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Tear Jerker: Once Upon a Time
In brief: Everything. In long form, while every other similar page (Heartwarming, Awesome, Funny, Fridge, Nightmare) has categories for each season or leaves out certain episodes, this one has at least one example per episode. And the Tear Jerker aspect of the scenes are due in no small part to the amazing actors, not just in the stories.
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Episode 1 - Pilot
The playground scene, especially the part near the end where Emma, close to tears, tells Henry how she was left by the freeway and later rejected by her foster parents and that he's lucky to have someone who wants him never mind loves him.
To a lesser extent, Emma blowing out a candle on her birthday cupcake.
Snow White putting on a brave face for Prince Charming before he goes to deliver Emma to the wardrobe, only to break down in cries of agony for her lost baby after he leaves.
As he lays dying, Prince Charming's smile when he sees that Emma got away.
"Find us." Who knew what was once so beautiful now has become so sad in 1 episode.
Snow White trying to wake up Prince Charming with a kiss.
Episode 2 - The Thing You Love Most
The Queen's struggle then ultimate decision to kill her own father. There's no going back for her after that.
The reveal that Regina named her adoptive son after the father she killed in the fairy tale realm.
Emma's face when she learns that Henry believes Mary Margaret Blanchard is Snow White (and therefore her mother).
Episode 3 - Snow Falls
Mary Margaret's utterly crushed look when David's "wife" swoops in after they rescue him.
Listening to Snow snarking about arranged marriages and how there's no such thing as true love becomes this on a rewatch, since we later learn what an idealistic girl she used to be. Regina's crusade against her just sucked it right out of her.
Episode 4 - The Price of Gold
Ashley sobbing to Emma that she wants to keep her baby and doesn't want Mr. Gold to take her baby from her as they head back to the hospital in town. She just sounds so afraid.
Cinderella tricked Rumpelstiltskin and got him locked up, but lost her husband, who had promised to love her no matter what.
Episode 5 - That Still Small Voice
Jiminy not only failing to put a stop to his sociopathic parents' thievery, but discovering that the Baleful Polymorph potion he'd intended to use on them was replaced, and that he had unwittingly sold it to the nice couple they had just swindled. As if that weren't enough, after finding the couple has been turned into wooden puppets, their child returns home to find them in this state. The same child who had earlier been cheerfully eager to see the puppet show Jiminy's family put on.
And that same kid turns out to be Geppetto. Jiminy's been taking care of the poor guy this whole time.
Regina and Emma's terified look when Henry is down the mine, and Henry's desperate need to prove himself to Emma.
Emma's look when Regina asks her to stop hugging their son and get back to her work after she saved him.
The look on Archie's face when Henry runs out of their session. He's nearing tears, only able to silently watch on, and knowing that he willingly devastated this young boy by telling him his fairy tale theory was nonsense. This is a boy Archie clearly adores and cares deeply about, and to have to hurt him that way because he was threatened by Regina? No wonder he looked so heartbroken.
James saying goodbye to his mother. Not only will he never see her again, but he's being forced into the one concession he swore he'd never make by marrying for a reason besides love.
It gets a little better when, thanks to the magic of fairy tales, his mother's insistance of him taking their family wedding ring ultimately results in happier ending than they believe at the time.
King George's fate is sad, no matter how much you end up hating him.
Episode 7 - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Sheriff Graham's death at the hands of The Evil Queen/Regina Mills.
Made worse by the fact that right before he died, Graham had fully regained his memories of being the huntsman. Emma realizing she had feelings for him right as he died is heartbreaking, especially considering the conversation she had with Mary Margaret about how she was rejecting romance because she was afraid of being hurt again earlier in the episode.
Everything about Graham and Emma.
Graham's increasing desperation and fear throughout the episode are bad enough—the opening scene where he pleads with Emma to understand that he doesn't feel anything and then the later scene where he insists to her that he doesn't have a heart. And she tries to comfort him by convincing him he does.
"It's okay. It's going to be okay." Oh, the irony...
The hesitant, almost frightened way Emma approaches Graham before their second kiss. And genuine, unguarded smile on her face after he thanks her. Emma barely ever smiles so freely. Combine that with her heartbroken sobbing about a minute later...
Graham being able to feel again and crying with relief after he and Emma kiss.
Snow White's resignation at the thought of being killed by Graham, and her letter afterwards.
Episode 8 - Desperate Souls
Rumpelstiltskin's life before getting his powers is depression incarnate: branded a coward for refusing to fight a pointless war, a wife that left him in disgust, and now fighting to keep his son from being conscripted at 14.
Morraine's parents screaming, pleading and crying as she is taken away by the guardsmen to be conscripted.
Emma's unpleasant experience with the foster system might be a tad biased for sending a message, but the way she talks about not finding her parents is so sad what with Dramatic Irony that she's telling all this to her own mother.
Hansel and Gretel awakening in the woods after The Evil Queen releases them and holding hands as they walk off to find their father. Their determination is heartwarming but the next shot shows just how little chance these two have of finding him. The implication is that they don't... at least, not in the fairy tale world.
Episode 10 - 7:15AM
Snow White's departure from the castle, after making a huge breach in her relationship with Charming.
Snow having to tell Charming that she doesn't love him per King George's demands. Charming's hurt face during the scene alone is enough to jerk tears.
Snow White unwittingly taking the vial to forget about her feelings for Prince Charming the moment he backs out of his wedding to Abigail to find her. It's all the more crushing when Snow responds to Grumpy's news of this with, "Who?"
For that matter, Grumpy is smiling excitedly about the news himself. And when she says "Who?", you can see the slow horror coming across his eyes and his face fall again.
The death of Stealthy, Foregone Conclusion though it may be. Especially with Doc's statement of "Now we're seven."
The whole relationship between James and Mary Margaret from Kathryn's perspective: she finally got her husband back, and he says he is willing to work things out despite his amnesia, but he keeps running off with another woman.
Episode 11 - Fruit of the Poisonous Tree
Regina confesses that she feels trapped in Leopold's castle, but unable to leave. It's very sad stuff, especially given what you find out later on how she got there.
Leopold's disbelief in The Genie's betrayal of him.
Finding out that, despite all Rumpel's efforts to protect his son, Baelfire ran away anyway because he was terrified of him. And Rumpel still keeps his clothes.
Rumpel replacing the golden chalice with the chipped tea cup. And weeping.
The things that Gold does throughout the episode are pretty creepy, but when you learn he did it all (or at least most of it) to retrieve the only remnant he has of Belle...*sniff*
Good news, Belle's not dead! Bad news, Regina's held her captive for who knows how long...and Gold has no clue she's even still alive.
Rumpelstiltskin small Hope Spot when he hears that Belle has been shunned by her father. His first thought is "so she needs a home, then?", with a sad/scared/hopeful smile creeping across his face, before the Queen tells him she died (a bluff). Props to Robert Carlyle (Rump's actor) for the subtle but ever growing wide eyed look of horror as the Queen tells him that she didn't just die... she was tortured to the point of suicide because of him.
Rumpelstiltskin's complete freakout after Belle kisses him. At that moment, he doesn't seem that upset about potentially losing his powers, he's mostly upset because he honestly believes nobody could ever truly love him, therefore Belle must be faking everything in an elaborate ruse to kill him for the Evil Queen. Even sadder because by the time he uncovers the mirror, the proof of Belle's love- the restoration of his human form- has faded away. It gets worse later, when he realises that she does love him, and decides to stop any possibility of losing his powers (and Bael) by breaking Belle's heart and sending her away. When the Queen drops by to inform him of her fate, he obviously wants nothing more than to have her back in the castle again, because he reciprocates her feelings.
This is an odd one, but Gold's beating of Moe French probably counts after a bit of thought. He's just had his last keepsake of the woman he loves stolen by the man he believes was responsible for her death. After the first preliminary questions, he stops mentioning the cup altogether and starts screaming about what Maurice did to his daughter and trying to absolve himself of the blame. It's made even worse by the fact that French clearly has no idea what Gold's on about and that this is the most uncontrolled we see Gold in the entire series.
Gold's dialogue / rant when attacking Moe French screams "misdirected rage" - it's pretty clear that what Gold charges Moe with is what he did himself. It's creepy for poor Moe who (Storybrook Amnesia) really doesn't understand what this is about, but it's heart-breaking when you realize that what hits Moe is Gold's self-directed hatred. Honestly, thanks in no small measure to Carlyle's impressive acting, half of the Fairy Tale Land plot is heart-breaking.
When Rumpelstiltskin is trashing his castle and he sees that he's about to destroy the chipped cup. He immediately restrains himself, but the look on his face just screams "Man, I really messed this up, didn't I?"
Episode 13 - What Happened to Frederick?
Mary Margaret and David breaking up and not knowing Kathryn left a note behind saying they could be together (because Regina burned it).
Kathryn/Abigail in general this episode.
Kathryn/Abigail being kept from her true love (Fredrick) in Storybrooke due to Regina's plan for no happily ever afters.
Kathryn calling Regina the closest thing she has to a friend, and shortly afterwards it's highly probable Regina is the one who made her disappear.
Kathryn having to come to terms that her marriage is over, and might have only been an illusion all along (not in the curse sense, but whatever). And that her husband has fallen love with someone else.
Abigail having tried to get over Fredrick but failed.
Charming: Have you tried true loves' kiss?
Abigail: Until my lips bled.
Prince Charming on the run with Red from King George with no idea how to find Snow White.
Kathryn/Regina's last confrontation. Regina goes from warm and friendly to full Stepford Smiler mode.
Kathryn: Have you ever been in love ?
Kathryn: Well, I've never was. (Beat) I want someone to look at me like that.
Storybrooke's treatment of Mary Margaret after they find out about the affair - especially with David seemingly not being given the same. Double Standard much?
No sign of Mr. Gold; either he's still in jail or THAT messed up from 'Skin Deep'.
Episode 14 - Dreamy
"It's Grumpy now."
When it seems all hope is not lost, because Leroy is going to sell his boat, a tearjerker in itself because he seems so proud of it. Then, even though he will only get 3,000, Mr. Gold backing out of the deal entirely because for some unknown reason (at the time) he hates nuns.
And subsequently Astrid's face when she discovers all the candles boxed up under a tarp on the dock.
Episode 15 - Red-Handed
Red's a werewolf, she's killed and half eaten her true love Peter, the villagers are coming to kill her, she has to go on the run and leave Granny behind, and all this while she's still reeling, confused and horrified at what's happened to her.
Red: I don't like this...
Episode 16 - Heart of Darkness
Snow White's back to normal - but first she shot Charming, and now they've been seperated yet again. In the real world David has turned against Mary Margaret because his memories are returning with the wrong context entirely, and out of desperation she does a jail break and is presumably on the run.
Episode 17 - Hat Trick
Jefferson spent years in Wonderland trying to build another world-hopping hat in the hopes that he could return to his daughter in the Fairy Tale world. It didn't work, and now he has to watch her Storybrooke counterpart live and be happy with a different family every day, without any memory of him, while he sits in the lap of luxury with full knowledge of everything that's transpired.
Episode 18 - The Stable Boy
Regina's mother has ignored all of her daughter's wishes for her own personal happiness, has killed Regina's lover Daniel, and is forcing Regina to marry the king. Then Snow comes in and reveals that, yes, she did in fact tell Regina's mother. Regina very quickly puts two and two together, and silently places the blame on Snow, formulating her revenge plot in the process.
The Regina/Mary Margaret scene in jail. Mary Margaret is terrified, doesn't understand and makes apologies for something she doesn't remember doing. Regina does something reminding of the maternal figure she was supposed to become, then crushes her by telling her that she thinks she is guilty.
Episode 19 - The Return
Baelfire falls into the portal without Rumpelstiltskin.
And then you find out that everything Rumpelstiltskin did was to get his son back.
The scene with August and Rumpelstiltskin's Reunion...ESPECIALLY on a rewatch. Although it turns out August was playing along, no doubt August's words are what he was saving up for his real father
Episode 20 - The Stranger
Emma's stubborn refusal to believe and manipulating her mind to see what she wants to see, despite August's pleas.
The realization that Emma can't let herself believe because her self-esteem is just that low and she's terrified to have people relying on her.
August: You're our only hope.
Emma: *very sincerely* Then you're all screwed.
The scene in the orphanage where Pinnochio decides to abandon Emma.
And you're reminded that even though Jiminy and Gepetto might have prepared him, Pinocchio was still just a kid, and the fact that he was given that much responsibility that early was just too much. Really sad that desperation ended up creating so much sadness and guilt on all parties.
Gepetto weeping over the seemingly dead Pinocchio, and reminding Jiminy of exactly why he took the job he has.
August seeing his father again, whom he feels he has failed, for the first time in twenty-eight years — and his dad has no idea who he is.
August: I don't think I became the man he wanted me to be.
Mary Margrets speech to Regina when she first returns to work.
Mary Margret: I forgive you. Even if you can't admit what you did, I forgive you anyway. Your life must be filled with such incredible loneliness that your only joy comes from destroying everyone else's happiness. It's so sad, Mayor Mills, because despite what you think, it won't make you happy. It's only going to leave a giant hole in your heart.
Episode 21 - An Apple Red as Blood
Snow and Charming's conversation through the mirror and Snow choosing to take the apple to save Charming.
"Then congratulations. You've won."
Emma's goodbye to Henry at the end of the episode. She fails to hold back tears as she insists that it's best for her to leave and that Regina will take good care of him.
Her defensive posture when she insists that all Regina has ever done is fight for Henry and "it just got out of hand." Emma knows that's not true (and the audience knows the full-extent of what Regina has done) so seeing her so helpless and just desperate to cling to the belief that her son will be safe is heartbreaking.
"You may not believe in the curse—or in me—but I believe in you."
Regina's nightmare in the opening: A horrifying vision of Emma, Henry, and everyone she's cursed forming a lynch mob and arranging her execution. Even more of one when you realize what it means: Somewhere in her dark, twisted soul, Regina realizes just how horrible her actions are.
August's resignation that he couldn't do any more to help emma. It's so sad to see someone who tried so hard to get Emma to believe just...give up. Practically the only ally Henry had, and now he can't help anymore.
Episode 22 - A Land Without Magic
Seeing both Emma and Regina heavily distraught over Henry.
Graham/the Huntsman not only spared Emma's mother, he actively defied the Queen to save her dad. And he's the only one who's dead here...
Henry's Disney Death - Yeah, you could see it from a mile off. Didn't make it any less of a hit.
Emma breaking into August's room - to see he's turned back into wood.
The breaking of the curse, oddly enough. It's weirdly haunting to think that all the Storybrooke personas we've gotten to know and love over the course of the season are just...gone. Good-bye, Mary Margaret the lovelorn schoolteacher. Hello, Snow White the battle princess.
Gold: You're real? You're alive?
And then Belle doesn't even remember him. The heartbroken face he makes doesn't help.
Prince Phillip's death at the hands of the wraith and Mulan and Aurora's reaction to it.
Snow keeps trying to ask Emma to talk to her, but Emma still resents them for sending her away no matter how good the reason. The looks on Emma's, Snow's and Charming's faces are heartbreaking.
More so because, if you think about it, Snow and Charming are use to a world where a long lost child would simply embrace them and Happily Ever After would occur. But since Emma is de facto real world, she reacts a lot like a real world person would. So not only are Snow and Charming heartbroken, they're also a bit confused and try to invoke the rules of their world later in the episode.
Regina looks completely heartbroken after Henry declares that he wants nothing to do with her until she finds a way to get Emma and Snow(the two people she hates most) back from another dimension.
Henry: I don't want to ever see you again.
Regina:(trying not to cry) No, don't say that.
The scene where Belle leaves Rumpelstiltskin, but only for a little while after he unleashes the wraith on Regina.
"We are Both":
Once again we get to see what a sweet girl Regina was, even after her Start of Darkness. Whether you think it justifies what she does later on or not, it's still tragic to see the abuse and manipulation she suffers at the hands of Cora and Rumpelstiltskin, respectively.
Gold trashing his shop in a fit of anguish after learning that even though the curse is broken, no one can leave Storybrooke without losing their Fairy Tale memories again as well. Which means he doesn't dare leave to find Baelfire. All that time, all that planning, all that waiting and desperate hoping, and he's still just as trapped and unable to find his son as ever.
Regina realising she's become just as bad as Cora, and letting Henry go until she's worthy of him...but still being unable to let go of her magic.
Sneezy losing all of his Fairy Tale memories again, perhaps permanently this time.
And imagine how this affects Grumpy, who actually pushed him over the line when he was too scared to do it himself.
Geppetto's desperation over not knowing where Pinocchio is, and finding that he's already left once he gets to the hotel room.
"The Lady of the Lake"
The scene with Emma and Snow in the nursery.
Emma: I'm sorry I torched our ride home. I couldn't let her get to Henry.
Snow: You had to put Henry first.
Emma: I was angry at you for so long. Wondering how you could choose to let me grow up without you. Just seeing all this... you gave up everything... for me. And you're still doing that. *crying* I'm sorry, I'm not good this. I... I guess I just...I-I'm not... I'm not used to someone putting me first.
The look of pure joy and Regina's face when Henry calls and asks to meet her for lunch. What we don't see is her finding out he just said it to get her keys and search the crypt, then sending Charming to get him because she thinks he won't go with her. Henry's actions are completely understandable. The woman has seriously crossed the Moral Event Horizon and has kicked a whole pound worth of puppies but picturing her waiting at Granny's (probably with a crossbow pointed at her) is gut wrenching.
Not to mention that this is Regina we're talking about meaning this isn't the first time a child has betrayed her trust. And in this case, it was intentional. To her credit, she did the right thing this time.
Jefferson's breakdown in front of Henry and his reunion with Grace.
Henry: Why won't you go and find her?
Jefferson: Because I left her... and she'll hate me.
Charming's mother's death.
Finding out post-curse Lancelot was really Cora in disguise and that she killed him a long time ago.
Hook, of all people, gets a tragic backstory with Milah, Rumpelstiltskin's wife, his lost Lenore.
Milah's death, partially because she had just acknowledged what she did to her husband and son was wrong and sincerely apologized for it, even admitting that she was more of a coward than Rumpelstitlskin was, and partially because she dies telling Hook she loves him.
Little Baelfire coming into the tavern and calling for his mother is more than a little depressing. It even moves Milah to temporarily break her Parental Neglect of him... but only temporarily.
It's also a tearjerker for Rumple in retrospect...he knows how it feels to be in Bae's position here all too well.
Rumpelstiltskin, upon being told his wife has been kidnapped, hobbles down to the docks, finds his way aboard a ship full of pirates, and begs them to let her go. He's challenged to a fight he knows he can't win, cruelly humiliated when he's too terrified to even pick up the sword, and, on top of everything else, has to go home and break the news to his son.
The overjoyed look on Regina's face when she thinks Daniel is alive.
Regina performing a Mercy Kill on Daniel, sobbing hysterically while she does it.
Regina, still crying, turning up at Archie's door.
Regina: I used magic.
Regina begging Charming, screaming at him... not to hurt Daniel.
The Giant revealing that the version of the war against him we heard was severely skewed by the victors. His people weren't evil, and now he's the only one left and wears the now useless magic bean on a necklace "as a reminder that you're all killers."
Emma spent two years waiting in Tallahassee for Neal. Who left her to spend 11 months in jail and (unknowingly) pregnant. Because August told him she was the savior. And he's in love with her. And he gave her the yellow car, plus twenty thousand dollars which August didn't send.
"Where are the other watches?" "They're gone. They're gone and they're never coming back."
"Child Of The Moon"
Red (unintentionally) kills her own mother to keep her from killing Snow. Gets even more depressing when you think about Snow's mother issues and how horrified she must be that she was essentially the cause of her best friend ending up in the same position she's in.
The entire episode is basically this about Red. She honestly believes that she's a monster that deserves to die. Even when Belle tries to reason with her, and Red admits that she might be right, she then promptly handcuffs Belle to a pipe and goes to give herself up to King George. The looks on both of their faces are rather upsetting.
Red crying over her mother's grave, and Snow going to hug her.
David's breakdown after Spencer throws Jefferson's hat in a fire. This was, so far, David's only hope of getting to Snow and Emma, and the dwarves had just found the diamonds to make fairy dust to maybe get it to work...
"Into The Deep"
Charming puts himself under a sleeping curse to talk to Snow, confident that she can just kiss him to break it. Except they're intangible in the dream world, so he has no chance of waking up unless she gets back to Storybrooke. And back there, Henry starts getting worried about how long Charming's been under, while Gold silently shakes his head at Regina.
Aurora getting her heart ripped out (off screen) on top of everything else she's been through (like being forced to go into the burning netherworld for strangers and essentially suffering from near-suicidal depression). And as far as we've learned, once the heart is out... there no putting it back. So she may never ever be the same again, even if she reclaims her heart. So much for this universe's version of Sleeping Beauty and her prince.
The reveal that Aurora wanted to go with Emma and Snow to Storybrooke to start over and then Cora suggesting that she's forgotten Phillip because of it. Low blow, Cora. Low blow.
Snow's utterly heartbroken words squeeze the heart: "I'm waking up..."
Queen of Hearts
Rumpel and Regina discussing the possibility that Cora might make it through the portal first. Tear Jerker because Rumpel does a small scale Corrupt the Cutie moment on the reforming Regina and, as always, his words are seeded with just enough truth...
In fairness to him, while it is still an asshole move, it's evident by what happens when Henry shows up that he is legitimately concerned about what will happen if Cora gets through, and honestly doesn't think that Snow and Emma have a chance. He's only really manipulating her here because he doesn't think he has a choice, which somehow just makes it more depressing. And she approached him first and used his feelings about Belle against him while they talked in the diner.
In short, it's a pretty crappy situation all around. How much Regina's incredibly teary-eyed face impacts you on the matter, YMMV.
Regina's face when Henry hugs her... and then goes off for a celebratory lunch with Emma, Charming and Snow, leaving her alone in Gold's shop. And her expression when Henry calls Emma "Mom". A part of you knows that she deserves it, but why does she have to make that face?
Taken further in the details. Regina didn't kill Archie, rather Cora did, framing her in an effort to completely destroy her, and send her into her arms. Judging by the absolutely devastated look on Regina's face, it seems to be working.
Snow in the Fairy Tale Realm showing the Evil Queen as much mercy as she could, saving her from execution, freeing her from her cell, desperately clawing, trying to find some piece, no matter how small, of Regina that she can redeem. And failing. The look on her face tells it all, that she truly wished she would have accepted the truce, and was visibly pained when she didn't.
Regina telling her dad, "I could never be angry at the one I love the most". Yeah. . .
The look on Regina's face when Emma tells her that Archie is dead.
The reason Hook doesn't destroy Baelfire's cloak."Because she made it."
Belle, the town girl who tried her hardest to redeem a beast, ends the episode shot, over the line, and without her memories.
Seeing Dreamy again, this time knowing the advice he's thanking Belle for will end horribly for him.
The entirety of Archie's funeral.
"In The Name Of The Brother"
Cora using it to manipulate Regina was painful to watch.
Gold trying to get Belle her memories back using the cup Belle chipped in FTL as a talisman. Belle, confused and frightened by the strange man who tried to kiss her earlier is at first annoyed. Annoyance quickly changes to frustration, and Belle smashes the cup against the wall.
Made worse when you remember that, prior to this, Belle was pretty much the only one in multiple worlds who didn't view Rumpel as a monster. And she, who had previously been the one to assure him that he is a man, ends up asking him "What are you?"
Heck, pretty much the whole episode. For instance, Victor Frankenstein explains to his father that he had tried to bring his brother back to life so he can have two sons again. His father responds harshly that now he has none. It is pretty much a mix of Kick the Dog, and I Have No Son. It doesn't help that David is really good at making Dr. Whale look sad.
It doesn't help that his father isn't an abusive monstrous villain like King George or King Xavier. He's a broken man too.
Every flashback in this episode is sad, since the audience knows how Whale's efforts are going to turn out, but a special mention goes to him trying to get the nerve to end his resurrected brother's misery.
Gold's reaction to Belle's amnesia are heart-wrenching: at first his somewhat helpless attempts to comfort her, than the kiss in the hospital (it looks like he was trying for Cure by True Loves Kiss, and if so, what does that mean about the two of them?), and his less-than-smart attempts to cure the amnesia, rattling Belle with stories of castles and magic instead of paying attention to what she wants. Given Gold's usual careful behavior around Belle, this is a clear sign of just how precarious his hold on himself is without her belief in him. So is his quick reversal to his nastier side.
True Love's Kiss doesn't work on people with amnesia due to the Curse. (Think about the multiple times Snow and Charming kissed while under the spell, without breaking it.) But that just makes it worse. He has to know that, but he has to try anyway because he's so desperate to get her back.
The example of this most on point is probably the time Charming tried to kiss Snow in the EF while she was under the effect of the forgetfulness potion - she full-on punches him in the face.
Somewhere between this and Heartwarming is the conversation between Whale and Red, particularly when Red admits that the Curse wasn't all that bad for people like the two of them, who have so much crap they would like to be able to forget.
Watching Regina act like her old Evil Queen self, knowing all the effort she went through to try and redeem herself.
The look on Jack's face when James abandons her.
Anton's eldest brother Arlo dying in his arms.
And the scene before that when Arlo tells Anton to raze the fields and salt the earth so that the humans would not have the beans. Both of them know what Arlo is really saying and you can see the tears in Anton's eyes. What's more, Arlo's telling Anton to burn the fields not to spite the humans or to get Anton to safety. He's telling Anton to do it for entirely noble reasons: preventing the likes of James and King George from getting to other worlds and pillaging them.
Anton's situation. All he wanted to do was explore, make friends, and learn about humans. Instead, Jack and James decide to invoke Humans Are the Real Monsters in the most manipulative and evil ways possible, being a False Friend, trapping him in human size (albeit, a pretty big human) robbing the giants, killing off Anton's whole family, and then James turns on Jack and gets away with the goods.
Henry's response to finding out that Emma lied about his father.
Henry: I thought you were different but you're just like her. Regina. She always lied to me too.
Gold's story gets some pretty tear-worthy details. Talk of his cowardice in the war in earlier episodes implied he was injured fleeing from actual battle. This reveals that, because of the Seer, he was too terrified to even see a second of it. Instead, he crushes the end of his foot with a sledgehammer to avoid combat. This ends up making Milah look even worse. She apparently did know his side of the story the entire time and, as usual, didn't care.
Actually, Milah's case IS also sympathetic if one stops to think of it from her perspective: the opening scene shows that she genuinely fell in love with Rumple because he was the son of a coward who strove to break away from his father's reputation which he suffered from by association. No matter what his justification was, the fact is that he still did something that would brand him a coward and have a negative impact on both Milah and her new child, making them suffer in the same way he had. No wonder she said "I never loved you" later on...from her point of view, the Rumple she fell in love with was a sham and he actually was just like his father.
In hindsight, Rumpel's initial reaction to being called to the front, including a singsongy, "I report for training in the mooo-rning." He's so eager to prove himself, and it ends so badly.
Emma calls Snow to tell her that Bae is Henry's father Neal. She's practically hyperventilating, and you can hear the shock and fear in her voice as she tries to figure out what to do.
Snow: (gently) Are you sure this is about protecting Henry, and not yourself?
Think about this whole thing from Neal's perspective. He's traumatized from being abandoned by his father, only to find out that he (inadvertently) did the same thing to his own son.
Rumpel's added backstory in this episode reveals it's been a very vicious cycle. His own father abandoned him as an infant. Years later, when a young and idealistic Rumpel chooses cowardice to get home to Milah and an infant Bae, not wanting to have Bae grow up without a father. A few years later, Bae has to do just that because of Rumpel's cowardice. When Emma meets Neal, it seemed like Neal was going to finally be able to turn over past habits in his family line. But, thanks to August telling him that Emma is The Chosen One, Neal chooses to run.
Rumpel gets hit hard in the present day too: His plan succeeded. Every deal, every machination, every little scheme that he pulled came to fruition in this episode. He finally got the reunion with his son that he'd been hoping for and said son wants nothing to do with him. Damn, writers. That's cold.
And the boy Rumpel vowed to kill, to prevent said boy from being his undoing? It's Henry. His grandson.
Rumpelstiltskin telling Baelfire that there's magic back in Storybrooke and that he can turn Baelfire back into a fourteen year old again, so they can start over. As Robert Carlyle noted at a Paleyfest panel, it's been three hundred years since he's seen his son and that's all he has to offer.
"The Queen Is Dead"
The reason why Snow is a Birthday Hater. Her mother died on her birthday. Oh, and you know what? Her caretaker and only link to her mother is flung out of a window by Cora. On her birthday. Oh, and it turns out that Cora is hell bent on turning Snow evil as well as Regina. Because she hates Eva. For some reason.And it may or may not be working.
It gets worse. Cora was the one who killed Eva in the first place.
"And what would you know about mothers?" Coming from her step mother, that's gotta burn.
How absolutely broken Neal looks in the immediate period after Rumpel is stabbed.
A retroactive one, given the events of "The Miller's Daughter": Eva dies without ever getting the chance to apologize for the way she mistreated Cora. With how much emphasis she puts on being good and treating people with kindness and respect no matter what their social status, it's not hard to imagine that her relationship with Cora developed to a point where that was now one of her biggest regrets.
That Cora does a kissing gesture to Eva's dead body, however twisted it may be, also reinforces the notion that maybe Eva and Cora temporarily bonded despite their rocky start (which Cora did seem to just forget about as "The Miller's Daughter" went on), in which case something must have gone horribly wrong, leaving Eva to become her own antithesis out of penance and Cora to bear Eva an eternal grudge and desire for vengeance.
Also, when Bael and Rumpel are holding hands, look at Bael's fingers. He's gripping his father's hand so hard his knuckles are white. He never wants to let go.
Snow, blackmailed by Rumpel, has to choose between saving Rumpelstiltskin's life or letting Henry's grandfather die. She uses the candle that a disguised Cora gave her to curse Cora's heart, and convinces Regina to put Cora's heart back into her body by manipulating Regina's lifelong lack of love from her mother.
Also, consider the fact that Snow quickly realized that this is not who she is and tries to stop it from happening, but it's too late.
The fact that right now, it's over. After Snow tricked Regina into accidentally killing her own mother, now Regina has a new way to hate her, and the redemption of the evil queen is probably over for the rest of the season. All that buildup and work in the first half of the season, is blown to ashes. The queen will probably go right back into evil mode, only much more justified.
Hell, Cora's death is actually pretty heartbreaking. Regina places her heart back into her body and a smile of genuine love spreads across her face. Then she feels the effects of the candle... and then comes her last words.
Regina's broken sobbing as Cora dies. "Mother, please don't leave me! What am I going to do now?"
Not to mention because of what amounts to a petty one-sided feud by Cora and Eva, Regina ends up killing both her parents directly by her own hand (literally) and Snow commits a terrible crime. Worse still, Cora might not have been so eager for power in her misguided quest for love and recognition if her own father wasn't a drunk. For the sins of their parents and their parents before them, Snow and Regina have been tainted and manipulated and played as pawns and now... unless both can find a way to change, the cycle of humiliation and now outright violence might never end. It's become as much a battle between a family with everything and a family on the outside looking in as it is about good and evil.
"Welcome to Storybrooke"
Regina is planning to put a spell on Henry to make him love her. By using the heart of the one she hates the most. Snow's heart. Gold points out that the only way to stop the blood feud is to kill Regina. The twisted part of the whole thing is that Henry does love her.
Henry:Stop! Listen to yourselves! You're talking about killing my Mom!
Thanks to Regina, Owen loses his father.
Regina crying on the other side of the barrier while Owen promises his dad that he'll find him. She's either crying because she lost her chance at being a mother to this boy, or because she feels guilt over what has happened. She had to kill her own father in order to cast the curse that made Storybrooke. Now not long afterwards, she's caused someone else to be left without father.
Probably the latter, as Regina had his father killed immediately after he ran away before. So when this scene transpires, she knows the father he's swearing to find can never be found, and is thus experiencing a rare My God, What Have I Done? moment.
Snow turning up on Regina's doorstep, begging Regina to kill her for what she did to Cora. Regina is more than willing to grant Snow's request... until she sees the dark spot in Snow's heart. Regina decides to spare Snow, reasoning that letting Snow's inner darkness fester and grow will do a better job of bringing down the Charmings than anything she could come up with herself.
Regina is crying through the entire thing. They're less tears of triumph than they are tears of "really, REALLY screwed up".
They're both crying. And they're both initially asking to do what they've spent their entire (almost) lives doing to each other. Snow dying and Regina winning right now. But now, they both want the exact opposite - Snow wants Regina to kill her and Regina wants her to live - and it's somehow even worse. And, they're both acting like each other - Snow being evil (such as it is, demanding a death) and Regina being good. If nothing else, it goes to show how much both of them and their families have paid for the petty feud between Eva and Cora. It says something when Rumpel is the only sane man in the episode.
"You're supposed to be heroes!"
A lot of it with Regina, really - even after paying the terrible cost to cast the curse, she was satisfied for no more than a few days, before realising otherwise. She hurts so many people, and she can't quite grasp how much she's hurting herself as well.
Rumpelstiltskin's surprisingly honest answer when Snow asks how he lives with himself.
"Well, you tell yourself you did the right thing. And if you say it often enough, one day you might actually believe it."
The realisation that Regina knows Cora was playing her but goes along with it anyway. She knows that the spell will not make Henry truly love her but still tries to cast it. All because "it will be something." How desperate is this woman?
Regina telling Owen she just wants him to stay with her and that she won't hurt him. She sounds like a child trying to convince another girl to be her friend, she has no that she can't just force a child and his dad to stay together. Lana Parrilla's delivery makes Regina's twisted logic come across as sympathetic.
"Selfless, Brave, and True"
Marco/Geppetto confessing to Snow that the wardrobe he built for Emma had enough magic to transport two people but he made the Blue Fairy keep it a secret so he could send his son Pinocchio with her. The look on both Snow and Emma's face when they realize they could have been together all these years is heartbreaking.
Watching August die after finally deciding to do the right thing, even though he gets better.
Gold finally convincing an amnesiac Belle to trust him enough to come live with him until she manages to get her memories back gets derailed when Regina gives Belle a Storybrooke identity. Lacey is Belle's complete opposite, and isn't wooed by Gold's sensitive side.
But he does end up winning her heart once more...by indulging in his dark side, which she is now attracted to.
Henry's eager hopefulness that Regina has found a way to be together with him again that doesn't involve hurting the rest of his family...only for Regina to reveal that her way not only involves killing them, but killing everyone in Storybrooke. To see him so horrified, all his hopes for his adoptive mother dashed, is very sad to witness. And then, to top it all off, Regina casts a spell on him that wipes his memory of the event.
Bizarrely, the scene where Regina finds the FTL version of a carny running a game where people try to put arrows through the heart of a likeness of her:
Carny: It's fixed actually. You can't get an arrow into her heart. *beat* cause she hasn't got one.
In the flashback, Regina's desperation to be forgiven by Snow and welcomed back as a member of her family, and it almost happening....only for Snow, in a moment of very justifiable anguish, to say the worst possible thing that could be said in the situation: "she takes it back, she won't forgive Regina, Regina is evil, always has been, and always will be". Fate is cruel.
Regina having an entire village slaughtered because they wouldn't tell her where her innocent step daughter was. There was no warning. There was no threat. She lied about Snow's 'misdeeds' (deeds of her own) and when the village wouldn't bite, she has them all slaughtered. Innocent men, women and children died.
Second Star to the Right
Neal's expression when he realizes that Tamara was using him from the start and never really loved him.
Many have expressed no sympathy for the man himself, but have nothing but pity for the boy he used to be. This was the moment where that boy died for good.
"And Straight On Til Morning"
Belle gets her memories back, and Gold proceeding to collapse in her arms, sobbing about Bae's death and saying only "I failed."
She and Gold saying goodbye is also heartbreaking, especially since Gold is sure he won't see her again.
Henry realizing that Regina is staying behind to allow everyone to escape. Him hugging her later also counts.
Emma finally calls Snow and Charming "Mom" and "Dad" as her parents hug her close. Doubles as a heartwarming moment.
The way Hook and Bae's story ends. Hook desperately tries to get Bae to stay on his ship and accept him as his new father, but Bae refuses, so Hook sells him out to the Lost Boys. Hook then goes to the steering wheel and furiously uses his hook to scratch an X through the directions he had carved out for teaching Bae to steer with. Even worse is that it immediately shifts to the present day, where Hook is looking at the crossed-out carvings with sadness.
Episode 1- The Heart Of The Truest Believer
The one minute flashback in the beginning. It shows Emma giving birth to Henry. The doctor happily tells her it's a boy, then a nurse whispers in his ear. He tentatively suggests it's not too late to change her mind. The clincher comes with Emma, on the verge of tears, saying she can't be a mother. It's not even brought up whether she wants him or not, she truly believes she would be a bad mother.
Just that scene of an eighteen year old Emma, giving birth, shackled to the bed. And then being too traumatized and broken and lacking in self-worth to even hold her child. If you don't feel bad for her after that, call Cora to get your heart back, man.
Emma refuses to even look at Henry. This means that their meeting in Episode 1 was the very first time she saw her son.
The demonstration of just how tenuous and fragile the Enemy Mine between the main characters is. Last season, they were determined to rescue Henry and prepared to work together to do it. Come the season 3 premiere, they've barely started and they're already at each other's throats over how they should accomplish the job.
Especially one for Snow, who proceeds to get in a vicious fist fight with Regina, while telling her how sick and tired she is of her. Looks like she hasn't kicked that darkness out of her heart just yet.
Episode 2-Lost Girl
Emma revealing to Snow that she didn't kill a Lost Boy because she recognized the look of despair in his eyes from when she was growing up alone and abandoned in the foster system. She tells her even after being reunited with her and Charming she still feels like an orphan.
Even more than that, Snow puts the pieces together before Emma and then has to tease it out of her.
Peter Pan telling Emma that just like she hasn't forgiven her parents for abandoning her, Henry hasn't forgiven Emma for giving him up, and that by the time they find Henry, he won't want to come back.
Aurora's reaction is also quite sad. She's oblivious to Mulan's true feelings for her, but still loves her deeply as a friend, and is visibly confused and saddened that such a close friend is leaving and she has no idea why.
Regina in the flashback denying herself a chance at happiness with a new love, because she's grown so accustomed to defining herself by anger and hatred that the thought of starting over with a clean slate frightens her, especially if it ends up in tragedy again like with Daniel.
The whole confrontation between Regina and Tinker Bell; Tink is furious at Regina, seeing her as the root of all her misfortune and seriously considering squeezing Regina's heart to dust. Regina, meanwhile, is remorseful for what she did and fully acknowledges she was afraid to be happy, while begging Tink not to make the same mistake she did.
Tink's comment to Regina while reminiscing about their shared past, and how Regina never tried to make up for it:
Tink: Do you know how selfish that is? ...You didn't just ruin your life. You ruined his.
Episode 4 - Nasty Habits
Gold reunites with Baelfire and immediately attacks him, believing him to be a vision.
Gold: I will sacrifice my life to save Henry and nothing is going to stop me!
What Pan tells Rumpel in the flashback. Once you learn who Pan really is and what his connection to Rumpel is, this just becomes horrible and disgusting.
Pan: You're not afraid of your son being taken from you. No, you're afraid that he'll leave you! After all, being abandoned is what you're best at. Everyone you've ever loved has abandoned you. Your wife, Milah...not to mention your own father.
Emma's tearful breakdown about losing Neal:
Emma: I knew the moment I saw him that I�that I never stopped loving him.�
Snow White having no idea how to comfort her own daughter. Followed by the expression on Charming's face when Snow hugs him, saying nothing will happen to him.
Bae is kidnapped by Peter Pan, who offers to let him go if he'll just say he wants to go back to his father. But Rumpelstiltskin doesn't want to take the chance and removes him by force...only for Bae to reveal he would have gone back if given the option. He just destroyed the last vestige of his son's respect for him, for nothing.
Neal rejecting his father's attempt at a Heel-Face Turn. You can't even blame him, because he makes some very valid points. Rumpel genuinely does want to change today, but what about tomorrow, especially now that he has something to live for that could bring back that nasty 'self-preservation habit'?
Killian's brother being poisoned by dreamshade, only to be given the mystical healing water by Pan. But that's just a Hope Spot because he dies as soon as he leaves the island.
Oddly enough, the kiss between Emma and Killian. Because as hot as it might be, you know there's going to be trouble once Emma finds Balefire in neverland as well.
Emma holding Snow back so Regina can take the Lost Boy's heart. Showing that when pushed to the line between doing the right thing and saving Henry, Emma is going to take Regina's side over her own mother's.
Episode 6 - Ariel
Thanks to Regina, Gold learns that the encouraging vision of Belle that he's been seeing since arriving in Neverland was just Pan's shadow in disguise.
Mary Margaret's darkest secret: She feels that she got cheated out of experiencing Emma's childhood.
And the subsequent reveal of David's secret: That he won't be able to leave Neverland without dying, thanks to the dreamshade cure, meaning that Mary Margaret's dream of having another child can't happen with him.
Hook is the first one to reveal his secret: He's falling for Emma, despite having thought he could never get over Milah and love again. The problem? He was forced to confess to this in the middle of the rescue operation to bring Emma and Neal back together again. That man seriously needs a hug.
Emma's may be the mother of them all: She secretly hoped that Neal was dead, so she wouldn't have to face another round of the pain they went through.
The end of the episode: Ariel saved Snow from Regina and went back to Eric to tell him the truth about her, only to find that Regina took her voice away as payback. She helplessly calls out to Eric, who walks away, thinking she isn't coming to their designated meeting.
Episode 7 - Dark Hollow
Snow gives Charming the silent treatment for half the episode, and when she finally does let her feelings out, it's a painfully realistic treatment of such an argument, both sides having sympathetic points so that you wish this didn't have to come between them.
John and Michael Darling's desperation to save Wendy. And even if they do, their relationship will be forever changed as she's still the same age while they've grown into adults.
Episode 8 - Think Lovely Thoughts
The true backstory of Rumpelstiltskin and Peter Pan. Pan is his father, who gave up any idea of Rumpel as his son so he could stay in Neverland as a child himself. Literally every one of Rumpel's issues in his entire life started with this emotionally scarring experience.
The reaction of Henry's parents to Pan telling him that they're lying to him because adults always lie. The lies they told him for various reasons backfire horribly.
Snow telling Emma she wants to stay in Neverland with Charming, while Emma goes back to Storybrooke. Although Snow's acting out of love for Charming and Emma's old enough to get along without parents, she's been doing that her whole life, so hearing her parent tell her she might get abandoned again just when she finally had a family had to be really hard to hear for Emma. No wonder she begged for them to find another way.
Episode 9 - Save Henry
Something pointed out by one reviewer. What could have happened that turned Regina the slowly devoted mother into Regina the cold-hearted mother between when she got Henry and when Emma came into her life? What turned the woman finally putting someone else first into the woman who Emma had doubts about her sincerity towards Henry?
Judging from Eddy and Adam's treatment of the situation, one the one hand, it seems that her characterization as a parent in season 1 was not completely meant to appear as heinous as that in the end (it was clear as early as episode 5 that she loved Henry, and Emma's power had failed after 11 episodes), and there are clues that she was happy with Henry and him with her at some point earlier in Henry's life (the objects Cora looks at when trying to find how to persuade her to do a Face-Heel Turn). On the other hand, this might classify under Completely Missing the Point and Obliviously Evil in her characterization. She is putting him before her, to make him live the life she would have wanted in his place. Just like her mother did to her...
Maybe the memory loss potion caused her to forget how to properly and constructively love, because it made her forget why having him was a sacrifice: because he was an obstacle to her avenging the Stable Boy and because she loved Daniel. Also, remember what Rumpel's memory loss potion did to Snow's personality? It looks like a similar case here, only worse because Regina was already evil to start with.
Episode 10 - The New Neverland
Regina crumpling to the ground as she realizes all of Henry's wanting to be around her were lies by Pan. Luckily, the real Henry saves it by telling her he really does need her.
When Emma tries to warn Regina about Henry and Regina takes it to mean she doesn't think Henry would want to be around her. It was so painful to see both of them at odds on this because judging by the way Emma immediately backtracked and let Henry stay with her the night before, she does see her as Henry's mom as well, and Regina was clearly hurt that she would think differently.
Rumpelstiltskin's Redemption Equals Death moment in which he pulls a Heroic Sacrifice that kills himself and his horrible father. What makes it worse is right before they die, Rumpelstiltskin gives his father a kiss on the cheek, as if to say, "I forgive you."
It's especially sad since his father finally broke down earlier and admitted that he'd always resented and despised Rumpel from the day he was born. And yet Rumpel, even after hearing this, still had love for his father even to the bitter end.
Not just sobbing, she dropped to her knees and looked like she was having a full-blown emotional breakdown...
Emma and Henry lose their memories of their time in Storybrooke. Of their family and friends. And Regina... Regina freakin' Mills... gives them new happy memories. Memories in which Emma didn't give up Henry.
Emma and Regina in general, doubling as a Heartwarming Moment. They're both on the verge of tears when saying goodbye to each other. These two women that started off as mortal enemies because they shared the same son are now friends because of that exact same reason.
Episode 12 - New York City Serenade
Regina has gone missing from the group, so Snow goes looking for her. She finds her in the woods, burying her own heart so that she doesn't have to suffer the pain of being separated from Henry.
So Emma's lost her memories of Storybrooke and her friends and family from there. That's pretty bad, but it's balanced by the fact that she has a happy life with Henry and a pretty awesome new boyfriend... until it all goes straight to Hell. She gets her memories of said friends and family back just in time to learn that they're in danger, she has to abandon her new life to go and save them, and to top it all off, her awesome new boyfriend turns out to be a flying monkey sent by The Wicked Witch of The West to keep her occupied. Come on, writers, that's just wrong.
Not to mention Walsh'sHans-esque one-liner before assaulting Emma.
Episode 13 - Witch Hunt
Regina's reaction to seeing Henry for the first time since she broke the curse - and realizing that he has no idea who she is.
Then after their first face to face meeting in a year, they part ways by shaking hands. Regina is clearly trying to restrain herself from giving him a hug.
In the flashback segment, Robin Hood discovers that Regina is preparing a Sleeping Curse and asks who she plans to use it on. Her response? "No one you'll miss. No one anyone will miss." Then she plucks some of her own hair from her head and you quickly realize that she was talking about herself.
Zelena was abandoned by her mother in another world, and later given up by Rumpelstiltskin as a teacher in favor of Regina. And no matter how much Regina protests that she lucked out in avoiding being raised by Cora, she insists that growing up alone in Oz was worse.
She looks crushed when she learns about Cora and Rumple's demise. Then, she puts ona good face, and goes on with her Obviously Evil routine, stating that she does not need them alive, just Regina. Envy is litterally all she has.
Episode 14 - The Tower
Belle's reaction to being called "Mrs. Gold" by Zelena.
Zelena: Where's Mr. Gold? Belle: He—he's gone.
Rapunzel's background story. Her older brother died trying to save her. After his death, she tried to conquer her fears. Except, her own fears overpowered her and trapped her in a tower.
Episode 15 - Quiet Minds
Emma finally finds Neal again in Storybrooke... only to lose him yet again, this time for good.
The true circumstances regarding Rumpelstiltskin's revival. Restoring the Dark One involves the cruelest of trades: a life for a life. Being the Dark One's son makes that trade infinitely more heartbreaking. And in a desperate attempt to save his son, Rumple absorbs Neal, rendering him insane in the process. Meanwhile, Zelena now wields Rumple's dagger. And Belle can't do anything but watch helplessly as all this unfolds in front of her.
Regina's reluctance to find happiness again after finding out exactly who the man with the lion tattoo really was.
Episode 16 - It's Not Easy Being Green
Poor Rumpelstiltskin can't even attend his own son's funeral, and is still being browbeaten by Zelena while mourning his son.
Belle tries to rescue him, but it turns out that Zelena is toying with them.
For better or worse, he knows it and greets her with a GET OUT. After everything she's done, Belle can't catch a break either.
Zelena's backstory. Seems like nobody ever really wanted her; Case in point:
Certainly not her mother Cora, who abandoned her in the woods as a baby because she ruined her plan for social advancement, and never mentioned her to Rumplestiltskin or anyone else before Zelena met him. Even as the Queen of Hearts, she never bothered to try to find her, and in the spin-off series, she mentions Regina as her only daughter, and a disappointment, which she seeks to replace with the Red Queen. This leads to the following possibilities:
She thinks that Zelena is dead because she knew about the cyclone, but didn't bother to leave her in a safe place.
She thinks that Zelena is dead because she knew about the cyclone, and knowingly left her there to die.
She won't bother looking her up, despite her powers, because unlike Anastasia and Regina, Zelena was most likely not a queen.
Not her adoptive father (who was even the first one to call her "wicked", both for trying to patch his wounds with magic and for saving his life in this fashion as a baby). He generally acts like an Entitled Bastard and revealed his wife's lies about her origins either shortly after her funeral or after a long, unhealthy mourning (both his "now there's only us", "now I can say it" indicate that he hasn't moved on, and that's without mentioning the red eyes and his scary drinking problem). And the last thing that drives Zelena to finally leave him is his blaming her for his own alcoholism!
Not even Rumpelstiltskin, who reveals his own abandonment issues only to laugh at her over hers later on, for his own petty satisfaction of scorning a woman who loves him, maybe enacting some twisted revenge on Cora. To top it off, Zelena might have been seeking a father figure, not a lover. If she was indeed seeking a lover, her role as a replacement for her mother, taking care of a man who displays no paternal feelings towards her, seems to have severely screwed up her expectations: there are several callbacks to her adoptive father in her relationship with Rumple, such as the shaving scene. It seems that their interactions were preparing her to an All Take and No Give relationship with anyone who accepts her.
She learns the extent of her misfortune in quick succession, because her father snaps at her, a negligent con man needs magical items and a great wizard needs her to cast a curse. As remarked on the character page, Walsh denounces all the mistreatments she endured rather bluntly, perhaps using it to convince her to go to her sister's palace. His warning about envy was nice, but came a bit too late, and while he seemed to genuinely believe he was helping her, he still used her and lied to her like everyone else in the episode, while she was undergoing an identity crisis.
It's no wonder her true goal is to change the past so that Cora would accept her as her daughter. She cannot get acceptance from her in the present, and Rumple and her adoptive father were only ever interested in what she could do, not her. After the lies her actually caring foster mother told her, Cora is the only one left to idealize.
The proof that Zelena is indeed Regina's sister. Regina has been looking at that letter all her life as validation of her power, that Rumpelstiltskin regarded her as a force to be reckoned with. With the revelation that Zelena is Cora's true firstborn, Regina realized that she was nothing but a point of comparison.
Regina: I've seen that letter a hundred times before. In my darkest moments, I'd go to it for comfort, solace, or a boost when I needed it. Because I... because I always thought it was about me.
Even worse: if Zelena had somehow gotten a hand on the letter, she might have gotten the same feeling from it since it is exactly what she has been looking for for years, and despite the humiliation, Regina would have avoided being targeted yet again because of her mother.
Oddly enough, the true story behind Walsh, the flying monkey sent by Zelena to play the role of Emma's boyfriend. He is the Wizard of Oz, or rather, a guy who pretends to be a wizard and keeps the charade up by collecting magical items. Zelena found out his secret and forcibly transformed him into a flying monkey to be her servant. Even if you think the guy is kind of a dick, that's pretty sad.
Neal's funeral in general. Nobody said anything during it but that made it sadder. Especially since the one reason they can't memorialize him properly is because his own son doesn't even remember him, and couldn't mourn him the way he's supposed to.
Hook in this episode; he's been helping out Emma so much these few episodes when it came to protecting her son from the Wicked Witch, but due to her stubborn attitude (and the fact that Neal just died), she really can't reciprocate those feelings.
Henry is a Tear Jerker precisely because of how sad he isn't. Neal had bonded well with him, but it didn't leave the expected mark for both of them since Henry doesn't remember.
Episode 17 - The Jolly Roger
The ending where Hook looks longingly at Emma through his telescope, knowing that he can't be close to her, because of the curse the Wicked Witch put on him.
Hook admitting to Ariel who is really Zelena in disguise the wrong he did to her in the Enchanted Forest during the missing year. There are actually tears in his eyes and his voice is breaking as he says he'd do anything to take it back now.
Episode 18 - Bleeding Through
Cora taking out her straw ring. Her feelings were probably shallow and partly due to the fact that he was dashing and respected her despite supposedly being a superior, but they were real.
Cora abandons baby Zelena in the woods, telling her that the word is cruel and full of betrayal, and that she has to give her up to give herself her best chance, a very selfish twist on one of the show's signature phrases. And then as she leaves, baby Zelena starts crying and reaching out after her.
Cora's ghost knocking Regina around like a ragdoll, while she's desperately trying to protect Snow.
Regina: *to Snow* You officially have a less damaging relationship with my mother than I do. And you killed her.
Rumple's clear pain at having to use Robin's child in order to get Regina's heart, he truly hated having to threaten someone's child after losing his own.
Episode 19 - A Curious Thing
The next pair of characters revealed to have been turned into flying monkeys? Prince Phillip and Princess Aurora. Seeing Hook, Emma, Charming and Regina fight off a bunch of them later really doesn't help matters, especially as they're doing so without a second thought as to whether any of them might be someone they knew.
Belle's clearly doing everything not to break down as she approaches a very unhinged Rumpelstiltskin and tries to get him to tell them how to defeat Zelena.
Charming and Snow's tearful goodbyes before enacting the new Dark Curse so they can return to Emma and stop Zelena. Even though we know they both survive somehow despite one of them having to sacrifice the heart of the one they love most, it's really heartrending to watch.
After regaining his memories, Henry finally recognizes his father's sacrifice and visits his grave.
Emma snapping at Henry that she's not going to explain anything to him, essentially having turned into pre-redemption Regina.
Emma telling Hook, that she just can't trust him anymore after his attempt to take Henry back to New York without her knowledge resulted in Zelena nearly killing Henry and that he didn't bother to tell her about the curse Zelena put on him.
Episode 20 - Kansas
Snow immediately losing her newborn child yet again. Thankfully, the separation doesn't last as long this time.
During the Enchanted Forest flashbacks in this episode we see the moment when Dorothy first arrives in Oz via the cyclone. Zelena and Glinda are there to greet her. Glinda states that few would be able to survive a storm like that, and that Dorothy must be very special and powerful. Zelena is silent during that exchange, but look at her face, particularly when Glinda says that Dorothy is special. You can practically feel Zelena's envy starting to grow. As we see during the flashbacks, Zelena has the capacity to be good, much like we've seen with Regina, but unlike her sister, she threw that chance away for a very petty reason: she's jealous of a girl with no known magical powers who is not even a threat to her. It's quite sad, because considering the current-day Storybrooke events, we are well aware of the dark path on which Zelena is heading.
Poor Dorothy never meant Zelena any harm, and yet she was made to believe that she killed Zelena by throwing water on her.
Glinda's banishment to the Enchanted Forest, after all her efforts to keep Zelena from giving in to her evil.
Emma losing her magic, seemingly for good. Made worse by how she doesn't miss it, and is still determined to take Henry back to New York and leave Storybrooke behind.
The very scene where she does as she's trying to revive Hook, begging for him to "come back to her" before she decided to give him CPR, enacting the curse that Zelena put on him.
Rumpelstiltskin lying to Belle about trusting her with his dagger, and succumbing to his need for revenge against Zelena.
Zelena's death and how she acted during it, not so much scared that she was about to die (since she earlier was fine with the possibility of Regina doing it) as grief-stricken that her beloved "Rumpelstiltskin'' is the one who's going to kill her.
Episode 22 - There's No Place Like Home
Emma has a number of these.
Little Emma's heartbroken look on her face as another child in the children's home is adopted. Especially since she's the oldest of the remaining kids.
Her confession to Hook, that she has always run away and will keep doing so until she finds a place that when she leaves it, she misses it, and then she'll know that's home...is revealed to be something Neal taught her.
Her watching as Snow White is seemingly being burned at the stake by Regina and breaking down in Hook's arms.
Her final words to Rumpelstiltskin as he tries to stop her from going back through the time portal: telling him that yes, Neal died, but he was a hero, and that Rumple needs to take the potion, forget everything, and let her go back so that he won't have died for nothing.
Earlier, the look of joy on Rumple's face when he found out the the curse would lead him to his son. Timelines aside, Emma and even Hook don't have the heart to tell that it will barely be worth it. His son will die shortly after they've made peace with each other.
The look on her face when she realizes the woman she saved and brought to present-day Storybrooke is Marian, Robin Hood's love, and that she's thus pretty much ruined any chance for him and Regina. The look on Regina's face afterward, and how she pronounces she's "just like her mother, never learning actions have consequences", is just as heartbreaking, especially if this indicates Regina's Heel-Face Turn may not stick.
Word of God is that Regina's Heel-Face Turn will stick, thankfully...but one of the main components to it, her friendship with Emma, will have been totally set back, which is also very disheartening.