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Once Upon a Time: We are the Lines We Cross

Everyone has a line they say they will not, or cannot, cross. The line between good and bad, the line between right and wrong, the line between yes and no. For each person, in each situation, the line is distinct. A line is usual an if, then instance. If I cross that line, then this will happen. Whatever this is. Sometimes, the outcome is known. Other times, it’s a mystery.

So, there’s a line in front of you. What do you do? You either cross it, or you don’t. You can only dance on it, through indecision, for so long.

Last night’s Once Upon a Time was all about lines (We Are Both). The town is in a panic, wondering if they should flee or stay. It is discovered that if someone crosses the boundary out of Storybrooke, his/her personality vanishes. Leroy explains, “If we leave, our cursed selves become our only selves.” (Lee Arenberg is bloody brilliant – as are the rest of the dwarves. Team 7, ya’ll.)

David went to Regina, looking for answers about the magic hat. A rather hilarious exchange ensues, and Regina quips, “I will not listen to childcare lectures from a man who put his daughter in a BOX and shipped her to Maine.” In Evil and Unhelpful Mode, she lies about who the hat belongs to. The two argue about Henry, and David wisely admonishes her, “If you have to use magic to keep your son, then you don’t really have him.” This is a perfect foil to Regina’s relationship with her mother, Cora – who continually uses magic to keep her daughter a prisoner, set to marry Snow’s father.

A flashback to Fairytale Land reveals a young, and unhappy, Regina – before she marries Snow’s father. She desperately wants her free and just as desperately wants to remain good, unlike her mother. Wondering, out loud to her father, she asks how her mother came to be that way – since evil isn’t born; it’s made. Her father mentions a man who is responsible, but Cora will not speak his name. A brilliant use of dramatic irony, and the audience KNOWS that it’s Rumplestiltskin. An interaction with Young Snow White reveals that Regina is terrified that being around her mother is changing her, since she’s started to have increasingly dark thoughts. This brings up an interesting notion: did Cora make Regina evil, or was it Regina’s choices?

Regina, desperate to get her back magic (and thus, Henry), visits to Gold. On her way, she runs into Dr. Hopper who tries to get her to talk about her pain, so that it might help her realize who she is. With a look of utter certainty, she says, “I know who I am.” This certainty, however, is called into question.

Visiting Mr. Gold, we find that he already has magic at the ready, as he conjures a familiar book of spells. The very same book that belong to Cora, Regina’s mother. Gold notes, as well, how asking for that book is crossing a line – because now, Regina resembles her mother. The very thing, back in Fairytale Land, she feared to become. Another flashback to Young Regina reveals her summoning Rumplestiltskin. Her innocence and sweetness is very interesting; he also admits that he’s seen her before, back when she was a baby and more “portable.” The audience gets a sense that, perhaps, some sort of bargain was struck between Cora and Rumplestiltskin, but no further details are given. Begging for a way to get rid of her mother without succumbing to evil. Her gives her a magic mirror, saying that she only has to push her mother into it – and it will do the work. In a moment of blind fear and rage, Regina does just that, looking completely horrified afterwards. That moment, that choice – that line – is the beginning of her descent.

Meanwhile, David is trying to remember how to be a prince, but complains that Snow was always the one who was good with words. The town is falling apart, and he’s caught up in his own personal struggle – a very human emotion. Mr. Gold for help (he is looking for a way to Snow and Emma), but wouldn’t go so far as to tell Gold what he needed it for. The compromise was that they’d keep out of each other’s way. David mentions the trouble crossing the line; as soon as he leaves, Gold’s anger and grief is taken out on the room. He smashes things, looking truly downtrodden, as if some possibility has been lost. We learn, through little hints and at the end of the episode, that Gold was looking to leave Storybrooke. He was headed to New York. Perhaps to find his lost son, who methinks is coming to him. Summoned by…? We don’t know.

David, completely consumed with finding his family, misses the town meeting where he’s supposed to talk about how to save the town. Ruby has been frantically trying to keep the townspeople in check, but she can only do so much. Regina, magic-laden, crashes the party – scares the people – and Henry goes with her to assuage her anger. Back at her house, Henry attempts to escape, only to be caught by the same spell that Cora used on Regina, back in Fairytale Land. Afterward, he pointedly asks how long he’ll be her prisoner for – and replies that she is only acting the way she is because she loves him. “So, I’m a prisoner, because you love me? That’s not fair.” In this beautifully, almost misguided, heart-to-heart, Henry reasons with Regina, who is trying to appeal to him by saying he can make people love him, if she shows him magic. “I don’t want that. I don’t want to be you.” Visibly, Regina is taken aback, as what he said pulled at her heartstrings, as she remembers how her mother kept her prisoner.

David, finally as a combination of David and Charming, confronts the townspeople. This is a moment where he shines, crossing the line from self-involved, panicked person – to hero. He talks about being both people, how he wouldn’t give up one part of himself to just be the other. Each aspect of his personality, both halves, make him who he is – the weaknesses and the strengths. Every person, if they stay, has so many choices open to him and her. But leaving? Leaving takes away those choices, by removing part of themselves. That would make each of them less. David promises to keep them safe and protect them, urging them to united as a kingdom and a people. They agree, and Ruby gives David a look of approval, as he’s FINALLY grown into his own. (One wonders if, perhaps, Snow/Mary Margaret had to be absent for that to happen. Perhaps he would’ve leaned on her more heavily, if she was there.)

Another flashback to Fairytale Land offers us an exchange between Rumpelstiltskin and Regina, who admits that she loved using magic – and because of that, she doesn’t want to use it agin. Rumplestiltskin quips, approvingly and creepily, that she’s “discovered who [she is].” She accepts his offer to teach her magic, owing him a favor someday. When she asks if she’ll become like her mother, he replies, “That, dearie, is entirely up to you.” This further exemplifies the idea that we are what lines we deign to cross. We are the choices that we make. And who we are isn’t set in stone. It’s a constant act of will – and, perhaps, change.

We see this idea blossom, when Regina crosses back over a line. She willingly gives Henry back to David, admitting that she doesn’t “know how to love very well,” but that she remembers that “if you hold onto someone too hard, that doesn’t make them love you.” She then apologizes, brilliantly, saying, “I want to redeem myself.” In an effort to do just that, she truthfully answers David’s questions about what remains in Fairytale Land. From this exchange, one thing is clear: they both truly care about Henry. Interestingly, Regina is very human after she acquires she’s long sought after.

Evil isn’t born; it’s made. The same can be said for good. Each character isn’t wholly perfect or imperfect. Each is a combination of things, wrought by decisions and influenced by others. Regina gave up Henry in order to earn his trust; that sacrifice may be her turning point. Unlike her mother, who most likely is still evil and not dead, as we find Snow and Emma imprisoned with her in a corner of Fairytale Land. One wonders, then, if it is her magic that kept that part of the land from the curse.

The lines we cross, and the choices we make, reveal us to ourselves. They are a step on a path, a stone in a street, a direction. No single decision defines a person. We are the sum our past and a future, not just what we have do, but what we do and will do. Just as David finally remember who he is, so can everyone who dares to step up to a challenge and be brave. Bravery isn’t swords and battles; it’s words and wisdom. It’s staying, and not fleeing. It’s loving and not running, even when we are afraid. No one is perfect. We are, all of us, weak and strong. Every choice is a line. Every line a question. But there is strength in crossing it – or even just figuring out how to do that. If we are never brave enough to venture outside boundaries, then we learn nothing. We love too safely. And we would never grow.

Crossing a line always means taking a risks. Those risks shape the most important parts of ourselves. And while we are the lines we cross, we are also the reason we cross them.

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Categories: Once Upon a Time
  1. October 8, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Brilliant recap and analysis. I missed it last night, but thanks to you, I not only get to find out what happened, but also get a deeper look than I would have otherwise. Thanks!!!

  2. October 10, 2012 at 10:49 am

    This episode was a very interesting one because we were given more back story on Regina, and more sympathy for her because she is being portrayed as a victim. Obviously Rumplestiltskin needs her and Cora for his master plan, and I have a feeling it had to do with Belle. My DISH coworker loves the show too and we have been speculating about Mr. Gold’s confusion as well. Honestly, I wouldn’t have even thought about watching if I hadn’t seen it on my PrimeTime Anytime recordings yesterday. It’s a pity I didn’t see the premiere but the shows delete themselves after 8 days.

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