With all the magic and curses throughout Once Upon a Time, I feel that the basics of the show get lost. It’s easy to get caught up in all the hoopla of the magical fairytale lands and storybook characters. However, if you look at the heart of the show and strip away the magic, you have a story about family. I won’t lie, sometimes I get annoyed with how much inter-related characters are on OUAT. The episode that Peter Pan is revealed to be Rumpelstiltskin’s father almost put me over the edge. But dial it all down, and take a look at the main cast.
Snow White and Prince Charming, at their roots, are just a set of parents that through unfortunate events were not able to raise their child. That child, Emma Swan, is obviously affected by this as any kid would be. The series has done a pretty good job of depicting what it’s like for a child in the foster system. This recent season especially was a great view into young Emma. Showing the struggle to belong in a home and the want and need to have a family. The show runners could have easily glossed over Emma’s upbringing but they didn’t. They brought us into the harsh realities of being an orphan.
Fast forward and we have adult Emma dealing with giving away her own child. Although in this situation it’s because she’s currently serving a sentence and doesn’t believe she can be a fit mother. In my opinion this is even a harder decision than her mother had. Emma is willfully giving away her child, soon to be named Henry.
Henry, then adopted by Regina, grows up in Storybrook. As a single parent Regina must have struggled, thought I don’t recall it being depicted. Then comes the struggle between Regina and Emma. On one hand we have the mother whom cared for him for the better part of his life, the later his birth mother whom gave him away. I think this is one of the most interesting dynamics in the series. It’s something that happens in real life more than one would think. The struggle over who is ‘mom’. Henry gets to play monkey in the middle, which I believe is a more tiresome fight than a magical one. He has to appease both sides, while unknowingly leaning towards Emma since she is the unknown parent. The question mark. The long-lost mother he never knew.
Emma’s transformations over the series has been one of the most compelling parts of the series. From first introduction, we get the hard hitting Emma who takes no shit. Move forward and we peel back the layers, revealing just how much she’s always wanted a home. Orphan, thief, savior, princess, and sheriff are just a few words to describe her. Though all along she’s maintained her inner strength.
From there you can go in so many directions. What I’m getting at is that at its heart, OUAT is about family struggles. Without the magic, story book characters, and fairies, that’s what you have. I believe the show has done a great job at representing family dynamics. And most importantly, everyone’s side of that dynamic. The characters make mistakes, try and fix them, then grow from their experiences. You can’t ask any more from a TV series.Your Friend, Elle