While the characters from the past were fun to see in their natural habitats, this trip was about Emma interacting with that past. I’m so happy the writers didn’t overlook the potential for comedy in this plot. Whether she was trying to adjust her corset, seeing the Dark One for the first time, naming herself Princess Leia (I freaked out!), or trying to explain Marty McFly to Hook, Emma was at her fish-out-of-water best in this episode. And I’m not sure it gets more fun than the “Two Hooks, One Emma” scene. Morrison seemed to be having so much fun letting Emma’s flirtatious side come out to play, and it certainly showed. Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue were perfect in the moment when Emma starts loosening her corset. I’ve always believed that Emma likes the power Hook gives her in their relationship, and this was a whole new level of power over a very different Hook. Even in another time, he still would have fallen for her charms, and that added a lovely bit of romance to what was essentially a comedic interlude. Also, present Hook punching his past self was as much about catharsis as it was about comedy. Hook isn’t that person anymore; he doesn’t like who that person represents, and he doesn’t like that person getting close to Emma because Emma was the one who helped him move on from that part of himself.
Past Hook saw Emma as a nameless conquest, a ship passing in the night. Present Hook sees her as Emma, a lost girl who just needs to know she’s not alone. I loved that he was her partner throughout this journey. She may have been able to rescue herself, but Hook’s presence helped her see that she doesn’t have to do everything alone. He complimented her when she felt uncomfortable in her dresses. He was her first dance at her first ball, and he helped her see herself as the princess she really is. He held her when she thought he mother was dying, a huge moment for their relationship because it was Emma allowing herself to be completely vulnerable with someone, knowing he would be there to hold her up. He confided in her about his brother to help her mourn her mother’s death. And he wiped her tears when Snow was found alive, which may have been my favorite little moment in the whole episode because it was so intimate and open for both of them.
But the most important thing about Hook in this episode is that he chose to go into the portal after her. Emma is a woman who is used to being left behind. But Hook won’t ever leave her to fend for herself. As he told Charming in one of the episode’s greatest scenes, he’d follow her to the end of the world—or time. O’Donoghue’s inherent sincerity worked its magic yet again in that moment. It was a line romantic enough to rival anything Charming has ever said, especially considering Emma’s history of abandonment.
When Emma returned home and reunited with her parents, that’s when the tears really started for me. To see her call them “Mom and Dad” when they’re not in peril was a huge moment of growth—from orphan to beloved and loving daughter. Morrison played Emma’s joy and relief so beautifully, but what actually got to me the most in that scene was Goodwin’s reaction when Emma called Snow “Mom.” It was a look that subtly but powerfully changed from Is this really happening? to This is really happening, and it was stunning.
The whole episode in terms of Emma’s character growth revolved around Neal’s quote about home being something you miss when it’s gone. And I loved that Morrison allowed you to see the exact second it clicked for Emma that she missed Hook’s presence beside her. She found home with her parents, but a part of that sense of home was missing without Hook.
I was so happy that Emma came to that decision to seek out Hook all on her own. Morrison played Emma’s interactions with him in that final scene perfectly; her walls were finally down because she chose him. It was there in the soft way they teased each other about Hook remembering the barmaid and in the way Emma didn’t pull away when he said he’d have gone after her. It was there in the affectionate way she called him a hero. And it was there in the gentle way she thanked him (using his real name) for bringing her back when just an episode ago she was blaming him for it.
With her walls finally down, Hook was able to let his last walls down and tell her what he gave up to get back to her. I was thrilled that they chose to have Hook tell Emma what he did to get back to her because we got to see her reaction. And what a reaction it was. Morrison showed with one look a lifetime’s worth of feeling unwanted fading away because Hook just told her he gave up his home to bring her back to hers.
So Emma chose to kiss him, but this wasn’t anything like their first kiss. It was better. I liked that it was slow and soft because it showed a different kind of chemistry between Morrison and O’Donoghue that was even more potent. Morrison was able to show how much Emma was allowing herself to feel loved in that moment. Her smile when they pulled away was a thing of beauty because it was so unguarded. And then he followed her smile with his own, which was beautiful in its symbolism—always letting her take the lead. As someone who always wanted Emma to find happiness and love, those little smiles meant the world to me as a fan. And then she met him halfway for another kiss, proving that this time it’s not a one-time thing.”