Second chances are not given. They’re earned.Victoria
Starring Lana Parrilla, Colin O’Donoghue, Andrew J. West, Dania Ramirez, Gabrielle Anwar, Alison Fernandez, and Robert Carlyle
Episode 2: A Pirate’s Life
“A Pirate’s Life” does a brilliant job of expanding upon the setup made in the season premiere, and helping this new premise make even more sense. Add into that the return appearance of Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan, and a glimpse into how the conflict in Hyperion Heights will function, and this season is looking fairly promising.
Of course, Jennifer Morrison is a massive draw for this episode. I imagine, should she have been game to return full-time for Season 7, then the entire shape of the season might have been played significantly differently. She was certainly a massive draw for the audience, and the most easily sympathetic character out of the whole bunch. The audience could relate to her turbulent upbringing, and her presence certainly added the reality to the fantastical elements that surrounded her.
Her return here is nice, and it’s not so much that it completely overshadows the episode. The reunion between her and Henry was sweet, and signalled a metaphorical passing of the baton. It’s understandable that Henry needs to grow up and grow apart from Emma in the Enchanted Forest and, as the most real out of all of Storybrooke, it’s natural that Emma embraces that even though it’s hard for the pair to be parted.
The resolution that she is given as a character is definite enough to explain why she isn’t in Seattle, and also open-ended enough for us to have the luxury of imagination of what the next chapter looks like for Emma Swan. It would have been a disservice to do anything as drastic as killing her off; if the writers wanted that, they doubtless would have done at the end of Season 6. Packing her off with a Hook and a pregnancy is a nice enough explanation for how she hasn’t noticed that her now-adult son has been cursed. I am slightly iffy about the idea that a woman’s happy ending can only really be when she’s married and has a child, but I suppose we still have Regina’s happy ending to come in the show, and perhaps we’ll get something a bit different to that. Really, Emma’s happy ending, I suppose, is finding a family, and this is an extension of that, so I will let it pass.
What I was especially impressed with was how natural Jennifer Morrison’s chemistry was throughout the episode. The way that she and Andrew J. West worked together, they really kept the dynamic that Morrison possessed with Gilmore and didn’t make that section feel jarring. Morrison managed to imbue her performance with so much emotion and nuance, which I honestly wasn’t expecting since she’s clearly metaphorically wiping her hands of Vancouver.
The other surprising revelation in this episode is that Rogers is not, in fact, Hook, but rather the Wish Realm version of him, meaning that there has been absolutely no change to Emma or his happy endings back in Storybrooke. It was a worry, if I’m honest, about the logic of having Hook around without Emma, so at least that’s a question answered, even if the resolution is a little bit contrived.
In fact, at the heart of it, this entire episode circles around the idea of Rogers not being the original Hook. Did it necessarily need to take up an entire episode? Probably not, but fortunately Colin O’Donoghue is more than capable enough to handle all the material thrust his way and performs both versions of his character admirably.
It is quite nice to have Rogers be the Wish Realm version of Hook, not least because it gives the character more scope in terms of romantic attachments and other relationships, and backstory, that our Hook cannot have. It was also nice how he remembered Emma healing him in the Enchanted Forest, even if it was an adjusted memory, and how that has helped to shape him into becoming a better person. While we’re quite used to Hook being a hero at this juncture, it’s nice to catch up with one who still has quite some way to come before reaching those levels of morals, and it’s nice that Emma forms a part of that journey even if she is no longer in the show.
In Hyperion Heights, there’s some meaningful development in Henry and Jacinda’s relationship. While she is fiercely independent and so focussed upon Lucy that she doesn’t want anything to do with Henry himself, the fact that he went to the extreme of getting her hired so that she could watch Lucy’s ballet was a really sweet moment, as was Sabine noticing Henry’s growing feelings for her.
Speaking of Henry, Andrew J. West is doing a commendable job as the central character. He has such easy chemistry with all of the characters and his scenes are consistently compelling to watch. I’m not sure how exactly he’s doing it, but he’s reliably a charismatic and charming lead, which does make rooting for Jacinda and Henry easier, especially when she can be so bristly.
The end of the episode sees Rogers, Roni and Henry teaming up against Victoria. It’s a nice progression, even though it does feel like it’s quite early in the season. If this follows the blueprint of Season 1, then the curse won’t be broken for quite some time yet, so to take on who I assume is the big bad so fast, seems strange. Hopefully they will find some way to keep the plot points consistently coming so that that area does not become stale week on week.
On the topic of Victoria, she is objectively a terrible person. I’m still trying to get my teeth into what she hopes to achieve as a villain, however. In the Enchanted Forest, she clearly has machinations for Drizella, explaining why she killed the prince. Quite why she has it in for Cinderella is anybody’s guess, or indeed why she cast the curse. Her reaction to the hyacinths that Lucy sent her suggest to me that she does know their significance, but I can’t imagine what she gains from ripping Lucy away from Jacinda, other than to cause upset.
I was disappointed with how Emma’s farewell seemed to be a bit of an anticlimax. While she had a meaningful goodbye to Henry, which of course makes sense, I am staggered that her and Regina’s relationship is reduced to just a vaguely knowing smile before she jumps into a portal. It hasn’t exactly been a central relationship for a while, but it still makes that departure feel somewhat lacking. Speaking of which, why do these characters never do a wistful look before throwing the magic bean? They would have felt really stupid if the portal had closed before they had travelled through it. Incidentally, we’re now back to realm jumping as if it were travelling to the supermarket, and magic beans are clearly incredibly plentiful now. Be prepared for that to change in a few episodes.
This instalment also serves the purpose of getting Regina in the Enchanted Forest, which is brilliant news for the series. While it helps explain how she managed to get caught up in Tremaine’s curse along with Henry and Wish Hook, it also means that we have the joy of seeing Regina in the flashbacks moving forwards, which is always an absolute treat. As for how Rumple got caught up in the curse? Well I have absolutely no doubt that that will be explained at some point, because the writers are in love with Robert Carlyle.
Weaver also seems to have some hidden depth. While he appeared in the premiere to just be the stereotypical corrupt cop, he is, at least, not in league with Victoria, and he makes that much clear. It’s an interesting dynamic, and I’d be intrigued to know what exactly he means about his and Victoria’s goals aligning and what he wants to achieve. What I want to achieve, however, is for him to stop attempting to do a Cockney accent. I’m not sure if Robert Carlyle has, in fact, ever met a Cockney, but he should do a formal apology to all of them for such an atrocious job. Accents are clearly not his strong suit. Stick to Scottish.
Ultimately, the function of “A Pirate’s Life” is exposition. It successfully moves our characters in the Enchanted Forest to where they need to be for whatever curse to wash over them. Quite who casts the curse, and what they hope to achieve, is anybody’s guess, but the writers will have to be careful to reveal enough at the appropriate moments, else they may risk the audience losing interest fast.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. Seasons 1 – 4 are now available on Disney+ in the UK. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.