Throughout Once Upon a Time’s seven seasons, Killian Jones and Regina Mills crossed paths frequently, with both of them eventually merging into the Charming family. Hook had a romantic relationship with Emma, while Regina and Emma co-parented their son, Henry.
Killian and Regina shared similar pasts, insecurities, dreams, and characteristics. Their villainous arcs began by losing a loved one, but eventually, they redeemed themselves and sought happy endings. They both had toxic relationships with a parent, and they both committed similar acts of evil, and later on, bravery.
Once Upon a Time portrayed these two characters as two sides of the same coin, but one side was clearly cheaper — Killian Jones. His character was a mediocre, undeveloped version of Regina Mills.
Regina was arguably the highlight of Once Upon a Time. Starting as the main villain, she endured a tumultuous redemption arc, ultimately ending up as a hero, fighting alongside the Charmings.
Many viewers and critics of Once Upon a Time say that she carried the show on her back. At first, she was a complex villain with a heartbreaking backstory, but eventually, she sought to better herself.
Some viewers say the same thing about Killian Jones, except the show did not explore his arcs as thoroughly as Regina’s. He was not as bad as Regina — not because she was eviler than him, but because he never got the chance.
Killian, also known as Captain Hook, became a pirate after his kingdom indirectly killed his brother. He descended into darkness after watching Rumplestiltskin crush Milah’s — his true love — heart on Once Upon a Time Season 2 Episode 4.
Sound familiar, anyone?
That is because Regina planned to run away with her true love, Daniel, until Snow White mistakingly told Regina’s mother, Cora, about the relationship on Once Upon a Time Season 1 Episode 18. Then, Cora crushed Daniel’s heart right in front of Regina.
Despite these similarities, the show explored Regina’s evil past more thoroughly than Hook’s. Killian spoke about his villainous deeds, but Once Upon a Time rarely showed them.
Hook’s evil actions are attributed to either being a pirate or seeking revenge on Rumplestiltskin for murdering Milah. We never questioned how far he would go to get his way because we do not know, and we never learn about it. There is not much more to his character.
However, Regina’s motives vary. Most of the time, she sought revenge on Snow White for telling Cora about Daniel, but as the show progressed and we learn more about her character, we learned that Regina had other reasons for her villainry.
One reason for Regina’s evil actions developed after she became evil. The bigger villain Regina became, the more hopeless she felt. She thought of herself as a lost cause and kept making excuses until she faced the truth.
Regina kept choosing darkness because she did not believe she could change, that she was good enough to be a better person. That is what makes her redemption arc more powerful — she passed the point of no return countless times because she told herself there was no point.
The moment Regina chose to redeem herself reversed all of her excuses. Regina decided to stop hiding behind her evil past by making this decision and look forward to a promising future. Although she struggled throughout her redemption, she never gave up.
That is just about the bravest thing anyone can do — no matter how many times Regina fell into familiar patterns of darkness, she got up and fought harder to be a better person.
Furthermore, Regina never regretted the terrible things she did, but for a unique, complex reason. She could not regret anything because she learned how to love again when she adopted her son, Henry.
Henry is a big part of Regina’s path to redemption, but that path would not be possible without all the villainous stuff she did in the first place. He is a vital key component to Regina’s complexity, demonstrating the lengths mothers go for their children.
Pure love between a mother and her son makes characters better because of the unconditionality. Henry taught Regina how to love — her family, her friends, and even herself.
Hook did not have complex reasons for his evilness, nor did he have unconditional parental-child love. Once Upon a Time Season 7 introduced Wish Hook’s child, but the original Hook did not until long after he was redeemed.
Once Regina begins to redeem herself, the audience witnessed her struggling to choose good over evil. She had dark influences growing up, and when she unleashed the darkness inside of her, she did not know how to control it. Her heart is not purely red because it is solidly mixed with black as well.
Hook only tagged along with the Charming family, and was eventually with them long enough to be considered a hero.
We never saw him struggle with his choices. Once Upon a Time made his redemption arc black and white, effectively making Killian a bland character.
When Regina and Killian sought redemption, they were both motivated by the person they loved most. For Regina, it was her son, Henry, while Emma Swan was Killian’s motivation.
Hook’s motivation was not very believable because we do not even really know why he fell for her. They were enemies throughout the second season until Hook decided on Once Upon a Time Season 2 Episode 22 that he liked Emma.
Within a few episodes of Once Upon a Time Season 3, he fell in love with her.
While Once Upon a Time did a better job convincing the audience of Hook and Emma’s connection on later seasons, their original, weak interactions developed into a potential romance out of nowhere, making Hook’s redemption arc skeptical.
It was hard to believe that he wanted to redeem himself for a woman he was in love with for all of five minutes.
Meanwhile, Henry, Regina’s son, became her motivation to redeem herself. She wanted to be a good mother for him, and a better example as a person, too.
Eventually, Regina became motivated to redeem herself because she wanted to. Even if she had nothing, she would still try to do the right thing.
The show told us that Hook was a villain who struggled throughout his redemption arc because he is human, but Once Upon a Time shows Regina’s details.
Regina Mills is a far more believable character than Killian Jones could ever be.
Regina and Hook also have another unique shared characteristic. Both characters have been victims of abuse and abusers themselves.
Killian admitted on Once Upon a Time Season 3 Episode 21 that he purposely intoxicates women to sleep with them, while Regina continuously assaulted Graham Humbert, and eventually killed him.
But before Killian or Regina committed these vile atrocities, they endured their fair share of abuse. As usual, the depth we learn about Regina’s abuse rounded out her character and helped us understand her more. With Killian, the show writers may as well have never said anything because it barely made a difference.
Killian’s father sold Killian and his brother, Liam, as slaves to a ship, where they remained throughout their adolescent years. We briefly learn about the effect this had on Killian on Once Upon a Time Season 5 Episode 11 when he confronted his presumed dead father, who was alive.
Regina’s situation was far more complex. Once Upon a Time depicted a rocky relationship between her and her mother from Season 1 Episode 18 onward, with the second season especially focused on this relationship. We understood how Regina turned to dark magic, thanks to her mother, and her tutor, Rumplestiltskin.
Furthermore, Regina was barely of age when Cora forced her to marry the king, a man old enough to be her parent.
Understanding Regina’s relationship was Cora shed light on many of Regina’s insecurities that led to her villainry. Hook may have killed his father, but we did not learn enough about how their relationship affected Killian to understand him and his actions.
The pinnacle of Killian as an undeveloped version of Regina revolves around their respective relationships with Emma Swan.
As mentioned earlier, Killian and Emma were enemies one minute, but he fell in love with her in the next. Their relationship becomes more believable since it took time for Emma to reciprocate and admit her feelings for him.
But a critical element to an enemies-to-lovers relationship is a middle ground of friendship. To create a lasting relationship that began as enemies (and not just a few rounds of hate sex attributed to attraction), the respective parties must respect and trust each other before falling in love.
Emma certainly waited for Hook, but vice versa? Not so much.
Emma and Regina were never romantic, but they were also once enemies, even more so than Emma and Hook. However, their road to friendship was believable because of the journey it took to get there.
Hook and Emma would have been a far more satisfying relationship if they had developed their friendship in between, the way Emma and Regina had.
Even on Once Upon a Time Season 4 Episode 5, Emma and Regina proved they had work to do on their friendship.
Of course, Emma and Hook were not enemies the way Emma and Regina were. However, if they had a solid ground of friendship, their relationship would be more believable instead of Hook finding her attractive.
The differences between Emma and Hook and Emma and Regina showed that Once Upon a Time developed Regina’s relationships far more than Hook’s. Hook is genuinely a male lite Regina, in every single way, and their relationships are no exception to this rule.
Let’s hear from you, Fanatics!
What do you think about Regina Mills and Killian Jones? What do you make of their similarities? Do you believe the writers of Once Upon a Time threw Regina’s qualities in a lesser, male version of herself? Or do you think Killian is a character who is strong enough to stand on his own?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Sarah Novack is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.