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Emma Swan
Emma Swan: "You wanna change things? You're gonna have to go out there and change them yourself because there are no fairy godmothers in this world."
Played By: Jennifer Morrison, Abby Ross (teen), Mckenna Grace (child)
Centric Episodes: “Tallahassee”, “The Heart of the Truest Believer”, “Snow Drifts”, “There’s No Place Like Home”, “Breaking Glass”, “Shattered Sight”, “Lily”, “The Dark Swan”, “Dreamcatcher”, “Birth”, “Broken Heart”, “Firebird”, “Tougher Than the Rest”

A bail bondswoman and bounty hunter, Emma is the long-lost daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. Her own son, previously given up for adoption, brings her back to Storybrooke so she can end the Dark Curse.

  • Aborted Declaration of Love: She was clearly trying to work up the nerve to tell Hook she loved him in the Season 4 finale after watching him die, but backed down. And then tragically subverted ten minutes later, when she tells him after all before sacrificing herself.
  • Action Girl: Efficient with physical combat, guns, and swords.
  • Action Mom: Her previous job as a bail bond agent was very active work and she can still kick butt as sheriff.
  • Act of True Love:
    • Her maternal kiss on Henry's forehead awakens him from his sleeping curse, and breaks the spell over Storybrooke.
    • She travels to the Underworld intent on giving Hook half her heart to bring him back to life, and in her vision of him, states she would have done the same for Neal if she had known.
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  • Addictive Magic: In Season 5, she is trying to avoid using dark magic because the more she uses it the more she'll want to. In the flashbacks, that is. In the present, she's failed.
  • Agent Scully: To Henry's and August's Mulder.
  • All-Loving Hero: It takes some Character Development to get her there, but she eventually develops an attitude of trying to help everyone, heroes and villains alike, find happiness. Justified, since her heart is completely light, so acting this way is in her nature. Even in Season 4, when she's being pushed to do things that will darken her heart, she still tries to save Lily, an old friend who is slipping into darkness herself, despite the fact that Lily has done great personal harm to Emma in the past.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Even Snow White and Charming are not above mortifying their daughter, whether it's intentional or not.
    Emma: [seeing her parents passionately kiss] Okay, I'm complaining.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: To Neal, right before he gets sucked in by the magic portal.
    • She makes another one to Hook in the Season 4 finale, right before her Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Anti-Hero: Type II. Emma is presented as more pragmatic and cynical in stark contrast to her classic hero parents.
  • Anti-Villain: In Season 4, Gold and his associates are attempting to turn Emma dark and are beginning to succeed with Emma killing Cruella and almost killing Lily. She is Type II, as it's clear that she is fighting to stay away from the darkness.
    • Emma is this in the first arc of Season 5 as well. Everything she did in Storybrooke was to eliminate the Darkness forever. She had to take such drastic measures because she turned Hook into a Dark One to save his life and she was scared that her family would not understand, plus Hook had reverted to evil due to becoming the Dark One and he could never learn the truth.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: The daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, come to Neverland with Captain Hook to rescue her son from Peter Pan (all of which she's accepted) has a bit of a "Oh, come on" tone to her voice when she deduces the fairy Hook wants to work with is Tinker Bell. And it's not that she doesn't believe in fairies, either.
    • She also doesn't believe that the Wicked Witch of the West is real. Hook calls her out on it.
  • Arc Villain: For most of Season 5's first half as The Dark Swan, however she is revealed to be a pawn of Nimue, the true villain.
  • Audience Surrogate: Increasingly becoming this after breaking the curse with her reactions to the show's version of fairy tale characters and creatures.
  • Babies Ever After: Reveals she is pregnant when Henry visits her soon after he met Cinderella. Gives birth to a daughter named Hope by the series finale.
  • Back for the Finale: In season 7 after being absent for most of it.
  • Bad Liar: She may be able to tell when other people are lying, but she isn't good at lying herself.
  • The Beautiful Elite: The daughter of legendary figures to the realm she was born in, as well as the realm she grew up in, on top of being a princess born of true love that granted her magical powers as a savior. Plus given she's the daughter of the "fairest of them all", its no wonder why she's a real beauty.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: After she becomes the Dark One following the final event of the fourth season. Everyone else we've seen who became the Dark One (Zoso and Rumplestiltskin) got covered with those hideous scales. She shows up in the Enchanted Forest, as blonde and beautiful as ever.
  • Because Destiny Says So: It's why she's there in the first place.
  • Big Bad: Of Season 5A, in the present storyline.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: With King Arthur, Nimue, and Hook in Season 5A.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Hook and Emma in "Good Form".
  • Big Eater: As a foster child and runaway, she could never figure out when her next chance to eat was, so she takes any opportunity to eat whatever she found (or stole). As an adult, she's always snacking on something, even sampling the local food when Snow and Fake!Lancelot are talking.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": To Ingrid, because she is trying to convince Emma her family doesn't love her and that she is a monster, so Emma should give up her family and become a "sister" of Elsa and Ingrid. This then causes Emma's powers to go haywire, knocking a major chunk out of the sheriff's station where she was interrogating Ingrid.
  • Birds of a Feather: With a girl named Lily in the past, until it turns out that Lily wasn't really an orphan and actually had a family and a home. Emma was never able to forgive her for the deception, but now she wishes she had.
  • Bounty Hunter: Bail bond agent, really.
  • Broken Bird: Emma is still very hurt over being abandoned as a baby, compounded by being left to get arrested as an accomplice to her boyfriend's theft, resulting in her giving birth while still imprisoned. As a result, she's reluctant to let people in.
  • Brought Down to Normal: In order for Zelena to force her lips to touch Hook's, she drowns him. Emma resuscitates him and loses her magic afterward. She doesn't mourn its loss however, as she claims not to need it when she and Henry return to New York. Later subverted in "There's No Place Like Home" as the desperation to get back to the present unwittingly powers the magic wand she's holding.
  • Calling Parents by Their Name: In the first season, she doesn't believe Mary Margaret and David are actually her parents. Even after the Curse is broken and it's confirmed they are, it takes her another two seasons to really come to terms with everything and start calling them Mom and Dad.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: A couple of times.
    • Emma tries to take back her lie to Henry about how his father died, but can't bring herself to do it.
    • In the season 4 finale, Emma only realizes that she hasn't confessed her love for Hook when Hook dies trying to help her undo the Author's retelling of their stories. Even after they save the day, it takes her committing herself to saving Regina from becoming the Dark One for her to finally tell him.
  • Cartwright Curse: She has it bad to where it seems like every man she falls in love with gets killed off. Graham died, August died (though he did get revived as a kid, but that makes him a kid again ending any potential relationship), and even Neal sacrificed his life to bring his father back. She lampshades this in Rocky Road, telling Hook that she's afraid the same thing will happen to him now that they're together.
    • Hook even suffers a real death in Swan Song. But it takes Zeus to bring him back, after she failed to do so.
  • Cassandra Truth: No one takes her suspicions of Tamara seriously, thinking she's instead jealous of her.
  • Catchphrase: "Seriously?" Also, "What the hell?" and variations thereof.
  • Cat Fight: She gets herself into a couple of these.
    • In "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter", her and Regina finally stop being passive-aggressive and go at it in an all-out fist fight, forcing the Sheriff to break it up.
    • Another one happens in "Second Star to the Right." This time, it's between her and Tamara.
  • Character Development: If Emma ever met her future self, she'd be bamboozled, because she's changed so much. Not so much that she lost her flint, but her heart's been growing ever since the plot began, so that she's become more open, more compassionate, gentler, and in general more magical ever since the story began.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: She's developed one by Season 4, stating that her job is to bring back everyone's happy endings, and she's not going to rest until she does.
  • The Chosen One: Emma is destined to save those in Storybrooke according to Henry's stories.
  • Coincidence Magnet: Every major event in Emma's life has been in some way related to the Enchanted Forest or Storybrooke, even if it didn't seem that way at the time.
  • Color Motif: Emma is first introduced wearing red and continues to often wear a scarlet leather jacket throughout the series.
  • Composite Character: Takes Prince Philp's role as the one who kills Maleficent in her dragon form by throwing a sword.
  • Consistent Clothing Style: Emma's outfits mostly consist of t-shirts, jeans, beanies, and leather jackets, which reflect her pragmatic, no-nonsense attitude.
  • Correlation/Causation Gag: At the exact moment Emma first puts on her deputy sheriff badge, Storybrooke is rocked by what seems like an earthquake (actually a coal mine shaft collapse), seemingly underscoring the importance of her accepting a role in the community. However, considering the curse, her being the savior, and other moments of genuine causation (her accepting the key at Granny's bed-and-breakfast coincides with the town clock starting running again), this might not actually be a coincidence...
  • The Corruptible: During season 4, Rumple, as The Corrupter, is trying to turn the savior dark to further his own agenda. His first plan was to push Emma to kill Cruella, something which worked without a hitch, and Emma is seen with a cold expression and reddish eyes after the deed.
  • Cowboy Cop: Is willing to bend or even break the law in the course of her investigations.
  • Creepy Monotone: As the Dark One, her voice hardly ever inflects any sort of emotion. It only kind of does when she talks to her son, Henry.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Not that it helps her stop feeling bitter about it even after being reunited with her parents.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Invoked by name during the sheriff election. Regina dug up Emma's past, including juvie records that were supposed to be sealed and smeared them across the front page, along with a very unflattering mugshot. As the seasons progress and we learn more of her backstory, it just gets worse. In many ways, she was the Chew Toy.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Most of her dialogue is snark. Overlaps with Stepford Snarker.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: She slowly learns to open up and trust people as the show goes on.
  • Department of Child Disservices: Emma has very bitter feelings about her time in the foster care system, even telling Mary Margaret that all foster parents are just after "a meal ticket" and don't care about the kids. It's also implied to be a horrible fate for Nicholas and Ava (Hansel and Gretel), even worse than leaving them to fend for themselves.
  • Determinator: She becomes this in season 3 when Henry gets kidnapped and taken to Neverland.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?: The usually very closed off Emma shows she very much can feel when she finally opens up to Graham.
  • Drunk on the Dark Side: When she takes on the Dark One's curse at the beginning of season five.
  • Dude Magnet: Her beauty attracts the likes of Graham, Neal, August and Hook, and she would often use it to bait her prospective marks as a bounty hunter.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After six seasons of adventures, she finally fights her prophesied final battle and comes out alive, leaving the show as she settles down to a normal life with her newfound and growing family.
  • Empowered Badass Normal: Starts off as a Badass Normal but is shown to have some magical abilities starting in Season 2.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Emma's inner demons are on full display as we see her do something incredibly tough for her job, only to come back to her apartment, blowing out the candle on a cupcake alone.
  • Everyone Can See It: Regina makes it clear that nobody is fooled by her claims that she and Hook are Just Friends.
    Emma: What are you talking about?
    Regina: Seriously? You're going to pretend nobody sees the yearning looks and doe eyes?
  • Extraordinarily Empowered Girl: Due to being born of true love, she is capable of wielding very powerful light magic, in opposition to the villains' dark. Also, see Living Lie Detector and Super Empowering.
  • Face–Heel Turn: After she gains full power as the Dark One.
  • Fair Cop: When she becomes deputy and later sheriff.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • Emma's low sense of self-worth and lack of faith in herself led her to attempt to play by Regina's rules, thus nearly losing Henry and almost leaving Storybrooke at the climax of Season 1. Halfway through Season 2, Emma seems to have come to terms with her issues, but it's superficial. Emma still acts on her self-doubt, and with major consequences for Regina. It's probably the only thing keeping her from being a good version of Regina. "A Curious Thing" shows that she's starting to get over this as she grows more confident in using her own magic.
    • She is also prone to rash but well-intentioned action without thought of consequence. Regina calls her out on this in the season 3 finale.
    • She also has major issues involving trust and losing people which has major impacts in Season 5.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Isaac had a particular one in mind for her in Operation Mongoose: forcing her to remember that nothing in this reality is real, while being unable to do anything about it.
  • Fish out of Water: In the Enchanted Forest.
    • "Snow Drifts" reveals that she feels like this about living in Storybrooke.
  • Former Teen Rebel: As seen in "Tallahassee" she was a petty crook, stealing and fencing some goods.
  • Foster Kid: Raised in the system because no one was there to claim her; initially because August abandoned her in the real world as a baby.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: For most of the first season she willingly blinds herself to the truth that Henry's book is right, even though the proof is all around her.
  • Genre Blind: At first because she doesn't believe in magic. Later in Season 2, it takes her a bit to realize her gun is not the best weapon in the Enchanted Forest. And she only starts believing this even after trying to shoot down Dragon!Maleficent didn't work.
  • Good Counterpart: Like Regina, she is manipulated by Rumple into becoming The Hero and The Villain. She also discovers she has magic.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Has shades of Type I and III.
  • Good Parents: If she had the chance and chose to not give Henry up, she would have been an incredibly doting and loving mother while raising him. This is seen to be true in the new reality Regina writes for her and Henry after breaking the first curse over Storybrooke, and in Emma's wish realm in which the curse was never cast.
  • Guile Heroine: Comes from being a Bounty Hunter, she isn't above using cunning and deceit from time to time if she can still accomplish her goal.
  • Hair-Contrast Duo: With Lily. Courtesy of her parents, Lily was born with a total affinity for darkness, while Emma had the darkness pulled out of her before she was born. Also applies to her with Regina, albeit in more of a Light Feminine Dark Feminine kind of way.
  • Heel Realization: When Snow White reveals that she isn't dead, a tearful Emma throws her arms around her, forgetting in her relief that she's hugging a Snow from the past who hasn't had her yet and doesn't know who she really is. That's what prompts her to realize that she's been breaking her mother's heart every time she refused to acknowledge her family.
    Emma: I hugged her, and you know what I saw in her eyes? Nothing. She didn’t know who I was. I’d saved her and lost her too, and that’s what I’ve been doing to her since I met her.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Emma is usually seen wearing a red leather jacket.
  • Heart Is an Awesome Power: She's not only immune to Cora's heart-ripping but she can also blast Cora back.
  • Heroes Prefer Swords: Double subverted. She goes to fight Maleficent with one, but quickly discards it for it for a gun. But Guns Are Useless. As soon as she goes back for the sword, she wins the fight.
  • Heroic Lineage: Her parents were the Big Good in the Enchanted Forest and their family motto is practically I Will Find You. Emma is the Big Good in Storybrooke and in both her job as a Bounty Hunter and town sheriff, her entire job revolves around finding people.
  • Heroic Neutral:
    • Emma was totally ready to go back to her crappy life if only Regina could have kept her mouth shut.
    • And then she was totally ready to go back to her crappy life again (with occasional visits with Henry), if only Regina hadn't tried to slip her a cursed apple turnover. And Regina knew she was about to leave...
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In "Queen of Hearts" Emma takes the heart-stealing attack Cora aimed for her mother. She did more than survive, she No Sells the attack.
    • She seals the Dark One inside herself at the end of Season 4 and disappears.
    • She intended to give her soul up in exchange for her families, to prevent them from being forced into the Underworld.
    • In the Final Battle, she stops fighting Gideon and allows him to stab her so that the light within her will save him, which will also save all of Light Magic from being extinguished. Luckily, she is revived afterward by a True Love's Kiss from Henry.
  • Honey Trap: As a bails bondswoman, she had no objection to using her beauty to bait some of her prospective marks.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Seasons 1-3. Gets it at the conclusion of her story.
  • Idiot Ball: In the Season 3 finale, Emma and Hook find themselves trapped in a past version of the Enchanted Forest. The first thing Emma does is explicitly mention that she and Hook need to be careful not to make any significant change to history. Then, at the end of the episode, she decides to bring one of Past!Regina's prisoners back to the present with them (read: a huge change to history). The full consequences have not been seen yet, but given who the prisoner turns out to be, things may get very unpleasant in season 4.
  • I'm Not a Hero, I'm...:
    • When August tries to convince Emma that the curse trapping Storybrooke is real, she refuses to believe it and says that if the town is relying on her, "[they're] all screwed."
    • In "Lost Girl", where Peter Pan offers her a map to Henry which will reveal itself only when she stops denying who she is, claiming the title of "savior" isn't enough. She's forced to come to terms with her lingering bitterness over being abandoned and living without a purpose (summed up as her being the eponymous "lost girl"), and only then does the map appear.
  • Informed Ability: Emma's internal lie detector is quite faulty. Henry, Gold, Regina, Graham, Sydney, Cora, Aurora, Wendy and possibly Greg Mendell have successfully tricked her at some point. How effective she is at this basically boils down to what's needed for the plot.
    • This is straight out acknowledged in "The Evil Queen". Snow points out it's faulty when she's emotional.
    • It becomes a bit silly over time how often she needs to say that she has this ability just so the viewers don't forget.
  • Insistent Terminology: She's a bail bondsperson. The rest of the cast eventually get used to saying the word.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: She's cynical and snarky, but there's no doubt that she's a good guy.
  • Knight in Sour Armour: In stark contrast to her father Charming's Knight In Shining Armour.
  • Knight Templar Parent: Emma occasionally slides into this, especially when she's up against Regina.
  • Leap of Faith: Discussed in a Breaking Speech, Rumple notes that for all the magical and mystical events that have happened to her, she has never made a genuine leap. Sure, she slew a dragon, but that's only because she saw it. She never acted on faith alone. She finally makes one by jumping off Hook's ship to get everyone's attention and stop them from fighting, which was just making the empathic storm all the stronger.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Lampshaded by Mr. Gold in "The Cricket Game".
    Gold: And [you have] your father's tact.
  • The Leader: A Type II with some Type IV. As the team reaches Neverland, she's level headed enough to see that letting their personal baggage control their rescue mission won't help them save Henry. She's also strong-willed enough as the "savior" that Hook and Regina don't particularly argue with her self-appointment.
  • Living Lie Detector: This trait is actually rather inconsistent. See Informed Ability.
  • Long-Lost Relative: To Henry, Snow White and Prince Charming.
  • Love Theme: With Hook. Emma and Hook have a certain music theme that plays at specific moments to do with their relationship. For example, their first kiss in "Good Form", their almost kiss in "The Tower" and when they start a relationship in "There's No Place Like Home".
  • Mama Bear:
    • She is easily pissed and blindly protective of Henry when his happiness is threatened, sometimes verging into Knight Templar Parent territory.
    • In "A Curious Thing", when Zelena tries to kill Henry, Emma manages to use her own magic to hurt Zelena enough to let him go.
  • Meaningful Name: "Emma" means "all-embracing, universal; whole, complete"; and the show writers have stated that "Swan" is a reference to the story of The Ugly Duckling.
  • Meganekko: "Tallahassee" shows that she wore glasses as a teen.
  • Missing Mom: She has one and is one.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: Was teleported out of the fairy tale realm by way of a magic wardrobe before the curse overtook the kingdom.
  • Ms. Fanservice: While always quite beautiful, she particularly plays this up during her stint as the Dark One, in which she drops the tomboyish jeans and jackets, for tight fitting dresses that could give Regina a run for her money, that show off her legs.
  • My Greatest Failure: When she was a teenager, she forged a Birds of a Feather-type friendship with a girl named Lily, who she believed was an orphan, like her. When she discovered that this wasn't true, she impulsively broke off the friendship. As an adult, she deeply regrets that decision and when she encounters Lily again in Season 4, she's determined to make amends.
  • Never Found the Body: After her Heroic Sacrifice at the end of Season 4, there's nothing left where Emma was except the Dark One's dagger, with her name on it. Ultimately averted, as Hook and co. find her in Camelot in the first episode of Season 5.
  • Not So Different: From (Pre-Season 3) Regina as the Dark One, as they both had used magic to try and force Henry by their side.
  • No-Sell: She is the only known person to be able to resist having her heart stolen.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: The Season 3 finale features her in one of these.
  • Official Couple: Gets together with Hook in the grand finale of Season 3. According to Word of God, they were always intended to be canon.
  • Only Sane Man: She thinks herself as this, but it is less true than it appears.
  • "Open!" Says Me: In episode 7, apparently Regina's locked vault can be opened by her if she just kicks it in. Hollywood Science!
  • The Paragon: To many of the patrons of Storybrooke. She basically advocates taking responsibility for your own problems.
  • Parental Issues: Her parents "abandoned" her, and she later learns they're fairy tale characters who are the same age as her.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Her default expression.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Despite being a literal fairy tale princess, she doesn't wear fancy dresses that often. Yet when she does, her dresses are just as fancy as the other royal dresses.
  • Power Incontinence: The Snow Queen forces it on her, preventing her from being near anyone else and eventually making her desperate enough to want to get rid of all her magic. Luckily, Elsa lets her see that truly accepting the magic as part of her will let her get it under control.
  • Practically Different Generations: Due to her parents not aging under the curse, her brother is around thirty years younger than her and over a decade younger than her son. Later, History Repeats with Emma's own children: she has a second child named Hope after Henry graduates high school, so they're at least eighteen years apart in age.
  • Pretty in Mink: In the wish reality, where she grew up a princess, she has a fondness for ermine-trimmed capes.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Lampshaded. When she's made a Sheriff's deputy, she objects to the uniform on the following basis.
    Emma: A tie? You know, you don't have to dress a woman as a man to give her authority.
    • The beginning of "The Tower" finally shows her wearing a very princess-appropriate dress. Sadly, the entire scene is just a nightmare that Charming has.
    • Later, when she and Hook are sucked back in time to the enchanted forest, Rumplestiltskin transforms her street clothes into a ball gown, to help her infiltrate the engagement gala for David and Abigail.
    • In Camelot she wears many elegant dresses, as well as in the wish reality where she grew up a princess.
  • Refusal of the Call: When directly confronted by August on her needing to start accepting that fairy tales are real, Emma adamantly refuses. Also, her initial skepticism regarding the veracity of fairy tales turns into a stubborn reluctance to accept Storybrooke as her home and join her real family.
  • Reformed Criminal: "Tallahasee" reveals that Emma used to be a thief in her teen years before going to jail and having Henry. She went on to become a bail bond agent and eventually sheriff.
  • Replacement Goldfish: For Ingrid, the Snow Queen who sees her as replacement for her sister Helga who mysteriously disappeared.
  • Rogue Protagonist: During her Face–Heel Turn arc in Season 5A when she becomes the Dark One.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: She's a princess, but worked in various forms of law enforcement before she found out her lineage.
  • Second Love: She is this to Hook for Milah, and he is this to her for Neal.
  • Seeker Archetype: While she typically tracks down people instead of The Truth, she won't rest until she gets the whole story.
  • The Sheriff: Her job after episode 8.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!:
    • In her very first scene when she is talking to her target who skipped on their bail.
    • In "Queen of Hearts" she has a nice, simple one against Cora."Love is Strength." See No-Sell for what else happens.
  • Skeptic No Longer: Finally realizes that Henry was right about the curse in the Season 1 finale.
  • The Sleepless: During her stint as the Dark One, because apparently Dark One's don't need to sleep.
  • Spanner in the Works: Emma's mere presence in Storybrooke is slowly but surely changing everything in the town.
  • Stepford Snarker: She snarks to hide the pain inside.
  • The Stoic: When she becomes the next Dark One.
  • Straight Man: The insanity usually plays out around her.
  • Street Smart: Shown most notably in "Tallahassee".
  • Strong Family Resemblance: Except for the hair—something she got from Charming—Emma looks remarkably like Snow White.
  • Super Empowering: Along with her Action Girl powers from both sides of the family, and being somewhere between Living Lie Detector and outright Everything Sensor, Emma appears to have this power when she touches Regina, Regina's magic comes back to her. And because she was born of True Love, she holds a strong magic within her — strong enough to stop Cora from pulling her heart out.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: After absorbing the darkness, she became Dark Swan.
  • Supporting Protagonist: While she is the Savior and does break the original Dark Curse, most arcs have the Big Bad defeated through the actions of someone else entirely. Cora is killed by Mary Margaret, Regina does a Heel–Face Turn mostly because of Henry, and Rumple sacrifices himself to kill Pan (although Emma is the main protagonist of that arc, who moves things into position to where Rumple is able to do this).
    • This overlaps with Decoy Protagonist in the second arc of Season 3 and the first arc of Season 4. The Enchanted Forest residents perform a second Dark Curse just to get back to her, and a big deal is made about Regina training her in magic to defeat Zelena, but she (temporarily) loses her powers, and Regina is the one to stop her sister. This situation repeats itself later with the Snow Queen. Emma and Elsa (immune to the Spell of Shattered Sight and having gained control over their powers) are said by many characters to be the only ones who can stop Ingrid. It's ultimately Anna, however, who is able to convince Ingrid to stop her rampage, while Emma and Elsa lie unconscious on the floor.
    • Also shows up in second arc of season 4 which makes a big deal about Emma turning dark which is stopped by Regina. Meanwhile the season finale is Henry's day in the limelight and her main contribution to the plot is setting up the next arc.
    • Averted in Season 5's first arc which is all about her and she is the one to defeat the Final Boss. Played straight in the second arc, as while it is set in motion by her, the resolution is the result of a redemption arc for Zelena that is going on at the same time.
    • Averted once again in Season 6, which is most certainly Emma's arc and ends her story, although much like the first arc of Season 3 Rumple plays an important part in the resolution as well.
  • Teen Pregnancy: She was only 18 when she had Henry. Being imprisoned at the time didn't help.
    • Actually, she would be have to 17 since Henry was already 10 on her 28th birthday - potentially only sixteen when she first fell pregnant. But the show tends to be pretty fluid about their ages.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: In "A Land Without Magic" against Maleficent.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: The Tomboy to Snow's Girly Girl.
  • Tomboy with a Girly Streak: She certainly doesn't say "no" to feminine dresses.
  • Tomboy Princess: Though she doesn't know it at first.
  • Took a Level in Badass: While she was always a decent fighter and good head on her shoulders, with the kidnapping of Henry and her Leap of Faith above, she moved into a full leadership role by the end of the first episode of season 3.
    • By "A Curious Thing" she is capable of using some magic offensively but her control over it is still weak.
    • As of "Rocky Road" her offensive magic has gotten more powerful, and she was able to cast it with more ease. Of course this happened only when Hook was in danger.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: After finding love with Hook and reconnecting with her family and making friends with the other denizens, she becomes a much better person. Still with a bit of an edge, but overall a much kinder woman than when she first came to Storybrooke.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Hot chocolate with cinnamon.
  • Unfazed Everyman: Starting in the second season, after she realizes that magic is real.
  • Villain Protagonist: As Dark Swan during Season 5A until the last two episodes, when Dark Killian assumes the role.
  • Violently Protective Girlfriend: She comes to Neal's rescue in "Second Star to the Right".
    • Taken a step further in "Rocky Road" when she is able to summon some pretty powerful magic to attack the Snow Queen after she threatens Hook.
    • In "Operation Mongoose Part 2" she threatens Evil!Grumpy when he starts to attack Hook..
    Emma: Back off before I change your name to Stumpy!
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Is trying to build a friendship with Regina. After she confesses that she just wants to start being friends with Regina, Regina grudgingly admits she doesn't want to kill her.
    Regina: [grumbling] I don't want to kill you.
    Emma: [perks up] See? That's a start!
  • Warrior Princess: Did not start out as either, but grew into one over time, as she both learned to use weapons and magic, and accepted that her parents are royalty from another land.
  • Weirdness Censor: Emma's denial about the curse is so powerful that she is unable to see August's wooden leg.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Receives and delivers these often, but notable ones toward her include:
    • Mary Margaret, being her mother (whether she realizes it or not), chastises Emma often regarding her actions towards Henry like almost kidnapping him from Regina and lying to him about his father.
    • Henry delivers a hard one to her when he finds out Emma lied to him about his father being dead. The look on Emma's face when he compares her to Regina, his adoptive mother who also lied to him frequently, is a very potent mix of heartbroken, apologetic, and Oh, Crap!.
    • She gets another one from Henry in Season 5 when she turns out to have isolated herself and performed some morally ambiguous actions out of the belief that no-one would understand or help her.
  • Wish Upon a Star: She made a wish upon a star-shaped candle on her 28th birthday. Just then, Henry showed up and took her to Storybrook.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: In the first season, she seems to think she's in a Cop Show (her work), Lifetime Original Movie (the feud with Regina), or playing the This Is Reality card. Anything other than the story she's actually in.
  • Wrong Guy First: While Neal may be her First Love, he also horribly betrayed her trust and emotionally scarred her for life.
  • Younger Than They Look: Emma as a teenager looked no different than Emma in the present, save for a pair of glasses and a change in hairstyle, and could have easily been mistaken for an adult.


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