Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.11 – Going Home

There is a rare, bittersweet joy in watching the unfolding of a love story that will never be allowed to fully blossom. It’s what makes movies like Malena and Never Let Me Go so poignant, what makes songs like Almost Lover feel so lonely. That stated, the subtext in Going Home was so-not-even-subtext that I will not divert onto paths of dislikes and complaints. I will not mention those who need not be mentioned. I will not brainstorm the ways in which it can all be destroyed again, make bets on how quickly it will be, or opinion-spew about the return of the curse or the show’s new villain.

This post is about Emma and Regina, and about Emma and Regina only. Because this episode was pivotal. After a half-season leading up to it, this was the one in which two women who started out hating each other realized they would never be able to hate each other again.

– spoilers start now –

It all begins following a magical switcharoo, in which Gold returns Henry to Henry’s body and brings Pan back to Pan’s body, when, upon realizing Gold’s magical mojo has proven successful, Emma declares, “Let’s go find our son.”

As the gang marches down the street with Granny sniff-tracking Henry, because Once loves its big group walks, Henry-as-Henry rushes out of the library and into the arms of his two mommies for another joint hug, because, after the filming of the first one, it became instantly clear to the directors, cinematographers and Jesus how swooningly pretty those look.

So, Henry has the scroll they need to break Pan’s curse, and it’s a race to stop it, so Emma puts said scroll in Regina’s hand, declaring “It’s up to you now” with all this abounding faith. When Regina actually does swoon, or, rather, falls unconscious in response, Emma does most of the catching and is the one who calls out to Regina until Regina at last awakens, looks up and whispers “Emma.”

She says “Emma.” Emma. Emma.

It’s clear to all that things aren’t going to go painlessly, and that these are two women in love, but before the price of the magic required to stop the curse can be revealed, Pan is back to being a jerk who magically steals the scroll from Regina’s hand and boasts about his plans to kill them all. Emma and Regina go all tag-team-mom to protect Henry just as Pan puts the freeze on them, and there is a showdown between Pan and Rumple that ends in Rumps being totes heroic and the scroll falling to the street in slow-motion dramatics.

It is in this moment in which Regina breaks away from everyone to suffer on her own, as she is prone to do, and in which Lana Parrilla has a moment that ranks right up there with my favorite reactions of all time on screen or stage.

Neal says, “Regina, don’t let him die for nothing,” and gets no response. Then again, “Regina.”

“What?” Regina returns, and it is half a lifetime of torment and darkness, and two and a half seasons of aching loneliness, in a single, exquisite syllable.

The curse is coming, though, so no time to dilly-dally over this excellence. Fearing the end, Henry walks to Neal’s side for a little fatherly comfort, and Emma reaches toward Regina with a touch that doesn’t land, but that I’m not really sure if it matters makes contact or not.

“Regina?” Everyone is back on her to end Pan’s curse with a quickness.

“Yes,” she nods with such perfect internal suffering, it hurts all my everywheres. “Yes.”

Only Emma thinks to ask about the price, which is Regina’s alone, yet costs everyone. Upon finding out that Regina can never see Henry again, Emma looks utterly bothered, even before Regina reveals the curse being undone means everyone goes back to their own places of origin, which would leave Henry a part of our world.

“Alone?” Emma questions.

“No,” Regina steps closer to her. “You will take him, because you’re the savior.” And she says it with awe and admiration of the fact. “You were created to break the curse, and once again you can escape it.”

But Emma doesn’t want to. She wants to go back with everyone else. And it takes Regina’s declaration that it’s not possible and convincing for Emma to agree to take Henry and go.

Then, we stand at the town line, where there are a lot of goodbyes, and Regina waits for Emma to be alone-ish.

“Emma,” she says, and, in all seriousness, I still just want to watch them say each other’s names back and forth for like an hour. “There’s something I haven’t told you.”

“What now?” Emma can handle all the goodbyes, except for the one from Regina. And she can handle it even less when Regina tells her she and Henry are going to lose their memories of Storybrooke and everyone they met there.

“It doesn’t sound much like a happy ending,” Emma says.

“It’s not,” Regina admits, and stops trying to hide her affection. “But I can give you one.”

Though she can’t preserve their memories, she can give them new ones, as she did everyone else who came to Storybrooke by way of the Enchanted Forest. And, though, Emma doesn’t forget that Regina is the one who cursed them to begin with and that they were all miserable, when Regina says, “They didn’t have to be,” and reaches for her hand, Emma gives it without hesitation.

So, Regina bestows upon Emma the gift of good memories, memories in which Emma never gave Henry up, in which they have always been together, and Emma starts to cry for the first time and Regina starts to cry, and it is the longest goodbye by far. As it should be.

“You would do that?” Emma asks.

“When I stop Pan’s curse and you cross that town line,” Regina promises her, “you will have the life you always wanted.”

Then, she let’s Henry and Emma, and, romantic or not, Emma and Regina stake their claim as this show’s greatest love story.

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One Comment

  1. Woah. Great post. I really don’t understand this show sometimes, how they put ever more stuff on-screen between the two ladies, film it, edit it and have it looking like a romance flick or something, as so many of us have seen a thousand times elsewhere – and then say people are imagining things or whatever. Clearly it’s a conscious choice on the part of the writers / creators / directors, etc. They didn’t just randomly pick out words from a dictionary, and throw then at a sheet of paper. I’m not sure if it’s intentional baiting, or just mass ignorance. Given some of Adam and Eddie’s comments though, privileged, white male ignorance might be a large part of it. They seem to have almost zero clue about issues covering gender, race, equality, etc. I just wish they’d stop, or at least admit to it. It’s sort of insulting to ones intelligence. I know what I’m seeing – don’t lie to my face, and don’t patronize me. If you are going to make it NO HOMO, just be f***ing honest. I may not like it, but I’ll respect you a lot more for it.

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