You have no idea how excited I am to be your Autostraddle OUAT recapper. NO IDEA. Do you know the unbelievable potential for Disney lyric puns in these recaps? Do you know how many truly awful jokes I can make about “them apples”? And seriously, seriously, do you know how much semi-intentionally implied lesbianism is jam-packed into this show? It’s like Xena vigorously banged a “Sexy Minnie Mouse” costume, and during downtime, penned this show while snickering hysterically. I know they say it’s not on purpose, but they know. They must know.
We don’t recap shows on Autostraddle unless there’s canon queerness afoot, so my pipe dream of recapping the everloving shit out of this show seemed like another doomed pursuit in my long list of doomed pursuits, like making my own cheese and helming a porn empire. I mean, Once Upon A Time is essentially Disney jizzing into a cup, swishing it around, and then seeing what four-headed creature is born from the primordial soup of the murky Disneyverse. We know how Disney feels about nonwhite people, right? It was literal teeth-pulling to drag a non-white princess out of those morons, so Satan help us all if we aspire to a canon queer character. I thought my great-great-grandchildren would be dead before a Disney princess blatantly desired a princess instead of a prince. Like, you could send a spaceship en route to Pluto to start a Pluto colony, and by the time that spaceship reached Pluto, there would still not be a gay Disney princess.
But then Mulan came charging out of the closet, and one million homos stood up and said I KNEW IT, I FUCKING KNEW IT, MOTHERFUCKING HONOR TO US ALL.
I told you there would be lyric puns. I told you. So now, here I am, recapping what I believe is the gayest show on television.
If you’ve never seen this show before, you could technically go back to the very beginning to figure out whatever the hell I’m talking about, or you could use my super handy recap of everything that has happened up until this episode. I have dubbed it:
THE MOST CONCISE BREAKDOWN OF THE ONCE UPON A TIME UNIVERSE THAT I COULD DO ON THIS MANY GLASSES OF WINE
There are two worlds. Okay, dimensions, for you sci-fi nerds. World #1 is a dimension haunted by the most awfulest worstest CGI graphics on television. The Magical Kingdom of Green Screen is occupied by Disney characters and pretty much only Disney characters, although we are all operating under the unspoken lie that this is a land of exclusively “fairy tales,” even though I am 99% sure Pongo the fucking Dalmatian did not arrive to us via ancient storied narrative. This dimension might as well be called Disneyland or Disney World were those two terms not heavily copyrighted.
World #2 is the real world, our world, where Disney characters have been brainwashed and left to suffer unhappy endings in a town in Maine called Storybrooke, ayuh! This dimension is very different from World #1; for example, it doesn’t feel like characters are being filmed in a basement somewhere because Disney doesn’t believe in hiring set designers. Its backgrounds aren’t akin to the original version of Myst. And, the only relevant thing you need to know, magic doesn’t work in this world because of the curse, which I will get to in a second.
The show opens in World #1. All your favorite characters are here. Actually, your favorite characters don’t show up until later, so first you have to suffer through the only Disney princess that you didn’t give a shit about: Snow White!
Snow White’s been awoken by Prince Charming, they get hitched, they get pregnant. Yeah Disney, look at you! Implying that a penis got stuck into a vagina somewhere along the line! Unfortunately, the Evil Queen curses the shit out of everyone. At this point, the Evil Queen should be your favorite character, because if you’re not rooting for Lana Parrilla’s facial expressions and flawless mastery of SASSINESS, you’re at least rooting for her breasts. Okay, I’ll be honest: She’s a 100% fantastic character, but prior to me knowing she was a fantastic character, I knew she had a fantastic breast situation, congratulations on your cleavage in that dress, etc.
There is a loophole in the curse because, well, curses always have loopholes, and the loophole is that one person can be saved from the curse if you put them in a magical tree trunk. Again, yeah. We know, and this is only a teensy preview of the suspended disbelief that will be asked of you throughout the show. So, who do they decide to save? Snow White and Prince Charming’s infant daughter. What is the curse? To forget their true selves and go to “a place where there are no happy endings.” And where does the tree trunk send infant daughter?
To World #2!
Fast forward to the future, where infant daughter has grown up to be a…bounty hunter? Riiiight. Cameron from House is celebrating another lonely birthday because it’s lonely being a bounty hunter who was mysteriously found by the side of the road and then shuffled from foster home to foster home only to become a cold hard paid-for-it bounty hunter. Her name is Emma and she gave up her baby when she was young but oops, he’s found her and he wants her to come save his town from the Evil Queen, who is also his adoptive mother. Because, you know, Emma is his “real mom” and OUAT has a lot of super fucked up ideas about the notion of family and biological essentialism that will make you want to tear your eyeballs out of their sockets and swing them around your living room. Emma’s like wow, did my vagina really make this crackerjack?
But then she drives him to Storybrooke in her overly cute Volkswagon Beetle — the obvious vehicle choice of a cold hard paid-for-it bounty hunter — and finds out that it really is a town occupied by fairytale characters who don’t know they’re fairytale characters. Only Henry knows what’s going on, and he also knows that his biological mom is the person who is going to save everyone from their curse, which she does. By the second season. Basically. There’s also continued drama happening in World #1, like MULAN BEING CANON GAY FOR SLEEPING BEAUTY and other fairytale people doing fairytale things that you’re vaguely interested in but not really.
Important Interjection: If you haven’t seen this show and you’re reading this recap anyway, a) go back and watch the show someday just for giggles and b) none of this shit actually matters in regards to the plot this season.
While all of this curse breaking is happening, we learn that once people understand who they truly are, there’s a lot of shit to be sorted. Of course, none of this is as complicated as the bizarre family tree this show has constructed. There’s the revelation that Rumplestiltskin, who is generally an evil dude, beget a son named Baelfire, who is actually the father of Henry via banging Emma in World #2. Baelfire, who also goes by Neal, is probably the most irritating character on earth, uses a toddler as human bait, is generally awful. Oh, also, Regina was once forced into a marriage with Snow’s father Leopold because her mother Cora, the once lover of Rumplestiltskin, is an evil bitch. Snow and Charming, despite appearing to be the same age as Emma, are also her parents, and want to make up for lost time once they find out that she’s their daughter.
They also jump right into the whole grandparent role, which is complicated for their sworn enemy Regina, who is Henry’s adoptive mother and the one who actually fucking raised him and has been a parent longer than anyone else involved in his life, but you know, what does that matter when there’s biology to be prioritized? Haha Disney, you raging piece of shit. They don’t want Regina raising Henry because she’s sooooper evil, but IDK, he seems to have turned out alright to me?
So what the Mickey is going on now? Henry has been captured by Peter Pan, an old adversary of Rumple and actually a really nasty little dude. Henry has the “heart of the true believer,” which basically means he is the Chosen One of Neverland. Regina, Emma, Charming, Snow, and Captain Hook are trying to save Henry. So are Rumple and Neal. Neal was once a Lost Boy, Hook used to live in Neverland. Charming is dying of a magical thing. They need to get Henry back before he forgets his family and becomes a Lost Boy. Oh, and Emma and Regina have a lot of insane sexual tension. Lots and lots and lots of it. But you knew that. Because you clicked on this link, and you’re on Autostraddle, and you track the “Swan Queen” tag on tumblr. You do. You know you do.
But let’s recap this episode already.
It’s a Hook episode! Cool, I guess? Hook’s probably my least loathed male character on this show, which is saying something considering he’s Level 0 at respecting boundaries and dresses like he’s auditioning for Rock of Love circa 2004. Let’s all take a second to make note of the fact that Disney has made eyeliner a “pirate thing”, too. Hook seems to hide his feelings with badly written sexual innuendos that he lobs like grenades at anyone who attempts to communicate with him. Some people have interpreted this as chemistry with aforementioned “anyone”, but I just see an emotionally-wounded manchild putting up a lot of walls. To each their own.
The Lost Boys continue to spend their time performing routines from STOMP!, and making low whooping noises that would indicate that casting made an oops and the extras are actually post-adolescent. They’ve taken Neal prisoner and put him in a cage, and to that I say wow, good. Set him on fire if the plot calls for it. Really could not be bothered.
Henry gets poked by a Lost Boy’s literal pointy stick, and everyone wants them to fight. Also everyone on this island likes kerchiefs a lot? Pan reminds Henry that he is the “True Believer”, so he can create anything in the world with his mind. What a nifty fucking skill! With the multitude of options available to him, such as airplane, giant car, massive weapon, or thing that will alert any rescuers to his presence, Henry chooses sword, and nicks the kid in the face. Pan is pleased with this, like Emperor Palpatine level pleased with this.
The rescue mission is not going super well. For whatever reason, they have spent a LOT of time in Neal’s former literal man cave, where they seem to think there will be “clues”. This show is famously good at dropping its characters into a haphazardly constructed plot point to search for yet another MacGuffin so that there can be some .gifable cute dialogue. But hey, I’m really enjoying them walking through the same set piece over and over again while Regina rolls her eyes at everything everyone else does or says. Except for Emma talking about how hard it was to go through the American foster care system. Then Regina’s all goopy-eyed and gets the “let’s process our feelings over a post-coital brunch” face.
Hook is like hey Emma, hey. Hey. Emma, hey. Hey Emma. Emma. Emma, I know what it’s like to be lonely. Emma come taste the lonely on me. Emma, hey. Lonely taste, hey. Emma. Hey. Emma’s vaguely uninterested but sees the potential in Hook for a “dude that would piss my stupid fucking parents off” hookup, which seems to be her main motivation in all the romantic plotlines on this show. Emma did not have her rebellious teenage girl stage with Snow and Charming, and has been getting it out of the way in the last two seasons, it seems.
Regina has no time for this meandering weak romance narrative shit.