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References and Shipping in Once Upon a Time “Dark Swan”

Our turnaround is going to be little longer this season. The premiere is allusive. And Swan Queens get their first tear jerker.

Michael’s “Always… no, no… never… forget to check your references.” (now with a sound file)

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.

Black Swan

The imagery on the first promo poster draws heavily from 2010 Aronofsky film, but goes for a slicker, more stylized look.

Black Swan Dark Swan

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.

The Dark Swan Shall Rise


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.

Emma Circle Batman Circle

The Sword in the Stone

Full disclosure. I want missing MerlinMerlin 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.

Gorgon the Invincible


Mickey conjures the want Merlin gave him on the day he became the apprentice with the now familiar broom music playing over the scene.

Star Wars

Emma Force chokes the traveling peddler with her uncontrollable dark magic. The fear, excitement, and comprehForce Chokeension 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.”

Beauty and the Beast Rose

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.

Goodnight Moon

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.

Garden Gnomes

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

emmakillianembrace5x01The tables keep getting turned. Villains turned heroes. Savior turned dark. But in the end, the enduring question remains: can love save us?

Captain Swan

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.

Outlaw Queen

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?

Swan Queen

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.”

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Comic Review: Arkham Manor TPB

arkhamcoverMy 3-year-old really digs Batman, and I don’t get it. Why is it that Batman speaks to him in the same way as Spider-Man or Captain America, both much sunnier heroes with more earnest goodness and humor. Batman, at least as he’s been depicted in the past 25 years, is a hero of darkness. He lives in a cave, dresses in black, moves at night and in shadow, associates himself with bats. Why doesn’t he automatically come across to my toddler as a “bad guy”?

Arkham Manor, written by Gerry Duggan, exemplifies why Batman isn’t for children. In this gritty, disturbingly twisted and gruesome addition to the Batman mythology, Arkham Asylum has been destroyed, and the city is looking for a temporary home for the inmates until the new asylum can be finished. Their solution is to house them in the vacant Wayne Manor. When a murder happens within the new, temporary Arkham, Batman goes undercover as new inmate Jack Shaw to stop the killer. But what he finds is far stranger than he expected. manor2

The Batman of this collection is a cunning detective, but he allows himself to vent his anger and frustration in violent and destructive ways. In his frustration at having the Manor co-opted for Arkham, he purposes sets out to have an extra violent patrol. Though he has subdued two muggers, he beats them up just for sport, leaving one in need of reconstructive surgery. Grant Morrison, among others, has described Batman as “a rich guy who beats up poor people.” He’s not very sympathetic, and certainly this scene doesn’t want to make him so. He’ll have a bit of a change of heart later in the collection, but it becomes difficult to see Batman as a hero rather than another crazy character deserving Arkham’s cell.


That’s probably the low spot of the comic. As it goes on, it amasses interesting twists, and the mystery Batman is investigating engages the brain and builds tension.

Furthermore, the conceit that Batman’s rogues gallery would all become housed in Wayne Manor’s walls with Batman disguised (or rather not) amongst them is a brilliant way to have their multiple personalities and relationships with Batman on display. My favorite of them was Mr. Freeze, who mostly interacts with the others via a glorified scooter with a screen attached, since he’s stuck in his cold-storage cell. Freeze has a wisdom and humor in his character and is the lightest part of the comic.
arkham-manor-1The art, by Shawn Crystal, fits the narrative well. Heavy lines, dominating black, a slight boxy quality to the forms. The art tonally evokes the darkness and madness of Arkham’s inmates now in Batman’s home. The covers are especially brilliant, frequently depicting the madness at the heels of Batman as he hides behind the identity of Shaw. In the example that follows, Shaw is Batman’s double, dwarfed by the ominous head of an inmate who has counted his time in Arkham with murders.ARK_MANOR_Cv2Arkham Manor’s not for the young or weak of heart. The narrative stares deep into the heart of psychosis’s most violent path. But if that sounds intriguing rather than off-putting, this is an interesting story-line with artistic flair. For fans of Shutter Island, Shock Corridor, and Netflix’s Marvel’s Daredevil.




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Comic Review: Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy TPB

welcome to gothamYou know what Batman really needs to get past the seemingly cemented gritty darkness of the Nolan film franchise? Teen drama. A little hormone-driven defiance and melodrama wipes that musty self-seriousness right off. Writers Brenden Fletcher and Becky Cloonan give Gotham a fresh, new take with Gotham Academy Vol. 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy.

WELCOME TO GOTHAM ACADEMY! Gotham City’s most prestigious prep school is a very weird place. It’s got a spooky campus, oddball teachers, and rich benefactors always dropping by…like that weirdo Bruce Wayne. But nothing is as strange is the students!

Like, what’s up with Olive Silverlock? Is she crazy or what? Where did she go last summer? And what’s the deal with her creepy mom? And how come that Freshman MAPS is always following her around? And is she still going out with Kyle? P.S. Did you hear the rumor about the ghost in the North Hall?!

GOTHAM ACADEMY is a new, monthly teen drama set in the shadow of Batman and the craziness of Gotham City, with new characters and old plus a secret tie to Gotham’s past…

This first collection of Gotham Academy runs on teen angst, mystery, and a touch of self-referential humor. It reminds me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or first season Vampire Diaries, although the supernatural presence lurking behind Gotham Academy isn’t vampires, it’s Batman. Like Buffy, Elena, or even the eponymous Veronica Mars, Gotham Academy’s protagonist Olive Silverlock is having an identity crisis. She’s become the “weird” girl after a mysterious summer incident that she herself doesn’t remember but which had a detrimental impact on her life. As she attempts to figure out who she is now, she finds herself also investigating rumors of a ghost haunting the academy. The volume unfolds from there.

gotham-academy-mapsThe highlight of Gotham Academy is Olive’s plucky sidekick, Mia aka Maps. Maps is a first year student and Olive’s estranged boyfriend’s younger sister. What makes Maps fantastic is a combination of optimism, confidence, and a practical application of the lessons she’s learned playing the D&D-inspired table-top role-playing game Serpents & Spells. She maps everything, carries a backpack with compass and flashlight, tells stories of her gaming sessions, discusses real world tools in terms of their add-on rating to skills, and categorizes people by their alignment: “He’s too lawful-good to come with us.”

Maps is just a standout in an array of interesting teen students and academy teachers. Their quirks, insecurities, and relationships are engaging and fun to follow through the issues, and they develop in satisfying ways. The most emotional moments of the collection had, in both narrative and illustrations, an influence of melodramatic teen manga.

But this is a Batman title, and there’s certainly the shadow of Batman hanging over the academy. There is, of course, detective work being done by these students as they investigate the reports of ghost sightings and the mysteriously condemned North Hall. There are allusions to Batman characters and stories from comic canon. One character even makes reference to an event from Batgirl: The Batgirl of Burnside volume thatjust came out–a sister title if ever there was one, since both center their stories on young women and give the noir-ish genre of Batman a sassy goose in the pants. And, of course, Batman makes his appearances in the volume, though he remains mostly in the background.gotham-academy001f

Gotham Academy is a great fit for fans of Batman looking for a new tone and angle on the mythology and appreciate teen drama and intriguing female protagonists.

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Review–Batgirl Vol.1: The Batgirl of Burnside

batgirlBatgirl Vol. 1: The Batgirl of Burnside by Brenden Fletcher and Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr

Barbara Gordon is no stranger to dusting herself off when disaster strikes, so when a fire destroys everything she owns, she spots the opportunity for a new lease on life – and seizes it! Following the rest of Gotham City’s young adults to the hip border district of Burnside, Barbara sets about building an all-new Batgirl…and discovers new threats preying on her peers! As the new hero of Burnside, Batgirl gets started by facing twin sister assassins on motorcycles!

I’m new to the Batgirl comics. I know some of her backstory the way one just picks up the major stories of DC canon, but I’ve never read anything. This new version of Batgirl intrigued me though. It seemed, dare I say, fun. Which is a different direction than most of what I’m seeing from DC these days, at least with “Bat” in the title. That’s all gritty and gray and Nolan-esque.

The Batgirl of Burnside differs tonally. It has more in common with CW’s The Flash than it does with any of the recent portrayals of Batman (with the exception of The Lego Movie). This Batgirl is a touch awkward, trying to find her feet as a superhero outside of the long shadow of Batman, while also attempting to rebuild a graduate thesis. She makes mistakes while also doing masterful detective work, causing her to feel both worthy of the Batcowl but also young enough to grow as a character through her bungles.

Initially, the new Barbara Gordon, who now goes by Babs, struck me as a touch too immature. But as her character and the plot developed, I became more intrigued by the unveiling mystery and more endeared to her as she tried to learn from or amend mistakes. The mystery itself had call outs to recent films like Spring Breakers and The Bling Ring, interesting angles on social media and celebrity, and a cool and satisfying conclusion.

More annoying to me was the portrayal of Black Canary, who played the wet blanket for the first half of the collection. It wasn’t until the end that Canary was anything more than a harpy, and I felt that was a disservice to a usually bad-ass character.


On the positive side are the many diverse characters that surround Babs. Different ethnicities, sexualities, and disabilities appear among the supporting cast, and yet each character is strong, intelligent, resourceful, or useful to the story. None of them get over or underplayed. As with a great ensemble cast, they are all used for their worth.

The Batgirl of Burnside is a strong YA comic book title. While I felt it a little “youthful” for my sensibilities, I imagined a younger version of me thinking Babs was pretty awesome.

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If Auteurs Directed Superhero Movies

en-flashI have a few intellectual and entertainment obsessions in my life, but two that are currently at the fore are film study and superheroes. So imagine my glee when these interests aligned in the work of video-artist Patrick Willems.

This man has been building a series of film shorts with this conceit: What if a famous superhero franchise movie was made by an unexpected auteur director? I’m using the term auteur here fairly loosely, since one of the shorts takes on the style of terrible/cult film-maker Tommy Wiseau (of The Room fame). Auteur here means directors whose films have a recognizable artistic style that is clear from film to film. Most recently, Willems applied this equation to the conceit: The X-Men + Wes Anderson. The results are pretty wonderful, just like those jumpsuits.

Other equations which add up to delightfully humorous shorts:

  • The Punisher + Sergio Leone
  • Batman + Tommy Wiseau
  • And my favorite!  The Flash + Ingmar Bergman

The full series is linked below in Playlist form.

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Review: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Birdman_posterCapsule Reviews
Erin: superreal magical real and hyperreal
Michael: you can’t make a statement about breaking a few walls

Erin’s Take:

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is so metaphorical and metafictional, a direct analogy can be drawn from film to title. In it we have a title-subtitle set-up, like in Dr. Stranglelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Immediately there is either a playfulness or pretention to the double title–and audiences will likely fall into seeing it as one or the other. But unlike Strangelove’s title, Birdman’s is given completely unnecessary, misplaced, and/or absurd parenthetical marks. If they made sense grammatically, they would start before “or.” If they were necessary, we could cut the “or” altogether. Instead we have this oddity that either strikes one as amusing through the eccentricity or annoying for the attention-drawing nature of that same eccentricity. Playful or pretentious and gratuitously structured? This question can  also address the film at large.

I find myself feeling about 80/20 on the matter with the weight going to playful.

The playfulness includes a satirical metacommentary on society’s adoration of celebrities, especially in the form of superheroes. Michael Keaton is brilliantly cast as Riggan Thompson, who was once famous for playing the superhero named Birdman back in the early 90’s. Now he’s attempting to revitalize and legitimize his reputation and career through writing, directing, and starring in an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Keaton, like Riggan, also was at the height of fame in the early 90’s when he played Batman in the Tim Burton-directed iterations of the icon. Keaton has taken smaller roles on as he has aged and settled mostly into obscurity. The Burton Batman films have been replaced by the Nolan versions as the ones the general populace thinks of first. Although I cannot speak to Keaton’s motivation for taking this role, it seems possible that starring in an arthouse film like this one could legitimize and revitalize his late(r) acting career–at least the film wants our brains to go that route. And if it’s true, Keaton has succeeded with numerous acting nominations and awards for his portrayal. I know I was impressed with his varying levels of acting performance.birdman-mirror

That’s just one of many examples of how Alejandro Iñárritu has given the film a sneaking, dark humor and self-reflexive mockery.

And it wouldn’t amount to much more than a satirical comedy without strong artistry behind it. Prevalent in this is an ensemble cast of characters that ride the line between drama and parody with ease. Edward Norton, Emma Stone, and Zach Galifianakis are all giving intriguing, humorous performances with Galifianakis surprisingly being the most subdued and realistic. The screenplay layers on the intertextuality, inviting seemingly meaningful connections to “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” Batman (and numerous other superhero films), and Macbeth with further reference to Roland Barthes for the English grad school grad.

What takes the cake–and even the BAFTAs agree–is the cinematography. Emmanuel Lubezki is director of photography. Here he doubles down on the long takes of Children of Men and creates a film that appears to be shot continuously. The effect is two fold: it amps up the appearance of realism, but paradoxically it also makes the film feel more surreal because it works against the continuity editing we’re used to.

That’s also a great analogy for the film: surreal realism.

This is a film that gets stuck in its own head (or Riggan’s as the case may be). It asks big, gigantic questions about identity, artistry, and reality, and it doesn’t offer clear answers, if it offers any at all. I enjoyed that immensely, couched in the craft of this cast and crew and married to the playfulness. It has inspired many thoughts and hypotheses on what the film might actually be suggesting. It creates and maintains an ambiguity regarding the reality of what is shown that I admired. Not many films attempt this kind of tight-rope walking, and for the most part Birdman is successful.

Michael’s Take:

I don’t necessarily disagree with anything Erin said. I’m just less enthusiastic about it. This kind of narrative – mirroring, story within a story within etcetera, even the atypical cinematography – is the foundation of my wheelhouse. Maybe I wanted more balance on the playful versus pretentious scale.

There’s a point in the film where the protagonist addresses the audience via proxy and détournés any subjective response. I can say I liked Birdman or I didn’t,  but the principles don’t care. I don’t either, but we’ll save that for later.

There’s nothing here about technique! There’s nothing in here about structure! There’s nothing in here about intentions! It’s just a bunch of crappy opinions, backed up by even crappier comparisons…

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is a $22 million film chock full of superhero movie veterans. Movie stars. The very people Riggan Thompson represents, literally and metaphorically. Those people whose artistic integrity is explicitly questioned. Celebrities.

Alejandro Iñárritu’s been nominated for multiple Academy Awards. The director of photography, Emmanuel Lubezki, won one last year following several previous nominations. Birdman could scarcely be more Hollywood.

Those are facts, not opinions. I can’t speak to intentions, there, but it looks like the deck was stacked pretty heavily in favor of success. And so far its paid off, making twice what it cost. So, in that sense, it’s a successful movie.

Because it’s a movie about a movie star hanging his relevance, his self worth, on a Broadway vanity project, the content reverberates with the context. This is a smallish movie for almost everyone involved. Keaton’s own experience as a former screen superhero informed both his casting and his performance. But perhaps more importantly that resonates with the audience. We can substitute Batman for Birdman and elide reality and fiction.

That’s how we come to the movie. Heck, it’s how we come into it. Icarus falls outside Riggan’s dressing room window as he floats a few feet off the floor with the voice of his eponymous former film persona haranguing him off camera. What is going on? Is this real? So, you see what they did there. The film itself is a metaphor for what’s in the film.

Iñárritu says that the appearance of a continuous shot is meant to keep the viewer in the crisis, that the labyrinthine theater set is intentionally claustrophobic. It’s a crappy opinion, but I think it works. Given the conversations we’ve had about it, it’s difficult to rise above the layered metanarratives and talk about structural elements without slipping back into the context(s) within which they appear.

Birdman 21

Take the quote above. The film is structurally sound. The technique, while not flawless, is expert. Literally hollering about it isn’t necessary. It detracts. It calls into sharp relief clever turns of the script where dialogue reappears or set direction where motifs repeat. It betrays a lack of trust in the audience. Stuff I might have loved without the command to appreciate it ends up reduced to sight gags and suspect flourishes.

I saw Birdman. I recognized the incredible efforts that went into it. The direction, cinematography, and performances are inspiring. I appreciated the finished product as a complex intertextual narrative. It wasn’t perfect. That’s okay. There isn’t any perfect art.  I don’t know if I liked it or if I didn’t like it and that doesn’t really bother me. I’ll probably watch it again a couple times.

4 Stars

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Early Observations About “The Snow Queen”

The deuteragonist of Frozen make an appearance.  Once gets self referential.  And Will Scarlet hands out relationship advice.

Michael’s “Always… no, no… never… forget to check your references.”


There were, like, three qualifying “Let it Go”‘s.  But only Regina’s, “I need to let it go,” was word for word.

Ingrid’s, “You’re going to let me go,” was close enough, but nothing compared to her  all out recuperation of Elsa’s story.  From hiding herself away to injuring (okay, more than injuring) her sister, the Snow Queen even borrowed some lines.  Her, “What have I done?”was pitch perfect.

In her first scene, her ice shard appears to graze Emma as it passes.  Will that be significant later?

Anna Hit

And we got to see the gloves provided by Rumplestiltskin with some ambivalent dithering about whether they were magic or not.  It was a nice touch.  He also delivered sn homage to Anna’s tenacity with, “Twu wuv comes in many forms, but the sisterly bond is worth its weight in magic.”

King Harald apparently passed his awkwardness on to his granddaughter, Anna.

However, it looks like she got some of her best qualities from her aunt Helga: the aforementioned sisterly love, determination, and sacrifice.  Unfortunately, she seems to have picked up her poor taste in suitors as well.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Duke of Weselton!


The moment we saw him, we begged him to dance for us.  He obliged.

He was true to scheming dissembling character and managed to accuse Ingrid of sorcery. He inverted the scene Frozen, saying, “Stay away from me,” a line Elsa will say to him years later.  Perhaps his best line echoed the movie directly.  “…Did I just say that out loud?”

Emma’s lack of control over her emotions and, consequently, her powers parallels Elsa’s both in the film and at the beginning of the season.  She even get’s a, “Stay back!” similar to Arendelle’s queen.


For all that, I missed the “Wait… What?” this week.

“The Snow Queen”

The folks in Storybrooke spent most of the episode trying to figure out what the big deal about the apparently fake mirror was, which was all according to plan.  But we learned that Pabbie and the rock trolls have the power to alter the memories of entire kingdoms and he even said, “All magic comes wit a price.”  Depending on the translation of “The Snow Queen” the original mirror was created by the devil, a sprite, goblins, or, yup, trolls.  If you were wondering why they kept coming back to him, I think we just got a hint.

Disney Princesses

this is almost too adorable.  Aurora, Cinderella, and Snow White are all together at mommy and me class.

Baby Class & Mickey

The Magic Kingdom

On top of that, the infant to Aurora’s right is dresses head to toe in Mickey Mouse pajamas.


Henry’s got the broom again and he’s itching for some magic from the master, but all Gold’s offering is an opportunity to polish wood.

Paradise Lost

See our posts on “White Out,” “Breaking Glass,” and “Family Business” for more on this.  These images of two of our queens are somewhat illustrative, though.  The villain’s in white and the striving hero’s in black.

Mirror Queens

Ingrid tells Rumple,”What you want, is what all villains want… Everything.”  Remember near the beginning where Mary Margaret says, “Well, I want him to have everything”?  The villain isn’t dressed in snow white for nothing.  And Snow’s been empathizing with evil Regina and being a terrible mom to Emma.  She was dressed in medium greys this week.

The Lord of the Rings

Elsa: “Can you read this?”

Emma: “Elvish?  No.  I didn’t even see Lord of the Rings.”


We caught another glimpse of Mjolnir.

Once Upon a Time

Gepetto's Parents

Gepetto’s parents, or what’s left of them at the end of “That Still Small Voice” are hanging behind Rumple as he greets and deals with the three sisters.

There are a couple of reasons for mentioning this one, since arguably every episode is referencing those that came before in multiple ways.

First, they tend to prop these unfortunates up when they want to remind sympathetic viewers that Rumplestiltskin is a monster.  That the Dark One isn’t a pet name.  They denote schemes within schemes and ultimately disastrous deals.  Demanding the symbolic sisterly bond in exchange for his magical assistance guaranteed its failure and we’ll eventually see how it furthered his agenda.

Second, Jiminy called on the blue fairy for help after assisting with this atrocity.  We haven’t seen her for while, but she features prominently in the other episode overtly referenced in “The Snow Queen.”

Regina’s looking at her near execution, stopped just in time by Reul Ghorm in “The Cricket Game.”  Oddly enough, Jiminy might have been the deciding voice in planning that execution.  Are we going to see more of both of them later?

Storybook 1

The Cricket Game

Saturday Night Live

I wish I had an embedded video, but I encourage you to check out “Sentimental Value Pawn Shop.”  It’s pretty self-explanatory.  The premise of the sketch is that the more emotional impact an object has, the more value it has in trade.  For example, a plastic ring used in a proposal is worth more than the 2 karat diamond bought later.  After the more subtle Hans and Franz reference in “Rocky Road,” this one jumped out before Rumple claimed the ribbons as his price.  And of course, there they were in the pawn shop at the end.

Bonus: questionable meta-references

The Walking Dead

Young Ingrid is the same actress who played Lizzie.  Lizzie’s relationship with her sister is complex, too.

Star Wars

The Duke of Weselton is on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan Arendelle.


“You’re the queen Arendelle deserves.”

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Outlaw Queen

  1. This was the Outlaw Queen’s episode. In the first of the two tense, romantic scenes between Robin and Regina, we had him expressing his inability to forget her to save Marian. She again attempts to push him away, but it doesn’t work.
  2. Though Regina was absent from the scene, she’s, of course, in Robin’s mind as he has this exchange with old frenemy Will Scarlet. Sure, it starts as a reminiscence about Marian, but it clearly turns into a flashing red arrow pointing straight to Regina. And it leads to the wonderful scene embedded below.

Robin: Did I ever tell you about how I met Marian?…

Will: She said, “There’s good in him, Will. And when you see the good in someone, you don’t give up on them. Especially if they don’t see it themselves. And if you’re ever lucky enough to find true love, you fight for it. Every day…If you find someone you love enough to ruin your entire life for, it’s always worth it.”

Captain Swan

  1. When Emma is overwhelmed by her magic powers, Hook is the one who approaches her to comfort/help her. Unfortunately, his movement towards her sets off the electrical feedback that sends the light post toppling on David. But perhaps that is just an indication of the power of Emma’s feelings for Hook.

I imagine I’m alone in this, but I kinda miss the traditional Hook costume. Or perhaps his skinny jeans make him look like he has clown shoes.

Captain Charming

  1. When Hook and David (with Elsa and Belle) are checking out the mirror Ingrid has installed in the clock tower, Hook boasts: “It must be broken. I’ve been staring at it all day and I think I’m even more devilishly handsome and charming than usual.” He then shares a brief look with David.

Swan Queen

  1. Man, if there’s anyone that Emma needs during this episode, it is Regina.


  1. Well, there was that line where Gold condescendingly states that he’ll help since his beautiful wife is asking. No, I’m kidding. Ever since these two got married and had their ballroom dance, this relationship has been as flat as Australian crepes. (Get it? Cuz Disney’s Belle is French, but Once’s Belle is, like, Australian?)

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Graphic Novel Review – Damian: Son of Batman Deluxe Edition

I came upon this graphic novel absolutely cold. The only thing I knew was it was Batman adjacent and that Grant Morrison wrote it, and that was enough to be interested. Turns out I was only 3/4 right. Most of this collection, the part that collects Damian: Son of Batman #1-4 is written and drawn by Andy Kubert. Only the stand-alone story, Batman #666, is written by Morrison.

So I also read it without any back story–just jumped right in like an idiot. After doing some research, I find that Morrison’s issue predates the Kubert issues by 5 years or so. In fact, it appears Kubert is filling in the storyline that Morrison touches on in flashback. That could have been useful to know. It also makes me wonder why the Kubert issues are published first in the collection.

The whole Damian story arc is an alternate Batman timeline. Damian is the genetically-perfected spawn of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul–and he has the ambiguous morality to go with the genetics. His internal conflict comes from not wanting to fall in line with either of his fates–to kill Batman or become Batman–but it seems his fates have a way of falling in line with him.

DSOBM_2_1The Kubert story fills in the early history of Damian taking on the cape and cowl. He fails to prevent the death of the Batman, Dick Grayson, and in his guilt goes on a vengeance spree to find the killer. Damian has put himself in a dangerous place–somewhere between villain and hero. He must work out for himself how to take on the cowl and fight the scum of Gotham in his own way.

The art throughout the book is strong, and it masked some of the weaknesses in Kubert’s writing for a while. But Kubert doesn’t always trust the story is being told graphically and inserts redundant or hammy dialogue. The electronic journal that gives us Damian’s thoughts is a mediocre vehicle, and I found myself wanting to be rid of it. All in all, the Kubert storyline was simply okay. My biggest problem with it was some oddball character decisions. Wouldn’t Bruce Wayne first try to talk it out with Damian? After all, he also knows the drive for revenge when loved ones are murdered.

bm-666-022My engagement and enjoyment ramped up considerably when I got to Morrison’s issue. Suddenly the story had depth. There were literary and religious references structuring the plot and artwork. Morrison gives us Damian 15 years into the future. His backstory (worked out by Kubert) is only hinted at in flashback. The writing is crisp, the dialogue flows, and the stakes are high. If you read this collection, it will be for this issue.