I don’t think the general public fully comprehends the powerful role media plays in our modern, day-to-day lives and just how big of an influence the fictional world can have not only on our moods, but also on what type of people we become. I have personally been shaped into the person I am today by numerous individuals, some of them being fictional in every way. Sometimes a fictional character comes into our lives and leaves an impact you never thought possible from anyone, let alone a fictive person. The fictional characters we read about and/or dreamily gaze at from the other side of the screen can help us in ways people in our real lives can’t. Anger, pain, loss, loneliness, depression, hopelessness…these are all emotions I’ve been able to both combat and better understand because of the fictitious personas I surround my daily life with, whether that’s through reading or watching a film or series.
Throughout my years of being in and out of fandoms, reading hundreds upon hundreds of books, and watching countless hours of screen time, I have come to love and admire heaps of various characters – all of dissimilar shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and religions, amongst everything else. Out of all these memorable characters though, there’s one that comes to mind as the one who has influenced me the absolute most: Emma Swan.
During these past six, almost seven years, Emma has become such an integral part of my life, much like in the lives of thousands of others. She’s, in many ways, my own personal Savior. Watching and growing with her these past few years, she’s taught me to see the best in people no matter their past mistakes; to never let anyone tell me who I am because only I can make that distinction; to stand up for what I believe in no matter how terrifying it might be; to forgive myself and to be gentle on my heart because we’re all just human; that if I want my happy ending – or, should I say, happy beginning – I need to fight for it like I’ve never fought for anything else in my entire life; to not always feel like I need to constantly be strong and brave and that it’s more than okay to allow myself to feel vulnerable and/or emotional. Emma has taught me lessons that I will continue to apply in my day-to-day life and ones I will carry with me for years to come. Saying goodbye to her, my favorite superhero and badass warrior princess, has been one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I know how silly that may sound to some, but aside from all the life lessons I just mentioned, focusing my energy on Emma, her story, and her development instead of on the negativity surrounding various rough patches in my life was crucial to my mental health, something I will be endlessly grateful for.
Now that you understand my feelings towards Emma Swan though, we can put all the sappiness aside and move on to the actual purpose of this blog post which is to share with you all my top favorite Emma Swan moments! These are in no particular order (except in chronological) because I love them all equally and I think they’re all important to both the narrative and Emma’s development in their own unique ways. Alas, let us begin!
Disclaimer: If you’re as big of an Emma fan as I am, you might want to grab some tissues. This is going to be a bumpy ride…Also, beware of spoilers. Okay, let’s actually start now.
“There are no fairy godmothers in this world.” | 1×04
I know what it’s like. Everyone loves to tell you what you can and can’t do, especially with a kid. But ultimately, whatever you’re considering doing, or giving up, the choice is yours […] People are gonna tell you who you are your whole life. You just gotta punch back and say, “No, this is who I am.” You want people to look at you differently? Make them. If you want to change things you’re gonna have to go out there and change them yourself because there are no fairy godmothers in this world.
I may or may not be just a tiny bit partial to this scene because of my tattoo. Now, you may be thinking, “What are you going on about?” Well, story time! Actually, it’s not much of a story, don’t get too excited. I have a script tattoo on my left forearm that reads, “Fight for your fairytale,” in Jennifer Morrison’s handwriting. Although the quote is derived from an actual speech that Jennifer gave a few years ago, and not directly because of this Emma scene, I like to think this is where the inspiration derived from in the first place. It’s essentially hinting at the same idea – to fight for your own happiness and your own life because no one else will do it for you. I love the passion behind this scene – the absolute rage and drive radiating from Emma. This is the moment Emma decides she’s done putting up with people’s perception of who she is or isn’t supposed to be, of how she is or isn’t supposed to act. This was precisely the moment I fell in love with Emma Swan and everything she stood for.
“I couldn’t go back.” | 1×09
I just wanted you to see ’em. Just once. I didn’t think I could do it either. I gave up Henry ’cause I wanted to give him his best shot. When I saw that he didn’t have it, I couldn’t leave. I was just as scared, more probably. But once I saw him, got to know him…I couldn’t go back.
I mean, what can I even say – I’m a sucker for Emma’s change of heart when it comes to Henry. We all know how much she’s always loved that kid, so much so that she gave him up so he could have a chance at a better life – something she didn’t think she could ever offer him – breaking her own heart in the process. The minute those doctors took her baby away, a piece of her left with him. The second Henry was back in her life, she knew that she could never, ever give him up again. That loss that she felt, and the pain that accompanied it, overtook her life in unimaginable ways and she wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. Besides the pain of giving up her child, the hurt that came along with growing up in a flawed system also affected her to her core; it broke her spirit and her faith. The culmination of all of these soul-crushing events awoke something in her and that’s why I love this scene so much. This whole episode is actually one of my all time favorites because throughout the entirety of it, she’s fighting back against every instinct she’s ever known so these kids don’t have to experience any more pain, or anything that Emma herself went through at their age; so that their father doesn’t feel like she did all those years ago when she gave Henry up. Emma did everything within her power to make sure this family remained a family – something she wishes she had fought for 10 years prior with her own kid – and I was so unbelievably proud of her for being brave enough to do so.
“I didn’t ask for that, I don’t want it!” | 1×20
I don’t want them to need me. You’re saying that I am responsible for everyone’s happiness? That is crap! I didn’t ask for that, I don’t want it! […] For him! Because that’s all I can handle right now. And I’m not even doing a good job at that! Now you’re telling me I have to save everyone? That is beyond ridiculous. I don’t want any of it!
This is a scene I don’t hear too many people talking about when discussing their favorite Emma moments, yet I love it so much and I think it honestly has more to do with what it represents rather than the actual scene itself. What I find so fascinating about this moment is that you can notice glimpses of Emma’s believe system starting to crack. If you pay close attention to what she says, she never actually mentions the fact that she doesn’t believe, which is something she had always at least hinted at during every scene prior to this one. Here though, she refers to the idea of her being everyone’s Savior as “ridiculous,” not that the entire realm of tales is not real. After an entire season of slowly learning what to or not to believe alongside Emma, her reaction to August’s claims is what ours would have probably been if we had been in her place; she wasn’t so much denying the idea of this entire thing being a product of Henry’s wild imagination, but instead, she couldn’t wrap her head around anyone having so much faith in her.
“Just a lost little girl…” | 3×02
That look in his eyes…the despair. I had it back when I was in the foster system. Just a lost little girl, who didn’t matter and didn’t think she ever would. A little girl who cried herself to sleep at night ’cause…she wanted her parents so bad. And could never understand why they gave her up […] It’s just…on this island, I don’t feel like a hero or a Savior. I just feel like…what I’ve always been. An orphan.
How could I not include this scene? This is basically the epitome of Emma Swan moments and breakthroughs. Like I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I love Emma with every bit of my heart and soul, so seeing her continue to be this broken even after 3 seasons, 2 parents, and a son, caused me so much heartache. I’ve never wanted to hug a fictional character as much as I wanted to hug Emma during this scene. This revelation was a genuine testament to just how much Emma’s upbringing and scars have continuously affected her, and how they will probably never fully go away because a person can’t just erase 28 years worth of hurt and pain. The entire moment was a massive step for both Emma and Snow and I think it really changed the full course of their relationship.
Also, around the time when this scene aired was when I started watching the show, so aside from the importance of it, it does hold a very special place in my heart because of that. Oh, memories!
“I’m not pushing you away this time.” | 4×20
Talk about underrated! This is such a small gesture yet I thought it showed so much growth in Emma that it’s hard for me to ignore or brush it off. Going from someone whose gut instinct is to immediatey push everyone close to them away from fear of getting hurt and/or disappointed, to consciously and willingly being this open to the possibility of getting hurt again, is a massive development; my heart grew two sizes with how much pride I felt witnessing this change in Emma. On top of that, she was in the midst of dealing with more darkness than she ever had before, yet she was brave enough to be incredibly vulnerable and susceptible, showing just how strong willed Emma Swan really is.
“Love is a part of all happiness.” | 4×23
Love is a part of all happiness, and you have to be open to that […] I just watched the man I love die. The worst part is that I never told him I loved him. Not once. I was too scared. Too scared that…somehow, saying it would make it real, and change everything. But now I’ll never have the chance to take that next step with him, because he’s gone. My only chance with him is if you don’t make the same mistake I did.
Holy tears. This scene always leaves me absolutely gutted and genuinely dehydrated from how much I cry. No exaggeration. Okay…maybe a little exaggeration, but that doesn’t take away from how emotional Emma makes me here. She’s heartbroken, I’m heartbroken, it’s all a big mess. This was the first time Emma admitted her love for Killian so directly, and although it wasn’t to him, her not only coming to that realization but voluntarily sharing it with someone in such an open and defenseless way was yet another massive strive in her development. As you can probably already tell, I’m a big fan of scenes where Emma’s character development is pushed to its extreme. For the longest time, Emma had stopped believing in the power of love. Hell – she stopped believing love existed whatsoever. But during this moment, you see her wholeheartedly give into the grasp love has on her, which is a side of Emma we had rarely seen up until this very moment. After this episode and especially after this peculiar realization, I knew that Emma would no longer shy away from the vulnerability surrounding her romantic relationship.
“I am done fixing your problems.” | 5×02
Let me make myself clear, Regina – I am done fixing your problems […] That’s your problem, Regina, you’re always looking for someone else to blame. I did not summon that monster. The price is not mine to pay. You are the one who did not pay the price of magic back in Camelot. You want to save Robin Hood? You want everyone to believe you’re the Savior?! Then step up and do what needs to be done!
Finally someone said it! *insert eye rolling emoji here* It’s no secret that I adore Dark Swan; it’s my favorite storyline, my favorite season, everything about her fascinates me to no end. It’s also no secret how I feel about Regina’s character – which I won’t get into because this is a post celebrating Emma – so you can imagine my excitement when I heard these words finally being said after so much time yearning for them. Part of the reason why I love Dark Swan so much is because of how liberating she felt, both character and acting wise. With the acting, it’s noticeable just how much freedom Jennifer Morrison had to mold this character into something entirely new and unique; the entire experience was so different from anything else she has ever done and the excitement and energy of transforming into such a vastly different persona translated beautifully on screen. As a character, Dark Swan was free; she was free to think and do what she wanted without feeling the guilt or the responsibility of constantly having to worry about everyone else around her. Taking the pressure of the Savior’s role off of her shoulders played a massive role in the autonomy she ended up developing and it was so refreshing to witness. In this particular scene, it’s as if everything that she allowed to build up regarding Regina finally surfaced and she absolutely did not hold back.
“I am not nothing! I was never nothing!” | 5×07
I am not nothing! I was never nothing! The power you have I don’t need!
Yes, Emma, yes! I feel like I had been waiting for a scene like this for the entirety of the show and when we finally got it, it felt so great. First, although not the main reason, I can’t ignore that a huge part of why I love this moment as much as I do is because of Jennifer Morrison’s acting. She did a complete shift in tone, demeanor, and mood in what felt like 0.5 seconds and if that’s not impressive, then I don’t know what is. Putting Jennifer’s impeccable acting aside, this was yet another massive and important revelation for Emma. For having as much power as she did during this period of time being the Dark One, being so ruthless with the darkness must have taken heaps of strength – both physical and internal – which is a quality of Emma’s I have always admired, and this scene only proved her greatness even further.
“Huh.” | 5×14
With so many tense scenes and heart-stopping moments, I think we deserve a good laugh. Have I mentioned how much I love Emma’s humor? No? Well, it’s one of my favorite things. This scene, although short and inconsequential to the main storyline, was so awkwardly hilarious, I still can’t manage to watch it without laughing out loud. Emma’s “huh” gets me every single time. You’ve got to admit though, meeting your lover’s ex-lover who also happens to be your baby daddy’s mother is, well…it’s a little weird. Or a lot weird. Either way, it’s by far one of the funniest moments on the show. Also, as a side note, in the midst of such a dark and emotionally draining season, this humorous exchange was an invigorating change of pace.
“I hope you’re in a better place.” | 5×21
Thanks for the pages. Hades – he’s – he’s gone now. It’s done. So I hope you’re in a better place. I know I should be happy about that…but it just feels like now you’re really gone and there’s nothing left to do but just…Oh. I miss you.
Okay, no. I said this post would be a bumpy ride, but we’re not stooping this low. I shed several tears just looking for the right GIF. Damn you, emotional attachment to fictional characters. It might seem odd that I would include this scene in here if I can’t even write about it because of how inexplicably sad it makes me, but isn’t that what good characterization is supposed to be? Sometimes the scenes that break our hearts the most are the best ones, and I, for one, think Jennifer deserves just about a quarter of a million Academy Awards for this scene. That voice break. Those sobs. I’m crying again, great.
“You helped me build a family.” | 6×20
It’s not about the singing. It’s just where it started. It’s not about the little things that I couldn’t do on my own. It was…every time something big came along, I ran from it. Henry, I wasn’t even brave enough to keep you […] Because you came into my life. And you helped me build a family, and that let me do things I never thought I could.
Emma’s relationship with Henry will always be one of the most important aspects of Once Upon a Time, as well as one of my favorites. Even after all this time, you can still see hints of how giving up her son continues to haunt Emma, and unfortunately, will probably continue to do so for the rest of her life. Yes, their relationship has blossomed into a beautiful and trusting dynamic, but every now and then, you can still see Emma’s shell crack and her never-ending hurt and guilt are always visible through those cracks. Although the thought of this shatters my heart into a million pieces, I think it’s important to see all these sides of Emma…her pain, her joy, her wins, her losses – all of which make her one of the most wholesome and authentic characters out there.
“Looks like I’m not alone anymore.” | 6×20
Once I lived in darkness, out there on my own.
Left to brave the world, alone.
Everything seemed hopeless, no chance to break free.
Couldn’t hear the song inside of me.
Once upon a time, a song inspired them – be brave.
They gave me up because my fate was as the one who’d save,
the world from your dark magic and the wicked things you do.
They placed a song inside my heart more powerful than you.
All the years of running, no, not anymore.
I know what I’m living for.
I’m no longer searching.
Turns out all along, the answer was inside me, with a song.
There’s not a time where I watch this scene and not feel like a proud mom – I actually don’t think it’s possible. Everything Emma has ever struggled with, everything and everyone she’s battled against to persevere and be where she is, lends itself as the perfect background to this intense and emotionally raw climax. This is the moment where Emma earnestly allows herself to be fully submerged in the idea that, no matter how much her instincts try to convince her otherwise, she will never be alone again. As, first and foremost a fan of Emma, watching this moment and realization unfold right before my eyes was a beautiful nod to her journey.
“It’s who I want to be.” | 6×22
I…found the book you left. I was about to take another job and…and then I thought about this woman you wrote about who was a hero with a family and a Savior who never ran from a battle and…[…] Well, I’m not sure that it’s me, Henry, but, um…but it’s who I want to be. So I don’t remember all the crazy stuff you told me, but…I believe it.
It takes a notable development for this to be how Emma reacts after having spent the entire first season having such a hard time digesting the exact same type of information. In a way, everything Emma has been through has instinctually altered her so much that, even during a curse, in her deepest core, she still believes. Everything that we’ve watched her experience these past six years have turned her into an unwavering believer – such a drastic change from season 1!
“I am hope. I am light!” | 6×22
No one needs to save me! I’m the Savior! I’m fighting for the people I love. Ultimately, I am a hero. I am hope. I am light! And light cannot destroy darkness, it can only create more light. I will not kill innocents! I will do what all saviors must! I will give hope…no matter what the cost.
Emma Swan is one badass babe and her sword fighting skills during this scene serve as the perfect evidence to that statement. Even though I was sure Emma wouldn’t die (spoiler alert: she didn’t), this entire episode was nerve-racking no matter what. From her leaving Storybrooke, which I didn’t think she would actually go through with, to the whole battle scene, my heart felt like it wanted to beat right out of my chest. She just can’t catch a break and, being as invested as we are with her and her storyline, neither can we. What I loved so much about this specific moment was Emma’s complete and total commitment to saving the day, no matter the cost – in this case, her life. It took a long time for her to come to terms with what being the Savior meant and what it required her to give up, but during this scene, you can see that she’s finally to the point where she’s ready to take up that responsibility and its corresponding consequences. Although it’s a bleak thought, you can’t deny just how brave she is for being willing to sacrifice herself and everything she’s worked towards for the safety of those she loves the most.
Another reason I love this scene is because of Emma’s speech. Not only is it the embodiment of everything she represents, it’s also very reminiscent of something Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” I’m not sure if Emma’s line was inspired by King’s words, but they sure are similar and equally as powerful.
Her Happy Beginning | 7×22
I know this is technically a Captain Swan moment, but it’s also the ending of Emma’s journey so I felt like it’d be more than appropriate to include it in this list. After years of battles, heartbreak, death in various forms, monsters, loss, and a whole other list of unfortunate events, Emma Swan finally got the happy beginning she so badly deserved. From a seemingly more quiet and peaceful lifestyle with her husband and True Love (aka her-totally-baby-proofed-soft-pirate), to getting a second chance at early motherhood with their insanely adorable little daughter, Hope, I genuinely could not be more excited and content with how they wrapped up her story.
Both Emma and Once Upon a Time have played massive roles in my life these past five years. Even though I eventually fell out of love with the show as a whole, because of Once, I’ve met so many amazing people who I now can’t imagine my life without. And I can partly thank Emma for shaping me into the person I am today. Because of her, my life is filled with so much unimaginable hope and promise. As sad as I am to say goodbye, I know that all good things must come to an end, and Emma? She was one hell of a good thing. She will continue to live in my heart as the character she’s always been, a badass warrior princess, and my favorite at that.