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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 “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 “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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Early Observations about “Best Laid Plans”

The Author shines a light on things and brings down the curtain. Even our toddler has had it with Snow White and Prince Charming. And Rumpbelle is resurrected.

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

“To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough” (1785) – Robert Burns

This classic poem draws parallels between a farmer’s situation and that of a mouse whose home is destroyed as he plows. It’s a leveling of the field, as it were, ennobling the mouse and humbling the farmer. While the tone of the poem is companionable and its message universal, it’s useful to Once Upon a Time because it reverses the existing order, the theme of 4B.

http://www.bartleby.com/6/76.html

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
                    Which makes thee startle         10
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
                    An’ fellow-mortal!

Specific to this episode, “Best Laid Plans,” references lines 39 and 40, often translated into modern English as, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” We’re meant to note that for all Snowing’s efforts to ensure Emma’s future, they still ended up at the same verbal exchange Snow witnessed in her vision. It’s extra special because the Apprentice, our mouse, was involved.

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
                    Gang aft agley,         40
An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
                    For promis’d joy!

The title is also, again, an hilarious pun. Maleficent’s best laid egg…

Bonus: Jacob Grimm, the elder of the Brothers Grimm who recorded scores of household tales including many of those reinterpreted in Once Upon a Time, was born in 1785.

Was he an Author?

August: There have been many Authors throughout time. It’s a job, not a person. And the one trapped in here was just the last tasked with the great responsibility.
Emma: Which is?
August: To record–to witness the greatest stories of all time and record them for posterity. the job has gone back eons,1 from the man who watched shadows dance across cave walls and developed an entire philosophy,2 to a playwright who told tales in poetry,3 to a man named Walt.4 Many have had this sacred job–great women and men who took on the responsibility with the gravity that it deserved… until this last one.

Eion Baily1

August Booth is played by actor Eion Baily. There’s a chance, however slight, that the word choice here was subtly hinting that he’s the current author or at least a journeyman in training. after all, he was able to add his own story to Henry’s Once Upon a Time book. And he knows more about the Author(s) than anyone outside the Apprentice or the tricksie Peddler himself.

Plato2

In The Republic, Plato has Socrates desPlato's Cavecribe a gathering of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to designate names to these shadows. The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.

William Shakespeare3

William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. His works have been translated into every major living language. His inclusion in the mythology opens up a huge roster of potential background characters.

Walt Disney4

Often suggested as the Author who’d appear this season, Walt Disney founded the company that owns ABC and has produced several popular interpretations of classic fairy tales. But you knew that.

It’s not entirely unreasonable to suggest that the Author trapped in the book is James Lapine, writer of the postmodern revisionist Into the Woods, the film version of which Disney released last year. It makes Charming’s, “As long as we have each other, we can be the best versions of ourselves,” slyly metatextual.

The Tragedy of Macbeth

Snow White plays Lady Macbeth pretty much straight here. Unable to shake her vision, she pushes herself and her husband to ever more egregious acts of evil until, eventually, she cannot take the consequences anymore.

Isaiah 34:14

Lilith, variously a female demon or wicked fairy. In Jewish folklore she became Adam’s first, equal, wife who refused to submit and rejected Eden. So Maleficent’s exiled daughter has a powerful, resonant, ominous name.

Paradise Lost

Finally, some of the juxtapositions in the Comic-Con trailer make sense. What had been useful as a broad metaphor now has specific referents. The first portion in particular.

Snow: I’ve loved you since the first moment I saw you.
Charming: And I’ll love you until my last

Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,(163)
Our labour must be to pervert that end,(164)

Emma: It’s time for all of us to believe; to believe in each other

And out of good still to find means of evil;(165)

Zelena: I tried to be good once but it wasn’t in the cards.

Snowing sought to secure Emma’s good destiny through an act of evil. Zelena managed to twist several benevolent acts toward her own ends. And, of course, as long as you’ve seen the preview, she’s coming back.

The Poetic Edda

For whatever reason, the building to the left of Gold’s Pawn Shop, if you’re facing it, is fronted with “gudrun.” It could have been there all along, but I only remember seeing it twice this season. In one of the stories in the Edda, Guðrún feeds her husband their sons and burns down his hall.

Once Upon a Time

The non-Frozen portions of 4A really come back in force this episode. We revisit “The Apprentice,” “Breaking Glass,” and “Smash the Mirror” all weigh pretty heavily here. But since we open on Snowing tracking a unicorn for clairvoyant visions, I want to focus on that.

Emma Swan has always been associated with the unicorn and it’s nice to see it brought back into the mythology and reality of the show. The unicorn is a traditional Christian salvific symbol, so it’s entirely appropriate that it be involved with every aspect of her story.

1×01 “Pilot”

This is where we first see the unicorn mobile.  It reappears in Gold’s shop in 1×06 “The Shepherd.”

Unicorn Mobile

In addition to the potential Into the Woods connection above, the acknowledgement that the mobile was a gift from Cinderella opens her, via the recent live action Disney release, as a potential focus next season.

1×02 “The Thing You Love Most”

When Regina confronts Maleficent in order to retrieve The Dark Curse, Mal has a diminutive pet unicorn by her side. Ultimately, it’s her concern for this pet that decides the fight against her. It’s interesting that the other unicorn in the story is at least tangentially linked to Swan’s counterpart, Lily.

Unicorn Title Card1×12 “Skin Deep”

This episode reuses the title card from “Skin Deep.” In that episode the unicorns appear on tapestries in Rumpelstiltskin’s Dark Castle.

The first “Sight” from the series The Lady and the Unicorn. The second only appears after Belle attempts to break Rumple’s curse with true love’s kiss. He tears the cover from the mirror and rants at Regina while “The Unicorn in Captivity and No Longer Dead” from the series The Hunt of the Unicorn overwhelms the background. It’s a subtle scenery clue that the savior is integral to his convoluted plans.

At this point, Rumpelstiltskin, Ingrid, the Sorcerer, the Apprentice, Snowing, and the Author all have designs on Emma Swan. With all that pressure, how much control does she have over her own destiny?

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Captain Swan

  • Killian is clearly deeply concerned about the plan to turn Emma into a villain. Emma emphatically reassures him she will not go dark, though Killian speaks from experience when he tells her darkness can creep up on a person. The two share a long comfort hug where clearly they are oblivious to everyone else around them because one foot away Charming and Snow are discussing the thing which cannot be told to Emma and use Emma’s name. That’s a helluva hug.
  • Killian asks how “the wooden man-child” was as a dual conversation starter. Certainly he knows she’s thinking about August’s well-being, but he’s also attempting to dig a little into her feelings for August. Emma sees immediately what he’s up to and tells him, “Now is not the time to be jealous.” “Why would I be jealous?” Killian responds, adding that he knows she’s partial to men in leather jackets. Emma explains that August is just a friend, but since she’s had a rough time making friends, she holds him dear. Then they notice the sleeping curse coming at them and land in the cutest sleeping pose possible, with Emma laying on Killian’s chest.
  • When her parents finally come clean, Killian attempts to comfort Emma by asking if she’s alright and moving to hold her hand, but she pulls it away quickly before he can touch her. She leaves shortly after.
  • Killian finds her later by the pier. She tells him she just needs some time. He knows to skip the discussion of how she’s doing and goes straight to what will relieve some of her anxiety: “August is awake. Your parents are with him.” “Is he?” “He’s going to be fine. Your friend is going to be fine.” Then she hugs him, bringing back the intimacy and comfort she had rejected earlier and allowing him to carry her emotional burden. It’s quite sweet and says much about how much vulnerability she has allowed herself to have with him.

Rumpbelle

  • Finally, a truly substantive moment for the Rumpbelle shippers out there. Rumple takes his opportunity to be close to Belle during Maleficent’s sleeping spell. He lovingly moves her from the floor to a divan, holds her hand, and speaks softly. “My love,” he begins. He goes on to confess that all magic comes with a cost and he’s wracked up so much magical debt, he’ll never be free of it. He has to change the rules altogether, and quickly. He promises to come back for her if he can and kisses her hand before leaving.

Runaways (Emma/Lily)

  • Emma explains the dearness with which she carries August by reminding Killian of her lost friendship with Lily. Later we find out Lily is Maleficent’s child and thus also Emma’s heart of darkness mate. They are now officially two halves to a whole! The two are meant to be together.

Swan Queen

  • Regina intervenes on Emma’s behalf when Cruella makes a comment about wanting to wring her neck while she sleeps.

Snowing

  • Although the role these two play in the episode is largely antagonistic, that doesn’t mean that their intentions weren’t motivated by love. The concern they share for their child’s well-being brings them together. In all actions, they are united, though their visions of the child diverge.
  • After they go through with the nefarious plan to imbue another child (Maleficent’s baby) with their child’s darkness, they are haunted by what they’ve done. Snow notes they are no longer heroes, but Charming is more concerned with their relationship: “But we’re still here, so how do we fix us?” Snow again shows her concern is with them being good again. She asks, “Do you really think redemption is possible?” Charming says they must “spread hope and faith everyday” and be the best version of themselves. The two commit to being better heroes to raise their child and keep her on the right track.

Wooden Swan 

  • August falls ill from so many recent magical transformations. Emma is deeply concerned. She is so concerned, in fact, Killian becomes jealous.
  • When August wakes and Emma returns, he asks her what’s going on. She dodges the question, but he sees right through it, reminding her that he knows lying. When she makes a connection about the powers the Author would still have, he comments that she’s come a long way from the woman who wouldn’t believe. There is clear affection and intimacy in his understanding of who Emma is


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Early Observations about “Poor Unfortunate Soul”

The Little Mermaid gets a big role, but Ariel only gets a cameo. Fans get serviced. And it’s not the size of the ship, it’s the portal under the sea.

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

The Little Mermaid

“Poor Unfortunate Souls”

The episode title is pulled from the soundtrack of The Little Mermaid and while it’s not as popular as “Under the Sea,” it’s denser and more integral to the story. It’s also, appropriately, Ursula’s solo.

The film itself gets a title drop when Ursula confron4x15 Ursula's Charmsts Poseidon.

Ursula: All you ever wanted was for me to be your little mermaid.

And their argument culminates in the same ultimatum from father to daughter as Ariel and Triton’s.

Triton: As long as you live under my ocean, you’ll obey my rules!
Poseidon: As long as you live in my ocean, you will live by my rules.

Ursula in present day Storybrooke is wearing a number of charms on chains around her neck, reminiscent of the shell her animated counterpart used to trap her voice. Here Poseidon creates it and recruits hook to steal Ursula’s voice.

4x14 Triton's Shell

…which is exactly like Ariel’s in The Little Mermaid, because this episode is awesome. At least the ascending vocalization she’s using to lure pirate ships.

She also sings “Fathoms Below,” the first song heard in the animated film.

Ariel herself shows up and saves hook from drowning, much like she did for Eric. And Snow White. It’s kind of what she does.

Ursula’s voice is captured, and returned, with similar graphics and in the same way Ariel’s was in the animated film. It’s also quite similar to how Maleficent’s spark returned to her last episode.

Ariel's Voice

In a similar vein, young Ursula’s costuming is similar to Ariel’s, though with different colors, sort of matching her Vanessa form, but more in keeping with how we’ve seen her on the show.

GlowerhavenAnd finally, Ursula wants to go to Glauerhaven, where her mother loved to sing. It’s not just some random word chosen to be similar to Misthaven, Arendelle’s name for the Enchanted Forest. Grimsby wanted Eric to settle down with their princess.

Frozen

The Jolly Roger was in its diminutive state because Blackbeard had ran afoul of the Nobles of Arendelle.

Hook: Elsa did this?

Ghostbusters

Ernie Hudson, who played Winston Zeddmore in the immortal classic, portrays Ursula’s father, self professed diety Poseidon. Which is terrible funny when you consider this line:

One Hundred and One Dalmatians

Right at the end, there was a well crafted Cruella PoV shot from inside the Panther De Ville that recalled the shaky shots from the animated classic. That they take the time to work those little details in is worth noting.

The movie got nods in a couple lines as well.

Regina (to Cruella): Please, I was torturing people back when you were still playing with puppies.

and

Gold: Cruella will be our guard dog.

Lord of the Flies

4x15 Conch

Hook uses a conch shell to call Ursula, demanding an opportunity to speak. This is actually pretty cool, since it’s a subtle callback to Neverland where there were oh so many Lord of the Flies references. And their history is Neverland adjacent, taking place during the period Hook was working for Peter Pan.

Bonus Pun: Smee: Pan will never notice if a few cakes are missing.

Lost:

Regina sends the Smoke Monster to possess Mary Margaret so she can communicate to Emma and the Charming gang.

Pinocchio

4x14 Pinocchio's Nose

Paradise Lost

Hook: Where is that infernal creature?

Infernal’s an uncommon word that appears fairly frequently in the poem. But the context is perhaps more interesting. Hook offers Ursula an alternative to Gold’s plan, risking himself for the others. While it doesn’t initially work, he persists in trying to rectify his errors and ultimately brings Ursula and Poseidon back together. Everyone involved is simply trying to make what was wrong right and good is brought forth from evil.

Once Upon a Time

4x15 Page 23

Regina’s dream sequence is a reminder about Page 23 and a longing for the happiness depicted therein. It was found in 4×08 “Smash the Mirror,” destroyed in 4×11 “Heroes and Villains,” and Emma discovered it in 4×12 “Darkness on the Edge of Town.”

Ariel and Regina

3×06 “Ariel”

Beyond her timely cameo, and the more or less satisfactory explanation about the sea goddess Ursula vis-à-vis Merrin Dungey’s character, there’s some real follow through with this callback. After the title card, “Ariel” moves right into Regina teaching Emma magic in Neverland with the exhausted and distraught Charmings looking on.

Charming: This is a bad idea.
Snow: She has it in her; she should learn to use it. We just have to trust her.

Trusting her is exactly what they’re not doing these days. And she’s in full control of her magic, having teamed up with Regina to stop Chernabog and destroying August’s bonds in this episode.

It’s also the episode where Hook revealed that kissing Emma gave him hope for happiness again. The happy ending he revealed Emma to be at the end of “Poor Unfortunate Soul.”

Incidentally, Ursula’s bracelet performs the opposite function of the one in “Ariel.”

4×04 “The Apprentice”

4x04 Love is a Weapon

Love is apparently a lot of things on Once Upon a Time. In “The Apprentice,” Rumpelstiltskin called it a weapon. He used it as one last episode, with Belle, just as she used it against him at the end of 4A.

It turns out you can weaponize anything, if that’s your intent. Sort of like how every problem looks like a nail if your only tool’s a hammer. In this case, Ursula’s voice, which is itself kind of a manifestation of her love for her mother, is weaponized by Poseidon.

2×18 Selfless, Brave, and True

August reveals that the Dragon was looking for the Author. He also gets turned back into wood with a potion that can reverse any spell the fairies cast.

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland

Finally! Hook mentioned that Will spent more time in Wonderland than anyone he knew. And Will hooked him up with a distillate of Wonderland’s finest mushrooms to restore the Jolly Roger to its original size,

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Captain Swan

  • Much of the Captain Swan love in this episode revolved around what Hook was willing to do and own up to in order to assist Emma’s heroic attempts to thwart Gold’s plans. One of the things it meant was facing Ursula and the wrong he had done her in the past–betraying her trust, breaking his code, destroying her happiness, and turning her into a villain. There are two scenes that especially deal with the Hook of then, the villain, and the Hook of now, ostensibly a good guy.
  • The first is between Emma and her parents, where they very quickly discuss whether Hook has “turned” Ursula or vice versa. Emma defends the very notion of Hook being “dark” by empathizing with wanting to shove the dagger in Gold’s heart. Her parents are taken aback–Snow: “That’s not you, Emma.” Emma: “That’s not Hook either.”
  • The second scene is the real swooner and it comes near the end, after Hook has reunited Ursula and Daddy Poseidon as well as Ursula and her happy ending. Ursula’s villainy comes to an end, but Hook is concerned that Regina’s theory about happy endings might be true and that he might be marked with a V rather than an H. In this concern, Emma realizes that if he’s worried about loosing his happy ending, that means he’s found it, and in true doltish but romantic fashion, Emma asks The-Pirate-Who-Traded-His-Ship-For-Her what his happy ending is. “Don’t you know, Emma? It’s you.” She is obviously touched, with tears welling in her eyes, and they share a very sweet kiss.
  • Regarding whether Hook is on the precipice of losing his happy ending as a marked Villain. This is clearly some heavy foreshadowing, but I’ve been on to the writers since 4B started and they overdid the lovey-dovey happiness between these two. It spelled DOOM. And we got the particular spelling of that doom via Ursula who revealed that the endgame was to fill Emma’s heart with darkness. But on the other hand, Ariel’s cameo not only saved Hook’s life and name-dropped Elsa, it also gave the perspective that perhaps the villains weren’t getting their happy endings because they were going about it the wrong way. So, for instance, Ursula teaming up with Cruella, Malificent, and Gold to force the Author into rewriting their endings=wrong way. But Hook giving Poseidon the shell allowing Poseidon to return her singing voice and also allowing Ursula to forgive her father=right way. Hook seems to be learning the “code” of the Book in this episode. “By taking a page out of your book, Swan. I’m going to return her happy ending.”

Wooden Swan (Emma/August)

  • Reunited! Oh, and the concern by Emma and the knowing grins by August! Emma: “It’s good to have you back. Even if it’s not the way it was supposed to be. I’m glad I didn’t have to wait 20 years for you to be you again.”

Outlaw Queen

  • Well, of course it was a dream. Fan service like that just doesn’t come in normal, reality-based packages. With the exception, perhaps, of the recreation of the ballroom dance between Belle and Rumple. But it was brilliant, that joy at finding each other, the kiss that followed. Too bad that Evil Queen Regina interrupted the works with her fireball. It would seem that Regina feared losing Robin if she lost her newly found goodness, but that’s not how she interprets things later to Emma. Regina thinks Evil Queen was trying to protect Robin.

Swan Queen

  • Regina confides in Emma her dream about Robin. Emma thinks it represents the battle between good and evil within Regina and Regina’s fear about losing the good. But that’s not what’s important–the intimacy between these two opened a door for this sharing. A sharing that was Regina’s priority when arriving at the apartment.

Scarlet Beauty

  • Will and Belle got a cute little moment when Hook goes to re-size his ship. Belle questions whether Hook is really Hook and Ursula mentions how “lover boy here” would already be dead if Hook were really Gold.
  • You know, Will may be “the thief” but he seems straightforward with Belle, and that’s something she has lacked with Rumple.

Rumpbelle

  • See the above “lover boy” comment by Ursula, since it also applies here. Actually, most of the moments concerning Belle and Rumple were more anti-ship moments than supportive of their couple status. I didn’t initially want to include them.
  • When the Charmings Team inform Belle that Rumple is in town and ask where the dagger is, the truth comes out that she was completely duped by Rumple. As always? She bemoans whether she’ll ever be free of his deceptions.


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Once Upon a Time “Heroes and Villains” Previews and Predictions

Coming Tonight: Once Upon a Time 4×11

CAUTION: potential spoilers, peeks sneaked, and speculations proffered

“Heroes and Villains”In the aftermath of the Snow Queen’s spell, our heroes try to pick up the pieces and Regina has to make a difficult choice. Hook’s fate hangs in the balance as Gold’s quest for power threatens everything he holds dear. And, in the Enchanted Forest flashback, an intrusion during Belle’s stay at Rumplestiltskin’s dark castle will wreak havoc in both the past and the future, on the winter finale of Once Upon a Time, written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and directed by Ralph Hemecker.

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

In the first sneak peek, Rumple makes a promise to Hook as Belle sleeps in the foreground.

In the second, Anna and Elsa discuss getting back to Arendelle.

It really looks like there’s a Dalmatian in the Enchanted Forest flashback. Could this be the intruder in the Dark Castle? It’s not Pongo, played by canine thespian Cinder. Perhaps it’s his paramour Perdita. Part of me thinks it might be a shapeshifted Cruella herself, tying her into the past story and placing her among the powerful in the present.

Dal

 

I really dig Gold’s discomfort about Anna. “The Apprentice” set her up to be an incredible threat to him and his plans if she showed up in Storybrooke. And he’s almost entirely responsible for exactly that, having snatched the Wishing Star along with Elsa’s Urn during his encounter with the Snow Queen in Arendelle. Poor Killian. Nobody gets in Anna’s way.

This episode should solidly wrap up everything specific to the Frozen arc. The ice wall comes down. Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff appear to head home through the Apprentice’s magic door. But what’s it doing in the ballroom of the mystery mansion. Does Gold agree to help them in exchange for Anna’s silence?

And what is Regina’s difficult choice? Do the Queens of Darkness offer her a place at their table? Are they the new fairy tale Plastics?