As soon as Once Upon a Time aired back in 2011, I knew I was a goner. Dark fairy tales? True love? Magic spells that take over an entire town? Yes, please. Since then, I’ve fully committed to the roller coaster that is this show: deaths, evil queens, magic beans that let you jump realms, and hearts getting pulled out of chests willy-nilly. But it’s not just the drama that keeps me coming back for more. No, the real draw is all the true love on the show, unabashedly hooking us hopeless romantics and basically making it impossible to stop watching (see what I did there??).
For all of you non-OUATers, here’s a rundown on the overall plot: Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) is an orphan who learned never to rely on anyone. But then she’s contacted by Henry Mills (Jared S. Gilmore), the 10-year-old son she gave up for adoption who’s convinced that he lives in a town filled with fairytale characters. According to Henry, Emma is the daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), and she’s destined to save the residents of Storybrooke by restoring their memories and their magic. Of course, it turns out that Henry is right, and it sends Emma on a long and twisted journey that involves multiple realms, storybook characters from different worlds, and a long lost family she never knew she needed.
And then there are the love interests. While it’s obviously who Snow White and Prince Charming are going to end up with (hint: each other), Emma has always been more of an enigma. Is her true love the ill-fated Huntsman (Jamie Dornan)? Or maybe it’s Baelfire, aka Neal Cassidy and Henry’s father (Michael Raymond-James)? But by season 6, which premiered on September 25, it’s pretty clear that Emma fans have fallen into two major shipping camps: “CaptainSnow,” Emma and Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) and “SwanQueen,” Emma and the Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrilla).
While both Once Upon a Time ‘ships have their chemistry and their merits, there can only be one true winner. So as we wait impatiently for the show to return (in March!!) for the back end of season 6, my colleague McKenzie and I are going head-to-head in the battle for Emma’s heart:
“CaptainSwan”: Emma Swan and Captain Hook/Killian Jones
I’m not going to lie: I started out as a pretty hardcore Emma and Neal shipper. I thought Hook seemed like a puppy dog in his unrequited love of Emma, and I worried he was still hung up on old love Milah – who also happened to be Neal’s mom (it’s a long, complicated story). Plus Hook was pretty evil at first, so I never thought Hook and Emma would really be a thing.
But then I saw this kiss and I jumped ship so fast I almost drowned:
I mean, come on. The banter! The passion! That smirk! He’s so swarthy and hot I can hardly stand it. At first, Hook was definitely in a one-sided love, but his devotion and steady support eventually won Emma over. Now the two have merged their lives together, and the show makes it pretty clear that they’re endgame. Hook saves Emma every chance he gets, and Emma loves him so much that she traveled to the Underworld to rescue him. They’ve survived darkness, Snow Queens, flying monkey fiancés, memory loss, and more. They even passed the true love test, which is basically an endgame declaration in OUAT land.
CaptainSwan might have started out as enemies, but no one can deny that kind of passion. They just make sense together. Emma has been emotionally damaged for so long that she needs someone as devoted as Hook to keep declaring his love, even when she pushes it away. Similarly, Hook is used to being the villain and the bad guy, but he finds salvation in his love for Emma. They make each other better, and I have no doubt they can overcome whatever insane plotline OUAT throws at them next – including Emma’s latest burning secret. Once you beat death together, you’re pretty much meant to be.
So, because I have absolutely no objectivity when it comes to who Emma should ultimately end up with, BookTrib editor McKenzie is hopping in to defend her Emma ‘ship of choice: SwanQueen.
“SwanQueen”: Emma Swan and The Evil Queen/Regina Mills
My colleague will tell you ’til she’s blue in the face that Once Upon a Time’s Emma and Hook are the perfect match, but… I OBJECT! Wholeheartedly. Before putting on my SwanQueen sweater (yes, that’s a real thing) and totally schooling Rachel on real acts of true love, I’d like to preface that if you’re a CaptainSwan, or even an OutlawQueen fan… I respect you. I think y’all are out of your damn minds; but I respect your somewhat questionable life decisions, because hey, we all see things the way we want to see them. But, really, are we even watching the same show? Let’s get this straight (yes, I see the irony here), the central relationship of Once Upon A Time is Emma and Regina, it always has been and it always will be. It started with these two, and it’ll end with them. Hopefully, hand-in-hand giving each other sweet lady kisses and doing magic together. But seriously, romance or not, these two forged a bond from the beginning (much like CaptainSwan, brewed from hatred and general disdain). The connection is one that was well-earned, and without a doubt deep-rooted. These two have saved each other from imminent death (sometimes even from themselves) more than any other couple on this show. The experiences they have shared from the very beginning are nothing to scoff at, so don’t even go there.
Regina and Emma are best friends. They might not have a conventional type of friendship, but it’s there. Despite being stubborn, closed off and cautious, they somehow each got over the fact that Emma was the Savior and Regina was the Evil Queen and they made it work. The common ground they share is nothing short of extraordinary. The best thing about SwanQueen is that it just makes sense. They share the love of their son, they share an unbreakable friendship and if OUAT has some lady balls they would be delving into the romantic realm (it’s been teetering for six damn years!) and make it happen already.
SwanQueen is one of Once Upon a Time’s most popular and vocal ‘ships, and despite it not being “canon,” the fans are still holding strong. And for good reason. The moments between the Savior and Evil Queen speak louder than some of the lengthiest dialogue between the other canon romantic leads. It’s not about gay, straight, bi or anything in between and beyond, it’s about who shows the most development along their journey and what makes the most sense for the story. They push each other, they’re there to bring each other back off that ledge, and they share the biggest gift of all—a son. I could be telling you all the reasons why Hook and Emma shouldn’t be together, why Regina and Robin are terrible for one another (he’s coming back, btw… ew), but that’s not the point. The point is to show you what true love is. And that’s SwanQueen.
Sure, giving Emma and Regina free reign on primetime TV to explore their feelings and tell a story of an unconventional fairytale seems outlandish, but is it really? The Swan-Mills clan is true family goals and it’s about time they developed that relationship more.
Who’s your endgame choice for Once Upon a Time’s Emma Swan? Will it be the evil queen with a secret heart of gold, or the snarky pirate with a propensity for guyliner? Vote below!
Once Upon a Time: Red’s Untold Tale (Kingswell Teen, 2015)
Everyone knows the tale of Little Red Riding Hood, right? Well on Once Upon a Time, Ruby is Red’s counterpart, living in Storybrooke. But what about Red and Granny? How exactly did Ruby become Red and what happened when she first received her cloak? Find out in this perfect companion to the series.
*All other gifs via giphy.com