Once Upon A Time “The Heart of the Truest Believer”

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Once Upon A Time Season 3 episode 1

The episode opens with “Eleven Years Ago”

The clock on the wall ticks to 8:15, the time at which the clock stays stuck at in Storybrooke until Emma arrives there, 11 years later. Henry is born at 8:15 and Henry’s journey to find his birthmother drives the plot of the entire series.

A man’s voice is heard saying, “Deep Breath, Breathe away, Breathe away.” Then a woman’s “Almost there”.

The opening scenes to this episode begin with these words of the doctor and nurse in a hospital as the clock ticks. The nurse looks concerned as she talks. Very involved emotionally.

Emma has been incarcerated and there is a female guard in uniform by the door who stares at the scene and looks emotionally invested as well. A slow pan to Emma shows she is clearly shackled while in labor by at least her left foot to the bed.

“That’s it, breath breath breath, doing great.” and we see there is nothing at the end of the bed (yet) and a slow pan up her belly. The nurse is holding her right hand, while the doctor is totally hands off and her left hand grips the bed. Everything is covered in blue sterile wrap and Emma is in a blue hospital gown. You hear Emma’s gasping breaths. All of the staff are in full scrubs, gloves, and head wrap. “Keep going, breathe breathe breathe yeah.” and Emma is lying semi-reclined in the bed, at a 45 degree angle. She is breathing and looking directly at the doctor.

“Ok, now, big push, big push, big push” And Emma screams open-mouthed, curling forward unsupported off the bed. As she does, all the lights in the room flicker and blow out. You see the doctor look like he is reaching for something saying “All right, here you go” softly as if to a baby and as Emma falls back on the bed, and you hear a baby’s cry.

The doctor then walks over saying “That’s beautiful” and is holding a baby in a blue hospital wrapped blanket? Sterile wrap? The doctor is smiling, connected to baby, saying hello. Emma is lying, staring at the ceiling, disconnected and looks away, past the camera.

The doctor tries to show her the baby (who has a token blood spot on his cheek and is crying) saying “Emma? It’s a boy, Emma”and she looks away and shakes her head, refusing to look. The nurse comes over and whispers into the doctor’s ear and shakes her head. He looks saddened and disappointed as he says, “Emma, just so you know, you can always change your mind and the screen shot is of the baby, nuzzling on the doctor’s scrubs and crying and she replies, “I can’t be a mother”  The doctor looks down at the baby, shaking his head and pursing his lips slightly.

She lies crying in the bed, staring at the ceiling as they take him from the room.

At 1:18, the scene breaks to a scene of Emma (clearly 11 years later) with Emma on a rough, stormy sea and for those following the plot, she is in the middle of a rescue mission to find her son Henry, whom she’s been reunited with as the central story line that runs throughout the entire show.

Notes and thoughts:

-This show was filmed in Vancouver, BC. This probably affects the gist of the trying to make the birth seem more natural (no epidural/cesarean/birth emergency)

-I love that the scene opens with somewhat encouraging words. There is a bit of loud and multiple voices but that can happen in any laboring room and is more common in hospital rooms.

-There could be an argument that there is a stereotype here of “Male Doctor” and “Female Nurse” but at the same time, there is a female security guard, though that might just be because having a male guard in a birthing room seemed “icky” to someone.

-There isn’t a lot of showing the room in establishing shots. The establishing shots are saved for people. The only real establishment is the doctor and the nurse and their scrub gear. Costuming is sterile, hospital-like and jail-like, the stereotypes leading your brain to set up the scene quickly.

-The facial dialogue in this scene clearly outlines that everyone in the scene is deeply affected, saddened, involved. Even the prison guard. There is an undercurrent of sympathy and pity for Emma and the baby. As this is Season 3 of the show, we’re all well aware of how this storyline turns out, so the show is not invested in discussing options, resources, for Emma to avoid adoption or choose a different path.

-One of the themes that is addressed a few times in the show at large is “not doing what our parents did to us” and yet, Emma gives her son up for adoption. This will have dramatic affects on the show, the plotlines, her belief and trust structures, etc. Emma both expresses and emotes guilt regularly about this path she is taking.

-On a last note, women in the US are  giving birth while incarcerated and are frequently shackled during labor and birth. There are many reasons given for this, including security for the staff, prevention of faking labor and escaping, taking hostages, etc. There are organizations fighting these practices in order to give mobility and healthy birth while examining safety issues for both the women and the staff serving them. Many of the women are serving time for non-violent offenses. It is a cruelty to force them to birth under conditions of control and restriction as a matter of protocol.

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