Once Upon A Time 6×17 “Awake” Recap

Spoilers Ahead 

The hills are alive with the sound of True Love!

Episode Summary: In flashbacks, we learn that Charming woke up long before Emma came into Storybrooke breaking the curse between him and Snow, but the two were forced to give up a life with Emma in order to free everyone from the curse. In present-day Storybrooke, while Regina, Zelena, and Emma try to break the sleeping curse, Killian’s trying to get away from angry lost boys. But with the help of a magical flower and Tiger Lily, Killian and Emma reunite then the entire town decides they’ll share the sleeping curse in order to dim the power away from Snow and Charming.

Review | Analysis: At its core, Once Upon A Time is a show about love. It’s a show that reminds us of the fact that when we have people to care for, who care for us, we essentially have everything. And “Awake” was an episode that showcased the series’ specialty at its finest — an episode that awakened something in all of us. We’ve been taught to believe that sometimes, the hardest decisions in life have the greatest outcomes. An ultimate sacrifice is often the source of pure magical, bliss. (For Christians, in the same way, that God needed to sacrifice Jesus for us to be freed from our transgressions, Snow and Charming had to leave Emma behind for the rest of Storybrooke. It’s Easter. We can’t not talk about Jesus — especially after an episode like this.)

“Awake” did what Once Upon A Time does best and it reminded its viewers of the fact that happiness can be found even after the darkest days. It reminded its viewers of the fact that hope and love are the most powerful weapons a person can carry. And when there are people filled with endless love to give, there are others willing to do whatever it takes to keep that fire alive within them. And “Awake” was the ultimate showcase of the fact that our darkest days are to be met with light. It was the ultimate showcase of the fact that True Love isn’t merely between romantic pairs, but families and friends, too.

(P.S. I don’t want to write these reviews as though they’re the end because we still haven’t gotten confirmation about a renewal yet, but a part of me feels that no matter what happens, this is the end of Once Upon A Time as we know it, and for that reason, I am approaching these reviews as though they’re preluding a huge closure.)

John 15:13 tells us that “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And where the people of Storybrooke are concerned, this is especially true today. The truth is, it’d be great if we lived in a world where no one would suffer, and life would be happy all the time, but since the beginning of time, the world’s been filled with both good and bad. However, when we’ve got people by our side, the bad isn’t unbearable. It’s easier to find beauty in the darkness.

There are people in this world, like Snow and Charming, for whom people will go out of their way to help. And “Awake” did a gorgeous job of making them the heart of the story taking us back to the magical season that instantaneously gripped us all. While I’m normally not a fan of retelling already established stories, I appreciated this little detail, which exhibited just how much the Charming family has suffered, and why they are deserving of the best. As we learned this week, pixie flowers grow in the presence of great evil, and while I don’t understand why they didn’t grow before they were transported into Storybrooke, I’m willing to let that slide because of how magical it felt watching Charming wake-up and reunite with Snow. There will probably never be a time when Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas won’t melt my heart on-screen. And in what felt like a much-needed adventure, we were given the opportunity to watch them double-team Regina without her knowledge of what was actually happening.

But before that, let’s talk about their reunion one more time. Their kiss was something straight out of a fairytale — the kind of reunion that evokes all the butterflies and all the feels. Oddly, with this show, I remember where I was and how each episode made me feel, and each time Snow and Charming reunited, I ugly cried and clenched my pillow. How does one not!? They’ve always been the heart of this series and to see them separated for what felt like 14 years dimmed the show’s light tremendously.

“Awake” was a beautiful showcase of the fact that the hardest things in life generally tend to be the right decisions. Do I still cry about the fact that Emma Swan grew up believing she was unwanted? All the time. I’ll be crying over this even when I’m old and gray. But the truth is much more complex, and it magnifies the fact that her legacy is greater than anything we can imagine. A little girl born out of true love and forced to conquer the world alone only to find herself in a place where she could potentially lose even after all the darkness she’s already endured. And that’s perhaps why “Awake” was so special. It comes down to the idea that good people suffer far too much. Did Christ deserve to be crucified and tortured? Absolutely not. After all the ridicule he faced prior, he didn’t deserve the kind of suffering he endured, but He did so in order for the rest of us to live our best lives. And no matter how dark our lives get, we know that at the end of the day, the light that’ll meet us will be better than anything we imagine.

It takes a while to reach that place of unyielding hope. And as mere mortals, we suffer through the darkness oftentimes, believing we’re stuck there, but much like Jesus’ resurrection, we can be certain of the fact that the best is yet to come. And that’s why it wasn’t hard to understand why Snow and Charming decided to let their daughter go once more in order for the curse to be broken as it was always meant to be. This wasn’t just their curse, it was everyone’s. And for them to live happily ever after while everyone else was stuck wouldn’t have been the best option. Sure, they could’ve told Emma about the curse when she was older, but perhaps by then, there’d be no means of finding Storybrooke again. Henry wouldn’t have been born. And their lives wouldn’t have been as it is now. Every little choice we make steers us toward the future we’re meant to have, and this unbearably difficult choice was the best option.

As we learned in season four, Emma learns that her parents allowed another child to suffer for her to be filled with light broke her. That isn’t who she is because, in spite of everything she has endured, Emma has always chosen to do what’s best for others. She’s made sure that no one suffers in the same way she has. There are very few characters in the world as pure and as undeserving of trauma as Emma Swan. But in this realm, she serves as the Christ-like figure whose heart is filled with so much love, she can’t stand back to watch anyone else suffer. She’d rather endure it herself. She’s done this from season one, and while it’s been difficult to watch, we know that today, she’ll walk into the final battle ready to victoriously win for all those she loves.

But on that tragic note, never once did I think that we’d get to see Snow and Charming watch their 10-year-old daughter from afar. A hauntingly poignant image that broke and left me drowning in my own tears. A moment that Goodwin and Dallas delivered masterfully with the ever-present tinge of brokenness that’s never been easy to watch. There are always moments where you could look into Goodwin’s eyes and you could see just how terrorized Snow’s heart is over the time they’ve lost with Emma. And Dallas tearfully uttering the words “she’s beautiful” was my undoing.

Once Upon A Time’s casting department is always top-notch, and while Ginnifer Goodwin and Jennifer Morrison have a few resemblances, especially when Morrison has darker hair, there’s so much more Emma in Charming. That’s why Charming looking at his blond, green-eyed little girl was so heart-shattering. She is a reflection of himself, and in more ways than he could possibly imagine, too. But once more, he needed to let her go. He needed to leave her behind and Dallas makes sure that the audience could see that this has crushed him even more than the first time. But what I also appreciated was the fact that this time, Snow closed the door to their daughter just as Charming had done with the wardrobe. He may have opened it, eagerly and hopefully, but he couldn’t close it again. And symbolically, that felt right.

It’ll ultimately never be enough for them, but that’s a cross they have needed to bear in order to be a blessing to others. And that’s the kind of family Emma Swan was born into. A kind where no matter how much they wish they could be selfish, at the end of the day, there’s too much love in their hearts. At the end of the day, they do not know how not to lay their life down for a friend.

However, so much of the scene’s potency came from Snow’s decision towards the end allowing her character to come full circle for her daughter beautifully. Because the curse is now taking over both of them at the same time, Snow’s decision to give the remnants of the pixie flower to Emma in order for her to rescue Killian was everything I could have asked for. If they had it their way, they would be with their daughter at all times, but because their story does not just belong to them, it was time to give Emma a different kind of future. Snow, of all people, knows how daunting and dismal it is to be separated from your true love, and since she believes their actions have caused Emma enough pain, it is time to make it a little bit easier by allowing her to at least be by Killian’s side even if they cannot be around. And that was the kind of sacrificial act only a parent is capable of. A parent who shares the truest form of love with their child. A moment, that Goodwin delivered with a full range of emotions essentially apologizing once more for the life their daughter lived, simultaneously leaving with the hope that this would make things a little easier. If they aren’t by her side, Snow needed to make the kind of decision she knew Charming would agree with as well. If they can’t fight alongside her, she needed to at least be with the one person who’d give the world for her.

There’s no one in the world who believes in true love more fervently than Snow White, and because of this reason, it’s the one thing she cannot take away from Emma. And Goodwin made sure the audience could understand that for Snow, this was poignantly one of the easiest decisions she’s had to make. It’s tragic that she temporarily can’t be in her daughter’s life, and that’s where her pain comes from, but to keep her away from true love would never have been an option. (A moment, which broke me by the way. This episode does this a lot I might add.)

I also appreciated the fact that we were given yet another shot to see that Emma and Killian are indeed in true love. And no matter how hard Gideon tried to keep them apart, I’m thrilled that he clearly underestimated the power of their love.

And that moment preluded what would be Killian and Emma’s most heart-pounding reunion to date. (We all love a good reunion, but this one was something otherworldly.) For Emma to find her way back into Neverland, a place where he once sailed to for her, and break him free from the hands of lost boys was the kind of fairytale recreation that’s bound to leave a lasting impression. (If only they visited their first kiss sight, but I’ll take what we got. We were kind of in a hurry.)

But it was their proposal that I’m still trying to recover from. For those who don’t know, I wasn’t a fan of the first one — not even a little. But this, though a little rushed was the kind of fairytale moment I needed. And all it took was the promise of standing by her side to get the waterworks flowing. For two people who have lost so much in their past, losing one another is singlehandedly, the most frightening event that could happen to them. That’s why it made sense for Killian to ask as soon as they got back because in that moment, after being separated for so long, nothing mattered more than promising forever to her. He knew that because he left without saying anything, Emma would be engulfed with the idea that much like everyone else in her past, he abandoned her, too. And Killian would rather die than inflict that kind of pain on Emma. O’Donoghue made it clear that when Killian says “he’ll always be by her side,” he desperately needs Emma to know that near or far, wherever she is, he is right there fighting for her.

To have him essentially fortify what Charming stated earlier to make Emma feel better was the perfect spectacle of their unwavering adoration. And for him to immediately say that he needs to make things right with her parents displays the impeccable growth Killian’s character has gone through. (And naturally, I loved the fact that Charming was quick to forgive him because enough time passed for him to think things through.) Killian’s not the man he used to be and to recognize that change without hesitating is a treat to see.

On another note, in the same way, that Emma’s walls were completely down during their first proposal, she was even more vulnerable today. She was a little too heartbroken and a little too tired to be jumping for joy as she was during the first one. But regardless, through the innate sincerity and love in Morrison’s eyes, at that moment, two people had never been more in love. It wasn’t the best of circumstances, no easy breezy dinner montage where everyone could rejoice, but for a moment, it was just the two of them. For a moment, their steadfast adoration and the promise of forever lingered in the room gorgeously filling us with hope for the future. No matter what’s uncertain, their love will never be. No matter what awaits them, their love is pure and powerful enough to endure anything.

Killian and Emma have created a new fairytale: a promising story of an immaculate love that’s bandaged wounds and healed hearts. A kind of ethereal tale where two people effortlessly anchor one another in a place of unparalleled bliss and serenity, like the stars in the sky, their adoration is infinite. Their bond is unbreakable.

“Awake” did an exquisite job of reiterating the fact that good deeds will always be met with the same, if not bigger and better acts of kindness. And when Regina came up with the plan to share the sleeping curse, I appreciated Killian being the first one to oblige. O’Donoghue wears Killian’s guilt on his sleeves, and we know that no matter how many people forgive him, he himself has an incredibly difficult time doing so, and that’s why putting the lives of his future in-laws first wasn’t surprising. And to have everyone follow in his decision without question made its way onto my list of all-time favorite Once Upon A Time moments. I was crying before this scene, but after it, I was full-blown ugly crying. (And loudly. No shame.)

To see Charming and Snow awake with the realization that their friends are asleep on the floor couldn’t have been more beautiful. A moment to showcase that today, true love runs even through the closest of friends. And when they woke everyone up, their expressions reflected gratitude marvelously. The amount of irreplaceable love that filled the room at that moment was simply breathtaking.

The world is a catastrophically dark place sometimes. Things happen that are beyond our control. We are steered through rocky roads. We are wounded in ways bandages won’t heal. But when we have people by our side, there’s nothing we can’t conquer. And that’s the kind of truth this episode authenticated. This is a show about fairytale characters in our world, and if these characters have taught us one thing, it’s that there is great strength in hope. And for each of these people to take the risk hoping for Snow and Charming to wake up was pure poetry. The only flaw in this scene comes from the fact that I wish a few more characters could’ve been present, but understandably, the actors were busy.

We are always a reflection of how we treat those around us. And while everyone’s flawed, the Charming family has tirelessly shown love to the world. Yes, they could’ve easily taken their desired route and lived the life they deserved, but as mentioned above, choosing the hard path is the one that leads to the best outcomes. Time and time again, the Charmings have chosen to love, forgive, and extend their kindness to the world thereby, to see that reciprocation was everything. And perhaps, what makes this scene even lovelier is the fact when they extended their hand to help others, they expected nothing in return. They’ve taken the hard, honorable path as often as they were presented with it and as a result, they won’t walk into the final battle alone. As a result, their daughter could live the happiest life, with the biggest family possible.

If there’s one verse that’s always reminded me of the Charming family it’s Luke 6:35: “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” And they have been kind, even to the wicked, in return, the Wicked has played a part in helping them. (Lol.) So much of the reason why I love Once Upon A Time so much is that while it’s based on fairytale characters, it’s so easy for me to find inspiration through it in my everyday life. And I know I’m not alone in this. The themes it’s continuously explored have often been the power of our choices and the power of love — elements that we explore in our lives daily. And “Awake” reflected those elements with the right amount of emotional tinges without making the episode too cheesy. To be frank, I personally have no problem with cheesy, but rather this week, the thematic representation of love, family, and friendships made for a beautifully prevailing hour of television.

Love, and only love, can save even the darkest souls. It can inspire a plethora of selfless conduct. It can heal even the deepest wounds. And Once Upon A Time’s “Awake” was the perfect showcase of this fact. In the same way that “Murder Most Foul” had elements of season one in it, so did “Awake”, and both episodes took me back to the magical mystery that’s kept me in awe of this show. But right now, it’s the ending that’s doing everything right. Because things are coming full circle, storylines are that much more intriguing. And especially from here on out, learning that our heroes will be standing side by side in the final battle is giving the show a perfect type of closure.

Worth Mentioning: 

  • I genuinely want to know if an episode with this many hints about the Bible was planned to air on Easter night or if it was simply a serendipitous correlation.
  • I loved Killian’s interactions with Tiger Lily. It was fascinating to see her work with him only to later learn that they’re talking about the same savior.
  • I loved the little detail of Killian’s shadow caressing Emma’s cheek — normally I find myself taken aback by supernatural elements like that bleeding into romance, but that made for a haunting moment that I was surprisingly emotional over. If I didn’t know Killian would be back for sure, the scene did a good job of momentarily evoking fear within me.
  • I also appreciated the fact that they kept Rumple’s memory return similar to his remembering upon hearing the name “Emma.”
  • I’m glad it didn’t take Rumple too long to realize that Gideon’s heart is controlled. It’s also strange to believe that there’s someone eviler than Rumple.
  • I knew I’d loved seeing the sisters work together again, and I’m glad I enjoyed all of the scenes we were given with them.
  • I could’ve definitely done without the odd lighting in flashbacks. I understand that perhaps there could’ve been confusion because of Snow’s hair and Storybrooke, but really, if a person’s paying attention, they wouldn’t have been lost at all.
  • Emma wearing a Peter Pan collared shirt while Killian was in Neverland was a nice little touch. I need the shirt in my life. Head on over to JenniferMorrisonStyle.com for details.


  1. I’ll be the first to say that I love that your review included elements of Christianity and illustrating some common traits between Emma and Jesus was very welcome. I too enjoyed this episode immensely and thought it tied into the Easter theme very well.

  2. I love your reviews.When everyone was drinking from Snow and Charming’s curse it reminded me of a church sharing a communion cup.Sharing in their suffering kind of like communion is sharing in Christ’s suffering.

    Also I loved how it took a whole community to fight evil together, just like taking back the kingdom wasn’t something that Snow and Charming could do alone but they needed everyone’s participation…

    1. Your comment is greatly appreciated! Yes, oh my God, that part was so beautiful. Amen to everything you said about a community. We are great alone, but we are not destined to be, and love can inspire so much out of people. I’m so glad this show gave us an episode like this.

  3. I love how you tie your faith into your reviews. My husband is a pastor and he has remarked often on the Biblical themes in the show. In particular, everyone coming together and not allowing one another to fight alone reminding him of what the church (ie the body of Christ universal) is intended to be. I love the themes of hope, redemption, and forgiveness on Once. I hear people complain that the villains on Once don’t get the punishment they deserve, but isn’t that the point of the cross? Grace means none of us have to get what we deserve. I thought this episode highlighted all of that beautifully. (And how fitting that it was two former villains who drank from that cup first! )

  4. I really like how much of a truly emotional reaction you get from the show. I’m not a crier myself so reading that others “ugly cried” over something I too enjoyed makes me, I don’t know, happy? Weird, yes, but true.
    Even without being a Christian nor being well versed in The Bible, the religious overtones were apparent and the references you made were pretty interesting. I especially liked the quote from Luke 6:35. For a major theme of OUAT to be so directly written about in a book as important as The Bible gives it more impact. I’m probably not saying this right, but there it is. I also agree with the above poster “mia”, the office scene felt very religious.
    On a side note about that scene, it was amusing and perfect that everyone was on the floor except Regina who had gotten to her chair first. Also, I agree it was great that Hook drank first, but also that Regina was second. (Though the fact there was clearly nothing in the cup was a little off-putting. I’m also not altogether clear how the “sharing” worked, but it was a nice moment so I’ll let it go.) The fact that it was a scene focused on friendship and the love and loyalty that goes with it was something special. Unlike family and less than romance, friendship is mostly about choice. It’s the type of love that is often sidelined in shows, so it was great to see it in the forefront here.
    If there is anyone who can get to me, it’s David/Josh Dallas. When he goes into Papa Charming mode, with such pride and devotion, it is joy.
    However, I was rather surprised you didn’t mention the best part about this second proposal. The first time, Emma made Hook stand, bringing him to her, whereas this time she knelt down, going to him. I just think there’s something lovely and truly meaningful about that. Also, it’s sweet to see how shocked Hook was when Emma says “yes”. Even though way back he said he’d “win her heart”, he still can’t quite believe that he has.
    Likewise with David. Though Hook should gave been the one to tell David about Robert, or at least he and Emma together, perhaps it was better this way. David being able to process everything without Hook being around may have been exactly what he needed. Just wish they’d shown more, maybe a couple of phone messages between him and Snow or better yet, he could’ve gone to Archie like Emma and Hook. But again, Hook’s surprise at David’s forgiveness is evident and makes it clear how much he cares for and respects the man.
    But I wonder – am I the only one missing Neal? He was never my favorite character, but my anger on that is centered on the writers and how poorly they handled him. But with everything going on with Gideon right now and the oppressive presence of Dark Magic in his life, I just really wish Neal was around for him to talk and relate to. Plus, I’ve always been a Huge Sucker for a brother story. It’s just such a shame we don’t get to see it.

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