nature of the show, our band of heroes has been forced to say, well, really weird lines. Manhattan has one of the weirdest and best delivered lines of all time. Emma finds Neal, the man who left her to rot in jail for a robbery he committed and who just so happens to be Rumple's long lost son. In the bar, after Emma chases him down and hears his story, Emma has to make this doozy of a line believable: You left me (beat) and let me go to prison because Pinocchio told you to? Jennifer Morrison deserves an Emmy for her delivery of that line.
Episode 3x03, Quite a Common Fairy
By season 3, we'd seen a lot of backstory on Regina, aka the Evil Queen, but this is one of my favorite Regina episodes. Watching Regina, played by Lana Parrilla, stand outside the bar where her true love sits, seeing her as she faces a huge fear, the fear of 'what do you do once you've found the one', was relatable on so many levels. I felt for her in that moment.
Episode 3x06, Ariel
In Ariel, the Scooby gang found themselves in the Echo caves. The only way to save Neal, who had been kidnapped by Pan, was to share a secret no one knew. Big secrets were shared, but the biggest came from Emma. Learning that Emma wanted Neal to be dead was dark, especially for a show thats through line is hope.
Episode 4x11, Shattered Sight
While I really do enjoy the Frozen arc and Elsa's relationship with Emma, there aren't many moments in it that stand out. As an arc, I think everything flowed nicely. However, this moment, the moment the Snow Queen's curse of Shattered Sight took effect and the aftereffect it had on Snow and Charming (who locked themselves in the sheriff's station as to not hurt one another) was great. Adding to the hilarity was Anna, who was trying so hard to help the situation, but failing. (Kristoff wasn't helping matters much!)
Episode 5x08, Birth
Talk about a sucker punch to the gut, Killian dying in Camelot was unexpected and heartbreaking. Emma turning him into a Dark One to save him was equally unexpected.
Episode 5x12, Souls of the Departed
One thing I enjoyed about the Underworld arc was that it felt somewhat reminiscent of the first season. In Souls of the Departed, Regina gets a chance to see her father, Henry, again and make up for the darkness her father saw her do. The most touching aspect of this reunion is when she introduces her father to young Henry, his namesake.
Episode 5x19, Sisters:
Regina and her half sister Zelena's relationship wasn't always handled well, in my opinion, but Sisters, as an episode was amazingly touching. The scene with Cora meeting Zelena and then saying goodbye to her girls was heartbreaking and beautiful.
Episode 6x20, The Song In Your Heart
To be fair, I should probably rewatch season 6 before picking out my favorite bits, but for the moment, the entire season has been eclipsed by one of the most fun episodes of the entire series, the musical episode! The songs were spot on. Nothing seemed out of place. It was practically perfect.
While we are getting a seventh season of Once Upon a Time, the story of the Charmings and their daughter Emma seems complete. With their departure from the show, along with (not so) little Henry, Zelena and Belle, season seven's reboot will surely be a new and exciting frontier. One that, I hope, brings us as much hope and joy as the first six seasons did.