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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

Batman

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

Fantasia

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!

Brave

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.

Rumpbelle

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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Early Observations about “Lily”

There’s almost too much of everything in this episode. Too many references to do them all. To many shipper moments to catch your breath.

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

Lily

The Flower symbolizes friendship and devotion. Which helps explain why every other word launced a ship. And ties in nicely to the Emma/Lilith relationship over time.

The opening scene is a smorgasbord.

Once Upon a Time “Best Laid Plans”

This scene picks up immediately after Isaac’s imprisonment.

Fantasia – “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”

As always, The Apprentice is accompanied by theme music based on the film.

4x20 Apprentice - stairs

Mickey The Apprentice traipses down the stairs to the Sorcerer’s… what is this place anyway?

According to The Disney Audio Archive and Sterling Holloway, “Once upon a time, in a deep dark cave way down underground, there lived a mighty sorcerer.” So that’s cannon anyway.

The Sword and the Stone

The Sorcerer finally manifests himself as blue smoke with white stars and red lights. It’d be an incredibly interesting coincidence if this weren’t intentional.

4x20 The Sorcerer and Merlin

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

The Sorcerer sounds a lot like Palpatine, particularly with the diminutive, “my Apprentice.”

The Invisibles

Ragged Robin Ganzfeldt Tank SmallSeveral works of fiction have dealt with authors entering into or getting trapped in their own stories, but few have dealt with them continuing to write inside. In Volume 2 of Grant Morrison’s magnum opus, the reader learns that Kay actually wrote herself into the story. A feat which required technology, magic, and time travel.Tom O Bedlam Small

Being trapped inside might not be inherently bad; though Isaac doesn’t seem to have been too fond of it. Coincidentally, The Apprentice looks an awful lot like Tom’O’Bedlam, greatest sorcerer of his age.

 

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Jennifer Morrison actually mentioned this title on Facebook and Twitter a couple weeks ago.

Gold: We won’t have what we need to rewrite the book, to secure our happy endings, until Ms. Swan has completed her journey.

We’d be forgiven for assuming he means only the dark path he mentions next. But in a sense, that’s just the latter phase(s) of the hero’s journey, dramatized below by Ryan Dunlavey in Action Philosophers.

Hero's Journey

 Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

Gold (again): The savior has taken the first step down a dark path.

Led Zeppelin and Jack of Fables4x20 Lilith Page

Lily’s adoptive parents are James and Priscilla Page. They’re named page to tie in with all this author stuff, The first names are clever. Jimmy Page’s guitar could scream for Adam and Eddie as easily as Tolkien. But Priscilla Page is a bold move. Fables is an ongoing comic book series with a conceit similar to that of Once Upon a Time. Priscilla Page handles retrieval, capture, and return of Fables to the Golden Boughs Retirement Village.

Paradise Lost

With Lily explicitly noting the savior.anti-savior setup they have going, it’s probably safe to revisit one of the greatest stories of hubris in the Enlish language.

Regina: How about we make this the day we both beat fate?

Nether of them actually do, of course. Emma picks up an embodied nemesis and Regina finds Robin bound by his sense of honor to remain with Zelena.

Lost

Emma’s foster family serves Mr. Cluck’s Chicken Shack for dinner despite having a two thousand dollar espresso machine,

Once upon a Time in Wonderland

A chess board with the white pieces closest to the camera and more to the left than their black counterparts dominates the foreground while Belle says goodbye to Will, recalling the White King.

4x20 White King

Scooby-Doo

Will: If you’ve come here to hurt me,Will Scrappy you best get on with it. But I warn you, I’m scrappy.
Gold: All right, Scrappy.

Scrappy is the original Poochy, added to the ABC series Scooby-Doo in 1979 in an effort to bolster ratings. It worked, but oversaturation ultimately squandered fans’ goodwill. He’s a universally unpopular character and the trope namer for characters with hatedoms rather than fandoms.

However, the reference here is both to Will’s boxing style and his willingness, even eagerness, to begin a discussion with fisticuffs. The image is from 4×11 because even he knows punching the Dark One is silly.

Weekly World NewsWeekly World News – The World’s Only Reliable News

Once a supermarket checkout aisle staple, The Weekly World News published its last issue in 2007. Consisting of mostly fictional material, the tabloid occupied a sort of fairy tale space in American culture for nearly three decades. Pinocchio’s story would not have seemed out of place on the cover as “Toy Becomes a Real Boy.” And it would have ran without a disclaimer.

Maleficent

First things first. You cannot escape this car in a Volkswagon Beetle. Even if you’re the Antisaviour.

4x20 Sylvia

Other than that, we mostly want it for the license plate that connects Lily to Maleficent via the 2014 movie. 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.

Disney Descendants

Snow and Charming have a dateughter. And a son. The Evil Queen has a son. Maelficent has a daughter. Zelena’s pregnant. What does it all mean? Hopefully not this. (Although Kristin Chenoweth is always a delight.

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Captain Swan

  • killiannothingtoliveforAlthough Hook himself isn’t in much of the episode, he and Emma have a key romantic scene. As Emma is saying her good-byes to the fam before she and Regina road trip it to New York, Killian gives her one last encouragement on how to keep from the dark side as a man who started as a hero, turned dark, and has had to work his way back. She asks him why he gave in to the dark path of revenge. “I had nothing to live for. You have your parents, Henry…” “You,” she supplies wryly. “Aye, me. And I you. That’s what’s kept me on my path now. Use whatever it takes to stay on yours.” If Emma does go dark, or on the brink of it, and all signs seem to point that way, I’m hoping Killian will be the one to bring her back.

Swan QueenReginaSmilesatEmma

  • This is a Swan Queen episode if ever there was one. Regina is the one to comfort Emma when she finds her staring at the microfilm article about baby Lilith Page, empathizing about being fate’s plaything–Emma’s only friend may have been her darkside doppleganger, but Regina managed to adopt the Savior’s son. In the first half of the season, this role was being filled by Killian, but now Regina has stepped in. Regina suggests they road trip to New York. Emma says she doesn’t need a babysitter, but Regina responds by saying perhaps she needs Emma. “But maybe I need you. You lived in New York; I’ve barely been outside of Storybrooke. How ’bout it, Swan? How ’bout we make today the day we both beat fate?”
  • On the road trip, Regina attempts to find out more about the story of Emma and Lily, leading to the various flashbacks, although it doesn’t seem that Emma shares the information from those flashbacks with her. Instead, as Emma is challenged by her feelings of anger, fear, and aggression (the Dark Side of the Force are they), Regina is constantly trying to pull her back, make sure she’s okay and not crossing lines she can’t come back from. Most noteably this happens when Emma has Lily on her knees at a point of a gun and Regina talks her back from killing her. What’s at stake for Emma: Lily knows the whole story and wants revenge against Emma’s parents. By killing Lily, Emma would be protecting her family. This was the Cruella justification. But this time, Emma knows Lily can’t kill anyone, at least not at the moment. There is time for other options. Regina points this out and makes it clear that if she crosses this line, the path back is not easy. “Your parents need a hero, not a murderer…Cruella was an accident. But if you cross this line, the journey back isn’t easy. Trust me. I know.” And Regina reaches her.

Lily Swan

  • Of course, the other major ship that got play this episode was Lily Swan. All of the talk of fated, entangled lives. All the discussion of Lily being in darkness and life being lighter when Emma is around. All of that can easily be read as soul-crossed lovers stuff. Among the best of these lines: “Emma was the first person who really understood me. You know, like we were meant to come into each other’s lives.”
  • But also: “My life is filled with darkness. When you’re around, things are brighter.”
  • And the set designers are fine leaving the ambiguity there. When Emma and Regina enter Lily’s mobile home, there is a colorful banner hanging over her couch. It’s one of those multicolored prayer banners with the many different religious symbols to guide a person to enlightenment–clearly a character-building detail–but it also reads as a gay pride banner to anyone looking for clues of that sort.

banner

Dragon Queen

  • Regina looks truly excited and impressed when Malificent crashes the family meeting to get Emma on the case of finding her daughter. “I knew Gold couldn’t keep the dragon on her leash for long.”

reginasmilesatmal

Rumpbelle

  • Gold enlists Will’s help to retrieve Belle’s heart. But the banter that opens the deal is priceless. While Will certainly doesn’t want to work with Gold, he does want Belle to have her heart.
  • The mission is a success, and Rumple gives back Belle’s heart while also seemingly bowing out of the love triangle. Gold: “We [he and Will] share one thing in common–we both care for you… I’m not asking for forgiveness. I spent every day of our marriage deceiving you when I shoulda been trying to make you happy. Now it’s too late. My heart is nearly black. If I continue hurting you, then there’s no hope for me. I’m going to return this [her heart] to you, Belle. But he’s [Will] the one who is going to protect it, because I’ve proven unworthy.” When he leaves, she turns to go after him or say something at least. Will tries to take her hand but she pulls it away. Now, on the one hand, this could be sincere change in Rumple, a move that deserves Belle cracking her heart open to let him back in. But, on the other hand, this could be a calculated move to sully Will in her eyes by teaming up with him, magnanimously giving back her heart, both literally and figuratively, and showing repentance and a lack of jealousy.

Scarlet Beauty

  • The same scenes that play into the Rumpbelle fandom play here, but less well. The scene opens with Belle and Will kissing before Belle goes off to babysit for a bit. Will, when originally approached by Gold, readies himself for a fight. Although he doesn’t trust Gold, he cares enough about Belle to take a chance to get her heart back.
  • But why does he back up so when Rumple gives her heart back? Rumple gives a line that might be a clue to another twist in this story: “But he’s the one who is going to protect it, because I’ve proven unworthy.” At face value, it would seem Rumple is talking about Will making her happy. But there’s another option, a more literal one. Perhaps Rumple put Belle’s heart in Will’s body and Will’s heart in Belle’s body. Thus he would literally be protecting her heart, and the one in her chest, the one that Regina might seek to remove again for leverage, would actually be Will’s. He would take the chance rather than her. It’s a bit convoluted, but not outside of the range of plausibility.

Outlaw Queen

  • Good grief. Where to start? This story line went from bad to worse in the span of five minutes. But let’s begin at the good. Regina travels to New York to save her love Robin Hood from her insane sister. I like the twist of the normal trope here–the princess needing to be rescued from the evil king.
  • The bad. Then, at the end of the episode, she finally makes it to New York, gets reunited with Robin, tells him Marian is actually Zelena, and (conveniently) it was Zelena who killed Marian (not her). She can’t understand why Robin is so reticent to believe her, to grab Roland and make a run for it.
  • The ugly. Then Marian returns home, and all hell breaks loose. First, Zelena attempts to play Marian and get Robin on her side. This works for a while, until Regina makes a move to find the magical artifact allowing Zelena to look like Marian and Zelena brings down the illusion to reveal to Robin the truth. Robin is aghast. Zelena is pregnant. He can’t leave her.
  • robinreactsWhy is this ending so ugly? Because Robin was raped (or merely sexually assaulted by some state’s definitions). It’s bad enough for OQ shippers that he would consent to sex with Marian, and certainly that is one of the implications of Zelena’s pregnancy. But the fact that he was consenting to sex with Marian, not Zelena, means that Zelena raped him. The ugliness of this is that the show runners won’t likely treat it as such. Already, he means to stay with Zelena out of honor. I understand him wanting to make sure the baby is healthy and protected, but the whole turn of events, besides being needlessly soap-operatic, is likely going to do little justice to telling a story of male rape. And that’s a damned shame. Treat it respectfully, or find another way to challenge the Regina/Robin relationship.


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Early Observations about “Darkness On the Edge of Town”

Welcome back, Once Upon a Time! We’ve missed you.

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

“Darkness On the Edge of Town” – Bruce Springsteen (from 1978’s Darkness On the Edge of Town)

Everybody’s got a secret… something that they just can’t face.

Fantasia

4x12 Chernabog

Chernabog! From Bald Mountain, folks!

Maleficent

When confronted with the intrusions of Ursula and Cruella, Maleficent remarks, “And you know what I do with trespassers.” We’re assuming she isn’t suggesting she’ll fall deeply in love with these two.

101 Dalmatians

Once has come up with a really clever use of the green smoke that followed her original template around throughout the film. It was only teased at the end the last arc, but it’s definitely her power signature.

Lost

Cruella and Ursula get their fast food on at Mr Cluck’s Chicken Shack:

Gospel???

Rumplestiltskin’s bringing “the good news” to the Queens of Darkness. The first time seemed like a bit of a gag, but later he remarks that he’s “the answer to [their] prayers.” And Cruella hangs a bell on it when she says she’s not the religious type. It’s a sly inversion that ties into…

Paradise Lost

‘Cause here’s Rumple talking like a prophet while planning to corrupt the savior. And that theme is recapitulated in Chernabog’s selection of Emma as the individual with the greatest potential for darkness over Regina. The whole arc is gonna rock the evil from good/good from evil angle.

 Once Upon a Time 4×10 “Shattered Sight”

The scroll Ingrid used to enter Storybrooke in 2001 reappears as a useful method of getting people into, or back into, town.

Ingrid's Scroll

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Captain Swan

  • cskisscoffeeDuring the hiatus, apparently this couple got comfortable. The first indication of this is Hook’s coffee and kiss waiting for Swan as she stops by the library on her way to the sheriff’s office. Both are smiling. They appear genuinely happy and in love. It’s adorable. They’re doomed.
  • During the ceremony to let the fairies out of the hat, Hook and Swan are holding hands and looking to each other for comfort. It’s all very sweet. Seriously, doomed.
  • Emma finds Hook in the back hallway of Granny’s, thinking. “Lurking and brooding. That’s a classic combination.” Also totally something she digs in men, this, exactly this, is her potential for darkness writ large.
  • She exhorts him to go party. “We should buckle some swash, or, you know, whatever.”
  • cpceremonyHe’s struggling with his involvement in trapping the fairies in the first place, having difficulty forgiving himself now that they’re freed again, because it was a choice of his, just a really, really bad one. And one he’s now got to live with. Emma, however, attempts to absolve him of his guild. “Trust me, this is a mark in the hero’s column.”
  • At the end of the episode, Hook and Swan sit at Granny’s having a nice little dinner and looking just tickled pink to be in each other’s presence. Incoming doom in 3, 2, 1…cpdinner

Swan Queen

  • For all the surface level lovey-dovey goo-goo we got in the shared moments between Hook and Swan, we got just as much intense, magic-infused life-saving between Regina and Swan.
  • Swan brings Regina root beer thinking she could use a break. Is this the counter-point to the coffee moment from earlier?
  • Swan finds the Robin/Regina picture. Regina opens up to her about it, saying Robin said it was “hope.”
  • The two share shoulder touches, use their magic together again against the chernabog.
  • reginalookThinking Regina is the target of the chernabog, the two pile into the VW bug and head to the edge of town. Although Regina complains about the car’s color and coffin on wheels nature, we all know what she was really saying: “I love you. I love you. I love you.” Regina poofs herself out of the car declaring she won’t let the both die and places herself as the bait before the magical town border. Emma speeds up and then steps on the breaks, throwing the chernabog over the city line and into non-magical oblivion. And then there’s a brilliant shared moment where the two appreciate the other’s part in saving her life.

Rumpbelle

  • Unfortunately, I knew Rumple was our “linguist” as soon as he got mail. I wonder how much he was peppering his behind-the-scenes email to Belle with invisible little I-love-yous and I’m-sorrys. Fanfic writers–GO TO!
  • Belle hoped Rumple found what he was looking for, even after all the hurt he’s caused her.
  • Rumple insinuates that Belle is the happy ending he wants. Man, too bad he didn’t realize that before she kicked him out of town.

 Captain Beauty (I prefer Captain Librarian)

  • Although Belle and Hook have never been copacetic in the past, post-hiatus they seem to have grown to care some about each other now that they share a particular kind of experience: having Rumple get the best of them. Belle attempts to assuage Hook’s guilt over the trapping of the fairies and Hook likewise tries to minimize Belle’s pain over Rumple’s betrayal. Hook makes a particularly interesting comment when he says, “Love is a weapon.” A repetition of Rumple’s statement from way back.

Sea DeVil

  • Ursula, on the phone with Regina, referring to Cruella: “We’re back together.” Yes, those implications are pretty clear.


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Once Upon a Time “Darkness On the Edge of Town” Previews and Predictions

 

Coming Tonight: Once Upon a Time 4×12

CAUTION:  spoilers, sneak peeks, and speculations

“Darkness on the Edge of Town”With Gold banished from town, the residents of Storybrooke attempt to resume their normal lives. Hook and Belle search for a way to release the fairies from the Sorcerer’s hat, while Emma, Henry and Regina continue to look for clues that could lead them to the Author. But when a terrifying darkness descends on the town, Emma and Regina are forced to confront the true nature of evil. Meanwhile, in New York, Gold and Ursula enlist Cruella De Vil to join their cause, written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and directed by Jon Amiel.

Here’s the promo that aired after the last episode:

…and here’s the new plot teasing one that aired during the Academy Awards:

For the Spring Premiere, we got four sneak peeks, just in case our fiery anticipation needed fuel. In the first, Rumplestiltskin tells the Queens of Darkness what time it is.

In the second, Emma and Regina do lunch.

And in the third, from the same scene, they discuss hope.

Finally, in the fourth, an ungrateful gargoyle terrorizes Storybrooke

Producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis have repeatedly reiterated that their versions of Cruella, Maleficent, and Ursula are specific to the Once mythology and bare only passing resemblance to existing Disney counterparts. In a sense this is probably true, it’s also true that Maleficent was a major property following Frozen in Disney’s lineup and they’ve brought the character’s costume closer to both the classic character and the updated one. Last year also saw the twenty-fifth anniversary of The Little Mermaid and the marketing surrounding that continues. While there will be plenty of drift, we’re betting all three villains will bring loads of references to the popular films with them.

4x12 The Look

As for predictions, I’ll stand by some of the parallels drawn to Paradise Lost during our commentary on 4A. If the new promo is any clue, the Queens of Darkness are absolutely trying to bring forth evil from good. And, conversely, any redemption sought by Regina follows the mirrored ending of the epic, bringing good, ultimately, from attempted evil.

It seems like they’ll be drawing on that with individual actions as well. Looking at the final sneak peek, the salvific attempt to release the fairies may have inadvertently released Fantasia‘s ultimate expression of evil. We’re curious to see who’ll be tempted and who’ll be tempered.

Mostly, though, we’re just glad the show’s back this week.

And that they made the hentai joke immediately…


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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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Early Observations About “Smash the Mirror”

There’s something for everyone.  There are games and rock operas.  And Outlaw Queen shippers activate chakras.

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

The Who’s Tommy “Smash the Mirror”

You don’t answer my call
With even a nod or a wink
But you gaze at your own reflection, all that
You don’t seem to see me
But I think you can see yourself
How does the mirror affect you?

Can you hear me
Or do I surmise?
That you fear me
Can you feel my temper
Rise, rise, rise, rise, rise, rise
Rise, rise, rise, rise, rise, rise

Do you see or hear or
Do I smash the mirror?
Do you hear of fear or
Do I smash the mirror?

Star Wars

SWA

Frozen

“For the First Time in Forever” Chocolates

I wanna stuff some chocolate in my face

Elsa orders a coronation worthy dessert table to welcome her sister home.

“Let it go!”

While they reconnoiter the dusty room in the East Wing, we’re reminded that the past, well, “It’s in the past.”

Anna’s manacles attached to the floor in the dungeon are similar to the ones that held Elsa in Frozen, though they don’t entirely enclose her hands.

Gloves

Speaking of hands…

Elsa’s wearing her gloves from the movie, and they’re Ingrid’s from last episode.  The gloves haven’t been part of the Arendelle scenes before, but they feature in Storybrooke in the deleted scene ABC released; so their prominence makes a little more sense in that context.

LiG sub

While Anna and Elsa are sneaking around, plotting to trap the Snow Queen, the elder sister halts in reverie before the painting of their parents. The music that plays in the background draws heavily from “Let it Go.” Knowing what she now knows about their intentions in Misthaven, Elsa has to come to terms with that.  The music is a nice touch.

After Anna’s captured Elsa in the urn, she snaps out of her trolden funk with a classic, “Wait… What?

And at the end Emma creates an Aurora…

The Magic Kingdom

…that morphs into fireworks.

fireworks

Enchanted

A DEnchantedisney-esque princess travels through a portal from fairyland into the big city.

Both Ingrid and Giselle enter in full fancy dress.

 

 

Tron

It’s 1982, and this foam rubber and computer animated classic is in the theaters.  Hopefully Ingrid chose to chill with one of the most fascinating movies of the decade before setting up her foster home.

Kingdom HeartsKingdom Hearts

Okay, I suppose I have to admit that this might be a bit of a stretch.

There’s plenty of portal fiction to draw from with homeless doors sitting in lonely landscapes.  The Dark Tower and The Chronicles of Narnia both come easily to mind.

But the darkness of the cave and the absurdity of the door’s colors and patterns, despite being kind of Arenedellian seem like an intentional and intentionally cartoony reference.  And the conceit of the game, a mash up of all the company’s trademarks adventuring together really makes it seem like this is what they were pointing to.

 

 

Fantasia

Every instance of the hat technically counts, but we got a very good look at the colors going on inside it and stretching out from it.  I gotta say it looks a lot like some of the frames from “Night On Bald Mountain.”  I wonder if we’ll see Chernabog.

Bald Mt

BackCat Hat in our post about “Family Business,” I made a quip about the cat with the hat, referring to Rumple.  I even wondered if something like, “A lot of good tricks. / I will show them to you. / Your mother / Will not mind at all if I do.” could be teased out, but it felt like I was going to far. But, but, but:

“My tricks are not bad,” said The Cat in the Hat.

Paradise Lost

One of the Charming parents is in dark grey at all times now.  And they keep letting their judgement be clouded by rationalization and negativity.

This evil from good theme is so deeply interwoven by now that it’s getting difficult to tease out individual threads.  Mary Margaret blurred the line between grace and indecency during her pep talk with Regina.  Robin’s code is nowhere to be found.  Henry ended up injured for trying to help.  Rumple’s using an artifact that was only attainable via an act of goodwill for the most dire of purposes.  Hook’s love for Emma has been subverted.  And the Arendelle parallel was the perversion of Anna’s (apparently not so) indomitable optimism.

Marvel Comics

Regina and Henry read Wolverine and Hulk comics while they avoid talking about Emma.

Once Upon a Time

Henry was first seen reading Ultimate Wolverine vs Hulk in 1×09 “True North

Page XXIII of (which might also be a Lost reference) of the Once Upon a Time book depicts the scene from 3×03 “Quite a Common Fairy” where Regina walks away from true love.

The shard of mirror Ingrid uses to cast Shattered Sight on Anna is exactly the same shape as the piece she was missing in 4×05 “Breaking Glass

Shattered Sight 2

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

Will: “She’s really something, all right. If evil queens are your type.  Which I get.”

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Outlaw Queen

This is the best Outlaw Queen episode ever.

  • outlawqueensmoochRegina’s getting her shoes on. Robin walks in half dressed. Robin: “That was the best…sleep…I’ve had in a very long time. How would you like to come back to my camp and let me cook you breakfast?” She remains all dour about their chances to find a happy ending. He finally makes her smile. Robin: “There’s that satisfying but elusive smile I think about every time I close my eyes.” Regina: “I should have listened to that stupid fairy.”
  • She shows the book to Robin, a sign of trust. Her admittance of failure a sign of vulnerability. They do it again on outlaw logic.
  • Robin goes to Will for help. Will’s answer: Under the magical clocktower? “A libe’ry.” Wherein Robin magically finds alternate page XXIII in his satchel, depicting the meeting that Tinkerbell attempted to make happen but that Regina walked away from.
  • Robin shows her the new page and she starts to believe what Mary Margaret said, that she just has to believe grace is there for her if she makes good decisions rather than evil ones. Robin: “I take it as a sign. Hope.”

altpagexxiii

Captain Swan

I can’t help but be a little perturbed that Robin and Regina got to have the sex (twice!) before Hook and Emma even got to second base.

  • Hook spends much of the first part of the episode looking very, very worried. Until, of course, he realizes that she’s going to use the hat, and has “trusted the crocodile.” Nice moment: he calls himself Killian on her voice mail.
  • hookpainHook, desperate to save Emma, finally comes clean on her voice mail. “I wanted to be a better man for you, Swan. But I failed… I hope you never forgive because that means you’ll have got this in time to save yourself.”
  • Gold: “Don’t worry. You’ll get over her. Just like you did Mila. That only took how many centuries?”
  • Hook gets his heart ripped out by Rumple. Afterwards, he runs in to find Emma, the look of concern and the knowledge of his own corruption and demise all over his face and actions. Emma, being the lukewarm fish she is, pulls away from his kiss. Emma: “Easy tiger, we’ve got company. I didn’t realize you were such a fan of my magic.” Hook: “Why would you say that, Swan? I’m a fan of every part of you.” Emma: “If you look at me any harder, you’re going to drill a hole in my head.”
  • Unfortunately, no one is ever going to notice that Hook has his heart ripped out, because it becomes ever clearer that there is a love imbalance in the Captain Swan pairing. Hook has far more attention and care for Emma than vice versa. For instance, after Hook and Emma are reunited at the end of the episode, she fails to notice that he doesn’t leave the house with them to be together and enjoy the fireworks. The least the writers could have to done was tag it with some line about him needing to use the “head” or something.

Emma/Elsa = Ice Swan?double-swans

Ingrid: “They really are quite wonderful together…”

  • Elsa saves Emma from giving up her powers, being the one who understands her and is willing to risk her life to save her. Their hands touching make the “true love’s kiss” light show and cures Emma of her overclocked power. There are fireworks.

elsaemmalightshow


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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.”

Frozen

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!

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.

Distance

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.

“Fantasia”

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.”

Thor

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.

Batman

“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.
maxresdefault

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.

Rumpbelle

  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?)