Once Upon A Time 3×21 “Snow Drifts” and 3×22 “There’s No Place Like Home” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

People of all ages, this two-part season finale should serve as an example of how perfection should be brought to life on screen.

Continuing from where we left off last week, Rumple enacts Zelena’s curse and sends Killian and Emma back to the Enchanted forest moments before Snow and Charming are about to meet for the first time. They alter the instant Snow is supposed to steal the ring, and in an attempt to make sure the two still fall in love, Killian and Emma visit Rumplestilskin in order to ask for his help. He only agrees to help them when they tell him he finds Neal. He then sends them to a ball held by King Midas in order for them to make sure Snow steals the ring this time. They eventually succeed and it’s Emma’s acceptance of who she is, and where she belongs that brings her magic back and sends them back home, along with Maid Marian who they couldn’t leave behind.  Upon arriving back at the diner, Emma tells everyone that she’s staying and the Charmings announce that they’ve chosen to name the young prince Neal. Rumple and Belle tie the knot at an intimate wedding in the woods, Maid Marian reveals herself to Robin, and the noted Snow Queen of Arendelle makes a stunning appearance as the episode comes to an end.

Due to the insane amount of things that have occurred, both emotionally moving and hysterically enriching, we’re going to try to do our best in bringing you an in-depth analysis of the beautiful episode we can easily call a favorite.

Each character was given a poster that’d reflect their arc throughout the season – Emma Swan’s read “believe that a lost girl can find her way home.” Emma’s life has been anything but a walk in the park, from the abandonment as an infant to the mistreatment in foster homes, she’s grown up believing that happy endings aren’t in the cards for her and home is a place she’ll never find. And even when she’s surrounded by people who adore and want her, the fear brought on by years of betrayal governs her entire being – forcing her to feel as though it’s temporary and that she should run before she gets attached any further. Even her inability to call her parents ‘mom and dad’ is stemmed from the fear of them one day leaving her just as everyone in her past has. However, the finale showcased the indescribably beautiful way in which the lost girl realizes she’s found a place to call home, family, and love.

At the little Prince’s Coronation ceremony at Granny’s diner, the Charmings, Killian, and Ruby are discussing the time Snow and Charming met, and Killian accidentally lets it slip that Emma’s just as stubborn as Snow to want to run away. It causes a slight commotion where Emma’s forced to run because she’s put on the spot and unsure of how to react. Killian decides to follow her and Henry gives him the book so he could help Emma see where she belongs. Before they go through the time portal, Killian once again confronts Emma about her desire to leave Storybrooke — he makes sure she’s well aware of her impressive capabilities as he reminds her of everything she’s done since she’s arrived in Storybrooke.

Emma states that she cannot consider Storybrooke a home because she was never a part of the fairytale life, and Killian replies with a “but you could be.” The line brought back memories of the Season 2 finale “A Second Star to the Right” where Emma tells Killian that he could “join them and be a part of something, or do what he does best and be alone.” At the time, he needed the reminder that he could care about someone other than himself, and at this moment, Emma needs the reminder that the future she desires could be in Storybrooke. She needed the push to take a risk and embark on a life that may not be as simple, but it’ll be worth it because she could handle anything though she’d never have to do it alone. Understanding the very depths of her being, he was reminding her of what he knows he needed at his loneliest: acceptance and care. Since the two of them have spent a vast extent of their lives alone, they need someone who will pull them out of the dark corners they’ve learned to defensively trap themselves in. When asked whether or not she cares about her parents and others in town, the “of course I do” Emma replies with is filled with such vulnerability that through Morrison’s portrayal, you could see the underlying fears that are overriding her innermost desires and ability to see what’s right in front of her.

The portal then swallows Emma, and Killian essentially goes after her even after muttering to himself that one day he’s going to have to stop chasing the woman.

After altering Snow and Charming’s meeting, the dynamic duo visits Rumplestilskin who shows them Snow’s failed attempt at convincing Blackbeard to help her escape on his ship. Killian realizes that he could do it just as long as Emma keeps past Hook occupied. Emma successfully acquires past Hook’s attention as she gets him drunk and stalls him while the present/future Killian proposes a deal to Snow White. Only Once Upon A Time would feature Captain Hook punching Captain Hook because he’s kissing his lady. It is safe to say that O’Donoghue’s portrayal of the dashing Captain is just as superlative as Johnny Depp’s infamous exposé of Jack Sparrow.

He played the drunken state as phenomenally as Depp does, and that’s something we never thought we’d ever see from another actor representing a pirate. The point is, it’s going to be incredibly difficult for someone to come to close to Colin O’Donoghue’s extraordinary depiction of Captain Hook. Killian and Emma are later sitting back watching fireworks come from the castle, wanting in on assisting Snow when Rumplestilskin approaches them and plays fairy godmother by turning them into a Prince and Princess for the ball.

The costumes could never look as beautiful on anyone else as they did on Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue – they were made for them and served to showcase a striking story through the detailed designs. Red represents power and passion thus, having Emma in such a stunningly vibrant dress allows her to not only be given the chance to be a fairytale princess but she’s given the chance to be a powerful one – that even miles away from home, she’s still the savior; the audaciously loving soul who’s perpetually trying to help others in need despite everything she’s been through. Brown is known to represent comfort and warmth: qualities Killian’s bursting with especially in Emma’s life – he’s her backbone, he’s been her strength in times of need, hence putting him in such a coat illuminates the ease he continuously tries to provide her with. While she’s unknowingly brought love and passion back into his life, he’s brought stability and security into hers.

And even though Emma complains about how uncomfortable the dress is, Killian uses the moment to tell her she looks beautiful in it – something he very well knows a woman deserves to continuously hear, and he’d never miss an opportunity to do so. Emma’s engaging smile stood out delightfully because what girl doesn’t want to be the center of a man’s entire world? Killian constantly chooses to uplift Emma with the most dignified look on his face as he compliments her natural abilities to dance the Waltz with him. The benevolently sincere expression O’Donoghue wore on his face not only exhibited the utmost joy Killian feels because he was dancing with Emma, but he manifests the timeless love that now captivates his spirit. For someone like Emma who’s never felt like a real Princess, Killian made sure that her first experience was nothing short of magical by ceaselessly aiming to make her feel as though she’s the most immaculate Princess in all the realms. Visually, the scene was one of the most gorgeous ones in Once Upon A Time history, for as viewers we too were able to feel the new experiences with Emma.

They may have changed a few details in the past, but at the end of the day, Snow manages to hit Charming in the same exact spot on his chin before running away. She, unfortunately, drops the ring, but Emma luckily finds it. In an attempt to get it back to her while Killian fights off Regina’s guards, she’s kidnapped and locked away. While in Regina’s prison, Emma meets Maid Marian and then learns that the two of them will be executed tomorrow. While Emma’s imprisoned, Charming captures Snow just as efficiently as he did in the past. Killian interrupts the darling duo’s moment to tell them that the ring is in his princess’ possession, and she’s locked away in the Queen’s castle.

While Snow makes her way inside the castle to help Emma escape, Killian and Charming share a nice heart-to-heart by the fire. Bromance intensifies. Charming states that he’s always felt he’d marry for love instead he’s now doing it for the merger of two kingdoms. Killian affirms that he too knows what it’s like to essentially want to give up on love but it’s not until he met the right woman that he realized he shouldn’t. When Charming realizes it’s Princess Leia he’s talking about and asks about what’s hindering their union, Killian states that he’s not sure whether her parents approve of him or if she feels the same way. Charming tells him that they’d be crazy not to given the lengths he’s gone through for her. We’ve always felt that even though no man will ever be worthy of Emma in Charming’s eyes, he’s accepted that Killian’s the most suited back in Neverland when he realized just how selfless his love for her was. From then on it’s merely been about Emma’s choice and her timing. Red then joins them and states that she’s sent by Snow in order to help them get into the castle.

Meanwhile, back at the castle, Emma and Maid Marian have a conversation about how terrible it feels to be separated from family. And when Marian states that she no longer has hope she’ll ever see them again, Emma recognizes that if her mom was there she would tell her to have hope. Once again, Morrison played the scene with a such childlike vulnerability that as the audience we were truly able to feel her realization of how lost she is without her mother. While Snow and Emma are different, mother and daughter both know what it’s like to have been alone – at this moment Morrison plays Emma’s understanding of her mother’s ways masterfully as she finally felt the countless seminaries that run through their veins and the beautiful effect her mother’s optimism has had on her. Emma then remembers what Neal taught her about picking locks and she breaks them out of the cells. Red turns herself into the wolf and helps the men into the castle only for them to see that Emma’s already escaped. Killian’s reply? “You’re depriving me of a dashing rescue.” Killian’s need to turn everything into an elaborate adventure this week was hysterical. We couldn’t help but be reminded of Dmitri and Anastasia’s adventures in the classic hit.

Snow attempts to use the fairy dust on Regina but doesn’t realize that Regina sees her in the first place and knows how to defend herself against it. The group is a little too late and must watch Snow’s execution happen right in front of their eyes in an extremely heartbreaking sight. Killian’s intuitive drive to invariably shield Emma from the darkness of the world is undeniably one of the most admirable entities of their bond and his love. When he pulls her close to him and holds her while she breaks down you could feel him shatter with the knowledge that she’s feeling the unbearable despair that took over him as his brother died in his arms. He also knows that nothing he can say or do could heal the pain she’s enduring thus, he feels that the only way he can care for her is by giving her a place to fall in his arms – something he never had when he lost people in the past. He’s taking on the role of her armor and offering her the irreplaceable physical warmth that loving arms are able to provide in such painful moments.

Morrison was absolutely brilliant at this moment – often times in television series and films, such scenes fall short of being emotional because the acting doesn’t exactly do the loss justice. However, through Morrison’s portrayal, you could feel the simultaneous fear of a child losing her mother along with the intense grief that comes from a parental death. You felt the pain she was feeling through the terrifying heartbreak Morrison brought to life through her impeccable expressions. The silent tear O’Donoghue cried in the scene and the expression on his face was for both the sadness of losing a woman he’s grown to care for her and the heartbreak of not knowing how to heal the one he loves most. Additionally, Meghan Ory’s portrayal of the scene also did the moment justice as she too made sure the audience could feel the distraught of a woman losing her best friend.

It was Josh Dallas’ telling expression that wrapped up the scene perfectly. Charming’s not in love with Snow at the moment, but he’s undoubtedly grief-stricken by the loss he’s witnessing, and the perplexity he wore in his eyes was outstanding. He may have fallen for Snow when she put on his mother’s ring, but this is the moment where he realizes he wants to get to know this woman rather than lose her – the instantaneous connection isn’t something he can look passed.

The gorgeous symbolism in this episode continues to leave us speechless. The installment of Snow turning into a Ladybug was marvelously written as they’re insects representing fearlessness and regeneration – qualities that fuel Snow as she’s someone who constantly rises from the difficulties brought forth in her life. She’s always trying the best version of herself possible, and in the midst of it, she strives to help others do the same as well. Ladybugs also signify gentleness and love – merits that make Snow the purely driven and adoring woman that she is.

Charming realizes that the bug that’s bugging Killian and Emma is Snow and she calls to the Blue Fairy in bug language it seems. Yes, puns intended. She’s then able to turn Snow back into a human with her light magic. The inexpressibly glorious smile on Emma’s face when she sees her mother is back had us in tears. Morrison was at her absolute best at this moment as she brought forth years of enclosed longings and love onto the screen astoundingly. Emma’s a character who’s always dreamt of meeting her parents, but because of the distress she’s endured in her life, when she met them, she couldn’t express herself the way she’d wished. Thus, the feeling of permanently losing her mother forced her to internally confront herself, and the reasons she’s been so closed off from the world.

Morrison delivered the scene with such a wondrously childlike elation that viewers could feel the overpowering love a daughter has for her mother. It was the type of indescribable moment that words truly cannot do justice – a faultless performance that deserves endless amounts of praise because of how exceptionally evocative it was. It was not just the overwhelmingly tearful delight in her expression but the goosebumps gathering in the way in which her voice broke reflecting her heart’s relieved cry. One of the things we’ve always said that is if someone other than Jennifer Morrison was playing Emma Swan, the character wouldn’t be as marvelously compelling and relatable. Morrison carries Emma so naturally that she brings the character’s passions to life in an utterly enthralling manner with every emotion she’s manifesting. And when her mother was unresponsive to her happiness, you could pinpoint the exact moment when Emma’s heart breaks with the comprehension of the pain Snow’s felt since she’s been reunited with Emma.

When everyone leaves to celebrate Snow’s revival, Killian doesn’t fail to make sure Emma knows she’s not alone. O’Donoghue executed that moment with the right amount of felicitation for Emma’s strength, and the gentle way in which he brushed her tears away signifies the immense love and desire to offer her strength when she needs it most. Everyone has their person and this was Killian’s way of showing her that he’s hers – that she’ll never have to deal with anything on her own.

In both instances, Snow states she’s going to get water and ends up running away. History repeats itself on the Troll Bridge, but because Snow’s already used the fairy dust on herself, she must use sand to trick the trolls. Successfully doing so, she saves Charming’s life as she did before. Charming and Snow’s story bares the fact that no matter what life throws in their way, the promise of finding one another is as fortified as gravity. When two people are destined to be together, there will always be means for them to cross paths and fall in love as intricately as they did the first time.

As Emma and Killian watch her parents fall in love, she’s moved to tears with a sense of understanding that no child is usually given, thus making the bond between her and her parents even more special and distinct than it already is. After Snow and Charming part ways, and Emma sees that they managed to successfully make them fall in love again, she and Killian go back to Rumplestilskin’s only to find that he’s unable to open the portal.

Rumplestilskin locks them up in a room where the only possible way out is if Emma somehow makes her magic work again, and she successfully does by accepting everything her fears wouldn’t allow her to do so before.

“I want this to work. I want to go back. I wanna stop running.”

“What’s changed your mind?”

“Watching my mother die. Thinking she was dead, you saw what happened I was so relieved when she was okay and I hugged her and you know what I saw in her eyes? Nothing. She didn’t know who I was. I had saved her and lost her too. And that’s what I’ve been doing to her since I met her. It’s got to stop. When Henry brought me to Storybrooke, he told me I was the savior. I didn’t see what he was really doing, he was not bringing me back to break a curse – he was bringing me home. Neal was right…You don’t have a home, until you just miss it. And being with my parents the last few days but not really being with them, I’ve never missed them more. Storybrooke is my home.”

When it comes to Jennifer Morrison’s portrayal of Emma, there are not enough words to describe the number of emotions she’s able to inflict upon the viewers through her realistically passionate depictions. Through her depiction, Morrison’s made Emma the kind of character that no matter the occasion, whether happy or sad, when she cries, we cry. Morrison’s delivery of the lines above was masterful – the childlike innocence and loneliness she projected through the expressions that justified her words broke her free from the chains of her past as she chose to fight for the people she loves most. And what also made the scene profoundly gorgeous, was the wondrously poignant smile she wore when Emma notices Killian’s pride in her. This was the moment where Emma truly saw just how proud he is of exactly who she is, and it’s the moment where she begins to see herself as he does. O’Donoghue has always brought forth Killian’s utmost sincerity to life remarkably as his portrayal has allowed the audience to feel Killian’s unwavering love and support for Emma.

Right before she’s about to jump through the portal, Rumplestilskin confronts her by now wanting to know what exactly happens to Neal. Emma’s distraught confession about Neal dying a hero convinces Rumple to drink the potion in order to forget and for the sacrifice not to be in vain.

For what seems like the hundredth time by now –but surely not enough–, we must commend Morrison’s acting once more as Emma uttered the words ‘mom and dad’ again. What makes this scene vastly different than the one that occurred in season 2 is the sole fact that it’s not out of fear, but it’s out of acceptance. Emma has finally accepted that her parents aren’t going to ship her away or abandon her because she’s now finally feeling the kind of love they have for her with every part of her being. She’s come an incredibly long way since the moment she met them, and she’s ready to open her heart to the good things in life. Goodwin and Dallas wore the most gorgeous parental and loving expressions on their face as they illuminated the utmost happiness Snow and Charming now feel to have both their children and a home.

During a sweet family moment, they discuss Emma’s Princess Leia alias, and the fact that she and Killian have now made it into the book. The Charmings then finally announce the baby’s name, and they chose Neal because of the sacrifice he made to save their lives. (It’s Graham, but sure.)

In a brief moment after she speaks with her baby brother, Emma’s joy turns into a longing look filled with discomfort as she realizes Killian’s not in the room. It’s quite marvelous that because his presence has become a part of her, she feels the emptiness when he’s not around. She goes outside and sees him sitting by himself, then begins a casual conversation with him about their journey. Emma thanks him once more for bringing her home from New York – calling him Killian, and a hero illuminates the fact that he too has come a long way from where he began.

By being herself, she’s unknowingly reminded him of the beauty of love and honor he once cherished but life forced him to forget. By interminably fighting for her happiness, he’s played a vast role in her life by making her see that she got a lifelong partner fighting by her side. He’s brought her home and fought to make sure she knows just how adored she is (and that it’ll only increase with time). Emma asks him about how he got back to her in New York, and he reveals the truth about trading the Jolly Roger in for a magic portal bean. In a brief instant, O’Donoghue’s expression said an abundant amount about Killian’s love for Emma – viewers could see the overpowering love within him as admitted to giving up the only home he’s ever known for her. Morrison played Emma’s sincere gratitude and appreciation for him masterfully in the brief moment where she chose to kiss him and welcome his love into her life.

The symbolism in this episode once more left us in awe. Their first kiss was filled with fire and exhilaratingly built-up desires, but the kiss that took place in this episode, in front of a massive sign that read Storybrooke was filled with the kind of warmth that can only be seen when two people are with their other halves. Still complete with passion, this kiss was gentle and promising – they’d both found a home in one another. When they parted lips and treasured one another before delving back into the blissful state, viewers could see the rare and magnetically profound connection that’s lived inside of them since the moment they met. Emma Swan is no longer a lost girl and Killian Jones is the hero that brought her home – both their arcs were fulfilled beautifully and we cannot wait for what’s in the store with the new couple.

At the beginning of the episode, Robin and Regina are celebrating the return of her heart, and she professes her disbelief in the fact that she has love in her life because she believed she wouldn’t. Robin states that he would’ve gone through hell and back if he was given the chance to be with Marian again, but he needed to finally let go of her and the guilt that he’d carried about her death is his fault. Regina tells him about how Daniel was killed because he loved her, then tells her the story of how Tinkerbell led her to a tavern where she saw the man she was destined to be with, but ran when fear took over her. Lana Parrilla manages to bring back the happy, teenage Regina when in Robin’s presence. Parrilla and Maguire share both an electric and gentle chemistry that immediately makes viewers feel the openness of their relationship while exemplifying the fact that second chances are possible with such tenderness. The two of them not only share bold characteristics but they bring lost hope back into each other’s lives. And the sweetness of their growing bond is what made the end of this finale entirely heartbreaking.

Regina angrily blaming Emma for ruining her life just as Snow did as a child wasn’t exactly the greatest moment in such a moving episode. However, it was very evil Queen-esque, something we’d hoped we’d never have to see again. Robin’s reunion with Marian was filled with the utmost happiness and bewilderment any man could feel in his situation.

We did wonder, however, that if Marian was meant to die in the Enchanted Forest, then fate may catch up with her in Storybrooke as well. Robin’s conflicts with his growing love for Regina, and the dedication he’s had to Marian before meeting her will surely send him to a place of frustration as he attempts to grasp what must be done for both his and Roland’s happiness. We’ll be sad to watch Outlaw Queen’s romance come to what seems to be a temporary end, but on a show like Once Upon A Time, true love is never easy. True love is the most exuberant emotion one can feel, a kind of feeling that’ll change a person for the better and effortlessly heal them in times of need. It’s something that must be proven time and time again.

Regina’s arc this season from a selfishly driven woman to a loving mother has given her the kind of growth Henry always believed she was capable of. However, there are still demons in her past that she must overcome in order to find the kind of stability she longs for. She’s certainly no longer a villain, but she needs to work on building empathy toward people. She must learn how to control the anger that’s stemmed in her through the years of emotional abuse brought forth by her mother. The kind of anger that forces her to snap at Emma when her intentions were merely to save a life is the kind that could easily tear her apart if she’s not careful with it. Thus, she must learn to fully mend those wounds and build resilient compassion that won’t force her back to her old ways when something goes unplanned.

The anticipated wedding of the season was Rumplestilskin and Belle’s. Even though we were surprised and a bit taken aback by the fact that she still has no idea that he’s killed Zelena, we’re happy for them. And now that they’ve tied the knot, their lives won’t get any simpler, but hopefully, this is where Rumple, just like Regina will learn to let go of the demons in his past, to be more honest and deserving of someone who’s as pure as Belle.

“This thing we have, it’s never been easy. And I’ve lost you so many times. I’ve lost you to darkness, to weakness, and finally to death. And now I realized, I have not spent my life losing you, I’ve spent my life finding you.”

“Belle, when we met, I wasn’t just unloved and unloving. I was an enemy of love. Love had only brought me pain, my walls were up but you brought them down, you brought me home. You brought light into my life and chased away all the darkness. I will never forget the distance between what I was and what I am. I owe more to you than I can ever say. How you can see the man behind the monster, I will never know.”

Their beautiful and honest vows were delivered with such excellency from both Robert Carlyle and Emilie De Ravin’s end. The two have always brought such joy to the couple, even in the darkest times, you could feel overpowering emotions within them, and this was the moment where it was felt the most.

As they spoke the stunning vows above and we were given glimpses of the other true love pairs in a gorgeous montage reminded us of the kind of show Once Upon A Time truly is.

Once Upon A Time teaches its viewers that anything good in life must be earned – no one is born good or evil but the choices we make have massive consequences that shape our destiny into what they are. It isn’t about being perfect because flaws are welcomed and adored by those closest to us, but it’s about fighting to keep the good things. It’s about fighting to maintain a loving heart in the midst of all the terror brought forth by life. Each love is different, but the most immaculate kind is selfless and everlasting – it’s the kind that’ll put every other emotion to shame. It’s the kind that’ll govern a person even in their darkest moments to do better and be better. Whether romantic or platonic, love invokes hope and grounds a person’s heart home.

The final instant in the episode was absolutely gold, a gorgeously shocking twist we hadn’t even considered when brainstorming the possible places we could visit next season. As the blue filled the cursed area, we thought maybe the noted Genie from Aladdin would be released, when a womanly figure appeared we momentarily questioned if it was past Katherine for some reason. However, when the camera panned to the gloves and blond hair, we definitely let out cheerful screams or bizarre whale noises you probably don’t want to know about. For whatever reason, Rumplstilskin felt Queen Elsa must be locked up, and to say that we’re excited because Frozen is making its way onto Once Upon A Time is the biggest understatement of the year.

Visually the episode was a work of art, the cast and crew gave viewers a grand experience through the intricately detailed entities that made the episode a 10/10. As enormous fans of Back to the Future, the finale episode served as an excellent tribute to the iconic films, and we couldn’t imagine anything better. Undoubtedly the best season finale in Once Upon A Time history.

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