Ever since Jennifer Morrison announced she would not be returning as a series regular on Once Upon a Time, fans have been in constant turmoil over the fate of her beloved character Emma Swan. Even though the actress is set to return for one episode this season, the show's creators are calling it "an emotional curtain call." As if that didn't already make us uneasy, the season seven premiere includes a major clue about the fate of our beloved Savior. Spoiler: it's not good.
While most of the episode is centered on the new characters, the final few minutes include a quick cameo from our beloved heroine. As Roni (aka Regina) gives a heartwarming speech about fighting for what you believe in, Rogers (aka Captain Hook) is seen looking at Emma's picture in Lucy's storybook. Wearing her signature red jacket, Emma appears to be standing in front of a portal. While it's not exactly clear what is happening in the scene, you can make out some of the text if you look close enough:
. . . Emma . . . resolve in her eyes . . . and her jacket. . . . It was meant to be an . . . getting hurt by those I . . . "But now it's just a . . . . protect those I love." . . . . Armor, it struck Emma for . . . truly come. And while . . . gained a family. She . . . Because she was the . . . still needed saving . . . portal. And with . . . the tears from . . . was. And with . . . portal and disappeared . . . replaced . . . tick.
As eagle-eyed fans pointed out, this mysterious page is actually from season five's "Firebird" episode when Emma is forced to leave Hook behind in the Underworld. Could the callback possibly signal that Emma will be torn apart from her loved ones again in the future? If the recent promo is any indication, it could be adult Henry she will have to say goodbye to this time. Remember when OUAT fast-forwarded to the Enchanted Forest during "a time of great upheaval" in the season six finale? Maybe the Savior has to make the ultimate sacrifice to bring order back to the magical realm.
The last word "tick" could also be another clue. As in the first time the clock "ticked" when Emma came to Storybrooke in the first episode. Not only could this throwback signal the beginning of a new story, but it could also signal hope for the future. Maybe this is the way OUAT will retell its iconic story — with Henry Mills taking his mom's place as the new Savior.