'Once Upon a Time' Is Taking Henry's Memory Loss a Little Too Far
Questioning whether Emma Swan or Regina Mills is a better mother to their son Henry is a surefire way to start a fight with any Once Upon a Time fan, but fan opinion of Henry himself has been notoriously divided since the first season. Whether it's Jared Gilmore's acting skills or Henry's stupid decisions (ranging from trusting Peter Pan's words over his family's to going from wanting to build a weapons fort to protect himself from Regina to declaring that he'd known all along that she wasn't a murderer in two sentences), Henry doesn't usually rank high on the list of people's favorite characters. Sunday night's Once Upon a Time forced Regina to face her past and new additions to her family, but it was also an important episode for Henry as well because it gave us a new look at the concept of grief.
Fans of Captain Hook and Emma Swan were rejoicing when she entrusted the most important person in her life to him for the day while she dealt with Regina and her problems. Hook was hoping to help himself deal with his grief over Neal/Baelfire's death by helping Henry deal with his own by get to know his father. Because Henry doesn't know anything. Henry was sitting at a table with his grandparents while this conversation was going on and he was looking for all the world like a polite little boy whose parents left him to make conversation with the neighbors. We all know that Hook didn't have enough memory potion for Henry, just as we know that Emma is hesitant to ever give him his memories back at all, but it wasn't until this episode that it really became clear just how unfair that is.
At Neal's funeral, everyone was stone faced and teary eyed as they buried him, but Henry stood with his mother looking more like, well, a child actor forgetting his lines than a genuinely grieving patron. He later reveals to Hook the understandable reason why. It's kind of hard for him to feel sad about his dad's passing when no one will tell him anything.
"I just want to hear something about him that doesn't make him sound like he's made up so I'll like the guy," Henry says. "How am I supposed to feel anything about him being gone when I don't know what he was like when he was here?"
Henry's not an idiot. In thirty seconds, he poked holes in Hook's story about teaching Neal to navigate in the past. You know, back when Neal was a child and Captain Hook was still the same age he is now (which isn't exactly something Hook can explain to the memory-wiped Henry). And while he admits that he knows Emma is just trying to protect him, Henry also confesses that nothing anyone in Storybrooke has been saying to him makes any sense. Considering his status as the Truest Believer, this must mean that everyone in Storybrooke is such a bad liar that Henry's only stopped asking questions out of respect for his mother.
What it also means is that Henry's grief isn't just lessened; it's nonexistent. And that just seems cruel to him and to Neal's memory. Some of Neal's last words were his desire for his son to know that he was a good father and all Henry knows at this point is that he was a man. And even that much he only knows because he helped bury the body. Emma's desire to protect Henry is starting to do him more harm than good at this point. He can't properly grieve for his father. He's wandering around the same town that the Wicked Witch is terrorizing ignorant to the threat. He's feeling the loss of a life in New York that it's looking increasingly clear that he'll never get back to. How is any of that for his own good?
It's only a matter of time until Henry gets his memories back and, when he does, there's no telling how he'll react. If it's anything like the snarky grudge he held last time he found Emma was lying to him (ironically also about his father), then Emma is going to have some 'splainin' to do.