Subtext Recap: Once Upon a Time 2.1 – Broken

– OR –

Emma and Regina Stop Pretending They’re Not Canon

– OR –

Henry Has Two Mommies

In the unlikely case that one of you kickass individuals fails to read through the primary and secondary titles of this post to determine that it will, in fact, spoil the fuck out of the season premiere of Once Upon a Time, I will state with absolute clarity at this point that –


I’m not kidding. Proceed at your own risk.


So, the Once Upon a Time premiere did exactly what I hate. It picked up right where it left off, mere moments after the final moments of the first season. I knew this was going to happen, of course, because, with all of those big moments left hanging, they simply had nowhere else to go. Plus, in my anxiousness to return to the subtext feast that Once Upon a Time has become, I’d spied a few set photos. Self-spoiled, if you will.

As I’ve stated before, I hate the jump back in time in a big way. It’s my biggest finale/premiere pet peeve.

And yet…

This time, as I was pulled back several months in time, I simply didn’t care. Why? Because, apparently, I will forgive this show just about anything if it keeps up the insanely high subtextiness. Of course, that’s been made more difficult, at least for the start of season two, now that Emma has been dragged through a portal and our star-crossed heroines are in two different lands (I DID warn you). But I’ve already thought of ways that their separation could prove even more subtexty than their combustible sexual chemistry, and I’m good with those, should they come to pass.

Having seen the season two opener, I do return to my original thoughs from the first season finale. What happened in the premiere could have easily happened in the finale. An insane two-hour season-ender that left Emma and Snow in a foreign land? That would have made my summer of Once anticipation way more wicked.

Not that I was at all disappointed in the premiere. In fact, my expectations were exceeded. And they were high. While I can happily report, though, that the introduction of new characters was far less distracting than introductions made in the beginning of season one, due to the steadier focus on the main characters, the introduction of the wraith was less successful. Not because the wraith wasn’t an interesting and exciting addition to the story. Or fair game. There are, after all, allusions to such creatures in mythology and folklore across many cultures. But Once‘s wraith was a dementor and someone in artistic direction should have seen to it that it wasn’t.

Upon the wraith’s appearance in Storybrooke, Shawna even asked aloud when someone’s patronus was going to come chase it off.

Because it was a dementor. And every fantasy fan on earth knows it.

But you know what? If someone had produced a patronus that chased that dementor wraith right the hell out of there, I don’t think I would have cared. As long as it was Emma’s patronus, springing forth with heroic light to save Regina’s soul.

And, honestly, it very well could have happened that way, because DAMN.

Once Upon a Time… There was Subtext

Those of you who watched Once Upon a Time‘s first season finale with the same misty-eyed, slack-jawed “Holy Crap, this is subtexty” expression that I wore might have thought, “Uh oh, they’ve peaked early. They’ve already gotten under each other’s skin, answered doors half-naked to each other, had abnormally intimate conversations, wore each other’s clothes, got into a fist fight, nearly kissed, started a custody battle, and were finally forced to work on the same side, where, despite the minor death threat that passed from white knight to dark queen, they seemed strangely content to be.”

Because the season one finale of Once Upon a Time was a total subtext fest. Like Women’s Murder Club‘s “To Drag and To Hold” subtexty or  Birds of Prey‘s “Lady Shiva” subtexty. Please feel free to fill in your own analogy. Just reminisce the subtextiest subtext you’ve ever seen. THAT was the season one finale of Once Upon a Time. Especially when Emma called Regina’s name as she rushed to her side to untie her. Or when Regina spoke to Emma in a tone filled with such admiration, you would swear she was almost proud.

Well, that was all last season, and it seems the exquisite level of subtext wasn’t subtexty enough. Because, I’m just going to say it right out – season two, episode one of Once Upon a Time took subtext to a whole new level.

All summer long, in my frenzied Swan Queen-shipping state of euphoria, I had been repeating the same mantra.

Emma will have to protect Regina.

Emma will have to protect Regina.

I was certain of this, because the people of Storybrooke were out for blood and Emma was still the town sheriff.

And protect Regina she did.

Of course, it was under the guise of a promise to co-son Henry, but Emma needed little prompting, defending Regina against unfounded accusations and rushing to her aid through the angry mob with a “Let HER go” that sounded less “I promised my son” and more “Hell no, not with my bitch, you don’t.”

(SIDE NOTE: When Regina first appears on the scene in this episode to confront her angry mob, Lana Parrilla is on fire. The way she pushes Whale is badass, and that flip-back of the sides of Regina’s tailored suit jacket is like an instantaneous switch back into evil queen. Quite glorious.)

Then, after Regina is attacked in the slammer by the dementor wraith, all Regina has to do is cough to call Emma to her side. And Emma gets to Regina and helps her up by the hand.

Stop now. How would you help someone you don’t like up from the floor? By the hand? ‘Cause, honestly, I’d just yank her up by the collar.

So, after Regina leans toward Emma in the cell door – You say for the sake of camera work. I say because she’s comforted by the scent of Emma’s pheromones. – there’s some discussion about the ukillableness of the wraith, during which Regina stares into Emma’s eyes as if they are the only two people in the room, and Emma’s all like “Then, we have a problem.” At which point, Daddy Prince David Charming (Emma’s newly-found father, for those in the outs) decides to let Regina fend for herself, and after a moment of beautifully soft disbelief that her dad wants to let her love interest die an agonizing soul-suck, Emma takes the “She’s not dying” stance on the issue.

Yes, again, it’s attributed to Henry – “I promised Henry… She’s not dying” – but it’s Emma that Regina looks at with that “Oh my God, I just discovered I have a heart again, because your love overwhelms me” look. And, in the following scene, when Regina asks if Henry really asked Emma to protect her and Emma responds in the affirmative, it’s less like Regina is smiling ABOUT Henry and more like she’s trying to smile AT Emma.

So, when it comes down to those final moments between Emma and Regina – when Emma is literally standing over Regina to protect her from the wraith and Regina is letting her fear show in front of Emma – it’s almost intimate. Then, suddenly, it becomes intimate. Because Regina can’t make her magic work and Emma is worried. So, she drops down next to Regina and puts her hand on Regina’s arm, and magic happens.

Literal magic.

I can’t be the only one who flashed back to Tara and Willow. Empty laundry room. The Gentlemen at the door. A vending machine Willow couldn’t move alone flying across the floor when she and Tara touched.

So, just when you think it can’t possibly get subtextier, because they’ve gotten as subtexty as the greatest lesbian couple in television history, Emma and Regina look at each other as if they know they were both party to the magic, and Emma saves Regina by pushing her out of the path of the wraith, only to get dragged out of the world by the wraith herself. At which point Regina stares at the place where Emma just disappeared as if vanquishing her mortal enemy is about the last thing she really wanted to do.

Then, little Henry reappears just in time to stop Regina from killing Grandpappy and charges Regina with bringing Emma back, after referring to Emma as his mom, which, not-so-coincidentally, is how he referred to Regina at the beginning of the episode when he charged Emma with keeping Regina safe.

“Where’s my mom?”

“She’s still my mom.”

Wait a second, I’ve seen this set-up before. It’s The Parent Trap.

Well played, young Prince Henry, well played.

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