Can fate be changed?
Do we shape our own destinies?
Several characters debated those questions on Once Upon a Time Season 6 Episode 11, "Tougher than the Rest."
The flashbacks were kept to a minimum, which was a smart choice considering the alternate reality Emma and Regina faced.
But the small flashback did provide us with the answer to a much-asked question: how did Emma adopt the last name Swan?
It turns out she has August to thank for that as well as the story of The Ugly Duckling.
If you believe in something strongly enough, we all have the power to change our fate.August
Sometimes the show tends to be over the top when it comes to making a point. The sap factor gets dialed up to eleven and it's hard for the audience not to collectively roll our eyes.
Not this time.
August might have done the worst job ever when it came to looking out for Emma, but it felt right that he's the one to give her this gift.
The small push was exactly what she needed to keep going and to try again within the system.
Swan. My name is Emma Swan.Emma
We know it didn't work out for far too long, but it was an important step on Emma's journey.
She returned the favor in the Wish Realm when she gave Pinocchio a dose of his own advice. She boosted his confidence and it made a great bookend to their story.
It also gave us a chance to see how Killian Jones might have turned out differently.
I don't know about anyone else, but I would have watched an entire hour of old, fat Captain Hook attempting to accomplish anything.
He provided a much-needed dose of humor in the world where Snow and Charming were dead, and Henry was hunting his mothers. No need to make everything about the Wish Realm dark.
But I can't say I blame Emma for returning home and telling her Killian they were switching to water.
Wow. I really need to get home and get someone off the rum. And the dessert.Emma [looking at the older version of Hook]
As for Regina, she wanted to know if Robin was happy. Everyone else seemed better off without her, so she assumed he would be, too.
Watching them go from one cage to the next would have felt like too much if it wasn't for the deep connection they obviously share in any realm, real, or imaginary.
Robin's death devastated me every bit as much as it did Regina so I love the idea of them having another chance.
It ties back to the question of fate. Are our lives shaped by the people we meet, befriend, love, etc.? Of course they are.
But like Emma realized, fate is not set in stone. Things change with every decision we make. Regina fears that because even when she's good, bad things happen.
I love that Robin didn't hesitate to make the journey to Storybrooke. I don't believe it had anything to do with the sheriff and magical imp hunting him.
He felt the connection to Regina and took a leap of faith.
Regina: You'd take the risk?
Robin: I don't know if you caught this, but things are looking pretty bleak for me here. Why not get to know the woman one version of me was willing to die for?
Of course, there's no guarantee this version of Robin and Regina will be happy and fall madly in love.
While I appreciated the sentiment, I don't necessarily believe what Emma was saying about how he might hold a piece of Robin's soul inside him.
I want to watch Robin and Regina get to know each other. I want them to fall in love slowly. I believe they're meant for each other. But love takes time.
Also, I will riot if they kill off this Robin, too.
Gideon was not what I was expecting.
He claims he wants the savior power so he can help people in trouble. Should we believe him?
It's a little hard since he's Rumple's son and was raised by the Black Fairy. We've been taught from the beginning that she can't be trusted.
But he's also Belle's son. That counts for something.
Fate's a tricky business. It still requires work. Planning.Rumple
As for Rumple, I want to believe him.
Except we've been in this position far too many times. He claims to want to do the right thing only to turn around and screw everyone over the first chance he gets.
He seemed genuine when he told Belle he didn't want their son to follow in his dark footsteps. He knows better than anyone what a curse that kind of life is.
But Dark Ones lie.
Emma won the first round of the battle.
But, as Rumple said, this could turn into a war. We're going to have to wait and see who can and who can't be trusted.
Here's hoping love wins out in the end.
Now it's your turn to tell us what you thought of "Tougher than the Rest."
What was your favorite part of the Wish Realm? Do you trust Gideon? What about Rumple? Should Killian switch to water?
Remember, you can watch Once Upon a Time online anytime!
Mandy Treccia was a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She retired in September 2017. Follow her on Twitter.