Home > Once Upon a Time > Once Upon a Time: A Storyteller’s Thoughts on Vulnerability and the Things We Do for Love

Once Upon a Time: A Storyteller’s Thoughts on Vulnerability and the Things We Do for Love

Letting someone in is a hard thing. Or at least, it can be. It requires trust and vulnerability. It is a leap of faith, and it can be scary. I remember when I was five years old, a friend of mine wanted to pick me up. It was a silly game that kids play. I, trusting her, said yes – and she then dropped me in the parking lot, leaving me with a skinned knee. After that, I didn’t trust her. But life is rarely so overt as physical pain and scars.

In the same vein, putting another person first can be pulse-racing terrifying. It is a selfless act, or it should be. In this week’s episode of Once Upon a Time, there is a dance of trust, faith, vengeance, and the tango that is love. Love, any kind of love, is a strange, transformative thing. To be blunt, it makes us insane. It makes us do absolutely crazy, illogical things.

Princess Aurora, for instance, is wracked with grief over the loss of her love, Prince Phillip. She’s got angry face and evil eyes. In an instance of pure stupid, she tries to take out Snow, who is still a badass, even without the practice. She gives Aurora a stern talking to, before Mulan has a slight fit that someone else is being condescending toward the princess. But if anyone understands losing love, it’s Snow; she lost Charming so many times, for so many different reasons. Prince Phillips’s soul is trapped inside the wraith’s medallion. So, he isn’t dead, so much as…inaccessible. That’s just MY two cents. It seems like there could be hope for a happy(ish) ending there, but what do I know? I grew up reading too many fairytales. BUT, speaking of the fairest of them all…

Snow, reaffirming the Love Makes Us Do the Stupid theme, confronted an OGRE – with only a bow and arrow. She took it down with one shot, not knowing if she could even aim well, anymore. Snow was protecting her daughter, somewhat recklessly — without hesitation. Emma, clearly, is stunned. She isn’t used to relying on others, which she now must, because we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. Because Kansas does NOT have ogres.

David, back in Storybrooke, endeavors to keep Henry out of harm’s way, which is well-meaning, but ridiculous. Henry, as kids often are, is all courage without fear. Without compunction, he tricks Regina out of her office (playing on her very real emotions), steals her keys and goes off in search of something in her vault to help get Emma and Snow back.

Momentary pause, here, because I felt incredibly bad for Regina, because her joy was totally sweet, when she thought Henry wanted to see her. Then, to find out he LIED to her? That’s low and cold. I’m sure her heart did a slight Grinch reversal – and yet, she still had the hope and the wherewithal to call David and let him know what happened, putting Henry first and saving from the vipers that were about to snack upon his stubborn hide.

This show continually warns that all magic comes with a price. And yet, so do the ordinary things, the choices we make and the actions we take. Trusting someone else? It is risky. It makes us vulnerable. And when we love someone else to put our life in their hands (figuratively and literally), it says a lot. In a Fairytale Land flashback, we see Charming’s mother poisoned by an arrow, Snow cursed with bareness, and Charming’s mother sacrificing her life so that Snow can be healed. The lake Nostros, with its healing powers, has all but dried up – since Charming killed the siren that lived there, last season. Only a small thimble-sized bit of water is left, and in an effort of selfless, sneaky love – Charming’s mother tricks Snow into drinking it. All the while, the knowledge of this barren curse is kept from Charming. Which is odd, because you’d expect Snow to maybe want to commiserate with the man she loves. Also, that drop of water? What if it was rain water? I mean, how did they know that this small seashell contained the magic lake water? Because it could’ve just been a puddle. *ahem* Anywayyyy…

Additionally, in this episode, we meet Lancelot, who has already been disgraced, left the round table, but who is still an honorable knight with a heart of gold. But to me, his character kind of fell flat. He could’ve been ANY knight. There was nothing truly remarkable about the depiction, except that he had a recognizable name. I wish that Once would’ve done a bit more with him, because with a rich literary history such as that, it could’ve been awesome. Of course, none of that matters, because by the episode, we learn that Cora killed him and has been posing as Lancelot ever since. This, I have to say, was a brilliant plot twist. I did NOT see that coming. Snow, clearly, knew better than to trust Cora; however, she was so relieved to see her old friend Lancelot that she didn’t question him, until he (Cora) slipped up.

Cora is desperate to get to Storybrooke. (Why? We don’t know. We can probably guess it’s for nefarious reasons AND that it probably has to do with getting revenge on Regina for the whole looking glass banishment thing.) She is foiled by Emma, who sets the wardrobe aflame; the wardrobe is the only known portal back to Storybrooke, and she had to protect Henry. Afterwards, there is a very touching moment between Emma and Snow, where we really see how broken Emma is in places. She has a very hard time trusting people, and she’s incredibly uncomfortable with other people putting her first. She is used to being a badass, but not used to being a badass with friends and people who care. It kind of undoes the edges of her world. Incidentally, Cora reappears after the others have departed, only to scoop up some wardrobe ashes into a bottle; they begin to glow red. It seems like there still might be a bit of magic left in the embers.

Back in Storybrooke, Jefferson (after a sweet pep talk from Henry) goes to find his daughter, Grace. His worst fear that she will hate him, because he abandoned her. Silly rabbit, her face practically cracks underneath her giant grin, when he calls her name. There is a quiet, overwhelming beauty in this reunion; it is something so simple: a father and his daughter, finding each other again. But it took a great deal of hope and vulnerability for Jefferson to get to that moment/place, literally and figuratively. In order to see his daughter again, which is something he wants very badly, he had to risk his greatest fear: that she wouldn’t want to see him. It was an instance of bravery and faith that would warm even the coldest heart. Well, except Cora’s, because I’m pretty sure hers is made of volcanic ash. (I want to see the initial meeting between her and Rumplestiltskin. Because you KNOW that’s going to be fantastic.)

Yes, all magic comes with a price. Almost always, trust and faith do, too. Because those actions are, inherently, a risk, without the certainty of a reward. David must pause in his nearly mad quest to find Emma and Snow, in order to be a grandfather to Henry. This includes a rather cute swordfight toward the end of the episode, which is menacingly undercut by Charming’s fake father glaring from a nearby car. I’m pretty sure I’d notice the man who routinely ruined my life, sitting there – but perhaps his flannel acted as some sort of camouflage. (Seriously, though, Alan Dale is a wonderful actor. He puts some much evil into a single look.)

This episode is all about faith, trust, and being vulnerable. Snow is vulnerable with Emma and vice versa. Aurora, in all her mad grief, is vulnerable. Regina is vulnerable with Henry, and Henry (oddly for him, the previously moral compass for Right and Good) takes advantage of that. Jefferson is completely heart-on-sleeve with his daughter; this is rewarded.

I wonder, though, about the title of the episode The Lady of the Lake. It is a reference to the Arthurian legend, retold from a thousand different angles; the most commonly recognized one is that of a woman, giving Excalibur to Arthur, extending her hand from the waters. In Once, are we to believe that the Lady of the Lake is the dead siren? If so, what is the significance of the title? Is that that all actions come with a price, not just love and magic? In order to save Fredrick for Abigail, Charming killed the siren. This set a wheel into motion, consequences spinning out in all directions. Whatever potential that lake held, it is forever gone. Sometimes, what is lost through one choice is unfathomable. No one can account for everything, and so Charming lost his mother, because she was selfless. And through that, Emma was eventually born. The smallest choice, ripples out, like notes in a song.

Love, and you cannot know what will happen. Trust, and you cannot know what will occur. Show up, and you cannot know how will someone else react. Every action is a risk. Sometimes, the result is a beautiful thing. Sometimes, the endgame is not clear. Sometimes, you must have faith. Doing the wrong thing for the right reasons is often a noble act caught in shadows. Only time will tell.

Categories: Once Upon a Time
  1. October 15, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Excellent analysis! Thank you!!

  2. October 16, 2012 at 4:10 pm

    Magic is nothing more than a choice and I think you found the secret to this shows moral compass. I think for any choice there are consequences, whether it is a good consequence or a bad one. Sometimes there is a bad consequence to doing the right thing, or a good consequence to doing the wrong thing. Doing the right thing has less to do with consequence than it does simply because it is right. OUAT is a highlight of my week to be honest and my DISH coworker comes over each week to watch it. We can’t always get together on the same day, so it is nice that my PrimeTime Anytime recording saves for eight days so we see it later, but don’t get behind since we have eight days to watch.

  3. October 17, 2012 at 11:15 am

    I thought this was an outstanding episode with a beautiful chain of events on the theme of parents and their children.I felt bad for Regina getting stood up by Henry, but this has always been his MO. When Henry isn’t invited/allowed to help save the day (for his own good!), he will sneak off and do it anyway. It’s what makes him a fairy tale character in his own right, I think. But I felt sorry for Regina being so excited to have him reach out to her and then be stood up. The one scene I wish they’d had time to include was her letting Henry know that being stood up hurt her. She deserved that, but we may also still see it next week.I loved “Grandpa Charming” getting them wooden practice swords and teaching him the ropes…it was also Charming getting his longed-for son. I actually liked that Regina sent Charming after Henry. She knew that Henry might run from her, but that he trusts Charming, and would be more likely to listen to him. It makes me believe Regina wants to change. Will she really reform? Time will tell and it’ll keep me glued to the screen! I loved the links between Charming’s Mother and Snow’s short story together and then Emma and Snow in this episode. When Emma and Snow had their scene in the nursery and Emma left, and THEN Snow let herself cry…wow. So true, so poignant, so beautiful. I liked that Charming actually killing the Lady of the Lake had consequences. I thought that was well done. I also love that there’s going to be a posse of fairytale land princesses saving the day! All in all, I think this episode may be a new favorite of mine. I admit, it made me cry more than once!

  4. October 26, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    I wish that Charming had given Henry a talk about the way he had manipulated Regina. I

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