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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 “Mother”

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

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

“Mother” (1988)

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

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

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

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

Exodus 2:1-10

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

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

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

“Dark Star” (1968)

4x20 Dark Star Pharmacy

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

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

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

Annie Hall

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

4x20 Annie Hall

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

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Chief Bromden and Nurse Ratched:

4x20 Chief Bromden and Nurse Ratched

 

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

The Lion King

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

4x20 The Boy with the Lion Tattoo

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

How to Train Your Dragon

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

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

 

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

“Operation Mongoose” 4×21,22

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

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

“Pilot” 1×1

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

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

“Heroes and Villains” 4×12

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

4x20 Heroes and Villains

 

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Captain Swan

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

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

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

Outlaw Queen

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

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

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

Rumpbelle

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

Swan Queen

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

Snowing

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

Anti-ship Moment

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

zelenaantiship