Note: This will contain spoilers for the most recent episode of Once Upon A Time (Season 5, Episode 20, Firebird). I would suggest watching it first for this to make sense, even if you do not mind spoilers.
Have you ever been reading a book, or been watching a television show or movie, and seen yourself? I do not mean physically, because clearly you cannot actually see your image in the actors playing the characters. I just mean…personality-wise, where you are seeing yourself in the things that the character does or says.
If I wanted to, I could see small pieces of myself in many places, but I do not. I do not try. But every now and again, there will come a character who punches me in the gut.
The most recent one to do this was Emma Swan.
I think the feeling had been there for a little while, or as much as it could considering the content of the show, but the Firebird episode was like a punch in the gut. Here is where the spoilers start coming into this.
As you know (if you watch the show), Emma Swan is a…complicated character. She has a guard up, but she is also incredibly vulnerable. In the Firebird episode of Once Upon a Time, we learn about the origins of her iconic red leather jacket and how that relates to current events in the show, where she and her family/friends are still in the Underworld.
I did not realize what this episode would hold when I saw the promo video for it last week. I figured that Emma and Killian would be going on a rescue mission for Zelena. However, that turned out to not be the case. The writers “resolved” the situation with Zelena very early on in this episode. Now the focus of the characters was on escaping the Underworld while they had the chance. Unfortunately, Killian needed a way out that was not as simple, considering he is dead. In this episode, we see Killian and Emma venture further into the Underworld in an attempt to find ambrosia. Hades told them that this would work. The problem, however, is that when they get to the place, they find that Hades destroyed it and it is no longer an option.
We see True Love, and yes that deserves the capitalization, break. Emma proved her love for Killian in the test they had to face before reaching where the ambrosia was supposed to be. We see Killian prove his love for Emma by making sure she gets out and reunites with her family, even though there is no hope for him to go with her.
He got through her armour. She let it down because of him.
When I say armour here, I am referring to both the walls she put up and the physical manifestation of them: her red leather jacket. That jacket has been iconic in the series since day one, and this last episode explained exactly how the red leather jacket came to be.
If you are a regular viewer, you will know that Once Upon a Time likes to use flashbacks in their episodes. This can happen for a number of reasons, but most often, they use it to show the viewers important information regarding a character’s backstory.
This particular one shows how Emma met a bounty hunter, who was actually searching for Emma. She explained to Emma that the jacket she wore all the time was her armour. It kept her from being emotional and getting into trouble.
Eventually, Emma found her own jacket to become her armour. It becomes her wall, protecting herself from the mountain of hurt in the world. This includes the hurt she experienced in the past as well as what she might find in the future.
Of course, I do not live in a fairytale world. I did not have someone screw me over, leave me in jail, and get me pregnant. Thus, you can make the argument that I have not experienced the same amount of hurt as Emma Swan.
Yet she and I share armour. We both want to protect ourselves from getting hurt.
I do not own a red leather jacket. I do not know what the physical manifestation of my armour might be. However, I know that my armour…my walls…are still there. They have to be if I am going to protect myself.
Are they up all the time? No, of course they are not. I generally do not have them up with my family. I do not need them with my family. I do, however, need my walls with many other people. The extent to which I need them depends on the person, of course. It depends on a lot of things. That said, my armour has been on for a long time, just like Emma’s has been.
I hope that the show turns this situation around for Emma. It is a fairytale…but I want to believe in those fairytale happy endings. I need to believe in them.
If you have ever “seen yourself” in a fictional character, whether the character is from a television show, movie, or book…I would love to hear about it!