I fell in love with Emma Swan from the moment we met her, when she reveals herself as an undercover bail bonds person to her blind date, who is actually her mark. What a way to come out swinging.
At first, Emma Swan is the epitome of lonely, friendless orphan. She’s jumped from foster home to foster home, which has led her to have no friends or family. When the son she put up for adoption ten years ago shows up on her doorstep in Boston (on her birthday no less!), she winds up in Storybrooke, Maine, with her son insisting that the town is actually inhabited by fairy tale characters who don’t remember who they are. A staunch skeptic, Emma continues to disbelieve until she is forced to stare the truth in the face, leading her to reunite with her birth parents.
We talk a lot about “strong female characters,” and I hate that phrase for a lot of reasons, but mainly because it leads to one-dimensional characters whose only characteristic is that they can punch people. Emma’s certainly capable of holding her own in a fight, but there’s much more to her than that. There’s intense vulnerability and severe abandonment issues over her upbringing. There’s anger and frustration at her birth parents, who made a choice to send her away to save her life along with the lives of their people. Emma is pragmatic, sarcastic, and droll (her dry wit is one of my favorite things about her). She is courageous, tenacious, and resourceful. She is rash, wary, and solitary. Emma Swan takes no shit from anyone. Her defining characteristic – her “superpower” as she tells her son – is that she can always tell when someone is lying, a skill no doubt picked up as a result of her rough past.
With the life she’s had, you would think she would be misanthropic and closed off, but not quite. While it’s true that Emma shields herself in emotional armor, she doesn’t seclude herself from the world completely. She forms a beautiful friendship with Mary Margaret Blanchard before she knows who Mary Margaret really is. The two quickly move in together, and Emma offers Mary Margaret emotional support and no judgement when Mary Margaret makes…questionable life choices. She sticks by her when no one else will and saves her life on more than one occasion. She shows a fierce support for other women and their choices – the fourth episode of the first season revolves around Emma helping a pregnant teenager make her own decisions in keeping her child safe.
In short, Emma Swan is an incredibly layered, dynamic character that is constantly developing. Once Upon a Time is ultimately her story, her own huge character arc. No matter how ridiculous the show gets, I will always love it for giving me Emma Swan, who has, in short order, become one of my most beloved characters of all time.