As Jennifer Morrison departs Once Upon a Time, let’s celebrate Emma Swan’s heroic journey!
Oncers, this has been an interesting week for us.
Last Sunday, we began with such a high. Once Upon a Musical was as sensational as expected, so entertaining! We got a massive full circle moment, in that Emma learned, even when she was alone, the songs of those who love her have always been in her heart. And she’s so much stronger for it. Then with Emma and Killian finally getting married, there was a lot to celebrate (even if the Black Fairy’s curse was unleashed). You can read our recap of “The Song in Your Heart” HERE.
Then on Monday morning, Jennifer Morrison announced her decision not to return to Once Upon a Time for Season 6. In the days following, we learned that Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas, Rebecca Mader, Emilie de Ravin, and Jared Gilmore would also be leaving the series.
Yet, ABC has renewed Once Upon a Time for Season 7, with Showrunners Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis confirming that the reset will follow Regina (Lana Parrilla), Rumple (Robert Carlyle), and Killian (Colin O’Donoghue). Tonight’s two-hour finale will launch the reset and also introduce us to two new leading characters, to be played by Andrew J. West (Gareth from The Walking Dead) and Alison Fernandez (Young Jane in Jane The Virgin). (Read the Horowitz and Kitsis interview with Entertainment Weekly.)
I know we all still have several questions, chief among them being how can Killian’s story continue with Emma? Similarly, can we really watch Regina get her HEA and Rumple potentially reach redemption without Henry and Belle, respectively?
Soon we’ll get these answers, but this is also a time we can use to reflect on what we’ve loved so much about Once Upon a Time. And at the tip-top of that list is Emma Swan.
Ahead of Once Upon a Musical, we teamed up with our friends at Fangirlish for a roundtable called “In Defense of Emma Swan”. This was really Fangirlish Editor Lizzie’s brainchild. She wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate Emma Swan’s journey. Now we know that Jennifer Morrison is leaving the show, this now becomes the perfect time to thank her for bringing such a phenomenal character to life. In Lizzie’s eloquent words:
“Emma Swan’s journey has been one of learning how to be open, how to accept the love of her son and her parents. It’s been one of forgiveness, of becoming friends with the woman who took everything away from her. And it’s been one of love – of finding a kindred spirit and taking the leap to real, lasting love.”
Read on for my contributions to the roundtable. Lizzie has also given me permission to share her responses. (The full “In Defense of Emma Swan” post includes 13 contributors, which you should definitely check out HERE.)
Let’s talk Emma’s journey: What do you think her journey has been? How has she grown from the person she was when we started the show?
Funmbi: After this season’s “Awake” episode, I missed Season 1 so much that I started a re watch. Of course, my feels were in total disarray because I’d forgotten things like how delicious the Mary Margaret/David angst had been and how much of an unbeliever Emma Swan was. In Season 1, Emma was quite resistant to Henry’s and August’s claims that she was the Savior. Furthermore, she resisted having a permanent role in Henry’s life as his mother. And truth be told, even after being freed from the Dark Curse, Emma still spent much of Season 2 doubting her abilities, the broader role of magic in all of their lives, and whether she was capable of being part of a family unit (as a daughter, as a mother). This is, in fact, what I think Emma’s journey has been… this struggle to believe in herself. To understand that she is the product of true love, and she is capable to wielding the power and responsibility that comes with it. To accept that she is deserving of family and true love, herself. By the time we get to Season 6, Emma still has some doubts (as any human being would), but she has also grown. Emma is open to new possibilities, as well as the love of her family and future husband, Killian. *FLAILS*
Lizzie: I think Emma’s journey has been one of self-acceptance and self-love, above all things. The Emma we meet in the Pilot was an orphan, and she had, in a way that was all about survival, shut herself off from feeling things. She wasn’t a happy woman, she was just getting by. And then Henry came into her life and Emma found a reason to fight for, and the armor started to crack, just a little. But Henry was easier than her parents, easier than Killian, because Henry didn’t require Emma to confront issues from her past. But confront those issues she did, and today, the Emma we see in our TV screens doesn’t just love her parents, she understands them and yes, she forgives them for the choices they had to make. Similarly, the Emma of today doesn’t let Neal’s abandonment color her idea of romantic love, she’s shed the notion that she’s destined to be abandoned and she’s taking a leap of faith, planning for a future with the man she loves.
Why is Emma Swan a role model to you?
Funmbi: Emma Swan is a phenomenal woman, who embodies several of the characteristics that inspire me to be the best person I can be. From the moment we met Emma in all her bail bondswoman glory, I knew she would be my favorite. Emma knows exactly who she is and never apologizes for it. She is brave and good, even in the face of fear and obstacles. Emma is willing to make sacrifices in order to protect those she loves and never shirks her responsibilities to her family and town. She is tenacious, strong, independent, and so badass. At the same time, she can be open and vulnerable with those she loves (even if it took awhile to break down those walls).
Lizzie: Because she’s real. She’s not perfect, has never claimed to be. She’s strong as hell and then she’s weak sometimes, she’s got doubts and she fights against those and sometimes she comes out on top and sometimes the doubts seem to drown her, but Emma never stops fighting. She never stays still. She never lets life bring her down completely. And I think that’s a lesson we could all learn – sometimes life is going to suck, and some days the only thing to do is get up and keep trying.
How do you define strong? Does Emma qualify? Why?
Funmbi: For me, strength is a matter of tenacity. We all make mistakes, we all fall short of our goals. But the next day, if you’re willing to wake up and try again, that is true inner-strength. Emma Swan 1,000% embodies this sort of mental and physical stamina. Time and time again, challenges have emerged to threaten her, her family, and Storybrooke. Some days are better than others, but Emma never gives up. Do you remember in “Awake” when Snow and Charming were trying to decide whether to forsake Storybrooke and go get Emma? Snow said: “We have to believe that she’s strong enough to grow up without us.” All six seasons demonstrate how Emma *totally* was/is.
Lizzie: I define strong as someone who can not just kick literal ass, but as someone who doesn’t give up, as someone who’s not afraid to be wrong and to learn and to evolve, or heck, even as someone who IS afraid, but who still pushes through, who doesn’t let fear define her, and that’s Emma Swan, to a “T.” Emma’s journey has never been about not being scared and it’s never been about being perfect, instead it’s been about not giving up – on herself, on family, on love. That’s what makes Emma Swan strong.
What’s the most important lesson Emma Swan has taught you?
Funmbi: Emma Swan has taught me that we all deserve to love and be loved. No matter your circumstances, you are worthy.
Lizzie: The most important lesson Emma taught me is that you make your own destiny, you decide who you are and no one else can define you or tell you how to act or how to feel. You are in control of your life.
Someone says: Emma Swan has had the worst character journey ever depicted on TV. You say:
Funmbi: I respectfully and vehemently disagree. Since Once Upon a Time’s first season, we’ve watched Emma grapple with very dangerous challenges and make heartbreaking sacrifices. In the process, she has learned about herself: her desires, goals, and limits. This journey is the epitome of what it means to be human, to struggle, fall, and (in time) overcome. But what’s most fascinating is that, through Emma’s journey, she has opened up those same opportunities for growth for others, like Henry, Killian, her parents, Regina, and even Rumple. Emma Swan is, without a doubt, one of the best protagonists on television.
Lizzie: I’m sorry that, for whatever reason, you can’t appreciate the journey Emma Swan has gone through. I really am, because I think that it’s actually one of the best character journeys on TV, for many reasons, most of which are covered in these brilliant roundtable. You might not see it that way, as is your right, but I strongly disagree with your opinion, even while I respect your right to express it.
Why do YOU love Emma Swan/Jennifer Morrison? Share your thoughts in comments!
Many thanks to Lizzie and Fangirlish for inviting us to collaborate with them!