Frozen is Coming to Once Upon a Time! And it’s totally not okay.

Last week, after the airing of Once Upon a Time’s “Kansas,” I started my usual drill – put on the ole subtext goggles, re-watch, dissect, sigh at such wasted potential. As I started noting my thoughts – like how ridiculous it was that Regina was being tossed around again, or how Emma lost her magic because she was forced to put her lips to Hook’s when, if she had just used her magic on Zelena right then and there, it would have stopped Hook from drowning, Rumpel would have been freed, and everyone would have been spared Zelena’s uncontested walk-through of the hospital, or how Regina required a pep talk to face her sister again, though she was the only hope, and actually uttered the words “I don’t think I can survive round three with my sister,” when she knew the price was Henry – it occurred to me, as it has many times throughout this season, that watching this show has become a chore, and writing about it has become something I dread.

How sad.

The Writing Was on the Wall

To be fair, I cannot say I was snookered by the early premise, or promise, of this show. In fact, I spent the first few episodes wondering why I was watching it at all, because it was just jumping along, introducing secondary characters who were uninteresting, and, as it has turned out, completely pointless.

Then, the subtext commenced, not just with a Still Small Voice, but with an echoing shout, and, though off and on, it only grew from there, showing the story of two women growing closer together, and I was caught in the web of that hatred-turns-to-love potential, that rare female-female interaction of any variety, and, yes, although I knew from the get-go it would never happen, of that ridiculous, childlike hope of a happy ending that looked like my own experience.

The reality is that Once is, and has always been, a weak show with occasional bright moments and one consistent bright spot. So, I continued to consume.

It was like eating the entire sloppy enchilada just for a taste of the barely-detectable onions.

The Gay Slight

For those who have spent their entire lives with stories that reflected their own, or that they could dream of as their own, being told again and again for mass-consumption, it is difficult to grasp the longing for characters with whom one can truly identify. So, I cannot blame those young ‘shippers when they repeatedly ask the same question about a beautiful relationship between two women that appears in fiction –

Will this ever happen?

99.9% of the time, the answer is no, but still we cling to that 0.1% with all the enjoyment of popular culture we can maintain in a mainstream world that so often fails to recognize us. Even in their own characters.

There is hope, though, and there is delusion. For those who watch Once and enjoy SwanQueen for what it is, more power to your popcorn. For those who watch believing there is a real chance you are going to see what you want in the end, I strongly believe you’re only prolonging your disappointment. As much as I am on your side, as much as I would love to see an intricately told story of a love that grows between two women, as much as I too have seen it in the writing and wonder what in the hell Regina and Emma are supposed to be to each other if they are not everything to each other, I also feel it is not our decision to make. Creators hold the rights to the endings of their stories, and it is wrong to think otherwise.

And, though I find the love that is supposed to be between some of these other pairings weak and forced, I know many viewers do not. They have goggles of their own, and those goggles see Regina and Robin Hood as having formed a bond so romantic and intense over the course of a few interactions that they believe Regina truly wronged by the loss of her new love.

Those goggles are in far more ample supply than our collective subtext goggles, I’m afraid, so, when it comes to throwing a man and woman together for the sake of a storyline, well-developed or not, the majority of the viewership is always going to be behind it.

My problem, as a gay viewer, is not with SwanQueen and all that wasted potential. It is not with what the Once creative team will never do, but with what they chose to do.

In response to the press from some vocal SwanQueen fans, they responded that they wanted to be inclusive, but wanted it to be organic, to fit the story.

It, quite honestly, could have been.

By the time this was said, Once had already introduced Mulan and Aurora, and, while, as I have already stated, Mulan was my last choice for a gay character, the relationship that had been built between Mulan and Aurora at least had substance. It had the potential to be worthwhile.

Apparently, inclusiveness by Once standards, however, meant sending the gay girl to tell the woman she loved that she loved her, only to be told by the woman she loved that she was expecting a child with the man she loved, and then to have said gay girl walk off never to be seen again.

After this, four distinct groups of viewers emerged:

1 – The ones who were absolutely convinced what they saw wasn’t what they saw, and that Mulan was going to tell Aurora that she too was in love with Phillip, thereby confirming the love triangle for Phillip’s affections they believed had happened once before.

2 – The ones who praised Once for including a gay character. For approximately 15 seconds.

3 – The tiny one, of which, at times, it felt I was the sole member, who would have preferred not to be included at all, if inclusion meant being the sad girl in love with the straight princess and then sent to the sidelines to suffer.

4 – The ones who thought Mulan’s affections for Aurora were entirely out of the blue, and that it only happened because those awful gays had demanded to be included in a family show and the creators did it to shut the loud ones up.

While Mulan’s love for Aurora wasn’t at all out of the blue, as for the intention of the creators, I hate to say it, but I think I have to agree with the bigots.

A Story Without an Ending

A lot can be forgiven of an epic story with a slow build to a well-executed climax.

Little can be forgiven of a story that meanders, that hasn’t a clue where it intends to go, and that lies to itself about how it is getting there.

Because, while I agree wholeheartedly with people who say to stop arguing with creators on social networks, when they say that a TV show, or a book series, should be crafted as the story demands and in accordance with the creators’ intentions, not the viewers’ or readers’, I am starting to feel that Once Upon a Time is crafted by exactly what the viewers want to see.

Or what Disney does.

Two scenes into the two-hour finale, there were two references to Disney properties. And those were only the first two. Then, they dropped all pretense and went straight for Disney’s hottest current property. Which means, in the middle of the season, the creators and writers of Once still had no idea where the story was going to go.

That, and lifting from a hot property in the hopes of bringing up paltry ratings for such an expensive show, is simply inexcusable from a creative standpoint.

So, for those going forward into season four, I wish you the most pleasant ride it can possibly be. As for me, I declare three seasons enough time to devote to a show that has finally stopped pretending it isn’t the world’s longest infomercial.

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.19 – A Curious Thing

Call me an unabashed lesbian, but does anyone else notice how, when there are multiple people filling a scene, Emma, Regina, Henry and even the Charmings look like a straight-up family, while everyone else kind of just look like bystanders?

So, realizing how much Emma, Regina and Henry are going to, once again, look like an adorable little family unit by episode’s end, A Curious Thing commenced with completely non-sexual-utterly-innocent-and-beautiful-loving-nurturing-good-by-nature heterosexual affection so they could show just how happy it makes Regina.

Just to be clear, again, this is in no way a complaint about hetero love. I like Rumpel and Belle. Hell, sometimes I even like Snow and Charming. I do not, however, hold with totally forced, weakly-written, uncharacteristic relationships for the sole purpose of having “romantic” relationships on the show. I put romantic in quotes, because, while there have been some truly nice moments between Snow and Charming and Rumpel and Belle, Emma and Regina have been done no favors with any of their love interests.

Let’s see, Neal left Emma to prison because it was the right thing to do. Fair enough.

Upon finding out about the curse being broken, he still stayed away, stayed with his fiancee, and, once she was outed as a psycho, pretty much just decided Emma and Henry was his family and he would have them back. And while Emma was resistant, Mama Snow decided Emma had to give Neal a chance.

Then, there was Hook, who double-crossed Emma, expected payment for his “heroism,” came through the door of Emma’s apartment and kissed her with full knowledge she didn’t know who he was, started hitting on her again the second Neal’s body was in the ground, and watched her from across the street. I know I already mentioned this, but it was f’in’ creepy, so bears repeating.

How about when the Mad Hatter held Emma hostage, and a whole fan group arose for their pairing, thinking Emma and her captor would make a great couple just because the dude was hot?

I swear, this show often feels like there should be a PSA at the end of each episode for impressionable young women. ‘This is not the kind of relationship you should have. If this is the kind of relationship you have, get away if you are not tied up and call for help.’

I mean, by all standards, Robin Hood is actually a nice change of pace as a love interest, because he hasn’t done anything overtly creepy, possessive, or otherwise disturbing.

However, other than dropping the phrase “soul mates” into the mix, and the painfully forced scenario of Robin Hood keeping Regina’s heart, there has really been nothing resembling romance in the Regina-Robin Hood dynamic either.

Oh yes, and this is a great place to drop in the reminder that this entire Regina-Robin relationship has taken place while Regina’s heart is outside of her body, in the clutches of her evil sister.

NOT romantic.

Also, this episode was pivotal in reminding us all of the fact that the Once team sometimes just stops trying.

The book? Really? And not just the book itself, because, drawn out over a couple of episodes, I could have almost bought that. But the book just appears when needed? That is so lazy.

They had so many options here:

Henry could have stumbled upon the book on his own and started thinking the fairy tales were real again before he knew for sure, and thought he was going crazy until the curse broke.

They could have rebuilt his old castle, or a makeshift copy of it, and someone could have gotten him to play and start pretending and believing in the make-believe and he could have started to remember.

So many unique things that could have been done, and again with the repetition. That is what I have a hard time forgiving with this show. They so often take the easy path when it has such potential.

Now that I’m done complaining, but, honestly, this episode warranted complaint, I did appreciate how Emma and Regina looked like a bickering married couple during this exchange.

Emma: That’s not necessarily a gift. He’s been through some tough stuff.

Regina: And some good stuff.

I appreciated less that murder only counts sometimes, and that Snow White’s blackened heart has clearly healed, since Snow White is pure enough to walk through a door that keeps Regina out.

Also, since Zelena is turning people into flying monkeys, and we are reminded of this with Phillip and Aurora in this very episode, how many Storybrooke residents did our band of heroes just off?

Anyway, Henry remembers, Emma looks to Regina, Regina encourages Emma to break the curse, and Emma leans in to kiss Henry on the forehead with Regina right behind him. Now, see the missed opportunity here? This could have been everything. I mean, given the feel of the scene, Emma falling onto Regina’s lips would have been slightly uncomfortable. But as much as this crew likes to keep the fans of all potential ‘ships hanging on, would it have killed them to have Emma stumble into Regina and them turn toward Zelena holding onto each other? It would even have made sense. Physics, momentum.

It’s not like they would have had to follow through with it. Just ask Warehouse 13.

Also, could they please stop sidelining Regina with simple moves? She’s the evil fucking queen. She rips people’s hearts out, she crushes them, she killed her own father. So, could we please stop flinging her aside with the wave of someone’s hand?

So, Emma instinctively magics Zelena away from Henry, and, when the witch is gone, Henry gets Regina to wake up, and she breaks the curse by kissing him on the forehead exactly the same way Emma did at the end of season one. Which isn’t at all surprising, though a new idea injected somewhere in here would have certainly come as surprise.

Zelena’s weakness is light magic, that’s the take away. Which is why Emma is the only one who can defeat her. Though, I suspect Regina will find her light side.

Now, the moment of truth.

I was actually benefit-of-the-doubting Once on this whole Robin Hood thing. Since Regina has been so ridiculously out of character with him, to the point of trusting him with her heart, I thought there MUST be a reason. What we were going to discover, I was certain, in those missing-year flashbacks, was that Regina fell in love with Robin Hood, and, though she couldn’t remember that, it was why she felt such an undeniable pull toward him once back in Storybrooke.

Once answered my belief with a resounding, “Wow, we hated each other back in the Enchanted Forest, no?”

“You’re just so much more likable here.”

Hey, the book can just appear!

Hey, we’re just soul mates!

Hey, soul mates do not spend a year together doing nothing but disliking each other! If they do, they’re not soul mates.

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.18 – Bleeding Through

Wow, what an interesting title for something fairy tale-themed. Why does it sound so familiar?

Well, since that’s a mystery I shall never solve, I guess on with it.

So, as always, I Hulu-ed this episode to go back through scene by scene, so I could analyze for hidden subtext and watch Lana Parrilla’s hair sway. As I was doing thus, I realized I only had a few important takeaways.

One, if giving someone one’s heart to keep safe is a metaphor, so is someone giving up one’s heart when threatened, no matter what that threat may be.

Two, now that Regina is apologizing to people other than Emma, accepting that there is some justice in Snow killing her mother, and protecting Snow with a vengeance (and a totes soccer-mom belly-protection move), there is simply no reasonable way for Regina to go bad again. Since they have passed the syndication line, and should now make more money by moving forward with the show, regardless of budget or ratings, for another two seasons, I do hope the creators are aware of this.


Emma and Regina are holding hands.

Emma and Regina are holding hands.

And Regina gets so worked up by that tiny touch, she has to go work off her romantic frustrations elsewhere. It’s all right. It’s good she get in a little practice before the real thing.

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.17 – The Jolly Roger

All right, Bosses. It’s like this. Once Upon a Time is rampant with faults. The writing is – how shall I say? – spotty at best. Character motivations change with the wind, it seems. And while some people cheer every new character who comes on board, I am of the mind this show doesn’t need any more characters. It needs to use those few who are great better.

However, it’s Regina-Emma interaction like that in The Jolly Roger that calls me back to the table when I am down to my very last fuck chip.

It comes in with a bang with Regina walking all up in the joint like she’s bangin’ someone’s daughter. She’s done a protection spell to protect her adopted brood – her Emmakins and the two idiots.

“As long as we’re in here,” she says. “We’re safe.”

This isn’t a particularly interesting, or noteworthy, line. Hold onto it, though. We’ll come back around.

So, Emma has decided she wants to master her magic so she and Regina can combine their essences once again in one of those ultimate magical displays they seem to enjoy so much together.

“If we teamed up,” Emma says. “If you taught me…”

“Now, why does this feel so familiar?” Regina responds. I’m guessing it was the dream Regina had the night before.

“I’m ready this time,” Emma says.

“Okay,” Regina responds with a little laugh and THAT. DAMN. HAIR.

Discussion, discussion and Regina wants Emma to really understand, “This is a way of life. You have to fully commit to it.”

“Not a problem,” Emma replies. At which point, we show a very worried Mama Snow White, who must just accept with a shrug, ‘Oh well, incest it is then.’

“Meet me at my vault in one hour,” Regina says, because she needs time to stop at home and pick up the chocolate syrup and the rings. Despite past behavior on the show, lesbian-Regina is really very monogamous and Emma did just agree to commitment.

Also, I’d like to stop right here and offer a bit of sincerest praise. The Snow-and-Charming-are-boring-grandparents bit is one of the most inspired things Once has done in a while. A bit of comic relief in the middle of everything is rather welcome, and it was surprisingly enjoyable to watch.

Now, on with the subtexty goodness.

Deep in Regina’s vault – *snicker* – Regina thinks she’s going to book-teach Emma, while Emma just wants to get her hands on things. *Double-snicker.*

Regina wants to know who’s watching Henry, and she’s loving Hook spending time with Henry about as much as she liked hearing about Walsh some episodes ago.

Emma says she trusts him – Hook, that is – because he brought her back to Storybrooke.

“Well, of course, he brought you back,” Regina mocks.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Oh come on, Emma.

“Seriously?” Regina responds for all of us. “You’re going to pretend everyone doesn’t see the yearning looks and doey eyes?”

“I don’t yearn,” Emma declares.

“Well, maybe…” Regina returns, “but he does.”

Don’t be coy. You know he’s hooked on you, Emma. <— Where WAS this line??

Anyway, Regina is over the discussion of said Hooker, and it’s onto the big magic lesson.

Emma is basically, ‘Words, bad,’ so Regina gives her all the hands-on she wants by putting her – poofy purple air – in the middle of a bridge and then proceeding to take that bridge out from under her.

“What in the hell are you doing?” Emma wants to know.

“Every time you’ve exhibited your power,” Regina tells her, “it’s been spurred by your instincts. So, today, we’re going to push those instincts until you master them.” And, also, I’m sort of pissed about Hook. “Save the bridge. Save yourself.”

Save the cheerleader, save the world. Gawd, remember how amazing that first half-season of Heroes was? What the hell happened there, huh?

So, bridge goes bye-bye beneath Emma’s feet, and Emma is left with her hands on some things just as she wanted. Ropes, which, while not exactly my choice location for Emma’s hands, does, in fact, fit the scene. Then, those ropes break and Emma falls, and just as Regina is coming to the terrible realization she done broked her own heart, Emma comes riding up on the coolest elevator ever.

She thinks Regina’s mad because she didn’t follow exact orders. Regina tells Emma she’s mad because she has been wasting such potential. We all know Regina isn’t mad about anything. She’s just working out that residual-snippiness of having almost killed her unintentional beloved.

Across town, Hook is confessing his undying love for Emma, before he finds Regina and Emma alone in the protected apartment. Detecting Hook’s lies, while Emma fails to, because her lie-detection is… eh, forget it… Regina gets Emma to demonstrate her hot-ass magicks by seeing between worlds.

Unfortunately, this attempt to prove Hook a rascally scoundrel backfires when the mirror shows things as Hook said they would be, and Regina is visibly irritated as Emma determines Hook an upstanding fella.

The return of the unCharmings (yay! for this quip) interrupts Regina’s desire to turn Hook into a garden gnome, and Regina is so cute making her excuses about why she’s concerned about Henry’s well-being, and Emma is so cute thinking Regina is so cute.

Then, it’s time for dinner at Granny’s.

Okay, let’s review.

I just put up a new protection spell. We’re safe in here.

Let’s leave.

We’re leaving too.

Who’s up for dinner out?

So, yeah.

Also, for anyone who found it incredibly romantic and heartbreaking, as the writers hoped you would, when Hook watched Emma longingly through the window of Granny’s from across the street with his monoscope as she dined, please remember, if someone does this in real life, he is a FUCKING STALKER.

Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 3.16 – It’s Not Easy Being Green

In my desperate attempt to catch up for the season, I shall be Once Upon a Timing for several days in a row. All necessary components, including myself, willing.

So, further catching up, let me just get right out in the open right now that I adore the word “wicked”. It has a lovely, specific meaning, and it’s one of those words that just feels right in your mouth because it sounds like exactly what it means. And this show has managed to make me so fucking tired of the word in just a few episodes, I’m ’bout to grab a shovel and bury it proper.

It’s the most grating when the dialogue sets up the entire scene just so the word can be shoved in like a damn shiv.

This isn’t the Wild West.

No, Dear, it’s the Wicked West.

I don’t care which West it is. I just hope somebody pulls out a pistol and shoots that word with a quickness.

So, onto the usual debate. “What did you do to this angry woman, Regina?” Which at least gives Regina one good quip – “Stick to the lasagna, Lady.” Then, she gets her feelings hurt and runs off, and gets her feelings hurt again by the fact that her Mommy loved her lost-and-found sister too, ’cause why not?

Then, shit starts to get real, as Regina, who has slowly built a relationship with Emma and Snow over the past two seasons, becoming a better person as a result, who has kept her secrets secret and her fears to herself, suffering alone and in silence the majority of the time, just flat out spills all to Robin Hood. Because he was there.

And, oh yeah, because she saw the tattoo that proved he was her soul mate. This is fantastic. Apparently, when you have been hurt again and again and again, when you have done horrible things and barricaded yourself from everyone else, when you have erected walls to hide your emotions, all you need to get over them is a whisper from a fairy and a tattoo. So, keep that in mind people who have endured great loss, suffered great pain, and been left to the world on your own for years.

This is so out-of-character and painfully forced, I don’t even forgive them when Emma says Regina is going to get help whether she wants it or not.

Then, Zelena tries to take Regina’s heart, but she doesn’t have it. Because she gave it to to Robin Hood to keep safe for her.

You are many things Once Upon a Time. Subtle, you are not.