Emma Gilbert is one of the main characters who became a mermaid in the Australian television series, H2O: Just Add Water. Along with Cleo and Rikki, Emma discovered her powers after her trip to Mako Island. She was portrayed by actress Claire Holt, who left the main cast after Season 2.
Emma Gilbert was born to Neil and Lisa Gilbert in early 1990s. When she was only six-months-old, she had been introduced into the world of swimming by her father. When she was three years-old, she met Zane Bennett. Despite their childhood companionship, Emma and Zane grew weary of each other as they grew older. Because their parents are still close friends, however, the two of them continued to be friendly towards the other on some occasions.
Sometime during her childhood, Emma met Cleo Sertori and the two of them became close friends ever since to the point where Emma is aware of Cleo's bad singing. Because of her yearly intense training for her competitive swimming team, Emma had only attended Cleo’s first few childhood birthday parties, last being her sixth. After years of friendship, she wasn’t aware that Cleo’s birthday parties had remained the same childish party, courtesy of Cleo's father, Donald Sertori. Later, Emma's parents had another child, a son named Elliot, whom Emma shared a bond.
In her childhood and early years before her transformation, Emma was determined to train to become a skilled and famous swimmer someday, something she is forced to forget later.
Emma dedicated most of her free time training and competing for her swim team, and had won countless trophies for it. Unfortunately, due to protecting her mermaid secret, she had to quit the team. Out of all three girls, Emma grew up in a more stable environment as her father is a business man in sales and financial development. Her mother, Lisa Gilbert, was once a junior lifeguard and currently collects crystal figurines.
Despite growing up in a more wealthier lifestyle than her friends, Emma lacks the personality of a snob. Unlike her popular classmate, Miriam Kent, Emma and her brother were taught to be respectful and truthful to one another. Used to her perfect family lifestyle, Emma admits feeling guilty whenever she had to lie to her brother or her parents. Unlike her friend, Cleo Sertori who does not get along with her younger sibling, Emma shares a close relationship with her younger sibling, Elliot, and at often times she would try to comfort and reassure him whenever he’s unhappy. Although several times, they still got on each other nerves and argue.
In the episode "Moon Spell", Emma decided to take on the full task of throwing her father a surprise birthday party. During the festivity, Emma became the first of the three girls to fall under the effects of the full moon when she saw its reflection in a bowl of fruit punch. The magic of the full moon turned her into the exact opposite of herself; a wild, and carefree mermaid. In this state, she freely expresses her true opinions on people, regardless of whether it would offend them or not. While under the effect of the full moon, Emma feels inexplicably drawn to water and to Mako Island. It also caused her to transform into a mermaid when she dove into the canal but prevent her reverse-transformation, despite Rikki’s attempt to dry her off completely. The moon spell also caused Emma to develop a craving for sea food, including raw fish, the usual diet of a full-blown mermaid. The spell also caused her to express her true feelings towards Byron when she attempts to seduce and kiss him twice. Emma didn’t turn back into a human until the full moon completely set the next morning, leaving her with no memory of the previous evening events.
In the episode "The Big Chill", Emma began working at the JuiceNet Café. With her obsession for organization, perfection, and order, Emma changed the café business by alphabetizing the fruit, color-coding the juice bubbles, and timing the customers’ orders. She would usually arrive at work long before the other employees and was mentioned to have stayed behind later after closing time. At one point, Emma would pull some strings for her friends by asking Wilfred to let her use the café for the school dance.
In season two, Emma is keen on getting the job as the café’s new supervisor and advised Wilfred to hire one. Unfortunately, he hired Ash instead, which only made her feel more bitter towards him at first, but later warms up to him. Being the best and most hardworking employee there, Emma won the “Employee of the Month” award.Fish Fever". While helping with the search for a coral for Cleo's new fish tank, Emma accidentally cut herself on a strange, rainbow-colored coral. Unknown to the girls, the toxic coral can affect a mermaid tremendously. At first, it caused her to be overexcited, but the more the poison seeps into Emma's system, the more ravenous she gets. The poison also caused tremendous mutation in a mermaid's physical system. For Emma, her usual orange scales slowly turned white and scales even appeared on the skin, her hands turned more webbed, her fingernails into claws, her skin more monstrous, her neck sprouted a set of gills, her hair started to go green, her eyes turned yellow and she made monster-like noises. She was later totally cured when Lewis sprayed an antidote on her skin, developed by Laurie.
After the Events of Season Three
In the spin off series, Mako: Island of Secrets, Emma is indirectly mentioned by Rikki, who appears in the show. Rikki reveals that her friends eventually moved from the Gold Coast after graduating from high school. It is unknown what happened to Emma.
Emma has a confident and responsible, if somewhat controlling, personality. She tends to worry if things get out of control. She is very organized. Living in a perfect family lifestyle, she developed a need to be a perfectionist. She enjoys being the most organized of the girls and can’t help but encourage others to do the same. As well as being a driven individual, Emma once dedicated her free time in training for her regional swimming competition. Although she resigned after turning into a mermaid because it precludes her from swimming, Emma retains a bit of her driven personality.
She does seem to be more empathic than her friend, Rikki Chadwick when it comes to understanding other people’s feelings and daily problems. She tends to express many concerns for her friends and would even go out of her way to try and do the impossible for them, even trying her best to restore Louise Chatham’s decaying boat. Although Emma is often the most conscientious and considerate of the three girls, at times she can be pedantic and controlling, once even suggesting that she considers chewing a prescribed number of times before swallowing as a normal practice.
Emma also displays a responsible trait where she tends to wake up early for work before café opens and stays late after closing as we found out in the episode "Get Off My Tail". Being the responsible one, she constantly reminds her brother and her friends to do their work and is often paranoid when things aren’t organized. This tends to drive those around her insane at times when she stressed about it too often.
Often times, she doesn’t listen to what other people say and assumes the situation for the worse. When push comes to shove, she would often show-off and proves to others that she can be more or just as skilled as they are in certain events. In "Riding For a Fall", she attempts to show off her newfound knowledge about riding horses to Ash, but her plan only backfired. In "Fire and Ice", she attempts to become a rebellious girl, just like Rikki, to show that she can be fun to be around. She fails to do this when she decides to have a party while her parents are away. Once the party gets out of hand with the help of Rikki she gets it to stop and admits this isn't the way for her. But in the same episode she shows true honesty when she confesses about the party to her parents who assumed Rikki had thrown while they were away for the weekend. Her ideas for organization and control sometimes brings her into conflict with Rikki, who is Emma's polar opposite.
Often times, Emma would disagree and argue with Rikki, who is her polar opposite. While in contrast to Rikki’s rebellious and care-free personality, Emma is controlling and organized and because of their opposite personalities and different ideals, Emma and Rikki often argue and have various conflicts, leaving Cleo stuck in the middle of their fight. Also, another trait for Emma is bossy. While arguing with Rikki, she bosses her around but no knowing that it sometimes hurts her feelings.
Emma is not as tough and thick-skinned as she puts on; in her own words, "I may seem tough, but I'm easily hurt" ("Sink or Swim ").
Emma is a very beautiful girl, she has blue eyes and long golden-blonde hair that reaches till her waist. Her skin is quite fair and smooth, and she has noticable freckles in Season 1.
In Season One, she usually lets her hair down, but as the series progresses, she begins to tie it up like Rikki and Cleo, braiding her bangs or her whole head, or doing a simple low pony. As a mermaid, her hair is let down and she has an orange-scaled tail with a matching top. Like the rest of the girls, she has glowing, ethereal skin when in mermaid form.
In episode "Red Herring" , Emma decided to change her hair color, but Cleo accidentally dyes it completely red. Since her hair's color changed when she was a mermaid, her normal hair returns when she is in her human form. In the end, she decides to change it back to her old color.
In season 1 and the beginning of season 2, Emma wears a colorful Hawaiian-styled shirt as her JuiceNet Café uniform with a small white apron over her trousers. When Ash became the café's new supervisor, she wore a blue and red polo shirt with a small embroider picture of a pineapple with a matching hat. Emma later convinced Ash to let them ditch the hat, but they kept the top.
Her casual clothes have a lot of blue and white tank tops, based on her powers on turning water to ice. So this means her favorite colors are blue and white, although she does sometimes wear colors like yellow, teal, pink, lilac, green, sometimes even black. She also wears a locket identical to Rikki and Cleo's, only with a white stone, to represent the ability to freeze water.
Becoming a Mermaid
One day, Cleo was helping Emma train for her regional swimming competition by timing her. While Cleo later left for home, Emma continued to train some more. Later on during her walk home, Emma ran into Cleo again but this time she was riding in Zane’s zodiac boat with the new girl, Rikki. Cleo and Rikki invited her for a ride with Rikki suggesting that they go out into the ocean for some fun and Emma expressing her concern. With the carefree Rikki steering the boat out into the sea and miles offshore, the girls soon found out that they are now out of fuel in the middle of the ocean. With little choice, the three girls paddled their way to the closest land they could find: Mako Island.
Once ashore the deserted island, Emma and her friends pondered on how they should call for help. Being the most prepared one in the group, Emma brought out her cell phone but only to find that it couldn’t get a signal. Emma suggested that they should head inland towards a higher altitude in hopes of getting a signal for a call. As they ventured in deeper into the jungle-infested island, the three girls soon came across a clearing where a river stream turns into a waterfall over several boulders. While Emma and Rikki were able to jump over to the small waterfall, Cleo became hesitant and without a warning, fell into a hole. The other two followed her and continued to pursue a way out of the underground cave.
Several hours later, the three of them ended up at the end of the tunnel and found the moon cave with a pool at the bottom of the island's hollow mountain. Emma realizes that the Moon Pool is connected to the ocean and may be their only way out, dove in to find out. Confirming her find, she and Rikki convinced the hesitant Cleo to escape with them. When all three of them entered the pool, the full moon became aligned with the moon pool, causing it to bubble and glow a mystic blue glow and emitting small orbs of magical light particles into the air. Oblivious to what was happening to them, the girls ventured out into open sea where they were rescued by the local water-police.
Around twelve hours later, Emma went to the ocean for a morning swim. After ten seconds in the ocean water, Emma was shocked to feel that she no long has human legs but instead, she sprouted a mermaid tail. She later confirms that she wasn’t the only one who became a mermaid as the same thing had happened to Cleo and Rikki.
Emma possesses the ability to transform into a mermaid ten seconds after physical contact with water. She turns back into a human several minutes after climbing out of the the water and once her body is completely dry, she turns back into a human along with the clothes she was wearing before she transformed. As a mermaid, Emma has the ability to swim at a super speed, hold her breath for more than fifteen minutes, and dive at depths no human being is capable of.
Due to entering the Moon Pool with Cleo and Rikki, Emma was only gifted with the power of Hydro-Cryokinesis, and didn't receive all merpeople powers like a person who enters the Moon Pool alone. In Season 2, after a powerful planetary alignment, Emma was gifted with a second power called Cryokinesis, and later, she was able to create a storm with Cleo and Rikki.
See the main article: Emma-Byron Relationship
In season one she had a crush on Byron, a local surfing champion. At first, Emma denied having any feeling for him, despite a few obvious flirting actions such as flipping her hair when greeting him at the marine park. Emma claims that she and Byron are just friends, but after being struck by the power of the full moon, she starts to flirt and eventually seduced him during her father's birthday party. In a later episode, Byron asked her to be his swimming coach for the upcoming swimming tournament against Zane. Due to the risk of getting wet, Emma at first declined, with Cleo and Rikki supporting her judgment. Upon seeing how Zane treated him, Emma changed her mind and decided to train Byron as his swimming coach. When they found out this news, Cleo and Rikki accused Emma that the reason that she's training Byron was because she liked him. Emma denied this and insisted that she only wanted to help him win first place against Zane. But while practicing they kissed. That resulted in Emma refusing to train him any longer. After having a fight, she unintentionally pushed Byron so that he would win first place. They decided to be friends again after that, and even danced at the school formal near the end of the season. However, their relationship seems to have ended off-screen as the actor didn't appeared in the second season.
See the main article: Emma-Ash Relationship
In season two her love interest is Ash, a horse riding instructor and the new supervisor of JuiceNet Cafe who she dates for the second half of season two. Emma has often been encouraged by her friends Rikki and Cleo to reveal her mermaid secret to Ash because he lacks the determination to find out her mermaid secret.
At first, Emma despised Ash and thought he was an arrogant person when she met him as the instructor to her younger brother Elliot. But when she accidentally poisoned his horse, Rebel, Emma felt terrible, and used her power to create snow in order to cure the horse. Surprised that she stayed with the sick horse overnight, Ash expressed his thanks to her.
Later on when Ash was chosen to be the new supervisor of the Juice Net Cafe, Emma hated him more than she already did because she felt that he had stolen the job position that was meant for her. Failing to get the other employees to strike against him, Emma felt more hatred for Ash. Emma witnessed helpless as she watched Ash introduced new schedules for the staff, new uniforms (which included a silly hat), took her own hard-worked juice recipe off of the menu, changed the ice-room storing system, and even created basketball games for the customers. When Emma saw how much fun everyone was having, she decided to swallow her pride and work with him instead of against him, only to be shocked to find out that Ash had fired her because he thought she broke the new storing system.
Later, Ash discovered that she was innocent and it was Amber who didn't follow his new orders because too many changes came too fast. Ash appeared at her front door steps, begging her to come back, which she didn't want to at first. He offered to slow down his ideas of changes for the restaurant, admitted that she was right, and offered to put back her home-made juice recipe on the menu to which then, did she agreed to return to work there. Later on, they went on a few several dates. At one point, Ash almost forced Emma into the water because he believed that she's aqua-phobic and that he wanted to help her get over her fears. Luckily, she convinced him to stop just in time, but was in danger of having her secrets revealed again near the end of the second season.
As the pressure of her secrets pressed on her relationship with Ash, he demanded to know what she was hiding, but she refused despite having Charlotte using her magical powers against her, almost revealing her secret in front of him. At the end of season two, Emma decided to reveal to Ash that she is a mermaid. Ash was ok with it and they continued their relationship.
Emma was absent for one episode in Season two, "The Gracie Code, Part 1". Instead, she only appeared in a flashback where she found Gracie's locket at the bottom of the Moon Pool. The reason remains unknown. For season three, Emma is completely absent from the show because Claire Holt was busy filming The Messengers 2: The Scarecrow. To explain her absence, the producers decided to let Rikki and Cleo mention that Emma is traveling the world with her family. Her pictures can still be seen in Cleo's room, however.
- Emma is the only one of the mermaids (except possibly Bella) whose parents are still together.
- Emma has never met Bella.
- Her favorite food is Lobster Thermidor, as said by her mother in "Fish Fever", this is also her father's favorite food.
- Before becoming a mermaid, Emma was a champion swimmer.
- Emma was the first one to turn into mermaid in the series.
- She is the only one of the mermaids who has never been seen singing.
- Emma and Cleo gave their lockets to each other before Emma left for her trip.
- Emma was the first to be affected by the Full Moon.
- Emma was the first one in the Moon Pool.
- Emma was the second one to discover her power over water.
- Emma was the first one to discover she's a mermaid.
- Emma did not appear in Season 3.
- Emma was the first character to speak in the series.
- Emma was the only mermaid to have two boyfriends.
- Emma was the only mermaid to never have an antagonist get between her and her boyfriends.
- Main article: Emma Gilbert (JAW)/Gallery