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This Week’s Most Noteworthy Performance

May 7-13
“The Song in Your Heart” | Once Upon A Time
Jennifer Morrison 

For six beautifully captivating years, Jennifer Morrison has put her heart and soul breathing life into Emma Swan, and in a single episode, her penultimate to be exact, she left it all on the stage. While the final episode in Emma Swan’s shoes leather jacket is still to come, this felt like the “Ozymandias” (Breaking Bad) of Morrison’s performances — the 10/10 she’d culminated for six years.

In “The Song in Your Heart” Morrison delivered the spectacle of her journey; the final transition from an ugly duckling to a swan. A child doesn’t learn to walk in a day, and in the same way, while Emma’s grown immensely within these six years, to grasp that she isn’t alone was a challenging concept for our heroine. But to express her growth through song while delivering the most emotionally charged performance of her character’s arc is something not many actors are fortunate enough to blare out. And Morrison’s ability to succeed allowed us to see the character’s odyssey through a distinct, unforgettable melody — one we’ve grown accustomed to since the very beginning of Once Upon A Time is unparalleled.  

As we’d said in our full-episode review of “The Song in Your Heart”: “There’s colossal warmth and fervor in the revelation that today, she knows what she’s living for, and the purpose of the darkness she’s had to endure since her birth.”

“Emma’s Theme” is a powerful showcase of the strength our heroine carries through her vulnerability and openness. Emma’s been vulnerable before, but there’s a different kind of openness that’s needed in song. Where words fail, music speaks and “Emma’s Theme” allows her to be engulfed in a whirlwind of emotions in order to compile the strength that’s needed to stand tall. Through “Emma’s Theme”, Emma brought everything to the surface: the bruises, the darkness, the loneliness, the love. And by releasing the emotions that have been within her, through perfect harmony, Emma’s strength returns.”

In order for this moment, and the episode in its entirety to be evocative, to serve as Emma’s true “Swan Song”, Morrison’s embodiment of the character needed to be resolute. And for six years, it has been. It’s rare for an actress to understand and love their character with the level of fervency and an eye for detail the way Morrison does. And that understanding has been a gift that’s tirelessly allowed us to find strength in Emma Swan’s journey. But differentiating Morrison’s performances from the past was one very, distinct move. Today, when you look into Emma’s eyes, the ever-present tinge of sadness is no longer a presence. It has now been replaced with a kind of timeless serenity — the recognition that even when she’s felt alone, she’s been profoundly, ardently cherished.

And that’s why when Emma states that they’ll win no matter what happens, you believe her. You believe her because the steadfast gratitude and adoration in Morrison’s eyes reflects the essence of hope. No matter the difficult times ahead, Emma Swan will face them with the belief that the road ahead will always lead her home.

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