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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Regina and her relationship with Henry: is he right that she's just pretending to love him for show, or does she honestly care about him as much as she's able to with the void the curse caused in her heart?
      • On one hand, she lied when she answered Emma's question ("Do you love [Henry]?") in the pilot. If she loved the little guy and meant it, Emma would been able to tell, and subsequently would have packed up and headed back to Boston, no harm or foul. But when Regina lies that she loves Henry, Emma decides to stick around for Henry's sake.
      • On the other hand, Regina might be very much debilitated by a curse that won't allow her to love. The question is if Regina loves Henry as much as the curse will allow. While she may not be capable of love in the story book fashion, it's possible she feels something for Henry that's not quite love, but not exactly devoid of any attachment. It's possible that she's even trying to fill the void the curse caused, but simply can't because the curse doesn't let her know how. Which would lift her out of Complete Monster-dom.
      • From the Season 1 finale, she genuinely loves Henry. Not in a particularly healthy way but genuine.
    • Rumpelstiltskin alleges Cinderella's Fairy Godmother is actually evil as she wasn't going to mention the Equivalent Exchange part of magic in the Fairy Tale realm.
      • Does that mean the Blue Fairy's one too?
      • Either that, or he's just pissy because he doesn't have a monopoly on granting wishes, which undercuts his thriving Bad Samaritan business. When it came to the Blue Fairy, Jiminy was perfectly fine with trading his humanity and undertake a geas to aid Gepetto in order to get away from a life of crime. Yes, magic comes with a price, but the fairies might actually be more willing to ask for a sacrifice that the recipient can live with.
    • Fans speculate the Dark Curse creates alternate versions of FTL's inhabitants. As for the Storybrookers themselves...
      • Kathryn: Really someone who wants David back, or is more interested in the trappings of marriage than the man himself? She wants her husband and their kids someday but it's clear the person with her is more interested in fulfilling his obligations than 'her', but is she so guilt-ridden about their earlier tragedy she ignores it?
      • Emma Swan: Giving Henry his best chance by sticking around, or a lonely woman who is clinging to the closest thing she has ever had for family?
      • David and M.M.'s affair: True love, the most powerful magic (directly stated by Rumpelstiltskin) logically overcoming the Dark Curse? A deconstruction of how harmful all-consuming passion and fairy tale fancies are in Real Life? Or two weak-willed adults refusing to act emotionally mature or responsible?
  • Anticlimax Boss:
    • The Blind Witch is billed as a vicious cannibal and powerful witch, but she's barely onscreen for ten minutes before the children/Evil Queen cook her. They even skip over the whole "Gretel is a slave and the witch fattens up Hansel."
    • And she shows some sort of telekinesis (she sends Hansel's axe flying when he wields it), but can't unlock the oven?
      • Perhaps because EQ was manipulating that part of the scene.
      • Perhaps because she was in too tight to wave her arms.
      • Perhaps BW had the oven enchanted to prevent someone on the inside from opening it up or make it easy for her to manipulate without burning herself (she is blind after all). At any rate, Word of God is that she doesn't actually die in the fire. She simply becomes disfigured - she's the ugly witch we see when EQ first attempts the Dark Curse.
        • No, the Word of God from Jane Espenson is that she did die and Patti Allan is playing a different Blind Witch (Miss Ginger in Storybrooke), possibly a relative.
  • Base Breaker: Mary Margaret’s one night stand with Doctor Whale. Consensual sex between two unattached adults which is being blown out of proportion by the rest of the fan base or the unnecessary sullying of a beloved classic character who is supposed to be the epitome of innocence and goodness?
  • Canon Sue:
    • One of the unfortunate pitfalls when you're re-inventing the classic Fairy Tales.
    • Emma Swan. Every character but the primary villain loves her, she gets away with everything (including witnessed vandalism and other crimes), and rises in the ranks of the police force in a matter of a few weeks of entering the town. She's also inherited her mother's beauty and father's nobility, and both parents' badassitudes. She fits the classic trappings of Mary Sue.
      • Except, this of of course being YMMV, she has shown character flaws in her life, like stooping to Regina's level and having it come back to bite her. She openly acknowledges there is right and wrong and knows she crossed the line. Hence her accepting of Regina's command for her to stay away from Henry. She may not like Regina but she does respect her own moral code and will accept punishment for violating it. Whether that rescues her from Suedom though differs from viewer to viewer.
      • She gets away with vandalism in the second episode because Graham is already crushing on her, and he's concerned enough for Henry to step in and try to stop the back-and-forth fighting between her and Regina. Also, Graham is her only (brief) love interest in Season 1 (it's even implied that August was only flirting to get close to her). Yes, Jennifer Morrison is a beautiful woman, but making this a point toward Emma as a Sue is frankly ridiculous because not a single person has ever commented on Emma's looks in-universe, even her love interest.
      • And other characters don't automatically like her--she makes barely any close friends in the first season and works hard to earn other characters' approval and trust. (ie. Archie initially sets her up to get arrested but warms to her when he sees how she handles Henry. Ruby initially lies to her to protect Ashley but warms to her as the series goes on. Sidney and August both approach her because they need to be close to her to further their own agenda.)
      • She does rise quickly to the position of Sheriff, but the deputy position can be explained (again) through Graham's developing feelings for her, and she becomes sheriff after his death through a combination of being the only person willing to challenge Regina's pick and Mr. Gold's Batman Gambit to get her to win.
    • Another candidate would be Snow White, particularly as Mary Margaret as a Purity Sue.
    • And Rumpelstiltskin as Villain Sue. He's in every Fairy Tale practically, makes both Regina and Emma his puppets, and has a tragic backstory. The only reason he gets away with so much is his actor's own talent and charisma.
  • Complete Monster: Played with in regards to Cora, who becomes a deconstruction and ultimately a subversion of the trope. Played utterly straight with Peter Pan.
  • Conspicuous CG: The vines that attack Hansel and Gretel in "True North" are pretty awful.
    • Jiminy Cricket can be pretty bad too, as can the Big Bad Wolf.
    • The snakes in the episode "Fruits of the Poisonous Tree".
    • Wonderland. Just, Wonderland.
      • Many scenes in the fairy tale world use green screen, some more obvious than others.
      • Some? Aside from the intteractive scenery (tables, chairs, ect), 98% of the fairytale world is CGI.
  • Crowning Moment of Awesome: Quite a few.
    • Graham's break-up speech to Regina.
    • Mary Margaret kicking Jefferson out a window. Yeah, don't threaten her daughter.
    • "You are a sociopath, lady."
    • Emma taking down a dragon right after she has to come to terms with the fact that fairytales are real in the first place. (A smaller one in the fact that she pulls a gun on it, even though it's ultimately pretty useless.
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: Prince Charming's Leitmotif. That is all.
    • Rescue Me (How The Story Ends) by Kerrie Roberts is amazing
  • Designated Protagonist Syndrome: Some think Emma is a bland, uninteresting protagonist with hardly any character.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Cora kills Regina's true love Daniel right in front of her and forces her to marry the king. So, naturally, Regina blames...Snow, who's the one who told Cora about the two of them.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: Rumpelstiltskin is getting this. It was inevitable really.
    • He also actually wears leather pants.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse: Ruby and Archie seem to be getting this treatment.
  • Evil Is Sexy:
    • The Evil Queen. Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold could also be considered this (depending on your tastes), but the Queen/Regina is the most clear-cut example.
    • It's also notable that in the Fairy Land flashbacks, the more overtly evil she's being, in general, the more plunging her neckline. Before her husband's death, she is show dressing demurely, by the time the curse is made, she appears to have a wardrobe consisting entirely of corsets.
  • Fan Community Nickname: Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold's fans are called Dearies. So named by Robert Carlyle himself.
    • The Queen's fans are called Evil Regals, Snow White's are the Fairest, the Seven Dwarves' are Team 7, and Prince Charming's are Charmers. Team Emma has recently become pretty widely used among Emma Swan supporters.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple:
    • A minority like Snow and Charming but dislike M.M. and David. Weird as they're the same people trapped in different realities/personas.
      • Part of it may be since in the human world, David is married, and the affair that results from it turns out rather ugly.
    • And judging by the response of "Skin Deep", Rumpelstiltskin and Belle. Much like on Lost, side couplings end up more compelling than the show's primary romance. Lesson: OTP can't be forced.
    • Minutes after "Hat Trick", shippers wanted the Stranger to get out of town so Emma wouldn't be bothered if she decided to shack up with her other creepy stalker, Jefferson/Mad Hatter, instead.
    • One of the most popular couples among fans is the Crack Ship / Foe Yay pairing of Regina and Emma. It is second in popularity only to Belle and Rumpelstiltskin and by far the most popular possible pairing for either woman.
  • He Panned It, Now He Sucks: Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker, while not completely giving Once Upon a Time a terrible score, didn't exactly give it praise with its pilot episode. So when even people who watched it with low expectations wound up loving the show, just about everyone reading his opinion piece ripped him a new one. A possible subversion, given that some of Ken's attackers already loathe him for numerous reasons, and used this as yet another reason to call him a grumpy dinosaur (despite his surprisingly wide tastes in TV).
  • Jerkass Woobie: It's hard not to feel sorry for Rumpelstiltskin in "Skin Deep" or "Desperate Souls".
  • Lighter and Softer:
    • This, along with Reconstruction, may explain the show's success. After years of sexed up comedy shows, reality TV, Darker and Edgier dramas with Black and Gray Morality conflicts, and grislier police/medical/lawyer procedural shows, a straight up battle between good and evil with an intriguing mystery at the core feels so refreshing to audiences in comparison. (see Better Than It Sounds). In fact, it's very apparent that the show does not have any sort of formula for it's episodes even more so than other grand mystery shows (e.g. Lost, Fringe); instead, each episode builds upon the last.
    • The story of Hansel and Gretel is softened by making it an accident that the children were separated from their father rather than him abandoning them.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • It may be too early to call Rumpelstiltskin this, but this seems to be what he's going for. We do know that the entire plot so far is apparently the result of a Batman Gambit by him. He certainly has the charisma for it.
    • He displays this tendency particularly in the episode "Desperate Souls", where he runs The Plan in order to get Emma elected sheriff. He may or may not have run a similar one against her in "The Price of Gold"--sending her out to find Cinderella knowing that she would refuse to let him have the baby and in turn make a deal with him, giving him even more power over her. However, while he openly admits to the gambit in "Desperate Souls", nothing is even mentioned about one in "The Price of Gold".
    • Proven as of the finale that the entire season was basically the story of his biggest Batman Gambit.
    • Regina as the mayor. It is glorious, how she is always one step ahead.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • The Queen killing her own father, admittedly the one thing she loved more than anything else.
    • Alternatively, if you were willing to accept the Sympathetic Murder Backstory on the death of her father, the repeated rape and murder of Graham certainly qualifies.
    • And if you were wiling to accept even that, then the revelation that she's kept Belle (who, unlike Snow White or the Huntsman, never crossed her or did her any harm at all) shut away in a mental ward for twenty eight years, presumably either to keep her quiet or as some sort of bargaining chip against Mr. Gold might just do it.
    • All acceptable losses to further her plans. But sending defenseless CHILD after CHILD into a cannibal witch's house to retrieve the poisoned apple crosses it. She's shown she could have taken care of the Blind Witch herself (via mirrors and fireballs) making her look worse when she sends Hansel and Grutel in. Without remorse or hesitation she sent over a DOZEN kids to certain doom just to get a McGuffin just to screw over ONE PERSON. ONE PERSON.
    • It is implied strongly that she was involved in Kathryn's murder. Even if she didn't actually cause it, she's still using her supposed friend's death to screw over someone who's already miserable.
      • Yup, she was. Then she makes Sidney confess to the crime.
    • What she did to Jefferson; deliberately screwing him over so that she could get her father back (who she'll kill later anyway, rendering the whole Wonderland trip meaningless) and then hypocritically shooting his words 'You don't leave family' back at him, before leaving him behind to be separated from his daughter forever - as well as from his head, if only for a while. BITCH.
    • In short, it's hard to pick just one for the Evil Queen.
    • If you didn't already consider Cora to have crossed the Moral Event Horizon with her constant emotional and physical abuse of her own daughter, then killing Daniel in cold blood and forcing her to marry the King probably would do the trick.
  • Narm: Prince Charming on Abigail and Frederick: "Have you tried True Love's Kiss?" Admittedly they do live in a world where the power of love can legitimately break curses, but come on, he sounds like he's recommending chicken soup for a cold.
  • Nightmare Fuel: The Blind Witch's moans of delight when she says "I smell dinner!" are very unnerving. Which is probably the intent all things considered. She was catching and eating people as a tasty snack.
  • Somewhere a Mammalogist Is Crying: In the episode "Red-Handed," Booth was talking to Ruby about his travels to Nepal, and that he encountered lemurs (which he said were a kind of monkey) at the temples there. Two things about this: 1) lemurs are endemic (meaning they aren't found anywhere else) to Madagascar, not Nepal and 2) lemurs are in fact primates (a very basal primate, in fact) but they aren't monkeys. More information can be found in the other wiki.
  • Strangled by the Red String: Some think that the show is relying too much on Because Destiny Says So to convince the audience that Mary Margaret/Snow White and David/Charming are meant to be together instead of building a genuinely meaningful connection between the two.
    • Or they think this in regards to Mary Margaret & David but not Snow White & Charming.
  • Straw Man Has a Point: Regina is a horrible person, and that's not even getting in to the things she did as the Evil Queen. And while it's left ambiguous exactly how she feels towards Henry, it's clearly not love as we'd understand it. But what she says regarding how a woman who adopts a child and raises the child is the "real mother" and not the biological mother who abandoned the child makes a lot of sense, even if she herself is a terrible example of that.
    • Emma even accepts that point, doing her best to distance herself from Henry and only becoming involved when it becomes obvious that Regina is a terrible person. Even after Regina frames Mary Margaret for murdering a woman she had kidnapped, Emma accepts that Henry is Regina's son.
  • Unfortunate Implications:
    • In Episode 9. "There are no good foster parents."
      • Fridge Brilliance: Maybe the show’s seeming anti-adoption, anti-foster care message is a nod to the fact that, in fairy tales, stepparents and adoptive parents are usually evil.
        • Further in the fact that the "anti-adoption" message is mainly, if not exclusively from Emma. You know, the girl who had a rocky trip through "the System?" It's not the writers that have an anti-adoption message. It's Emma herself.
      • Somewhat justified as Emma is basing her judgement on her individual experience in the system; the Huntsman seems to have been happy with his admittedly unorthodox foster family and it's implied that Rumpelstiltskin's son may not be biologically his, but they have a loving relationship.
    • "Skin Deep" lampshades the A Match Made in Stockholm implications of the Beauty and the Beast story--the problem is that the person bringing it up is Regina in the context of deceiving Belle.
    • The only black characters (the Genie, Cinderella's Fairy Godmother) literally only exist to magically make the lives of white people better.
    • Dwarves are born to work as miners until they die without pay and are not allowed to leave, they are basically a Slave Race and are expected to be fine with it.
      • This, however, does not go without lampshading, and although the episode ends with Grumpy returning to the mines, we're obviously not suppose to be happy about it.
    • That a person can only have one True Love, meaning widows, widowers, and bereaved lovers are utterly out of luck. Furthermore, all those True Loves are romantic and heterosexual in nature (ok, it's part of the original stories, but Values Dissonance applies).
      • As of the first season finale, at least the 'romantic' part of that is negated. Emma revives Henry with a True Love's Kiss on his forehead. So, True Love can exist between a mother and her children - something almost everyone can agree with.
    • Red and Granny turn into monstrous beasts once a month (well, Granny used to, when she was younger), and only the power of a magical red cloak can stop Red from slaughtering everything in her path.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: In the season one finale, the dragon form of Maleficent is outstanding for a television production.
  • Wangst: Ashley and Mary Margaret complaining how love isn't what they thought it would be in "Skin Deep". Both are complaining how hard it is. To elaborate: Mary Margaret is dating an adulterer and Ashley's baby's daddy works all the time. Ashley's boyfriend is a nineteen-year-old supporting a cleaning lady and newborn daughter!
  • What an Idiot!: The Genie in "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree". After meeting Regina for two minutes he decides he's going to not only kill for her but kill the man who freed him from eternal slavery. Then when he finds out she set him up he refuses to flee and instead boneheadedly uses a wish (wishes he knows hardly ever turn out well) to be by her side forever. This for a woman who purposely led him on, used him and then set him up for murder. What an Idiot! indeed.
    • Cinderella also counts as this. While it is justified in how she was desperate to escape from her rather crappy life, she decides to sign a contract without even reading it with someone who is Obviously Evil.
    • Snow in "An Apple Red As Blood". Snow agrees to eat a poisoned apple because the Evil Queen says that if she eats it, then she won't kill him. Snow doesn't have any reason to believe that the Queen will keep her promise, but she eats the apple anyway. Naturally, the Evil Queen tries to execute him shortly afterwards.
    • Jefferson, also in "An Apple Red As Blood". Jefferson agrees to help Regina, even though she screwed him over last time he worked with her. He makes a deal with her that if he helps her retrieve what she needs, then she will wipe his memory of the Fairy Tale world, make Grace remember that Jefferson is her father, and set them up for a good life. Regina agrees to this, but insists that he help her get what she wants first, which he does. After Regina has the apple, she refuses to hold up her end of the bargain. She has no reason to do anything for Jefferson after he gets her what she wants, since he has no leverage. Also, if she wiped Jefferson's memories, he'd have no way to know if she had upheld her end of the bargain or not, or even that there was any sort of bargain to begin with.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not for Kids?: You know! Fairy tales!
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?: Regina tearing down Henry's wooden fortress is regarded as a breath-takingly evil act by just about everyone. While it was certainly unnecessary and mean-spirited, the reaction seems... excessive.
  • What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: "Hat Trick" is a bit strange already, but about the time a giant blue smoke-blowing caterpillar appears, well...
  • The Woobie:
    • The two unloved kids: Emma and Henry.
    • And the sad but very sweet Miss Mary Margret Blanchard.
    • Don't forget Dr. Archie Hopper/Jiminy Cricket.
    • Shepherd being forced to never see his mother again and having to call the man who threatened her "father" for the rest of his life all in the name of duty.
      • And later, said father seems to have ended up resenting Shepherd anyway and declares to Snow White that he isn't his son. Only the king's pragmatic nature and desire to preserve his kingdom keep him in check.
    • Graham/The Huntsman. Because he spared Snow White, the Queen ripped out his heart, condemning him to never feel anything again, then made him into her Sex Slave. Then, when it looked like he might finally get free of her, she crushed his heart and killed him.
    • Rumpelstiltskin, of all people, turned out to be one.
    • Belle. Dear God...
    • Abigail/Kathryn. Kathryn is easily sympathetic, but Abigail becomes this as well once her backstory is revealed.
    • Really, most of the cast whether due to the Dark Curse or otherwise, have gone through some pretty terrible things.
    • Red. See... Granny was bitten by the original Big Bad Wolf who, as it turns out, was a werewolf. And Granny's husband. In turn, this meant Granny's daughter would become the 2nd Big Bad. And in turn, Red herself is the 3rd Big Bad. Who happens to eat her love.
    • Jefferson the Mad Hatter.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds:
    • The Evil Queen is primarily motivated to avenge the death of her former lover, Daniel. Who was killed by her abusive mother, as a result of Snow White telling her about the love between them.
    • Rumpelstiltskin, for that matter.
      • He literally "destroy[s] this world for the next."
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