Our turnaround is going to be little longer this season. The premiere is allusive. And Swan Queens get their first tear jerker.
I wanted to address a couple references that weren’t technically part of the premiere episode that nonetheless bear on the season and the show. These have mostly to do with the promotional materials both online and off. And they might provide some insight into the overall arc. Or not.
The imagery on the first promo poster draws heavily from 2010 Aronofsky film, but goes for a slicker, more stylized look.
The storyline requires Emma, the embodiment of good as the Savior, to portray her opposite, The Dark One. Oddly enough, there was another Black Swan in 1910 about a reformed pirate. Writers are nerds.
The Dark Knight Rises
This is mostly about color scheme and graphics. What you’re seeing below is clearly twister imagery but the particular monochromatic palette hollers Nolan’s trilogy. The word choice cinches it. Batman plays for the other team, but he can still function as an archetype. Modern Batman is always walking the knife edge between heroism and villainy and I bet that’s what we’re going to see in this story.
One of maybe three truly iconic caped crusader poses. It’s unbelievably convenient that it’s often depicted on a circular or spotlighted place. So not only do we get a knowing nod to 3×15 “Quiet Minds,” we get a secondary reinforcement of the whole Dark Knight thing.
The Sword in the Stone
Full disclosure. I want missing Merlin to be in Bermuda. They’ve got a really sweet looking poster out with a beautiful blue robe and a serious looking Elliot Knight. But. But. Listen, Once, I never ask you for anything. Give me this.
Anyway, We first see stony faced prophesying Merlin the magician in Minneapolis at an unusual marquee rerelease of the classic adaptation of The Once and Future King. We get a good look at Merlin in the film and young Arthur drawing Excalibur from the stone
Sir Kay, the treacherous knight that tries to draw Excaibur in Fairy Tale Land and gets dusted Buffy style for it is a nod to Arthur’s thuggish foster brother in the film. Nice touch.
Speaking of foster kids, Emma. Merlin’s got a tic.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
A previous Dark One, Gorgon the Invincible, is or looks like a bandersnatch.
Mickey conjures the want Merlin gave him on the day he became the apprentice with the now familiar broom music playing over the scene.
Emma Force chokes the traveling peddler with her uncontrollable dark magic. The fear, excitement, and comprehension in the scene mirrors Anakin Skywalker’s descent toward the The Dark Lord of the Sith. Kitsiss and Horowitz are all over Star Wars.
Killian references the old wookie prisoner gag, nicely grabbing the reference within a reference to “Operation Mongoose,” which was also about altered circumstances in Fairy Tale Land. So this is technically an Inception reference, too.
Not enough? Zelena slying slips in, “So, this is a Rogue mission?” It’s all about word choice in context. Right here, it’s more writerly nerdery.
Rumple’s evil ghost-of-Obi-Wan urges Emma to use her anger. Classic Sith move.
Beauty and the Beast
Ruehl Gorm: “This Rose is now linked to your beast, Belle. As long as it still has petals he lives.”
Shut up. I’m not crying. You’re crying. Seriously, they do this just to incite fans of the original. The imagery is so powerful that catching it in other stories evokes an emotional reaction. Rumpbelle should be over, but it’s not. Look!
The Will o’ the Wisp and the Hill of Stones are repurposed to force Merida and Emma into conflict.
Her trailer, oddly enough, pulls a shot directly from the film; which was itself a reference to the classic Robin Hood shot. Here’s hoping we get to see them both at a tournament.
And, of course, she mentions transforming into a bear. Because she has to. And her people’s lack of confidence in her suitability. Because this is what we want out of Merida. But both an uncontrollable transformation and faithless fraternities are themes for the season. Turning throwaway lines into major points is one of the things Once does best,
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Henry finally makes Nurse Ratched an official reference rather than a sight gag bolstered by a doppelganger of Chief Bromden.
Robin’s carrying a copy when Zelena stops by. I’m gonna pretend it’s all a subtle reference to the death of the Apprentice. Goodnight mouse.
The Wizard of Oz
Zelena summons a tornado to cross realms. Because of course she does.
Emma turns Sneezy to stone, fulfilling some sort of apotheosis for Regina, who no longer would do that, but probably always wanted to.
Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments
The tables keep getting turned. Villains turned heroes. Savior turned dark. But in the end, the enduring question remains: can love save us?
Hook’s focus to get Emma back is unwavering. It makes him snarky, sexy, and stupid. He’ll scrap with anyone in his way, mostly Robin and Regina. His initial attempt to call her to him using the dagger fails, indicating she’s not in this world.
Then he’s willing to be all manner of sneaky and stupid to open a portal to get her, even trying to take Zelena’s heart, but getting hoodwinked while Zelena escapes.
When he does reunite with Emma, he talks her down from killing Merida. Emma is surprised they have reached her. Hook responds: “Has anything ever stopped me before?” And to convince her to return the heart: “We can find another way…together.” Aww.
They hold hands into Camelot.
Sadly, things are not so romantic six weeks later.
Regina snarls at Zelena at mention of the baby.
Even more tantalizing is the fact that when Zelena glamours herself to look like Regina and kisses Robin, Robin knows it’s Zelena immediately. He might have been fooled by a faux-Marian, but Regina’s kiss is far more memorable. Zelena hangs a nice bell on that fact.
Rumple is still comatose. I can only assume he’ll awaken, but the point here is that his lack of consciousness echoes the end of Beauty and the Beast. Belle holds Rumple’s hand, not wanting to leave his side should he die in her absence. “If he goes, I want to be with him.” And to make all the shippers swoon, the Blue Fairy gives Belle THE ENCHANTED ROSE to let her know that Rumple is still alive. You should already know the drill: as long as the rose has petals, Rumple lives.
But has he survived six weeks?
Regina is set up as the lynch pin to saving or destroying Emma, depending on what the situation calls for. Hook is not. Regina’s failure to wield the wand due to too much light in her heart is a testament to the effect Emma has had on her. Swan Queen OTP. Ignore how distracted Regina is by her (faux) romance with Robin. She uses Zelena’s affection for Robin to open the portal to Emma, despite the danger to Robin.
When they do find Emma, and they offer her the dagger (idiots), Emma only trusts Regina with it, knowing that Regina cares enough about her to use the dagger well, whether that means command or kill. “Someone needs to watch me,” Emma says. “I saved you. Now you save me.”