Every classic hero’s tale has a dark night of the soul—that moment when everything appears to be at its worst—just before things begin to turn around. But Once Upon a Time is series TV and there are many seasons ahead before this heroic tale comes to an end. My guess is that there will be many dark nights for several of the main cast before the series ends someday. But this week’s episode “An Apple Red as Blood” places Emma at that classic crossroads between giving up all hope and finding the strength to continue the battle.
Emma (Jennifer Morrison, who’s really beginning to own this role) is at a low point (not the low point, I’m sure), and she wants to flee Storybrooke with son Henry (Jared Gilmore) in tow. She wants to hear nothing more about curses and fairy tale characters; she does not believe. She does not want to believe.
But believe she must, to save her own life—and the lives of everyone from Fairy Tale Land, who are stuck in a joyless modern existence. Emma has a long, long way to go, unable to even see what’s right in front of her nose—the truth that’s staring her in the face.
Running away has been Emma’s M.O. for a long time, and although it appears she wants to do this for Henry’s sake—to stop the war between herself and Regina—she also doesn’t want to accept her destiny. Every heroic quest has this blip (as Henry points out), but when her sone takes a bite of Regina’s apple turnover, his life is at suddenly at risk. I see this as the game changer for Emma, setting up the queen’s now fully-invested adversary for next season.
Despite what Emma may or may not believe, her presence is having an effect on the Evil Queen’s (Lana Parrilla) curse. Regina’s apple tree is dying, the town clock is moving; townspeople are beginning to remember who they (really) are—and (have you noticed?) the meek Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) is becoming as badass as Snow White!
And while Emma wants to run as fast as she can the Evil Queen wants to get rid of her. Permanently. But doing that is not so simple. Regina first consults with Mr. Gold (the always awesome Robert Carlyle), whom she considers her natural ally. After all, he created the curse and gave it to her, and poor deluded, egomaniacal Regina believes that she and Mr. Gold are on the same page.
But Gold’s reasoning behind the curse could not be further from Regina’s interests. It is fairly clear (to me, anyway) that the entire rationale for Gold’s curse in the first place was to be able to follow his son Bae (Dylan Schmid) into the “world without magic” into which he slipped (“The Return”). Regina’s purpose is to take away everyone’s happiness (of course she had long since ripped from Gold’s alter ego Rumplestiltskin’s hope of happiness). Gold acted out of love for his son (and put in place a time clock to remove the curse in due time); Regina out of spite.
Gold has no desire to see the curse remain in place. After all, it was he that put Emma into the mix in the first place—and brought Henry to Storybrooke.
I have to say that The Evil Queen may be powerful, but she’s not especially bright. Hasn’t she by now figured out that Mr. Gold is not her friend? He certainly has his own agenda, but his interests are more in line with the forces of good.