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Once Upon A Time: Tropes A to D
Tropes A-D | Tropes E to F | Tropes G to H | Tropes I to L | Tropes M to P | Tropes Q to T | Tropes U to Z

Once Upon a Time provides examples of the following tropes:

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  • 108: The address of Henry and his mother. Appropriate, as she's one of the Big Bads. It also seems to be one of the many Shout Outs to LOST.
  • Aborted Arc: Season 2 suffered from this. Notably King George's subplot to take over the town lasted for an episode before he randomly disappeared. Similarly the fate of Dr. Frankenstein's brother has yet to be revealed.
  • Aborted Declaration of Love: In "Quite A Common Fairy", Mulan was about to confess to Aurora that she's in love with her, but Aurora had her own confession about being pregnant with Phillip's child. This made Mulan change her mind and say she accepted Robin Hood's offer to join his Merry Men instead, an offer which she originally declined. Though there were only hints about Mulan's feelings for Aurora, this was confirmed by Sarah Bolger during the Fairy Tales Convention when asked about Aurora and Mulan's relationship.
  • Absentee Actor: Robert Carlyle, for three episodes... and Raphael Sbarge for a lot more than three.
    • Season 2 featured several episodes in which lead actors are absent as the storyline focuses on one specific set of actors for an episode. Ruby/Red is probably the most noteworthy example, to the point where the character was quietly written out towards the end of the season after the actress was cast in another series. However, she has guest-starred in a couple of episodes during the second half of the third season.
    • Colin O'Donoghue for several episodes of the latter part of season 2, due to a broken leg.
    • Alan Dale didn't show up at all in season 3.
    • A bizarre case in the second half of season 3. Michael Raymond-James's character has been killed off, and yet his name is still in the opening credits three episodes later. He finally reappears in "A Curious Thing" as the one who sent Hook the message to find Emma in New York by briefly leaving Rumpelstiltskin's body.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Regina:
      • She is at first strongly implied to be emotionally abusive in her lack of concern and involvement with Henry beyond trying to one-up Emma. Another example of her abuse is her trying to gaslight him (the show implies that she thinks that this is what is best for him, but her fear of losing him also played a part), going as far as to threaten his therapist. She even unknowingly resorts to blatant acts of violence in front of him because she doesn't check whether he is away in order to regain custody of him.
      • In Season 2, however, Regina appears to be going all-out to avert the trope and make amends with Henry—though it's more to regain his affection than any sincere goodness. The season finale changes this drastically, though, and in Season 3, no one, not even Emma, is questioning her motives anymore.
    • Jiminy's family in the Enchanted Forest were this to him, always manipulating his desire to stop thieving to keep him at it.
    • Cora, Regina's mother. She killed Regina's true love to force her into marrying the King, because she wants her idea of the best possible life for her daughter, meaning status and power. She is extremely possessive of Regina, planning to go to Storybrooke after the curse is broken because then Regina will have lost everything and will need her. And she believes all this qualifies as motherly love. Justified in that Cora wasn't truly capable of healthy, proper love as long as her heart was kept outside of her body.
    • Rumplestiltskin himself might be an example. He kills people in front of his child. He has massive overreactions to any injury done to Bae, best shown when he turns a man into a snail and stomps on him after hitting Bae with a cart. Bae also seems to have become afraid of his father.
    • Rumplestilskin's wife, Milah, was of the neglectful variety. She would leave her young son home alone for hours at a time so she could go drinking at the local tavern. Eventually, she abandoned him altogether.
    • Rumpelstiltskin's father as well. He abandoned Rumple for (almost) eternal youth and in season 3 taunts and plays with his emotions.
    • Zelena's father was the one who first branded her as "wicked", even going so far as to blame her for his alcoholism.
  • Accidental Murder: Red accidentally kills her mother when the latter tries to kill Snow.
  • Accomplice by Inaction: Regina's motivation for wanting revenge against Snow White is that she didn't keep a secret from her mother, who discovered her engagement with the family's stable boy and killed him. In fact, this became part of her bitterness against Leopold who helped her mother's plans by accepting her mother's answer to the marriage proposal instead of hers.
    • Though it could be argued that Snow took an action that lead to Daniel's death, telling Cora their secret. It's not as much lack of resistance and inaction in this case, which would make her seem doubly guilty.
  • Achey Scars: Granny has a nasty looking one on her arm that aches every month on the full moon because it's the wound she got when she became a werewolf.
  • Action Girl
    • Emma takes up her father's sword in order to battle Dragon!Maleficent, and later uses both swordfighting and general brawling skills in the Enchanted Forest.
    • Snow White's goes from 'hints' to outright awesome scenes of badassery as her story progresses, especially when she leads a small army in a full-on invasion of King George's castle in her efforts to save Charming. Never mind the time she put an arrow through the eye of an ogre about to kill Emma, or when she used an aerosol can and cigarette lighter as a makeshift flame-thrower to fight off the wraith.
    • Mulan certainly qualifies, since she's been told to have fought in many battles with Prince Phillip.
    • Red/Ruby, usually in conjunction with her ability to turn into a wolf, but not always. For example, her take-down of Quinn in the beginning of "Child of the Moon", which happens when she isn't a wolf, and "In the Name of the Brother" when Ruby unexpectedly displays superhuman speed when she runs to stop someone from committing suicide.
    • Granny, on a couple of occasions, generally involving a crossbow.
    • Belle, when she tracked and fought the beast that was Cursed!Phillip.
    • Regina catches a crossbow bolt with her bare hand, and later curb-stomps The Wicked Witch of the West.
  • Action Mom: Snow White, and Emma.
  • Actually, I Am Him: That boy that helps Henry escape from the Lost Boys? It's Peter Pan, the Big Bad of the season.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Notably Ursula from The Little Mermaid - who is overweight, old and purple-skinned. In "Ariel" Regina impersonates her and adopts a look inspired by the movie - but is slimmer without the purple skin. The real Ursula who appears at the end is also slimmer than the movie counterpart.
    • Three of the witches from The Wizard of Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West is an old hag with one eye in the book (and green-skinned and hook nosed in the MGM film). While she retains the green skin, it makes her more of a Cute Monster Girl. The Wicked Witch of the East's appearance is never commented on (but Oz: The Great and Powerful depicts her true form as a hag too) and the Witch of the North is an elderly woman. Both are played by young attractive actresses. Glinda is the only witch in the books that is described as agelessly beautiful.
    • Captain Hook too. Emma even lampshades it, telling Hook that his story counterpart has a "bad perm and waxed facial hair".
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Maleficent is dark-haired in the Disney canon but is blonde in this. Rapunzel traditionally has blonde hair but gets this and a Race Lift to become black-haired. Wendy is usually portrayed as a Brainy Brunette but becomes blonde. The Blue Fairy is blonde but becomes brunette. Princess Aurora is blonde but becomes brunette. Glinda is red-haired in the Oz books but turns blonde in this. Likewise the Witch of the North is older in the books and has grey hair; she is brunette in the series.
  • Adaptation Name Change: A few characters, that are inspired by the Disney versions.
    • Disney's Canon Name for the Evil Queen is Grimhilde. Here, her name is Regina.
    • The Prince's name is Florian or Frederick in the Disney canon. His name here is David.
    • 'Red Riding Hood' is just a nickname in the original tale. Here, Red appears to be her real name.
    • In Peter Pan, Captain Hook is the character's actual name and his first name is James. Here, Hook is just a nickname, while his real name is Killian Jones.
    • King Midas's daughter was called Marigold in mythology. Here she is named Abigail.
    • In Frozen, the mother of Elsa and Anna was named Idun, although you would only know it by translating the runes on her grave marker. Here, she is named Gerda, after the protagonist of The Snow Queen.
  • Adaptational Badass: so many...
    • Forest dweller and survivor Snow White certainly qualifies.
    • Also, Prince Charming. In the original story, he was, well, a charming prince. Here, he is a great swordsman and archer.
    • Little Red Riding Hood is a werewolf who learns to use her powers to her own advantage.
    • Rumplestiltskin is more of a badass in the series than usually depicted. Especially since he started out a total coward (and he admits he still is - he hides behind magic... in fact he became the Dark One in order to get rid of his cowardice) and failed to even fight for his wife when she was kidnapped by Killian Jones (Hook). In his own words:
      Rumplestiltskin: I am a coward. I have been my entire life. I tried to make up for it by collecting power and the power became so important that I couldn't let go... not even... when that meant losing the most important person in my life.
      Rumplestiltskin:... I'm still a coward. Magic has become a crutch that I can't walk without.
    • Speaking of Rumplestiltskin, the Miller's Daughter generally doesn't even have a name, let alone the opportunity to do anything more exceptional than conveniently overhear Rumplestiltskin's. Cora, meanwhile, is pure terror both in her not-small amount of magical power, but in her ability to manipulate others. She's also impressive in comparison to other representations of the Queen of Hearts.
    • Speaking of Hook, he's a far cry from the silly, fearful Disney version that most people know, not to mention more badass than he was in the original book - mostly due to it being him hunting "the Crocodile", as opposed to the other way around.
    • The Mad Hatter gets a serious boost as well - from total Cloudcookoolander to a dimension-travelling wizard.
    • Peter Pan - pretty BadAss from the get go, but in the series he became a nearly omnipotent Big Bad and one of th most fearful creatures in that universe.
    • Jack - from a little boy who was tricked into using his magic beans, to a tough Anti-Hero Action Girl out to slay giants.
    • Anna - not just a plucky princess with some serious heart power, but also a talented with a sword. She even trained one of the best fighters in universe - Prince Charming.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Snow White's stepmother, Rumplestilskin and Captain Hook are reimagined as Anti-Villains.
    • Ursula, is never shown doing evil as her villainous role was actually Regina impersonating her. The real Ursula is implied to actually be kind, granting the wishes of people who deserve it. This may change in Season 4, however, as she is supposed to return in cahoots with Maleficent and Cruella de Vil.
    • The Witch of the East isn't wicked and isn't related to the Wicked Witch of West. She actually gets along with Dorothy like the others sisters save Zelena.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • Jack the Giant Killer is re-imagined as a selfish treasure hunter who took advantage of a naive and good-hearted giant. However, this is actually an example of an Unbuilt Trope concerning a different folk tale. Jack and the beanstalk is a separate myth from Jack the Giant Killer. Jack from the latter is the hero portrayed in most modern adaptations (though he never ascended a beanstalk) while Jack from the former is considered by some to be a Villain Protagonist who is a petty thief and liar - much like the "hero" proposed in this series. In an interesting twist from the show's formula, audience expectations are slammed by having a character portrayed as s/he was in the original myth, rather than complete deviation.
    • Peter Pan, who has apparently been sending his shadow into other realms, abducting young boys and bringing them to Neverland and never allowing them to leave, all just to locate one particular boy. He also employed Greg and Tamara who, under his orders, attempt to destroy Storybrooke and then kidnap Henry.
    • The Genie from Aladdin. Here, he falls in love with Regina (who is married to King Leopold), and eventually murders him to free Regina from what he believes to be a loveless marriage, unaware that Regina has manipulated him the whole time. Even after learning the truth, he remains madly in love with her, and uses one of his own wishes to always look upon Regina's face, resulting in him becoming trapped in her mirrors (making him a composite of the Genie and the Magic Mirror from Snow White).
    • And as of season four, Bo Peep.
  • Adapted Out: Inverted. This is one of the few Oz interpretations to leave the Good Witch of the North in. She's usually combined with Glinda.
  • Addictive Magic: The two main villains, Regina and Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold both addicted to their dark magical powers, Rumplestiltskin's dark magic has made his skin turn a weird greenish gold with gold eyes after becoming the dark one, though Regina has still maintained her looks, she has a more cruel look to her than before she turned to dark magic. Archie Hopper (Jiminy Cricket) told Regina starting the magic was always easier than stopping.
  • Adorkable:
    • Graham, Graham, Graham.
    • Archie, Astrid and Rumplestiltskin, of all people, when he's around Belle.
    • Regina was also like this when she was younger and before she turned evil.
    • Belle also qualifies. Especially when she becomes Storybrooke's librarian. Cranked up to ten in the "Good Morning Storybrooke" DVD minisode.
    • Mary Margaret. Some of it is retained even when she goes back to being Snow White.
    • The trope is mentioned by name in reference to Nova in the "Good Morning Storybrooke" minisode.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Suspecting your spouse not only of cheating, but of loving the other person.
    • Being accused of a murder you didn't commit, and having powerful people willing to do anything to see you go down.
    • The biological mother of your adopted child seeking you out and winning his affections from you. Mitigated in the show proper by the adoptive mother Regina being borderline abusive and the biological mother Emma trying to distance herself (although Henry pushes the issue).
    • War resulting in the kingdom lowering the minimum age of soldiers. Followed up with the army coming in and taking your child, regardless of gender or parental opinion, the moment they meet age requirements.
    • Being trapped somewhere and unable to return home to your child, who doesn't even remember that she is your child.
    • Through a moment of weakness, becoming separated from your child for a long time, possibly forever.
    • Sending your child away somewhere unknown, in an effort to protect them from a dangerous threat, knowing it's likely you won't see them again potentially ever.
    • Your child in a coma, not knowing what you can do to save him, and walking in to find out he's been declared dead.
    • Losing not just someone one you love, but the one that gave you the strength to be a better person. And when you get them back, they're completely different.
    • Your child being tempted to somewhere their kidnapper never allows them to leave.
  • Agent Scully: Emma is highly dubious about the idea that she's in a town full of amnesiac fairy-tale characters. Until she's convinced otherwise. Her skepticism is later replaced by a stubborn reluctance to live among them after the curse is broken.
  • Aerith and Bob: The Enchanted Forest has names like Snow White, Maleficent and Rumplestiltskin alongside Henry, Abigail, and Daniel.
  • Aerosol Flamethrower: Mary Margaret makes one in "Broken".
  • After the End: In Season 2, Emma and Snow are sent back to the Enchanted Forest and are surprised to find that it still exists and there are still people there. Prior to that, it was believed that the Enchanted Forest had been completely destroyed, so everyone looked on Storybrooke as an After The End situation.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Many people would have been quite happy for Cora to die before "The Miller's Daughter". The way it actually happens, dying in a distraught Regina's arms after deciding that her daughter would have been worth losing all that power... was ten kinds of depressing.
  • A Lesson Learned Too Well: Regina learns the hard way from her mother, Cora, (who expects her to marry up) that love makes her vulnerable, when Cora rips her boyfriend's heart in front of her and orders her to marry the king. She thinks that she made her daughter the perfect future queen, and afterwards, Regina tries not to be vulnerable because of her feelings. So she ends up trying to kill her mother because she doesn't want to have a weak spot when her Revenge starts.
  • All Deaths Final: Double Subverted. Three different magical characters have said that they can't bring back the dead: the Blue Fairy, Rumplestiltskin, and the Genie have all said it's impossible for them. Frankenstein then brings two characters back from the dead... not quite successfully, though. Then Triple Subverted by season 3 where The Blue Fairy, Rumplestilskin, David and Marian all successfully come back from death via magic or time travel in the latter's case. All four of these can be justified by the first four being Not Quite Dead (The Blue Fairy's shadow hadn't been consumed by The Shadow, Rumplestiltskin had a built-in resurrection as The Dark One, and David was able to share Snow's heart because of their true love). Still, it comes close to pushing them into Death Is Cheap territory.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Subverted with Belle and Rumplestiltskin. Belle has always brought out the best in Gold and is horrified by his evil side, but the alter-ego Regina gave her, Lacey, enjoys watching him beat up her other suitor with his cane and appears to be this trope personified.
    • Perhaps as a result of "We Are Both", Belle doesn't seem horrified by his evil side anymore. She says in "Quiet Minds" that she loves his dark parts, too.
  • All Myths Are True:
    • At least all fairy tales are. Though it's a very loose definition of fairy tale. Classical Mythology seems to be fair game too. Historical legends, with the addition of Mulan. And with the unveiling of Dr. Frankenstein, it would seem even classical sci-fi and horror aren't off-limits either.
    • According to the showrunners, all "storybook" characters are considered fair game. There were plans to include Sherlock Holmes from the very beginning (likely dropped due to the character already receiving extensive contemporary exposure in film and TV), and an early draft of the pilot script reveals that Dracula has been considered, and Dr. Frankenstein, and to a lesser degree his monster, have been featured in the show since the third episode, though not revealed as such until well into Season 2.
    • The Mad Hatter and Captain Hook both appear, with both Wonderland (the setting of a spin-off series launched in 2013) and Neverland being major locations in Season 2. The Mad Hatter is even implied to have visited Oz.
    • Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio were originally characters of an 1883 novel by Carlo Collodi, not a folktale, and were included in the pilot. However, in the series, they are based upon the Disney animated interpretation, which placed the two characters firmly into the realm of fairy tales.
      • Generally speaking, Public Domain Characters as well as fairy tale characters crop up quite a lot: Wonderland and its denizens were devised by Lewis Caroll in 1865, Doctor Frankenstein and his monster are from 1818 at the earliest, The Wizard of Oz was published in 1900, and Peter Pan first appeared in 1902.
    • Arthurian legends and characters such as Lancelot have also been included.
    • The inclusion of Pongo, one of The Hundred and One Dalmatians, is one of the most recently created characters: the original novel was only published in 1956. Presumably, this is covered under Disney's deal for the rights to it.
      • As of the last few seconds of the Season 3 Finale, Pongo has been upstaged as the most recent character by Queen Elsa, who had barely existed for six months at time of broadcast.

  • All Therapists Are Muggles: Played with. The town's only therapist, Dr. Hopper, isn't a muggle. He's Jiminy Cricket. However, like everyone else in Storybrooke he has amnesia and doesn't know this, so he tries to help Henry but doesn't believe what he says about the curse. At least, not at first.
  • All Trolls Are Different
  • Almost Kiss:
    • Snow and Charming at their wedding in the pilot.
    • Between Mary Margaret and David in Episode 5.
    • Between Mary Margaret and David again (as well as their Enchanted Forest alter egos) twice in Episode 10. They finally seal it at the end of the episode.
    • Regina and David nearly lock lips towards the end of Season 1.
    • Rumplestiltskin and Belle get one in "The Outsider".
    • Snow and Charming have another one is Season 2 in the Fire Room, when they realize that they can't touch each other in spirit form.
  • Always Save the Girl: Mulan's top priority is always Aurora's safety, which was made clear when she chose to give Cora the compass that will help Emma and Snow White return to Storybrooke as an exchange for Aurora. Though Mulan became Aurora's protector, in Season 3, it was revealed that Aurora is Mulan's Love Interest.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Hook seemed like a clear-cut Big Bad at first, but his actual role is becoming more ambiguous as time goes on. It does not help that he keeps switching sides. As of Season 3, he's now in a Love Triangle with Emma and Neal, and also plays an important role in returning Emma to a newly-cursed Storybrooke.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Lily from a season 4 flashback. She's a girl that Emma befriended briefly as a teenager and ran away with. Although on Emma's side they're clearly Just Friends, the episode seems to present it as a love story. If you took Emma out of the story and replaced her with a guy, it would be an unambiguous love story.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Almost the entire long-term strategy of Rumplestiltskin/Gold boils down to first keeping his son safe and then finding him. With all the bad things he's doing based on such a motivation it's no wonder he's a complex character. His most deplorable actions are often aimed at people who insulted or injured him when he was weak.
    • And even Rumplestiltskin has some marginal standards. There is absolutely no one that Cora wouldn't cut deals with, manipulate, abuse, or kill to get what she wants. To provide some context, a young Cora ends up using Rumple as a pawn. When a functionally standalone story with no outside context can make Rumple look like a victim, that's saying something.
  • Amnesiac Lover:
    • David Nolan is this to Kathryn, his Storybrooke wife.
    • Snow, after taking Rumplestiltskin's potion. She eventually regains her memories.
    • Mary Margaret and David, when they begin their affair, are this to each other thanks to the curse blocking their memories of life as Snow and Charming.
    • As Belle had no memories of Rumple' after being locked up in an asylum for 28 years, when she walks into his shop, she is one to him, albeit only briefly before her memories were restored.
    • As of "The Outsider", Belle becomes this again, thanks to Hook. Her memories later return in the season 2 finale, just in time for Rumple to join the quest to save Henry from Greg and Tamara.
  • Amulet of Concentrated Awesome: Henry gets one from Mr. Gold in order to survive in and control the netherworld.
    • Oz's Witches all wear one, which contains, concentrates and improves their powers. The downside is that losing it would also mean losing their powers as well.
  • Anachronic Order: Given that the show's creators were once involved in a series infamous for this trope, it's not very surprising.
    • The scenes in Storybrooke are in order, but the flashbacks to the Enchanted Forest are not in any particular order—they serve to fill in the background of whichever Storybrooke resident is in the limelight that episode. Complicated further beginning in Season 2 when we start to also see scenes set in the present-day Enchanted Forest, and in the past of Storybrooke.
  • Anachronism Stew: Storybrooke was supposedly frozen in time for more than 20 years, yet recent innovations such as the Internet and cell phones are present well before the curse is lifted.
    • This one may actually not apply; the curse probably updated itself to move with the times so as not to spark any interest from anyone under it. Either that, or Regina manipulated it to update over time.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Jiminy was given a potion from Rumplestiltskin that turned Geppetto's parents into dolls, seemingly forever.
    • Gaston is turned into a rose by Rumplestiltskin and is then clipped by Belle.
    • This is how sleeping curses work in this universe: the victim appears to be dead, but they are trapped in an endless sleep filled with "nightmares formed from their own regrets." This becomes a major plot point in Season 2.
  • And Show It to You: Regina (and her past life) has a real thing for people's hearts.
    • This, like so much else, runs in the family. Regina's mother, Cora, did this to her fiancé, which is the main thing that caused her to turn out the way she did.
    • And it seems like they probably learned this trick from Rumplestiltskin, who used it on his wife when she told him she didn't love him.
  • And Starring: Robert Carlyle.
  • Animal Assassin: Regina in the fairy tale world had a pair of Agraban vipers sent to her room to kill herself with (à la Cleopatra) until her lover, the Genie suggests that there's another way. He uses the vipers to murder the king. It later turns out she planned the whole thing.
  • Animal Motifs: In the pilot, we see a swan on Henry's night light and on the room key Emma receives from Granny. Particularly poignant given Snow White's affinity with birds and her Storybrooke-version's speech about the loyalty of birds.
  • Anti-Magic: Rumplestilskin is imprisoned in a cell that prevents him from using his powers.
    • Later on, we meet an organization of Witch Hunters who "scientifically" nullify magic by injecting people with metals and nanomachines.
    • The same aforementioned organization also uses a bracer to inhibit the magic of its wearer. It turns out Peter Pan made it, making himself immune to its effects.
  • Anti-Hero/Nominal Hero/Token Evil Teammate: Regina, Rumple and Hook; see Anti-Villain.
  • Anti-Villain: Given the show's optimistic take on a Morality Kitchen Sink (and willingness to woobiefy any character), three of the show's four major villains (Cora being the exception) are leaning this way.
    • Although Regina crossed the Moral Event Horizon during the first season, her backstory has been used to deconstruct the Villain trope, turning her into a Tragic Villain and a Type II Anti-Villain.
    • By the mid-Season 2 break, and especially by "The Cricket Game", Regina very well may have graduated to Type IV. She at least appears to be genuinely trying to become a better person, and in this episode it is mostly the fact that basically nobody trusts her that puts her at all into opposition with Emma and the others. Several times, most recently at the end of Season 2, she fully crosses the line into anti-hero territory, and is actually described as being a "hero" on one of the Season 2 DVD featurettes.
    • Rumple has been similarly deconstructed, not only into a Tragic Villain, but also into the clearest example of a Type II, a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds.
    • Hook almost runs the gamut of the Sliding Scale of Anti-Villains.
      • Type I: At least on the surface. Hook's very well mannered and claims he has standards, but he's very unpredictable in applying them. Hook does not hesitate to Kick the Dog on his way toward his goals, but he will attempt to set things right in the name of fair play when having kicked is no longer necessary. He seems to be becoming a Noble Top Enforcer in exchange for help reaching his own goal.
      • Type II: He's a would-be Sympathetic Murderer.
      • Type III: The Well-Intentioned Extremist. Not only would many people in this narrative line up and pay to watch Hook skin his "crocodile", they would probably help - even without knowing his motivations. They'd disapprove of who Hook's teamed up with and what he has done to get to that point in the narrative, though.
  • Anyone Can Die: You wouldn't suspect it at first due to the six lead characters still being okay after three seasons, and some characters having Plot Armor due to them appearing after their flashback in the real world, but when you think about it, the body count for the show so far is staggering even for named characters. Deaths include, The Huntsman, Cora, Milah, Peter, King Leopold, Queen Eva, Ruth, Stealthy, Prince Henry, Daniel, Cinderella's fairy godmother, Gus, Greg Mendell, Tamara, Felix, Peter Pan, Neal/Baelfire and Zelena. Fortunately, death does not necessarily mean gone for good in this series, as several of these characters have subsequently returned in flashbacks and time-travel scenarios.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism:
    • The Evil Queen and Snow White who live in a fairy land don't believe in the goddess Ursula. She's real.
    • In "Dark Hollow," Hook is skeptical that Pan's shadow can be captured inside a coconut shell. Neal questions why, out of everything on OUAT, he draws the line at a magic coconut.
    • Lampshaded in "Witch Hunt":
    Emma: The Wicked Witch of the West? She's real too?
    Hook: Says the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming.
  • Arc Words:
    • "All magic comes with a price", or some variation thereof.
    • Also, "I will always find you."
    • And everyone trying to give everyone else their 'Best Chance.'
    • "True love is the most powerful magic of all."
    • Villains don't get happy endings.
    • "Believe" in season 3.
    • "Evil isn't born, it's made."
    • "Let it go" in Season 4.
  • Armor Is Useless
  • Armor-Piercing Slap: Kathryn slaps Mary Margaret after she finds out about the latter's affair with David.
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    Snow White: Are you sure this is about protecting Henry ... and not yourself?
  • Arranged Marriage:
    • The Prince was on his way to honor one for political reasons when he met Snow White. Naturally, he doesn't go through with it. It's also discovered in the episode "Whatever Happened to Frederick" that this was an unwanted arranged marriage for the prince's would-be bride Abigail as well.
    • Belle's engagement to Gaston was this.
    • Regina's mother set things up between Regina and Snow White's father.
    • Snow White's parents were apparently engaged from birth.
  • Arrow Cam: Used in the third episode when Prince Charming fires a bow.
  • Arrow Catch:
    • Regina does this after she gets her magic back and Red's grandmother fires a crossbow at her. She then sets it on fire, and throws a fireball around the room. Needless to say, this cows the crowd into submission.
    • Peter Pan and the Lost Boys attempt to force Henry to shoot an apple from one of the Lost Boys' head with a crossbow; the arrow has a deadly poison on the edge. At the last minute Henry turns to shoot Peter Pan instead, but Pan pulls one of these before it hits him. Becomes a plot point when Neal remembers Pan can do that.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: According to ABC's website, Rumplestiltskin is "cruel, vicious, manipulative and calls everyone 'dearie.'"
  • The Artifact: After Ruby/Red's main character arc was resolved, by the middle of Season 2 the character had become an artifact in that the writers had nothing else for her to do. As a result, after a few cameo appearances the character just disappeared (Put on a Bus does not apply, given how no one leaves Storybrooke), and the actress left to work on another series. After said series ended, however, midway through Season 3 of OUAT, it was announced that the character, and the actress, would be returning, thereby reversing the trope.
  • Artifact of Doom: Pandora's Box can trap people inside and put them in a Fate Worse Than Death.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The apples from Regina's tree are Red Delicious apples, not honeycrisps as she claims.
  • Artistic License – Chemistry: Pure gold is very malleable. A golden sword would be useless and easily bent. Rule of Cool applies.
  • Artistic License – Geography: Coal mines in Maine. Justified since the only coal mines are in Storybrooke, a town created by a magic curse. Lampshaded by Emma.
  • Artistic License – Law: When Emma and Sidney confront Regina for secretly misappropriating city funds, she reveals she had been preparing to build a playground. This is portrayed as a victory for Regina and Emma does not look into it further. However, misusing city funds for any secret purpose should have been considered suspicious.
    • A minor one happens when Emma decides to take Hansel and Gretel to Boston to put them in foster care before their estranged father had a change of heart and took them in. In the US, child services are handled at the state level, meaning Emma should have been heading towards either Augusta (Maine's capital) or Portland (its largest city). However, pop culture tends to treat New England as a single entity rather than six separate states, and even most Americans might be confused by the presence of a Portland, Maine over the more famous Portland, Oregon.
  • Artistic License – Physics: August's death is pretty jarring considering he was wooden at the time and the fatal attack was delivered via suped-up taser. Wood isn't a conductor for electricity, which one would think would be considered given the build-up of this particular weapon throughout the episode. Dips into Artistic License – Biology when one considers that his core is one solid block of wood just like his limbs and eyes, so even a shock powerful enough to penetrate his wooden exterior couldn't have stopped his heart because there wouldn't be one beating to start with. However, the showrunners state that it was no ordinary weapon, which might justify it. And considering who the villains' employer was, this wouldn't be entirely implausible.
    • People are seen drawing water from wells during wintertime, which would actually require lowering someone in with a hatchet, first, to break the ice that inevitably forms down there. Often gathering up snow and melting it indoors is a more sensible option, anyway.
  • Art Shift: The style of the illustrations in Henry's book from late Season 1 is very different from their style in early Season 1. Possibly because of August's tampering with the pages when the book was lost mid-season.
  • The Atoner:
    • Rumplestiltskin sets everything in motion to find his son, who he pushed away in a moment of weakness.
    • August (Pinocchio) seeks to atone for abandoning Emma when she was a baby.
    • Some of Regina's motivations after the curse is lifted falls into this category.
  • Audible Sharpness: The Prince's sword and the Huntsman's dagger.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Captain Hook, aka Killian Jones.
  • Axe Crazy: Nature Hero Snow tries to lure a bluebird close so she can smash it, shortly after taking a potion that removes her memories of Prince Charming. She then tries to kill the queen, taking a soldier's armor in the process. Plus all the things she's done to the dwarves.


  • Back-Alley Doctor: Harmlessly so in Doc. Lampshaded in "Dreamy". Done again with Regina and Archie.
    Dreamy: Maybe I should have Doc look at me.
    Bossy: You're gonna trust a doctor who got his medical degree from a pickaxe?
  • Back for the Finale: In the first season, the Huntsman and Maleficent appear in the Enchanted Forest and Belle appears in Storybrooke.
    • Prince Phillip in the season 2 finale, without any explanation as to how exactly Aurora and Mulan were able to save him from the wraith.
    • Red, Aurora, and Abigail of all people in the season 3 finale.
  • Backup Twin/There Is Another: The Prince Charming we currently know turns out to be this for his twin brother who had been adopted by the king.
  • Badass and Baby: Charming is forced to fight his way through an army of mooks all while he's holding and protecting his new born daughter, Emma.
  • Badass Boast: Usually Regina.
    "I don't run from monsters. Monsters run from me."
  • Badass Family:
    • The original Prince James was a badass. His twin brother Charming went from shepherd to dragonslayer in days. Snow was an Action Girl as seen in the third episode. Emma shows off her badassitude in her first five minutes. Her son Henry, at the age of ten, goes on a quest to find his mom and bring her back to break the curse. Henry's father and his father, Rumplestiltskin, are no slouches themselves.
    • Regina and her mother, who are related to the Charmings as Regina was Snow's stepmother.
    • Season 2 introduces no one new but with the reveal that Rumple's son, Baelfire, is Henry's father, this suddenly means that a good chunk of the main cast is all related to one another.
    • Little Red Riding Hood comes from a long line of werewolves. Her granny, while no longer able to transform, is still a crack shot with a crossbow.
  • Badass Longcoat: Several characters including, but not limited to, Rumpelstiltskin, Jefferson and Victor.
  • Bad Dreams: A side effect of the sleeping curse. Once the curse is broken, the afflicted is plagued by horrible nightmares for months. It's bad enough that Aurora gives up sleeping until Snow promises to help her through it. And the same dream is afflicting Henry.
  • Barehanded Blade Block: Rumplestilskin, of all characters. Against Prince Charming. And he does the two-fingered version. And given what we know about his power, he did so because he thought so too.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold seems to be running one on everyone. He seems to be behind the actions of both the good and bad characters.
      • When Emma was running against Sidney for the position of town sheriff, Gold pulls one in order to get Emma to win. Doubly so: He set Town Hall on fire with her and Regina inside, making her look like a hero for rescuing Mayor Mills. But he also made sure to leave evidence that would lead Emma back to him, knowing she'd feel guilty and expose him to the entire town. They're more impressed with Emma's standing up to Gold than scared of Regina, so she gets the post.
      • Everything Gold does is part of one big gambit. No, really, we are not kidding. His plan is to have Regina enact The Curse, but with secret loophole that will guarantee it is eventually broken no matter what (Emma), so he can go out into the world to find his son. Making this happen takes hundreds of years and various sub-gambits.
      • As mentioned in the previous gambit, his plan for Regina is to mould her into the type of person who can enact The Curse, then push her to the brink until she does. This involves conspiring with Jefferson and Frankenstein to make her think returning her True Love from the dead was impossible so she remains unhappy and vengeful, and thwarting all her previous attempts to destroy Snow White and Prince Charming's happiness till The Curse is the only option left.
      • His True Love potion: Prepared over extensive time in the Enchanted Forest and hidden in Dragon!Maleficent. Comes into play in Season 1 Finale when he calls on Emma to retrieve it, and uses it to bring magic to Storybrooke.
    • The Evil Queen also pulls off several gambits.
      • Manipulating the Genie.
      • As Regina, arranging to steal Mr. Gold's most prized possession, Belle's chipped cup. Her confidence that he will do anything to get it back leads to discovering Mr. Gold remembers he's Rumplestiltskin.
      • A multi-gambit with Mr. Gold to convict Mary Margaret of murder. Too bad for her, Mr. Gold has his own agenda.
    • It seems to run in the family. Cora ran one on Regina in "The Stable Boy": she spooked Snow's horse with magic, knowing Regina would help the girl, which leads to the King showing up at their doorstep and proposing to Regina so she can be Snow's replacement mother.
      • This becomes even more impressive when you learn the reason Snow needs a replacement mother to begin with? Cora arranged that as well.
      • Cora does it again in "The Cricket Game" by posing as her daughter and staging Archie's death so that whatever new found trust that Regina has built with the Charmings will be destroyed and Regina will give up on redemption and seek her mother out for help for revenge. It works, and she even gloats about to Hook.
    • Heck, even Captain Hook gets one in "The Outsider". He attacks Belle knowing that Mr. Gold will come to her rescue. This leaves Gold's shop open so that he can have Smee sneak in and take Baelfire's shawl, the talisman that Gold needs to leave the town.
    • Snow herself uses one in "The Miller's Daughter". She secretly curses Cora's heart which needs to be re-inserted into Cora to kill her. When she's caught by Regina, she appeals to Regina's desire for her mother's love and gives it to Regina, counting on the (very likely) possibility that Regina would put the heart back into Cora.
    • Zelena manipulates Belle and Neal into resurrecting the Dark One in a manner that ended up with Rumple losing his dagger to Zelena, giving her control over him... not to mention killing his son in the process.
      • Later, she tricks Hook into invoking his love for Emma so she can curse his kiss such that kissing Emma would rob her of her magic.
    • "A Curious Thing" reveals that the new curse that returned everyone to Storybrooke was this courtesy of Snow, Charming and Regina. After the Charmings learn that Emma is the key to defeating Zelena, they use the Dark Curse to make their way back, with Snow being the one to sacrifice Charming's heart.
  • Battle Couple: Charming is a badass with a broadsword. Snow White used to rob carriages and led a raid on a castle.
  • Battle of Wits: Regina and Rumple seem to be having one constantly.
  • Beast and Beauty: Rumpelstiltskin, in his nonhuman form, becomes romantically involved with the beautiful Belle and, temporarily, a young Cora.
  • Became Their Own Antithesis: Rumplestiltskin, who began his life as a kind, meek and fearful man, and turned into the ruthless and hyperconfident puppetmaster we all know. And later, we see kind Regina got started on her own evil path trying to protect herself from her magical mother Cora, who bears a striking resemblance to an older Regina. (By midway through Season 2, Cora is way worse, although this is mostly due to Character Development on Regina's part rather than due to any change in Cora).
    • Snow White may be heading this way after casting a death spell on Cora's heart and tricking Regina into putting it back, killing Cora. It's even revealed that her heart has begun to darken as a result. For comparison, Regina's heart is almost entirely black.
    • As of "The Jolly Roger", Hook is beginning to regret his past as a pirate, even admitting that what he did to retrieve his ship during the past year was not worth keeping Ariel apart from her prince. "There's No Place Like Home" reveals Hook traded the Jolly Roger for a magic bean that would help him get to Emma in New York.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: All magic has the tendency to backfire, as per the arc words "Magic has its price."
    • Emma confesses that when she lit the candle on the lonely birthday cupcake she bought herself, she wished not to be alone on her birthday. Henry showed up at her door. Subverted in that while she did not initially want to be found by Henry, she quickly grows attached to him.
    • All of Rumplestiltskin's deals are implied to be this:
      • Ella took Rumplestiltskin's deal because he killed her Fairy Godmother, expecting he would want his share of the riches from her new life as princess. But what he really wanted was her firstborn.
      • To ease her broken heart over hearing that Prince Charming's Arranged Marriage to Abigail will happen in two day's time, Snow White gets a cure from Rumplestiltskin that will make her forget that she ever loved him. She nearly uses it, but Grumpy and the rest of the dwarves persuade her not to use it yet. But just when Prince Charming leaves his wedding to find her, Snow has already taken the potion.
    • Snow White's father tries to circumvent the inevitable backfiring of wishes granted by the Genie by setting the latter free, then using his second wish to give his third wish to the Genie, who says he will never use it. Because of this, the Genie meets the Queen, falls in love with her and is convinced to kill the king in order to "save" her. Turns out she never loved him in the first place. Then the Genie uses his last wish to remain at the Evil Queen's side forever. For this, he is trapped inside the mirror. In general, the genie mentions that he has granted 1001 wishes and 1001 times seen it end badly.
    • Even the Blue Fairy is not immune: her "help" separates two families: Snow and Charming from Emma, Rumplestilskin and Bae.
    • In "Ariel", in the Echo Cave scene, when confessing her darkest secret, Emma wishes that Neal were dead. In "Quiet Minds", he dies in her arms.
  • The Bechdel Test: Passes with flying colors. Five of the twelve characters who have ever been billed as cast regulars are women (and arguably the three most important characters, Snow, Emma and Regina), and while they do talk about men on occasion, they just as often talk about other things. Interesting, a sort of inverse version applies to the men (and passing as well) - various male characters occasionally discuss relationships and their own and this isn't seen/presented as un-masculine or otherwise un-manly.
  • Bedmate Reveal: Regina and the Sheriff, although this is shown after she leaves his apartment. Then revealed in-universe to Emma when she catches him sneaking out of Regina's house.
  • Being Evil Sucks: According to the showrunners, this trope is the inspiration for the show. The Evil Queen's reason for choosing to get revenge on Snow White by casting a curse on the entire, multiple worlds is to create a place where she can "win for once."
    • Taken a step further as of Season 4 when Regina decides she must find the creator of the storybook so she can stop being written as a villain and receive a happy ending.
  • Being Good Sucks: This crops up during "The Queen is Dead", due to the high costs that doing Good were for Mary Margaret.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Or, should that be Beware The Dark One? There's a moment in Season 2, when Belle is about to be sent across the town line to lose her memory and Mr. Gold saves her. The look on his face as he violently and viciously breaks open the handcuffs. Ouch.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Mayor Regina (the Evil Queen) and Mr. Gold (Rumplestiltskin) in Season 1.
    • In Season 2, we get Cora and Hook in a Big Bad Duumvirate, with Hook later cast aside and left to his own devices in favor of Regina becoming Cora's Dragon. When Cora is dealt with, Greg and Tamara emerge as a new Big Bad Duumvirate, with Hook allying himself with them too. And all the while, Rumplestiltskin continues to be up to no good....
    • In Season 3, Peter Pan emerges as the real Big Bad, and defacto Bigger Bad of the show. After he's been dealt with at the end of the first half, the season continues with a new Big Bad: The Wicked Witch of the West.
    • In Season 4, we have the Snow Queen emerge as the real Big Bad, after Elsa's status as a Big Bad Red Herring is quickly revealed. However, Rumplestiltskin once again lacks any self control when more opportunities for power come his way, resulting in he and the Snow Queen having something of a villain-off to see who can one-up the other.
  • The Big Bad Wolf: Snow and Red track it down in Episode 15. The two come to the conclusion that Red's boyfriend Peter is the wolf. This is later proven false as it is revealed that Red is the wolf.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: David and Mary Margaret in Episode 10.
    • Hook and Emma in "Good Form".
    • Regina and Robin Hood at the end of "Bleeding Through".
  • Bigger Bad: Rumplestiltskin in Season 1. He may be part of an ensemble with Regina, but it's clear that he's behind much, much more in the plot than she is.
    • Cora is this for Regina's character in Season 1, while straight-up replacing her as the Big Bad in Season 2.
    • Peter Pan to Greg and Tamara in Season 2, as Gold spells out in the last scene of the season finale. Season 3 also reveals him as the Bigger Bad of the entire series up to that point.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The town of Storybrooke, as hinted by Regina in an early episode. It should be, if it holds the denizens of a whole other world. Hinted at in "Hat Trick" since Jefferson's telescopes can see suspiciously far such as into Emma's office despite being at the edge of the woods.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: Turned up to eleven in "Manhattan". While we could deduce from the first episode that Regina was Henry's adoptive mother and his step-great grandmother, there's the added fact that Baelfire is his father, which adds him and Rumplestiltskin to the happy family tree with the Charmings and Regina. With the revelation earlier in Season 2 that Rumpelstilskin used to date Cora...
    • By extension, Milah is Henry's grandmother. Assuming she actually married the man who would become Hook, that'd make Hook Henry's step-grandfather also, through Baelfire. This would also mean that every person who left on Hook's ship at the end of Season 2 has a familial stake in Henry.
      • Hook had developed feelings for Emma revealed in "Ariel", so he technically was romantically interested in both Baelfire's mother and love interest.
      • And Baelfire was kind of an adopted son to Hook during their time in Neverland, meaning Hook was involved in a Love Triangle with his stepson/adopted son.
    • If that that isn't more screwed up, as revealed in "Think Lovely Thoughts" , Peter Pan is actually Rumpelstiltskin's de-aged father and in extension Baelfire's grandfather, and Henry's great-grandfather.
    • And Zelena, the Wicked Witch of the West, is Regina's half-sister, making her Snow's step-aunt, Henry's step-great aunt, and Henry's adoptive aunt.
      • Adding to the twisted family tree, we learn toward the end of the third season that Cora was briefly engaged to Leopold, Snow's father and Regina's eventual husband. That engagement was broken off because she was already pregnant with Zelena.
      • We also learned that Zelena was one of the women to be taught by and fall in love with Rumplestiltskin, like her mother.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Regina" means Queen in Latin.
    • Zelena means 'green' in Bosnian, Bulgarian, and several other Slavic languages.
  • Black Comedy:
    • While Rumplestiltskin was telling Belle what she would have to do for him, he also told her she would have to skin the children he hunted. That one was apparently a quip; however, it still shocks Belle enough to make her drop the teacup she was holding, causing it to get chipped.
    • Grumpy telling Red Riding hood she has a little "someone" on her chin.
  • Black Magic: The Dark Curse is said to be the darkest kind there is.
  • Black Vikings: Lancelot.
    • Older Than They Think: While Lancelot isn't typically one of them, Moorish/Saracen Knights began showing up in stories about King Arthur's Court. Sir Morien is explicitly black.
  • Blatant Lies: The Queen telling Rumplestiltskin that Belle killed herself.
  • Blessed with Suck:
    • Jefferson can remember the other world. But not only is he more than slightly mad, his real daughter is with some other father and doesn't even know him.
    • Perhaps she deserves it, but this definitely seems to apply to Regina since towards the end of Season 1 and noticeably during the early weeks of Season 2. Young (pre-evil) Regina also had a dollop of this.
    • Zelena seems to feel this way, despite her magic being regarded as far more powerful than Regina's, since neither her mother nor Rumpelstiltskin wanted her.
  • Bloodless Carnage:
    • Blood isn't absent from the show but given the hack-and-slash way Prince Charming fights (Especially against those without armor) there should be a lot more blood and maiming present in his fights than there is.
    • In Episode 21 of Season 1, Grumpy pulls a perfectly clean pickaxe out of a guard's back during Snow's raid on the castle to rescue Charming.
    • Surprisingly played straight in "The Crocodile" when Rumpelstiltskin hacks off Hook's right hand. Though it's not entirely bloodless, what little blood is actually spilled is incredibly disproportionate to the inflicted injury.
    • Averted with the death of Prince James, the wolf slaughters, the discovery of Gus' body, Daniel's blood-stained hands after his rampage, the death of the Siren, possibly along others.
  • Blood Magic: The Dark Curse needing a heart of a loved one to work.
    • The candle Cora gives to Snow White that siphons away one life to save another.
    • The magic that enchants Rumplestiltskin's old cane in "The Heart of The Truest Believer" is called Blood Magic, but it doesn't refer to the spilling of blood. Instead, it refers to magic that only works for members of a specific bloodline, in this case, Rumpelstiltskin's. When Baelfire wields it, it reveals a secret cupboard in Rumpelstiltskin's castle.
      • How the Wicked Witch of the West is able to enter Regina's crypt despite the latter sealing it with blood magic. The Witch claims that she's Regina's half-sister, Cora's elder daughter.
  • Bodyguard Crush: Mulan, who became Aurora's protector when Phillip's soul was sucked out by the Wraith, developed feelings for her as seen in "Quite A Common Fairy" when she almost confessed her love to Aurora.
  • Book Ends:
    • The Dark Curse begins and ends with Regina losing someone named Henry.
    • The clock tower is stuck on 8:15 when Emma arrives in town, and stops at 8:15 again in the very last shot of the season finale after magic has returned to Storybrooke.
    • The first season begins and ends with a curse-breaking True Love's Kiss.
    • The second season begins and ends with people being kidnapped into other worlds. It also ends in a compressed version of the way the series began, albeit with some changes and additions. Bae (and Henry ) gets sucked into another world. An evil figure becomes determined to find them again. A couple is split but one is determined to re-find the other. Etc.
    • The first half of the third season begins and ends with a flashback to Emma giving birth to Henry. The second reprise of this, however, is a rewrite of Emma's memories, where she took Henry in and they lived happily together.
  • "The Apprentice" opens with an old man wiping the floor with a broom and ends with Henry doing the same in Rumple's shop.
  • Boredom Montage/"Groundhog Day" Loop: Done in "Welcome to Storybrooke", where, in a flashback to 1983 when the curse began, Regina walks the same way every day, always passing Ruby wearing a skimpy red outfit and being chastised by her grandma, Dr. Hopper walking his dog and wishing her a good morning, and Mary Margaret accidentally running into her. Eventually, it gets to the point where she tells Hopper to "save it", and actually tells Mary Margaret she herself should be sorry for not watching where she was going.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Rumple describing Belle's duties around the castle. She'll have to serve him his meals, keep the place clean, bring him straw when he's spinning at his wheel and skin the children he hunts into pelts.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him:
    • King George threatens Snow to do this to Charming or he'll kill him.
    • Grumpy does this to Nova after being convinced by the Blue Fairy that they should not be together.
  • Born as an Adult: The dwarves. Actually, they're hatched.
  • Break the Cutie:
    • Ruby/Red, who starts out as the show's/town's eye candy and apparent "town bimbo" until her dark backstory is revealed and we learn she's a werewolf, at which point the show's depiction of the character turns in a new direction. Season 2 provided further BTC potential in "Child of the Moon", though she ultimately prevails, both in the present and the past.
    • Belle who, after being initially scorned by Rumple, is next seen drowning her sorrows in a pub and institutionalized in Storybrooke. In Season 2, the trope is taken a bit literally when she is shot by Hook and loses her fairy tale memories at the same time. Thankfully, her memories are restored as of the season finale.
    • Mary Margaret, in the middle of Season 1, when she is shunned by the entire town and subsequently arrested for murder.
      • And again late in Season 2, when she lets Rumplestiltskin talk her into murdering Cora.
    • Tinker Bell in Neverland, stranded there due to losing her wings and magic powers.
    • Young Regina. In fact the trope - mixed with Break the Haughty - pretty much sums up the Evil Queen's entire raison d'etre.
    • Lieutenant Jones (the future Captain Hook) in "Good Form".
  • Break the Haughty: Regina suffers this, again and again. But it finally seems to be sinking in, when she realizes her actions have doomed Henry. For once, she doesn't attempt to pass blame and teams up with Emma in an effort to make it right. Her tearful plea for Henry to realize she loves him before fleeing is heartwrenching. Season 2 has continued this theme, to the point of Regina actually undergoing therapy—and eventually having her kill her own mother by restoring her cursed heart.
    • And her reaction in Season 3 when she discovers her loving son was in fact Peter Pan in disguise, otherwise why else would he want to stay with her verges on heartbreaking.
    • Cora was always bitter, haughty, and had a nasty streak a mile wide. But a childish prank by some royals humiliates her, and this becomes her entire reason to exist - to make everyone else (especially anyone of royal blood) get down on their knees before her. "Bleeding Through" shows that her personal vendetta against Eva began when she ruined Cora's chance at marrying into royalty by revealing her secret pregnancy to her would-be husband, Prince Leopold.
  • Brick Joke: In "Red-Handed", Henry suggests several jobs to Ruby, all involving carrying a basket, as a way of hinting her past life as Red Riding Hood. Flash-forward to the next season, after she remembers her identity as Red, and what does she use to carry food to the miners in "The Crocodile?" A basket.
    • In "Child of the Moon," Granny admits her lasagna is frozen, when she cleans out the freezer to lock up Ruby. Cut to "Lacey" where Gold tells David he didn't come to Granny's for the "overpraised lasagna."
    • When word got out that Mary Margaret and David were seeing each other while he was still married to Kathryn (who was missing at the time), the whole town turned against her and someone even spray-painted "tramp" in red on the side of her car. Later in the episode, Regina is looking for something in her office and we casually see a used can of red spray-paint in her desk drawer.
  • Bridal Carry: Rumplestiltskin unwittingly saves Belle in this fashion when she falls off of a ladder.
    • Past!Hook carries Emma like this on the Jolly Roger in "Snow Drifts".
    • Hook with Emma again in "White Out" after getting her out of the ice cave.
  • Bright Castle: The site of Snow White and Prince Charming's wedding in the first episode, and occasionally seen in flashbacks since then.
    • In the third episode of Season 2, they show the interior of the castle after the curse to find everything wrecked. Snow has a slight imagine spot of the ruined room still being intact to show what she had envisioned their life to have been like if the curse had not happened.
  • Broken Bird: Rumplestilstkin/Mr. Gold and The Evil Queen/Regina Mills (and Cora) would not be constantly taking things from and wielding power over others had they not both been betrayed, abused, and traumatized in the past, as the flashbacks reveal.
    • Belle, though unlike the others, she gets better.
  • Brought Down to Normal: What the Dark Curse did to anyone who had magic or wasn't human or both. The Evil Queen lost her ability to make magic, Rumplestiltskin went back to being human (his old limp and all), the fairies are all powerless nuns and the Magic Mirror is no longer stuck in a mirror. Also, Red Riding Hood is no longer a werewolf, nor is Granny. Conversely, the Mad Hatter remembers the Enchanted Forest because that would make him more miserable.
    • Slowly graduating up from normal is Pinocchio, as he has been slowly turning back into a puppet since Emma decided to stay in Storybrooke. The curse works differently on him, though, as he actually escaped the curse before Emma; the real reason he's been reverting to wood was because his actions were going against the conditions inherent to him remaining a real boy, and Emma's return caused magic to return to our world.
    • In some cases, being brought down to normal means being changed into human form. Billy was previously a mouse, and Archie was Jiminy Cricket.
    • The giant, Anton, originally seen in post-curse Enchanted Forest, was turned small by Cora, who brought him to Storybrooke to force him to grow magic beans for her.
    • In "Kansas", Emma is forced to sacrifice her magic powers in order to resuscitate Hook. She suddenly gets them back in the season 3 finale after voicing out her desperation to return to the present while holding a magic wand.
  • Bullying a Dragon: Captain Hook to Rumplestiltskin.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Rumplestiltskin can't remember turning a butcher into a pig, but apparently that guy's son does.


  • Call Back: When Belle learns Hook's going to protect her in "Quiet Minds", she's not impressed:
    Belle: You do know he tried to kill me? Twice.
  • Call Forward: In "Red-Handed", during a flash back to the Enchanted Forest we see Snow White trying to come up with different aliases for herself while she’s an outlaw. She spits out Frosty, Margaret and Mary, in that order.
    • Since Rumplestiltskin has the Blind Seer's foresight, he's usually the one to lampshade this whenever some characters make throwaway comments which fit this trope.
    Cora: Brides have to be snow-white.
    Rumplestiltskin: When you can see the future, there is irony everywhere.

    Rumplestiltskin: (stumbling into Regina having dinner) Roast swan... That's amusing! You'll get it later.
    • In "Bleeding Through", Eva describes to her future husband the child he deserves: "A child... pure as snow."
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • Henry to Regina after disposing of the wraith with Jefferson's hat traps Emma and Snow in the Enchanted Forest. He says she has to figure out how to bring them back or she really is the Evil Queen, and he'll never see her again. He leaves with Charming.
    • Belle to her father after he tries to have her memories wiped.
    • Neal/Baelfire to Rumplestilskin for breaking their deal and and abandoning him. He calls Rumplestilskin out 'again' for never bothering to come see him once he came to Storybrooke. This is made all the more tragic when Neal is shot and falls into a portal, critically injured.
    • During Peter Pan's Not So Different speech to Rumpelstiltskin, Rumple points out that he spent centuries trying to find Neal while Peter sat back and enjoyed his youth in Neverland, not buying his "be a family again" line.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: A number of times characters try to make confessions to others but are unable to finish.
    • David's unsuccessful attempt to confess to Kathryn that he and Mary Margaret were having an affair.
    • Emma tries to take back her lie to Henry about how his father died, but can't bring herself to do it.
  • Canon Welding: All of the fairy tales are melded together into a single universe that share aspects of each others' stories:
    • The poison apple given to Snow White was made using the same curse Maleficent used on Sleeping Beauty.
    • The mother of the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the Queen of Hearts and is the miller's daughter from the Rumpelstiltskin story, too - albeit with a twist. Too add to this, the Queen's half-sister from her mother is The Wicked Witch of the West.
    • King Midas doesn't turn his daughter into gold. Instead, he tries to marry her off to Prince Charming. He does however accidentally turn his daughter's True Love into gold.
    • The Genie from Agrabah becoming the Queen's Magic Mirror.
    • Instead of giving up her freedom to save her father, Belle does it to save her town from the Ogre Wars. And Rumplestiltskin takes the place of the Beast.
    • Rumplestiltskin also turns out to be the "crocodile" that took Captain Hook's hand.
    • Wonderland is accessible from the Enchanted Forest by way of a magic hat. Cora is revealed to be the Queen of Hearts.
    • Lancelot, of Arthurian legend, makes his debut in Season 2, bringing with him mentions of a lake he grew up next to, and a goblet that would give the drinker eternal life.
    • The end of season 2 also reveals that Neverland is connected to the other worlds, although Captain Hook's appearance had already implied it.
    • There are also hints that Oz is connected to these worlds - the Mad Hatter implies that he has been, and the showrunners have pointed out that there is a picture of flying monkeys visible in Henry's book in the pilot. This is outright confirmed as of the second half of Season 3, with the appearance of a new Big Bad: The Wicked Witch of the West.
    • Belle, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Snow White have a night on the town together.
    • Snow White has a one-night stand with Doctor Frankenstein.
    • The end of the third season now adds Frozen, with the appearance of Elsa.
      • The first episode of the fourth season ties this in thoroughly with the movie. Anna's present in Elsa's past, getting ready to marry Kristoff, with Sven as his best man, and we get to meet Pabbie the troll. In the present, Elsa makes her giant snowman.
  • Can't You Read the Sign?: No one seems to be able to grasp the concept of Gold's shop being closed.
  • Capital Letters Are Magic: The subtitles for has many of the words like Truth (and oddly, some seemingly arbitrary words like Office, which later turn out to be meaningful) capitalized—and Mr. Gold's surname uncapitalized. Though, maybe it's just hulu.
  • Cassandra Truth: No one believes the precocious little kid who insists that everyone is a fairy tale character, except the people who already know it's real.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Belle has one in "The Crocodile". Graham has a significant one when spending the night with Regina.
    • Rumplestilskin has one in "Lacey".
  • Catchphrase:
    • Rumplestiltskin's "Magic always comes at a price."
    • Prince Charming's "I will always find you."
    • Emma's "Really?" Even said once by Snow White in a flashback!
    • "Dead is Dead" and its correlate:
    • "Magic can do much, but no' that."
    • "I'm sorry" attains the proportions of a catchphrase.
    • Captain Hook and "good form". Which is also the title of his flashback episode in Season 3. This is carried over from the original book, where Hook is satirically revealed to be an Old Etonian.
  • Cat Fight: In "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter", Regina and Emma finally stop being passive-aggressive and go at it in an all-out fist fight, forcing the Sheriff to break it up.
    • Another one happens in "Second Star to the Right." This time, it's between Emma and Tamara.
  • Caught in the Rain: In Episode 10, Mary Margaret and David get caught in the rain, take shelter in a cabin and Almost Kiss. They kiss for real at the end of the episode.
  • Central Theme: Almost every character in the show experiences the loss of a parent. It's very likely that Emma and Henry are the only main characters whose parents are both living, and they still "lost" their parents in the sense of growing up without knowing them. In Henry's case, his father Baelfire was missing until "Manhattan," but later loses him for good in season 3's "Quiet Minds".
  • Character Focus: Most episodes focus on one specific character.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: Everything from the Dark One's dagger and a crypt full of still-beating hearts to the Drink Order of Clan Charming gets used in a plot-relevant fashion. That "wolf-thingy" on Ruby's car? Relevant. That cup Belle chips? So much more than just a Shout-Out to a classic Disney movie.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The dagger of the Dark One. (Or, possibly, just a Chekhov's gun twice...since it's reintroduced in the episode where it becomes important again.)
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Archie's umbrella in Episode 5. He hooks it onto rocky outcropping to keep from falling to his death.
    • The poisoned apple from the Snow White fairy tale is reused by Regina to make a poison apple turnover.
    • Rumplestilskin's potion of true love is what makes Emma the Saviour.
    • Cora's candle that can take the life of one person and transfer it to another is used by Snow to kill Cora and save Mr. Gold.
    • The storybook that Henry carries with him keeps introducing more elements of both the Enchanted Forest and the curse itself.
    • Anna's necklace. When it's finally recovered it's used as a locater spell, and later revealed to be the wishing star and what ultimately saves both Anna and Kristoff.
    • The letter Anna and Elsa's mother writes in the fourth season premier. It reveals what happened between her and her sisters, her regret over sealing Ingrid away, and her final apology for everything she'd done. It resurfaces in "Fall", but isn't fired until the end of "Shattered Sight".
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Frederick is mentioned in passing in "The Shepherd". He is later revealed to be Abigail's true love seven episodes later. Similarly, his Storybrooke counterpart bumps into Kathryn several scenes before the audience discovers who he is.
    • Neal was first introduced in the first episode of Season 2. We don't find out who he is until Episode 6. He is Henry's father who left Emma at the request of August. Let's not forget he's also Rumplestiltskin's son Baelfire and the whole reason Rumple orchestrated the Dark Curse.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Prince Charming's skill in shepherding animals comes in handy when he lures the dragon into a trap.
    • Ruby's skills at finding things through instinct makes sense when we learn she's The Big Bad Wolf.
    • Peter Pan is fast enough to catch arrows fired at him before they impale him. Neal takes advantage of this by coating the shaft with an immobilizing ink instead of the tip.
  • The Chess Master: Rumplestilskin. He has his hand in every plot that's going on in the show.
    Regina: I assume this was all your doing.
    Rumplestilskin: Most things are.
  • Chess Motifs: Regina often refers to other characters as "pawns" or "playing pieces".
  • Chewing the Scenery: The Evil Queen absolutely devours the scenery. Regina the mayor on the other hand is far more reserved.
    • Likewise, Robert Carlyle's tooth marks are all over any scene involving the Dark One version of Rumplestiltskin.
  • The Chooser of The One: Henry is the one to deliver Emma's Call to Adventure.
  • The Chosen One:
    • A prophecy named Emma as "The Savior", and as much as she rues the title, it applies long after she breaks the first curse.
    • Henry is revealed in season 3 as "The Truest Believer", the one who will save magic. It's actually subverted: Peter Pan was lying to him.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Due to the "closed campus" nature of the Storybrooke setting, the series is prone to this trope whenever a recurring character suddenly disappears without having been killed off or sent to another world (due usually to an actor being cast in another series or only contracted for guest appearances), and situations later emerge where the absence of that character is very noticeable.
    • A very borderline case, but one nonetheless. The character of Sidney Glass (aka the Magic Mirror) is established as a major supporting character throughout Season 1, established as being a confidante of Regina in both worlds (and also in love with her). However, in real life actor Giancarlo Esposito became committed to a series on another network, Revolution, for the 2012-13 season. As a result, Sidney is last seen incarcerated in Regina's private asylum, prior to the curse being broken, and is conspicuous by his absence in post-curse Storybrooke and flashbacks rarely feature the Mirror. Of course, given Esposito's return as soon as Revolution bit it, it might be argued that this is closer to Put on a Bus.
    • Kathryn Nolan is absent in Season 2 as her actress (Anastasia Griffith) is now in the Copper series.
    • The character of Ruby/Red disappears from the series suddenly, several episodes prior to the Season 2 finale. Due to the creators deciding to drop the character and the actress (whose role had been reduced substantially since completing a major character backstory arc midway through the season) being cast in another series. The absence of Ruby is particularly noticeable in the closing episodes of Season 2 when Emma and the others are frantically searching for the kidnapped Regina, yet for some reason do not employ Ruby's previously and well-established ability to track people. However, she's reappeared during the second half of the third season.
    • Mulan joins the Merry Men early in season 3. When the company returns in the second half of that season, Mulan is nowhere to be seen or heard. As with Meghan Ory's case, Jamie Chung was also cast in another series at the time. Incidentally, both series lasted only one season.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe: Not actually used all that much with magic in general, but In Neverland, the land runs on this, with pixie dust to fly and magical weather being side effects of a person's beliefs. A significant part of Tinker Bell's backstory is her losing her magic due to the Blue Fairy no longer believing in her.
  • Cleavage Window: Ingrid the Snow Queen sports quite a big one in her sparkly white dress that doesn't leave much to the imagination.
  • Closed Circle: EVERY SEASON. It's okay on one and two...but it gets ridiculous by Season 4.
  • Coincidence Magnet:
    • Every major event in Emma's life has been in some way related to the Enchanted Forest or Storybrooke, even if it didn't seem that way at the time.
    • The only people to come to Storybrooke from outside in the show's present-day period have all had ties with its past or some other ulterior motive for being there.
  • Color Motif:
    • Emma is first introduced wearing red and continues to often wear a scarlet leather jacket throughout the series.
    • Ruby always has red in her outfits, whether it's red highlights, red clothing or driving a red car, which is fitting since she is Red Riding Hood.
    • Mary Margaret often wears white as her counterpart is Snow White.
    • Belle usually wears some shade of blue or yellow.
    • Regina's love of black is even lampshaded.
    Genie: Are you still mourning?
    Regina: The time for mourning is ended. I just find that black suits me.
    • However, Regina makes magic with big clouds of violet-colored smoke, which complements her black motif nicely.
  • Comedic Sociopathy:
    • Rumplestiltskin turns Gaston into a rose. He gives it to Belle... who trims the stem before putting it in a vase.
    • Regina and Hook end up on screen at the same time. Naturally, this conversation occurs.
      Regina: You remember Claude.
      Hook: Can't say that I do.
      Regina: You killed him in the cell block.
      Hook: Ah, yes. I didn't recognize him without my hook in his neck.
  • Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: Regina, after Emma pulls her out of the fire.
  • Composite Character:
  • Compound Title: The last two episodes of the second season, "Second Star to the Right" and "And Straight On 'Til Morning" respectively. Fittingly, they deal with Neverland.
  • Conflict Ball: When Emma is about to climb the beanstalk, she tells Mulan to cut the beanstalk down if she's not back in ten hours. No clear reason is given for this arbitrary time limit; it serves only to set up a fight between Mulan and Snow about whether to follow through on Emma's instructions. Emma was already on her way down and within easy shouting distance when the fight occurs.
  • Conspicuous CGI: The two-headed Agrabah Viper in Episode 11. The Giant's castle in "Tallahassee" deserves special recognition.
    • The actual Ursula, not Regina's impersonation of her. Or rather, the statue of Ursula as seen at the castle ball.
    • Baelfire's face morphing into Rumple's face while they were merged together.
  • Continuity Nod: Plenty.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • Of all the kids Regina could've adopted, she picks the son of the woman with the power to break the Dark Curse she cast, not to mention the grandson of her worst enemy. Both of them. Emma even lampshades the coincidence that is her meeting Henry's father, who is one of the two other people from her world not to have ended up amnesiac in Storybrooke. The flashbacks of the Season 3 episode "Save Henry" elaborate on these particular events, and even give a nice contrast between Emma's reluctance to accept her newborn son and Regina's last-minute decision to keep Henry despite finding out his real parentage. It turns out that had Regina returned Henry, Pan would've won 11 years early.
    • The car accident victim that's doing an epic Agent Mulder impersonation and documenting the broken masquerade? He was almost kidnapped by Regina and did lose his dad to the town curse.
    • Come on, what are the chances that Emma, Snow, and the wraith would be transported to the exact location of Aurora and Phillip RIGHT AFTER they reunited with each other?
    • All that said, Rumple doesn't believe in coincidence. Whether or not he's right is debatable, considering he's personally manipulated the last few centuries of FTW history. And of course post-Curse breaking, his foresight into the future ends so he's as clueless as everyone else.
    • Early on, Tamara ends up in a lot of right places at the right time for her plans (only some of these are later explained).
    • Also, the one person that Emma saves in the Season 3 Finale just happens to be Robin Hood's late wife Maid Marian.
    • Providence must be at work.
  • Convenient Coma: The Sleeping Curse in a nutshell.
    • Prince Charming/Prince James/Shepherd aka John Doe/David Nolan.
    • Henry went in one after eating Regina's apple turnovers.
  • Coordinated Clothes: Regina and Rumplestiltskin both wore black and blue for an episode after they started a sort of Heel-Face Turn and tried to redeem themselves for their loved ones. They are still as antagonistic as ever, and end up disagreeing on the best way to carry out this plan.
  • Corpsing: Eion Bailey (August) is seen visibly laughing during Ruby's and Granny's spat. The writers cut to him in the final shot as a Throw It In.
  • Correlation Causation Gag: At the exact moment Emma first puts on her deputy sheriff badge, Storybrooke is rocked by what seems like an earthquake (actually a coal mine shaft collapse), seemingly underscoring the importance of her accepting a role in the community. However, considering the curse, her being the savior, and other moments of genuine causation (her accepting the key at Granny's bed-and-breakfast coincides with the town clock starting running again), this might not actually be a coincidence...
  • Costume Porn: Mostly in the Enchanted Forest but some of Ruby and Belle's outfits in Storybrooke.
  • Couch Gag: A different plot-relevant creature, character or item appears in each episode's title card.
    • As for the Season 1 finale... the ominous cloud that features is a reference to both how the finale shows how the end of the Enchanted Forest joins in with the start of Storybrooke... and how Rumple just brought magic to Storybrooke or so it would seem.
  • Cousin Oliver: Despite the popularity of the film, some fans and TV critics have been critical of the parachuting in of characters from Frozen to dominate the first half of Season 4. For example, see's list of OUAT characters that have been "frozen out" by the arc.
  • Crap Saccharine World: Storybrooke. When Emma first enters, it seems like a nice normal town and everyone appears content. But nobody can actually leave and people are forced to stay suspended in time and must play the roles that were assigned them, never truly moving forward in their lives. What keeps this from being an outright Crapsack World is that the entire town is oblivious. One wonders how Henry has apparently been content to see the entire town stuck in time for 10 years as he grew up there.
    • In Season 2, post-Curse, the town has slowly been transitioning between Crap Saccharine and full Crapsack as residents grow tired of being trapped, and also (as of mid-way through Season 2) begin exhibiting paranoia about the outside world discovering their true nature.
    • Suggested in the made-for-DVD minisode Good Morning, Storybrooke, a non-canonical example of how a breakfast TV news show broadcast in Storybrooke might work.
  • Crapsack World: Although real-world locations are depicted as being OK places, they are still said to exist in "A World Without Magic" which presumably makes the real world "crapsack" for characters with magic.
  • Create Your Own Villain: Rumplestiltskin had a hand in the creation of every single villain we've seen. And also apparently all the heroes as well! So far the only people we've seen who he hasn't manipulated into their current positions are those who are from our world.
    • It turns out that the Muggle tourist was a little boy camping with his dad when Storybrooke appeared over their campsite. Regina got it in her head that she wanted the little boy for herself. The boy got away, his dad did not. Thirty years later, he's back, and really pissed off about the whole thing, enough to destroy not just Regina, but the whole town and Henry.
  • Creepy Doll: Unfortunately, this is how Geppetto's parents are currently spending their time.
    • The season 3 episode "Lost Girl" has one of these in store for Rumplestiltskin, as a doll from his childhood given to him in the previous episode continues to appear despite his attempts to get rid of it. It's later revealed that this was a memento from his father, who then took the name Rumple gave it, Peter Pan.
  • Cross Referenced Titles: The beginning of Snow and Charming's love story is depicted in the episode "Snow Falls". The episode where the events of the aforementioned episode are undone by a time-traveling Emma (with Hook in tow) is titled "Snow Drifts".
  • Cruel Mercy: Regina's sparing Snow after removing her heart. The same scene has Get It Over With just before. The cruelty lies in how it's revealed that her hand in Cora's death has caused her heart to begin to darken; and instead of dying with a still-relatively-pure heart, Regina would rather see Snow become as evil as her.
  • Cursed with Awesome: Ruby muses on this with the awesome being the loss of the Fairy Tale memories. Many people, including her, had things they wish they could forget, like her eating her boyfriend and Whale's failure to save his brother. Add to that, the Curse not only made them forget such things but now has given them a chance to live new lives with fresh starts.
  • Curse Escape Clause: The entire town of Storybrooke is cursed with Laser-Guided Amnesia, but Snow White and Prince Charming's daughter was smuggled out and is slated to break that curse Because Destiny Says So. It's later revealed that the wardrobe that spared Emma from the curse was actually for two people, but Geppetto insisted on Pinocchio being the first one out.
    • The original Dark Curse becomes this for Peter Pan's new curse, having the opposite effect of returning everyone to the Enchanted Forest, except for Emma and Henry, who weren't born there.
    • In-universe, True Love's Kiss acts as a universal cure for all manner of curses.
  • Cutesy Name Town: Storybrooke, Maine.
  • Cycle of Revenge: So, Cora is slighted by Snow's future mom and kills her. Then after Cora kills her daughter's lover and forced her into a marriage with the widowed king, Regina decides to take revenge on Snow White for telling Cora (because she's unable to stand up to Mommy). The revenge leads to the curse. The curse leads to Cora returning and once again playing Regina like a cheap flute. Together, they kill Snow White's childhood nanny, try to kill Rumplestiltskin, and Snow realizes Cora was behind her mother's death. Part out of desperation, part out of revenge, Snow kills Cora. Now, Regina's blood feud leads her to almost kill Snow White again. Henry intervenes, but when Snow shows up to surrender her life to end the feud, Regina rips out her heart, then spares her life by putting it back, declaring Snow's Start of Darkness is all the leverage she will need to finalize the revenge. As of the end of Season 2, the cycle begins to break as Henry gets kidnapped by Peter Pan's goons, and Regina is forced to cooperate with the Charmings and Rumplestiltskin to save him. By the first half of Season 3, it appears that Regina has finally chosen to let go of her need for revenge, seeing as how the Curse that created Storybrooke became necessary to save all of them. She even allows Emma's new memories to be good ones.


  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You:
    • The Evil Queen cast a curse on Fairy Tale Land, forcing Snow White and Prince Charming to put their baby daughter Emma into a portal that carried her to the real world in order to save her from the curse. Emma herself has very mixed feelings on the matter. The original plan was for them to go with her, but circumstances and another character's motivations led to neither of them making it.
    • Peter Pan claims this to his son Rumplestiltskin, but he's lying through his teeth.
  • Damsel in Distress/Distressed Dude: It's pretty even handed so far despite the source material.
  • Danger Takes A Back Seat: Played with. Emma tells Henry to go home so she can track down Ashley before it's too late. Henry obediently goes. But he pops up a few minutes later in the back seat of Emma's Volkswagen and sensibly points out she'd waste too much time taking him home and let Ashley's head-start get longer.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Invoked by name during the sheriff election. Regina dug up Emma's past, including juvie records that were supposed to be sealed and smeared them across the front page, along with a very unflattering mugshot.
  • Darker and Edgier:
    • The second season when compared to the first.
    • Lacey is this to Belle.
    • Also, Neverland and Peter Pan is this compared to the version from the original novel and the Disney film.
  • Darkest Hour: "An Apple as Red as Blood". August is dying, Emma won't believe no matter what.
    • Henry mentions this trope specifically, only for it to be subverted:
      Henry: In the book, things always look worst right before there's good news!
      The dwarves: (run up shouting) Terrible news! Terrible news!
  • The Dark Side Will Make You Forget:
    • Subverted with Rumplestiltskin when he jokes to Belle that he forgot his past (it turns out he remembers it well).
    • Inverted with Snow White. After she takes the memory loss potion, she almost turns evil.
    • In the "real" world, it's also inverted. The two wicked characters, Regina and Rumplestiltskin are the only ones who recall exactly who they were.
    • Save for Jefferson—although he has gotten more than a tad sadistic over the years.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Generally, each episode will revolve around one or two characters and the viewers would be able to see what happened to them in their past before living in Storybrooke.
  • Dead All Along/Dead Person Impersonation: Lancelot, in "Lady of the Lake". It is actually Cora in disguise, after she killed the real Lancelot.
  • Dead Guy Junior:
    • Henry was named after the Evil Queen's father. He even gets to see his namesake's coffin when he goes poking around in Regina's shed. There's a nice little pause so you don't miss it.
    • David and Mary Margaret decide to name their son after Neal who died to protect them.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Emma, with a heavy dose of Stepford Snarker.
    • Snow White in her Fairy Tale past had her moments.
    • Charming also had his moments in the Enchanted Forest.
    • Mr. Gold is the main supplier of this trope. Some of his gems:
      "You're a smart woman, Your Majesty. Figure it out."

      Regina: Are you really going up against me?
      Mr. Gold: Not directly.

      Emma: Gold? You in here?
      Mr. Gold: Well, it is my shop.

      "Not if I catch him first."

      Mr. Gold: You have your mother's chin.
      Emma: We know you killed him.
      Mr. Gold: And your father's tact.

      Charming: If anything happens to them...
      Mr. Gold: Then you'll what? Cross the town line? And David Nolan will hunt me down in his animal rescue van?

      Regina: This is all your doing, isn't it?
      Mr. Gold: Most things are.
    • With season 2's introduction of Captain Hook, Gold now has quite the rival for the snark throne.
      "Ooh, sparkly dirt. Wonderful."
  • Deal with the Devil: Making a deal with Rumplestiltskin will usually be such a deal.
  • Death Equals Redemption: August finding he is turning back to wood leads him to seek out Emma and try to get her to break the curse.
  • Death In The Limelight:
    • In "The Queen Is Dead", Mary Margaret reconnects with Johanna, the now-elderly former castle servant who sent her her old tiara for her birthday. Towards the end of the episode, Cora threatens to kill Johanna unless Mary Margaret gives her Rumplestiltskin's dagger - then she flings Johanna through the clock face and sends her to her death anyway.
    • The only episode to center around Graham ("The Heart is a Lonely Hunter") ends with his death.
    • Same goes for Cora ("The Miller's Daughter").
    • Also, August, sort of. (He didn't die so much as get reset back to childhood, but either way it was the end of the character August, save for in flashbacks.)
    • Same for Zelena in "Kansas". At this point, a good rule of thumb is just to say you have a 50% chance of dying in your spotlight episode if you're the season villain.
    • Neal gets one in "Quiet Minds".
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: Emma in season 3 is torn between Neal and Captain Hook. Neal dies in the second half of the season which makes way for Emma and Hook.
  • Deceased Parents Are the Best: Subverted, with the exception of one example and one example only: Jiminy's parents. Then, double subverted when his efforts to kill them results in Geppetto losing his parents.
    • This is even subverted with Cora, the unanimously considered most evil person in the show. Even she is immune to this trope; Regina still loves her mum.
  • Declaration of Protection: Done multiple times by Mulan (who's Aurora's protector) throughout the first half of the second season. Mulan also claims she failed to protect Aurora when they learn that Aurora's heart was taken by Hook when she was held captive by Cora.
  • Decomposite Character: Peter Pan is an inhuman monster. The young boy who was found in Kensington Gardens and befriended the Darlings was Bae. And the one who took Hook's hand was Rumpelstiltskin. It's basically a family trait.
    • In Season 4, this is the case with the Snow Queen. While Elsa from Frozen was based on the Snow Queen, they're separate characters here, with the Snow Queen from Hans Christian Andersen's original fairy tale being Elsa's aunt.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: The fairy tale portion of the show often gives classic fairy tale characters very dark origins and somewhat more realistic treatments, to explain the rather simplistic or extreme behavior found in our storybook version of the fables. However, many of these characters also undergo significant Character Development to become something that matches the uplifting spirit of their stories, if not the letter. The first episode of the series establishes the Foregone Conclusion that many fairy tale characters have reached their happy endings and are otherwise content with their lives, despite their gritty retellings.
  • Deconstruction Crossover: For fairy tales in general and the Disney versions in particular.
  • Delayed Seasons: As usual with series filmed in British Columbia, the filming and actual airing of the episode are months apart. It would bother no one until somebody namedrops a particular event, like Valentine's Day, in what looks a lot like mid-autumn.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The world that Frankenstein comes from.
    • Splash of Color: As a visitor to that world, it doesn't apply to Rumplestiltskin (or to his gold); he seems to have decided to wear a bright red cloak just for the occasion.
    • Storybrooke itself. According to the other wiki, "...all flowers and other objects with bright colors are temporarily concealed or removed [from the town used to film the exterior shots] to preserve Storybrooke's somberly enchanted nature."
  • Denser and Wackier: The weirdness kicks into high gear after season 1. Magic returns to Storybrooke, the townsfolk recover their memories, Emma's really complicated family tree is steadily revealed, etc.
  • Department of Child Disservices: Emma has very bitter feelings about her time in the foster care system, even telling Mary Margaret that all foster parents are just after "a meal ticket" and don't care about the kids. It's also implied to be a horrible fate for Nicholas and Ava (Hansel and Gretel), even worse than leaving them to fend for themselves.
    • August (Pinocchio) and Emma were also subject to an Orphanage of Fear. When given a choice to run away, August chooses his freedom and abandons Emma to her fate in the hell hole of "the system."
  • Destructive Romance: Discussed in Episode 13 between Mary Margaret and David after David told Kathryn that he was leaving her, but didn't tell her that he was involved with Mary in order to spare her feelings. Instead, Regina spills this to Kathryn, leading her to confront Mary in public and revealing the affair to the whole town.
  • Determinator: And how. A whole family of them. From Henry all the way up the line to Charming's mother, this family simply will not quit, ever. If they think it needs to be done they WILL get it done, often regardless of personal cost. And as we find out, this also applies to his father's side all the way up.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?:
    • The usually very closed off Emma shows she very much can feel when she finally opens up to Graham.
    • At one point Rumplestiltskin is talking about the power of True Love (of which he happens to be holding a bottle). Prince Charming, rather dismissively, asks what he could possibly know about true love. Rumple is not amused: "Well, not so much as you, perhaps, but not so little as you might think."
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Mulan tearfully walks away from Aurora without revealing her love because Aurora is happily pregnant by Phillip.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight:
    • Cora to Regina, thanks to the cursed candle and the fact that Rumple was inches from death when Cora got her heart back.
    • Milah to Killian after Rumple rips her heart out.
    • Pinocchio to Geppetto, before the Blue Fairy arrives just in time.
    • Graham to Emma after Regina crushes his heart.
    • Neal to Emma, after he and Rumplestiltskin are finally separated.
    • Liam to Killian, after leaving Neverland negates the effects of the former's poison cure.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Prince Charming to Emma, due to the plan to save her from the curse.
    • Prince Thomas might count with him being kidnapped by forces unknown while Ella is still pregnant. Averted with his Storybrooke counterpart when he decided to do the right thing in the end and come back to Ashley despite his father's wishes.
    • Henry's biological dad, whom he was told was a fireman who died during a rescue. In reality he's Neal Cassidy, a thief who was forced to leave Emma behind before even knowing that she was pregnant with his kid. It also turns out that he's Baelfire, Rumple's son, and was forced to stay away by August so that Emma can fulfill her destiny of breaking the curse on Storybrooke. After that was done and Neal found out that he had a son, he did move into Storybrooke so that he can be with Henry. Shortly after, he was shot and was transported through a portal, thus disappeared for a second time. He is, however, saved by Mulan and Robin Hood in the Enchanted Forest, and later joins the quest to save Henry from Peter Pan.
    • Hansel and Gretel's father. The same goes for their Storybrooke counterparts, Nicholas and Ava. However, they end up reunited with him in Storybrooke.
    • Grace's father never returns from his trip because he is trapped in Wonderland and becomes the Mad Hatter. They finally have their happy ending in Storybrooke after the curse is broken.
  • Disney Owns ABC: The reason many of the fairy tale characters share the names of classic Disney characters. (The series is in fact made by ABC Studios.) And the fact they are allowed to use characters created or as reimagined by Disney. For example, it was the Disney movie that named Snow White's 7 Dwarfs, while Belle and Mulan are based on the Disney film versions of the characters.
    • In Season 1, at various times Henry (and, strangely, Regina) are seen buying comic books at the corner store. Of course, they're all Marvel Comics - another Disney property.
    • The Season 2 episode "In the Name of the Brother" has a very funny meta example of this trope; a character's cell phone plays the Star Wars theme as its ringtone over and over again (that franchise was recently purchased by Disney and Word of God confirms the in-joke was added to reflect this).
    • The original TRON has also been referenced by way of Henry owning a handheld version of Space Paranoids; and later, a TRON lunchbox.
      • Given the cross-fictional-universe aspect of the series, it is not 100% certain that OUAT is not set in the same universe as Tron (given that Tron marketing like lunchboxes and the Space Paranoids game exist in-universe for Tron too).
    • Best exemplified in the season 3 finale, which features, among other things: a Mickey Mouse doll, Emma assuming the alias "Princess Leia" while trying to remain inconspicuous in the past, and finally, a teaser of none other than Elsa as the upcoming season's Big Bad.
  • 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.
    • Also, while you can understand Rumplestiltskin getting angry over Baelfire getting hurt, turning the man responsible into a snail and stepping on him is a bit excessive. Even his son thinks so.
    • Rumplestiltskin ripping Milah's heart out may or may not be an example of this, depending on how selfish you think she was for leaving her family to pursue her own desires. But disproportionate or not, it was certainly a DUMB thing to do, since if had just let her live and take the magic bean, he'd have reunited with Baelfire without screwing the world over with a curse.
    • The actions of a spoiled princess cause Cora to become one of the show's biggest Big Bads, even manipulating Rumple in the process at a time when he was a little more sane and a lot more vulnerable than we've normally seen him.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • After Snow White's personality is radically altered by the anti-Love Potion that Rumplestiltskin sold her, Jiminy Cricket and the Seven Dwarves stage an intervention.
    • Also, the fact that Sidney - the ex-editor of the Storybrooke Daily Mirror - is involved with wiretapping will not go unnoticed by UK fans.
    • Regina's attempts to stop using magic are akin to a recovering addict.
    • Mulan returning Aurora's heart plays out an awful lot like a "first time" sexual encounter.
    • Watch the scene where Rumplestiltskin teaches Cora to use her emotions to turn the straw into gold then think about it.
    • When Regina is looking for her lost book of spells, Mr. Gold says: "Do you really need the smell of the written word to get the magic flowing again, dearie? Maybe if you relaxed, it would just happen."
  • Don't Explain the Joke: The sheriff tries a joke about how Emma broke the town sign.
  • Don't Split Us Up: Ava (Gretel) begs this of Emma for her and her brother. They don't and are reunited with their father.
  • Don't Think. Feel: How magic is wielded by its practitioners in this universe.
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: Invoked in "The Shepherd", when Sheriff Graham offers Emma (who has just become his deputy) a box of donuts to persuade her to work a late shift. As he presents them, he quips that some cliches are true.
  • Doomed by Canon:
    • Stealthy, the eighth dwarf.
    • Queen Eva, Snow White's mother.
    • King Leopold, Snow White's father.
  • Double Standard: After David and Mary Margaret's affair is revealed, the town mainly shuns Mary Margaret while David only gets anger from Kathryn and Mary Margaret. Partly justified since David has much less interaction with the rest of the town while Mary Margaret had been known as a saint up until that point.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Subtly inching toward being played straight in-universe; it remains to be seen if anyone will express anger over or even acknowledge what Regina did to Graham (up until the curse breaking in the finale, the in-universe glossing over of the situation has been justified by the fact that a 10-year old is the only person (semi)-aware of it. And (as of midway through Season 3) he has no memory of Storybrooke anyway.)
  • Dramatic Deadpan: Snow in "Heart of Darkness".
    Grumpy: Where are you going?
    Snow: To kill the Queen.
  • The Dreaded.
    • The Dark Curse.
    • Peter Pan.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Milah does this after her marriage falls apart, and Belle goes drinking after being rejected by Rumple.
  • Dude, She/He's Like, in a Coma!: Justified for those under a Sleeping Curse. They can only be woken up by the kiss of one who loves them truly. A motherly love works just as well as romantic.
  • Dying as Yourself: Several examples during "And Straight On 'Til Morning". The town is on the verge of destruction, and Mother Superior manages to devise a cure for Belle and Sneezy's amnesia, so that they can at least die as themselves with their loved ones. A different version is shown when Regina resolves to slow the trigger and buy the townsfolk enough time to escape, knowing that she'll die, but at least she'll be saving everyone.
    Regina: Everybody sees me as the Evil Queen. Including my son. Let me die as Regina.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: When Mr. Gold is poisoned by Hook's poisoned hook, he calls the amnesiac Belle and, without going into the the history of the Enchanted forest, tells her that she may not remember who she is but he knows her to be a wonderful, beautiful, wise, and heroic woman. To him she will always be that. And at the time, he honestly thought he was going to die, either by poison or Cora stabbing him with his dagger.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Emma, Henry, and the entire family (Regina included) need a lot of therapy.
  • Dystopia Justifies the Means: Regina's apparent goal is for everyone else to suffer. She used the Dark Curse to take everyone to a world where "No one gets their happy ending."
    • Cora may be worse. She stated in her origin that she essentially wanted everyone to bow to her to the point it destroyed them.

    Series/Once Upon a TimeTropes E to F

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