The Little Mermaid gets a big role, but Ariel only gets a cameo. Fans get serviced. And it’s not the size of the ship, it’s the portal under the sea.
Michael’s “Always… no, no… never… forget to check your references.”
The Little Mermaid
“Poor Unfortunate Souls”
The episode title is pulled from the soundtrack of The Little Mermaid and while it’s not as popular as “Under the Sea,” it’s denser and more integral to the story. It’s also, appropriately, Ursula’s solo.
The film itself gets a title drop when Ursula confronts Poseidon.
Ursula: All you ever wanted was for me to be your little mermaid.
And their argument culminates in the same ultimatum from father to daughter as Ariel and Triton’s.
Triton: As long as you live under my ocean, you’ll obey my rules!
Poseidon: As long as you live in my ocean, you will live by my rules.
Ursula in present day Storybrooke is wearing a number of charms on chains around her neck, reminiscent of the shell her animated counterpart used to trap her voice. Here Poseidon creates it and recruits hook to steal Ursula’s voice.
…which is exactly like Ariel’s in The Little Mermaid, because this episode is awesome. At least the ascending vocalization she’s using to lure pirate ships.
She also sings “Fathoms Below,” the first song heard in the animated film.
Ariel herself shows up and saves hook from drowning, much like she did for Eric. And Snow White. It’s kind of what she does.
Ursula’s voice is captured, and returned, with similar graphics and in the same way Ariel’s was in the animated film. It’s also quite similar to how Maleficent’s spark returned to her last episode.
In a similar vein, young Ursula’s costuming is similar to Ariel’s, though with different colors, sort of matching her Vanessa form, but more in keeping with how we’ve seen her on the show.
And finally, Ursula wants to go to Glauerhaven, where her mother loved to sing. It’s not just some random word chosen to be similar to Misthaven, Arendelle’s name for the Enchanted Forest. Grimsby wanted Eric to settle down with their princess.
The Jolly Roger was in its diminutive state because Blackbeard had ran afoul of the Nobles of Arendelle.
Hook: Elsa did this?
Ernie Hudson, who played Winston Zeddmore in the immortal classic, portrays Ursula’s father, self professed diety Poseidon. Which is terrible funny when you consider this line:
One Hundred and One Dalmatians
Right at the end, there was a well crafted Cruella PoV shot from inside the Panther De Ville that recalled the shaky shots from the animated classic. That they take the time to work those little details in is worth noting.
The movie got nods in a couple lines as well.
Regina (to Cruella): Please, I was torturing people back when you were still playing with puppies.
Gold: Cruella will be our guard dog.
Lord of the Flies
Hook uses a conch shell to call Ursula, demanding an opportunity to speak. This is actually pretty cool, since it’s a subtle callback to Neverland where there were oh so many Lord of the Flies references. And their history is Neverland adjacent, taking place during the period Hook was working for Peter Pan.
Bonus Pun: Smee: Pan will never notice if a few cakes are missing.
Regina sends the Smoke Monster to possess Mary Margaret so she can communicate to Emma and the Charming gang.
Hook: Where is that infernal creature?
Infernal’s an uncommon word that appears fairly frequently in the poem. But the context is perhaps more interesting. Hook offers Ursula an alternative to Gold’s plan, risking himself for the others. While it doesn’t initially work, he persists in trying to rectify his errors and ultimately brings Ursula and Poseidon back together. Everyone involved is simply trying to make what was wrong right and good is brought forth from evil.
Once Upon a Time
Regina’s dream sequence is a reminder about Page 23 and a longing for the happiness depicted therein. It was found in 4×08 “Smash the Mirror,” destroyed in 4×11 “Heroes and Villains,” and Emma discovered it in 4×12 “Darkness on the Edge of Town.”
Beyond her timely cameo, and the more or less satisfactory explanation about the sea goddess Ursula vis-à-vis Merrin Dungey’s character, there’s some real follow through with this callback. After the title card, “Ariel” moves right into Regina teaching Emma magic in Neverland with the exhausted and distraught Charmings looking on.
Charming: This is a bad idea.
Snow: She has it in her; she should learn to use it. We just have to trust her.
Trusting her is exactly what they’re not doing these days. And she’s in full control of her magic, having teamed up with Regina to stop Chernabog and destroying August’s bonds in this episode.
It’s also the episode where Hook revealed that kissing Emma gave him hope for happiness again. The happy ending he revealed Emma to be at the end of “Poor Unfortunate Soul.”
Incidentally, Ursula’s bracelet performs the opposite function of the one in “Ariel.”
4×04 “The Apprentice”
Love is apparently a lot of things on Once Upon a Time. In “The Apprentice,” Rumpelstiltskin called it a weapon. He used it as one last episode, with Belle, just as she used it against him at the end of 4A.
It turns out you can weaponize anything, if that’s your intent. Sort of like how every problem looks like a nail if your only tool’s a hammer. In this case, Ursula’s voice, which is itself kind of a manifestation of her love for her mother, is weaponized by Poseidon.
2×18 Selfless, Brave, and True
August reveals that the Dragon was looking for the Author. He also gets turned back into wood with a potion that can reverse any spell the fairies cast.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
Finally! Hook mentioned that Will spent more time in Wonderland than anyone he knew. And Will hooked him up with a distillate of Wonderland’s finest mushrooms to restore the Jolly Roger to its original size,
Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments
- Much of the Captain Swan love in this episode revolved around what Hook was willing to do and own up to in order to assist Emma’s heroic attempts to thwart Gold’s plans. One of the things it meant was facing Ursula and the wrong he had done her in the past–betraying her trust, breaking his code, destroying her happiness, and turning her into a villain. There are two scenes that especially deal with the Hook of then, the villain, and the Hook of now, ostensibly a good guy.
- The first is between Emma and her parents, where they very quickly discuss whether Hook has “turned” Ursula or vice versa. Emma defends the very notion of Hook being “dark” by empathizing with wanting to shove the dagger in Gold’s heart. Her parents are taken aback–Snow: “That’s not you, Emma.” Emma: “That’s not Hook either.”
- The second scene is the real swooner and it comes near the end, after Hook has reunited Ursula and Daddy Poseidon as well as Ursula and her happy ending. Ursula’s villainy comes to an end, but Hook is concerned that Regina’s theory about happy endings might be true and that he might be marked with a V rather than an H. In this concern, Emma realizes that if he’s worried about loosing his happy ending, that means he’s found it, and in true doltish but romantic fashion, Emma asks The-Pirate-Who-Traded-His-Ship-For-Her what his happy ending is. “Don’t you know, Emma? It’s you.” She is obviously touched, with tears welling in her eyes, and they share a very sweet kiss.
- Regarding whether Hook is on the precipice of losing his happy ending as a marked Villain. This is clearly some heavy foreshadowing, but I’ve been on to the writers since 4B started and they overdid the lovey-dovey happiness between these two. It spelled DOOM. And we got the particular spelling of that doom via Ursula who revealed that the endgame was to fill Emma’s heart with darkness. But on the other hand, Ariel’s cameo not only saved Hook’s life and name-dropped Elsa, it also gave the perspective that perhaps the villains weren’t getting their happy endings because they were going about it the wrong way. So, for instance, Ursula teaming up with Cruella, Malificent, and Gold to force the Author into rewriting their endings=wrong way. But Hook giving Poseidon the shell allowing Poseidon to return her singing voice and also allowing Ursula to forgive her father=right way. Hook seems to be learning the “code” of the Book in this episode. “By taking a page out of your book, Swan. I’m going to return her happy ending.”
Wooden Swan (Emma/August)
- Reunited! Oh, and the concern by Emma and the knowing grins by August! Emma: “It’s good to have you back. Even if it’s not the way it was supposed to be. I’m glad I didn’t have to wait 20 years for you to be you again.”
- Well, of course it was a dream. Fan service like that just doesn’t come in normal, reality-based packages. With the exception, perhaps, of the recreation of the ballroom dance between Belle and Rumple. But it was brilliant, that joy at finding each other, the kiss that followed. Too bad that Evil Queen Regina interrupted the works with her fireball. It would seem that Regina feared losing Robin if she lost her newly found goodness, but that’s not how she interprets things later to Emma. Regina thinks Evil Queen was trying to protect Robin.
- Regina confides in Emma her dream about Robin. Emma thinks it represents the battle between good and evil within Regina and Regina’s fear about losing the good. But that’s not what’s important–the intimacy between these two opened a door for this sharing. A sharing that was Regina’s priority when arriving at the apartment.
- Will and Belle got a cute little moment when Hook goes to re-size his ship. Belle questions whether Hook is really Hook and Ursula mentions how “lover boy here” would already be dead if Hook were really Gold.
- You know, Will may be “the thief” but he seems straightforward with Belle, and that’s something she has lacked with Rumple.
- See the above “lover boy” comment by Ursula, since it also applies here. Actually, most of the moments concerning Belle and Rumple were more anti-ship moments than supportive of their couple status. I didn’t initially want to include them.
- When the Charmings Team inform Belle that Rumple is in town and ask where the dagger is, the truth comes out that she was completely duped by Rumple. As always? She bemoans whether she’ll ever be free of his deceptions.