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  • Abandon Shipping:
    • Early on, Golden Swan (Emma/Gold) was quite popular. It lost some of its popularity after Belle was introduced but was mostly deserted after it was revealed that Gold is Henry's grandfather.
    • Any lingering hopes for August/Pinocchio x Emma fans after August's reappearance in "Selfless, Brave and True" were dashed when puppet August is turned back into a real boy... a real 7-year old boy.
    • Some of the Peter Pan/Wendy shippers ditched after it was revealed Pan enslaved poor Wendy and kept her locked in a cage for untold years, also keeping John and Michael as servants while threatening them that he'd kill their imprisoned sister. Only the most stubborn loyalists remained after the additional bizarre twist that Pan is Rumpelstiltskin's father, de-aged, and mostly under the collective agreement that everyone ignore that bit.
    • Speaking of Pan, a surprising number of people shipped him with Henry, despite Henry being 11 and Pan being biologically under 18 and chronologically hundreds of years old, but even of those who weren't deterred by age, most abandoned ship when it was revealed Pan was his great-grandfather.
    • Most Jefferson/Emma shippers have more or less jumped ship at this point, given that: 1) Jefferson's storyline has been resolved and he is unlikely to appear on the show again and 2) as of season 3, Emma has had not one but two canonical and active love interests.
    • To some, the events of Season 5 (where Emma and Hook become Dark Ones and do horrible things to each other) caused people to abandon the Captain Swan ship, particularly Outlaw Queen shippers.
    • Rumbelle also lost a lot of its appeal around about Season 5 and 6 when it became clear that it was becoming abusive.
  • Accidental Innuendo:
    • The infamous "How to get the savior to taste my forbidden fruit?" line. In the show Regina is referring to the poisoned apple, but due to "forbidden fruit" often being slang for a woman's private parts, it comes off like Regina asking how to get Emma to sleep with her. This line is still often referenced by Swan Queen shippers years later.
    • "I want to see your hook inside his body". Given that fans had already picked up on the Ho Yay between Hook and Charming, this was the worst thing Pan could have possibly said.
    • Baelfire's name is often shortened to Bae, which in our world is a term you would call your boyfriend or girlfriend.
    • Regina's "tell your timbers to stop shivering, pirate" can sound like she's making an Unusual Euphemism for something else.
  • Actor Shipping:
    • Jennifer Morrison gets shipped quite a bit with her co-stars, most notably Colin O'Donoghue and Lana Parrilla. The flirty banter (on and off-screen) between Jennifer and Colin O'Donoghue (who plays her love interest Hook) leads a lot of Captain Swan shippers to ship Colifer. There is a large section of Swan Queen shippers who ship Jennifer with Lana Parrilla (Morrilla) to this day, due to the pair's on-screen chemistry, as evidenced by the large amount of fanfiction still being written about them.
    • There is also a large set of fans who ship Robert Carlyle and Emilie de Ravin, who play Official Couple Rumplestiltskin and Belle, together due to the two's adorable interactions in interviews. This is even though Carlyle has been happily married for years and Emilie is in a committed relationship. Of course, this is not helped by the two constantly singing each other's praises in interviews, such as the time Emilie said she would be happy to spend the rest of her life working with Robert.
    • There is a huge following for shipping Lana Parrilla with Rebecca Mader due to their real life friendship (the two are often referred to as Bexana on by their shippers). Though not to the same extent, a group of fans ship Lana with Sean Maguire (who played her on-screen love interest, Robin). It doesn't help that Sean once described kissing Lana as his favorite part of the job.
    • Surprisingly, real life couple Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas don't get as much of this, but they are popular enough to get their own Portmanteau Couple Name "Gosh" and plenty of fanvids dedicated to them.
  • Adorkable:
    • Belle definitely has her moments in Season 2, expressing child-like wonder over iced tea and the pancakes that Red serves her. She's also pretty enthusiastic about trying a hamburger for the first time.
    • The Huntsman. Constant ties and vests? Check. Cute accent? Check. Complete inability to impress a girl with his jokes? Check.
  • Alas, Poor Scrappy:
    • Milah is a real piece of work but her death in her lover's arms was rather sad. She got another moment of this when she was tossed into the River of Lost Souls after an episode that made her actually likable.
    • Several fans had this reaction to the deaths of Greg and Tamara in Season 3, Episode 1. Greg's life already made him The Woobie, and his unceremonious death gave him even more sympathy points. With Tamara, she had just realized that she'd been duped and was acting genuinely remorseful about the things she had done, so she may have gotten a second chance if she'd been allowed to live. She also goes out of her way to protect Henry from the Lost Boys before she dies.
    • Some had this reaction when the Blue Fairy died... prior to her coming back to life in the very next episode. Others who had the opposite reaction, of course, felt like they got trolled big time. And it happens again when Rumpelstiltskin forces Hook to trap her and the other fairies inside the Sorcerer's hat. It's also reversed, but three episodes later rather than just one. Also, she seems rather traumatized by her experience trapped in the hat, which has actually won her pity points among some fans.
  • Alternate Self Shipping: As soon Regina separated her evil half, the Evil Queen, from her good half, there were a legion of fanfics spawned on AO3 shipping the "Jekyll" Regina and "Hyde" Queen. When the sixth season aired, the number of times the Evil Queen invades Regina's space only added fuel to the fire. These fanfics will also often include Emma in a dark form of an OT3.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Viewers who aren't familiar with Seattle might not realize that the troll statue in Hyperion Heights is a real statue (though the one in the show is a reproduction). It's located under the Aurora Bridge in Fremont.
  • Anticlimax Boss:
    • The Blind Witch is billed as a vicious cannibal and powerful witch, but she's barely onscreen for ten minutes before the children/Evil Queen cook her. They even skip over the whole "Gretel is a slave and the witch fattens up Hansel."
    • The Dragon in "Selfless, Brave and True". He looks ready to go One-Winged Angel, but he gets taken out mid-transformation. Stupid all-powerful Taser.
    • The Shadow in "Going Home". After all its menace throughout the season, Tinker Bell has a ridiculously easy time taking it out for good.
    • Zelena. She is very suddenly curb-stomped by Regina's newly unlocked light magic, rendered powerless and later killed in an act of vengeance while she's already locked up. Zelena later turns up alive and disguised as Marian, and is proving as much of a Manipulative Bitch as ever.
    • Blackbeard becomes the first villain Henry beats (by knocking him out) in the Series 4 finale. Given the threat he has posed previously...
    • Mr. Hyde, despite being set up as the main villain of season 6, is taken out with an electrical weapon by Jekyll in the Season 6 premiere; defeating him is not even the main plot of the episode. Then later he is released from his cell by the Evil Queen and successfully outgambits Gold, gaining possession of the Dark One's dagger, and doesn't fall victim to the electrical weapon again, only to die as a result of Jekyll's death, though it does take the whole episode to defeat him this time.
    • The Black Fairy, the woman hyped as the Big Bad of the entire series, is not defeated by Emma but by Gold in a single attack with her own wand. Collectively, the entire fanbase was left disappointed and annoyed that the true villain of the show never got to fight Emma in the Final Battle like she was prophesied to from the very beginning and that other characters like Regina, Zelena and Gold have to keep defeating villains for Emma time and time again (even worse this time seeing as it was the ultimate villain whom Emma was destined to fight), although the writers did warn the fanbase that the Final Battle was less a physical fight between Emma and Fiona and more a battle for control over Emma's belief and the destruction of the realms, which continued after Fiona's death and Emma did win it via Take a Third Option.
  • And You Thought It Would Fail: Just about every 2011 TV preview dismissed the series as just too weird and complex for viewers to get into and most predicted it would be gone by mid-season. Even the show's fans thought it would be lucky to get a second season renewal, let alone last seven years.
  • Anvilicious:
    • "True North" can get pretty preachy on the problems of the foster system, with Emma all but asserting there are no good foster homes.
    • Likewise numerous people reacting with shock at Mulan being a woman in season 2 seems a little too heavy-handed with the Girl Power theme. Especially considering season 1 saw plenty of women active in the war against Regina - implying that Snow and Red were fighting on the front lines personally. The Enchanted Forest just doesn't seem sexist enough for a group of people to be shocked at a female warrior. This pops up again in Season 5 with Mulan and Merida's episode, where the other members of the clans inexplicably don't think a woman can be a warrior. Note that this is at least ten years after the events of Brave - where Merida had already established herself as an Action Girl.
  • Arc Fatigue: A common complaint for most of the later seasons, especially once the show decided to adopt the "two arcs per season" approach from Season 3 onwards.
    • Fans first started to complain around the second half of season 2, particularly after Cora's death. The show becomes very wearying to watch, especially given how anticlimactically Greg and Tamara were dealt with at the beginning of the third season.
    • It got worse with the Neverland arc at the beginning of season 3. While most like Peter Pan as a villain, some people tired of it quickly since it was essentially the same scenery (not to mention the eternal nighttime) every single episode. And, because the arc is more of a Character Study than plot-based, the action moves at a very slow pace through 9 whole episodes when it really could have taken half that long with less character-based detours. In any case, the cast finally returns to Storybrooke in the 10th episode of the season, so it's not as bad an example as it could have been - but that didn't stop it from becoming the go-to punchline for a large portion of the fandom.
    • The Frozen-based arc in Season 4 has also gotten these complaints, particularly once Executive Meddling added an additional episode onto it and greatly slowing the story's pace as a result. It was still considered enjoyable overall, but debatably outstayed its welcome some - as a corollary of this, the strong and improved ratings of the season premiere had dipped to one of their lowest points ever for the mid-season finale (starting, incidentally, with the earlier two-parter).
    • The Queens of Darkness arc which immediately followed got these complaints, too. An entire episode dedicated to what Robin has been up to in New York slowed it down considerably and bringing Zelena back just made it worse. Then there's the fates of the Queens - Ursula is redeemed four episodes in, before the arc has even got going, Cruella gets killed off and Maleficent is anti-climactically reunited with her daughter.
    • The Dark Swan/Camelot arc looked to finally break the trend of overly long arcs - in fact, it drew the opposite criticism of being far too rushed. It's really too bad that the Underworld arc which immediately succeeded it got so much padding that it was compared unfavorably to the infamous Neverland arc.
  • Ass Pull:
    • Many viewers thought it odd how accepting Marian was of Robin's relationship with Regina. That's because it's actually Zelena. She pulled a Kill and Replace on Marian to hitch a ride with Hook and Emma back to Storybrooke. This is Foreshadowed by her impersonating Ariel in "The Jolly Roger," with the six-leaf clover pendant finally providing the mechanism for how she accomplished this. However, it does make something of a mess of the show’s continuity even before the storyline started (one wonders why Robin never felt the need to explain he’d already encountered Zelena last season). And to top it off, Marian's actress had no idea she was actually supposed to be playing Zelena the whole season until she read the reveal in the script.
    • An even worse one in the Season 5 winter finale. Rumpelstiltskin somehow found a potion that would suck all the darkness from Excalibur into himself after it had supposedly been destroyed. He does this purely to become the Dark One again. This was not foreshadowed at all.
    • The Dun Broch plot is a direct sequel to the events of Brave. Despite that movie making it clear that Elinor as queen is respected as the true power and grounding influence in the realm - and the egalitarian nature of the setting implying that the other clans had no problem with Merida being the heir - the central conflict of that subplot is the clan leaders believing Merida can't rule simply because she's a woman.
    • The musical episode, while written to be consistent with the show's internal logic, was almost a last minute addition and as such has zero foreshadowing. Which wouldn't be as noticeable if the song in Emma's heart hadn't provided a definite resolution to six season worth of internal conflict for the character. That the core arc of the protagonist – finding out that her family's love was with her all along even though she grew up an orphan, and that she doesn't need to fear separation for it is never final and her loved ones always give her strength – found resolution in a plot device that had zero planting and not even a proper pay off in the actual final battle was a real downer and made an otherwise charming episode feel a bit contrived.
  • Badass Decay:
    • There was an abundance of fan complaints about Snow White undergoing this. Snow White started out as an intelligent, snarky, determined bandit/warrior princess, but many have complained that she has turned into the standard Incorruptible Pure Pureness Princess Classic. She has been heavily criticized for being on the sidelines of combat, giving up on some things, and it is often said that she Took a Level in Dumbass to the point where she can't figure out that a strange woman wearing a large emerald broach, black cloak and black hat who is inserting herself into her life is the Wicked Witch of the West that everyone's on the lookout for. However, it might be justified as she was coerced into joining the sidelines because of safety issues during her pregnancy, and a few weeks after the birth of her baby, she was already showing bits of badassery.
    • In Ursula's first appearance, she was a literal goddess who was able to terrify Regina at her most powerful. Upon taking a larger role in Season 4, she inexplicably needs to team up with Maleficent and Cruella De Vil. Ultimately justified as this Ursula was only named after the goddess.
    • Rumplestiltskin whenever Zelena is around. In Season 3, Zelena negates his Dying Moment of Awesome by bringing him back to life and making him his slave. He kills her when he gets the dagger back though... except he doesn't; it turns out in Season 4 that she was faking it all along, and then blackmails him into being her slave again.
    • After becoming half of an Official Couple with Emma during the Season 3 finale, Hook is arguably undergoing shades of this. During Season 4 his primary purpose is going on coffee runs for Emma, babysitting Henry in a pinch, serving as a foil to both Emma and Charming, serving as Rumple's puppet, and getting his Alternate Universe self killed at the hands of Charming, of all people. Having someone to love can make a character much more compassionate, gentle, and nurturing - but there comes a point where those traits go too far and the things which made you appealing to fans in the first place go by the wayside. Fixed in Season 5, first with him as the Dark One, and then later doing a lot of impressive heroic acts in the Underworld, and in the season finale actually getting to stab someone (Mr. Hyde) with his hook for the first time in ages, saving Jekyll's life in the process. And when it later turns out that Jekyll was actually worse than Hyde in Season 6, Hook rectifies his mistake by killing Jekyll to save Belle, which also kills Hyde in the process.
      • He suffers another period of Badass Decay after learning that he was responsible for killing Emma's grandfather and going through relationship woes with her as a result, but upon being forcibly separated from Emma, he shapes up again and even admits that he'd been behaving like a coward, resolving that he would never attempt to run away from his problems again.
  • Base-Breaking Character
    • On a whole, the redeemed villains. Some love their redemption arcs because the show is inherently about the good inside everyone. Others feel they only turn the villains into Unintentionally Unsympathetic Karma Houdinis with the show treating the characters post Heel–Face Turn as completely different people from who they were before them. Made worse by the fact that a lot of them tend to backslide into evil at one point or another.
      • Regina. Her fans consider her a badass Tragic Villain with a sympathetic backstory and motives who underwent great Character Development and couldn't catch a break in later seasons while her detractors feel she crossed the Moral Event Horizon too much to be sympathetic and she deserved the bad things that happened to her in later seasons or that if anything she's an Easily Forgiven Karma Houdini who has not paid enough for the crimes she commited, which is not helped by her unwillingness to to take responsibility for her actions for a long time.
      • Hook started out as an Ensemble Dark Horse due to being seen as a charismatic badass, but became divisive after he was promoted to a regular and got a Heel–Face Turn. Some fans felt his redemption gave him more depth, others feel it caused him serious Badass Decay, and a third group don't think he did redeem himself so much as declare himself redeemed and don't like how much quicker the protagonists were to forgive him compared to other reformed villains. Him becoming Emma's love interest further split the base.
      • Zelena. While she was The Scrappy at her debut due to being overpowered, season 5 earned her enough fans to be Rescued from the Scrappy Heap, though it was not universal. Her fans believe season 5 fleshed her out and gave her more sympathetic and funny traits, as well as find her sisterly relationship with Regina endearing, while her detractors still consider her an annoying Spotlight-Stealing Squad who had no business becoming a regular in the first place given her initial unpopularity, and believe she was far too Easily Forgiven.
      • Rumple ended up as one when it became clear he was not going to make a permanent Heel–Face Turn and yet the show kept playing up sympathy for him and even wasting a perfectly good redemption arc in favour of keeping him villainous. Then it gave him another one. To some this is proof the writers don't know what to do with him while others see it as true to the principle that everyone is redeemable. That he does end up redeeming himself by the end of the series just broke the base even more.
    • Neal. Whether or not he was justified in abandoning Emma is a hot-button topic within the fandom. Some consider him an integral part of the show and a major woobie with a rich backstory who was painfully wasted through his death while others find him a bland Living MacGuffin whose death was necessary
    • Hades. A brilliant Soft-Spoken Sadist and Manipulative Bastard who is a breath of fresh air after several Tragic Villains who get redeemed or a one note villain without much of a plan and played by a wooden actor.
    • The New Cinderella (Jacinda) in Season 7. While some love her personality and role as the Snow to Henry's Charming, many feel that her character is too flat and often whiny and her arc with Henry is a complete and unnecessary rehash of Snowing, and a lot of people still argue that she has zero chemistry with Henry and would prefer that Henry ends up with Violet, Drizella Tremaine, or Nick.
    • Robin Hood seems to split the fanbase down the middle, even years later. Some say he was a charming Love Interest for Regina, who allowed her to show a softer side of herself and helped her become a better hero. However, there is also a large side that hates him due to his actor's perceived lack of charisma, his lack of chemistry with Regina, him getting back together with Marian and then preceding to continue seeing Regina, and his general lack of development. There is also a third party that doesn't mind the character but hates his storyline and feels that the role of Regina's main love interest should have gone to another character or no one at all. One thing most sides can agree on is that his death was poorly written and should have been handled better.
    • Snow White herself actually, although more so her characterization in the later seasons. While sympathetic for the mistreatment she suffers in Storybrooke and the Enchanted Forest all down to Regina's pettiness, and loved for her heroic Mama Bear moments towards Emma, she has a significant number of detractors who find her just as bad as the villains in part - namely tricking Regina into murdering her own mother just to save Rumple or sacrificing Maleficent's daughter just to save Emma and going unpunished for those actions while Regina continues to suffer.
  • Broken Base: There are so many things dividing the fandom.
    • Emma and Hook's relationship is born of love and trust and the best relationship on the show vs. their relationship is based on lies and deceit and the writers are happy to sacrifice anything to keep it going. There is also a giant debate on if Emma should have ended up with Hook or another character. The focus it gets also deserves mention as some think it is a Romantic Plot Tumor that gets too much attention at the cost of everyone else while others think it is natural the main lead's relationship should get more attention.
    • Robin and Regina's relationship is adorable vs. Robin is pretty boring but it's nice to see Regina happy vs. the relationship was contrived and rushed and is turning the show into a soap opera.
    • Rumple and Belle have one of the most complex and enduring relationships on the show and Belle is the one thing that keeps Rumple grounded vs. Rumple and Belle's relationship is abusive and Belle was better off when Rumple was gone.
    • The kiss scene between Hook and Emma in "Good Form" is a major point of contention within the fandom even to this day. There is one camp who find it super romantic and a good next step in their romance, especially due to Jennifer Morrison and Colin O'Donoghue's chemistry. However, there is also a camp that find it more creepy than romantic, and feel that it is out of place in a season where Emma is otherwise more focused on saving her son than romance. Even years later, this scene is the subject of major flame wars.
    • Neal's death was necessary to get rid of a boring, unpopular, and extraneous character in an already huge cast vs. Neal's death was a spur of the moment writing decision that completely ruined Rumple's characterization and was one of the worst things to ever happen to the show.
    • Emma making Hook a Dark One was an act of true love that saved Hook's life vs. Emma making Hook a Dark One was extremely selfish and an unforgivable violation of Hook's autonomy and trust.
    • Robin's death is a moving scene vs. it is a manipulative scene only done to make Regina lose her happy ending again.
    • Fans are divided over when the Seasonal Rot hit in (if they believe a seasonal rot took place to begin with). Some feel the show hasn't been good since Season 1 while others feel the show was fine until mid-Season 3 or post-Season 3, while others feel Season 7 was when the show declined. And then there are the people who think the quality of the show goes up and down like a yo-yo.
    • The reveal that Hook and Emma are having a baby in the final season is a controversial issue in the fandom. Either it is a sweet twist and a good end for Emma's story or a poor way to write out Emma and lessens her relationship with Henry, with no middle ground. It doesn't help that it means that Emma is barely in her final episode where she plays a minor role.
    • The Grand Finale for the series, which is either seen as a perfect send-off or an insulting anti-climax that is inferior to the previous season finale. All the realms merging and Regina being crowned "the Good Queen" over all of them is particularly a sticking point.
  • Canon Fodder: The show has the tendency to introduce plots which are eventually forgotten (such as Will and Anastasia being separated and the quest for Lily's father in Season 4; the latter was eventually summed up in a throw away line) and interesting backstories which are only vaguely hinted (such as The Dragon having lost his daughter) that led many fans speculate about them.
  • Captain Obvious Reveal:
    • Let us just say that by the time it is finally revealed that Baelfire is Henry's father, there were not really many people that would have been surprised. It is compensated because of how the episode relied less on the plot twist and more on the emotional level.
    • ABC's/Eddie and Adam's marketing of the show run into this a lot. The promos for "The Queen of Hearts" tried to build mystery around the identity of the title character, but this was seven episodes after we saw Regina shove Cora through the looking glass and into Wonderland. Same with the promotion of "The Miller's Daughter" where a tweet said that the episode would feature a couple that the audience would never think of in a million years. As it turned out the couple in question was Cora and Rumplestiltskin whom we'd already seen kiss on screen some time earlier.
    • As of season 4, the reveal that the Snow Queen was Emma's foster mother has been circulated around the net ever since their first scene together.
    • Maleficent's long lost child being Emma's childhood friend Lily was guessed a long time before the reveal. Not helping with one of the leaked titles.
    • Arthur was so obviously the mysterious knight who killed Merida's father that the show resorts to pulling some sleight of hand with him still looking for the magic helmet that knight took from Fergus' body (because he wasn't actually wearing that helmet at the time).
    • The amount of time spent building up to the reveal that Nimue was the first Dark One was jarring when a number of fans had figured it out so long ago that a lot them had forgotten it wasn't already canon. Of course, anyone who remembered their Mort d'Arthur could see it coming the minute her name appeared. You can't get much more canon than Malory.
    • The death of Robin Hood was meant to be shocking and unexpected, but on-set photos taken by fans made it incredibly obvious as to what his fate would be. It got to the point that Eddie and Adam had to do damage control and debunk rumors about Sean Maguire departing the show - even though the rumors turned out to be true.
    • The young man seen at the start of the Season 6 finale being adult Henry was guessed by many before the actual reveal was made at the end.
    • While the reveal of the Hearts Killer as Hansel was surprising, the fact that it turned out to be Nick aka Jack, Henry's Best Friend was obvious even before the former reveal.
    • In the early episodes, the reveal that Regina had her memories of the Enchanted Forest all along. Considering her smug satisfaction at everyone's unhappiness and the fact that it wouldn't make any sense for her to carry out her plan if she was only going to lose her memories and nullify the entire point of watching her enemies mope around, there was absolutely no reason to consider that maybe she lost her memories.
  • Cargo Ship: Hook/The Floor is liked by some, due to his tendency to get beat up in the latter half of Season 2 (though in his defense, it was either facing someone with magic or just not mindful of his surroundings than sheer incompetence).
    • Hook/Jolly Roger is somehow canon by season 3. And broken up in the season finale.
    • Swan Town note 
  • Character Perception Evolution: When the show's version of Robin Hood was first introduced, he was quite popular, with many fans finding him likeable and charming, especially in regards to his romance with Regina. However, in the years since Robin was killed off, while he still has his fans, a lot of fans have grown to dislike the character, due to him being mostly defined by his relationship with Regina and a lot of them feeling that his actions during the time when Marion was seemingly brought back (such as sleeping with Regina not far from his wife's frozen body) makes him come off as manipulative rather than charming. Robin Hood was also considered a bit of a badass when he first appeared due to managing to get away with stealing from Rumplestiltskin, but nowadays he's a bit of a Memetic Loser due to how he often does very little to help out in battles.
  • Complete Monster:
    • Malcolm, aka Peter Pan and The Pied Piper of Hamelin, is a demon who has children kidnapped and forced to become his eternal servants in Neverland, having his shadow kill any who try to escape by removing their souls, and is the abusive father of Rumplestiltskin. In the past Pan healed Hook's brother, just to let him die; and kidnapped Wendy Darling and keeps her prisoner. Dying along with Neverland's magic, Pan plans to absorb the heart of a child, his own great-grandson, who is the truest believer in magic, making himself all-powerful and immortal, while the innocent child dies in his place. To this end, Pan is the brains behind Greg and Tamara's hatred of magic, all so they will bring Henry to him, killing them once they do so. When the heroes come to save Henry, he has a bit of fun tormenting them, all the while corrupting Henry. Pan later kills his own supporter to complete a magical curse and tries to murder Rumplestiltskin's family just to torment his son. Returning in the Underworld, Pan claims to want a fresh start with Rumplestiltskin, before revealing he really just wants to go back to the land of the living, and to this end plans to steal Zelena's heart and later tries to have Rumple steal Robin Hood's.
    • Debuting in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Jafar is an Evil Sorcerer who plans to enslave three people and use their combined magic to grant his wish to become the all-powerful ruler of Wonderland. Cruelly transforming the woman who loved him into his iconic serpent staff, Jafar also murders a young woman just to watch the reaction of her lover, before resurrecting her and magically making her fall in love with him to spite her lover yet again. Though having the excuse of a neglectful father, Jafar is revealed to want to use magic to make his father love him just to hurt him more when he torments him. Upon becoming Royal Vizier of Agrabah in season 6 of the main series, Jafar tortures and kills people at his whim with his dark powers and deceives Princess Jasmine into giving him a magical ring, then threatens to destroy Agrabah if she does not accept his marriage proposal. Threatening to use the ring to disintegrate Agrabah, Jafar means to create a ghostly version of the land and seal all the souls within in limbo for eternity. Cruel and selfish, Jafar is a wicked man who cares only for his own ambition and sadistically tormenting anyone he can.
    • "Nimue": Vortigan is a masked warlord searching for the Holy Grail to gain immortality and magic power. To find it, Vortigan has massacred multiple villages, burning them to the ground and killing everyone there. Learning of Merlin and Nimue's plans to turn the Grail into a sword, Vortigan hopes to steal it for power. Taking Nimue hostage, Vortigan seemingly kills her, laughing at Merlin's grief, before trying to kill Merlin with the sword. Despite his short screentime, the consequences of Vortigan's evil would lead to the creation of the first Dark One and would haunt the Enchanted Forrest well into the present day.
    • "Flower Child": Isla is a spoiled aristocrat who despises magical beings. For her genocide crusade, Isla seemingly befriends the young Gothel, only to have her humiliated and bullied and has the tree nymphs' home invaded, ordering the slaughter of all magical beings, including Gothel's family, and leading to the creation of the land without magic. With Gothel driven to villainy through her actions, the indirect consequences of Isla's cruelty cause further turmoil throughout the work.
  • Continuity Lock-Out: To a degree. Don't even think about going into season 2 without watching the last 2 episodes of season 1, and the Story Arc of Kathryn's kidnapping means you need to at least see episode 13 to make sense of what's going on in the real world in season 1. The many characters present don't help at ALL, though since they're based on the Disney/fairy tales we all know, at the least, we can understand who's doing what. Still, since they love to pull twists on the tales, this starts building up after a while.
    • Season 4A leans far more heavily on the canon of its source material than usual, meaning you'll have quite a hard time if you haven't seen Frozen.
    • Season 4B brings up plot points not seen or had relevance since Season 2 (August and the Storybook).
    • During Season 5, the writers revealed that they had a giant wall reserved for cataloguing the tangled backstories of the various characters, and even then things had gotten so complicated that it often doesn't help. Case in point, the Season 5B premiere features the backstory to an event all the way back in Season 1 that many fans had long since forgotten about.
    • Season 7 is something of a reboot. However, it still has continuity nods all over the place and it goes very obscure with some of them. The Wish Realm showing up as an explanation for the multiple Hooks for example. It also seems to assume viewers are aware the various realms run on different time axes to each other, something that only really gets brought up in the spin off.
  • Crack Ship:
    • Subverted by the context of the show, but try telling someone who's never watched an episode that Rumplestiltskin and Belle are a couple and you will get weird looks.
    • Snow White and Victor Frankenstein, who have a one-night stand, definitely count.
    • "In the Name of the Brother" shows that Red Riding Hood and Victor Frankenstein are also a possibility.
    • Before Rumpelstiltskin was with Belle, he was going to run off with the Queen of Hearts/the Miller's Daughter, and his son has had a child with the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming.
    • Prince Charming has been engaged to the daughter of Midas.
    • Tinker Bell is trying to get the Evil Queen and Robin Hood together because they're soul mates.
    • Based on their interactions in the mid-season 3 finale and the fact that they met in Neverland way back when, Tinker Bell and Captain Hook may have had something going on.
    • And Emma with a flying monkey/the Wizard of Oz and then Captain Hook beats them all.
    • Probably one-sided, but Mulan and Aurora. There is a Disney Princess out there who's in love with another Disney princess.
    • As of Season 4b: Belle and Will Scarlet, who have never even been on-screen at the same time up until their out-of-the-blue kiss.
    • Red Riding Hood and Dorothy Gale are canonically a couple, and had True Love's Kiss together.
    • The Wicked Witch of the West and Hades were together for a while.
  • Creepy Awesome:
    • Dark Emma in Season 5.
    • Season 6 brings us Mr. Hyde, who is terrifying and badass. He doesn't last long.
  • Critical Dissonance: It's one of ABC's most successful shows right now despite, for example, The AV Club regarding it as mediocre at best.
  • Crossover Ship:
    • There is a large fandom for Belle and Nicholas Rush (Stargate Universe), mainly due to the fact that Rush is played by Robert Carlyle, who plays Belle's main love interest, Rumplestiltskin. It's to the point that on AO3, the Rush/Belle pairing has the second most fics of any Stargate Universe pairing.
    • Emma/Regina shippers have a habit of trying to ship Emma with any character Lana Parrilla has played on television. The most notable is Trina Decker from Swingtown, for which there is a surprising number of fanfics. More recently, there has been some support for Emma/Rita Castillo from Why Women Kill in the wake of that show's second season.
  • Designated Hero: Emma in season one. She decides that she knows what's better for Henry than Regina does a day after meeting him, despite having no experience then illegally cuts down a tree on public property shortly after Regina tells her that she's been taking care of it since she was a child. After becoming sherif, she uses her newfound power to plant an illegal bug in Regina's office and then break into City Hall and conduct an illegal search. Many of the actions Regina takes against her are pretty reasonable given the circumstances. The only unambiguously heroic thing she does is save Regina from the fire. The only reason Emma doesn't come off as a Corrupt Cop who has a vendetta against the mother of her biological son because she regrets giving him up is that we've already been told that she's the Savior and Regina's the Evil Queen.
  • Designated Villain: Medusa, a recurring theme for her character in myth and fiction. In "The New Neverland" Snow and Charming's decision to kill her has nothing to do with her but is merely an attempt to obtain her head as a way to petrify Regina. Alternatively, it made for an interesting honeymoon. We never see her do anything to innocent people, she's only ever fighting people who are actively trying to kill her.
  • Die for Our Ship:
    • Hook gets a lot of hate from Emma/Regina shippers, especially after he becomes Emma's main love interest. These shippers like to claim that he doesn't deserve Emma due to his past, while completely ignoring Regina's far worse crimes, claim that he hasn't really changed despite the show going out of it's way to show him feeling guilt for his actions, and claim him to be abusive due to his actions in season 5A, even though he was under the influence of dark magic at the time. Some claim that he doesn't care about Henry and is a terrible father figure, completely ignoring that he genuinely connects with Hnery and comes to see him as a son.
    • Robin Hood almost instantly got hate from Emma/Regina shippers the moment he was revealed to be Regina's True Love. This only got worse when he got back together with Marian (later revealed to be Zelena), with many shippers trying to use this as proof that he doesn't deserve Regina while ignoring the fact that Emma is the one who brought Marian back from the past. Things only got worse when he slept with Regina despite still being married. It got to the point that Robin's actor, Sean Maguire, admitted that he almost left Twitter due to their shippers constantly harassing him. However, when he did die, even the most hard-core Emma/Regina shipper admitted that it was a bad write-off.
    • While most of the Sleeping Warrior fandom is mostly neutral (if a bit disgruntled) towards Phillip, there are others that actively wish he would die or go back into a coma to make way for their ship.
    • Some people in the Ship-to-Ship Combat between SwanFire and Captain Swan wish this upon respectively Hook or Neal. Though when one of them DID die - Neal - most of the fighting stopped... except for some fans who did believe than it was because of this trope.
    • It's also happened among certain parts of the Outlaw Queen fandom with Marian's return.
    • Season 7's Cinderella for most Henry/Drizella shippers, particularly for having little chemistry with Henry.
  • Draco in Leather Pants:
    • Rumplestiltskin got this. It was inevitable, really. On a sidenote, he also actually wears leather pants.
    • Regina gets this as well. Mainly because despite all the awful, unforgivable things the Queen has done, Lana Parrilla can make a face like a kicked puppy dog, and lately had scenes revealing she always felt she had some reason to do so. Even she wears leather pants. It's notable that the WMG on this site's first two Regina entries are about one of her first big on-screen Kick the Dog moments (raping Graham) and rationalizing how she's not to blame (either theorizing that she didn't actually do it, or that she did it without realizing what he was doing).
    • Killian Jones (AKA Captain Hook) is something of a hot Jerkass with a dead girlfriend. His main motivation is revenge against a villain and he occasionally goes out of his way to minimize collateral damage (Like when he saved Aurora's heart). Other times, not so much, like shooting Belle (thus ensuring she'd lose her memory), taking out Aurora's heart while she was unconscious and helping to trap Emma and her friends in Rumplestilskin's cell. And he wears leather pants. Yeah...
    • Believe it or not, even Cora got this treatment eventually. Especially after "The Miller's Daughter", complete with Ron the Death Eater towards Queen Eva and Snow.
    • While most fans Love to Hate Peter Pan, there is a minority of fans who do attempt to justify or woobify his actions, despite all evidence to the contrary.
    • Maleficent is a Tragic Villain, but a villain nonetheless, which a lot of fans seem to forget. In flashbacks, she inflicted a sleeping curse on Aurora, turned Philip into a monster, tried to kill David, and threatened to kill Belle if Rumplestiltskin didn't give her what she wanted. In the present, she teams up with Gold to find the Author, puts the whole town under a sleeping curse, and kidnaps Pinocchio so Gold can torture him to find out where the Author is. However, due to her having lost a daughter, as well as being played by the talented Kristin Bauer, many fans forgive this and most fanfiction centered around her will usually demonize the Charmings or simply focus on her raising her daughter, often with Regina helping her.
    • Similarly, Hyde. Many put emphasis on how Jekyll was the true villain and see Hyde as an innocent victim, but those people are forgetting how he ruled the Land of Untold Stories as a tyrant and tried to take over Storybrooke.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Ruby has never been a major character within the show, even disappearing for several seasons in a row. However, she is still one of the most popular characters due to her backstory and simple having chemistry with every character in the show.
    • Archie is quite popular despite not having much relevance to the show other than being the characters major characters go to for advice. It helps that he is one of the few characters that is nice to everyone.
    • Dr. Whale is quite popular and was as even before it was revealed that he is Victor Frankenstein. Even after that reveal, he barely appears, and when he does it was usually minor and insignificant cameos.
    • Jefferson/Mad Hatter was definitely something of a hit, and many hoped to see him return in the spin-off. (When that show was in the planning stages Edward Katsis was quick to reassure people that they had no intention of recasting the part and The Mad Hatter would only show up if and when Sebastian Stan was available, as so many people liked his performance.)
    • Season 2 brings us Mulan and Aurora, who became incredibly popular despite losing most plot relevance after the first half of the season.
    • Season 3 gives us Tinker Bell, for both having a heart of gold and being a Fairy Sexy. Being the Woobie also helps. Also we have Ariel, and the REAL Ursula, who many fans hope is heard from again.
    • Sven the reindeer, thanks to being played by an amazing animal actor who perfectly captures the character's silent Deadpan Snarker nature. Kristoff is very well-liked to for his own humorous nature, especially when playing off of Sven.
    • The Sorcerer's Apprentice for Timothy Weber's excellent performance and being the OUAT version of Mickey Mouse. The showrunners liked his portrayal enough that they expanded his one-off role to a recurring character.
    • Fans absolutely fell in love with Lily after her one appearance in "Breaking Glass", immediately suspecting that she had to be an Enchanted Forest character - just so they could have her on the show. However reactions to her new actressnote  has been mixed.
    • Merlin seems to be this in Season 5, for the actor portraying him possessing both genuine presence and smoking good looks.
    • Alice/Tilly in season 7, thanks to Rose Reynolds' great portrayal of the character.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: The series ends with Regina being crowned 'The Good Queen' of the united realms of story, which seems like a happy ending on paper...except Regina never wanted to be queen. She only became one because her abusive mother murdered her stable boy lover so she could marry King Leopold and achieve her ambitions, rather than what she wanted. Regina never wanted power; she wanted love. And now at the end of the series, her Second Love is Deader than Dead and with Henry now grown up, she's effectively still alone.
  • Evil Is Cool:
    • Regina, who has a good bit of the fun on the show.
    • Gold-as-Rumple can be very charismatic at times, not hurt by his Deal with the Devil-based personality.
    • Maleficent has the power to reduce entire forests to burnt landscapes with her dragon fire.
    • Hades is literally a god, managing to outdo even Rumple and reach true Magnificent Bastard status.
    • Mr. Hyde is a scary Badass in a Nice Suit, whose mannerisms and voice only help his aspects.
    • Jafar, carrying over from Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.
  • Fandom Rivalry:
    • With Fables due to both having the initial high-concept of "fairy tale characters trapped in the modern world". However, this was mostly in the run-up to Once Upon A Time being first broadcast, it dropped quite a lot when the first few episodes of the TV show made it clear how significantly different the actual plots and styles of the works were. Despite this, many Fables fans still blame Once Upon A Time for being the main reason why Fables hasn't been adapted to another media yet.
    • With Grimm. The only things they have in common is having a fairy tale theme and debuting around the same time, yet fans just can't stop comparing the two and arguing which is better. Grimm fans mock OUAT as being too light-hearted, cheesy, soapy, Disney-fied and being a "chick show", while fans of OUAT dismiss Grimm as either having too much of a slow-moving plot, having no plot at all, just being a Monster of the Week show dressed as a Police Procedural one or being a ripoff of Supernatural.
  • Fanfic Fuel:
    • By Season 4, it's established that there are multiple worlds all following different story-telling settings and ideas (IE, Fairy tales in the Enchanted Forest, Peter Pan in Neverland, a black-and-white horror film universe, an ambiguously set 1920s London-based world, and so on and so-forth), with even the 'World Without Magic' evidently just another one of these 'story setting worlds'; essentially, anything Disney owns the copyright for could end up as another world that could crossover. Crossover fics have in-universe justification. Hell, given the network that produces the show currently produces two other shows based in it, as well as the constant references to the comics, Marvel Cinematic Universe crossover fics are almost encouraged.
    • The series finale reveals that after Henry's graduation, Emma and Regina took him on a family road trip, with it being heavily implied that it was just the three of them. This has led to many fanfics exploring this time, especially from those who ship Emma and Regina.
  • Fan Nickname:
    • King Charmless, for Prince Charming's "father".
    • A lot of fans refer to the family unit of Emma, Regina, and Henry as the Swan-Mills Family.
    • The Charmings, for Snow, David, Emma, and Henry.
    • And for Neal, Nealfire as a combination of Neal and Baelfire.
    • The Television Without Pity forums have nicknamed the adult Darling brothers: The Hipster Darlings
  • Fanon:
    • Emma and/or Regina being bisexual is a very common headcanon among the fandom, especially with both being big Launcher of a Thousand Ships. In canon, both have only shown interest in male characters, but are at the center of a lot of Ho Yay.
    • Mr. Gold's first name (if he has one) is never revealed, but it's not uncommon for "Robert Gold" to be used in fanworks, likely after his actor. Another common fanwork name is "Adam", after the (unofficial, unspoken, probably non-canon) name of the Prince in Disney's version of Beauty and the Beast, from which the show takes a lot of cues.
    • In a highly divided fandom, one thing almost everyone agrees on is that the Blue Fairy is evil or at least has some hidden agenda. These fans theorize that Blue could see the future much like Rumple when she gave Bae the bean, meaning she deliberately set in motion the events that led to the casting of the Dark Curse. She also broke up Dreamy and Nova, turned August back into a child, preventing him from telling the town about Greg and Tamara, kept Tinker Bell from helping Regina during her unhappy marriage, and most important of all, banished Rumplestiltskin's mother, the Black Fairy, which caused everything in the series to follow.
  • Fan-Preferred Couple:
    • Despite the creators constantly stating that it's not the direction they're taking the show and never was, the enemies-turned-friends pairing of Swan Queen (Regina/Emma), is a popular fan couple (largely because the two of them are both Henry's mothers and they eventually become best friends in canon), so much so that Swan Queen made it into the Final Four in every Zimbio poll since 2014, beating out canon pairings Captain Swan (Emma/Captain Hook), Snowing (Snow White/Prince Charming), and Rumbelle (Belle/Rumplestiltskin) each time, and still dominates fanfiction for the show years after the show ended. On Archive of Our Own and Fanfiction Dot Net, it tops both of their canon pairings (Emma/Hook and Regina/Robin Hood), as well as all other ships from the show on either site, with it even being the second most popular femslash ship on AO3 as a whole.
    • Mulan and Aurora, especially with their Tomboy and Girly Girl dynamic, is more popular than the canon Philip/Aurora. More than a few viewers would love to see their Les Yay get a full upgrade, and Fan Fiction.net has more Romance genre fics featuring the two of them than fics shipping Aurora/Phillip and in every single couple poll they have absolutely clobbered Aurora/Phillip. Mulan actually did have feelings for Aurora in canon, but she waited too long to say something and they went unrequited.
    • Red Beauty (Ruby/Belle) is the most popular Ruby ship and easily more so than the canon Ruby/Dorothy, due to their close friendship. Some of the people who ship it try to direct comparisons to the canon Belle/Rumplestiltskin (which remains the most popular for Belle) and their take on the Beauty and the Beast story.
    • When the first half of the seventh season was airing, Henry and Drizella/Ivy (aka Step Believer) were popular. The consensus was that Drizella/Ivy has far more chemistry with Henry than Cinderella does and that the potential Love Redeems aspect would be more interesting than Henry and Ella's romance. It helps that Drizella seems closer to Henry's age and has a major case of Adaptational Attractiveness. However, as the second half aired and Ivy became far less important, the ship quickly fell from popularity. Nowadays, you are far more likely to find a post on Tumblr or Twitter (or come across a fanfiction or fan art) dedicated to Henry and his canon love interest Cinderella/Jacinda (aka Glass Believer) than you are him and Ivy.
  • Fans Prefer the New Her:
    • Belle gets an evil alter ego in Season 2 called Lacey. As a result, she wears more fashionable club dresses and styles her hair in a way that's very flattering to Emilie de Ravin.
    • Regina looks very good in her bandit outfit in the Season 4 finale. Despite it being a symbol that she's been living rough in the woods and will be left pining for unrequited love.
  • Fanwork-Only Fans: A lot of fans have admitted to reading fanfics for the show without being fans of the show itself. This is most prevalant in later seasons where the show went through Seasonal Rot, with many fans simply stopping watching the show after a certain point but keeping up with the fan works. This is especially true for those who ship Fan-Preferred Couple Emma/Regina, with many of the shippers admitting that they stopped watching after season 3 or 4 but kept up with the fanfiction trends and became far more familiar with the fanon versions of the characters than the canon ones.
  • Fashion-Victim Villain: The Wicked Queen's outfits are flamboyant at best. Some look fine. Others just look plain silly.
  • First Installment Wins: Even now, the first season tends to be the most well-received. Every subsequent season has their share of fans but also their share of criticism for perceived Seasonal Rot, having multiple beloved first season characters Demoted to Extra, taking well-established characters in controversial directions, and adapting popular Disney films and characters with mixed results. However, the first season is seen as that moment where everything about the show simply gelled together well, with just the right amount of mystery and intrigue for Storybrooke with its connection to magic and the right amount of focus on family finding one another, between Emma and Henry.
  • Foe Yay Shipping:
    • The biggest fanbase is dedicated to Swan Queen, a.k.a. the relationship of the Evil Queen, Regina, and the savior, Emma. As soon as Emma became the Dark One in Season 4, there was a resurgence of Emma (now the Dark Swan) and Regina shipping as enemies, which was not helped by the first episode of season 5 having Emma say, "You will be punished." while raising an eyebrow at Regina. This was nicknamed "Dark Swan Queen", as a way to separate it from the other form of Swan Queen. The end of the season continued this by having Regina separate herself from the Evil Queen, leading to loads of fanfics that pair the Evil Queen with both Emma and Regina, as well as sometimes both.
    • Following their first interaction, there grew a large number of fans who ship Emma with Jefferson/The Mad Hatter, mainly because their actors Jennifer Morrison and Sebastian Stan dated briefly in real life. These fans often forget that said first interaction was Jefferson kidnapping her and her friend and the fact that he later helped Regina find a way to poison Emma.
    • After Season 2 rolled around, a lot of fans started to ship Hook/Emma. The fact that their fights are just dripping with innuendo doesn't help. They eventually became an Official Couple in Season 3.
  • Franchise Original Sin:
    • The show's incarnation of King Arthur, introduced in Season 5, proved the worst received Arc Villain in the show's history due to both his Adaptational Villainy compared to how he is in the original Arthurian legends and his being too reliant on trickery and mind games to come across as a truly compelling threat. However, these same two traits behind Arthur coming across as such a lackluster villain had previously been present, and very well liked, in the show's take on Peter Pan, who is arguably one of the most beloved villains of the entire series. But with Peter Pan, these traits proved more effective in that the Adaptational Villainy given to him was surprisingly in line with just how morally ambiguous he was in the original book about him published not too long after the release of the famous play and that his generally accomplishing his villainy through deception and mind games likewise fit perfectly with his history of being portrayed as a crafty trickster while also helping to properly build up and tie into his secret connection to Rumpelstiltskinnote . King Arthur, on the other hand, has always been seen as The Hero, which made his Adaptational Villainy come across as having been done exclusively for shock value; whereas the creative decision to have him accomplish his goals through trickery instead of genuine strength or combat ability came at the cost of him being made an Adaptational Wimp who had to rely on both a magical item with a degree of usefulness that strained Willing Suspension of Disbelief and the good guy characters having their hands thoroughly glued to the Idiot Ball in order to properly carry out his acts of villainy.
    • Season 5 also introduced the show's much despised take on Princess Merida from Brave in what seemed to be an effort at recreating the success of using characters from Frozen the previous season. Unfortunately, Brave was never anywhere close to being as popular as Frozen, which meant that very few, if any, people were all that interested in or excited about seeing a live action incarnation of Merida. Secondly, Frozen had sizably rich potential for mythology to explore, particularly in how the show managed to tie it into the original The Snow Queen fairy tale it was loosely based upon; whereas Brave wasn't generally considered truly interesting enough on its own to warrant having an entire half a season devoted to it. Further complicating matters was that Brave was an entirely original story, which left it feeling out of place when compared to how Frozen was at least loosely based on a pre-existing fairy tale. And finally, the characters from Frozen were organically woven into the storyline for the show's 4th season, with Elsa playing a supporting role to Emma's story arc for the season; whereas Merida's involvement in season 5 placed the storyline on hold for the sake of two episodes that focused on her flashbacks, which made her come across as a Spotlight-Stealing Squad. As a result, while the Frozen arc proved divisive, but at least has defenders (especially for Elizabeth Mitchell's performance as the Snow Queen), most critics and viewers either despise, or are indifferent at best, to the Brave elements.
    • One of the biggest criticisms thrown at later seasons is that most of the villains are meant to be Tragic Villains with similar backstories and motivations. In season 1, Big Bads Regina and Rumplestiltskin were both meant to be tragic villains as well, but they were well-received characters since, at the time, they were the only tragic antagonists and even then their backstories and motivations differed enough from each other to not seem repetitive so they were praised as complex three-dimensional characters. As the series went on and almost every Arc Villain had the same backstories about being denied love and a happy ending, many fans began to tire of this since they had little to no variety in their motivations and it felt like the writers were making them tragic for the sake of it or couldn't come up with more than one way to make them tragic.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: While it was only mildly successful in it's home country (the United States) it was arguably more popular in other countries.
    • It's arguably more popular in Canada and the United Kingdom than it was in the United States. Canada is known to have aired the show regularly.
    • France and French speaking countries also liked it quite a bit. Ariel is quite popular in France alongside Belle.
    • Japan also loves Disney and fantasy, so it was one of the few Western TV shows that did well there.
  • Genius Bonus:
    • In season 4, the books Regina pours over to find a counterspell for Maid Marian's illness contain both the Tree of Life and John Dee's seven-pointed star, two potent symbols that heavily featured in Renaissance magic.
    • Hades is depicted here as an opulent, sharp-dressed businessman with a taste for the finer things. The Roman equivalent of Hades, Pluto, is also the god of wealth: his domain is the Underworld, and that includes the things like gems and precious metals that can be found underground. He literally has all the money.
    • Overall the show portrays certain characters far closer to their source material than the Disney versions people are more familiar with:
      • Regina's very first scene is a reference to the original ending of Snow White, where the Queen shows up at the wedding and is forced to dance in iron shoes until she dies.
      • Mulan in the ballad was a proud woman who wanted to become a warrior, as opposed to her Adorkable portrayal in the Disney movie.
      • Peter Pan was a lot more morally ambiguous in the original book - often switching sides during fights between the pirates and Lost Boys just to make things interesting.
      • Ursula is shown as a seemingly benevolent sea goddess who grants mermaids the power to walk on land every year. The sea witch in the original story was a neutral entity who sincerely warned the mermaid about the risks of becoming human.
      • The Spell of Shattered Sight is based off the mirror from the original Snow Queen fairy tale - which was created by the devil to show humanity how awful it was. The plot of the story is kicked off when one little boy gets two shards of the mirror in his eye and heart. The Snow Queen's desire for a family is based off a popular interpretation for why she kidnaps Kai. Elsa and Anna's mother is renamed from Idun to Gerda, which was the heroine's name in the tale.
      • Cruella being played by the beautiful Victoria Smurfitt seems like Adaptational Attractiveness - but Cruella was attractive in the original book. She was also married, and "Darkness on the Edge of Town" references a husband.
      • Pinocchio is far more flawed, like his book counterpart. Disney's version was more naive and got tricked into doing bad things because of his innocence. The book version knew right from wrong more clearly but still chose wrong more often.
      • There are four witches in Oz, and Zelena is given a gem to focus her powers. In the Oz books, witches made magic items to make spell casting easier. Destroying one would inconvenience the witch until she could make another. The magic shoes are also silver, when the MGM film famously made them ruby.
  • Gotta Ship 'Em All: The fans ship nearly every character to every other character, and this only grows as more characters are introduced.
    • From the time of The Reveal that Elsa from Frozen appearing at the end of season 3, to the season 4 premiere, she was already getting shipped with roughly a quarter of the regular cast.
     H - O 
  • Ham and Cheese: Robert Carlyle can be argued as being the best thing about the show, for taking full advantage of the show's cheesy script.
  • Harsher in Hindsight:
    • In "The Price of Gold", Mr. Gold mentions to Emma that no one wants to see Ashley's baby born in jail. "True North" reveals that Emma gave birth to Henry in jail.
    • In Storybrooke, David/Prince Charming left his wife for Mary Margaret/Snow White. In the real world, David's actor Josh Dallas divorced his wife around the same time he started dating Mary Margaret's actress Ginnifer Goodwin. (Though to be fair, his now ex-wife had already been seen in public with a new paramour by that time, so it's more of a case of freak timing.)
    • "I just didn't want you to lose your mother... like I lost mine." It was an angsty line in an angsty episode to begin with. As of "The Miller's Daughter", it's just painful.
    • After the revelation that Pan is Rumpelstiltskin's father, every time Pan taunted Rumple becomes even worse.
      • Likewise, Rumple's regret at abandoning Bae becomes even worse in hindsight given how much it mirrors the way Malcolm abandoned him, magic bean and all.
      Neal: Every night, the last thing I see before sleep, is an image of you and me on that pit and your hand over mine. Then you open your grip. The last thing I see as I fall away is the look on your face, choosing all this... crap over me.
    • After "Quiet Minds", Emma's fake story on how Henry's father died as a hero in "True North".
    • In "Quite a Common Fairy", one of Tinker Bell's comments to Regina regarding the latter's reluctance to pursue Robin Hood is "You didn't just ruin your life. You ruined his." The season 3 finale then reveals she had already ruined his life by having Maid Marian executed. Karma comes back around on her as Emma saves Marian during her trip to the past.
    • In "Bleeding Through" we discover not only that Cora additionally hates Eva because she was the one who revealed her out-of-wedlock pregnancy (Zelena) to Leopold, thus preventing their marriage, but that the man who got her pregnant was a poor gardener pretending to be a prince just so he could get laid, who then blackmailed her for riches when he found out about her impending wedding. While this doesn't excuse her actions, it is suddenly completely understandable why Cora would later abhor the idea of Regina falling in love with a poor, simple stable boy in Daniel...
    • Pan mercilessly mocks Rumpelstiltskin over the fact that he's afraid of being abandoned and that he deserved to be abandoned by his own father. Once we discover the identity of Rumpel's father four episodes later, this becomes such an enormous Kick the Dog moment that it erases all doubt that Pan is a complete bastard. In fact everything Pan and Rumple say to each other has so much more meaning (and is so much more painful) once you know the truth of their relationship.
    • Neal telling his dad that he can't be trusted because no matter how hard he tries to be good he'll end up slipping back into his old ways turns out to have been a completely valid accusation come Season 4.
    • Rumple being so sure his son was dead and lost to him forever becomes this as well, after what Zelena tricks Neal into doing and what Rumple is forced to do, both afterward and in Storybrooke.
    • In "The Thing You Love Most", Regina taunts her friend Maleficient: "Love Is a Weakness, Maleficent. I thought you knew that". It turns out that Maleficent was pregnant at time and keeping her daughter safe was one of the reasons she didn't want to give Regina the Dark Curse.
    • In "The Price", Robin Hood nearly dies and is almost take away by the Fury. In "Last Rites" he actually does die, and it's for the same reason: to save Regina's life.
    • "The Brothers Jones" has Regina mention that the hardest thing to do is forgive yourself. The finale reveals she has not forgiven herself for her actions as the Evil Queen.
    • In "Greenbacks", Drizella mocks Tiana, telling her "Too bad daddy's no longer alive to save you and your mother from financial ruin". Then you realize Drizella's father Marcus is no longer alive to protect her from her mother.
    • Jefferson’s cursed life in Storybrooke was to be the only one to actually retain memories of his Enchanted Forest life driving him “mad”. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Sebastian Stan’s character has the opposite problem constantly getting his memories wiped so he can be used as a mindless living weapon for the terrorist HYDRA organization.
    • Lily's source of conflict being that Emma got everything she wanted becomes this when her quest to find her father becomes an Aborted Arc and she never appears on the show again.
  • He's Just Hiding:
    • Some fans think the Hong Kong Dragon went down way too easy, especially after he was being built up as a dangerous magical force to be reckoned with. As such, some like to believe he was either Playing Possum, or somehow fled his body to possess another one. Season 5 goes on to reveal that the Dragon did in fact survive and has since relocated to New York City. The only explanation he gives for him not being dead is that he's "resilient".
    • Oh, come on. How many people really thought that Rumplestiltskin was really dead for good after the events of Season 3's winter finale?
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • When she first becomes a deputy, Emma refuses to wear a tie. Here's the outfit Jennifer Morrison wore to PaleyFest 2012.
    • Emma tells Henry in season 1 that his father, Emma's ex Neal Cassidy aka Baelfire was a firefighter. Come fall 2012, Jennifer's ex-fiancè Jesse Spencer plays the leading man in the firefighter drama Chicago Fire. Also hilarious that she says he was a firefighter when his real name has Fire in it.
      • It gets even better: one of the firefighters in Chicago Fire is a young man named Peter Mills, whose father was also a firefighter and died in the line of duty. The father's name is revealed to be Henry.
    • Dr. Whale led an angry mob to Regina's house in the second season premiere. This becomes funny once it's revealed that he's really Dr. Frankenstein. Particularly when one considers that as Frankenstein, his whole motivation was to defeat death; same for David Anders' role in iZombie.
    • Jamie Dornan, who played Graham, Storybrooke sheriff and the Evil Queen's sex slave/rape victim in the first 7 episodes of season 1 has been cast as Christian Grey, a freak who sexually abuses a willing stupid girl.
    • Also, he was the Huntsman and a hunter in The Fall (2013); the only thing different is his choice of prey. He's a rapist serial killer.
    • A lot of characters affectionately refer to Baelfire as "Bae". The term "Bae' is used as shorthand of the word 'babe'.
    • The fact many have compared Walsh's line to Emma when he reveals his true nature to Hans doing the same thing to Anna becomes this, considering Elsa's appearance at the end of the season.
    • In the original pilot sold to ABC, Emma name was "Anna." A Disney Princess by that name debuts two years later, and would come the show a year after that.
    • Aurora here is played by Irish actress Sarah Bolger, and speaks with an American accent. In the 2014 film Maleficent, Aurora is played by American actress Elle Fanning, who speaks with a Scottish accent.
    • Josh Dallas' #RabbitStew hashtag in relation to Snow becomes even funnier when you consider that Ginnifer Goodwin voiced a rabbit in another Disney work.
    • Anna (played by Elizabeth Lail) and Ingrid (played by Elizabeth Mitchell) are niece and aunt in season 4A and Ingrid has no qualms about killing her if need be. In Kitsis & Horowitz's show for Freeform, Dead of Summer, Anna more than returns the favor.
    • The Frozen arc in season 4 portrays Anna as proficient in swordplay. Five years later, Frozen II would feature Anna wielding a sword made of ice. Frozen II also involves an Enchanted Forest of a different kind.
    • Rumple tries to rewrite the world in the Season 4 finale to make himself 'The Light One'. Season 6 reveals he was born to be a Saviour after all.
    • Early in Season 2, Regina says "I don't care if it turns me green", which is funnier once you find out her sister, Zelena, is the Wicked Witch of the West. She also makes occasional jokes about Munchkins during the Neverland arc, which may be Foreshadowing.
    • At a convention Victoria Smurfitt joked that Cruella was the only one of the Queens of Darkness to be Killed Off for Real because the writers hated her so much they never wanted her to return to the show. She returns in Season 5 in the trip to the Underworld - and is the only Queen of Darkness to reappear after Season 4 (though Maleficent and Ursula do make cameos in the series finale).
    • In Awkwafina is Nora from Queens, Jamie Chung is Nora's grandma, when the show shares flashbacks and photos from The '60s, and Ming-Na Wen is Nora's aunt Sandra, in the present day. So, Mulan gave birth to animated Mulan.
    • A show that features a seemingly nice and normal town that is actually far from the truth as the residents are all trapped inside the town, had their memories erased, and their identities being replaced with new ones. And the reason for that traces back to a death of a witch's lover. Is this Once Upon A Time or WandaVision we're talking about here?
    • Lee Arenberg, the actor who played Grumpy the Dwarf, would go on to play another disgruntled dwarf left to fend for himself in the American midwest (Alviss, King of the Dwarves from Norse Mythology) in American Gods (2017).
    • The show's backstory episode for Cruella has an episode where it seems they're attempting to redeem and explain her actions, until it's revealed that it's a case of a Unreliable Narrator, and she is in fact just as sadistic as her present self in the show is particulary amusing after Disney made an a movie where Cruella's backstory is shown in a sympathetic light, complete with her mother being the sadistic one. Funnier still is that controlled dalmations (though they were controlled by a dog whistle) were the murderers of Cruella's adoptive mother.
  • Idiosyncratic Ship Naming: All ship names. Here's a few examples.
    • Emma/Regina = "Swan Queen"
    • Ruby/Belle = "Red Beauty"
    • Killian/Emma = "Captain Swan".
    • Emma/Neal = "Swan Thief" or "Swan Fire"
    • Mulan/Aurora = "Sleeping Warrior"
    • As of "The Bear King", Ruby/Mulan is being shipped as "Mulan Rouge".
    • Henry/Nick are called "Beanliever".
    • Portmanteau Couple Name: There are also a few ship names that don't fit this pattern, such as Snow/Charming which is "Snowing" and Rumplestiltskin/Belle, which is "Rumbelle".
  • I Knew It!:
    • Mr. Gold perfectly remembers being Rumplestiltskin. Most fans probably guessed it from a mile away, though The Reveal was no less satisfying.
    • Surprise (or not)! Cora is the Queen of Hearts after all.
    • Several people guessed as early as the first season that Henry's father (Neal) is Baelfire.
    • Similarly, several fans guessed early on that Cora was the girl in the original Rumplestiltskin fairy tale.
    • Fan boards had joked since Frozen hit theatres about how it would translate to the OUAT universe. Less than 6 months after the film's release comes the release of Elsa from an urn, setting up Season 4's opening arc
    • Many had theorized that Elsa wasn't the actual Big Bad of Season 4 and that the Snow Queen was the real villain. They were right.
    • A smaller case. When Merrin Dungey's Ursula appeared in Season 4 (and was referred to as "the sea witch"), a few assumed that she wasn't the sea goddess that Eric's kingdom worshipped. "Poor Unfortunate Soul" confirmed that she was just named after the goddess — though it's not confirmed whether that was her at the end of "Ariel" or the true goddess.
    • Lily being the daughter of Maleficent was so obviously guessed by everyone it would have been a bigger twist if it hadn't turned out that way.
    • Henry's middle name being Daniel was a popular theory.
    • A smaller one brought on by The Reveal that Zelena was really Marian in disguise. Two episodes later revealed she was pregnant with Robin's baby, which had been tossed around by fans.
    • After the Black Fairy showed up in Season 6, it did not take fans long to suggest that she would kidnap Belle and Rumple's son.
  • Incest Yay Shipping:
    • Continuing from its original fanbase, Elsanna quickly established itself as one of the more popular ships on the show.
    • One of the most popular (if not the most popular) ships in the fandom is that of Emma Swan and Regina Mills (aka the Evil Queen), who, while not related by blood, are related by marriage (Regina is the stepmother of Emma's mother, Snow White). This fact is often ignored by their shippers, and those who don't will justify it by saying that since they aren't blood relations, it's okay. Some write it in as a joke in their fanfic, but still ultimately brush past it and get to the romance.
  • Informed Wrongness:
    • Queen Eva (or Princess at the time) telling Leopold about Cora is presented as Moral Event Horizon for the character - Regina even states something about "such darkness in her heart". Yet all Eva was doing was telling the future king about a woman that had gotten pregnant off a gardener (and would presumably pass the baby off as Leopold's) - and exposing a Gold Digger who for all she knew was trying to manipulate the future king. Also, it's said to be bad because Eva "told a secret", just like Snow did with Regina... except that Eva was eavesdropping, she and Cora had no agreement whatsoever that Eva would keep that information a secret. Eva was under no obligation to keep quiet about what she had heard, making it even more bizarre that this is treated as a crime. While it's true that Eva's underlying motivations were spite and jealousy towards Cora for being a mere peasant who was stealing Eva's fiancé, there were still good reasons to expose the deception.
    • Mary Margaret repeatedly has to apologize to Regina for having killed the latter's mother Cora despite the fact that she did it to protect her family. When Emma suggests later that she did the right thing, she just responds that she did "because it was easy" and we are supposed to agree. Yet again there weren't any other options available at time since Cora was seconds about to kill Rumplestilskin.
    • The plot to turn Emma's heart dark in the second half of Season 4 basically plays by the same rules as The Caster Chronicles: people have a good/evil switch in their head, and once it's flipped they're completely helpless to make any decisions against that inclination. Hence, killing someone physically incapable of hurting anyone, despite being completely ignorant of that and genuinely believing Henry's life was in danger, automatically turns Emma evil. The next episode does handle this better by showing it to be only the first step towards something truly evil (like killing Lily in cold blood).
  • It Was His Sled:
    • The curse being broken and magic being brought to Storybrooke in the finale of Season 1 is very well-known as later seasons have major usage of magic and the commercials don't seem to have a problem showing characters using magic in Storybrooke. While it came across as a surprise to some fans who thought that the curse wouldn't be broken in Season 1, those who start watching the show in later seasons will reach a Foregone Conclusion for Season 1 if they decide to go back and watch that season.
    • Neal being Baelfire is also very well-known. It doesn't help that that his Fan Nickname is Nealfire and most people are more likely to call the ship name for Emma/Neal Swanfire than Swan Thief.
  • It's the Same, Now It Sucks!: One complaint about the show as the seasons progressed was that many of the villains in later seasons just seemed to have similar, recycled tragic Freudian Excuse backstories where they suffered great tragedy and all they truly want is love and family and warm, cuddly feelings. With Rumple and Regina in the first season, the general sentiment was that having tragic tales made the two of them sympathetic, three-dimensional characters. But as the seasons wore on and many other major villains were given basically the same copy-and-paste sad stories where they act bad but secretly want a hug deep down, from Cora to Zelena to the Snow Queen to Maleficent. By then, the feeling was that in trying too hard to make sympathetic, three-dimensional villains with understandable backstories, the writers actually end up making these characters rather one-dimensional and monotonous because they all basically share the same cliched motives of wanting love but end up lashing out and becoming evil because they're denied love. Part of the reason why Peter Pan and Cruella are much beloved villains is because they fully avoided this criticism as they are not meant to be seen as tragic villains.
  • Jerkass Woobie:
    • Felix Imagine how betrayed he must have felt when Peter Pan, whom he give his deepest loyalty to, killed him. He didn't even ask if Felix wanted to die for him, which by his reaction, Felix clearly didn't.
    • Zelena/The Wicked Witch, though her flashback episode comes after a likely Moral Event Horizon, and boils down to: "She had a choice. The choice really sucked."
    • Ingrid the Snow Queen is quite possibly the Woobie-est villain of all in the show.
    • She has a contender in poor, poor Drizella. When your own mother cares nothing for you, forces you not to use your magical gifts you've been blessed with, and then tries to steal your heart to bring back your sister whom she does care about, how can you not consider being Driven to Villainy? This girl probably needs a hug more than a beatdown. Come "Sisterhood", and she gets on from her sister.
    • Jefferson/ Mad Hatter may have become a psychopath, but that was only after he was betrayed by Regina who chose to bring her father back from Wonderland instead of him (since only two people could leave), thus separating him from his beloved daughter- whom he desperately tried to help, and forcing him to miss her tea party, which he promised to be on time for.
  • Just Here for Godzilla:
    • Some people picked up interest on the series because of Elsa, who showed up at the Season 3 stinger.
    • Due to the show's premise as a crossover with twisted family trees and flashbacks, there is also a segment that has long since realized the show isn't what they'd like but are still following what the show chooses to do out of pure interest to that element. (Example such as what Disney references crop up, what connections are revealed, etc)
  • Launcher of a Thousand Ships:
    • Emma is commonly paired with her step-grandmother and archenemy Regina, who also happens to be her biological son's adoptive mom. Also fairly popular are Emma/Graham, Emma/August, Emma/Jefferson, Emma/Neal Baelfire and Emma/Gold. You'll also see your vocal minorities of Emma/Ruby and Emma/Archie shippers and those who would ship Emma/Mary Margaret if Mary Margaret wasn't actually Emma's mom. Or who ship it regardless. AND a more recent main ship is her with Captain Hook, which became canon in the season 3 finale.
    • Ruby/Red is also shipped with quite a few characters—Emma (as mentioned above), Archie (due to both characters' popularity with fans and lack of canon love interests), Gold (especially before the introduction of his canon love interest Belle), Snow White and Belle, and Graham by fans who like Graham's character too much to take the convenient Killed Off for Real exit or to further their preferred Emma ship. Jefferson and Regina, too, even though they (and Gold and Archie, come to think of it) have never actually interacted with Ruby. August and Ruby had one conversation of Ship Tease and gained a small-but-loyal fanbase, Charming/David, since she became his de-facto second-in-command in post-curse Storybrooke. And then there are those who liked Red's original love interest Peter from her tragic backstory. Unsurprisingly, "In the Name of the Brother" created many Ruby/Whale ("Frankenwolf") shippers.
    • Regina has been shipped with Emma, Gold, David, Snow, Jefferson, Ruby, Archie, Daniel, Hook, Tinker Bell, Robin Hood, Maleficent, Doctor Facilier, and Ivy. That is not even getting into OT3 pairings with Emma and Ruby or Robin and Maleficent.
    • Captain Hook has been paired with Ruby, Emma, Regina, Aurora, Mulan, Jefferson, Cora, David, Tinker Bell, Neal/Baelfire, Peter Pan, Wendy... even Ariel, at least several episodes before she actually appeared. And sure enough, all three episodes she's appeared in since her first involved her and Hook, and there was certainly some chemistry in at least two of them.
  • LGBT Fanbase: This show has a large fanbase of queer men who love the large amounts of camp and extravagant costumes. The fact that several characters such as Mulan, Ruby, Dorothy, Tilly, and Margot are all confirmed to be part of the LGBT community helps secure a large fandom of queer women as well. Even some straight characters like Emma, Regina, and Rumplestiltskin have large queer fanbases due to said fans relating to their themes of being forced to conform to roles you don't fit, feeling alone in the world, and wanting to be more than that role. That is not even getting into the large amounts of Ho Yay and Les Yay between characters like Emma and Regina, Mulan and Aurora, Ruby and Belle, Pan and Felix, or Hook and Charming.
  • Like You Would Really Do It:
    • Snow going through with Cora's murder. Well, eventually she does try to stop it, but too late.
    • The season 2 finale which has Regina about to perform a Heroic Sacrifice and Storybrooke being in danger of being destroyed.
    • Early in season 3 Charming is slowly dying from poison over several episodes. Mitigated as the method of saving him still has serious consequences. That are dealt with pretty easily and with no long-lasting effects.
    • Later in Season 3 Henry gives up his own heart and appears lifeless. Right, as it that hasn't happened before...
    • Emma gets her memory back courtesy of a potion from Hook (but not Henry, not enough potion), because a new curse has been cast by the Wicked Witch of the West, who turns out to be Regina's half-sister as part of a complex revenge plot against her. She also somehow brought Rumple back to life, although he now appears to be insane. But then Neal dies.
    • Killing off Regina and Hook in the Season 4 finale. Yeah... that wasn't going to stick in a million years. And the episode does seem to agree, it is in an alternate universe after all.
  • Love to Hate:
  • Magnificent Bastard:
    • Rumplestiltskin, aka Mr. Gold, is the charismatic and manipulative architect of the entire saga. A skilled player who can use both friend and foe alike, Rumplestiltskin rises from humble origins to become the powerful Dark One to save his son. After losing him to the land without magic, Rumplestiltskin orchestrates a centuries-long group of gambits to reach him and directly corrupts various characters to do It. Rumplestiltskin helps orchestrate Emma Swan becoming Sherrif by helping create a series of unfortunate events that would help her election. He later skillfully plays Hook's feelings to turn him into his pawn to achieve freedom from the Dark One dagger and when defeated can claw his way back by corrupting Emma to create a world where villains like him get happy endings. Rumplestiltskin bounces back even from this setback and uses Emma to become the most powerful Dark One in history while searching for even greater power. Rumplestiltskin also has softer moments in his endeavors and helps the heroes against various villains that threaten to destroy the town of Storybrooke. Redeeming himself, Rumplestiltskin spends an entire season helping to create a situation so he can be free of his immortality and be with his wife in death. Affable, charming, and tragic, Rumplestiltskin whether friend or foe always gets on top.
    • Cora Mills, aka the Queen of Hearts, Regina and Zelena's mother, was once a poor girl who, after a life of hardship, was taught magic by Rumplestiltskin and fell in love with him before choosing power over him. Wanting Regina to have the life she never had, Cora poisoned her old rival Queen Eva before making Snow White's horse go wild so Regina could save her. Later manipulating Snow into telling her that Regina is planning to run away, Cora kills Regina's love, Daniel. Imprisoned in Wonderland, Cora spends years plotting to reunite with her daughter and later protects herself, Hook, and a few others from the curse, before taking over the refugees by pretending to be Lancelot. Upon making it to Storybrooke, Cora comes up with a plan to frame Regina for the murder of Archie, before convincing her to join her. Planning to and nearly succeeding in killing Rumplestiltskin, Cora eventually dies in Regina's arms, telling her that she would have been enough. Encountering the heroes in the Underworld, Cora tries to convince Regina to go home before being imprisoned by Hades. Managing to use her cunning and Hook's hook to escape, Cora makes amends with her daughters before ascending to Olympus.
    • Ingrid the "Snow Queen" is Anna and Elsa of Arrendale's aunt and the Big Bad of season 4A. A charming, soft-spoken woman who was unjustly punished by her sister for an accidental murder and left to rot self-aware in an urn for decades, Ingrid desires a family once more and sets about to get it. Coming to the Land without Magic, Ingrid begins a scheme to help Emma Swan and Elsa become her new sisters and help them conquer their fears and embrace their powers. Ingrid plays the various heroes into helping her construct the Spell of Shattered Sight to destroy the citizens and allow her and her new sisters peace and even lets herself get captured in order to get close to Emma to emotionally manipulate her into setting off and allow her to embrace her heritage. Always calm, collected and charming, Ingrid even dies with true dignity, accepting that what she's done is wrong and giving her life to fix it, ultimately allowing her to rejoin her sisters in the afterlife in one of the show's most touching send-offs.
    • Hades is the Lord of the Underworld, God of Death and Big Bad of season 5B. Having been cast out from Mount Olympus after an attempted coup, Hades was confined to the Underworld lest he find true love with his emotions damped thanks to his cursed frozen heart. Desiring to woe the witch Zelena he loves, Hades puts the heroes through loops as they attempt to resurrect Captain Killian "Hook" Jones. Tricking Rumplestiltskin into destroying his way out from the Underworld only to reveal Hades has a contract to his unborn child, forcing him into servitude; and manipulates Hook's brother into keeping information of his own weaknesses away from the heroes. Hades also tricks Belle into damning Gaston to crush her hopes and empower himself, even responds to Rumplestiltskin's capture of Zelena by setting up Emma as a contingency plan and later trick the heroes into nearly being trapped in the Underworld forever with a false story about Hook. Hades ultimately proves to be one of the heroes' greatest foes and very nearly succeeds in his plans to rule the mortal realm with Zelena by his side.
    • Mr. Hyde is the warden of the Land of Untold Stories, who fled there after Jekyll framed him for the murder of the woman that they loved, Mary. When a group of heroes gets trapped in his domain, Hyde decides to use their and Jekyll's escape plan to take all the untold stories to Storybrooke. Kidnapping a comatose Belle, Hyde trades her and a way to wake her up to get Gold to help him complete his plan. Even when captured by the main characters, Hyde holds his head high, managing to use his knowledge to cause Emma to lose her confidence and getting the Evil Queen to free him in exchange for information. Secretly tracking Jekyll to his lab, Hyde destroys the serum designed to kill him and even swaps Jekyll's hidden vial with a fake, using this to get ahold of the Dark One's Dagger. Blaming Gold for Mary's death, Hyde plans to force Gold to watch the "monster" Jekyll kill his wife. Soft spoken and classy, Hyde repeatedly shows that he has the brains to match his massive strength.
    • Doctor Facilier, aka Mr. Baron Samdi, was once a witch doctor with a foot on each side, who tricked Tiana into giving him the Firefly Ruby by making a Frog into a Prince. In another instance, he gets Tiana to kill an alligator, so he can get Regina's necklace and return it to her. In Hyperion Heights, he awakens Nick so he will kill the witches that are his competition and sees through Regina's attempts to trick him. Having Sabine's food truck shut down, Facilier has Drew earn her trust by helping her save it. Killing Nick when he gets caught, Facilier tricks Ivy into siphoning magic from Anastasia and gives Regina the magic to save Henry, all in exchange for a smile. Facilier later helps Lucy cure Henry because she impressed him. Smooth-talking and only beaten by a sneak attack, Facilier proves to be the most competent villain introduced in Seattle.
    • "Desperate Souls" & "The Apprentice": Zoso, the Dark One before Rumplestiltskin, is the one ultimately responsible for Rumplestiltskin's fall into darkness. Finding himself enslaved to the Duke of the Frontlands, Zoso recognizes Rumplestiltskin as a desperate soul and hatches a plan to make Rumplestiltskin his successor as the Dark One. Pretending to be nothing more than a homeless beggar, Zoso takes advantage of Rumplestiltskin's desire to protect his son to become his "benefactor", telling of the Dark One's Dagger, before convincing him to steal it from the Duke and kill the Dark One to become the new Dark One. Goading Rumplestiltskin into killing him, Zoso dies laughing and passing onto Rumplestiltskin an important lesson: "All magic comes with a price".
  • Memetic Badass:
  • Memetic Loser: In the show, Robin Hood is shown to be quite a competent archer, but the main thing a lot of fans remember him for is him repeatedly getting beat up or knocked out in battle, often overplaying how much it happens. One of the main things these fans like to use is him being immediately knocked out by Zelena right after making a bold statement about aiming straight and true. A lot of fans also try to play him as a deadbeat dad due to him not naming his new born daughter until "he knows her" after leaving her not long after she was born. There's also a running joke among many of his detractors that he must be constantly constipated due to his actor Sean Maguire's habit of always scrunching up his face in a way not too dissimilar from someone who has to go to bathroom really bad.
  • Mentor Ship: Following the revelation that Regina was Ivy/Drizella's magic teacher, there exist a large number of fanfics that pair Ivy/Drizella with her, helped by the fact that their backstories are very similar. Most shipping fanfics about Ivy on Archive of Our Own and Fanfiction Dot Net will pair her with Regina, even topping her canon crush on Henry. This ship is referred to as "Step Queen" in these fanfics. This also doubles as Foe Yay Shipping, as Regina spends a good portion of the final season wanting to stop/kill Ivy after she poisons Henry.
  • Misaimed Fandom: "A lust for power above all else will ultimately destroy you" is a message the show has worked very hard to cultivate. It's written all over the character arcs of Rumple, Regina and Cora, all power-obsessed characters who were at their happiest when they gave up their power and focused on what was truly important (their children, to give the most obvious example). Cora's last lines were even the heart-breaking realization that being able to love Regina would've been all that she needed to be fulfilled, and everything she did was for nothing. The problem is, some fans still root for them to get the power they seek/were seeking, because they're all so much more entertaining when they're evil. It can sometimes fall into Do Not Do This Cool Thing territory when we get a string of episodes depicting Regina or Cora being fabulous evil bitches, Hook being a dashing pirate, or flashbacks of Rumple cranking up the Large Ham and gleefully manipulating everyone.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Malcolm crossed it in a flashback when he abandoned his son, Rumplestiltskin, all for the sake of power and eternal youth. This moment is where Malcolm stripped himself of any good and fully becomes Peter Pan, a monster willing to kill anyone and do anything simply for his own amusement.
    • Isla crosses by ordering the massacre of all magical beings including Gothel's family. In this moment, she graduates from racist heiress to full-blown villain, leading to Gothel's Start of Darkness and the creation of the Land Without Magic.
    • Gothel strips herself of any sympathy her backstory could generate when, after drugging Hook to conceive a child, she simply abandons her newly-born daughter to be forever imprisoned in the tower instead of her.
    • Prince James is originally simply a selfish prince. However, James becomes a legit villain when, after tricking friendly giant Anton into taking him to the land of the giants, he proceeds to lead Jack in massacring the giants before abandoning her to die.
    • Originally a Tragic Villain, Fiona, the Black Fairy strips herself of any sympathy when she tortures a boy for hours in an attempt to punish her grandson, Gideon, because he disobeyed her and to prove that he will never be a hero.
  • More Popular Replacement:
  • Narm Charm:
    • In "The Crocodile" after a rather tense conversation between Belle and Rumple, the latter turns to walk away only for Belle to ask if he's ever tried a hamburger. Sound silly? Yes but here's the context: he's just broken it off with her because he believes he's too dark to be loved. And Belle's talk of hamburgers is her way of asking him out on a date, letting him know she's forgiven him. Now it's Adorkably sweet.
    • The second casting of the Dark Curse in "A Curious Thing" manages to be incredibly moving despite the fact that (1) Charming is, at this point, clearly shown to be alive in the present day, so there's absolutely no tension about whether or not Snow is actually going to kill him and (2) the solution to the problem of Snow crushing Charming's heart is to have Regina tear out Snow's heart, break it in half, and shove one half in Charming's chest, somehow reviving him and returning all of his memories and personality because "he's been in [Snow's] heart all alone". The show somehow managing to make that into an emotionally resonant scene is truly remarkable.
    • Basically the entire Frozen arc constitutes as this, as it's the only time in the series where the writers don't really play with established canon. Literally, everything is taken directly from the film, from the characters' personalities to their outfits. In spite of this (or perhaps because of it), the fact that everyone is trying so hard to be as faithful as possible to the film's universe while also maintaining continuity with the series itself elevates the arc from being merely a product placement to something actually entertaining.
    • In "Mother" Maleficent's line about teaching Lily how to be a "scary dragon bitch" is silly but still very moving, since it's mother and daughter bonding for the first time ever.
  • Never Live It Down:
    • The Blue Fairy convincing Dreamy to end his relationship with Nova as well as her stripping Tinkerbell of her wings puts her firmly in Ron the Death Eater territory for a vocal portion of the fandom.
    • Neal Cassidy will never be an acceptable Love Interest for Emma to some fans for letting her go to prison in the backstory of "Tallahassee" because Pinnochio said so.
    • The respect for August dropped dramatically for a lot of viewers when it was revealed on Twitter by the creators that he was the one who sent Emma to jail and stole the money Neal had left for her, deciding to use it to go to Phuket. And then he starred in "Selfless, Brave and True", one of the series' least well-received episodes.
    • Meta-example: The showrunners have said that the most grief fans have given them has been over Tamara's magical taser.
    • Emma had sex with a winged monkey in disguise. A few fans immediately dedicated themselves to making sure no one ever forgot this.
    • On a real life level, Ginnifer Goodwin's reputation among fans is now firmly entrenched as "the actress who keeps screwing the writers over by getting knocked up," based on just two pregnancies over the show's run.
  • No Yay:
    • The general reaction of the fandom to Cora kissing Rumplestiltskin. At least until their backstory is shown and we see a Cora not played by Barbara Hershey (this time by Rose McGowan) who has more chemistry with Robert Carlyle, which makes it much more understandable (and, for some, more interesting than canon Rumple/Belle).
    • Regina and Greg. Please stop touching his face, Regina. That goes for you too, Greg.
    • Regina and Graham.
    • Mary Margaret and Dr. Whale. Really, did we need to know that Snow White cheated on her prince with Dr. Frankenstein?
    • Pan and Rumple. Nobody likes Parental Incest, after all.
    • Emma and Walsh. Nobody likes a flying monkey sent to "occupy" Emma, either.
    • Zelena/The Wicked Witch and Rumple.
    • Cora and Leopold is almost universally loathed.
    • Some fans feel this way towards the Les Yay between Emma and Regina, due to Regina technically being Emma's step-grandmother, killing her former love interest, and turning said love interest into a sex slave. Some feel like Regina comes off as abusive towards Emma, with her constantly belittling Emma and at one point using the dark one dagger to force Emma to try to admit something she didn't want to. Of course, Emma/Regina remains one of the most popular ships in the fandom, so this is far from a universal opinion.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • Little Red Riding Hood hunting a werewolf that terrorises her village every month at the full moon? That's the plot of a film called Red Riding Hood (based on the novel by Sarah Blakely-Cartwright) with Amanda Seyfried as the heroine. In both movies the love interest is a suspect and both movies call him Peter to boot (possibly as a Shout-Out to Peter and the Wolf). In both stories Red's father was a wolf. Except in the film he's the main antagonist while in the show he's passed it on to Red herself.
    • Ditto for True Love's Kiss working when fueled by family love and not just for romantic love. It was originally scripted for Snow White & the Huntsman - where the Huntsman was conceived as a much older man. The kiss that wakes Snow White up was meant to symbolise a father's kiss. Ultimately things were changed, Chris Hemsworth was cast and the Huntsman became a love interest instead.
    • It isn't new for Captain Hook to be portrayed as a handsome man rather than the decidely unattractive character of the Disney Peter Pan movie; in fact he's described as such by J.M. Barrie in the speech "Captain Hook at Eton".
    • Likewise, there's no suggestion in the original fairy tale that Cinderella's wicked stepsisters (famously depicted as "the Ugly Stepsisters" in the Disney movie version) are not conventionally attractive, as all versions of them in the Once Upon a Time universe have been.
    • You might be surprised to learn that this isn't the first time King Arthur has been portrayed as a villain.
    • Many noted that Greg Germann's performance as Hades is less like James Woods and more akin to a Jack Nicholson-type who can combine humor with a more subdued and quiet menace. In fact, Jack Nicholson was Disney's first choice to play Hades, but he demanded too much money for the part so they went with Woods.
    • This isn't the first time Snow White's grandson was the main character of a network show, or visited New York — The 10th Kingdom, which premiered on NBC in 2000, featured Prince Wendell White, who finds himself in New York City in the first episode.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Maleficent appears for exactly one scene with the Evil Queen and has yet to even appear in Storybrooke, but there is already a massive fan outcry to see more of her. She appears in Storybrooke in the first season finale... in her dragon form. She also returns in season 4.
    • The Caterpillar and the Queen of Hearts. Pretty much everyone in Wonderland, actually, which led to the creation of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. The Queen of Hearts shows up again and is ]revealed to have been Cora all along.
    • The Blind Seer has two scenes in one episode, as a child and then an adult. Her design is completely unforgettable and if you trace events backwards, it turns out that her impact in Rumplestiltskin's life is the cause of nearly everything that happens in the show.
    • Goddess Ursula at the end of "Ariel". She never made another appearance on the show afterwards, assuming that wasn't really Sea Witch Ursula acting through the goddess's statue.
    • To a lesser degree, Zelena's adoptive mother. Many pointed out that it would have been easier to make her as much of a jerk as her husband to make Zelena's backstory more tragic, but have her be such a wonderfully kind, sane and normal person who subverts the show's track of abusive foster parents makes the whole story sound real. Giving her a good Establishing Character Moment and then having her die between scenes works much better.
    • Nimue has only two small appearances outside of the episode that introduces her. Caroline Ford's layered performance, and the character being suitably tragic make her incredibly memorable.
  • One True Pairing: In this fandom, there are two pairings you will ship: Snow/Charming and Rumplestilskin/Belle. Everything else is up in the air.
  • One True Threesome:
    • A lot of fans who ship Emma/Regina are also big fans of Ruby and like to include her. It helps that Emma has chemistry and Les Yay with both of them, as does the fact that Ruby is bisexual in the show. Ruby's canon relationship with Dorothy Gale often being seen as Strangled by the Red String also helps. This pairing is referred to as "Red Swan Queen".
    • Aurora/Phillip/Mulan. Aurora/Phillip is canon, Mulan fancying Aurora is also canon, you could make a very good case for Aurora fancying Mulan, and Mulan's relationship with Phillip is ambiguous. So, for those who didn't think much of the canonical departure of Mulan, this is an acceptable workaround. It helps that there's a Scottish variant of Sleeping Beauty ("Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree") that takes this exact path.
    • After Elsa was introduced in Season 4, Elsa/Emma/Hook became very popular among shippers who shipped Official Couple Emma/Hook. It helps that Elsa is the one to help Emma control her magic and also became close friends with both Emma and Hook. These shippers refer to it as "Captain Frozen Swan".
    • A lot of Regina/Robin Hood shippers love Maleficent and will often include her in their fanfics. It helps that while Robin Hood is Regina's canonical soulmate, she has a close friendship and great chemistry with Maleficent. These shippers often refer to it as "Dragon Outlaw Queen".
    • In an interesting case, at the end of season 5, Regina separated her Evil Queen half from her and allowed for the Evil Queen persona to interact with both her and Emma at the same time. Fans who ship Fan-Preferred Couple "Swan Queen" (Emma/Regina) took this as an opportunity to ship both the enemies version from the first two seasons and Les Yay that quickly became popular in later seasons at the same time. This is helped by fans also shipping the two versions of Regina (called "Mayor Queen") together. This threesome pairing is called "Mayor Swan Queen".
     P - W 
  • Platonic Writing, Romantic Reading:
    • Emma and Regina's interactions often come off more romantic than the simple friendship the creators intended it to be. Season 4 has one episode being devoted entirely to Emma attempting to rebuild her friendship with her. One scene shows the two have eaten lunch together enough that Emma knows Regina's dieting routine. Emma's devotion to Regina is also startlingly like that of a lover, especially in the Season 4 finale, where she sacrifices herself to save Regina. While the creators have claimed it was her saving the town, the Season 5 premiere has multiple characters, including Emma's actual love interest Hook, refer to it as her sacrificing herself for Regina. When Emma needs someone to hold onto the dagger that can control and kill her, she trusts Regina with it over her parents or Hook. Some fans have also interpreted Regina's constant insulting of Hook as jealousy over his being with Emma. Both are also devoted mothers to Henry, so Emma and Regina's relationship to each other and Henry can play as lesbian parents and their son. This was not helped when the Official Couple of Season 7, Henry and Jacinda, had many elements that fans thought were borrowed from Emma and Regina's.
    • Snow and Red are incredibly close, and most of their scenes are full of Les Yay. Red even chooses Snow over her own family in a scene that would still make sense if they were lovers. Red may be a Shipper on Deck for Snow and Charming, but some of their scenes are written like they're a couple.
    • Emma and August have killer chemistry. Most of their early scenes - particularly in "7:15 AM" - have lots of flirting that suggests they may have been planned to hook up eventually. Season 4 lampshades this, with Hook getting jealous when August returns.
    • Ariel's debut episode does revolve around her interest in Eric, but she has only one scene with him. Far more screen time is devoted to her friendship with Snow - with whom she makes a strong emotional connection. She even chooses to help Snow rather than go after Eric.
    • Emma and Lily...good God! Their story plays very much like two runaway teenage lovers, and their last scene together is pretty much a break-up. If Lily had been a boy, the situation would immediately be interpreted as a love story. Naturally the Les Yay is played up even more in their further scenes.
    • Charming and Anna of all people. While the episode makes it clear they have a platonic friendship - he knows she's Kristoff's fiancee within their first scene together - the two have lots of chemistry and the scene after he's defeated Bo Peep has them getting quite physical with each other. This was before he met Snow, so he could have had a crush on her, but nothing comes of it
  • Questionable Casting:
    • Agnes Bruckner as the adult Lily has some raised eyebrows. The thing is that Nicole Muñoz is very clearly Hispanic (half Spanish on her mother's side) with light brown skin and black eyes. Agnes Bruckner is clearly white, naturally blonde, and with light brown eyes. The casting got some minor accusations of whitewashing, as well as for the fact that the two actresses simply do not look alike.
    • Michael Raymond-James retroactively once it's revealed who he is. He fits fine as the Plucky Comic Relief and lovable doofus he's introduced as. When he's revealed as Baelfire, a very melodramatic role, it's clear he's not quite up to the task.
    • Patrick Fischler's performance as Isaac holds the bizarre distinction of being pantomimey even for this show. What's especially glaring is that his character is from our world originally, so his overblown performance really makes no sense.
    • Lee Arenberg is another contender, with his forced hammy performance as Leroy/Grumpy really clashing with everyone else's attempts at grounding the fairy tale stuff in realism or embracing the campy stuff. Granted in some ways he's beloved for Narm Charm.

  • Quirky Work:
    • "Hat Trick" is a bit strange already, but about the time a giant blue smoke-blowing caterpillar appears, well...
    • The entire series is actually a brilliant idea, but it can get this kind of feel when you try to describe it. "Rumpelstiltskin and the Evil Queen fight for power against Snow White, Prince Charming, and their daughter."
  • Rainbow Lens:
    • When Emma starts showing signs of having magic in season 4, her magic is treated this way. Season 4A sees Elsa, who has largely accepted her powers at this point, helps Emma accept hers as well. Just look at this line from Smash the Mirror, Pt.1:
      Elsa: They accept us for who we are, and that's important, but it's not enough. It's on us too. You have to love yourself, Emma. The good and the bad. The only way to ever be truly in control of your powers is to embrace them. Because this... this is who you are.
    • This trope comes back in season 5A with some rather... negative implications. After Emma becomes the Dark One but before the plot gets derailed, much of the storyline consists of her family and friends trying to "fix" her darkness and get her back to the person they knew her as, while Emma insists that this is who she is and they need to accept her. We'd previously found out via Flashback that Snow had a vision that Emma might turn out to be evil before she was born, so she and Charming tried to cast all the darkness out of her as a precaution. However, since the Dark One's power is inherently corruptive, it is not inherent to Emma.
  • Recurring Fanon Character: This show has an odd one in the form of Hope Swan-Mills, who is technically based on an actual character in the show, Hope Swan-Jones, but is often reimagined into a Fan-Created Offspring for Emma Swan and Regina Mills. Following the final episode revealing that Emma has a daughter named Hope with Hook, it became the go-to to use that name for any child of Emma and Regina in fanfics. Some even go as far as making the canon one into Regina's kid instead of Hook's, but most of the time it's just simply using the name for an OC.
  • Replacement Scrappy: Agnes Bruckner appearing as Lily's older self. Part of the problem is that fans absolutely fell in love with Nicole Munoz's Lily and her vulnerability. This is in contrast to Bruckner's cold and broken take on her, that makes them feel like two completely different characters. Then again, it's possible that Lily developed the cold and broken personality after finding out the truth about her birth mother.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • Princess Abigail in the Enchanted Forest. In her initial appearances she's presented as a Disposable Fiancée and Flat Character. Then a later episode reveals that she doesn't want the marriage to David either and her own true love Frederick was turned to gold saving her father's life. After David helps her, she helps him try to find Snow White.
    • Belle started to slip into Base-Breaking Character territory after a couple seasons due to her having little to do except fawn over Rumpelstiltskin. This ended quite dramatically in the Season 4 winter finale where she discovers Rumpel's become a villain again, and takes up his dagger to banish him from Storybrooke forever. Only for her to take him back again by the next season.
    • Cruella De Vil managed it in record time. After her first appearance just before Season 4's winter hiatus, many fans complained that she was completely out of place in the Enchanted Forest and didn't deserve to be included in the Queens of Darkness. This largely cleared up once we actually get to see her in action, with Victoria Smurfit's Large Ham performance and her being turned into The Beastmaster being quite popular.
    • Henry. If you did a google search the day after the season 4 finale, 8 of the 10 first reviews mentioned this audience reaction after the episode. Reasons cited were his getting long overdue Day in the Limelight, being assertive, having learnt from his badass family members and building a new interesting dynamic with them in no time, Jared S. Gilmore's improved acting skills (particularly during his scenes with Regina) and the possibilities opened by his new role as the Author.
    • Zelena was a heavily disliked Big Bad who received many accusations of being way too over the top in her acting even on this show. Come Season 5 in which she was promoted to a regular character, she's become much more subdued in her craziness and less of a villain and more of a Troll whose needling of other characters is found to be funny by many viewers. It also helps that the second half of Season 5 has her come across more of a three-dimensional character.
    • Milah in Season 5, when we find out she's spent centuries in the Underworld unable to move on because of her guilt over abandoning her son, and in the meantime has been making her penance by looking after the souls of dead children. And then her chance for redemption is snatched away almost as soon as it came when she's thrown into the River of Lost Souls.
    • Robin Hood's death did this for him to some. While he still has his fair share of people who dislike him, some previous haters came around after his Cessation of Existence in Season 5, feeling he didn't deserve that level of punishment.
    • Rumplestiltskin lost favor with a good chunk of the fandom in seasons 4-6 due to his constant case of Heel–Face Revolving Door. The seventh season won him back some of these fans by actually allowing him a more consistent redemption arc that ended in a Heroic Sacrifice, to the point where some cite him as one of season 7's better aspects.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Romantic Plot Tumor:
    • Emma's relationship with Hook is this for pretty much all fans who don't ship Captain Swan because of how it elevated the importance of an extremely polarizing character above that of several other well-established characters from the first season, and because the show sometimes seems to go out of its way to make Hook look good even when he doesn't deserve it.
    • Regina's relationship with Robin started off relatively well-received, if poorly developed, but it quickly devolved after Marian turned out to be alive, and then Robin cheated on her with Regina while she was frozen and dying. The writers tried to fix it by having Marian turn out to actually be a glamour-ed Zelena, but this really only made things worse because the faux love triangle and resulting pregnancy turned out to be one of the least popular plot lines in the show's history up to that point.
    • Though it started out extremely popular, most fans now feel this way about Rumbelle. The characters seem to be stuck in a cycle of Rumple doing something awful and hiding it from Belle, Belle finding out and leaving him, and then Rumple convincing her to come back somehow. At this point, even fans who used to be hardcore Rumbelle shippers are hoping Belle will just find happiness elsewhere.
    • Henry and the new Cinderella in Season 7. Many fans argue that they are nothing more than a much more boring rehash of Snowing (plus, them being a copy of Snowing was intentional on the writers' part), with their romance arc rushed up to eleven (in one episode they kiss and two episodes later it skips to Henry announcing Lucy's birth and then an eight-year time skip in the same episode) leaving no time to develop their relationship at all, and furthermore fans argue that Henry and Ella have no chemistry whatsoever, which is essential towards a believable love story. Yet even though their romance in the past is rushed, somehow the writers still have time to show these two onscreen together all the time.
  • Rooting for the Empire:
    • A few of the more... devoted Regina fans tend to do this. And Rumplestiltskin fans. And Captain Hook fans. Probably even some Cora fans out there...
    • Drizella fans have been begging for her to win, or at the very least fix her mistakes and get together with Henry.
  • The Scrappy:
    • David Nolan (but not Charming) ended up being hated by fans when he started having an affair with one woman and beginning a string of lies to protect himself. This ended up hurting both women he was in a relationship with. Hilariously, even Prince Charming insults David Nolan in Season 2.
    • Greg and Tamara from Season 2. Tamara had almost no backstory or Character Development, manipulated and exploited Neal, and lied about having cancer so that she could kill a magical healer. Greg was a little more well-developed and had a Freudian Excuse, but many fans found him to be annoying. Both characters are disliked for their bizarre anti-magic tech, and it doesn't hurt that they were trying to destroy Storybrooke, or that they replaced Cora as the new Arc Villains. They were so widely despised they were literally killed off in the first episode of the next season.
    • The Blue Fairy, first for breaking up Nova and Dreamy, then for separating Bae and Rumple, and then for lying to Snow and Charming about the magic tree (though the former was entirely Rumple's fault with Geppetto sharing some of the blame for the latter). But "Quite A Common Fairy" really broke the camel's back. She refuses to help Regina (before she became evil and thus could have been saved) just because she had the misfortune to be Cora's child and Rumple's pupil in magic. Her treatment of Tinker Bell for arguing against her, and turning her into a human made it more official. And as if that wasn't enough, she banished Rumple's mom, which in turn causes almost every single bad thing to happen in the OUA Tverse. Just to add fuel to the fire.
    • Will Scarlet in Season 4 also had many detractors who felt like he had no business being on the show since he'd already had a full character arc in the spinoff series, and what we saw of him on this show seemed like a retread of his arc there, with his character having seemingly regressed. The Crack Ship of him with Belle, and him subsequently getting even less screen time and less to do on the show, didn't help matters. Hilariously, his final big speaking part has him actually calling himself "scrappy" and Gold responds by referring to him as "Scrappy" as well.
    • Princess Merida in Season 5 got hate for taking away too much screen time and focus from other more important characters yet contributing little to the overall narrative of the season's arc, coming off as overly abrasive and arrogant to the point of seeming mean-spirited towards others, and in general feeling out of place on the show, being a Disney/Pixar creation rather than a character from age old legends and fairy tales.
  • Seasonal Rot:
    • There is a widespread dislike for Season 2, especially its second half following Emma and Snow's return from the Enchanted Forest. Season 1 is beloved, if largely due to novelty, and opinion on Season 3 is split down the middle, but Season 2 is usually criticized for all the new character additions and multiple storylines being piled on at the expense of the characters and stories the show already had.
    • Season 4 is divisive. Like Season 2, it had a strong start, with the Frozen story arc breathing new life into the show and giving it popularity it hadn't had in a while. But to some, this has sadly been undone by many questionable story decisions, a padded two-parter killing the Frozen arc's momentum, and a second story arc with an unpopular premise and so much stuff packed into it that it was met with derision before it had even begun airing, so much so that ratings have actually been declining ever since. Bringing back Zelena just made it worse outside of her fanbase, especially since the episode revealing that plot twist took away momentum from the whole Author arc, not to mention that it was barely foreshadowed beforehand.
    • The first half of Season 5 has its own problems. Several fans were not happy with Zelena being upgraded to a regular. Merida was largely criticized for overshadowing the main arc and taking screen time away from the core characters. What's more is that the show quickly became overloaded with another Kudzu Plot — with the revelation that Hook is now a Dark One causing the season to do a complete 180 and abandon the arc it had been building with Camelot, and the winter finale pulling Flanderization on Rumpelstiltskin's character to an absurd degree. Likewise, the midseason finale ending with an Ass Pull was met with outrage by many fans. It was also around this point that Jennifer Morrison started visibly losing interest, which she later admitted was down to exhaustion. Others, however, like how the season, in spite of some flaws, managed to fix most of the problems Season 4 had.
    • While Season 5's second half is considered better than 5A by some for avoiding the problems that arc had and fixing some of the things the show has been criticised for in the past, others don't agree. The arc ended up using the same basis as the Neverland arc but made the primary criticism of that arc (it is character based and progresses very slowly) even worse. Another factor is the three biggest focuses of the arc: people who don't like Hook disliked the show killing off Robin Hood in the same episode Hook is revived (after it looked like he would stay dead), people who don't like Regina don't like how she once again seems to skate by on her crimes even when many victims she's killed are right there in the Underworld and she even seems to benefit from her time spent down there, and people who don't like Zelena hate how much time is spent on her and her out-of-nowhere romance with the Big Bad.
    • The first half of Season 6 has been met with scorn by many fans for abandoning the Land of Untold Stories concept a few episodes in, wasting several characters like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, bringing in versions of Aladdin and Jasmine that were considered underwhelming, having a much campier and less threatening Evil Queen as the Big Bad, bringing Rumple's behavior toward Belle to very uncomfortably abusive levels, adding further unwanted Retcons, and generally feeling like there's no coherent plot. The second half has also been receiving flack with Hook revealed as the killer of David's father which led to Hook and Emma being separated again for three episodes, the Split Queen arc ending with Regina absorbing some of the Evil Queen's darkness and her doppelganger getting her chance at a happy ending with wish realm Robin, and the Big Bad generally being a rather underwhelming villain despite being the one prophesied to kill Emma, with the one pulling his strings seen as something of a Generic Doomsday Villain despite a fun actress playing her. Still though, the latter episodes of the season were at least well received for wrapping things up in a finale that many fans would have been satisfied with being the series one instead.
    • Season 7 was already in a tough spot by dumping most of the old cast including the main lead and looking like it would break up the show's main couples. The fact it also reuses the plot of Season 1 was seen by many as a sign the writers were running out of ideas. However, the back to basics approach, the ways the season resolves the casting issues and adds several twists to the season 1 plot has won some people over, and just as many people love the series finale at the end as there are who hate it.
  • She Really Can Act:
    • A few felt that Jamie Chung was miscast as Mulan, given she was best known for Asian Airhead roles and Mulan is a Proud Warrior Race Girl in this. Come "Quite A Common Fairy" and Mulan's confession that she loves Aurora is cut short when the latter announces her pregnancy with Philip. In the character's subsequent appearances she also displays a bit more spunk and charisma.
    • Rebecca Mader was once held up as one of the weaker actors on the show, especially in the first half of Season 5 when her attempts to give Zelena human emotion resulted in Narm. The Hades storyline however allowed Rebecca to show a different side of Zelena and, come the "Sisters" episode, she was getting rave reviews for her performance. Opinions toward her acting continued to stay strong throughout the remainder of the show.
    • Not that Lana Parrilla's acting talents were ever in doubt - but they were raised to new levels in Season 6 when the Evil Queen started appearing as a separate entity to Regina. She effortlessly plays both characters and they feel like different people, with the Queen coming across as a much more Machiavellian villain than the Large Ham she had been Flanderized into previously.
    • People already felt that Jared S. Gilmore's performance as Pan in Henry's body in Season 3 was better than his usual performance as Henry, but it was taken to a new level with the Wish Realm's Henry in the series finale, whom Gilmore played to chilling effect, leading many to say that his future lies in playing villains, not heroes.
  • Ship Mates:
    • Emma/Regina shippers who don't demonize Robin will often simply keep him with Marian, especially those who found it unreasonable for Robin to forgive Regina so easily for killing Marian. Some of these fans will also just pair them to get Robin out of the way. These fans will also pair Hook with Milah or Neal, the latter because it gets rid of both of Emma's canon love interests.
    • Fans of Sleeping Warrior (Mulan/Aurora) have started putting Neal and Phillip together after the Season 2 finale. See examples here and here.
    • Fans of Captain Swan (Emma/Hook) were pleased to hear rumors that Regina would be paired up with Robin Hood in Season 3 as a way to prevent Swan Queen (Emma/Regina).
    • Fans of Swanfire/Swan Thief (Emma/Neal) tend to be fans of Hooked Queen.
    • As of the Season 3 premiere, some Captain Swan fans have started supporting Mulan/Neal (Mufire), which would free up Emma to be with Hook.
    • Some very particular circumstances at the end of season 3 resulted in one becoming popular before half of the couple was even properly introduced: Regina and Elsa, or Frozen Queen.
    • There are those who ship Captain Swan who pair Neal up with Tinker Bell.
      • Or vice versa for those who are Swanfire shippers.
    • The Step Believer fans (Henry/Drizella) tend to pair Ella with Jack from the New Enchanted Forest.
  • The Ship's Motor: A lot of Emma/Regina fanfics have the plot of Henry trying to get his moms together, being a Shipper on Deck for them, and/or trying to actively break them up from their canon relationships as a way to get them together. This not only has little to no evidence in canon but ignores the fact that he seems perfectly fine with their love interests, Hook and Robin, even if he took a while to warm up to Hook.
  • Ships That Pass in the Night:
    • The "Red Queen" ship between Ruby and Regina is surprisingly popular in fanfiction. This is despite the fact that Ruby and Regina have only really interacted a couple of times in the show and never without the other characters present. It certainly helps that Ruby is canonically bisexual and that both are also often shipped with Emma (which leads to the popular One True Threesome pairing of Emma/Ruby/Regina).
    • Elsa and Liam. Although having interacted with the same characters and sharing a sibling(like) bond with two characters who happen to be paired together (Emma & Hook), they have never had a face-to-face encounter.
    • Archie and Red. Despite only having one scene where Archie orders something from Red at Granny's, they have gained some attention from shippers.
    • Grace and Henry, despite their only interaction being her saying "hi" to him while they're in school.
    • Wendy and Peter Pan, who have retained a loyal following ever since season 3, are a somewhat less extreme example; while they do interact a few times, their relationship is much more distant and antagonistic than most incarnations of their characters, and we don't get to see any of the time that they spent on friendly terms (assuming it even exists). All of this not even touching the fact that this version of Peter completely breaks from the source material in that he's actually a grown man who magically transformed himself into a child, a twist that most shippers happily ignore.
  • Ship-to-Ship Combat:
    • The latter half of Season 2 brings us Emma/Hook vs Emma/Neal, with a less vocal, but still noticeable fandom which abhors both.
    • Season 3 brings us an all-out Ship-to-Ship-to-Ship Combat with Emma/Hook vs. Emma/Neal vs. Emma/Regina, featuring such gems as some groups of shippers urging each other to boycott an episode featuring a heavily publicized kiss of a rival pairing or even bullying actors on Tumblr if an actor replies that his character likes the other rival (even if the original comment had no shipping context).
    • The war between Emma/Neal and Emma/Hook has mostly stopped as of Season 4 since Emma/Hook won and Neal is dead... in time for another war, this time with Emma/Hook and Robin/Regina against Emma/Regina.
  • Signature Series Arc: The Neverland arc from Season 3, in which Peter Pan is the villain. It brought about Heel Face Turns for Hook and Regina that led to them becoming part of the main cast, also sowing the seeds to pair up Emma and Hook as the show's Official Couple.
  • Sophomore Slump: Many people feel that the second season just isn't as good as the first, due to loads of characters being introduced and focused on at the expense of old favorites, and many story threads going on at once, leading to a rise in The Chris Carter Effect.
  • Special Effect Failure: Happens a lot - while some elements of the series (such as the clock tower) look excellent, one-off spells, characters, and the like aren't nearly as fortunate. A few particularly bad examples:
    • When Regina arrives at the Charmings' wedding in "Pilot", the CGI floor is clearly out of sync with her walking speed.
    • The incredibly fake looking CGI deer in "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter".
    • In "Hat Trick", Wonderland's CGI environment is barely passable.
    • The worst offender has to be Granny's getting picked up by the tornado in the Season 5 premiere. It's terrible CGI and looks unbelievably fake. Ironically enough the scenes from inside Granny's are effectively done and they could have been satisfactory without the CGI shot of the diner getting picked up.
    • The Fury carrying Robin away likewise looks incredibly fake.
    • The CGI for the Heroes & Villains universe ultimately looks worse than usual. It might be deliberate, to show how fake the world is - but then again it still clashes badly with the obvious on-location scenes in forests and caves.
    • The CGI for the outdoor scenes in Arendelle is quite patchy, especially at the dock. However for inside Anna and Elsa's castle, it's much better.
    • Two words: Hades' hair. It looks like it was rendered by someone who's using AfterEffects for the first time. Notably, after "Her Handsome Hero", it stops happening, which means that even the production team finally realized that it wasn't working out.
    • Shortly after arriving in Neverland in season 3 Rumplestiltskin magically removes his own shadow. It's not surprising that they didn't go through the trouble of digitally removing his shadow in every since shot afterwards. However, a few episodes later they run into a spell which only lets through those without a shadow. Rumplestiltskin can get through, and he explains how the spell works, yet you can clearly see his shadow in multiple shots in that very same scene!
  • Spiritual Adaptation:
    • Set in a world where fairy tale characters live in the modern-day, having been exiled from their real home after it was taken over by an evil conqueror, it is almost a TV adaptation of Fables, albeit starring the Disney versions of those characters. It also helps Storybrooke is quite similar to Fabletown and some of the characters fill out the same roles as their Fables counterparts such as Emma Swan as a sheriff much like Big Bad Wolf/Wolf Bigsby or Belle and Snow White as part of the main cast.
    • Memory tampering, world-hopping, heart-stealing, convoluted plotting, copious amounts of Ho Yay and Ship-to-Ship Combat, and a kitchen sink of everyone from the Disney catalog along for the ride. Let's face it: This is the closest we'll ever get to an American, live-action version of Kingdom Hearts.
  • Spiritual Successor: The 10th Kingdom mini series, which came out 11 years prior to Once Upon a Time, also featured a plot where fairytales and the real world collided, with the fairytale kingdom as a mashup of multiple fairytales, focusing on Snow White's kingdom. It similarly starred a cynical woman in her mid-late 20s with Parental Abandonment issues who learns to be open to love, a Wicked Stepmother with a tragic past, and Snow White's grandson.
  • Spoiled by the Format: In "Kansas", the heroes defeat Zelena, Regina officially becomes a hero, depowers her and everybody is happy. Too bad, there are two episodes left. Something bad has to happen, and thanks to Rumpelstiltskin's complete lack of restraint, it will. Though as it turns out, anything bad that eventually happened had nothing to do with Zelena, other than her magic brooch opening a time portal.
  • Squick:
    • Peter Pan telling Rumplestiltskin to go home to Belle because she "looks fertile" was not well-received. Made even worse by the reveal that Peter Pan is Rumple's father.
    • Regina putting her heart back in after burying it in the forest. She doesn't even try to brush it off first!
    • Emma was apparently having sex with a monkey for eight months. Though to be fair, Walsh is actually The Wizard's default form, and his other form is a Forced Transformation caused by the Big Bad.
    • The revelation that Leopold nearly married Cora isn't itself gross. Until you remember that he then later married Cora's daughter. Worse, Word of God is that he did in fact know who Cora was when he married Regina. Even if there's no proof the relationship turned sexual, that's just disgusting (heck, even Leopold seems to think so: he seems quite visibly uncomfortable during the whole proposal scene.)
    • The romantic hook-up and various make-out scenes between Mr. Gold and the Evil Queen in Season 6. The majority of fandom no matter what shipping group they belonged to was asking for *Brain Bleach after these moments aired. Everyone seemed squicked out by it.
  • Shocking Moments:
    • First raised with the death of Sheriff Graham in the 7th episode, and then in the first season finale where the curse is broken.
    • Raised significantly in the Season 2 premiere. How do you still have a show after the first season's ending? The answer: Trapping Emma and Snow White in the Enchanted Forest.
    • The Season 2 finale has this as well, with Henry being taken to Neverland and Hook, Emma, Regina, Rumplestiltskin, Snow, and Charming boarding Hook's ship to save him. And Peter Pan is the new Big Bad. Don't think anybody could have seen that coming.
    • And who could have seen this one coming? Peter Pan is Rumple's de-aged father! And Henry rips out his own heart!
    • The Season 3 Winter Finale ends with Rumplestiltskin pulling a murder/suicide on Peter Pan, everyone but Emma and Henry returning to The Enchanted Forest and Emma and Henry losing their memories.
    • Where is Neal? He's been absorbed by his father Rumplestiltskin. And then he DIES.
    • The very end of the Season 3 finale features none other than Elsa from Frozen arriving in Storybrooke!
    • In Season 4's The Apprentice Rumpel and Hook trap Mickey Mouse in his own sorcerer's hat!
    • At the very end of Operation Mongoose, the Apprentice uses the hat to suck the darkness out of Rumple's heart, but it pin points Regina as its new target. Emma, reasoning that the Darkness has to be tethered to a person just as the Apprentice has told them, sacrifices herself to save the town from being consumed by the Darkness and becomes the Dark One herself!
    • Heading into the mid-season finale of Season 5: not only is Hook a second Dark One, but he enacted the Dark Curse to get back to Storybrooke so he could kill Gold. How did he get around the price of having to crush the heart of the thing he loved most (since contrary to his protests he does still love Emma on some level, and also she's obviously still alive)? Using Loophole Abuse, he takes and crushes Merlin's heart, since Nimue still loves him and she is technically alive inside him. As if that isn't enough, he uses the blood he got from Gold (the blood of a man who has been to Hell and back, something that's both literally and figuratively true of him) to open a portal to the Underworld and bring all the Dark Ones back in the flesh. Ultimately, he redeems himself - by absorbing the darkness from every Dark One that has ever existed before having Emma stab him with Excalibur, KILLING HIM. As if that wasn't crazy enough, it turns out that Rumple funneled the darkness Hook absorbed into himself, effectively rendering his sacrifice completely pointless.
    • For Season 5 finale, the Evil Queen returns as an Enemy Without; and Hyde is the new villain. Also every storybook character from the stories that aren't in the main storybook are revealed to exist in the Land of Untold Stories and will now be coming to Storybrooke, either for revenge or to get their own stories and happy endings.
  • Strangled by the Red String:
    • Some think that the show is relying too much on Because Destiny Says So to convince the audience that Mary Margaret/Snow White and David/Charming are meant to be together instead of building a genuinely meaningful connection between the two. Or they think this in regards to Mary Margaret & David but not Snow White & Charming.
    • Some fans believe that Neal and Emma are a bit too hasty to declare their undying love for each other... just minutes after Neal finds out that the woman he was going to marry is actually a villain. He was going to get sucked down to a portal at this point, but still, some found it quite jarring.
    • According to "Quite A Common Fairy", Robin Hood is Regina's "second chance at love." A man she has never even met or had any kind of interaction with. But no, the pixie dust Tinker Bell gave her said it was him, so it must be right. Regina is portrayed as in the wrong for not wanting to meet a stranger in a pub to fall in love with even though she was trapped in a marriage to the king at the time, who could have easily found out and is shown in "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree" to have jealousy issues. Fans who ship Regina with other characters understandably were displeased, some more so than others. The latter half of Season 3 had them form a relationship with no real development whatsoever except that Robin never made Regina uncomfortable and seems to have no characterization except "Perfect Love for Regina." Robin's overall lack of concern about his wife in season 4 has made things even worse.
    • Belle and Will Scarlet in Season 4B. Taken up to eleven in that they never even interacted on-screen before that point.
    • "Ruby Slippers" produced a lot of these feelings in the fandom. The dual announcements that season 5 would have both a gay romance and the return of Mulan had many assuming she would find love and finally be happy, and after "The Bear King" ended with Mulan and Ruby travelling together, it seemed clear the two of them would fall in love. But then "Ruby Slippers" had the two of them meet Dorothy, and Ruby and Dorothy fell immediately into true love after knowing each other for roughly five minutes. Even people who were really excited to finally see a gay love story thought that was awfully sudden.
    • Henry and Jacinda/Cinderella in Season 7. The flashbacks portray a lot of the relationship off screen to the point that the episode they officially begin their relationship is the last episode we see them interact before the mid season finale which begins with Lucy's birth. Then there is an eight year time skip in the same episode. Their relationship in the present day storyline is much more front and centre but it still has the recurring problem of happening off screen.
  • Strawman Has a Point:
    • Regina is a horrible person, and that's not even getting in to the things she did as the Evil Queen. And while it's left ambiguous exactly how she feels towards Henry, it's clearly not normal and healthy love as we'd understand it. But what she says regarding how a woman who adopts a child and raises the child is the "real mother" makes a lot of sense, even if she herself is a terrible example of that. Emma even agreed with that from the beginning, doing her best to distance herself from Henry and only becoming involved when it becomes obvious that Regina is a terrible person. Even after Regina frames Mary Margaret for murdering a woman she had kidnapped, Emma accepts that Henry is Regina's son.
    • When Snow slaps Geppetto after he reveals that he lied about the wardrobe only being able to transport one person, it's implied to be the result of her darkening heart due to killing Cora. But it's hard to blame her for getting angry at him for betraying her trust and depriving her of a chance to care for her daughter.
    • The stance that Henry takes in the Season 5 finale about magic being the source of everyone's problems is completely true. From "All magic comes with a price" to most of the villains having some form of magic or a magical ally, magic has been the cause of most of the problems the heroes face.
    • The Good Guys, especially David/Prince Charming, repeatedly allow the bad guys to live over the protests of various strawmen. They'll even release them with little more than a wag of the finger, and even make sacrifices to save them. Refusing to use offensive magic against the Bad Guys, stopping their allies from retaliating against the Bad Guys, saving the Bad Guys from lynch mobs, even jumping in front of arrows for the Bad Guys, it happens constantly. You know what else happens constantly? The Bad Guys kill, imprison, rob, and rape people. The audience is meant to agree with the Good Guys that capital punishment is bad, but every time they catch and release the Bad Guys, the Bad Guys go on to do something breathtakingly evil, usually including multiple murders, that could have been prevented.
    • Zelena was quite an example of a Psychopathic Womanchild and Green-Eyed Monster, especially with regards to Regina. However, it may have not been entirely wrong when Zelena points out that as bad as Regina had it, there are others who may have it much worse. Considering what we see through flashbacks with regards to Zelena, her tragic backstory is an example of it.
  • Stuck in Their Shadow: The show focuses just as much on both Emma and Regina's stories, with them both being presented as necessary for the other's story. However, most of the attention of fans is put on Regina's redemption arc rather then Emma's journey to be a hero. This is mainly because most found Regina's story to be more interesting. While Emma is still popular in the fandom, she remains overshadowed by Regina even to this day in the eyes of both the fans and general public.
  • Take That, Scrappy!:
    • Prince Charming has some choice words about his unpopular curse persona in "We Are Both".
    • Gold later notes that using a locator potion is "so simple even David Nolan could do it."
    • In the season 3 premiere Tamara in quick succession finds out her whole job was a lie, gets shot by an arrow, is left to crawl in agony for a while, and finally Gold pulls out her heart and crushes it. The writers clearly got the message about how much the fans hated her. Oh, and all of her "anti-magic technology'? Powered by magic and given to her by Peter freaking Pan to further his own goals. Even more than Tamara, the fans loathed the freaking tazer.
    • The Blue Fairy later gets sucked into a magic hat in "Fall", and this time it takes several episodes before this situation is undone.
      • In streak with her misfortunes, not even her Wish version is safe. In S 07 E 22, she's the first to be victimized by Rumpelstiltskin's dark plan, of expelling everyone to a story realm where they will be alone and separated from everyone forever.
    • Merida is Demoted to Extra in the second half of Season 5, and gets chewed out by the protagonists for letting Arthur escape prison. She's pretty much sent back to Camelot without any fanfare.
  • Theme Pairing:
    • Regina and Maleficent is a very popular ship within the fandom that started mainly because both were witches. It helps that they are both villains who poisoned their princess enemies with sleeping curses that were broken by True Love's Kiss and devoted mothers. The fact that the two have major amounts of Les Yay helps their shippers a lot.
    • Ruby and Whale were a reasonably popular ship during season two. This is mainly due to the fact that they resemble/are based on classic Universal Horror characters (Ruby is a werewolf and Whale is Doctor Frankenstein), and was aided by Ship Tease between the two. However, with the two becoming increasingly out of focus, the ship has faded quite a bit in popularity.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: Making King Arthur a villain, especially since he's one of the most heroic characters in all of legend. Thankfully, he makes a postmortem Heel–Face Turn and is now going to succeed with the Underworld where he failed with Camelot.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • Mulan and Aurora, who had their biggest presence in the first half of Season 2, at the expense of established figures like Archie and Ruby. Both of them had their screen time reduced in Season 3 - partly due to the actresses' commitments to other shows. Mulan does reappear in Season 5, but Aurora is reduced to two cameos in Season 4 to never appear again in the series. This is especially annoying, as Season 2 had hinted at an interesting connection with Maleficent (with her mother being the original Sleeping Beauty, and more nuanced reasons for going into the sleeping curse). Season 4 features the return of Maleficent, and her history with Aurora is glossed over.
    • Tinker Bell hasn't been seen since Season 3. In fairness her actress is now quite busy as the lead star of IZombie, though that didn't stop her co-star in the show David Anders from making a brief return as Dr. Whale. She eventually returns for one episode of Season 6, "Page 23".
    • Many feel that the writers just didn't care about August's character, despite his rich backstory. Particularly noticeable when they chose to revert him to human after being turned to wood, as a 7-year old boy with no memory of his adult life. This has a chance of being addressed in Season 4B thanks to Gold re-aging him into August again, thus letting him reconnect with Emma and Henry, and he gets to appear in several episodes during the second half of Season 6.
    • Ashley/Cinderella could have been used more, especially considering the villain of the spin-off is implied to be one of her sisters (and she was also implied to be somehow connected to King George). Weirdly enough, many fans noted that she is somewhat of a foil to Cora, since both were abused maidens who made deals with Rumplestilksin to marry princes (Cora even snuck into a ball...). There's a joke in the fandom that the writers of Once hate Cinderella (they've killed several of its characters and put Ashley and her prince on a bus after two episodes) while the writers of the spin-off absolutely love it. She does at least get to return early in Season 6 and get some resolution to her arc with her stepmother receiving punishment and a reunion with the stepsister who actually loved her.
    • Ruby disappears from the last few Season 2 episodes. The producers admitted that more was planned for her, but the ever-increasing character load left them with no place to put it. The actress was then released from her contract so she wouldn't be stuck unable to get other work until they found more room for her, though she has finally reappeared for a few episodes in the second half of Season 3, and then again for two episodes in Season 5 that explain her disappearance from the show.
    • Lacey, Belle's villainous cursed persona, is probably the most egregious example, debuting in the 19th episode of the second season (which was even entitled "Lacey"), then went MIA in the next episode, followed by only a few scenes in the two-part finale in which she was promptly erased from existence once Belle recovered her memories.
    • With his screen time drastically reduced in the second half of the third season and the outcome of his backstory episode (3x15, 'Quiet Minds'), many fans consider this was done to Neal as well.
    • Rapunzel, considering the success of Tangled. Instead she was just reduced to a role that could easily be played by a generic princess. This was remedied in Season 7, where a new version of Rapunzel is given a bigger role. Although several fans didn't like her being given Adaptational Villainy in that season by revealing she grew up to be Lady Tremaine.
    • The Blue Fairy/Mother Superior probably qualifies. Leaving the fandom's dislike of her aside, she was set up as the Big Good in the Enchanted Forest in season 1 and had ties to some of the main characters. As the series has progressed she has gotten more and more Out of Focus and, despite being a part in other people's backstories, she has yet to be given one of her own. She has been re-introduced in a number of episodes since then throughout Seasons 4 and 5, and has especially become more prominent in Season 6, though still without the backstory explored.
    • Will Scarlett, the Knave of Hearts, is added to the main cast in Season 4, being far and away the best choice for a transplant from the cancelled spinoff. He then proceeds to appear in little more than half the season's episodes, usually for a single scene, and have almost no role whatsoever in the story. The only thing he does that could remotely be called a plot is romance Belle for a few episodes, which even then mostly supplemented Rumple's storyline anyway. What's worse, the writers play coy for the whole season about how exactly he got to Storybrooke, which seems to have totally undone his happy ending with Anastasia from the spinoff (she's alluded to exactly twice, neither time by name), unless his stint here takes place before that ending or even that whole series, which is possible given the vagueness of the timelines.
    • The Dwarves insist on coming along to Camelot in Season 5A, declaring they're tired of being on the sidelines during these adventures. And then the writers promptly seemed to completely forget they wrote them in, with them not showing up at all throughout the whole story.
    • The Knights of the Round Table, some of the greatest heroes of legend... only three show up and do little.
      • Sir Kay, Arthur's sarcastic but loyal foster brother and seneschal gets Death by Adaptation before he even joins the group.
      • Sir Percival, simple but brave and one of the knights who achived the Holy Grail, is promptly killed off in his first appearence.
      • Sir Lancelot du Lac, the Best Knight in All the World, returns from his presumed death... and does nothing besides a retread of the romantic plot with Guinevere before vanishing offscreen.
    • The Dark Swan. While she does some morally questionable things, she never does anything out right evil. Unlike Dark One! Killian who has no problems using his Dark Magic for evil.
    • Despite Season 5B having Hades as its Big Bad, Hercules and Meg are inexplicably reduced to single episode guest stars, moving on to Mount Olympus after helping to defeat Cerberus.
    • Jekyll and Hyde. Hyde especially was set up to be the Big Bad of Season 6, but was quickly arrested by the heroes and pushed aside in favor of the Evil Queen. When she freed him, he had only a few moments of besting everyone, especially Rumple, before both he and Jekyll were killed off due to their link.
    • Lily from Season 4 was one of the most potentially interesting characters to be introduced on the show at that point: She was, quite literally, Emma's other half and Emma's efforts to save her from her darker impulses, as well as the quest to find her father could have made a whole subplot on their own. Unfortunately, The Dark Swan arc shoved most of this aside. Not only was it never brought up again, but Lily herself has yet to be seen after Season 4. Thankfully, the crew did have the decency to shove in an offscreen resolution for her when they got the notice the show would be ending, revealing her father as Zorro. This appears to have been an unfortunate case of Real Life Writes the Plot: The showrunners were unable to secure the rights to Zorro, so the storyline that would have featured him had to be cut.
    • Fans were highly displeased when Drizella, Season 7's Ensemble Dark Horse Tragic Villain, left Hyperion (and the series) after episode 15 to protect herself and her sister, stating that she should have stayed, found a way to restore her magic and therefore better defend herself and Anastasia, and most importantly fixed her mistakes and cleaned up the mess she's partially responsible for (i.e. the Curse, poisoning Henry, the Coven, etc.), therefore remaining essential to the plot line and becoming a regular rather than simply ducking out after getting her sister back.
    • Dr Facilier/Baron Samdi the behind the scenes schemer of Season 7's Big Bad Ensemble was a fascinating character in his own right with a lot of charm and panache and could have been a great Big Bad in his own right. But, likely because of the show getting cancelled, Facilier is abruptly stabbed in the back by Wish realm Rumple thus cutting short all of his ongoing arcs and leaving the majority of his motivations unexplained.
    • Granny was a recurring presence in Seasons 1 and 2, established as quite the badass. She started appearing less and less from Season 3 onward - usually just showing up to deliver one or two witty lines. It almost felt like the writers forgot she was established as handy with a crossbow, and could still track people with scents as a former werewolf. In some episodes, she's literally just a featured extra.
    • While Cora received lots of screen time and a well-received send-off in Season 5, the show built her up so much as a Greater-Scope Villain to Regina that it becomes quite shocking that she's killed off suddenly in the middle of Season 2, leading to the unpopular Greg and Tamara replacing her as the arc villains. Surely far more could have been done with her.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • There's a sense that despite her being an Ascended Extra, the writers weren't entirely sure what to do with Belle in the second half of season 2. Her amnesia plot kinda plodded along without much change, and her time as Lacey lasted only 3 episodes before being undone. Both of these could have been used more creatively, but the ongoing feud between the Charmings and Regina and the introduction of Tamara sort of derailed much chance to use Belle effectively in the second half.
    • The Big Bad Duumvirate of Season 2 established that regular humans could be a very real threat to Storybrooke and that the Masquerade of the town was razor-thin... then it turns out their boss is Peter Pan and the threat of the Land Without Magic essentially vanishes.
    • While most fans were behind Mulan and Aurora as a pairing, even those who shipped one of them with Philip or just didn't care for the ship in general believe that Sleeping Warrior was treated extremely unfairly, when Mulan acknowledged her feelings for Aurora, only to find out that Aurora was pregnant before she could tell her, and then disappeared, never to be seen or mentioned again until Season 5. This breeds particular hostility among fans because Mulan was the only character in the dozens that have been introduced on a show where the theme is true love who wasn't heterosexual.
    • Some fans feel that the potential of Hook and Baelfire's relationship was thrown away in favour of the Love Triangle. Outright referred to in 'Quiet Minds' when Hook comments to Neal/Baelfire that they let 'nonsense over a woman' get in the way (yes, the writers had Hook practically apologizing for not putting his Bro Neal before... well, Emma).
    • The entire arc of Charming being poisoned in Neverland. It consisted of a few episodes of him hiding it, then Hook offering him a cure that would save him if he stayed on the island. A few episodes later, and Rumplestiltskin says he can give Charming a permanent cure. They didn't do anything with it.
    • Mary Margaret becoming the mayor of Storybrooke in the first half of season 4 never really went anywhere. The first few episodes of the season built up Mary Margaret's storyline as mayor and how she would balance that along with being a new mother to baby Neal, but it quickly faded into the background of all the other stories running in the Frozen arc. By the start of the second half of the season Regina is mayor again with Mary Margaret returning to teaching.
    • Rumple's regression to villainy was triggered when he spotted the Sorcerer's Hat, the only thing that could cleave the Dark One from the Dagger and keep his powers intact. It could've easily been portrayed as a case of Rumple slowly falling off the wagon (magic is akin to a drug addiction) instead of the horrible case of Flanderization it became.
    • The whole "Queens of Darkness Arc": many were hoping that since Ursula, Maleficent, and Cruella were taking center stage that Ariel, Aurora, and Archie (because of Pongo) would return to center stage. Instead most of the drama focused on the Charmings per usual. And in the end the Queens of Darkness weren't even the biggest threat, it turned out to be Greater-Scope Villain The Darkness.
    • The Season 4 finale is set in an altered version of the Enchanted Forest where the heroes' and villains' roles are reversed, which could have easily provided the material for an entire season on its own rather than the two hours we get. It's hard not to resent getting to see so few of the altered characters, especially the absence of Maleficent after her huge role in the arc until this point.
    • The whole Camelot arc is one for the Arthurian legends. None of the classic villains like Morgan le Fay or Mordred appear. Only three Knights of the Round Table show up, with two dying in their first episodes. Consider the massive amount of Arthurian material to draw on, the writers really dropped the ball.
    • If they wanted a more morally ambiguous King Arthur, the May Day Babies incident where he tried to kill Mordred as an infant, would be a great element to adapt giving some complexity to Arthur and setting up Mordred, but instead we get some half-baked plot about obsession with fixing a broken Excalibur turning Arthur crazy.
    • Season 5B took place primarily in the Underworld which would've been a great time to bring back Graham, one of the show's first major characters to be Killed Off for Real. But his actor was otherwise occupied.
    • The plotline of Trope Namer Jekyll & Hyde. Hyde is built up to be a Season 6 Big Bad, the heroes start relying on Jekyll as The Smart Guy and he forms a partnership with Dr Whale (Frankenstein), Mr. Hyde and the Evil Queen are briefly Ship Teased as a potential Unholy Matrimony, and then it turns out JEKYLL is the bad half and Hyde this time around could be the better half. They both die in the fourth episode of Season 6.
    • Everything about the Land of Untold Stories qualifies (see Aborted Arc in the main page of this show).
    • The Season 4 finale hinted at an arc of Lily trying to find her father. It then became an Aborted Arc, only resolved with a throw-away line of dialogue in the series finale.
    • The arc of Regina vs. the Evil Queen in Season 6. Many fans had hoped that the story would play out to its logical conclusion: Regina defeating and re-absorbing the Evil Queen once she realizes that she can regret her past crimes and work to redeem herself for them without having to deny her own inner darkness which is a natural part of her, and that in fact having it inside her and remembering what it's capable of is a better motivator to keep doing good. But instead, Regina uses the value of self-love to mix the light of her heart and the darkness of the Evil Queen's hearts together, letting the Evil Queen remain her own entity, getting instantly redeemed and rewarded with a happy ending in the Wish Realm with its version of Robin Hood. The absurdity of this resolution and the Karma Houdini status it gave to the Evil Queen was controversial, to say the least. This may explain why this was addressed to some degree in the season finale, although whether the new resolution makes up for the earlier one is, again, up for debate.
    • The Coven of the Eight plot feels like it was very underdeveloped despite its initial build up. After showing Gothel as the true Big Bad of the season she shows Anastasia the empty cloaks of the other members of the Coven and tells her about her plan to reunite with her sisters. There was a lot of speculation that this would allow the writers to introduce a whole slew of famous Disney witches to fill out this Coven, especially when Madam Leota from the Haunted Mansion ride appeared in one episode with Gothel trying to resurrect her to join the Coven. Despite this most of the witches are never shown, Gothel abruptly awakens them all at once offscreen in present-day Seattle an episode before her death, all of them except the Blind Witch turn out to be nobodies that are just there to fill in the ranks, and the Coven are all abrubtly turned into trees by the next episode, making their inclusion in this season feel insubstantial.
  • Too Bleak, Stopped Caring: A common complaint from audiences ever since midway into this show's fourth season is that it no longer lightens up and allows the characters to have moments of peace and happiness, making all the talk about having hope and finding one's own happy ending to seem pointless. Robin Hood's seeming Deader than Dead fate ended up making this so bad, Word of God actually had to Retcon the Olympus Crystal's effect to simply Killed Off for Real.
  • Tough Act to Follow: It's been a widespread opinion that, whether you like or dislike the series finale in Season 7, it doesn't leave quite the impact that "The Final Battle" in Season 6 did. The lack of Emma until the very last scene is a big factor, as is the ending itself being much more controversial than the Season 6 finale's touching happy ending montage.
    • In term of the many Big Bads that the show has had, a plurality of viewers appear to feel like none of them that follow Robbie Kay's Peter Pan in the first half of Season 3 have managed to capture the same level of evil, menace and intrigue. Even the showrunners were made aware of this after he was voted "favorite villain" in a poll to commemorate the 100th episode, and they even brought him back for a brief cameo in the penultimate episode of the whole series.
  • Toy Ship: Henry with either Gretel or Paige/Grace. Also, Baelfire and Wendy.
  • Trapped by Mountain Lions:
    • The Lacey subplot near the end of the second season had nothing to do with the main plot and has never been mentioned since.
    • Like Lost, some flashbacks are guilty of this, being forgetable filler subplot. A big offender is "The New Neverland" with an uninteresting plot that has no relations with the present-day action about Snow and Charming hunting Medusa during their honeymoon in order to stop Regina (which is doomed to fail because Regina is obviously not a stone in present days), aside from a loose connection about a lesson Emma must learn, which doesn't really go anywhere anyway.
  • Uncertain Audience: The show fell into this in its later seasons. The first three seasons knew very much that they were going for some Darker and Edgier takes on fairy tales - Cinderella making a Deal with the Devil, Snow White becoming a forest bandit to survive, Peter Pan becoming a Machiavellian villain - leaning more towards hard PG. In Season 4, things became much Lighter and Softer - with characters rarely getting Killed Off for Real, sexual references vanishing overnight and a far more idealistic tone. They also started having characters more directly resemble their Disney animated counterparts. This appeared to be an attempt to draw in a family audience, but the result was often a show that would sometimes be Camp and overly sentimental (whereas previous seasons had more self awareness) - which alienated a lot of the initial fans. But the show would still attempt to touch on the darkness of the earlier seasons - resulting in some jarring tonal shifts like Zelena raping Robin Hood to conceive a baby, but getting redeemed via The Power of Love that same season. While it did make it to seven seasons, by around Season 4-ish it was still unsure who it was meant to be aimed at.
  • Unexpected Character:
    • Once Upon A Time is about "story book characters", which the creators consider to be all fictional characters, but the show puts a heavy emphasis on Fairy Tale ones, particularly Snow White. So it surprised quite a few people when Dr. Frankenstein showed up.
    • The last few seconds of Season 3 suddenly introduce Queen Elsa from Frozen, who isn't a storybook character (having first appeared in a movie) and who first appeared after Once Upon a Time started airing, which makes it strange when flashbacks show Elsa intermingling with other fairy tales when this takes place three decades before Elsa even existed.
    • Nobody had expected Merida from Brave to show up in season 5, as not only does she not originate from any pre-existing fairy tale like the other princesses, she isn't a Disney character, but a Pixar character.
    • The season 5 finale adds Jekyll and Hyde, the main characters of a Victorian sci-fi mystery novella, plus the implication of a whole world full of literary characters outside of fairy tales and fantasy. It also reveals that Violet's father is Hank Morgan from "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court", a story by Mark Twain.
    • The Hook in the majority of Season 7 is not the regular Hook but the version from the Wish Realm.
  • Unintentionally Sympathetic:
    • Sir Percival. Many fans have compared his attempt for revenge against Regina to be similar to that of Inigo Montoya; both had their families killed by their nemesis when they were young and now they seek to kill the nemesis. The fact that he is unceremoniously killed by Charming after his failed attempt to kill Regina also came off as tragic to many fans.
    • The Black Fairy. Her son — Rumple was destined to be Savior, but a fairy foolishly showed her a prophecy that said he was destined to be a killed by a great evil born that same winter who had a crescent moon scar. She then became an unhinged Mama Bear desperate to save her son, Jumping Off the Slippery Slope until her efforts to protect her son ensured that she became the evil she was trying to protect her son from. The Blue Fairy then banished her to the Dark Realm — even as she was crying that she would find her son. In the Dark Realm she lost every bit of humanity and became obsessed with becoming more powerful. The Season finale then reveals that her son was never in danger; if good and evil decided to do the right thing during the Final Battle, they would both be given a "happy beginning"; in fact she was never destined to kill the Savior — her grandson Gideon was, she was just the one destined to put him on that path — she was quite literally a Cosmic Plaything.
    • Drizella. Though she's meant to be as bad as the other major villains, she comes close to Not Evil, Just Misunderstood given her tragic backstory and kind treatment of Gretel, and one could argue that she reacted rather well to her tragedy, at least when compared to Regina. In fact, putting aside her part in the Seattle Dark Curse, it can be argued that she is a contender for being the least evil Arc Villain. Regina, Gold, Zelena, and other villains both redeemed and unredeemed have murdered hundreds during their past days of evil. Drizella's kill count? Three, one of which was an act of self-defense. There's also the fact that none of Drizella's victims seemed particularly innocent.
  • The Un-Twist:
    • Robin Hood being Regina's soul mate: they said she was going to have a sort of love interest, someone the audience already know but she doesn't. There was exactly one character to fit the description.
    • Peter Pan switching bodies with Henry might have had a chance of being surprising, if only the previews hadn't all said "If you think you know how it will end, you're wrong."
    • You have to feel bad for the creators of "New York City Serenade." They tried so hard to build up to the appearance of the Wicked Witch of the West at the very end as a huge, shocking twist, and then apparently everyone forgot to tell the marketing department it was supposed to be a twist, with Rebecca Mader's green face splashed everywhere they could get for months.
    • A possibly intentional case when the Wicked Witch is revealed to be Regina's sister. So many had guessed this already, so the show doesn't waste time with The Reveal and gives it in the Witch's first full appearance.
    • Similarly, not too many people were surprised that Rumplestiltskin would come back to life. That's probably why the writers brought him back so early, and the true mystery is shifted to how it happened.
    • The death ending up being Neal wasn't a surprise at all, even to casual viewers, but what the death lacked in surprise, it more than made up for it in heartbreak.
    • A number of fans guessed that Henry would become the next Author.
    • Emma tying Hook to Excalibur to save his life was a very popular theory in some parts of the fandom after the promo image of his name on it emerged, but apparently, it was supposed to be the big twist of the season or something.
  • Vanilla Protagonist:
    • For many viewers, the Charming family. David and Snow are paragons of heroism and virtue, their daughter Emma is a fairly standard hero, and Henry rarely gets focus. These people tend to prefer the reformed villains as the protagonists, but as seen above, they're controversial too.
    • Hook himself becomes this as of his Heel–Face Turn and particularly in the latter three seasons of the show. He is there as Emma's love interest and aside from occasional interesting reveals that Emma made him a second Dark One or he murdered Emma's grandfather, neither results in a lasting change.
    • Same goes for the new protagonists in Season 7 (although Alice generally avoids this and is often considered the best new hero), especially Ella, who gets almost no interesting backstory episodes, twists or character focus and development despite being billed as the female lead alongside Regina, so therefore the audience tends to devote more attention to the stories and development of the returning cast or new villains such as Lady Tremaine and Drizella.
  • Viewer Name Confusion: Many fans misheard Queen Eva's name as Queen Ava.
  • Wangst:
    • Ashley and Mary Margaret complaining how love isn't what they thought it would be in "Skin Deep". Both are complaining how hard it is. Mary Margaret is dating an adulterer and Ashley's baby's daddy works all the time. Ashley's boyfriend is a 19-year old supporting a cleaning lady and newborn daughter!
    • Regina in Season 2 for crying about how people don't love her and/or how she's believed to be evil, because of all the innocent people she's killed, raped, imprisoned, manipulated, betrayed, or otherwise screwed over in her never-ending quest to ruin Snow White's life because she's still blaming Snow for a murder that Cora committed.
      • Regina at the end of Season 3 complaining about how Emma and Snow don't think of consequences, when Snow was a child and Emma was saving a person Regina killed.
      • Regina again in Season 4's "Breaking Glass", flat-out complaining that Emma ruined her life.
      • Regina yet again in Season 5's "The Price", complaining to Robin that people no longer seeing her as the Evil Queen still isn't good enough for her because she doesn't believe they'll ever see her as anything "more", such as a Savior. There is absolutely no foundation for this belief, especially when she's helped saved the day many times in the past already.
    • Emma at the beginning of season 3. She gets better within ten minutes of screentime, though.
    • Zelena in "It's Not Easy Being Green". "I want a real family that will love me! Oh, I have a sister who is still good at this time and would probably love me... but she got everything I never had and Rumpelstiltskin might like her better than me! SHE MUST DIE!"
    • Snow and the pointless moralizing over her indirectly killing Cora. Cora got what she had coming, and more to the point, she presented a real danger and had to be stopped. Oh, but a good person would have let Cora kill everyone. Rumple at one point even lampshades this fact to Charming.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: Based on fairy tales, specifically the Disney-centric ones, which are generally thought of as kid-friendly, but characters are killed and tortured left, right and center, and the villains tend towards being not particularly nice people. Not to mention family friendly topics like adultery, teen pregnancy, parental abuse, alcoholism, and symbolic drug addictions.

  • Why Would Anyone Take Him Back?:
    • Emma and Hook's relationship has a lot of fans questioning why they keep getting back together. In the Season 5A finale, Hook as a Dark One tried to send to the Underworld not only her parents, but also her son Henry, the adoptive mother of her son Regina, Robin Hood (a guy Emma and Hook have barely interacted with), but still Emma risks said family's lives to save him. Prior to this, Emma turned Hook into a Dark One against his will before erasing his memories and lying to him for weeks. Then things get worse in Season 6, where Hook lies to her over an extended period of time about murdering her grandfather and proposes to her under false pretenses, then Emma breaks off their engagement and easily accepts that he must have left her once he disappears. All of this makes it hard for a lot of fans to swallow them as the True Loves the show paints them as.
    • Rumple and Belle's relationship ran on this. While it seemed like a sweet and touching romance at first, Season 2B had Belle learning that Rumple murdered his first wife, Rumple exploiting Belle's personality rewrite into "Lacey" until it was no longer convenient for him to do so, and we learn in flashback of an incident where Rumple relentlessly tortured a man in Belle's presence and had made her clean his blood-soaked clothes in addition to treating her very poorly. When the two of them get married in Season 3B, Rumple's proposal came with giving Belle his Dark One dagger to signifiy that he trusts her with some control in the relationship only for that to turn out to be a fake dagger, as Rumple uses the real one to kill Zelena behind Belle's back, and from there continues to lie to Belle and even gaslight her at variois points in Season 4A until Belle finally learns the truth and banishes him from Stroybrooke using the real dagger. Rumple goes on to, in 4B, cyber-stalk Belle online, actually stalk her when he's back in Storybrooke, and have reality rewritten so that Belle is now his loving wife. Yet after all this, Belle takes a seemingly reformed and heroic Rumple back in Season 5A and they even have sex off-screen...which is followed by us learning that Rumple has become the Dark One AGAIN and is decieving Belle AGAIN. Belle has to learn the truth from an unapologetic Rumple in 5B and then in Season 6, the relationship hits its lowest point, with Rumple acting like an abusive ex-boyfriend menacing Belle constantly because he wants to take possession of their child that she's pregnant with (Gideon), and he even threatens to use the shears of fate on her to sever the baby's connection to his mother, fully intent on stealing the baby away from Belle to raise on his own. Even when both of Gideon's parents become more united in hopes of saving him from a terrible fate in 6B, Rumple betrays Belle's trust one final time by siding with his evil mother, the Black Fairy, for the coming final battle behind her back. But by the end of the season and on into Season 7, it's as though none of that ever happened and we're asked to root for Rumple and Belle's Happily Ever After, something far too many fans found to be an impossible sell.
  • WTH, Costuming Department?:
    • The Evil Queen's hair and outfits straddle the fine line between awesome and utterly ridiculous. Opinions on the matter vary a great deal.
    • Before the Costume Porn came in, the first episode or two had rather cliche outfits, such as Charming's puffy-chested shirt and Granny's dress and cap.
    • The fairies, who wear ballerina-esque dresses with ribbons hanging from the skirts. Blue is an especially bad offender, with her hair crimped to resemble the streamers, and close inspection reveals that she's also wearing high heels more suited for a stripper. And apparently it was the most expensive costume on the show. Lampshaded hilariously by Cora in disguise.
      Cora: I hate that outfit.
    • In a town where everyone has been trapped since the early eighties and no one can get in or out, it's a bit jarring that the characters all have modern technology and current designer clothing. This is even more glaring in flashbacks of Emma that take place outside Storybrooke in the nineties but everyone is wearing 2015's latest trends.
    • Mary Margaret's clothes get steadily frumpier and less flattering as the show goes on. Come Season 5 it comes across as them intentionally wanting to dress Ginnifer Goodwin down for no apparent reason. Likewise by Season 5 she had dyed her hair platinum blonde, so they gave her a similarly unflattering wig.
    • Ursula's dress in the Enchanted Forest is rather... out there.
    • By Season 6, somehow Emma's signature style - tomboyish, low maintenance and simple - is forgotten, and she's put in a series of matronly skirts and outfits more like those of a school teacher at retirement age. Her horrifically unflattering recreation of Grace Kelly's wedding dress in "The Song In Your Heart" is a big standout too.
  • The Woobie:
    • Emma Swan and her entire life story, including much of the "present" timeline in the show. Henry too.
    • And the sad but very sweet Miss Mary Margaret Blanchard.
    • Dr. Archie Hopper/Jiminy Cricket, who is constantly abused by... everyone. Mostly Regina at first, but everyone else is a little too quick to snap at their conscience.
    • Shepherd-David being forced to never see his mother again and having to call the man who threatened her "father" for the rest of his life all in the name of duty. And later, said father seems to have ended up resenting David anyway and declares to Snow White that he isn't his son. Only the king's pragmatic nature and desire to preserve his kingdom keep him in check.
    • Graham/The Huntsman. Because he spared Snow White, the Queen ripped out his heart, condemning him to never feel anything again, then made him into her Sex Slave. He spends his whole last episode on the verge of psychic collapse, torn between his feelings for Emma and Regina as memories of the other world intrude on his mind. And then, when he finally, finally pulls himself together and shares a sweet moment with Emma, Regina crushes his heart and kills him.
    • Belle.
    • Abigail/Kathryn. Kathryn is easily sympathetic, but Abigail becomes this as well once her backstory is revealed.
    • Really, most of the cast whether due to the Dark Curse or otherwise, have gone through some pretty terrible things.
    • Red. See... Granny was bitten by the original Big Bad Wolf who, as it turns out, was a werewolf. And Granny's husband. In turn, this meant Granny's daughter would become the 2nd Big Bad. And in turn, Red herself is the 3rd Big Bad. Who happens to eat her love. It takes a lot of convincing before she stops seeing herself as a monster.
    • Aurora. Under a sleeping curse for thirty years that makes you relive your worst memories. Her true love sacrifices himself to save her and gets his soul sucked out. She's plagued by horrible nightmares and won't sleep. Then Cora kidnaps her. Then Hook rips out her heart and gives it to Cora. She and Phillip are temporarily turned into flying monkey slaves of the Wicked Witch for telling Snow and Charming about the plans for their baby. While Aurora herself is pregnant.
    • Baelfire aka Neal. He's watched his father who abandoned him die in front of him to make up for it. He was also forcibly separated from his son and the woman he loves. Then he gives his life for his father's, and dies with him holding his hand and in Emma's arms, and with Henry having no real memory of him
    • Anton. He was bullied by his family and never fit in. When he finally gets friends, who are human, they betray him and kill his family, causing him to be The Last of His Kind.
    • Mulan. Who is implied to have fallen in love with Prince Phillip while helping him reunite with his True Love Aurora (whether this was the case is still heavily debated), only for him to lose his soul right after they wake her up and his final request was for her to protect her romantic rival in his place. Then she falls in love with Aurora while they are trying to find a way to bring back Prince Philip's soul. And after they do that and Mulan finally decides to confess her feelings Aurora happily tells her that she is now pregnant with Prince Phillip's child.
    • Madeline, Cruella's mother. She loses her husband (and his successors) to Cruella's sociopathic impulses, tries to make her good, to no avail, and ages alone, dealing with her daughter's petty crimes on her own because she doesn't want to denounce her and feels responsible for everything. Her only comfort and support comes from her dogs, who protect her and remind her of her succesful career. Then, Cruella acquires power over animals, gets the dogs to kill her mother, gets rid of them too and makes herself a nice fur coat with the leftovers...
      Madeline: Get away from Cruella. She takes the things you love and she destroys them.
    • Tinker Bell, for how the Blue Fairy treated her after trying so hard to prove herself a good fairy and help someone.
    • Ariel, who is tricked into betraying Snow White, the friend who helped her finally meet Eric. When she goes back and saves Snow from Regina, she has her voice stolen before she can talk to Eric again. She remains without her voice for 28+ years, unaffected by the Dark Curse, which only means she's aware of the entire time. Somewhat lessened by the fact that this did not, in fact, Break the Cutie, and when Regina restores her voice, Ariel quickly lets it go when she's told where Eric is, and carries on in her usual Plucky Girl style. Blackbeard kidnapped Eric and Hook refused to help her find him in order to keep his ship. Though she did eventually find him and they even escaped the second casting of the Dark Curse.
    • Wendy being a prisoner of Pan for centuries, trapped in a box with the threat of John and Michael hanging over her head if she doesn't do his bidding, and knowing her parents are long gone by now. The poor girl seemed traumatized. John and Michael qualify as well, having to be Pan's slaves for about a century or else he would kill their older sister.
    • Sir Percival. When he was a child, Regina burned down his village, killed his loved ones and smiled as she did. Years later, he sees her with a group of people who don't argue when she claims to be the savior. While he could have told Arthur, it's not surprising, not to mention understandable that he tries to kill Regina for her crimes. And while David only kills him after he nearly kills Robin, it's not hard to feel bad for the poor boy. Especially when his king, whom he has served faithfully, forgives Regina, although that may be justified by Arthur's own deceitfulness and sketchy moral code.
    • The New Enchanted Forest's version of Alice. Her mother abandons her as a newborn baby to starve to death in a tower, and she's only saved by her father, Wish Realm Hook, choosing to stay and raise her. Then her father gets a curse put on him so that they can't get within touching distance of each other without him dying. Then she finally finds love in Robin (Zelena and Robin's daughter), but they're separated by another curse. And in the cursed world, she has her memories of the old world, but they're suppressed by antipsychotics.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Regina at the beginning is an evil queen who has razed villages, executed dissenters, and eventually curses an entire region to prevent them from having happy ending. But her mother was literally heartless and murdered her first love right in front of her. Less than a week later, she was forced into a marriage to a man much older than her, who was open about the fact that he didn't love her, but was too jealous to let her experience love with anyone else. He eventually stopped letting her even see her father. She was groomed towards evil by a Manipulative Bastard with a vendetta against her mother, who wanted her to cast the curse for his own ends. Her adoptive son, whom she raised from birth, insists at the beginning that she isn't his real mother. At one point, the heroes trick her into killing her mother. Every time she tries to reform, things go horribly wrong.

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