Category Archives: My Favorite Things

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.14 – The Tower

-OR-

The One in Which the Subtext Can Be Boiled Down to a Single Twitterism

Seeing as I watch Once Upon a Time for two reasons, there is nothing quite as painful in those opening moments than to hear that one of those reasons will be spending the duration of the episode apart, and the other will be back-burnered along with her shiny hair.

So, except for that brief, shining moment when Regina was all like, “Awww, Baby, you learned to lie,” The Tower was off to an ominous start.

But then… what’s this?

Why, it’s Regina in natural light, reacting in a rather strange manner upon learning that Emma received a marriage proposal while under the illusion of her false memories in New York and being all cute and motherly with Henry.

“Oh,” Regina is stunned by the information, and digs for further insight into this… Walsh, whose name, like those of all Emma’s past love interests, she simply cannot speak without a measure of disdain.

One could claim – and plenty will – that Regina was merely reacting to the fact that Henry could have been swept up in a nuclear family that didn’t include her. But, basically, it was #ThatAwkwardMoment when one is supposed to have no feelings about her former nemesis shacking up with a sock monkey, but sort of does.

Also, I do look forward to potential amusing shenanigans from my platonic Once ‘ship Gold and Regina. That smile on Regina’s face when she learned of Gold’s non-dead status was glorious.

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.12 & 3.13 – New York City Serenade & Witch Hunt

Here’s what I can say about Once Upon a Time‘s spring return. I know exactly why I watch this show, and so long as Lana Parrilla keeps having that ultra-shiny Regina hair, and Emma and Regina have their moments, I will continue to watch it.

That said, I waited until Thursday of last week to watch the show’s return, and still felt like I watched it too soon. The only satisfaction I got at all out of New York City Serenade is knowing how many of those “million moms” tuning in – the ones who think the mere notion of Emma & Regina is “gross” and that they are obviously “two women who hate each other,” even after two and a half seasons that prove them wrong – were thinking, “Yeah, but he’s a sexy monkey,” regarding Emma’s newest loverboy primate and, “They have sooooooo much chemistry,” two seconds after Regina and Robin Hood met for the first time.

Cause you know… whatever.

Also, on a list of things not to do, drinking a strange substance right in front of a police station while standing with a man just sprung from the clink, probably not the best idea.

And, really? Human lie detector Emma Swan can’t tell when a flying monkey is trying to lock her up in matrimony just to keep her captive in New York?

So, onto Witch Hunt, which was far more watchable than New York City Serenade for two very important reasons. One, Emma and Regina interactivities, and, two, Regina’s hair being all down around her shoulders and Regina-ey.

It all starts with a crash as Regina sees Henry back in Storybrooke and gets slippy fingers on her mug. As Regina stands staring in shock and pain at her beloved little prince, Emma is up in a flash of apology and lesbionic yearning as she goes to Regina and tells her they need to talk.

Then, there’s that moment where Regina says, “He looked right through me,” in a pained voice. You know, in that very open, vulnerable way she has with everyone. And there’s the instantaneous teaming up, as Regina is prone to do, a show for the rabble, and a chemistry lesson in the mayor’s office.

For those who might have missed it, here are your crib notes.

Eager student Emma says, “What is chemistry like?”

Regina says, “Thank you.”

“What are you talking about?” Emma responds. “I seriously need to pass Chemistry 101.”

“I am giving you what you need,” Regina explains. “You see, I am thanking you for believing in me (again) when no one else did. I know that wasn’t easy for you.”

And, smile coming to Emma’s face, she starts to make the connection. “Sure it was,” she says. “Now, let’s go back and forth for some time about the deep understanding I have of your inner workings and how I know when you are inert and when you are about to combust, then we’ll smile at each other in a totally unintentional way.”

“Well, Dear,” Regina says. “It seems to me you have a perfect understanding of chemistry.”

“So, I pass?” Emma smirks.

“Oh, you more than pass,” Regina’s doting smile lingers on Emma. “You, Emma, are my star pupil.”

And scene.

Next up, it’s into Emma’s little yellow bug for some serious bondage bonding time, where Emma and Regina review the in-depth points of chemistry by Regina asking for details about Emma’s work and Emma trying to convince Regina to meet their son.

Which she does.

Because that’s just the kind of lesbian co-mommies they are.

The Power of the Spoken Word

All my favorite books read well aloud. I like sentences that find their own distinctive rhythms, while maintaining the cadence of the stories in which they are written. I despise long blocks of back-and-forth dialogue with no references as to who is speaking. I actually like adverbs. Most of the time.

I appreciate writing that rolls off the tongue, that sounds fluid. I try to write that way. I don’t know that I always succeed, but I do put forth my best effort.

Spoken word artists have my utmost respect. It is such an incredible skill, so modern, yet so ancient in its tradition, and something I would love to find the courage to do one day.

Recently, I stumbled upon a spoken word piece that absolutely floored me, and it flashed me back to Noah St. John’s performance on The Fosters in the first half of the season.

When it’s good, spoken word is so incredibly good.

So, here’s Noah St. John on the Fosters -

And this one that recently put a spell on me by Marshall Davis Jones -

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.11 – Going Home

There is a rare, bittersweet joy in watching the unfolding of a love story that will never be allowed to fully blossom. It’s what makes movies like Malena and Never Let Me Go so poignant, what makes songs like Almost Lover feel so lonely. That stated, the subtext in Going Home was so-not-even-subtext that I will not divert onto paths of dislikes and complaints. I will not mention those who need not be mentioned. I will not brainstorm the ways in which it can all be destroyed again, make bets on how quickly it will be, or opinion-spew about the return of the curse or the show’s new villain.

This post is about Emma and Regina, and about Emma and Regina only. Because this episode was pivotal. After a half-season leading up to it, this was the one in which two women who started out hating each other realized they would never be able to hate each other again.

- spoilers start now -

It all begins following a magical switcharoo, in which Gold returns Henry to Henry’s body and brings Pan back to Pan’s body, when, upon realizing Gold’s magical mojo has proven successful, Emma declares, “Let’s go find our son.”

As the gang marches down the street with Granny sniff-tracking Henry, because Once loves its big group walks, Henry-as-Henry rushes out of the library and into the arms of his two mommies for another joint hug, because, after the filming of the first one, it became instantly clear to the directors, cinematographers and Jesus how swooningly pretty those look.

So, Henry has the scroll they need to break Pan’s curse, and it’s a race to stop it, so Emma puts said scroll in Regina’s hand, declaring “It’s up to you now” with all this abounding faith. When Regina actually does swoon, or, rather, falls unconscious in response, Emma does most of the catching and is the one who calls out to Regina until Regina at last awakens, looks up and whispers “Emma.”

She says “Emma.” Emma. Emma.

It’s clear to all that things aren’t going to go painlessly, and that these are two women in love, but before the price of the magic required to stop the curse can be revealed, Pan is back to being a jerk who magically steals the scroll from Regina’s hand and boasts about his plans to kill them all. Emma and Regina go all tag-team-mom to protect Henry just as Pan puts the freeze on them, and there is a showdown between Pan and Rumple that ends in Rumps being totes heroic and the scroll falling to the street in slow-motion dramatics.

It is in this moment in which Regina breaks away from everyone to suffer on her own, as she is prone to do, and in which Lana Parrilla has a moment that ranks right up there with my favorite reactions of all time on screen or stage.

Neal says, “Regina, don’t let him die for nothing,” and gets no response. Then again, “Regina.”

“What?” Regina returns, and it is half a lifetime of torment and darkness, and two and a half seasons of aching loneliness, in a single, exquisite syllable.

The curse is coming, though, so no time to dilly-dally over this excellence. Fearing the end, Henry walks to Neal’s side for a little fatherly comfort, and Emma reaches toward Regina with a touch that doesn’t land, but that I’m not really sure if it matters makes contact or not.

“Regina?” Everyone is back on her to end Pan’s curse with a quickness.

“Yes,” she nods with such perfect internal suffering, it hurts all my everywheres. “Yes.”

Only Emma thinks to ask about the price, which is Regina’s alone, yet costs everyone. Upon finding out that Regina can never see Henry again, Emma looks utterly bothered, even before Regina reveals the curse being undone means everyone goes back to their own places of origin, which would leave Henry a part of our world.

“Alone?” Emma questions.

“No,” Regina steps closer to her. “You will take him, because you’re the savior.” And she says it with awe and admiration of the fact. “You were created to break the curse, and once again you can escape it.”

But Emma doesn’t want to. She wants to go back with everyone else. And it takes Regina’s declaration that it’s not possible and convincing for Emma to agree to take Henry and go.

Then, we stand at the town line, where there are a lot of goodbyes, and Regina waits for Emma to be alone-ish.

“Emma,” she says, and, in all seriousness, I still just want to watch them say each other’s names back and forth for like an hour. “There’s something I haven’t told you.”

“What now?” Emma can handle all the goodbyes, except for the one from Regina. And she can handle it even less when Regina tells her she and Henry are going to lose their memories of Storybrooke and everyone they met there.

“It doesn’t sound much like a happy ending,” Emma says.

“It’s not,” Regina admits, and stops trying to hide her affection. “But I can give you one.”

Though she can’t preserve their memories, she can give them new ones, as she did everyone else who came to Storybrooke by way of the Enchanted Forest. And, though, Emma doesn’t forget that Regina is the one who cursed them to begin with and that they were all miserable, when Regina says, “They didn’t have to be,” and reaches for her hand, Emma gives it without hesitation.

So, Regina bestows upon Emma the gift of good memories, memories in which Emma never gave Henry up, in which they have always been together, and Emma starts to cry for the first time and Regina starts to cry, and it is the longest goodbye by far. As it should be.

“You would do that?” Emma asks.

“When I stop Pan’s curse and you cross that town line,” Regina promises her, “you will have the life you always wanted.”

Then, she let’s Henry and Emma, and, romantic or not, Emma and Regina stake their claim as this show’s greatest love story.

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.10 – The New Neverland

These snowstorms, for serious. Last Sunday night, we had a reservation for a night in New York. I was gonna sip local cider, cover myself in the crumbles of the world’s greatest (and a very large) gingersnap cookie, see the lights and windows, and, generally, just soak up New York Christmas. On Monday night, we were gonna see Jinkx Monsoon do the holidays up right before heading back to the land of the Raleigh.

Instead, the forecast three inches turned into upwards of eight inches (at least in the area in which we ended up snowbound) and Sunday night was spent trapped in a hotel room outside Baltimore, where I watched the tenth episode of Once Upon a Time‘s season three, after it was interrupted, of course, by a weather guy promising even more snow.

This also proved a good time to switch on the ole VPN and catch up on the Lost Girls for this season. Even the last one, which we watched before rationally heading home Monday before getting bound up by the snow again.

We did, however, discover the most sprawling, beautiful Wegmans I’ve ever been in, where they served up organic lattes of perfect flavor. So, there’s a hot tip for anyone seeking organic coffee drinks in the northeast.

So, anyway, there is no point to any of this other than to draw you in with the promise of subtext and then unleash my tale of woe upon you. Except not really, because we got safely parked in a hotel with food and coffee on hand in some very dangerous conditions, so it was actually more of a best case scenario than a worst case scenario.

Now, onward to The New Neverland. *SPOILERS AHEAD*

First off, it’s fucked up to have Eric chopping the heads off of fish when Ariel goes to find her true love. I mean, I’m sure that was all part of Regina’s ha-ha laugh-riot curse, but he remembers everything like everyone else, right? So, he should know that shiz is whack. Of course, it’s really just an excuse for them to be at the dock when the ship comes in, so there can be loooooong slow-motion return of the passengers of the Jolly Roger just to show how alone Regina is in the world.

But, wait! What’s this? Snow White wants to honor Regina’s behavior in Neverland? Great, she feels so much better now about you pointing her out as she stands alone with no one who loves her, except for the thousands upon thousands of people who watch this show for Regina and Regina only.

Next, it’s back to Granny’s to celebrate the homecoming, ’cause it’s the most hoppin’ joint in town, a celebration that includes the following -

A bro talk about how Hook is going to back off so Neal-Bae can have Emma in the short-term, while Hook awaits their break-up so he can take Emma on home. Aren’t we glad they decided that for her?

Regina and Tinkerbell as sudden friends, and a brief talk with the Blue Fairy for the pure sake of killing her later. Plus, of course, the foreshadowing that Tink doesn’t believe in herself and her magic, so we can anticipate, at some point, Tink’s magic is going to save the day.

Snow and Charming proving they are really just team penis. Neal’s dead. Go for Hook! Neal’s alive. Go for Neal! They don’t really seem to care, as long as it has the power to impregnate.

The early manufacturing of some parental drama as Pan-as-Henry prefers the company of the hotter, naughtier mommy for bedtime. Can’t say I blame him.

Mary-Snow having something to say as Regina leaves with Pan-as-Henry, because there is never a time Mary-Snow doesn’t have something to say.

Party maybe or maybe not over, it doesn’t matter, because we follow the wafting fragrance of Regina’s hair back to Mills Manner, where Regina is mothering, and we realize, yet again, there is nothing the woman doesn’t do sexy.

It is here where Regina makes a vital declaration - “Magic isn’t the answer.”

That hair, however, may be, and, at some point during each of the past five or so episodes, Shawna has demanded to know when we get the deleted scene of Regina brushing her hair for fifteen minutes.

Anyhows, Pan-as-Henry is a bad mofo and he sets the shadow loose on the town.

Before the shadow can do any damage, though, we must see Neal eating alone in his meet-me-at-the-diner-or-I’ll-never-pursue-you-again ultimatum, and the Charmings who have come there to, oh I don’t know, spy on them maybe, realize Emma didn’t take Snow’s advice to jump on the first available erection. So, Charming goes out to talk some sense into their baby girl and get her hooked back up with Henry’s biological father. (Notice Hook’s cameo in there? I did that.)

This is when the writers find opportunity to give a tip of their hat to the show’s subtext… between Hook and Charming.

This leads straight into a moment of Emma being jealous over Hook and Tink. Just before the Blue Fairy gets dead. So, yeah.

And, while I’m no fan of the Blue Fairy, and I’m more than cool with this show cutting down on some of its unnecessary baggage, that was a pretty quick, lame-o death for a character that has been around since the beginning. I mean, disappoint someone, scream, and you’re dead. End scene.

Then, in the wake of the quick fairy death, there is parental conversation (contention) between Regina and Emma. Because they are back in Storybrooke, so it’s what they do. Though, I give props to good portrayals on both sides that show a melting surrendering softening toward each other.

Of course, Regina’s argument against Emma’s point that Henry isn’t himself is kind of silly since she knew damn well Henry wasn’t being himself when he was asking about magic. So, the likelihood that she would take him to the vault? Low. But, for the sake of drama, let’s just go there with them, shall we?

Fast-forward to Henry-as-Pan being discovered in Pandora’s Box and Pan-as-Henry knocking Regina out with some magic something that makes her fall funny.

Found in the crypt, Regina admits in front of all them-alls that she wanted to believe Henry needed her so badly she bought Pan’s act, and Henry-as-Pan says he does, and all sorts of warm family ahhhs ensue, before we get into the fact that the curse, which Pan now holds in his grubby little Henry hands, can be cast again.

Now, I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I imagine they know better than to go there. And if the creators and writers don’t, ABC certainly should. Remember what happened to your one-season wonder FlashForward when it started to become clear to viewers the only way to sustain the premise was to FlashForward again? It didn’t end well.

Like I say, I don’t know what will happen, and I’m sort of sorry, sort of relieved to say I don’t particularly care. The important takeaways here are -

Medusa. NO.

And Regina has amazing hair.

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.8 & 3.9 – Think Lovely Thoughts & Save Henry

 - OR (if these were episodes of Friends) -

The One Where Emma and Regina are Stronger Than Nature

&

The One With the Moment Emma Fell in Love with Regina

My effort to get two books out in a short period has gotten me behind double, and probably a double-behind too, but sometimes one must neglect one’s posterior for the sake of posterity. You know, ’cause future generations are totally going to benefit from my writings on lady-love, badass fairy tale heroines, and Christmassy magic. I mean, it could happen.

But probably not.

The point is, I’m behind, but at least I’m working toward catching up. So, here we go, backtracking to Think Lovely Thoughts. As always, expect spoilers throughout.

While it has been a while since I watched it, granted, I do recall a lot of commotion at the beginning with Bae’s revelation to all that his Pappy is all “Death to Henry!”, though really Gold kind of isn’t, and overall this is largely just a ‘Gold, Who’s Your Daddy’ episode. Which, I don’t know, was anyone surprised Pan was Gold’s daddy? Because Once has a tendency to set up a lot of plot twists that aren’t the least bit surprising.

So, let me take us all back just a little further for a moment to season one, and the nostalgia of not knowing. At least for me. Because I, personally, did not know who August was until they revealed it. Of course, it helped that Pinocchio was never mentioned until they wanted us to know, but I’ll take it.

And, back to the present.

The important stuff begins with the rescue of Henry, and a lovely moonlit boat ride to Skull Island, during which Emma and Regina sit side-by-side (holding hands) while their goblin-butler (Adventure Time reference) Neal rows, rows, rows their boat.

Once on Skull Island, Gold is the only shadowless creature amongst them, so he slips off to do his saving of Henry while NealBae thinks he’s slipping off to do a little throat-slittin’. While Gold is in with Pan, getting piss-poor fatherly advice and all boxed up, Emma remembers elementary science and that light makes shadows.

So, what’s the obvious solution?

Block out the moon by eclipse, duh.

Not ‘Hey guys, look I’m wearing a long coat. Why don’t you crouch down and I’ll hold it open in front of you and it will block your shadows so you can waddle on through, and then I’ll crouch down and hold it against the moon and get right through too, no probs.’

Now, I’m not saying their way wasn’t way sexier and subtextier. I’m just saying, magic’s nice and all, but if ever they return to a land without it, I’m not sure what they’ll do when they find themselves in a pickle. MacGyver, they ain’t.

On the sexy, subtexty side, though, this is the point where Regina admits she needs help, and Emma is surprised, because she believes her woman has unsurpassed powers that require no backup, a misunderstanding forged in the bedroom where, in fact, Regina has unsurpassed powers that require no backup.

So, basically, what happens next is Regina and Emma combine their magic essences to eclipse the moon. As sworn enemies are known to do. And Neal stands back and thinks, ‘Hmm, Emma and I never produced an eclipse.’ That’s right, Neal, you didn’t. You just didn’t.

Next, there’s this whole parental appeal to Henry, which goes pretty much like this -

PARENTS: Henry, we are nothing without you.

HENRY: That’s awesome. But I’m a kid and I’m stupid.

Then, he gives Pan his heart, Pan ascends or something, and we’re all set up to -

Save Henry

The best thing about the subtext in Save Henry isn’t that it starts immediately, though it does, but that it is so wonderfully existential in nature. First, Emma and Regina are being all parental together, cradling Henry between them, and Regina is actually getting the leading parent role. As she should.

Then, Neal is asked to speak and Regina is pretty much done with having two additional parents in her son’s life when she did it all on her own for ten years. So, she goes into Regina mode and tells it like it is, and Emma tries to make peace between her past and future lovers by telling Regina it’s enough.

“Don’t tell me what’s enough,” Regina snaps back. “My son is dying.

And Emma looks flat-out wounded, because she really thought they had already gotten over that particular relationship hurdle. “Our son,” she says. “So, yes, I know how you feel.”

It’s at this point that Neal walks off, realizing he is not at all part of this conversation, despite his own parental ties to Henry, because it is SO not even about Henry.

And this is SO much feeling for Regina to openly reveal to Emma -

“You have no idea what I feel. You have your parents, you have this person, a pirate who pines for you. You have everything, and yet you claim to know what I feel. All I have is Henry, and I am not about to lose him, because he is everything.

And this is SUCH a concession for Emma to make to Regina -

“You’re right. I don’t know what you feel. So what do you wanna do? You wanna run the show, run it. How do we save Henry?”

And then Regina admits weakness -

“I don’t know.”

Then, there’s a little more discussion about how Pan can be hurt because Emma nicked him with the sword, and Regina is more than ready to take her own chunk out of Pan. And whomever else she must take a chunk out of on the way. This leads to the hunt for pan, and interrogation of the Lost Boys, and they gots limited time, so Regina is about to go all heart-ripper on the worst little Lost Boy (it did work once, after all) and Emma stops her with physical hands on her.

Now, I’m not about to sit down and go back through two-and-a-half seasons, but is this not a milestone? Because the only touches I recall Emma and Regina sharing until this particular touch have all been either violent or absolutely necessary (to save Regina’s life). Now, one could argue that Emma felt she had to put her hand on Regina’s arm to prevent her from ripping out the kid’s heart, but I argue against that.

Because this is how I choose to see the world.

So, then something even more telling happens.

Emma reasons with Regina. Reasons with Regina. Reasons.

Since when does Regina do reason?

I mean, seriously, for someone who didn’t want to follow Emma, or to be stuck with the Charmings – which, who the fuck can blame her? – she has taken a LOT of direction from Emma in Neverland.

“Rip out a heart, Regina.”

 

“Okay, Love.”

“Don’t rip out a heart, Regina.”

“Okay, Love.”

And Emma’s big idea to make the Lost Boys speak? Pretty much say to them exactly what Regina said to her moments before. Because it clearly worked wonders, and Emma is still feeling it.

PIT STOP

Now, we must veer off course for a moment to go back in time, as we did with frequency during this episode, and always to Regina. Yay!

Because the trajectory of Henry’s adoption is one of the things that Once has gotten right. And it’s about time Regina gets some credit for her choice to love (at great cost to herself, we at last discover), and that adoptive parents in general get some props on this show.

When she said “Please, just give me a chance” and kissed Baby Henry’s smooshy face, and he finally stopped crying and it made her so happy, that was it. I was done with concern for any other character. Just slay your way through the competition and take Emma already Regina. Take her! Or, you know, be humane and just lock everyone up. And please, I implore you, gag Mary Margaret.

Because it’s amazing that the Snow White/Mary Margaret characters are still soooo far apart in personality that I’m totally on board with Snow White and yet every time Mary Margaret opens her mouth, I start rolling my eyes before she can get out a single syllable.

Anyway, our three main ladies – the savior, the queen and the sap – go off to look for Pan alone, because, despite all this talk about how strong Pan is and how he is damn near unstoppable, that makes the most since because there are some basic chores to be done elsewhere on the island.

Yes, I know… Until Henry’s heart firmly sets in, Pan can be hurt, yada yada. But they set him up as this ultimate Big Bad, and when they said that shiz on Buffy, they meant all hands on deck.

In the end, though, it only took one hand. Which really isn’t all that surprising, because Regina is both the villain and the hero of this show. Kind of like House, you know if House had ripped out people’s hearts and putting sleeping curses on them.

Anyway, off on their own, the savior, the queen and the sap stop by the Pandora’s Box trap and get vined up to a tree by their regret. The thing is, though, Regina has no regret, because everything she did got her Henry. And also Emma in a roundabout way. So with a saucy declaration that she has no regret, she breaks them the fuck out and rips Henry’s heart from Pan, as Emma looks kind of terrified and yet awed.

This is Regina’s lifting-a-car-to-save-her-child-trapped-underneath maternal-adrenaline moment.

So, they rush to the Jolly Roger and Regina puts Henry’s heart back. After some manufactured suspense, Henry wakes up and the most important thing in the episode happens -

Joint hugs! Joint hugs!

And, while Emma and Regina aren’t hugging each other, they are hugging close to each other, and, in subtext, that counts. It has to. If near, close and sort of weren’t somewhat satisfying for us, we would all be starving.

It isn’t so much the joint hug, though – although Regina’s fingers clearly want to get intimate with Emma’s hair – that make this moment so freaking subtexty, but the way that Emma and Regina look at each other just before they cut to the next scene.

That’s freakin’ love, yo.

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.7 – Dark Hollow

If-then statements. How awesome are they? Because they swing both ways. There’s your geometric, deductive-reasoning style ‘If (blank), then (blank)’, which is factual. As in -

If all squares are boxes, and all boxes are black, then all squares are black.

- OR -

If all super-sexy dancers are Latinas, and all Latinas are hot, then all super-sexy dancers are hot.

And let’s face it, that statement could be true on so many levels.

Then there’s the hypothetical if-then statement. ‘If (blank), then (blank,)’, which is the possible, probable, or most likely consequence, result or outcome, though you can’t always tell which at the time. Like -

If I spin around in a chair really fast because I think I’m still five, then I will tumble out of the chair and break my chin. (possible)

- OR -

If it gets cold earlier, then we’ll have to turn the heat on earlier. (probable)

- OR -

If there is something worth writing about on Once Upon a Time while Emma and Regina are apart, then it will be good enough for me to recap with a smile on my face and less irritation in my heart. (most likely)

The last statement did, in fact, prove correct.

The unfortunate news is Regina and Gold only book-ended this outing. Which is sad, because I was looking forward to a few more of those snarky one-liners. But I have to forgive it due to the fact that the instance of (not-at-all-)subtext in this episode was a real squeal of a line.

I have actually, embarrassingly, shouted at my television sports-event style only twice while watching this show. The first time was during last season’s finale when Emma turned to Regina and uttered the infamous maintext notion -

“You may not be strong enough. But maybe we are.”

The second time was tonight.

Both times, my shouts came, not from the dialogue itself – though each line (plus a host of other lines, actions, and looks) certainly offers compelling evidence that SwanQueen is not a ghost ship floating in the dark, secretive realm of fandom, but a little paddle boat quietly powering up to the visible ships and poking holes in their keels – but from the anticipation of the line.

Because both times I had already formed if-then hypotheticals.

If Emma says “maybe we are,” I thought, then there is a lot, LOT to be explored in the Emma-Regina dynamic. Then, Emma said those words, and I went Mexican-soccer-goal-crazy.

Tonight, my if-then statement was a real stretch, because absolutely everything about the set-up, from Snow White’s warning that both Hook and Neal having feelings for Emma was dangerous, to Hook’s “accidental” revelation to Neal that he and Emma shared a kiss, to Hook telling Emma he thought it meant something, to Hook and Neal’s juvenile bickering while they were in the midst of danger and, oh yeah, trying to save Henry, was flat-out painful. Like painful. Like ‘Don’t try to trim that with a pocket knife. Don’t try to trim that with a pocket knife. Don’t try… Ahhhhhhh! What did I say to you?!?’ painful.

When both of Emma’s potential “loves” were being sucked of shadow, though, and the set-up was very much there for her to have to choose between the two of them, she just did what needed to be done. Once she sucked Pan’s shadow into her glow light, and Neal posed the question “How did you do that?”, my mind formed an instant if-then statement.

Because Emma could have said “Magic.” She could have said “Anger.” She could have said “Focus.” She could have said “I don’t know. I was just so desperate to save both of you, you studly, panty-melting man types.”

Regardless of all the lead-up, build-up and potential other answers, though, what I thought was, “If Emma says ‘Regina,’ then this shit ain’t subtext.” And when Emma opened her mouth, there was only one name on her lips.

It was at that moment my team scored.

Despite how much I’d like to leave the above my sweet closing line, it’s also worth noting that, upon the return to Gold and Regina, their conversation goes like this -

Regina: You really love her.

Gold: Is that jealousy?

Regina: Of Belle? I think not.

Gold: Not of Belle. Of having someone.

Then, upon the return to Emma and the other points of her triangle, Emma makes the choice of choosing neither of them.

So, summing up, as Emma’s potential hetero-lovers are in imminent danger, she thinks of Regina. We know this, because she calls her by name. Immediately after which, she decides to cool it on both boys.

Damn, that must have been one hell of a vision quest Emma experienced in that cave.

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.6 – Ariel

- OR -

When Product Placement Becomes Plot

A few weeks ago, when Hook asked Emma how he was portrayed in mainstream media (you know, Disney movies), I really thought they’d hit rock bottom with the shameless plugging and nudge-nudge, wink-winkiness of it all. Then, they quoted just about every easily-recognizable song lyric from The Little Mermaid in Ariel, and it was worse than watching them attempt to be subtle with their product placement on Psych (musical episode December 15th!).

Anyway, this episode was an interesting turning point. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

A few spoilers ahead, but not many.

ALERT! ALERT!

Regina is giving Emma magic lessons. I repeat, Regina is giving Emma magic lessons. This is not a drill.

And one helluva lesson it is.

“Focus,” Regina says. “CONCENTRATE!”

“It’s kind of hard when you’re talking in my ear.” Emma plays the part of the lazy, reluctant student.

“And when the wind blows. Or it’s raining. Or someone’s shooting arrows at you.” Regina is totally on-point and wicked hot as she stalks around like a strict disciplinarian, who probably has a whole book filled with ways to punish naughty students like Emma, starting with making them taste her forbidden fruit.

Ain’t no playin’, though, she is totally trying to ensure her pupil’s personal safety. That’s what the shiz is all about. So, she tries to get Emma to “find her anger”. Rowr.

“There has to be a way without going dark,” the white knight must argue, for she is the spawn of innocence and wonder and true love and smiling puppies and all things good and beautiful.

“You’re such a pathetic waste of ability!” Regina declares.

“And you’re a monster.” Emma ignites. Like for-real ignites the little patch of kindling she was supposed to be magicking to a burn.

And Regina is super satisfied with herself, because, in spite of Emma’s wonky skills, one tussle with her and they can’t help but make fire.

“This is a bad idea,” Charming says. Because he knows.

By the next scene (unfortunately, but not really) Regina is fucking done. Because everyone is trying to talk Emma into going after Neal, and that’s just going to reinforce the love triangle and she’s like, “If this isn’t going to be a parallelogram, I’ve got no cause to endure your parents.”

And Emma is all “Wait. Where are you going?” and seems truly upset by the prospect of Regina abandoning her to her hovering parents and her People’s Choice romance.

“To save our son.” Regina reminds Emma why they are there, and that she was the one who declared them a couple in the last episode, only to put the smoochie-face to Captain Creeper and ruin the buzz.

Speaking of Captain Creeper, in our household, Lana Parrilla is known by the nickname Captain McSexyPants, so Captain Swan is kind of just a real-life, show-life hybrid.

Anyway, Emma fights the inevitable break-up, saying, “We need to stick together,” when she really means ‘I need you’.

And Regina responds, “No, we don’t,” when she really means, ‘No, you don’t. You’ve got two love interests already and they both suck. Each other!’ Then she sticks her tongue out hard to show Emma what she won’t be getting and leaves her to her “heartbroken fool’s errand”.

Watching Regina walk away – desperate, aching, but unable to wrap her mind around what she’s really feeling inside, because they were in such a hurry to leave Storybrooke there was no time to grab the MP3 player with her ultimate love mix – Emma yearns to follow.

“Neal’s alive!” Snow may as well have blurted for the second time. “You have two male love interests again! I saw you making fire with Regina! Please, don’t go lez. We just found you, Emma. We don’t want to have to send you off to cable.” <— At this point, I have officially used this joke too many times, and it is still less than the number of times Once has referenced Disney movies this season.

At the point of physical separation, the subtext potential plummets, and, oddly enough, I am delighted at this turn of events. Because I won’t have to put any real thought into my watchings of the show for a while, which kind of just depresses me, and because, finally, the show has something truly awesome going for it again.

Regina and Gold.

Together.

Savin’ the fucking day.

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.5 – Good Form

- OR -

The One Where Hook Outs Himself as a Creeper
and Still Gets the Stamp of Parental Approval

Mike Birbiglia has this classic joke. He talks about moving into a new apartment and having his bed loaded on the elevator when a woman gets on with him. The woman is relieved at seeing his nice bed, and she says to Mike, “At least I know you’re not a rapist, because a rapist wouldn’t have a bed like that.”

When telling the joke, Mike then says, “What I should have said… was nothing. What I said was… ‘You’d be surprised’.”

That joke kind of sums up this episode of Once Upon a Time for me.

It all begins when our troupe, who is still exploring the same cave in which they spent two-thirds of the last episode, discover the marks Neal made to count his days on the island. We can pause for a moment of zen here, because when Emma announces that Neal didn’t make his last mark because he got off the island, but because he lost hope, and Regina snarks out on her, there is a lovely little moment between them.

First, Emma confesses that she knows that’s what happened because that’s what she did every time she went to a new foster home. Then, she looks at Regina, and, as has become her way, Regina stares silently back, not wanting to hurt Emma further.

D’aww.

It’s a nice subtle moment, and such a contrast to the moment when Hook stops Emma on her way from the cave.

“I uh…” Hook begins in his meek schoolboy way. “I just have to act as if I have had intense feelings for you for some time, even though when we were in the Enchanted Forest together it was really nothing more than silly banter and the last thing you did there was punch me, and I was only in Storybrooke for a short time, during which I was intent on killing Rumple, then on the side of the quote-unquote ‘villains’ for the majority of the time. But the fact that I didn’t go through with my double-cross of you clearly proves I am in love with you, which I must demonstrate now, so that our highly-pimped kiss doesn’t look completely forced and based on nothing but sex and ratings.”

“I know what this is…” Emma ain’t frontin’. “You trying to… bond with me.” She knows his game, and how sleazy said game is. “So, save your breath. I’m not in the mood. Don’t worry, though. I will be later for no explicable reason.”

Daddy Charming also hates Hook’s gross in the moment, and warns him off his daughter. Don’t pout though, Hook. You know Pappy’s just playing hard to get.

That done, it’s time to delve into Hook’s backstory, in which we see what a fucking saint he was. Because there are no decent men in fairytale world, only great men.

Back to Neverland present, Hook stares at Emma longingly as they sit next to the fire, and Daddy Charming lures Hook away, while Snow looks at Emma like ‘I see you flirting with a penis-wielder and being all ABC instead of Showtime. That’s my good girl.”

Meanwhile, out of ear- and eyeshot of the ladies, Hook convinces Charming to let him get a look at his abs, which even I have to admit look pretty damn good. Where are all the midriff shirts for dudes? I mean, costume designers have no problems with putting the ladies in revealing clothing. It’s time to go all gay-disco on the male wardrobe department, and get those tight tummies on display for my personal objectification.

Of course, the point of the peepshow is so everyone knows Charming is like three-fourths dead. Which he always looks when he is alone with Hook, but not when he’s where the girls can see him. I want to see those cut scenes where he sponges the sweat from his sick body with leaves and moss.

Objectify, Charming!

Upon the discovery of how near death Charming is, Hook concocts a plan and lassoes Prince David Nolan Charming in by telling him they are going after a sextant to save Henry, when really he is commencing Operation Get in Emma’s Pants.

At that very moment, Emma’s pants are busy trying get a message to Henry via Lost Boy. When sweet talk about family and the cocolicious smell of a candy bar oh-so-surprisingly fail to earn them the lost boy’s favor, though, it’s time to get real. Henry is turning into a little demon, cutting up people’s faces, and they gotta keep him from becoming a real headache by the time he’s a teenager.

*Pause for some seriously kinky slash*

Pan tries to tempt Hook into taking Emma and absconding, a deal that he can make by knocking off Charming. Score! No more daddy figure to protect his same-age daughter.

Pan’s phrase of choice for this directive?

“I want to see your Hook inside his body.”

And Hook’s hook is, well, his hand.

Sexy.

*Unpause*

Back in Lady-Land, Regina wants to rip out the Lost Boy’s heart so he’ll do exactly as they please, and she tosses the brat her best Mommie-Dearest, ‘You really should have just cleaned your room’ smile. Snow, of course, being as wholesome and pure as Baby Jesus (I was told to add “shitting rainbows” to this description), is adamantly against this, convinced there must be another way.

“And what do you think, Emma?” Regina insinuates herself all up in them, and Snow needs clocked to wipe that righteous certainty that her daughter will do the “right” thing off her face.

“I think we need to talk to our son,” Emma states, and -

Gentle ah-ah-ahs. The subtext angels rise up in chorus, as the wise soloist of the group sings, “This shit ain’t even su-u-u-u-u-b-text no more.”

Shocked at Emma’s response, Snow fights the good fight. You know, because she is just so damn good.

“We can’t do this,” she argues. “It’s brutal.”

Then, comes the line that, for me, is straight-up dialogue porn.

“We can’t, but she can,” Emma says while restraining her mother. She then calls out “Do it, Regina,” but that’s really just the subtexty message on an already super-sweet cake. Because with “We can’t, but she can,” Emma takes what everyone else thinks is the ultimate flaw in Regina and turns it into a strength.

So, Emma holds Snow in a mommy-lock and Regina rolls up her sleeve and goes wrist-deep in a Lost Boy.

Now that they have said Lost Boy under their control, he does their bidding and takes the message to Henry, along with a compact for a little video-conferencing Neverland style. When Henry picks up (yuk yuk), Regina slides on over next to Emma, and Snow really needs to make herself scarce. I mean, even Emma and Regina’s hair wants to make out.

So, they have some face-time, then Henry has to skedaddle. Regina calls out “We love you,” as one does when standing next to a mortal enemy with whom she doesn’t want to share her child. It’s a sweet, wonderful moment with potent intimacy.

Aaaannnd back to Operation Get in Emma’s Pants.

Which is right at the stage where Hook saves Charming’s life for one reason and one reason only. I’m not just being an asshole. He freely admits it.

“Why risk your life for me when there wasn’t anything for you in return?” Charming asks.

“I didn’t do it for you, Mate,” Hook says. Then, he winks. He actually fucking winks. And, for some reason, we’re supposed to pretend it isn’t totally skeevy.

Back at Camp Operation Henry Cobra Rescue Get in Emma’s Pants, the ladies are returning from a hard day of communication-by-compact, and Snow questions if Henry is okay.

“He’s fine,” Emma declares.

“You know this how?” Regina reasonably asks, as anyone would question her girlfriend’s stupid assumptions.

“Because he’s our son,” Emma states. “And he’s a survivor. And now he has something to survive for. He knows we’re coming, and we’re not going to let him down.”

There is a lot of emphasis on that “our”. Now, it could mean “He’s the son of one badass and one crazy-ass, so he’ll tear some shit up if he has to,” or it could mean “Babe, our domestic magic is fuckin’ legendary. We powered down an entire town on the brink of annihilation. I think we can get back our own kid.”

“I’m sorry I doubted you,” Snow just has to talk again. “I’m just… I know how easy it is to give into the darkness. I didn’t want you to…”

“She didn’t,” Regina interrupts. “I did. That’s what I’m here for. One happy family.”

Holy Mary Margaret of God. That is a lot of something. First, that is Regina taking the blame on Emma’s behalf. Second, that is Regina accepting her continued walk in darkness on Emma’s behalf. Third… awww, they’re a happy family. Okay, maybe not yet. But Emma and Regina are going to look so beautiful at their wedding. Snow White, I trust, will wear black.

At this point, Charming and Hook return, and, apparently now a happy participant in Operation Get in Emma’s Pants, Charming goes into this big spiel about what a great man Hook is. You know, so parental approval is in play.

“I thought he deserved a little credit,” Charming says.

Of course, he does. Why wouldn’t he? Remember, last season, when Regina was going to save all y’alls asses and her “prize” was going to be her own death instead of Emma’s sweet ass?

Oh, of course you don’t.

So, in regards to toasting hook, I’m with Regina. I don’t do rum.

Next, Emma and Hook are left alone, because Charming is no longer Hook’s enemy, but his accomplice *wink*. And Emma is very impressed with Hook saving David’s life.

She says, “Thank you.”

Hook says, “Perhaps gratitude is in order now.” And actually rubs his fucking lip.

“That’s what the thank you was for,” Emma returns.

“Is that all your father’s life is worth to you?” Hook says.

Then, it gets even worse as they try suggestive banter.

“You couldn’t handle it.”

“Perhaps you’re the one who couldn’t handle it.”

So – to prove him wrong? – Emma gives Hook a big, drawn-out kiss, and the Internets blow up with awe and wonder at how perfect they are together, and how hot their kiss was.

Now, had this exact same scene played out with say, Regina, in Hook’s place, I can only imagine the number of times I would have read by now what “predators” lesbians are and how there was no basis for this and it’s “just about sex”.

All in all, this was a subtext heavy, SwanQueen-promoting episode with forced hetero romance to allay any fears that Emma and Regina’s interactions might have instilled in those terrified of a homo happily ever after.

And it came complete with two important lessons.

The first one, we all know well -

Don’t take candy from strangers.

The addendum, however is -

If you don’t take the candy from strangers, they may rip your heart out.

The second lesson is thus -

In life, some people will only provide help with expectations. When this happens, it is charming, not creepy, and you should give them what they want because they earned it.

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.4 – Nasty Habits

When the troupe spends two-thirds of the episode in the same cave, and the episode is Bae-Neal/Rumple-centric, there simply isn’t much to see. Unless you totally adore a constantly righteous, self-sacrificing youth as a character. Not that I’m saying that’s Baelfire. That’s just how he’s being written.

Now, while I enjoy the fact that Regina has been a bucket of snark ever since they sailed into Neverland, even that’s getting a wee bit tiresome. We get it, Lovely, you are cranky and sexy without a full-length mirror. Times are tough all over.

For example, even with my thickest specs, I could pluck only a single instance of subtext/pleasure from this entire episode, and it wasn’t really subtext so much as a camera-nod of solidarity.

It happened like this -

Emma declares, “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, you never break in somewhere unless you know the way out.”

“And where’d you get that?” Regina snarks. “In bail bondsperson* school?”

“Neal taught me that,” Emma responds.

Then, the shot goes back to and lingers on Regina, who says nothing.

So, in two episodes, Regina apologized for potentially hurting Emma and then refused to do it again. Call that what you will, but I call it “building a solid foundation for a maintext marriage friendship”.

Also, I am so tired of Snow White and her mothering. Like, exhausted.

*WordPress does not recognize “bondsperson”. It also does not recognize “bondswoman”. It makes violent red squiggles beneath them like they don’t exist. It is perfectly accepting, however, of “bondsman”. So, there’s that.