Once Upon A Time: Tropes U to Z
Tropes A to D | Tropes E to F | Tropes G to H | Tropes I to L | Tropes M to P | Tropes Q to T | Tropes U-Z
Once Upon a Time provides examples of the following tropes:
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- Uncanny Village: Storybrooke. In many ways, in fact, it resembles The Village from The Prisoner - an idyllic seaside community with a dark secret that residents cannot leave without dire consequences.
- Unexpected Character:
- Dr. Whale/Dr. Frankenstein has to take the cake.
- Greg and Tamara, possibly the only two characters in the series so far not grounded in any mythology; revealed to be nothing more than two of Peter Pan's goons.
- While a few may have theorized that The Snow Queen may appear at some point, nobody thought it was going to actually be Elsa from Frozen, much less that she would bring along the entire supporting cast of Anna, Kristoff, Sven, and Hans. And absolutely no one would've suspected that the version from the original fairy tale would then show up as a separate character.
- Cruella DeVil She may on Disney's iconic villainesses, but her story is in no way a faerie tale or even a sci-fi like Whale.
- The Unfair Sex: Inverted. When David and Mary Margaret's affair is discovered, she gets the cold shoulder from the town, but his part in it is ignored. Granted, the townsfolk knew he was amnesiac, implying she took advantage of him. It's also mixed in with Fridge Brilliance that Regina created the curse to make Snow White miserable - so of course the townspeople would blame her primarily.
- The Unfettered: Played Straight with Rumplestiltskin when he tries finding his son. Playedwith Regina in season 2, when she tries to live by the decision that Henry is off-limits. She has slipped up once or twice, like the time she almost put him under a love curse.
- Uniqueness Decay: As pointed out in New Powers as the Plot Demands, the Dark Curse and the wardrobe were originally the only ways to travel betweens worlds. Later seasons introduced many easier way to do the same thing.
- The Unreveal: Zig-Zagged in "The Return", where is revealed that August is Rumplestitskin's son...and then revealed that he isn't.
- Unscrupulous Hero: Elsa once again has good intentions (in this case, she's looking for her sister Anna). However, she's perfectly willing to do anything to find her.
- Unusual Euphemism: When Snow White is disarming herself before going to a parlay with the Queen, Grumpy urges her to "Keep the little knife between your tuffets."
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Princess Abigail reveals she is so used to her father's gold castle, it no longer even gets any reaction of shock from her.
- Urban Fantasy: Storybrooke is this mixed with Heroic Fantasy for the Enchanted Forest as well as many of the other lands except for Dr. Frankenstein's world, which is counted as Steam Punk.
- Valentine's Day Episodes: "Skin Deep". It aired shortly before and was set during Valentine's Day and involved a couple breaking up, True Love's Kiss not working and a psychotic breakdown.
- Vanishing Village: Implied by the fact a rather sizable town located on the seashore appears to attract no visitors (at least since the curse was broken). Seasons 2 and 3 show people from the outside visiting but they already know where it is. By Season 4, it's back to this trope.
- Vengeance Feels Empty: It happens to Regina, because after what she went through, she wants a revenge which continues whatever happens.
- Victory Is Boring: It is revealed that after the first few days of living in Storybrooke, Regina found the repeated behavior boring. She finally won and all are in their place but 1) no one knows it and 2) they respect her because the curse makes them respect her, not because they actually want to.
- Villains Act, Heroes React: Filling in with Family-Unfriendly Aesop; the heroes are, more often than not, totally ineffective. Even the villains, before they turned evil, were having the universe dump on them, and the "good" guys only "win" by taking the evil choice. But being the bad guy in this universe means you win, even if the victory turns out hollow.
- Villain Ball:
- Emma was perfectly willing to leave her son Henry with his adoptive mother Regina (The Evil Queen), but Regina shows off her Genre Blindness, her inability to simply keep her mouth shut, and this trope to convince Emma to stay. Emma ends up The Chosen One that can break the curse that gave Regina her power in the first place.
- Regina holds the ball several times during the first season. She believes Rumplestiltskin won't remember the deal he made with her to enact the curse, despite the fact that he created the curse so could easily make a loophole. She also attempts to frame Mary Margaret with his help, after he suggests something "tragic" should happen to Kathryn Nolan, and uses those Exact Words to simply have her disappear for a while than reappear at the last minute, and all the evidence leads to her.
- She holds it again in the penultimate episode and season finale, when she attempts to put Emma under the sleeping curse and gloats about how she won. However, this backfires when Henry eats the turnover meant for Emma, and the chain of events results in the curse being broken. Say it with me.
- Villain-Beating Artifact: The series has a twist on this trope. The only way to bring down the Dark One is to stab him with his dagger, but then you become the Dark One yourself.
- Villainous Breakdown: Rumplestiltskin's "rosebud scene" moment after being told that Belle is dead.
- The Villain Makes the Plot: While heroes like Snow White and Charming are proactive in their own way, the entire plot would not be possible without the actions of villains.
- Villains Never Lie: For some reason (that Regina's description of the incident might be believable in this world aside), Rumplestiltskin believes the Evil Queen when she tells him that his Love Interest was Driven to Suicide.
- Villain World: The entire premise of the show is that the Evil Queen sent all of the inhabitants of her world to a land where she could win.
- Viral Transformation: In Season 3 it is revealed the Wicked Witch's flying monkeys can make more of themselves by biting victims. Poor Little John.
- Visual Pun: Emma says she joined forces with Gold to "fight fire with..." (at this point the door they were headed for explodes into a fire).
- Voodoo Zombie: Cora resurrects several people whom she killed by ripping out their hearts using their hearts which she magically preserved.
- Watching Troy Burn: Regina tearing down the wooden play structure, Emma's and Henry's secret base for Operation Cobra.
- Wham Episode:
- "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter". Regina remembers everything and has access to at least some of her magic, which she uses to kill Graham.
- "Skin Deep". Mr. Gold remembers everything too and now Regina knows it.
- "The Stable Boy". The source of Regina's grudge against Snow White: After Regina saved Snow's life, Snow naively disclosed Regina's relationship with the eponymous stable boy, resulting in said stable boy's murder and Regina's forced marriage to Snow's father. What's more, Kathryn is alive!
- "A Land Without Magic". the townsfolk have their memories restored, Jefferson releases Belle and leads her back to Mr. Gold, and Mr. Gold sends magic into Storybrooke.
- "Broken". The episode's flashbacks are not flashbacks at all - part of the Enchanted Forest survived The Curse, and Emma and Snow are currently trapped there.
- "We Are Both". Anyone who tries to leave Storybrooke will lose all memories of their Fairy Tale life, possibly forever, Regina has her magic back, and Cora is alive.
- "Queen of Hearts". Cora and Hook have appeared in the real world, ready to exact their revenge.
- "The Outsider". Rumple creates a potion that allows him to cross over the boundary. At the end of the episode, he crosses the line, much to his and Belle's pleasure (though she can't come with him). Belle is then shot in the back by Hook, stumbles forward over the line, and loses her memories of Rumple/the Enchanted Forest/being Belle. Hook is then run over by a man with Pennsylvania license plates, meaning the outside world has come to Storybrooke.
- "Manhattan". Neal is really Rumple's long-lost son Baelfire, making Rumple Henry's grandfather. It's prophesied that Henry will bring about Rumplestiltskin's downfall.
- "The Miller's Daughter". Snow goes over to the dark side in order to defeat Cora; Cora's relationship with Rumple is revealed and it revealed that they were lovers and Cora almost gave up power for love before she took out her heart.
- "Selfless, Brave and True". Tamara is only with Neal in order to research magic, and she is the Her that Owen/Greg has been in contact with. Also, she fatally wounds August, who is reverted back to his original form of Pinocchio.
- "Second Star to the Right". Bae was sent to Wendy Darling's house after leaving the fairy tale world, and ends up being dragged by Peter Pan's shadow to Neverland where he lands on HOOK's ship. Meanwhile, Tamara makes her move, and uses one of the magic beans to send Bae away again!
- "And Straight on 'Til Morning". Emma has magic power at least equal to Regina's. Henry is kidnapped by Greg and Tamara and taken to Neverland, and is followed by the Charmings, Gold, Hook, and Regina. The Lost Boys work for an evil Peter Pan, who wants Henry for some reason - and has wanted him for hundreds of years. And Bae has been taken to the Enchanted forest, barely alive, and found by Mulan, Aurora, and Philip.
- "Think Lovely Thoughts". Peter Pan is Rumplestiltskin's father, who took his name from a doll he had given Rumple before Pan de-aged himself in order to stay in Neverland forever. Pan then successfully convinces Henry to give him his heart, gaining ultimate power and possibly killing Henry in the process.
- "Going Home". Gold sacrifices himself to take out Pan, Regina sends everyone but Emma and Henry back to the Enchanted Forest in order to escape the new curse, Storybooke itself no longer exists, and Emma and Henry themselves no longer remember anything about the town or its inhabitants. Then, after one year living under new memories given them by Regina, Hook shows up at their front door asking for their help...
- "Witch Hunt". The Wicked Witch of the West and Regina are half-sisters through Cora. Wicked wants revenge against Regina because Wicked was given up at birth and Regina got to be raised by Cora. Rumple is alive (and practically insane) and is being held captive by Wicked.
- "Quiet Minds". Neal's alive. So is Rumpelstiltskin, as revealed earlier. However, Rumple is revealed to have been revived at the cost of Neal's life, and his apparent insanity was due to a desperate attempt to save Neal by absorbing him. Once Neal realizes this, he asks Emma to separate the both of them so they can finally go after the Wicked Witch. She does, and he dies in her arms.
- "Snow Drifts": The magic from Zelena's brooch opens a time portal that sucks in Hook and Emma, sending them to the time right before Snow and Charming meet for the first time. Emma unwittingly stops this from happening, forcing her and Hook to create a new turn of events and make sure that her parents' relationship isn't completely undone.
- "There's No Place Like Home": Emma and Hook succeed in re-orchestrating Snow and Charming's relationship, and they eventually return to the present, with a companion that Emma decided to save from Regina's castle, later revealed to be Maid Marian. Another object was unknowingly brought along to Storybrooke as well, a golden urn whose contents materialize into a woman: Elsa.
- "Heart of Gold". Marian never returned from the past. Zelena is still alive, and has been disguised as Marian all this time through the power of the six-leafed clover. Now she is working with Rumpelstiltskin, and is using her connection with Robin Hood as leverage to get Regina to cooperate.
- "Operation Mongoose": Holy Guacamole! After a season of seeking the author, fighting fate and what have you, suddenly the author begins to rewrite EVERYTHING! Turning heroes evil, villains good, throwing the entire history of the enchanted forest topsy turvy. However, at the end of the conflict, HENRY becomes the new author and breaks the enchanted quill, but the Apprentice dies, and in order to save the town from being consumed by the Darkness, Emma uses the dagger (now without Rumple's name, since the Apprentice took the Dark One out of him).....and becomes the new Dark One. In order to save her, Killian and Henry are told that they need to find the sorcerer, who is revealed to be not Yen Sid, but Merlin!
- And the season 5 premier "Dark Swan" is just as much wham. Though Emma is about to fall into darkness, her family and friends appear and save her. Then King Arthur appears and leads the group to Camelot, declaring that they are destined to find Merlin for them. Cut to six weeks later, the group lands back in Storybrooke, with no memories (again) of what transpired during their trip. Then Emma appears, and declares that she is the Dark One, and there is no longer a saviour in Storybrooke.
- Wham Line:
Kristoff: You might know it better by what the inhabitants call it.
- An early one from "The Thing You Love Most":Rumpelstiltskin: You'll have to excuse me, please.
- Goes with the above in "Skin Deep".Regina: Tell me your name.
Mr. Gold: ... Rumplestiltskin.
- And this one from the end of "We Are Both":Emma: Who are you?
Cora: A friend. My name's Cora.
- The line at the end of "In The Name of the Brother":Greg Mendell: Honey, you're not gonna believe what I saw.
- At the end of "Manhattan", when the Seer explains to Rumplestiltskin about the child (Henry) who will be his downfall.Rumplestiltskin: (Beat) ...Then I'll just have to kill him.
- From the end of "Heart of the Truest Believer":I am Peter Pan.
- From "New York City Serenade", when Emma is talking to her new boyfriend, Walsh, after she has just taken a potion to restore her memories:Emma: I wish you could see this the way I do.
Walsh: And I wish you had never drank that potion.
- From "Witch Hunt", as the Wicked Witch gives water and food to someone in a cage, an arm snaps out and grabs her hand from inside.Gold: You should have never brought me back.
- From "A Tale of Two Sisters", when Elsa wonders why she's never heard of "Misthaven":
Elsa: What's that?
Kristoff: The Enchanted Forest.
August: The Sorcerer trapped the Author behind a door.(And later on)August: The Author was trapped inside the book.
- From "Heroes and Villains", when Gold tries and fails to crush Hook's heart.Gold: Why can't I crush your heart?
Belle: (wielding the dagger) Because I commanded you not to.
- From "Poof Unfortunate Souls" which has two, one told to Gold's group and another to Henry, Emma, and Regina:
Adoption Agent: What are you going to name her?
- From "Best Laid Plans", when we see what happened to Maleficent's child:
Adoptive Parent: Lily. We're going to name her Lily.
Robin: She's pregnant.
- From "Lily", the reason why Robin Hood won't leave Zelena:
Emma: You went to Camelot to get the darkness out of me, and you failed.
- From "Dark Swan", Emma summarizes what happened during their trip to Camelot in order to cure her of being the Dark One.
- An early one from "The Thing You Love Most":
- Wham Shot:
- The shot in "Think Lovely Thoughts" where Rumpelstiltskin's father turns into Peter Pan.
- The shot near the end of "New York City Serenade" where we see Snow/Mary Margaret's very pregnant stomach.
- Rumpelstiltskin's face through the cage at the very end of "Witch Hunt".
- An urn brought from Rumplestiltskin's vault opens and releases Elsa at the end of "There's No Place Like Home".
- Rumpelstiltskin opens the container in the mysterious house he and Belle find in "A Tale of Two Sisters". It contains Yen Sid's hat..
- The final shot of Operation Mongoose is the Dark One's dagger with "Emma Swan" engraved on it.
- Early in the season five premier "Dark Swan", we see the broken Excalibur, and immediately after it's missing half - the Dark One's dagger.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: In the season three episode Going Home, the the curse is lifted, sending everyone back to the Enchanted Forest other than Henry, because he was born in our land, and Emma, who Regina was able to allow to stay here with new memories because she's the savior. There is no mention of Ashley/Cinderella's baby, who was born in this land back in season one. According to Word of God, this is because Cinderella's baby was conceived in the Enchanted Forest. Thus, the baby was physically present when the curse struck.
- A number of characters come and go, and are absent even from episodes in which one would expect them to appear. For example, Ruby's absence from the first half of season 3 (due in real life to the actress being involved in another series), though her name is dropped once. The establishment of a second curse later in season 3 has raised the trope question as it is not known who among previously established characters were actually sent back to the restored Storybrooke.
- Early in season 3, Regina takes out the heart of one of the lost boys named Devin in order to sent Henry a message and one half of a magic compact mirror. We never saw Regina returning his heart and Devin never appears again.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: King George justifies killing an innocent man with the fact that he was a mouse.
- Snow and Charming justify performing a ritual to transfer their unborn child's potential for evil into Maleficent's child by reasoning that it's a baby dragon, in an egg. Snow is horrified once the egg starts to hatch to reveal a human baby inside.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Mary Margaret gives one of these to Emma over Emma's attempt to run away, throwing all her lectures about fighting back in her face.
- Henry shouts a variant when Rumplestiltskin says the only way to stop Regina is by killing her, with Charming and Emma considering it as an option.
- White and Grey Morality: Not completely, but with three of the show's four main villains (as of Season 2) being Anti-Villains, it comes a lot closer to it than most other shows these days. However, the show starts out appearing to be an example of Black and White Morality; it is only through Character Development that the show's outlook shifts.
- When "Sympathy For The De Vil" aired, a number of fans were pleasantly surprised that Cruella De Vil was simply evil, without a tragic backstory or other mitigating factors, because so many of the villains have been portrayed as at least somewhat sympathetic.
- Whole Plot Reference: People familiar with Henry's so-called "delusions" assume they take this form, as he casts normal people into fairy tale roles from his book.
- The Season 3 finale is an adaptation of Back to the Future, which is lampshaded by Emma, albeit only by referencing Marty McFly, and before the event preventing her parents from meeting and falling in love happens.
- Not only that, it's also a reference to A New Hope! Among other things, Snow White staying behind to fight the Queen is like Obi-Wan fighting Darth Vader, Hook gets to have a Han Solo rescue moment, etc. The biggest hint is Emma using the nom de guerre "Princess Leia."
- Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: When Neal tells Robin Hood he's The Dark One's son, Robin believes him because no one would try to claim that if it weren't true.
- William Telling: Peter pulls out an apple. Henry says he doesn't like apples. "It's a family thing." Peter tells him that the apple's not for eating... it's for target practice.
- Winter Royal Lady: Frozen's Elsa in sparkly ice-blue, plus Ingrid the Snow Queen in sparkly white.
- Wistful Amnesia: Everyone in Storybrooke, until season 2.
- Wicked Stepmother: Snow White and Cinderella are both mistreated by their stepmothers. Cinderella's is implied to have treated her as a slave, and Snow's tried to sentence her to a Fate Worse Than Death. It's eventually deconstructed on the latter's part, showing how Regina was forced into marrying the king due to her mother's manipulations and years of being married to a king that clearly still pines for The Lost Lenore drove her to become a villain. She also starts off quite willing to love Snow but ultimately blamed her for her mother murdering her lover.
- World Half Full: The Enchanted Forest. It has enchantment and beauty galore, but what little we've seen of it hasn't been good. King George was flat broke and blackmails David to keep up the act of being Prince James. The "real" Prince slaughtered a prisoner without an eye-blink as part of a blood sport. Dragon attacks plague the countryside. The Ogre Wars have been going on for 50 years or more. Rumplestiltskin cuts deals with impunity, even when he's locked up. And the Evil Queen's bluff to Rumplestiltskin that Belle was put in an insane asylum where she was 'purged' with flails, whips, and fire to the point of suicide is considered a realistic enough occurrence for him to believe it. What makes the Enchanted Forest preferable to Storybrooke is mainly that the bad guys had finally been defeated in the Enchanted Forest, but in Storybrooke they are in charge again - and that the lives that people lived in the Enchanted Forest were real and possible to change, whereas in Storybrooke they are caught in a static, fabricated existence where they can never reach any happy ending.
- World-Healing Wave: Emma triggers one by her good-bye kiss to Henry, shattering the curse holding the town.
- Would Hit a Girl: The knight who viciously backhands Snow when she tries to make her way to a captured Charming in Heart of Darkness. Also Hook, who socks Belle to knock her out as soon as he realizes she's no use to him; and Rumple, who knocks out Red because she was trying to stop him and Regina from cursing a well out of which Mary Margaret and Emma were going to come out.
- Likewise on the heroes' side, Charming chases after Tamara with the full intention of apprehending her. He also has a sword fight with Bo Peep (yes, really). Anton the giant also kills the (female!) Jack the Giant Slayer with a poisoned sword she was going to use on him.
- Written by the Winners: Captain Hook portrays the Human-Giant wars as a war against brutal giants who came down to pillage the land and kill humans. Humans drove them back up the beanstalk, and killed all but one, the most vicious of them all. The last surviving giant - who is hardly brutal by nature - claims humans started the war and slaughtered giants for the giant's gold and magic beans, and gleefully slaughtered them, but since they won got to paint history how they wanted.
- Wrongful Accusation Insurance: Averted. Mary Margaret has been framed for killing Katherine, and is in holding. When someone slips her a key, she uses it to escape. Emma tracks her down and convinces her to return pointing out while they may be able to prove her innocence in Katherine's death, if anyone else learns that she escaped she will be guilty of that, and no one will be able to help her. It's eventually revealed that Regina slipped her the key, for that very reason.
- X Meets Y: The Disney Animated Canon meets other fairy tales/public domain stories (e.g. Frankenstein) meets LOST.
- Xanatos Gambit: While most of Gold's plots are of the Batman variety, his plan to break the curse is pure Xanatos. Best case scenario, Emma sticks around and breaks the curse but he also put in a failsafe: If she dies then the curse is broken. Sooner or later, it will break. AND, he had a True Love potion failsafe.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: The entire show thus far has been one giant game of this played by Rumplestiltskin with the ultimate goal of following his son into our world while still retaining his powers. And it would appear to be working out beautifully."Let's just say... I'm invested in your future."
- Xenafication: Snow White as an Action Girl and Little Red Riding Hood as a werewolf.
- Belle, mildly. Though she's far from an expert fighter, she's clever enough to neutralize the Yaoguai.
- Gretel is another mild example. While she doesn't do them much harm, she does attack the Queen's guards with a sling.
- Maid Marian was often portrayed as a Damsel in Distress in other works, but in this series, she tries to defend her comrades against a snow golem using a bow and arrow.
- Red Riding Hood's grandmother definitely. Far from being easily killed and eaten by a wolf, this one stands guard all night with a crossbow (and rarely misses a shot). Never Mess with Granny indeed!
- Anna from Frozen also has been taught how to sword fight since she met Kristoff.
- You ALL Share My Story: Many of the Fairy Tales overlap, or tie into one another. Snow White's arc ties into Little Red Riding Hood's. Hansel and Gretel are used by the Evil Queen to get the infamous apple. King Midas's daughter was set up with Prince Charming for an Arranged Marriage, etc.
- You Are Not Ready: Said by Henry to Emma in the Pilot over her being "ready" to break the curse. Given that she definitely didn't believe him at that point, he was probably right.
- You Can't Fight Fate: Played With. According to the "seer" there are things that "will be" and things that "can be." The former will happen no matter what, while the latter may or may not happen. Telling the difference is difficult, and the sheer number of possibilities is overwhelming even for someone as powerful as Rumplestiltskin.Blind Seer: The future is a puzzle.
- You Go Girl: Mulan refuses to be called "a girl" and prefers saying that she is a woman and a warrior to the surprised princess Aurora; Milah wanted more than a life as a stay-at-home mom and wife to the town coward.
- You Kill It, You Bought It: How Rumplestiltskin got his powers.
- Your Cheating Heart:
- Emma's "date" in the pilot.
- In Episode 5, Emma hints that she had been involved with a married man.
- David's and Mary Margaret's affair from Episode 10 onward. It's complicated because in the Enchanted Forest, they are married, but in Storybrooke, they've forgotten and David ends up "married" to someone else.
- The Queen and the Genie (while the former is married to Snow White's father). The Genie solves this by Murdering the Hypotenuse. It turns out the Queen was never in love with him.
- Younger Than They Look: 28-year-old Emma Swan is stated to be 18 when she got pregnant with Henry. However, the flashback episode "Tallahassee" showed that her teenage self looked no different that herself in the present day, save for a pair of glasses and different hairstyle and clothes. Neal, Emma's ex and Henry's biological father, was stated to be at least 23 on his 'Wanted' poster but looks like he's in his 30s. Justified by the fact that he is a fairy tale character. The former was especially egregious when Season 4 showed Emma as a teenager. Jennifer Morrison was too old to convincingly play Emma at sixteen, so a younger actress was cast...who would rapidly morph into Jennifer Morrison only a couple of years after.
- You're Not My Mother:
- Henry says this at least once to Regina. He takes it back later, though.
- When the Queen makes reference to the Huntsman's parents who abandoned him in the woods, the Huntsman replies, "Those were not my parents. They merely gave birth to me."
- Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Played straight, except it's the prince. Snow White and her allies storm King George's castle to rescue Charming, only to find out that Regina has already whisked him away to her own castle, leaving behind a full-length mirror in his cell to project his image and allow him and Snow to share a moment of mutual anguish.
- Your Magic's No Good Here: The whole show is kind of built around this: Fairytale characters dealing with Real Life where their powers don't work.
- You Sexy Beast: Despite (or because of?) his weird eyes, somewhat reptilian-like skin and manic quirks, Rumplestiltskin has his fair share of fangirls and fanfics. Possible explanations may include being portrayed by Robert Carlyle.