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Once Upon a Time Returns this Weekend

OUAT Season 5 Banner

We like shiny objects. We like dense postmodern recombinant metacommentary. And, because we have children, we like Disney. Erin liked Disney just fine beforehand. I came around when Frozen taught our firstborn about sacrificial agape. The resulting obsession introduced us to Once Upon a Time. Which has all of those things we like.

We paid incredibly close attention to season four and shared our responses every week. We’re not sure if we can maintain that level of engagement this time around. But we’re excited anyway.

Coming Sunday: Once Upon a Time 5×01

CAUTION: spoilers

Emma Kneeling

“The Dark Swan” Immediately after becoming the Dark One, Emma disappears and the heroes must band together to save her, but first they have to find her, which will require the help of an unlikely ally. Meanwhile, in the Enchanted Forest, Emma struggles to resist her dark urges as she searches for Merlin in the hope that he can stop her transformation. Along the way to Camelot, she gets help from the plucky and brave warrior princess Merida, as well as King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz and directed by Ron Underwood.

This is the season opener and there are months of teases. I usually try to spread the link love around, but who am I kidding? OUATepic is the gold standard for Once videos. So pardon the ads and prepare to be spoiled.

Emma as the Dark Swan: (apparently imprisoned in Camelot)

Introducing Merida:

Killian tries to call the Dark One: (immediately following season four)

Promo featuring King Arthur:

Emma runs into a familiar favorite chasing a will o’ the wisp:

Hook has a proposition for Henry:

The Apprentice offers what help he can and Regina, well, just watch:

It’s a testament to how invested we’ve become in the characters that that last one was more delightful than seeing Amy Manson kill it as Merida or Arthur drawing Excalibur. Sure, those are great. But Regina’s done too much good? More, please.

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Early Observations about “Mother”

Oddly enough, some parenting of our own delayed this post a day. Things are getting more meta by the moment. And just when everyone’s finding happiness on their own, too.

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

“Mother” (1988)

Inspired by Tipper Gore’s PMRC and their crusade for Parental Advisory labeling, Danzig’s “Mother” is a more or less a challenge to parents who wish to protect their children from the evils of the world. Sound familiar?

Mother
Can you keep them in the dark for life
Can you hide them from the waiting world

Not about to see your light
And if you wanna find hell with me
I can show you what it’s like

Of course there are also a surfeit of mothers on the show: Emma, Regina, Mary Margaret, Zelena, Cora, Maleficent, (the baby club from 4A)…

Exodus 2:1-10

Lily: They sent me through the portal in my eggshell. Baby Moses in his basket.

So last episode I pointed out how the SuperSport with the Sylvia license plate linked Lily and Mal to 2014’s Maleficent. “Rhea Sylvia conceived Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome with the god Mars. She was a minor forest diety, a spirit of the forest, like the movie Mal.” Here the writers drill further down. The legends of Romulus and Remus as well as Moses are examples of the foundling tale, a trope as old as stories themselves. Maleficent‘s Anastasia is another example.

This is apparently the kind of thing writers get up to when allowed. We’ve seen a reference to another foundling, Sigurd, by way of his partner Guðrún’s name emblazoned on the shop next to Gold’s.

“Dark Star” (1968)

4x20 Dark Star Pharmacy

Naming a pharmacy after a song by the psychedelic rock band The Grateful Dead is both goofy and inspired. Placing the sign for it above Lilith Page, Maleficent’s daughter and unwilling recipient of Emma Swan’s potential for darkness with the star shaped birthmark… well, that’s just a cleverness hammer.

Mirror shatters in formless reflections of matter.
Glass hand dissolving to ice petal flowers revolving.

Like Gudrun they might even have seen the callback to 4A. And they named this ship if anyone wants to sail it.

Annie Hall

Maleficent: But all I want to do now is enjoy our time together. I am your mother.
Lily: Well, I’m grown up now. I don’t need grooming advice from Annie Hall.

4x20 Annie Hall

The prodigal daughter is definitely making fun of Mal’s vest and tie, but there’s a good chance that she’s making another lateral analogy. One of the tensions in everybody’s favorite Woody Allen movie is between enjoying the time we have versus neurotically dwelling on the past.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Chief Bromden and Nurse Ratched:

4x20 Chief Bromden and Nurse Ratched

 

Bonus points for working these folks, whom we’ve seen before into Zelena’s cuckoo scheme subplot.

The Lion King

This is probably the closest we’ll ever get, but it’s actually more interestingly constructed than it might appear at first glance.

4x20 The Boy with the Lion Tattoo

Nottingham’s actually trying to get himself a kingship he has no right to and he’s the nemesis of Robin, the guy Regina believes to belong by her side. This little lion is meant to remind the scary sheriff who he is. Remember…

How to Train Your Dragon

This one seems a like a bit of a stretch, but Mal does say dragons have to be trained how to fly. Even so, I might have ignored it if Killian hadn’t mentioned Toothless.

Mr. Gold: Are you sure you want to start the day tangling with the Dark One?
Hook: The Dark One can’t strike back without charring his heart. You’re toothless, old dog.

 

Why didn’t he say crocodile? Because we’re talking about the descriptor, not the animal.

“Operation Mongoose” 4×21,22

Maleficent: Can’t you just wait a little while longer? Things could look different in a week.

Postneometareference to the season finale, where things look very different indeed.

“Pilot” 1×1

But wait, it’s also referencing the first ever episode? It is. Like a mirror. The parent is trying to get the child to stay in Storybrooke for one week rather than the other way around.

Emma: Listen to me, kid. I am not in any book. I’m a real person. And I’m no savior. You were right about one thing, though. I wanted you to have your best chance. But it’s not with me. C’mon, let’s go.
Henry: Please don’t take me back there! Just stay with me for one week, that’s all I ask! One week, and you’ll see I’m not crazy.

“Heroes and Villains” 4×12

Another episode reference comes full circle as Gold’s plans from the beginning of the arc come to fruition, just in time for villains to finally win.

4x20 Heroes and Villains

 

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Captain Swan

Killian gloats to Gold that Emma didn’t turn dark. Nah-nah-nah-nah-boo-boo!

Emma’s return to Storybrooke means a big ol’ romantic hug for Capt. Hook.

Killian takes Emma out to the docks to have her look at the horizon. “I can tell your heart is uneasy. And it’s my job, well, I hope it’s my job to protect your heart, even when no one is physically trying to steal it.” He talks to her again about letting go of the anger and resentment she’s holding towards her parents. It is incredibly sweet. And it totally works. Of course, since Lily’s blood is the key to making the ink, totally saving Emma from her darker self doesn’t end up meaning much for the plot, but it does bring Killian and Emma closer and restores the bond she has with her parents. Killian proves, once again, how insightful he can be about love and grudges.

Outlaw Queen

A rough opening scene and conversation between Regina and Robin. Regina, however, shows her character growth by not just ripping out his heart. Actually, she’s pretty calm about the whole thing, if a little wallowing in self-pity. Robin rightfully points out that his moving on is hardly the biggest issue here–his little Roland won’t understand where his mother has gone once Zelena stops using the glamour. This helps get Regina back on focus, and she suggests a forgetting potion to take him back to the time before fake Marian showed up. Furthermore, poor Marian, who died for no other reason than this farce that Zelena cooked up. Regina apologies for Zelena doing all of this to thwart Regina’s happy ending, and Robin suggests they can now pursue that happy ending again, though clearly there are many complications and challenges in front of them. Here Regina wallows a bit more, foreshadowing the reveal that she cannot have children. But Robin just asks, “What do we do now?” It’s a neat scene, echoed later with Lily and Malificent, showing two real human adults dealing with their hopes and disappointments. It certainly kicks the door wide open for these two to continue their relationship, but it doesn’t minimize the emotional difficulties it would mean.

Cora is an Outlaw Queen shipper! (Except not so much as it turns out she’s willing to sub any ol’ scoundrel in for Robin.) When Cora does try to trick Regina into accepting Nottingham (the sexist pig!) in for Robin, Regina doesn’t fall for it. Later she tells Cora: “That’s not what a soulmate feels like.” Regina will understand many years later how right she is.

Regina realizes she’s her own worst enemy in achieving her happy ending and changes her mind at the last minute about writing Zelena out of the story. Instead, she essentially challenges Zelena to a custody battle, showing she’s ready to fight for her happy ending…which is feeling at home in this world. Robin’s just a part of that world. Too bad that decision makes Isaac very bored.reginaworld

Rumpbelle

No real action in this episode, but the teaser for next week certainly promises great things for Rumpbelle on the horizon.

Swan Queen

Regina figures out a way to power the blood without endangering her/our Savior’s heart.

Snowing

When Snow runs in to “help” with Lily in dragon form, Charming runs in after her, clearly concerned for her well-being (and rightfully so).

Anti-ship Moment

Zelena, after hearing Regina’s plans to be happy with Robin despite Zelena’s meddling: “Another woman defining happiness relative to the love of a man.”

zelenaantiship

 


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Early Observations About “Heroes and Villains”

We bid 4A farewell. Two ships are sunk. The cobra joins the mongoose. And the last Arendelle scene mirrors the first.

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

“Heroes and Villains” – The Beach Boys

Is heroes vs. villains a fair descriptor for the second half of the season?
KITSIS: Absolutely. That is the title of episode 11.
HOROWITZ: It’s “Heroes and Villains.”
KITSIS: That’s actually named after the Beach Boys song.

Frozen

EMMA: [The Snow Queen] wanted to make Storybrooke her Ice Castle.

The perfect “Wait, what?” Anna carries on about how great this Gold fellow must have been and then David tells her he’s Rumplestiltskin.

ANNA: Did you see these bruises?
ELSA: Have you seen Hans’s eye?
ANNA: Yeah. Totally worth it.

Anna Punch

Anna’s wearing the gloves in the family, now.

This scene, with Anna saying, “What is that amazing smell?” instead of Elsa.

The Sound of MusicAnna of Austria

Anna’s skip-hopping arms wide approach to the town line completes all possible riffs on her costume. She hasn’t moved that way at all through the season. While it didn’t seem wildly out of character, it did take a moment to recognize where they were going with it.

When the ad for The Sound of Music Sing Along aired, we had a good belly laugh.

Star Wars

Holo-Belle more or less crying, “Help me, Obi-Wa… Rumplestiltskin. You’re my only hope.”

SW Belle

Wish Upon a Star

Rumple tempts Belle with a honeymoon in “a magical city called New York.” The opening line of this Olivia Goldsmith novel is, oddly enough, “Once upon a time in a magical city called New York a girl under a spell lived on an island.”

Fantasia

The broom is back. With enough personality to outshine some of the other recurring guests on the show, this bit player from “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” struts its stuff, cracks its knuckles, and reveals the portal back to Arendelle. All while its creepy modified theme music plays in the background.

Bonus: Turns out the house does belong to the Sorcerer after all, validating a lot of fans who called it at the beginning of the season.

The Little Mermaid

One of three freebies, everyone’s favorite predatory subprime magic lender Ursula appears as part of a trio trying to swindle Rumplestiltskin.

Her contribution to the plot against Rumple is a sand dollar bearing the holographic message.

After wrapping Belle in her tentacles, she says, “Such a pretty thing.  Seems a shame I’ll have to crack her pipes.” It’s a dialogic stretch to reference the film.

101 Dalmatians

Cruella de Vil, whose costume is a nice mix of mostly animated classic with the makeup of the live action adaptation.

While the green smoke around the Belle-ogram is characteristic of the cloud following Cruella, it apparently wasn’t a big enough clue, so they added a Dalmatian to lead Belle away.

Maleficent

Her raven, Diablo, delivers the ransom message to Rumplestiltskin. At least, his name is Diablo in the animated classic. In the recent reinterpretation, he’s recast as Diaval.  It remains to be seen which one they’ll go with.

Maleficent’s costume has undergone a drastic redesign, bringing it in line with the 2014 film.

Once Upon a Time

Some key themes reappeared in this episode. Color coded clothing showed us a Regina who’d do the right thing in blue and a Belle who’d make some shocking choices in grey and black. Rumple stalked around with Geppetto’s parents hanging in the background, reminding us what an evil imp he is.

But they brought the Frozen arc full circle visually. Our first glimpse of Arendelle’s royal siblings in “A Tale of Two Sisters” was their clasping hands from behind, Anna on the left and Elsa on the right. The shot’s inverted, or mirrored, at the end of their scene with Elsa on the left this time.

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Kristanna

  • Not that we got much interaction between the two on screen, but the good news is that once they got back to Arendelle, Anna’s right hook apparently made short work of Hans, and Kristoff and Anna were finally going to get married. Mazel tov!

Captain Swan

  • To be honest, I had been hoping for the Captain Swan relationship to be more central to the episode. Instead, it fell fourth fiddle to the Arendelle crew, the Rumpbelle dissolution, and the coming of the Queens of Darkness. As the plotline involving Gold having Hook’s heart developed, I fully expected there to be some major touching scene between the two. Instead, we got two minor scenes.
  • The first of these was in Granny’s Diner when Gold puppeted Hook into telling Emma where the portal was to get Anna out of the way. Emma finally touched him intimately on the face and asked what was wrong, that he was acting strange[ly]. The only response he could make of his own volition was to grab her wrist with a shaking hand. But does she pursue him or this clue that clearly something is truly messed up? No. Jeez, Emma, can’t you see your man is in trouble?! You are a less than stellar girlfriend.
  • The second was when she reinserts his heart. (Note, there was no romantic anything when Emma and Snow arrive at the clocktower to see Gold about to crush Hook’s heart.) So he asks her to be gentle, but this is Emma, so she just shoves it back in, thinking that it must be like pulling off a band-aid. But as soon as it’s back in, he lays a great, passionate kiss on her. When the kiss breaks (why, oh why, did it have to?), he reiterates that he’s a survivor, and she shyly smiles.

Rumpbelle

  • This relationship, more than any other, was at the center of the episode. Considering how much damage the writers had done to this ship since the iconic dance in the ballroom, I ended up being rather relieved that Belle finally figured out that Rumple loved power more than anything and kicked him out of town. That said, it was an emotional scene, and Robert Carlyle sold it so well, I actually felt bad for Rumple as he lost Belle, then his magic, and crumpled from the return of his crippled leg.
  • First, Rumple wakes Belle from a sleep that I can only imagine he put her in magically and tells her that he’s going to take her to the magical land of New York. She goes to pack her bag happily.
  • Belle saves the day, or at least Hook, by controlling Rumple with his dagger after using the magic gauntlet to reveal to her what Rumple’s greatest weakness is (that’s not good wife behavior). The betrayal is merely in response to the many, many betrayals Rumple has offered her this season. Not even the sort of sweet flashback scene of him trading the gauntlet for her life could redeem him.
  • So she finally forces him out of town, using the dagger to make him go. It’s painful for both of them (and the audience). We know this won’t be the end of it, since Rumple won’t stay gone for long (you, know, just till March), but Rumple’s going to have to work his hinney off to win her back. She’s gotten wise to his unchanging ways.

Outlaw Queen

  • I liked that the first thing we saw Regina do this episode was return Marian’s heart, that there was no hesitation. In return, Marian offers to back off if Robin chooses to be with Regina. How civil.
  • Robin chooses Regina! He points out that though it may be complicated, the most important thing he can model for his son is to live honestly and follow his heart.
  • Not that it matters, because Plot Conveniences Playhouse presents the relapse of Ingrid’s ice curse, and the only way to save Marian is for her to cross the town line into the non-magical world from which she can never return. But Regina won’t let her go alone–she insists that Robin and Roland have to go with her. Which is honorable and stuff, but very sad for the Outlaw Queen shippers around the world.
  • Their good-bye is full of feels. Thank goodness Marian couldn’t see that kiss–not that Robin would know that. Ballsy, Robin!

Swan Queen

  • Emma offers to do shots with Regina after Robin leaves town, but then Henry breaks up their fun with news about The Author (pretentious indeed!). The three of them go to the mansion’s secret room and find the blank storybooks. Emma opts in for Operation Mongoose and reiterates her promise to bring Regina a happy ending.


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The Joy of Shipping

What this is not: an effusive demonstration of devotion to UPS, USPS, or FedEx. That’s not the shipping I mean.

I’m talking about (relation)shipping, the act of desiring a fictional couple to get into a romantic relationship. Generally speaking, this couple is one that is being kept apart for various reasons: there is something “wrong” about them being together (Logan and Veronica on Veronica Mars, Buffy and Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer), their relationship must remain platonic for professional reasons (Mulder and Scully on The X-Files, Mal and Inara on Firefly, Castle and Beckett on Castle), or the show is just milking the romantic tension (see all the above but also Maddie and David on Moonlighting, Sam and Diane on Cheers). Alternatively, this could be a couple that the show gives only a hint of an attraction, allowing a kind of camp or slash reading which could allow for non-hetero sexual pairings, like Xena and Gabrielle on Xena: Warrior Princess prior to the final seasons where their relationship became overt canon.

imageI love the charge of electricity in a great shipper couple. I shipped Mulder and Scully hardcore for many years, even going so far as to read fanfiction that would take them down romantic, non-canonical roads. I would pour over screenshots like the one from “Post-Modern Prometheus” on the left there and watch video clips on YouTube. Talented shippers often show their enthusiasm through images and videos splicing together key moments for the couple.

I think my last shipping excitement was for Logan and Veronica back in 2006. So imagine my joy when a few nights ago the feeling hits me again.

We are midway through season 3 of Once Upon a Time, and I find myself inexplicably pulled into the throes of shipping once again with Emma and Hook. To add to the wrongness of it, my husband has found Hook despicable. But he’s so cute with his tousled hair and black eyeliner. Of course, he’s exactly wrong for Emma, which is exactly what makes him so right. He’s the bad boy type with his black leather duster and his hook hand. But he’s also a great match for Emma. They get each other, understand each other’s tricks. As a former bails bondsman, she’s used these tricks as well as foiled them many times over. There’s clear chemistry. And, he’s not unlike Neil was 12 years prior–a thief and a liar, a criminal with a heart for Emma.

Is this line a Princess Bride reference, making Hook the Dread Pirate Roberts and Emma Buttercup? Suits them.

Is this line a Princess Bride reference, making Hook the Dread Pirate Roberts and Emma Buttercup? Suits them.

But coming to the shipping so late means that some of my normal shipper activities are risky. I realized this when simply seeking out the video clip of the S3.E5 first kiss. Though there are plenty of fan-made videos, images, and fanfic to indulge in, to do so means opening myself up to all of the spoilers for the episodes we haven’t caught up with yet. Boo.

I’ve found OUAT to be a mixed bag, but the shipping has renewed my interest and then some.

Emma + Hook 4-Evah!