We’ve been a bit hard on Once Upon a Time lately. (What can we say? We’re a critical bunch.) But we still adore the fairy tale drama for its true-love lovers and its guy-linered pirates. Here is a list of the five things we loved best about OUAT Season 2.

Captain Hook

We’re going to get this one out of the way right off the bat because that’s how excited we still are about this Season 2 character. Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) made quite the impression, bullying Rumple and stealing his wife only to pay the ultimate price for it: losing the woman he loved (oh yeah, and his hand). He wasn’t consistently in every ep (who is on this show?), but when he did show up, he made us laugh with his clever quips and made us feel with his stumbling morality. Hook’s backstory was featured pretty heavily in the Season 2 finale, when we learned that he scooped Bae out of Neverland’s waters and offered him a family and home aboard the Jolly Roger. That didn’t end so well, but we have high hopes for Hook’s Season 3 arc now that he has allied with Team Charming in what is perhaps some sort of impulsive attempt to make things right with Bae.

Villainous Redemptions

Season 2 was definitely a good season to be a villain. Both Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) and Regina/The Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) got some juicy stuff as they struggled to stay the straight-and-narrow for the people they loved. While one stumbled more than the other (sorry, Regina), watching these two try to ignore their darker sides and do the right thing remains one of the best things about this show (thanks, in no small part, to the badass actors who portray them). Now that Rumple and Regina’s interests are aligned, at least for the start of Season 3, it will be interesting to see these two recovering magic-holics interact in Season 3. They’re both away from the people they’re good for. Any bets on who will be the first to slip?

Credit: Jack Rowand/ ABC Photo: Once Upon a Time Season 2, Episode 21: Rumplestiltskin, Belle, and Neal

The Nealfire Twist

Even though everyone and their long-lost son saw it coming, the reveal that Neal (Michael Raymond-James) was actually Rumple’s son, Baelfire, as well as Emma’s first love/Henry’s father, was one of the best moment of the season. Not only in the moment when Emma literally knocked Nealfire to the New York City pavement, but in the repercussions that came afterward. This was the plot twist that kept on paying (which, every knows, are the best kind) as Rumple’s guilt over his abandonment was felt anew, Henry gets a father figure in his life, and Emma must deal with her long-buried feelings for the man who left her pregnant in jail. The Season 2, Episode 21: “Second Star to the Right” scene in which Emma and Neal confess their love just before a wounded Neal falls through a magical portal was one of our favorites of the season. We’re so glad Neal isn’t dead, and can’t wait to keep exploring the twisted connections that are Nealfire’s life.

Field Trip!

Were we the only ones who adored the scenes of Emma, Henry, and Rumple in the outside world? Henry’s obsession with Cinnabon? Rumple’s panic attack in the airport bathroom? It was television gold. Now that most of our main cast is in Neverland, we doubt we’ll be getting to see any more real world field trips, but we hope it happens again in the future. The short arc that saw Rumple, Emma, and Henry in New York City really worked for us, as it grounded the show in reality in a way it hasn’t been since the curse was broken. One of our favorite things about this show is watching our favorite fairy tale characters trying to make it in the real world, so kudos for the Season 2 field trip!

Credit: Jack Rowand/ ABC Photo: Once Upon a Time Season 2, Episode 8: Mary Margaret and Emma Swan

Emma’s Magic

We still want to see this further explored, but we really like the idea of Emma having magic — perhaps even being the most powerful person in Storybrooke/The Enchanted Forest. She’s really our gateway character to the show and by giving her magic, it’s like giving the viewer/our world magic. And our world could use a little more magic. This is one of the plot points that was a bit sporadic throughout the season. We would have liked to see Emma a bit more interested in exploring her magical powers — if not as a source of personal strength, then as something that has proven useful in protecting her loved ones. We’ll let the lack of focus on this particular subplot go, however, in the hopes that it is being held for Season 3. Even without her magic as a focal point, it was still fun to predict when Emma’s abilities might come in handy and what they may do. We can’t wait to find out in Season 3 and beyond!

Do you agree with our list of best Season 2 qualities? Is there anything else you would add to it? Let us know in the comments below!