The Return of Emma Swan

After a disastrous season premiere, the producers of Once Upon a Time decided to cash in right away on the one episode that Jennifer Morrison was contracted to come back for. Unfortunately, that means they've already used up their carrot dangling on a string to keep older fans watching. I'm glad I was able to see her return as Emma now rather than suffer through countless expository episodes that rehash old plots from earlier seasons. However, I can't say I thought this was a particularly interesting, exciting, or heartfelt episode. It seemed as if it revolved entirely around explaining the changes in the actors' contracts. While they could have done that in the premiere, they were too busy patting themselves on the back for successfully recreating the show's pilot with new actors.

In "A Pirate's Life," there were way too many the convenient story decisions that were obviously written for the sake of explaining why certain characters were still in the show and others weren't. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how disappointed I was that Hook was going to be present for the entire season in Emma's absence. Well, it turns out the writers already anticipated that concern. Now, there are two Hooks, and the one that married Emma is still with her. How convenient. I was not a fan of Regina splitting into two people in the last season, and I'm even less a fan of a "fake" Hook from an alternate dimension taking the place of the real one in our world. Keep in mind that if this Hook is a real person, Regina actually murdered real incarnations of Snow White and Prince Charming. Of course, Emma gave alternative Hook her blessing to join Henry on his quest to find his daughter while the real one went back home with her. That brings us to the next announcement.

Emma is married to Hook now, and she's already pregnant. Can we just take a moment to talk about how many princesses have babies on this show? Snow White and Emma are tied for two offspring each, both Cinderellas have children, and Belle had some sort of messed up pregnancy where the baby she had with Rumpelstiltskin grew up in a dream before he was even born. I realize that Once Upon a Time is a soap opera, and people in soap operas have kids who grow up after a few weeks all the time, but this show takes dysfunctional families to the next level. Practically every character is connected through a child or past relationship. Captain Hook, who now fathered a baby with Emma, once hooked up with the wife of Emma's other kid's grandpa. Is everyone really just okay with this? It is common in older fairy tales for princesses to live happily ever after with their prince and get to work immediately producing heirs to the throne, but this show is supposed to be a more modern take on those stories. There are so many other opportunities for adult women in today's world besides just settling down and having kids.

It's a shame that Emma's appearance did not make up much of the episode overall because most of it was very bland. It was nice that she got to see grown-up Henry and learn what he was up to since he left Storybrooke. Their final scene together was rather touching, but for the most part, she didn't feel like the same badass sarcastic Emma that we grew to love from the rest of the show. Maybe marriage softened her, or maybe the writers got lazy. Who knows? She did appear to have better control of her magic, as she used it to heal alternative Hook. There was also a cool storybook illustration of her from Henry's book that alternative Hook recognized in the cursed world, but cursed Henry didn't seem to remember that she was his mother. He claimed that he created her as the mother he wished he had, which shows that he still loved her even if he didn't remember that she was real.

Overall, Emma's presence did very little to help this episode along. I have extremely low expectations for the rest of the season without her. All of the story points were forced and obviously written to support the cast changes. I did like seeing Tiana's cursed persona in the real world. She was business savvy and logical, just as I would expect. Adelaide Kane as Drizella was as regal as ever. However, those were the few diamonds in the rough. I have little interest in seeing alternative Hook find his daughter, Henry's romance with alternative Cinderella, or the long drawn-out explanation of why the new curse was cast. Let's all keep our fingers and toes crossed that this will be the final season.


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