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References and Shipping in Once Upon a Time “Dreamcatcher”

The background symbolism begins to coalesce. Swan Queens get a whole episode all for them. And Merlin is too hot to ship with anybody but yourself.

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

The Fisher King

Rumple’s being set up for this and surrounded by its imagery. He fits so well that this has probably been part of the plan from the beginning. He’s got the requisite leg wound that metaphorically suggests his impotence (cowardice) and his son’s gone (a mark of broken fertility). What this episode did was collect the four hallows around him.

  • The broken sword: Excalibur and the Wavy Knife
  • The lance: Merida’s hastily crafted walking staff.
  • The grail: The chipped teacup, symbolically representing love (Belle) and literally his motivation to fight.
  • The dish: the eponymous dreamcatcher.

Morgan le Fey

Violet’s father is Sir Morgan. Given the research the writers have done, that’s no accident. It probably doesn’t mean much for him, but it sets her up as a Mordred figure. While that particular variation is a later one, Disney loves it. Think Gargoyles.

The Secret of NIMH

Nicodemus is back.

“Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater”

And Henry and Emma find him at Peter Peter’s Pumpkin Patch. Happy Halloween. See. Hallows.

5x05 Peter Peter

Star Wars

File this under speculation, but in the same way Darth Vader killed Luke’s father, the first dark one destroyed Merlin’s love.

5x05 Dark ONE

Bonus: Harry Potter – the Dark One looks like a Death Eater.

101 Dalmatians (Queens of Darkness)

The Panther De Ville’s for sale. Remember how Emma killed Cruella?

5x05 Cruella

Brave

In the same way they called out Frozen last year, they’re title dropping this with abandon.

Rumplestiltskin: I can never be BRAVE.

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

“Only You” by Yazoo plays over Henry and Violet’s “date.”

Commando

Henry’s got two movies on his phone. The first is a 1985 excuse for an action hero to go on a killing spree. Plot elements include returning a dictator to power and rescuing a child. But that seems coincidental.

5x05 Commando

Harold and Maude

The second is cult comedy from 1971 about a relationship between a teenager and a septaugenarian. Whether this has a bearing on who or what Violet is or simply foreshadows Emma’s control of her, it’s quite provocative. “It’s a good date movie, I think,” indeed.

The Sword in the Stone

Merlin refers to Arthur as the boy who would be king, recalling the child of this film rather than the more mature versions of the story.

Pepsi

“It’s like a carnival in a can”

5x05 Pepsi

Once Upon a Time

Merida gets a look in the book to find Rumple’s weakness.

5x05 Book

“The Apprentice”

They’re leaning pretty hard on 4×04 and have done so over and over again.”Love is a weapon,” was quoted and the tear of heartbreak bracketed “Dreamcatcher.”

Operation Cobra

Emma’s mission is still to bring everyone’s happy ending. Regina will be the savior. Rumple will be a hero.

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Purple Prose comes to the fore! The return of Rumpbelle!

emmaheartbreak

Purple Prose (Henry + Violet)

This is their episode. There are two storylines to their budding romance. The elements of each are interwoven to keep the big reveals for extra special heart-tugging at the end.

In Storybrooke, Henry suggests a dance to give people hope (read: to have an excuse to ask Violet out on a date). Unfortunately for him, she’s in no mood to dance: her horse is lost. Henry vows to find her horse. He figures he can be a hero for Violet, get her to the dance, AND reach the good part still buried somewhere in Emma.

In Camelot, Violet and Henry groom horse and chill, bonding over lost parents. Violet: “I never met anyone I could talk to about this before.” While she’s away for a bit, Henry picks up one of her father’s swords and swings it around a bit pretending to be a knight. To his utter horror, he is discovered by Violet’s father, Sir Morgan, who goes on to condescend to him–how will being a writer protect his daughter against ogres? (AU fantasy: Henry sics his moms on Sir Morgan.)

Back in Storybrooke, Henry tells Emma about how he connected with Violet over the Yaz song. Emma explains how that was Baelfire’s wooing go-to; subtext also explains why Henry would be nuts over an obscure 80’s song. They find the horse at a pumpkin patch.

Back in Camelot, Sir Morgan has effectively shaken Henry’s confidence. His moms build him back up, convince him to use his mysterious other-worlder status to hook her.

So Henry sends her a note to meet him at Granny’s diner where he’s set up a dinner date over leftover lasagne. His ace-in-the-hole: Pepsi. Just when things seem to be heading towards romance, Violet says she just wants to be friends. Henry’s tear of lost love is fresh and powerful enough to free Merlin.

But in Storybrooke, his heroic return of the horse grants him the approval of Sir Morgan and the kiss-on-the-cheek of gratitude from Violet. It seems the second chance granted by the curse’s amnesia brings him romantic success.

The great reveal: this is all Emma’s machinations. In Camelot, she took Violet’s heart to make her break Henry’s. In Storybrooke, she attempts to right that wrong by rigging up the lost horse scenario. At least, that’s what Regina suggests, and it rings with truth.

Rumpbelle

These last few episodes have been great for reminding us why the OTP’s are what they are. Many of us were so done with Rumpbelle, until Rumpel was freed of the darkness, and now he arrests our sympathies again. He immediately tells Emma, upon her freeing him to transform into a pure-hearted hero, that he needs to see Belle. Later, when he keeps saying he can’t fight, Merida reads his story in the in-town history book and uses the chipped cup to motivate Rumpel to fight. That symbol of the flawed Rumpbelle relationship is so precious to him, he’ll risk his life and overcome his cowardice to protect it–and by extension, Belle.

Meanwhile, Belle leads the Storybrooke Scooby Gang in hunting down where Emma had been keeping Rumpel. She’s on a mission and firing on all cylinders to get ‘er done. It’s pretty hawt.

Swan Queen

Speaking of hot, Swan Queen was on fire this episode. Regina even fires off a fireball to protect Emma’s ability to free Merlin. But prior to that, Regina relived her most painful memory–her mother killing Daniel–to get the true love’s tear needed to break the spell encasing Merlin. Emma was emotionally touched learning it, but then also used it for inspiration with Henry. The two fought side-by-side as magical soulmates against Arthur.

Back in Storybrooke, however, things are more complicated. Emma is at a distance, not opening up to anyone. But Regina has been keeping the hope alive. “There’s nothing you can’t come back from if you just tell us.” Emma remains closed-lipped. Then Regina reveals they’ve seen the dreamcatcher’s memory. Emma attempts to justify it: she broke Henry’s heart “to protect him.” Regina’s having none of it–that’s what her mother said when she killed Daniel. She has to distance herself, going back to calling Emma “Miss Swan” and shutting the door in her face.

Captain Swan

Killian continues to devote himself to freeing Emma from the darkness, though Merlin, when he comes, warns that she must be willing to be free of it. And we already know she’s got mixed feeling about that.

Notably, Killian is so gung-ho, he goes to pull the sword from the stone. Regina stops him because he could turn to dust (and because it’s not 5×10 yet).


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References and Shipping in Once Upon a Time “The Broken Kingdom”

The writers revel in Arthurian legend as a matryoshka index. In that spirit, we perform an act of Gonzo Analysis®. And Hook stops just short of screaming, “Now kiss!”

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

The Wasteland

“The Broken Kingdom” is an allusion to the Fisher King myth, of which Camelot became an example.

The Sword in the Stone

A young Kay, later Sir Kay, later dust in the wind, bullies Arthur and tells him a stable boy will never be king. Which is fairly similar to their classic animated relationship.

The Grateful Dead

Technically, this should have been in the post on 5×01 “Dark Swan,” but I totally missed it. Percival’s arms reference the cover of Steal Your Face. That he died in 5×02 “The Price” is kind of funny uh-oh.

5x04 Percival the Grateful Dead

“Come Sail Away”

Killian: “Come on, love. Let’s sail away.”

Random, right? I can’t even believe I’m linking a Styx video on my blog. But the dialog could scarcely be more aggressive about it. I went looking for an old MST3K clip to articulate my feelings about them, and, um, well…

Mystery Science Theater 3000

This is from 506 “Eegah.” Joel and the bots discuss the slow encroachment of hell into the world.

They mention Styx specifically. Once has already given us Charon, the ferryman 5×02 “The Price,” this season. And I bet we’ve seen enough Hercules to know where this season’s going.

The Secret of NIMH

Violet’s horse is named Nicodemus. This’ll come up again. They’ll make it explicit. I promise.

Brave

The Dark One removes Merida’s heart and releases her from a non-lethal bumper crucifixion so that she can train Rumpel.

Emma: “I need you to make him BRAVE!”

The Fellowship of the Ring

This could probably be referencing a lot of stuff. But the angles and movement heavily suggest Gandalf in the library at Minas Tirith. I get the feeling it’s also a nod to Once trash who do stuff like these blog posts.

5x04 Carmarthen

Llyfr Du Caerfyrddin

Arthur’s translating “The Carmarthen Scroll,” a fictionalization The Black Book of Carmarthen. The oldest surviving Welsh text contains references to Merlin and Arthur. Legend even has it Merlin was born outside Carmarthen.

There were a lot of specific episode references as well.

“The Cricket Game” (2×10)

We fade in on Emma compulsively carving dream cat4x04 Love is a Weaponchers. In season two, they were show to be able to see into people’s memories. Given the title of Sunday’s episode, I reckon this will come back into play.

“The Apprentice” (4×04)

In the first real Rumpelstiltskin scene of the season, we revisit one of the Dark One’s most devious declarations: “Love is a weapon.”

“Heroes and Villains” (4×11)

We learn how Rumpelstiltskin came to possess Merlin’s Gauntlet. It allegedly that leads to someone’s greatest weakness. So far that’s always the Dark One Dagger.

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

King Charming wrecks in the face of Snowing OTP! Hook totally ships Purple Prose!

hookpurpleprose

King Charming / Snowing

Initially it seems like David is so immediately enamored with and loyal to Arthur, he’s willing to betray his own wife. Snow tells him they cannot trust Arthur with the dagger, but David defends Arthur. Mary Margaret calls him on it: “So that’s what this is about. You haven’t met a king in a while. And you’re starstruck.” David gets defensive, but in the next scene, he’s offering the dagger to Arthur (to the general horror of OUAT fans) in direct opposition to Snow’s wishes.

However, Arthur was not accounting for Snowing being OTP (frankly, we had forgotten too). David only plays Arthur’s special chair lad to test his motivations. And when Arthur proves less than pure of heart, David and Mary Margaret are realigned against Arthur. That is until Arthur’s guard frees him and Arthur Avalon-dusts them into submission.

Captain Swan

Killian is like the perfect partner in Camelot. Maybe too perfect…something is going to go terribly wrong no doubt. This is the kind of wonderful sweetness that gets a character killed.

So he starts by not over-reacting when Emma nearly fireballs him when aiming for head-Rumple. He merely tells her to calm down, reassures her it’s just him, and embraces her. Later, when she becomes semi-catatonic, he and Henry take her away from the castle to rest. Henry’s great idea for a resting spot is Violet’s family stables. When he reveals he’s got a girl…friend….Killian nearly grins his eyebrows right off. Finally, he gets Emma to trust him for a galloping horse ride to get her mind off head-Rumple, and it totally works. It ends in a field of pink roses and CS make outs.

Purple Prose (Henry + Violet)

Henry has to reveal his new girl friend to Emma and Killian when he decides Violet’s family stable will be a good resting place for his mom. Emma is both pleased and concerned with the news of Henry’s first crush. Killian, on the other hand, is over-the-top excited. He ships them so hard.

Arthur / Guinevere / Lancelot

This particular love triangle leaves me cold. Child Arthur and Gwen are so saccharinely sweet, I can’t even. Lancelot is terribly nice in planning a birthday party for his neglected queen, and she does kiss him after he nearly dies, but I’m not quite seeing that love as reciprocal. However, once Arthur traps her in the relationship with the Avalon dust (magic Roofies), of course we all want her to be with Lancelot. He at least respects her enough to let her make her own decisions.

But, really, the whole thing just makes me want to throw in with a new ship altogether…

Meridancelot

When Lancelot is thrown in the dungeon, he hears the voice of fellow prisoner Merida. Now that they are both enemies of Arthur, they shall be fast friends. And I’m hoping, perhaps something more.


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References and Shipping in Once Upon a Time “Siege Perilous”

The Perilous Seat is David’s chance at the big kids’ table.  The writers play musical chairs. And Arthur carries a torch for David.

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

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

We more or less get this scene. Whistling. No lyrics.

And Happy comes close enough to The Fellowship of the Ring for government work.

Bewitched

Emma: “You guys sure you don’t want me to just wiggle my nose and get ‘im oughta that tree?”

Amanita Muscaria

Tonight on Once Upon a Time, King Arthur and Prince Charming go foraging for psychoactive mushrooms so that their wives can, no, no, really, talk to trees. I can’t even.

5x03 Toadstool

Siege Perilous

In Arthurian legend, the Siege Perilous is a vacant seat at the Round Table reserved by Merlin for the knight who would one day be successful in the quest for the Holy Grail. The Siege Perilous is so strictly reserved that it is fatal to anyone else who sits in it. Once is substituting Excalibur.

They demonstrated that by dusting Sir Kay and lampshaded its importance by allowing Percival, the original occupant before Galahad, to die.

Then played some, ahem, musical chairs to place Lancelot in the seat prior to his moral turpitude and left Percival’s seat open as a placeholder.

The Little Mermaid

Zelena does a little ahh-ahh-ahh and comments on her light and feminine voice when Regina releases it. Since Regina posed as Ursula and reenacted the plot in 3×06 “Ariel,” it’s especially amusing.

“The Apprentice” (4×04)

The Dark One dons the first date dress to lull Killian. You know, the date where Hook’s hand was purportedly “evil” and he became a patsy for the Dark One? Sometimes the self-referential stuff is the best.

The Once and Future King

The notion that Arthur needs a two ton table to remind him to be humble comes from this version of the story.

Griflet

Arthur’s squire, Grif, is a canonical character that was one of Arthur’s earliest allies and chief advisors. It’ looking like the more truly pure and loyal a character was, the more likely he will be to die, and die early, in this arc.

Folklore of the Sea

Not really an explicit reference, but black trunks were believed to bring bad luck aboard ships. So when they brought out the reliquary and it was jet black, it was obvious it was shady.

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Quest, ho! It’s time to declare a new ship: King Charming! And it was the best ship of the episode by far.

King Charming

King Charming

David declares it’s questing time when the womenfolk need a super-magic toadstool to talk to tree-Merlin. Arthur invites himself along, and since he’s king, David allows it. On the way, Arthur literally carries a torch for David. They walkabout in the atmospheric darkness of the forest and share admirations of their wives to cover their clear attraction to each other. Arthur suggests having their women compete with bows and arrows, and when David shoots that idea down, Arthur suggests, “Perhaps there are better ways for me to show off.”

When David is beset by undead water knights, Arthur comes to his aid. Back in Camelot, David is awarded the special tall chair for the knight with the purest heart. Arthur gives that seat to all his knightly lovers–see former seat-holder, Lancelot.

Captain Swan

Oh, Killian, let go of the hate. Nevermind, Emma’s just using you anyway.

So Emma plays with Killian’s heart to get her hands on the cutlass that touched pre-Dark One Rumple’s neck. She plays with audience hearts too by using the set up of their first date. BUT recall that in that episode, Hook had to fight his own darkness in the form of his “evil” reattached hand. So inversion here, though Emma’s using her darkness, not fighting it.

Emma: “I have a question for you for once. Do you love me? If you tell me you don’t love me, I will let you go.”
Hook: “I loved you.”

Yeeeouch.

Of course, that’s Hook’s conflict. He hates the Dark One habitually. He loves Emma…but unconditionally? Apparently not if she’s the Dark One. So the question of the scene and of his inner turmoil is whether the Dark One is still Emma.

But don’t worry. Spoilers for 5×04 have surfaced that are causing the Captain Swan shippers to explode with glee.

Outlaw Queen

Robin not only will throw himself in harm’s way for Regina, he’ll also make her tea. And be lovely and reassuring.

Also, Robin confides in Killian that he’s excited about the baby. But he does NOT want Regina to know that. Hrm.

Rumpbelle

OMG THE ROSE THE ROSE!

Belle, who has been holding vigil via rose, heads into Granny’s for a spot of dinner. While in there, the rose drops all its leaves (ack!) but then magically restores them (WHA?!). Belle hightails it for the pawn shop to hopefully greet an awake Rumple. BUT HE’S GONE! (He’s in Emma’s hands now. They’ll never escape the Dark One.)

Snowing

SnowingHeroDavid is feeling helpless in the fight to save Emma. The women are all about unlocking the magic, but David’s got nothing to swing a sword at. Mary Margaret reassures him as best she can that he’s still her hero. They kiss.

But then we get to see both Prince Charming and Sheriff David parallel quest. In Storybrooke, he finds the mushroom (signalling that Arthur pickpocketed from him) and brings it to Snow and Regina. Snow shows her love and appreciation: “David, you did it.” David’s manhood is reaffirmed.

Swan Queen

Regina continues to devote all her time to saving Emma.

White Queen

Regina (to Snow): “You are occasionally genius!”

 


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References and Shipping in Once Upon a Time “The Price”

It’s Friday! We take a stand on naming two new ships. Trust us, we’re misfits; our names are better.

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

I intended to talk a little more about Merlin and Percival. But time and toddlers truncated the list a little. So I’ll just note that in the legends, Merlin is variously trapped in a cave or in a tree, so this is entirely legit. The tree theme fits Once much better, no matter how obscure it is. Percival seems to be dead, but the next episode title, “Siege Perilous,” refers to the seat at the Round Table left vacant for the person who eventually succeeds on the Grail quest. Percival.

Beetlejuice

Henry calls his mom on the dock. Three times. While it functions as a narrative device to remind old viewers and inform new ones that calling the Dark One by name draws his or her attention to you, it’s also a direct shout out to Michael Keaton’s second best role. Here he spells it out for you.

The Empire Strikes Back

Not I love youso much Star Wars in this episode, especially compared to last week. There are hints of it in Emma’s dress in Camelot. But the real moment recalls the eighties’ best shipper moment in Cloud City’s carbon-freezing chamber.

Kilian: “You look…”

Emma: “I know.”

Sandman

The Erinyes were Greek spirits of vengeance who targeted oathbreakers. Neal Gaiman’s beloved Sandman popularized The Kindly Ones as irresistable collectors of blood debts. Invoking them with the crass “fury,” tends to draw their attention to you, so they’re a good choice for an episode where we’re being reminded about some of the Dark One rules.

OUaT Fury

Bonus – Reboot: It kind of looks like Hexadecimal. Crazy.

Charon

In order to have a fury and retain some dramatic tension – they usually just annihilate their targets – the writers have it deliver Robin to a body of water where we get some more Greek mythology. A hooded figure approaches on a narrow boat. This is Charon, the ferryman of Hades.

Once Upon a Time 5x02 Charon

Does this mean we’ll be seeing Hercules or the Olympians? Probably not. If anything it’s a visual segue into some Gargoyles references. Anyway, is that an ugly duckling in the lower right?

Guardians of the Galaxy

The magic of friendship defeats the baddie, refies Regina’s position as the new Savior, and 100% references the third highest-grossing film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Nerds will tell you that other movies used the trope. Cynical hipsters will point out that Buffy and Captain Planet did this all the time. And yet…

OUaT GotG Friendship is Magic

For what it’s worth, Arthur is the last person to to offer his help. That’s not an accident.

Beauty and the Beast

Yes, everyone knows the rose in the bell(e) jar is a reference. But here they’re showing the falling petals. They’re keeping the awkward thing around because they’ll be referencing every important scene with it.

5x02 Rose Petals

Black Swan

While Once is never going to match Aronofsky’s body horror, the narratological similarity is undeniable. Power and transformation represented by an uncontrollabale dermatological condition. Terrifying and yet desired.

5x02 Dermatological Power

“Only You”

Henry’s boon from the Savior is playing Yazoo’s 1999 remix of their 1982 hit. So’s the jukebox at Granny’s. Technically the town was trapped in the eighties for decades, so I guess this is legit. The lyrics seem to have more to do with Emma and Killian, though.

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

I originally thought the whole shared headphones thing with Violet and Henry was an Eleanor & Park reference. You know, because it looks so much like the cover. But it turns out that “Only You” is actually on Norah’s playlist according to Rachel Cohn, so.

5x02 headphones

Fisher King

We talk about the Fisher King here on The Dinglehopper, and we’ll have plenty of opportunities this season. But this episode made it absolutely clear that this version of Excalibur and the Dark One Dagger (cf Wavy Knife) were connected, indeed pieces of the same thing. So we have the Fisher King’s wound imagery covered.

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

The peril! The irony! Evil Charming and Captain Beauty come to the fore! And a brand new ship which we dub Purple Prose!

Captain Beauty (Captain Book? Belle Hooks!)

Belle opens up to Hook about how hard it is to love the Dark One. They share drinks and emotions. Perhaps soon they’ll realize the folly of loving one who cannot love them back and turn to each other for romantic solace.

BelleHooks

Captain Swan

In Camelot, Emma and Hook get their second ball together. This one is no less dramatic than the first, but at least they’re not the ones at the center of the attempted killing action. Instead, we get a nice little exchange between them regarding Emma’s beauty. “Swan, you look…” “I know.”

In Storybrooke, Dark One Emma finally has a house all to herself, but ironically Hook doesn’t want to use that new chance for intimacy if she’s going to be all evil and stuff. Despite previously being fairly evil himself, he’s no longer into that kind of romance. If it ain’t savior-lovin’, he wants none of it. Is there any surprise that true love’s kiss fails if he’s going to be so judgy?

In general, Killian remains deeply focused and concerned about Emma’s darkness. She still wants a relationship with him, but the implications of her attempted seduction are that her interest is mostly shallow and lusty. (I’m kinda okay with that.) But I’m not sure that’s all of it. Her longing look into Granny’s shows her loneliness. Hook may be losing good opportunities to pull her back to him.

Killian, meanwhile, turns to the rum. Belle asks him if he tried to kiss her. “Aye. She didn’t even flinch. It’s not over. I spent over a century trying to kill the Crocodile. I can spend at least that trying to save the woman I love.”

Evil Charming

When Regina doesn’t know how to dance, David steps forward to teach her. It’s an adorable moment between a couple that rarely gets screen time without that harpy of a woman, Mary Margaret. Did you catch her Snowsplaining David’s response to Regina’s first choice of ball gown? That woman needs to get out of his way.

Outlaw Queen

Regina doubts she’ll convince the town she can be the savior. Robin attempts to reassure her. He believes in her. But then a Fury grabs him, and Regina’s doubts must fall away as she is called to act the savior, not just claim the title.

When she discovers she must sacrifice a life to save Robin from the Fury, she hesitates only a moment before putting her own life up in trade. Seems those two just can’t stop trying to sacrifice themselves to save the other from harm. That’s one definition of love for you–though a short lived one.

In the backstory from Camelot, Robin throws himself in front of Percival’s blade when he attacks Regina. Regina asks Emma to save his life when she herself cannot, even though Emma will have to use dark magic to do it. And, of course, all magic has a price.

Purple Prose

Henry gets prodded by Gramps to go talk to the pretty teen princess in Camelot and woos her with his strange magical music box that was a gift from the savior for saving everyone from an alternate reality. Yeah, that’ll impress the chicks. And because she doesn’t know anything about popular music, she doesn’t think it strange that he’s got obscure 20-year-old tunes on said music box.

Also not registering as strange: Granny has the same song on her jukebox. What, did Henry write the playlist? I’m beginning to suspect he doesn’t really need a pen.

Rumpbelle

Rumple is still comatose. Belle shares how hard it is to love the Dark One with Hook. Clearly her feelings for Rumple are strong, not nearly as “over” as she might want to believe.

In Camelot, Leroy buoys Belle’s spirit by pointing out that the rose is half full, not half empty. “Each of those petals is a chance to save him.”

Snowing

David attempts to soothe Mary Margaret’s clear distress over Emma. He assures her they’ll win and get Emma back. But Snow remains pessimistic–“If we win, Emma loses.”

Swan Queen

Regina negotiates her literal control of Emma’s actions in Camelot to awkward, humorous, and touching effects. But, oh, the fanfic possibilities.

More importantly, Emma is willing to use dark magic to save Regina’s happiness in the form of Robin. She’s willing to pay the price for the magic, even as Ghost Rumple explains that’s not how it works.


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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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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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Once Upon a Comic Con

It was months ago. Season four had ended. We’d moved forward. We added another member to our family. There was a period of rest. And then this.

Once Upon a Time Season 5 Poster

So…

Coming This Fall: Once Upon a Time Season 5!
Spoiler Warning

Lets start with the changes in the cCamelotast. Michael Socha (Will Scarlet) is now a guest star rather than part of the main cast. However, Sean Maguire (Robin Hood) and Rebecca Mader (Zelena) have been promoted to series regulars.

Sinqua Walls will be returning as Lancelot. And new cast members include: Liam Garrigan (24: Live Another Day) as King Arthur; Joana Metrass (Sinais de Vida) as Guinevere; Andrew Jenkins (Wayward Pines) as Percival; and Eliot Knight (How To Get Away With Murder) as Merlin.

I’m still hoping they borrow, just a little, from The Sword in the Stone since it’s Disney’s adaptation of the Camelot mythology. So to the right there you see their animated counterparts. Yes, Guinevere appears only as a squirrel.

Percival doesn’t have a Disney version, so the addition of the character may indicate that Grail mythology will feature as part of the story line.

The cast revealed that Camelot is in the Enchanted Forest. But, series co-creator Adam Horowitz said:

“Camelot exists in a parallel timeline. It’s existed. How we portray it and show you, it’s existed long ago, short ago and maybe in the future. It may have co-existed with [when Hook was in the Royal Navy].”

Emma’s friends and family will be questing for Camelot in order to locate Merlin, the only wizard with the potential power to free Emma from the Dark One.

While the particulars weren’t available until last week, we knew that was the gist of at least part of the season. What we didn’t know was that there was another character waiting to be introduced. Amy Manson (Atlantis) has been cast as Merida from Brave and there’s a short clip of her showing off her skills.

But that’s not all. Comic Con brought us a first look at the Dark Swan. Emma appears to be imprisoned in the same cell that held Rumplestiltskin way back in season one. But could this be Camelot in some other timeline?

And finally there’s an official Comic Con Trailer recasting the events of Emma’s journey leading up to her sacrifice at the end of season four as a journey toward darkness.

I’m afraid I couldn’t help myself, so here’s a special edition of  “Always… no, no… never… forget to check your references.”

The poster is a reference to Black Swan, which sounds slightly cooler than Dark Swan. But they may have had some trademark confusion there. And, in a writerly sense, Dark Swan/wan/one has some pun appeal.

Black Swan Poster

Bonus points for the reverberations with Black Swan (1942): “An ex-pirate contends with rowdy buccaneers and a love-hate relationship with an aristocratic woman who’s tougher than she seems.”

The Merida bit, of course, is collaged straight from the film:

…which is itself a bit of a play on these two scenes from Robin Hood