Once Upon A Time: Tropes M to P
Tropes A to D | Tropes E to F | Tropes G to H | Tropes I to L | Tropes M-P | Tropes Q to T | Tropes U to Z
Once Upon a Time provides examples of the following tropes:
open/close all folders
- Madness Mantra: From the Mad Hatter naturally. His last flashback scene involves him saying "Get it to work!" over and over again as he's making hats. The camera pans out as it reveals the thousands of hats he's made in the hopeless effort to try to get back home to his daughter, thus revealing how he got his name and how he ended up being a permanent character in Wonderland.
- Rumple in "Witch Hunt" seems to be reciting one after being locked in a cage by the Wicked Witch of the West, "You feed the madness and it feeds on you..."
- Magic A Is Magic A: Notable for a series which uses magic to keep the plot going. So far, magic has clearly defined limits (can't raise the dead, for example), clearly explained sources (emotion, with true love being the most powerful form), and it always comes with a price.
- True Love's Kiss also appears subject to this, though the rules are not explicitly stated. Those that are apparent from it's uses in the show are: 1) It only works on curses and other magical problems.note 2) It only works when the love is mutual. note 3) It only works when the two people are physically together. note 4. It doesn't have to be romantic in nature. note 5. It must make physical contact with another person. note
- Frequently averted. Despite the Arc Words, most magic comes with little price unless the plot needs a MacGuffin; all three things magic cannot do have been done on the main show or the spinoff; and True Love's Kiss has a spotty record, undoing the curse of the Dark One in the past but not the present and either ineffective or Forgotten Phlebotinum when Snow drinks cursed water.
- Magic Compass:
- In "True North", Gretel and Hansel/Ava and Nicholas have a special compass. In the Land Without Magic, it doesn't seem to work, but it begins to move when their father is near them.
- In the finale of the first season Rumplestiltskin enchants Prince Charming's ring so that it will lead him directly to Snow White.
- In another episode Captain Hook leads Emma up the beanstalk to steal a compass from the giant that will let them find a way between worlds back to Storybrooke.
- The Magic Goes Away: One of the key points of the Dark Curse is that it transported the inhabitants of the Enchanted Forest into a world without magic (ours). This has the side-effect of reversing any magical transformations that residents underwent in their world. Archie is no longer a cricket, and Mr. Gold no longer sports the green and scaly skin of the Dark One. August (Pinocchio) was able to avoid this by transporting in the wardrobe with Emma, but when she decides to stay in Storybrooke 28 years later, he begins to revert to his wooden form.
- Magic Is Evil: So far every human who has taken up magic long-term has become both corrupted and addicted to their power. The fairies have wielded magic without obvious corruption, but they only use magic in the service of others and always employ an artifact like a wand or fairy dust. Emma has so far also avoided corruption from her innate magical abilities, but these abilities were only recently awakened and sparingly used (she usually forgets she even has them). In addition, she was taught to wield her abilities by channeling her desire to protect people in sharp contrast to the technique of channeling rage and a desire for vengeance used by Rumpelstiltskin, Cora, and Regina. Only time will tell whether this more fairy-like approach will help her avoid the fate of other human magic-users.
- Emma has recently gained full control over her magic, helped by Elsa, who helped her embrace her abilities.
- Emma, however, has recently succumb to some darkness after using her magic to push Cruella De Ville off a cliff to save Henry.
- Emma has recently gained full control over her magic, helped by Elsa, who helped her embrace her abilities.
- Magic Versus Science: Rumplestiltskin and Dr. Frankenstein argue about which is more powerful Rumplestiltskin forces Frankenstein to say magic is greater, but while magic works faster and is more flexible, Frankenstein brought back the dead—something which is impossible for magic.
- Greg and Tamara's organization uses some form of science to disable magic. Or so they think. It's now obvious that they were using magic all along.
- Major Injury Underreaction:
- Granted that the series isn't allowed to be too graphic, but Hook reacts to Rumplestiltskin cutting his freaking hand off with far less screaming and flailing around than he by all rights should have done.
- Whale walks around with his arm ripped off with nothing worse than a few winces.
- Male Gaze: Dr. Whale gets busted checking out Ruby during his date with Mary Margaret.
- Mama Bear: Five words: "BACK. AWAY. FROM MY. DAUGHTER!"
- Snow is a total Mama Bear. When Mulan went to chop down the beanstalk (having promised Emma she'd do this) Snow attacked her for it.
- Regina could be an evil example. She burst into city hall and owned everyone in order to get Henry back.
- Emma. At the end of Season 1, when Henry was in a coma after eating the apple turnover, Emma had enough and outright attacked Regina, since she was the one who made the turnover in the first place. In Season 2, Emma burned the portal leading back home so Cora couldn't get to Henry.
- Ashley/Cinderella could be one, too. She broke into Mr. Gold's office and then knocked him out while trying to get documents which will ensure she keeps her baby.
- Widow Lucas is a Grandma Bear. When King George framed Ruby for murder and then tried to shoot her, Granny shoots the gun out of his hand and threatens to put the next one between his eyes.
- Manly Tears:
- King George at the death of his son.
- Lots of these from the Huntsman.
- Mr. Gold, that mean old bastard, breaks down terribly when he's apologizing to the man he thinks is his grown son: "I'm so sorry, Bae." His eyes well up with tears when he first sees Belle, who he had thought was dead, in the finale and when he finally holds her, he's weeping.
- Rumplestiltskin keeps his composure at first when the evil queen tells him Belle has killed herself after returning to her father, but when the queen leaves him alone he realizes the scale of his loss and starts to openly sob.
- Charming/David. All the time, but especially when he thinks he's losing Snow/Mary Margaret.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: Rumplestiltskin in his real-world form, Mr. Gold.
- Massive Multiplayer Crossover: With so many characters and so many fairy tales, folk tales, and mythological characters present, it's giving King's Quest and Kingdom Hearts a run for their money.
- As co-creator Edward Kitsis explains:
- Red accidentally kills her mother Anita in an attempt to protect Snow White. It's quite traumatizing, as they had just recently reunited.
- Snow White later tricks Regina into killing her mother Cora, pretty much the last person left that Regina loves. To make it worse, Cora had just recently had her heart returned, meaning she remembered just how much she loved Regina right before her death.
- May-December Romance: Belle and Rumplestiltskin. It's a May-December Romance in their Storybrooke forms too, since Robert Carlyle is 20 years older than Emilie de Ravin.
- Also a Mayfly-December Romance, at least so far, since currently Belle is still a normal human woman with a presumably average life span, while Rumplestiltskin, due to his Dark Magic, is unaging and immortal.
- Both Neal/Emma and Hook/Emma are this, since both guys are over 300 years old (though they don't look it).
- Meaningful Echo:
Zelena: I've brought you a gift.
- In "The Queen Is Dead", Mary Margaret's deadpan declaration that she's going to kill Cora mirrors her earlier statement in "Heart of Darkness" that she would kill the Evil Queen.
- "I don't want to be you." Said by Henry to Regina, where its then revealed she said the same thing to her mother. It's implied this caused her to realize she had become her mother, which motivates her into letting Henry go.
- In "It's Not Easy Being Green", Zelena's speech to Regina mirrors Regina's own speech at Snow White's wedding in the Pilot:
Regina: I don't want a gift from you.
Zelena: But you shall have it. My gift to you is this sad, sad day.
- "Not like this." Said to Regina both times. The first time was 28 years before the beginning of the series, by Owen after Regina tried to forcibly keep him and his father in Storybrooke. The second time was by Henry, when he found out Regina intended to curse him to make him love her.
- Meaningful Name: Obviously "Storybrooke" and "Toll Bridge" are major examples, but the tropes still shows up in a surprisingly large number of subtle ways.
- Mary Margaret Blanchard is the cursed identity of Snow White. Fitting, since "Blanchard" is derived from the Latin root word for "White." Additionally, Mary Margaret was the name of a saint whose story is partly connected to the "Snow White" fairy tale.
- Ruby. Red. Ruby. Red. Do the math.
- Dr. Archibald "Hopper" - referring to a man who used to be be a cricket.
- Mr. "Gold" - referring to a man whose most recognizable talent was alchemy with straw by spinning wheel.
- Cora - from the French cœur, "heart". Her talent is pulling people's hearts out; she had her own heart removed for safekeeping.
- Perhaps the most subtle example of all (at least, until it's unnecessarily lampshaded by Cora) is "Regina" - the Latin-derived word for "Queen."
- Zelena means 'green' in Bosnian, Bulgarian, and several other Slavic languages.
- Medieval Stasis: The Enchanted Forest, the Land Without Color, Wonderland, seem to be in medieval setting and don't technologically advance in the slightest. Taken to the extreme in the spinoff, the world Alice is from is a perpetual Victorian London.
- Meet Cute: Snow White and the Prince meet when she robs him, he knocks her off a horse and right when he realizes that the thief is a woman, she brains him with a rock giving him a scar he has to this day. She also nicknamed him Prince Charming and it stuck.
- Emma met Henry's father by stealing his stolen car with him sleeping in the back. She was so befuddled, she ran a stop sign and got pulled over (remember, in a twice-stolen car), and got out of the ticket when he pretended she was his girlfriend and he was teaching her to drive stick.
- Memento MacGuffin: Rumple's reaction to the false news that Belle is dead is to smash all of his teacups. He stops himself before smashing the last one; the one she chipped. He stares at it for a moment before putting it on a pedestal as a reminder of the loss.
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: Most deaths on the show have been male.
- Might as Well Not Be in Prison at All: Rumplestiltskin continues to pull the strings from inside his magical prison.Rumplestiltskin: I'm exactly where I wanna be.
- Misplaced Vegetation: Once Upon A Time is filmed in British Columbia, which means that the woods around Storybrooke look like the Pacific Northwest even though the town is located in Maine.
- Missing Mom:
- Snow White to Emma when Snow goes into labor early and is forced to send Emma away on her own in order to save her from the curse.
- In "reality": Emma is the one who was missing and now is found. The Mayor is the one who is present in all the ways but love.
- Moment Killer: Kathryn has a remarkable talent for this, constantly disrupting romantic moments between Mary Margaret and David.
- Monster Sob Story: All the recurring ones.
- Morality Kitchen Sink: The show is closest to this.
- To wit, on one end of the spectrum you have people like Prince Charming as the heroic, noble if not sometimes pragmatic heroes. And on the other, you have people like Cora and Peter Pan, manipulative evil bastards (or bitches) who only cares about themselves. However, in between you have everyone else, including several villains like Regina and Gold who are on a road to redemption, villains like Cora who slowly became worse despite sympathetic beginnings and The Messiah who's also an Anti-Hero.
- Morality Pet: Belle to Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold, with the classic effects anytime someone hurts Belle. Belle has stopped Gold from violence more than once and seems to have triggered some self knowledge in him. Sadly, Gold's reaction to Belle stumbling over the town line, with the resulting memory loss stopping her from viewing Gold as a Good All Along friend/love interest make this tip towards Morality Chain. At least until the season finale.
- Ms. Fanservice: Several attractive females, but Ruby is the most prominent.
- The Multiverse: "Hat Trick" confirms that one exists in this show. So far the universes that have been seen or hinted at on-screen are:
- The Enchanted Forest, where most (but not all) of the fairy tale regulars in the series originate. Technically, "the Enchanted Forest" is the name of a large region of this realm, which is informally called Fairytale Land by the producers. Other countries in the same world include Agrabah and Arendelle.
- The graphic novel "Out of the Past" shows Camelot as another world (before, most of us assumed it was another kingdom of Fairytale Land).
- The Land of Oz
- A Land Without Color, where Dr. Victor Frankenstein lives.
- Ultimate Universe: The Land Without Magic (aka Storybrooke) could be considered this. Some of the individuals native to the other realms who were contemporaries of each other, nonetheless have existed as stories in ours for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
- Muggles Do It Better: As Regina unfortunately learns in "The Evil Queen", when Owen and Tamara render her completely powerless with a combination of technology and Sufficiently Analyzed Magic. Hook even mentions they managed to take down Maleficent, who is revealed to have survived being slain by Emma, but reduced to a mere shade and unable to die.
- Mundane Utility: Snow uses her special relationship with animals to deliver messages.
- The Snow Queen uses her powers to run an ice cream shop without freezers.
- Murder the Hypotenuse:
- The Genie kills Snow White's father to free the Queen from her loveless marriage.
- David and then Mary Margaret come under suspicion of this.
- My Own Private "I Do": In "Lady of the Lake" We find out that before the big ceremony seen in the pilot, Snow and Charming had their own private wedding officiated by Lancelot (a knight of the Round Table), so that Charming's mother can see her son be married before she dies from a poisoned arrow.
- Mythology Gag: A lot of references to the Disney versions of the fairy tales, including the name of Maleficent (the Thirteenth Fairy was unnamed in the story and named Carabosse in the ballet; it was the Disney movie that named her Maleficent) and the use of the city of Agrabah.
- There's also the dwarves' names, and Peter (Red's boyfriend) is named after Peter and the Wolf. Also you could stretch it to include Belle, who is usually just called Beauty (though belle is French for beauty) though the name originate from the Disney cartoon.
- The chipped cup is a reference to Chip from the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast.
- Not a name thing, but in Mr. Gold's shop there's a Mickey Mouse phone in one of the glass glasses as well as a Mickey Mouse plush toy in Emma's nursery.
- Back to Disney, the video game Regina gives Henry is Space Paranoids.
- When Charming wants to go to the Netherworld, Gold uses what he calls a classic means of inducing the Sleeping Curse: The needle on the spinning wheel.
- This one is a little closer to a Shout-Out, but if you look carefully in the background of Rumplestiltskin's castle, you can see the Scythe from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Jane Espenson, who wrote for Buffy, also writes for this show).
- At the end of the episode "Tiny", the dwarfs are whistling a very familiar tune...
- Towards the end of season 2, much is made of Snow formerly having a heart devoid of darkness.
- Aurora's dress is lilac in the series, but depending on the light, sometimes it looks pinkish and other times bluish, the colours between which the fairies were constantly switching it.
- In the Season 4 premiere, Belle and Rumple dance to the theme from Beauty and the Beast during their honeymoon.
- Plenty in the first half of Season 4 thanks to the inclusion of Frozen characters.
Anna(putting on gloves to cover her bruised knuckles): Have you seen these bruises?
- Anna introduces herself to not-yet-Prince Charming as "Joan", a reference to her Joan of Arc painting from Frozen.
- She also "loves sandwiches."
- At one point, Emma tried unsuccessfully to talk to Regina, whose romance with Robin fell apart. The two of them were sitting on opposite sides of a closed door, reminiscent of "Do You Want To Build a Snowman?"
- Emma asks Elsa if she feels the cold. Elsa responds "it never bothered me", a reference to "Let It Go."
- Anna's last encounter with Hans, while offscreen this time, ended much the same way their last encounter in the movie did:
Elsa: Have you seen Hans' eye?
Anna: Definitely worth it.
- Also during the epilogue for the Arrendale arc;Anna: What is that amazing smell? (Elsa and Anna inhale for a moment)
Elsa and Anna: Chocolate!
- During their first date, Emma and Hook go to an Italian restaurant. We see a couple there sharing the same spaghetti strand, a la Lady and the Tramp.
- Neck Snap:
- How Rumplestiltskin kills the knight who humiliated him. With one hand. By palming their head.
- Charming to one of King George's Mooks.
- The wolves do this to a number of Regina's mooks.
- Regina does this to one of her men who failed to capture Snow White after she jumped off a cliff.
- Necromantic: Dr. Whale (aka Dr. Victor Frankenstein) wants to revive his brother, and does so with tragic effects, and Regina wants to revive her lost love, and Dr. Frankenstein does so, with tragic effects.
- Never Found the Body: Kathryn though the heart was found. In "The Stable Boy" it's clear that the DNA results on the heart were tampered with because Kathryn is found alive.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Not in the traditional sense that a character suddenly gained new power to advance the plot but the creators has invented various method to travel to our world over the time, some clearly seemed easier than casting a curse which take several hundreds years and serveral Batman Gambit to complete:
- First of all, there's the magical wardrobe made from the magical tree that can magically transport one person to the land without magic.
- A season later, the ashes from that wardrobe plus a compass from the giant can transport you anywhere.
- Speaking of giants, they grew magic beans that can open portal anywhere and had only been extincted recently. Which means in the several hundred years before the curse, if The Dark One bothered to travel the world a bit, he would probably stumbled upon a giant beanstalk that's hard to miss with what he needed above them.
- By season 3A, we have the mermaids the shadow. Both can travel between realms and bring someone along. This can be explained that Rumple probably don't want anything to do with Neverland given that it's his dad's realm.
- Season 3B brought Dorothy's magic slipper to the mix.
- Season 4A, the sorcerer, through his apprentice can opened a portal to our world very easily and much less messily than the curse.
- And from the Spin-Off series, the White Rabbit can open a portal to any realms with his finger. and long before Cora's come to power, too. So there's really no reason for him not to go there and search a little.
- Also from the spin off, there's the 3 Genies magic that can make a sorcerer so powerful he can break the laws of magic. As this offered both Power and may be a way to reunite with his son, why the Dark One hadn't sought it out was quite a mysteries.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
- Snow White told the Evil Queen's mother about her secret affair with the stable boy. The mother ended up killing the stable boy, beginning Regina's Start of Darkness, which indirectly contributed to every evil thing the Queen did. And there are a lot.
- Emma telling Cora that Regina adopted Henry. Seriously, Emma? Why not slather the kid in ketchup and leave him for the trolls while you're at it?
- Snow playing on Regina's Mommy Issues and tricking her into killing her own mother, thus apparently ending any hope of a Heel-Face Turn for Regina forever. The irony is, if she'd just played it straight and given Regina Cora's heart without cursing it, it would have worked—Cora would have been able to love her daughter again, and both Cora and Regina might have turned face at once, albeit at the cost of Rumplestiltskin's life, since Cora would realize that having Regina is "enough" for her, and she wouldn't want to kill Rumple anymore because she'd feel love for him again. Now, Snow's given Regina a just reason to hate her for killing her mother, to go along with the unjust one of causing her mother to kill her boyfriend.
- Of all the people Emma decides to take with her as she and Hook return from the past, it just happens to be Maid Marian. Regina is obviously not pleased.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain:
- In the pilot, if Regina had simply expressed gratitude toward Emma for bringing Henry back (twice), Emma probably would have gone back to Boston and assured herself that at least Henry was living with a stern but fair and loving mother.
- More generally, it seems to be a recurring pattern for Regina to say something to put Emma down, only for this to make her dig in her heels instead.
- It's also a recurring pattern that she'll say "stay away from..." whoever someone's destined romantic match is and they'll tend to want to get together for spite. It happened a bit with present-day Snow and she said it again to Emma with regard to Graham in "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter".
- Regina brings about her own downfall in the last two episodes of the season. The apple turnover she baked for Emma is eaten by Henry instead, nearly killing him. This leads to Emma finally believing in the curse and eventually to everybody recovering their past memories. Again with Regina Charming was going to be executed, and then she saved his life for an even MORE complicated plan!
- Regina forcibly puts Cora's heart back in her body, not realizing that Snow had cursed it. This gets Cora killed.
- Nightmare Sequence: Oddly enough, of all the people to have nightmares, it's the one who deserves it most (Regina). Her nightmare shows her with serious guilt, or at least fear of losing her child and having a lynch mob come after her. If not for her despicable nature, this would almost be a Pet the Dog moment. Almost.
- Charming has one at the beginning of "Witch Hunt", where he catches a glimpse of and shares a dance with his daughter Emma as the princess she was meant to be, before she gets sucked into the wardrobe, with a warning not to lose his next child like what happened with Emma.
- No Arc in Archery: Charming's arrow work in "Snow Falls".
- No Bisexuals: Stunningly, averted. In a twist, Mulan goes to confess her love to Aurora.
- No Man of Woman Born: At their first meeting during the Ogre Wars, the Seer tells Rumple that Rumple's actions on the battlefield would leave his child fatherless. Rumple interprets it as meaning that he would be killed in battle, so tries to change his apparent fate by injuring himself and getting sent home. Fast forward to years later, when Rumple has become the Dark One and Bae tried to get the both of them to The World Without Magic. Rumple's cowardice shows itself again, and Bae is left fatherless when Rumple refuses to give up the dagger.
- No Name Given:
- Prince Charming, zigzagged with his Fairy Tale identity but eventually subverted with his Storybrooke one. For a while we only know the Prince as Charming, but in Episode 3, he reveals to Snow White that his name is James. Turns out that's not his true name either! His twin's name was Prince James and Charming is merely taking on the alias because of an Emergency Impersonation situation he got roped into. For over a year, his real identity was simply called Shepherd. In Storybrooke, Charming's counterpart was a John Doe in a coma and after he woke up he had no idea who he was. His "wife" Kathryn then shows up to reveal that his identity is David Nolan, officially - at least in Storybrooke. Later, after the curse breaks, he finally reveals his birth name in the following exchange:Grumpy/Leroy: So let me get this straight. You got a twin brother?
Grumpy: Whose name is James?
Grumpy: But your name is James.
David: No, actually, it's not.
Grumpy: It's Charming then?
Snow White: No, that's the nickname I gave him.
Grumpy: Wait. Hold on, what the hell is your name?
Grumpy: Your curse name?
David: My real name.
Grumpy: You're David, James, and Charming? What? David is like a middle name?
David: No, it's my name name.
Grumpy: You know, whatever. I'll call you whatever I damn well please.
- The Stranger introducing himself by refusing to tell Emma his name. He eventually gives his name as August Booth although he does remember his Fairy Tale identity, Pinocchio.
- Prince Charming, zigzagged with his Fairy Tale identity but eventually subverted with his Storybrooke one. For a while we only know the Prince as Charming, but in Episode 3, he reveals to Snow White that his name is James. Turns out that's not his true name either! His twin's name was Prince James and Charming is merely taking on the alias because of an Emergency Impersonation situation he got roped into. For over a year, his real identity was simply called Shepherd. In Storybrooke, Charming's counterpart was a John Doe in a coma and after he woke up he had no idea who he was. His "wife" Kathryn then shows up to reveal that his identity is David Nolan, officially - at least in Storybrooke. Later, after the curse breaks, he finally reveals his birth name in the following exchange:
- No Sell: Heart-snatching, on Emma.
- Ditto on Cora, but this is because she's Crazy-Prepared.
- Also Regina when Zelena tries to take her heart. "Never bring your heart to a witch fight"
- Not His Sled: All the time in regard to the fairy tales told. Emma even mentions that the fairy tales in Henry's book "aren't the most traditional kind."
- Not So Different:
- Mr. Gold being able to manipulate Emma in Episode 8 because he can see a "desperate soul."
- Snow and Grumpy bond over their "lost" loves.
- Peter Pan uses this line on Rumpelstiltskin; Rumpel abandoned his son for power while Peter abandoned his for youth. Rumpel doesn't see it that way.
- Novelization: The first season's story arc was adapted as a novel. (By the time of its publication, such books had become rare.)
- No, You: When Hook shows up to drag Emma back to Storybrooke in mid-season 3 (mind you, Henry's memories of Storybrooke and their adventures were erased at this point).Henry: Why're you dressed like that?Hook: Why're you dressed like that?
- An Offer You Can't Refuse: With his kingdom on the line, this was King George's method of forcing David to play the part of James for the rest of his days. He threatened to destroy David's mother and anything else David held dear if he did not comply.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Elsa, Anna and Kristoff's retaking Arandelle from Prince Hans was mostly done off-screen. Notably, in a Call Back to , Anna apparently punched Hans in the face again.
- Oh, Crap: Regina, upon realizing that the Curse has been broken. The Blue Fairy calmly informs her that she'd better find somewhere to hide.
Belle: Because I commanded you not to.
- The expression on Emma's face when she sees the dragon.
- Regina, again, when Henry reveals the obstacle preventing Snow and Emma from returning to Storybrooke: Cora, Regina's mother, is alive and pissed. It's also enough to make Gold quiver when Regina informs him.
- And another one for Regina when Gold reveals that he does remember his identity as Rumplestiltskin.
- Regina has a minor one, when she notices Emma's arrival has caused the clock-tower to start working for the first time in 28 years.
- After the curse is broken and magic comes to Storybrooke, Regina is confronted by a lynch mob wanting her blood for what she did to them. Convinced that her powers have returned, she attempts to fire a spell at the mob and gets a glorious look on her face when she realizes that nothing happened.
- When the giant appears in "Tallahassee," he's bigger than expected. In Emma's horrified words "Oh, dammit."
- Zelena's face when Gold tells her that the dagger Belle has is a fake... and there is nothing to stop him killing her
- Hook and Emma's faces when met with Elsa's snow monster. Granted, they've seen many a menacing creature in past seasons, but Marshmallow takes the cake as being the most fear-inducing creature in Storybrooke.
- In the season 4 winter finale, Gold's reaction to being unable to crush Hook's heart is mere confusion...until he learns the reason.
- Oh My Gods!: Verbatim, in the Enchanted Forest.
- Older Than They Look: Anyone not named Emma and Henry by nature of the curse or their fairy tale nature. For instance, Mary Margaret/Snow White looks about as old as Emma... who is her daughter. Meanwhile, Regina also looks as old as Emma and, being the Evil Queen, she's older than Snow White.
- In fact, though all three actresses were born in the same order as their characters, Lana Parrilla (Regina/Queen) is less than 2 years older than Jennifer Morrison (Emma).
- Also, Neal/Baelfire mentions that, thanks to all his adventures, he's a couple of centuries old.
- Once Upon a Time: Not only is it the title, it's the first thing we see in the show!
- One Degree of Separation: To say too much would be spoilerific, but this is in full effect, especially in Season 2.
- One-Gender Race:
- Dwarves are one of these—all male, they hatch from eggs fully formed. With clothing.
- Fairies are also apparently all female. In Storybrooke, they are nuns.
- Giants appear to be all male. No female giants are seen or mentioned. Arlo, the father figure of the group, refers to himself as Anton's brother rather than father. It's later revealed that they're Not So Different from dwarves, as when Anton gets a pickaxe, he gets named Tiny.
- One-Hour Work Week: For being the sole cop in town, Emma isn't seen doing a lot of police work after the first season. She was right; there really isn't a lot of sheriffing going on in Storybrooke.
- One-Person Birthday Party: The series begins this way. When it turns out that her date was just a sham to get a bounty, Emma goes home to have a cupcake with a single candle on it by herself.
- One Steve Limit: More like a Two Steve Limit. In the original Peter Pan, Captain Hook's name is James. But since we already have a Prince James and a twin brother who uses his name, Hook's name is now Killian.
- The One That Got Away: Belle to Rumplestiltskin at least, for a time.
- One True Love: Generally. Regina and Robin Hood appear to be exempt from this.
- One-Word Title: "Dreamy", "Broken", "Tallahassee", "Tiny", "Manhattan", "Lacey", "Ariel" and "Kansas".
- Opening Narration: In the pilot, the premise of the show was laid out in screens of text that appeared before the action proper began.
- Open Mouth, Insert Foot: From the Pilot:Mary Margaret: He struggles with that most basic question that they all inevitably face: "Why would anyone give me away?". *cue Oh, Crap look on her face as she realizes that she just said that to Henry's birth mother.*
- Operation Blank: Henry's preferred method for naming plans.
- Names the plan to break the curse "Operation Cobra."
- Regina and Emma call the Henry rescue mission "Operation Henry" and "Operation Cobra Rescue", respectively.
- Regina and Henry name their plan to find the storybook author "Operation Mongoose."
- Orbital Kiss: David and Mary Margaret in Episode 10, and again in Episode 22.
- Order Versus Chaos: Regina (the mayor and all around Control Freak) and Emma (the woman who came to town and shook it from its foundations).
- Orgy of Evidence: "The Cricket Game".
- Orphanage of Fear: Where Emma and Pinocchio ended up when they first came to Earth.
- Orphan's Plot Trinket: Emma's baby blanket, Hansel and Gretel's compass.
- Ostentatious Secret: Several over the course of the series.
- What's in August Booth's box—twice. The first time it shows up in the series, it's used mainly to aggravate Emma, and quickly revealed to be Booth's typewriter. But the second time, Booth uses its contents to convince Neal Cassidy to believe in magic so he'll stop interfering with Emma's destiny and it is treated like Marsellus Wallace's briefcase from Pulp Fiction—the audience sees characters' reactions but does not see inside. We do eventually get to see what was inside. It was Booth's typewriter. Again. With, "I know you're Baelfire" typed on the sheet of paper in it. Remarkably prosaic, given that he could simply have said it aloud except that would have let the audience in on the secret prematurely.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Played straight or even exaggerated, since dwarves are born fully grown and conscious after hatching from eggs and are single-mindedly devoted to mining. Except for one accidentally sprinkled with fairy dust...
- Our Dragons Are Different: "The Shepherd".
- Our Genies Are Different: In the spin-off Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, it's revealed that those who cross Nyx, guardian of the Well of Wonders are punished for their desire to change fate by being turned into genies. However, it has yet to be confirmed if this was the Magic Mirror's origin story as well.
- Our Fairies Are Different: "Dreamy".
- Our Trolls Are Different: "Snow Falls".
- Our Werewolves Are Different: "Red-Handed". Lycanthropy is hereditary, not viral, and fades with age. Red turns out to be the werewolf, making this another case of External Retcon.
- Our Zombies Are Different: "Into The Deep". One consequence of holding the heart of a dead person is the wielder can revive them into a moving corpse.
- Out-of-Character Alert: After convincing Mr. Gold that he's Baelfire, August uncovers the dagger and tries to use it to control him as The Dark One. Mr. Gold instantly knows he's been fooled, since Baelfire intentionally came to our world because it contained no magic, and therefore would know the dagger would be powerless.
- Pongo tries but being a dog, it works as well as one might expect. At least the birds have Mary Margaret to talk to.
- Out of Focus: They aren't main characters, but a significant number of important characters from Season 1, such as Abigail/Kathryn Nolan and The Magic Mirror/Sidney Glass, haven't even been mentioned amongst the Charming family/Regina/Gold chaos of Season 2.
- The rest of the supporting cast suffer this in Seasons 3 and 4, with the new characters and plotlines pushing the citizens of Storybrooke to the wayside.
- The Outside World: The rest of the world is this to Storybrooke. No one goes there, unless they know where it is and are specifically looking for it, and the locals cannot leave without something bad happening to them, except Henry, since he's not part of the original curse. The series plot is kicked off when Henry leaves Storybrooke to look for his biological mother, Emma.
- Overprotective Dad: David/Charming full force with regard to Hook/Emma. His lines regarding the topic range from "stay away" to "it's time you and I had a little chat about your intentions with my daughter."
- Painful Transformation: Little John turning into a flying monkey.
- Papa Wolf:
- The Prince doesn't get a lot of time with his new baby, but in the few minutes they get together he takes down an army of mooks with only one arm free and transport Emma to safety.
- Rumplestiltskin could also be considered this to a degree, considering he was willing to go to any lengths necessary to try and keep his son from having to go to war. It turns out, Rumple engineered the entire plot as a Batman Gambit to get to the world without magic so he could find Bae again. Yeah. He counts.
- A literal and inverted example with the Big Bad Wolves. Granny got lucky with the one she meets as a child because it had already eaten her father and brothers. Said wolf was Red's grandfather.
- Geppetto blackmailed the Blue Fairy to ensure Pinocchio's safety.
- Parental Abandonment: Happens frequently, though it's usually forced abandonment.
- Charming and Snow were forced to separately transport Emma to the Land Without Magic since she is destined to break the curse.
- As with Geppetto and Pinnochio, in the same incident.
- The Evil Queen forcibly separates Hansel and Gretel from their father though they are later reunited in Storybrooke.
- Jefferson is also separated from his daughter, thanks to the Evil Queen. In Storybrooke he remembers her, but she is with a new family and doesn't remember him.
- Milah, Rumple's ex-wife and Baelfire's mom, took off and joined a pirate crew.
- Baelfire is later abandoned by Rumple too, who lets him fall thorough a portal alone and is too much of a coward to follow him into the unknown.
- Revealed to be a case of Like Father, Like Son, as Rumple was abandoned by his father with the latter's decision to de-age and become Peter Pan.
- Hook tells Baelfire he was abandoned by his father.
- Cora is revealed to have given up her firstborn: Zelena.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: In "The Miller's Daughter" to protect her family and get revenge for her mother, Snow White finally decides to go after Cora and Regina. How she goes about it isn't pretty, either. She finds and curses Cora's heart, then tricks Regina into putting it back, making Regina the instrument of her own mother's death. For an extra kicker, replacing the heart restores Cora's ability to properly love Regina, just for the last few moments of her life.
- Debatable since it was her only way to save her whole family. She was also surprised by Regina and had to find an excuse really quickly to save her family, and we see that she changed her mind despite the risks when she had the time to think. Perhaps a case of Mama Bear.
- Rumple pulls a first-rate one on Tamara in the Season 3 opener. He finds Tamara, grievously wounded, but still alive. He stops, heals her with magic, and she's down on her knees apologizing. Rumple looks like he's going to reassure her, then rips out her heart and crushes it to dust.
- Perception Filter: No one from Storybrooke wonders why nobody (except Henry) has aged in the past 28 years or why no one can remember the first time they met. Except Regina, Jefferson, and Henry. The former is because Regina wanted it so. Henry lacks it because he was born outside the town. This fact was what helped him realize something wasn't right in his town.
- Pet the Dog:
- Mr. Gold has a few.
- He insists on giving Emma a pair of radios to use with Henry, since "We have so little time with our children."
- Also a retroactive one in the Enchanted Forest: Rumplestilskin is a little subdued when talking to David and his mother about him taking James's place, and doesn't really do any of his usual antics. When we see his backstory, we find out that this is because the situation is very similar to the one he went through with his own son, so he can empathize.
- In "Skin Deep", he has several with Belle in their "lighter" moments, including keeping the chipped tea cup she broke.
- In Season 2, Mr. Gold actually does pet a dog: Archie's Dalmation, Pongo. When asked if he likes dogs, he murmurs something about having been acquainted with a sheepdog or two long ago.
- Regina's love for her son is one of her few redeeming qualities. Henry being in danger has lead to her teaming up with Emma to save him twice and most of her Pet the Dog moments (which include saving the lives of her sworn enemies) are for Henry's sake.
- Tamara gets one in "Heart of the Truest Believer" when she tells Henry to run from the Lost Boys.
- Mr. Gold has a few.
- Picture-Perfect Presentation: Either the illustrations in Henry's book become active scenes, or active scenes freeze into the illustrations in Henry's book.
- Pimped-Out Dress: The royal ladies in the past get a number of fancy dresses.
- Please, I Will Do Anything!: Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold gets some variation of this often. Usually along the lines of "I'll pay any price."
- Plot Threads:
- The Power of Love: A law of magic in the Enchanted Forest is that "true love's kiss can break any curse." This is such a prominent aspect that Charming and Abigail both deem it a viable solution to Frederick's situation (and it could have worked if his lips weren't blocked by his helmet).
- In the season ender Emma's farewell kiss to Henry not only revives him, but triggers a World-Healing Wave.
- In "Welcome to Storybrooke", Mr. Gold notes that while Cora was dangerous because she lacked a heart, the fact Regina still has hers and is mad with grief over her mother's murder makes Regina even more dangerous than Cora ever was.
- Snow and Charming are often stated to have "the truest love", a love that goes beyond your standard true love. It's powerful enough that they are literally of one heart. When Charming's heart is crushed by Snow in order to reenact the Dark Curse in "A Curious Thing", Snow realizes that this means they can both survive off of the other's heart, and that Regina can split Snow's heart in two so that both could live.
- Power Perversion Potential: During the first curse Mr Gold can literally get Regina to do whatever he wants if he says please. If you don't think that sounds bad... take a moment and use your imagination
- Precision F-Strike: While not exactly 'F', Rumplestiltskin ordering Belle into silence could count. Previously he'd been a man that kept his cool or covered everything with a smile and a giggle.Mr. Gold: Shut up!
Belle: But this means it's true love—
Mr. Gold: Shut the HELL up!
- Premiseville: Storybrooke, a town full of storybook characters.
- Pretty in Mink: Fur trim on the outfits in the past is fairly common.
- Prince Charming: The main Prince, James, is sarcastically (at first) nicknamed Prince Charming by his future wife, Snow White, when he captures her in a net. She says that he's so charming if that's the only way he can get someone. She did steal from him.
- Princesses Rule:
- Charming and Snow White are never referred to as King or Queen over their land.
- King George (the former ruler) is still alive, and Queen Regina still has control over Snow's ancestral land.
- Primal Scene: Emma and Henry walk in on Snow and Charming in bed. Henry is too innocent to know what's going on but the horrified look on Emma's face prompts this line from Charming to Snow after they leave:"It's impressive that we can still give her a few traumatic childhood memories at this stage in the game."
- Product Placement:
- Henry is shown reading Marvel Comics. ABC and Marvel are both owned by Disney.
- In "7:15 A.M.", we catch Regina in a grocery store with a Fantastic Four comic. Gift for her son, or is the evil queen secretly One of Us?
- A few products from LOST turn up, such as Apollo candy bars, an Oceanic airplane flying above the woods of Storybrooke as Pinocchio arrives in our world, and Emma, Gold and Henry taking an Ajira flight to New York.
- The Promise: Several, although the most important one is the charming family motto: "I will find you." And they always do.
- Prophecy Twist:
- The Blind Seer in "Manhattan" tells Rumplestilskin that his actions on the battlefield would cause his son to become fatherless. He would know when the army rides "cows" into battle. The "cows" are leather saddles.
- Glinda tells of a prophecy that a powerful sorcerer would arrive at Oz by cyclone, and will assume the fourth seat in the Sisterhood of Witches. She first claims Zelena as the fulfillment of this, until the latter glimpses the Book of Records and finds out that the child of prophecy would only do so after defeating "the greatest evil", which she takes to mean that Dorothy is meant to defeat her and take her place.
- Ingrid is told that she would find a child named Emma who was born with magic, and that she would lead Ingrid to her happy ending. Ingrid took it to mean that Emma would become a sister to both her and Elsa. Instead, her encounters with Emma and Elsa in Storybrooke lead to a case of Death Equals Redemption - but Ingrid sees it as her happy ending and is okay with that. There's also a minor version in that Ingrid sets out on the whole quest to obtain the love of her sister. She intended it to be Emma and Elsa, but in the end it was Gerda (Elsa's mother) all along.
- Punny Name/Meaningful Name/Theme Naming: All the Storybrooke (pun for "storybook") residents have names that hearken to who they were in their Fairy Tale lives.
- Archie Hopper, Henry's shrink, is really Jiminy Cricket. Archie's dalmatian is named Pongo.
- Mr. Gold, the evil landlord, is really Rumpelstiltskin, who spun straw into gold for the miller's daughter.
- The Mayor, Reginanote Millsnote , Henry's mother, is really the Evil Queen. This one wasn't whipped up by the Curse, she was named Regina before the curse hit. In "The Miller's Daughter", her mother explained why she chose the name—she always planned for her daughter to be queen one day.
- "Mills" is also similar to Greek word for "apple", a fruit very closely associated with Evil Queen Regina.
- Regina's mother Cora has a thing for hearts (and is the Queen of Hearts). The word corazon is Spanish for "heart."
- Snow White's Mary Margaret name has several.
- Ms. Blanchardnote , Henry's teacher, is really Snow White.
- Also, her first name is Mary and she's the mother of the one destined to break the curse.
- Mary Margaret also ends up being the alias Snow gave Red before she trusted the later. She said Margaret first, stumbled, and then said Mary.
- Taking another biblical reference, Mary Margaret is used as a pseudonym by nuns for its close proximity to Mary Magdalene. For those of you who don't know Biblical history, Magdalene was a prostitute who became one of Jesus' greatest believers after he rose from the grave, forsaking her former ways and following him. Mary Margaret is one of the purest characters on the show, being an elementary school teacher and having crises of conscience from a one-night stand, but after her affair with David comes to light, she is given the names "tramp" and "harlot" by Regina and Leroy, respectively, effectively making it the complete inverse of the Biblical character. She got better.
- Doc, from Snow White's story, is acting as her obstetrician.
- Prince James's counterpart is named David Nolan, meaning "beloved champion". David is also the name of a famous shepherd in The Bible who becomes king by slaying the giant Goliath and James means "he who supplants", foretelling his background as a Backup Twin. Also, this means that the savior comes from the royal house of David the shepherd.
- Ruby is Little Red Riding Hood.
- Ashley Boyd in Storybrooke is Cinderellanote
- Sidney Glass, the local newspaper editor and Yes-Man to the mayor, used to be the Queen's Magic Mirror. And his newspaper is called The Mirror. 'Sidney' is an anagram of 'Disney'.
- Abigail means "father rejoice" or "father's joy" in Hebrew which was exactly how her father, Midas, describes her in The Shepherd. Abigail is also the same name as King David's second wife from The Bible.
- The Mad Hatter being named "Jefferson" is probably a Shout-Out to Jefferson Airplane and their notorious Alice in Wonderland based single 'White Rabbit'. Regina caught his attention in the Finale by sticking a White Rabbit card onto Grace's bike. His daughter is named 'Grace' in the Enchanted Forest, the name of Jefferson Airplane's lead singer.
- The last names "Swan" (she's a princess), "Humbert" (a great warrior), and "Nolan" (a noble man) are meant to be meaningful as well.
- Dr. Frankenstein becomes Dr. Whale. James Whale was the director of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein.
- Purple Is Powerful: Regina's magic is purple. All her magical effects (save those caused by fairy dust) are accompanied by a purple mist.
- Put on a Bus: Sidney, who is locked away in Regina's private asylum where is apparently remains even after the curse is broken because actor Giancarlo Esposito became committed to co-starring in another series, Revolution.
- Several minor characters get this treatment once they find their happy endings in Storybrooke. Cinderella/Ashley and Thomas/Shaun are engaged, Jefferson finally reunites with his daughter after the curse is lifted; after these events, they are never seen again. And now that "The Jolly Roger" reveals that Ariel and Eric already have their happy ending...
- Notably King George hasn't been seen since Season 2, after a failed coup against David for leadership of the town, he appered later in a flashback, but that's it.
- The Bus Came Back: Kathryn Nolan reappears in the Season 3 finale. Sidney is also coming for Season 4.
- Commuting on a Bus: Ruby/Red as of Season 2 (after becoming part of the main cast!), due to Meghan Ory playing the female lead on another series. However, she returns as a guest-star during the second half of season 3. And in light of said series' cancellation, there's no reason not to assume she may return to this series once more.
- Pyrrhic Victory: When the Dark Curse was initially cast, Regina's victory was this. See Victory Is Boring for the details.