Once Upon A Time 6×16 “Mother’s Little Helper” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

If only someone prepared us for this episode.

Episode Summary: In flashbacks, we see the story Gideon told prior brought to life and discover that his heart may not be as tainted as we imagined. In present-day Storybrooke, Gideon asks Emma for her help but betrays her. Killian asks Blackbeard for help but the two end up in Neverland thanks to Gideon’s trap. Everything’s a mess. Henry’s facing some weird author possession. Isaac is set free and the Black Fairy makes her way into Storybrooke.

Review | Analysis: “Mother’s Little Helper” did something Once Upon A Time hasn’t done in a while and it surprised a lot of us with a twist we didn’t see coming. But beyond that, it allowed us to understand Gideon’s torment while learning that the Black Fairy is truly the worst parent of all. But above all else, “Mother’s Little Helper” reminded us of the fact that things aren’t ever black and white. People can surprise us with their actions. People can be flawed in their word choices. People can be wrong. And since we now know the final battle is coming, the only thing we can be certain of is that good will always win.

To be frank, I’m not sure what I was expecting from this episode. (It most certainly wasn’t a giant spider though.) But it surprised me how much it resembled season one. And now, while the timeless magic wasn’t at the center of the episode, it’s the mystery that’s left me mesmerized. A kind of mystery we haven’t had in a while with the belief that this time when things change, it’ll be entirely different. A kind of change that was present in the show’s first season when the original curse entrapped the characters.

Part of the reason season one was so special was due to how much time it dedicated to giving everyone a back story, and “Mother’s Little Helper” did that beautifully with Gideon. The episode left so much room for character growth, and Giles Matthey made it so easy for us to care about Gideon. That’s why when he betrayed Emma, it wasn’t hard to be surprised because no one’s sincerity is able to fool the audience that well. And I got mad at myself for falling for it which made the reveal that the Black Fairy is controlling his heart that much more alarming. (This happens so frequently on this show — why didn’t any of us see this coming?)

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and as much as Gideon has Rumple in him, he also has Belle. And for this reason, along with what we’ve seen in the flashbacks is that Gideon’s heart is good. But what’s making this storyline riveting is the fact that the heroes have no hope, and the villains have no clue how bad it’ll get. There’s a lot going on for our favorite characters right now, and while normally I’d say they should probably slow down, it’s what’s making everything come together seamlessly. There is no time to slow down. Especially if a final battle is in store. A battle that’s pinning people against each other in a way they’ve never been before.

Rumple’s always been a threat to the Charmings, but in the past, they’ve always had leverage. While we know that no harm will come to Henry out of respect for Baelfire, that doesn’t mean the rest of them aren’t in danger. This time, I believe Rumple when he says he’ll do anything to protect his son. This time, the battle is bigger than anything he’s faced in the future. This time, he’s not alone in wanting to protect someone, Belle’s on his side. But how long before they realize Gideon’s heart is being controlled? How long before the Charmings realize that the vulnerability Gideon showed Emma wasn’t entirely an act?

For as much as the episode frustrated me in the positive sense that I wanted more, I loved watching Gideon and Emma interact. Two people who’ve been robbed of their childhood because of the Evil Queen. (She’s the reason he was sent away.) Two people who’ve been robbed of a good life with their parents due to some curse or an alternate agenda. Emma’s instincts have always been right, and I don’t doubt for a moment that when she looked into Gideon’s eyes, she saw the same lost soul she once used to be. But as much as she knows good is there in his heart, the anger, and hopelessness at this moment are more probable. She was tricked, tortured by a gross spider, and essentially left to die while her pirate unable to come home. At the moment, her agenda isn’t looking into the bigger picture with Gideon’s heart, it’s finding the means to bring Killian back home safely. And for a woman who’s lost him too many times, there’s absolutely no way he wouldn’t be the number one priority on her mind. (I mean, let’s be real, did anyone count how many times she mentioned bringing Killian back home?) Right now, it’s at the top of the list, and for a woman with a fervent dedication to her loved ones, there’s nothing more understandable.

For the Gold family, saving Gideon’s soul from the Black Fairy is at the top of their list. It’d make perfect sense that both sides would refuse to see the other as they’re both essentially getting in the way of their agendas. I appreciated Snow saying we didn’t start this, but when it comes to battles such as this, it doesn’t matter — no side is gonna hear the truth when their head is in the game. In what’s been an incredibly realistic display of a feud, this has been one of the instances where Once Upon A Time has gotten it right. Human beings are stubborn, and they’re especially stubborn when a loved one of theirs is threatened. I personally hope the Charming vs. Gold rumble doesn’t carry on to the finale, but as of right now, the series seems to be promising a great conclusion. And if it does turn out to be that way, I don’t doubt that it’ll be great.

In the same way that immediate answers weren’t discovered in season one, the episode challenging each and every character was strangely satisfying. And it was especially interesting to see that Regina is having a difficult time undoing the Evil Queen’s curse. But thankfully next week, it appears as though the problem will be solved with Zelena’s help, and everyone knows how much I adore watching the sisters work together.

Henry’s situation as the author makes very little sense to me at the moment, and I’m not a fan of creepy possessions, but Isaac brought forth some hilarious entertainment with his fondness of Hamilton. I too would bargain for those tickets if I was in his position. Who wouldn’t? To watch Henry play an enormous role in the final battle is the same kind of beauty that’s made this episode a lot like something that’d come from season one. And to watch it come full circle will probably force us to shed some tears. As someone who started out believing fiercely in the book’s power, having it be the reason he’s challenged will make the end remarkable.

It was an episode filled with bribes and bargains, and much like the author, Killian and Blackbeard had their fair share of requests. But on an extremely vital and serious note, where on earth is Blackbeard getting all these magic beans from? Is he growing them outside his home? Does he have a secret chest just filled with magic beans instead of gold? This is something I’d definitely like to see answered. Realms apart, but Killian and Emma mirror one another gorgeously in their fervent quest to unite. “Mother’s Little Helper” reiterated the fact that they’d stop at nothing to be together, and it’s always lovely to be reminded that their love hasn’t wavered. But then again, did anyone ever think it would? There’s no line these two wouldn’t cross for one another and it continues to make them stand out gorgeously as a pair.

“Mother’s Little Helper” helped reaffirm my faith in the show in a way I never expected it to. Perhaps, I needed to be reminded of the fact that even the darkest souls have a lot of heart in them. Perhaps, I needed to see an exceptional performance crush my heart. Giles Matthey was on fire this week approaching each scene with full force and honest vulnerability. Whatever I presumably needed, this episode was surprisingly delivered. And perhaps it’s the element of surprise that contributed to it. (I’m not quite sure yet. Ask me again after the finale.) But at the end of the day, Once Upon A Time is a show about hope, and we’ve learned that even in the darkest hours, there’s always a glimmer of light waiting to guide these characters toward their destiny. A destiny they’re free to choose based on the choices they make to take the hard path. The choices to listen, forgive and believe that even the darkest souls could be saved by love.

In conclusion, Once Upon A Time has always emphasized the bonds between mother and child beautifully, and I loved watching Snow defend Emma through everything this week. In the same way, I appreciated Belle’s refusal to believe that her son is too far gone because we know that at the end of the day if a “mother’s love” broke Gideon once before, it’s real love that’ll heal the wounds he carries. We are who we are because of those who’ve loved and believed in us, and because of Belle’s love, Rumple’s heart is a few shades lighter. And because of that same love, only intensified because there’s nothing quite as immaculate as a mother’s love, I have faith that Gideon’s life will turn out beautifully. If his heart’s back in his possession, I don’t doubt that he and Emma could defeat the Black Fairy. I don’t doubt that good will always win.

Worth Mentioning: 

  • As much as I hate that Killian and Emma are separated, I’ve missed Neverland so much that I’m excited to see what it’s like without Peter Pan. Who do the lost boys obey today? Are all the islands as dark as they used to be? Who’s in control? Who’ll help him find his way back home? Will it be a mutual thing? (Please let Emma step into Neverland for a split second where they can revisit their first kiss spot for fun. I’m asking too much here aren’t I?)
  • Blackbeard and Killian should get a spin-off show together where all they do is sass one another. Was anyone else reminded of Will Turner and Jack Sparrow through their banter? Or even Jack Sparrow and Barbossa? There’s nothing more entertaining than Killian Jones revisiting his old pirate lands, and Colin O’Donoghue does such a remarkable job of bringing it to life.
  • Did anyone else’s jaw drop a little when Rumple came to save Emma? That wasn’t something I expected and it most definitely wasn’t something I knew I needed. But it brought back the slight hope that Rumple can actually be redeemed by the end of the series.

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