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.


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.


Savin’ the fucking day.

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