Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.8 & 3.9 – Think Lovely Thoughts & Save Henry

 – OR (if these were episodes of Friends) –

The One Where Emma and Regina are Stronger Than Nature


The One With the Moment Emma Fell in Love with Regina

My effort to get two books out in a short period has gotten me behind double, and probably a double-behind too, but sometimes one must neglect one’s posterior for the sake of posterity. You know, ’cause future generations are totally going to benefit from my writings on lady-love, badass fairy tale heroines, and Christmassy magic. I mean, it could happen.

But probably not.

The point is, I’m behind, but at least I’m working toward catching up. So, here we go, backtracking to Think Lovely Thoughts. As always, expect spoilers throughout.

While it has been a while since I watched it, granted, I do recall a lot of commotion at the beginning with Bae’s revelation to all that his Pappy is all “Death to Henry!”, though really Gold kind of isn’t, and overall this is largely just a ‘Gold, Who’s Your Daddy’ episode. Which, I don’t know, was anyone surprised Pan was Gold’s daddy? Because Once has a tendency to set up a lot of plot twists that aren’t the least bit surprising.

So, let me take us all back just a little further for a moment to season one, and the nostalgia of not knowing. At least for me. Because I, personally, did not know who August was until they revealed it. Of course, it helped that Pinocchio was never mentioned until they wanted us to know, but I’ll take it.

And, back to the present.

The important stuff begins with the rescue of Henry, and a lovely moonlit boat ride to Skull Island, during which Emma and Regina sit side-by-side (holding hands) while their goblin-butler (Adventure Time reference) Neal rows, rows, rows their boat.

Once on Skull Island, Gold is the only shadowless creature amongst them, so he slips off to do his saving of Henry while NealBae thinks he’s slipping off to do a little throat-slittin’. While Gold is in with Pan, getting piss-poor fatherly advice and all boxed up, Emma remembers elementary science and that light makes shadows.

So, what’s the obvious solution?

Block out the moon by eclipse, duh.

Not ‘Hey guys, look I’m wearing a long coat. Why don’t you crouch down and I’ll hold it open in front of you and it will block your shadows so you can waddle on through, and then I’ll crouch down and hold it against the moon and get right through too, no probs.’

Now, I’m not saying their way wasn’t way sexier and subtextier. I’m just saying, magic’s nice and all, but if ever they return to a land without it, I’m not sure what they’ll do when they find themselves in a pickle. MacGyver, they ain’t.

On the sexy, subtexty side, though, this is the point where Regina admits she needs help, and Emma is surprised, because she believes her woman has unsurpassed powers that require no backup, a misunderstanding forged in the bedroom where, in fact, Regina has unsurpassed powers that require no backup.

So, basically, what happens next is Regina and Emma combine their magic essences to eclipse the moon. As sworn enemies are known to do. And Neal stands back and thinks, ‘Hmm, Emma and I never produced an eclipse.’ That’s right, Neal, you didn’t. You just didn’t.

Next, there’s this whole parental appeal to Henry, which goes pretty much like this –

PARENTS: Henry, we are nothing without you.

HENRY: That’s awesome. But I’m a kid and I’m stupid.

Then, he gives Pan his heart, Pan ascends or something, and we’re all set up to –

Save Henry

The best thing about the subtext in Save Henry isn’t that it starts immediately, though it does, but that it is so wonderfully existential in nature. First, Emma and Regina are being all parental together, cradling Henry between them, and Regina is actually getting the leading parent role. As she should.

Then, Neal is asked to speak and Regina is pretty much done with having two additional parents in her son’s life when she did it all on her own for ten years. So, she goes into Regina mode and tells it like it is, and Emma tries to make peace between her past and future lovers by telling Regina it’s enough.

“Don’t tell me what’s enough,” Regina snaps back. “My son is dying.

And Emma looks flat-out wounded, because she really thought they had already gotten over that particular relationship hurdle. “Our son,” she says. “So, yes, I know how you feel.”

It’s at this point that Neal walks off, realizing he is not at all part of this conversation, despite his own parental ties to Henry, because it is SO not even about Henry.

And this is SO much feeling for Regina to openly reveal to Emma –

“You have no idea what I feel. You have your parents, you have this person, a pirate who pines for you. You have everything, and yet you claim to know what I feel. All I have is Henry, and I am not about to lose him, because he is everything.

And this is SUCH a concession for Emma to make to Regina –

“You’re right. I don’t know what you feel. So what do you wanna do? You wanna run the show, run it. How do we save Henry?”

And then Regina admits weakness –

“I don’t know.”

Then, there’s a little more discussion about how Pan can be hurt because Emma nicked him with the sword, and Regina is more than ready to take her own chunk out of Pan. And whomever else she must take a chunk out of on the way. This leads to the hunt for pan, and interrogation of the Lost Boys, and they gots limited time, so Regina is about to go all heart-ripper on the worst little Lost Boy (it did work once, after all) and Emma stops her with physical hands on her.

Now, I’m not about to sit down and go back through two-and-a-half seasons, but is this not a milestone? Because the only touches I recall Emma and Regina sharing until this particular touch have all been either violent or absolutely necessary (to save Regina’s life). Now, one could argue that Emma felt she had to put her hand on Regina’s arm to prevent her from ripping out the kid’s heart, but I argue against that.

Because this is how I choose to see the world.

So, then something even more telling happens.

Emma reasons with Regina. Reasons with Regina. Reasons.

Since when does Regina do reason?

I mean, seriously, for someone who didn’t want to follow Emma, or to be stuck with the Charmings – which, who the fuck can blame her? – she has taken a LOT of direction from Emma in Neverland.

“Rip out a heart, Regina.”


“Okay, Love.”

“Don’t rip out a heart, Regina.”

“Okay, Love.”

And Emma’s big idea to make the Lost Boys speak? Pretty much say to them exactly what Regina said to her moments before. Because it clearly worked wonders, and Emma is still feeling it.


Now, we must veer off course for a moment to go back in time, as we did with frequency during this episode, and always to Regina. Yay!

Because the trajectory of Henry’s adoption is one of the things that Once has gotten right. And it’s about time Regina gets some credit for her choice to love (at great cost to herself, we at last discover), and that adoptive parents in general get some props on this show.

When she said “Please, just give me a chance” and kissed Baby Henry’s smooshy face, and he finally stopped crying and it made her so happy, that was it. I was done with concern for any other character. Just slay your way through the competition and take Emma already Regina. Take her! Or, you know, be humane and just lock everyone up. And please, I implore you, gag Mary Margaret.

Because it’s amazing that the Snow White/Mary Margaret characters are still soooo far apart in personality that I’m totally on board with Snow White and yet every time Mary Margaret opens her mouth, I start rolling my eyes before she can get out a single syllable.

Anyway, our three main ladies – the savior, the queen and the sap – go off to look for Pan alone, because, despite all this talk about how strong Pan is and how he is damn near unstoppable, that makes the most since because there are some basic chores to be done elsewhere on the island.

Yes, I know… Until Henry’s heart firmly sets in, Pan can be hurt, yada yada. But they set him up as this ultimate Big Bad, and when they said that shiz on Buffy, they meant all hands on deck.

In the end, though, it only took one hand. Which really isn’t all that surprising, because Regina is both the villain and the hero of this show. Kind of like House, you know if House had ripped out people’s hearts and putting sleeping curses on them.

Anyway, off on their own, the savior, the queen and the sap stop by the Pandora’s Box trap and get vined up to a tree by their regret. The thing is, though, Regina has no regret, because everything she did got her Henry. And also Emma in a roundabout way. So with a saucy declaration that she has no regret, she breaks them the fuck out and rips Henry’s heart from Pan, as Emma looks kind of terrified and yet awed.

This is Regina’s lifting-a-car-to-save-her-child-trapped-underneath maternal-adrenaline moment.

So, they rush to the Jolly Roger and Regina puts Henry’s heart back. After some manufactured suspense, Henry wakes up and the most important thing in the episode happens –

Joint hugs! Joint hugs!

And, while Emma and Regina aren’t hugging each other, they are hugging close to each other, and, in subtext, that counts. It has to. If near, close and sort of weren’t somewhat satisfying for us, we would all be starving.

It isn’t so much the joint hug, though – although Regina’s fingers clearly want to get intimate with Emma’s hair – that make this moment so freaking subtexty, but the way that Emma and Regina look at each other just before they cut to the next scene.

That’s freakin’ love, yo.

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