In a modern world filled with fairy tale characters, it’s inevitable that some rules of logic aren’t going to apply. For seven seasons, Once Upon A Time left fans constantly scratching their heads and occasionally venting frustrations on social media.
Whether the events in question took place in the Enchanted Forest of the series’ story book or in its cheesily named little hamlet of Storybrooke, Maine, viewers tried to put the pieces together to make sense of whatever confusing plot twist the writers threw their way.
To be fair, myths, legends, and fairy tales aren’t exactly limited by our perceptions of time and morals or anything similar. However, by bringing these famed characters into a modern context, the series opens itself up to attempts to contextualize its stories from a more modern, linear understanding.
Whether it comes to the series’ repeated reliance on abuse as a driving motivation, the messy timeline that fans could never get their head around, or story decisions that were forced by behind the scenes casting issues, Once Upon A Time has plenty of topics rife with the potential for interpretation and misinterpretation.
With that said, here are the 20 Things About Once Upon A Time Everyone Gets Wrong.
20 Characters who disappeared were in Storybrooke all along
Sometimes TV shows don’t really have control over what characters they can use and when.
Non-series regular actors aren’t usually contracted to a series in a long term way, and therefore, are free to go and take other jobs that may prevent them from appearing in a series when needed.
So what do you do when the likes of Ruby, Dr. Whale, and the dwarves disappear for stretches at a a time?
While these characters were once prominent enough to receive entire plots and back story centric episodes, they soon disappear without a word.
Once has a rare luxury that few other series do.
Characters can be in one of many universes at any given time – or they can also just be in Storybrooke, out of sight, but not necessarily out of mind.
For example, Ruby could have been working at Granny’s all along – the main heroes just weren’t waited upon by her.
19 The timeline can make sense
Once upon a time… How could any story that begins this way possibly be expected to follow the normal rules of time and linearity?
For the first few seasons, Once tried to keep a straight timeline, particularly when it concerned flashbacks to Emma’s younger years: 28 years ago, 11 years ago, 7 years ago.
However, the more characters were introduced and the more worlds the characters ventured into, it became clearer and clearer that time didn’t work the same way everywhere.
This meant that it soon became impossible to expect anything remotely concrete: a long time ago, a very long time ago, many years ago.
However, in a world of fairytales, expecting anything more than that is simply asking too much.
What does it matter, exactly, when some of these events took place as long as we know that they were a long time ago in a universe not at all like our own?
18 Memory wipes didn’t happen in every single season
Although it certainly may have seemed that way, Once Upon A Time didn’t actually use a total memory wipe and reset of relationships in every season. There’s no denying that it was one of the series’ most overused tropes, but one season remained unaffected by the power of a memory curse.
Season one found most of the fairytale characters subjected to a memory curse and season two had Henry and Belle briefly lose their memories.
Meanwhile, season three had Emma and Henry dealing with a reset of their memories so that they could live together in New York as the family they were always meant to be.
Season five had the characters start the season with no recollection of their time in Camelot, and season six concluded with Emma having no memories of magic.
Season seven as a whole operated on the premise of a memory reset, much in the way that season one did.
While season four dabbled with alternate universes, memories were never wiped or reset in the way they were in every other season.
17 Ruby’s orientation is more nuanced than some viewers believe
The decision to make Little Red Riding Hood, also known as Ruby Lucas, a character who is part of the LGBTQ community was met with reactions both positive and negative.
Some viewers weren’t comfortable with the series projecting an “agenda” onto fairy tale characters. Other viewers felt that conveniently revealing Ruby’s LGBTQ identity and giving her a female True Love within the span of an episode was a little too quick and easy for the series.
However, some viewers were quick to accept Ruby’s journey, welcoming her as a much-needed form of representation for marginalized girls everywhere.
While some were quick to label her a lesbian due to her relationship with Dorothy, Ruby’s orientation is much more likely to be considered bi.
This is especially the case given her past ill-fated romances with Peter and Gus.
16 True Love’s Kiss isn’t the only sign of a True Love relationship
From the series’ pilot, True Love’s Kiss was introduced as the hallmark sign of a couple being meant to be.
Charming saved Snow from a sleeping curse by waking her with True Love’s Kiss. Emma broke the curse over Storybrooke by kissing Henry’s forehead and setting off a signature True Love’s Kiss rainbow.
However, kisses aren’t the only things that the series uses to signal True Love. A scale in the Underworld can measure whether a heart contains True Love and magical doors to other realms can be created through the power of True Love.
Sprouts, ribbons, and spells can be born from True Love between family, friends, or lovers, creating magical powers and the like as a result.
15 Hook was once nearly Henry’s step-grandfather
By the end of the sixth season of Once Upon A Time, Captain Hook and Emma Swan are married, paving the way for Hook to continue serving as a father figure to Henry, now with the official title of stepfather.
However, things weren’t always going to be that way.
A long time ago, in the Enchanted Forest, Captain Hook himself was very nearly Henry’s step grandfather. Before he was Captain Hook, when he was only Killian Jones, Killian took up with Milah, the wife of Rumpelstiltskin.
As we all know, Milah and Rumpelstiltskin’s child, Baelfire, would go on to become Neal Cassidy, Henry’s biological father.
This makes Milah and Rumple Henry’s fraternal grandparents.
Talk about an awkward family tree.
14 The writers revealed who Lily’s father was after all
She may have been a very minor character in the grand scheme of things, but the mystery of who Lily’s father was is a question that plagued fans for years and years – all the way until a throwaway line in the series finale.
As Maleficent’s daughter, fans couldn’t help but scratch their heads and wonder who could have possibly been the evil dragon queen’s mate at one point.
Originally, fans considered Arthurian legends, including characters such as the wizard Merlin or even Arthur Pendragon.
However, when Once Upon A Time introduced its versions of these characters, no references to Lily and Maleficent were to be found.
By the time the series finale rolled around, the showrunners realized that they owed it to the fans to finally solve this infuriating puzzle.
According to a brief dialogue exchange, Lily’s father is, somehow, Zorro.
13 Zelena assaulted Robin
In season four, Maid Marian, who is long suspected to have met her tragic end years ago, returns and quickly resumes her life with husband, Robin Hood, and son, Roland Hood.
This, of course, throws a wrench into the current romance burgeoning between Regina and Robin Hood. However, Marian and Robin truly love one another – or so Robin thinks.
Soon, it’s revealed that Marian was never Marian at all, but Regina’s evil sister, Zelena, in disguise.
Each time that she and Robin were intimate with one another, Marian was in fact Zelena – thus constituting a truly troubling case of repeated assault.
Even worse, Zelena winds up pregnant from the entire ordeal, giving birth to a daughter she names Robin, who then goes on to become a lead in the series’ troubling seventh season.
12 Regina never made amends for what she did as the Evil Queen
Something truly strange happened between the second and third season of Once Upon A Time – so strange that it’s pretty much inexplicable, in fact.
All of a sudden, Regina was considered part of the team, one of the heroes, and worthy of being trusted.
Despite never once apologizing for all she did to terrorize the Charming family – Snow and Emma in particular – or making any sort of amends with the townspeople she cursed and manipulated for 28 long years, Regina was suddenly forgiven.
Adding insult to injury, the Charming family often found themselves apologizing to her, as if her violent, abusive behavior was their fault all along.
If that doesn’t scream “toxic,” we’re not sure what does.
11 Neal was never a good guy
Nothing says good guy like being an older man who takes advantage of a young girl, impregnates her, and lets her go to jail for crimes you yourself committed.
Even further, nothing says good guy like someone who mocks the woman he allegedly loves for the years of trauma, suffering, and scars she endured as a result of your callous, selfish behavior.
Baelfire may, at one point, have been a good little boy, so different from the parents who brought him into the world.
However, as he grew older and entered the real world, Neal Cassidy became more and more like the selfish, frequently malicious parents who raised him.
In no world would he have been the right man for Emma or a good father to Henry because he could never accept accountability for any of his many wrongdoings.
10 What happened in the Wish Realm never really happened
Two particularly awful season six episodes found the series’ characters popping up in a version of the Enchanted Forest quite different from the one we know.
The Evil Queen had been defeated in this world, allowing Snow and Charming to rule as the rightful King and Queen of Misthaven. Emma, in turn, was raised as a princess – but without any of the strength and wit that her character is known for.
Adding insult to injury, Regina was able to travel from the real world to this world, and sacrificed Snow and Charming right in front of Emma’s eyes, spawning a belated quest for revenge from the Wish Realm version of Henry.
However, in the end, none of these events ever occurred.
So no matter how offensive some suggestions were in this world, none of it mattered anyway – in effect wasting two entire episodes of the series
9 Emma never became a villain, not even as Dark Swan
It was one of many choices that the series made that enraged and excited fans in equal measure. Season four of Once Upon A Time ended with the Savior, Emma Swan, taking on the most powerful darkness of all – that of the Dark One.
Season five promised a villainous turn on Emma, known as Dark Swan.
She was styled in almost gothic fashion, with an over abundance of black leather, with a white face and hair makeup. At times, she spoke in a voice nothing at all like Emma’s natural one.
However, for all the show’s attempts at making Emma out to be a great and powerful evil, it was revealed that her turn toward the darkness was only ever done out of love and self-sacrifice.
Following Hook’s untimely demise, Emma used Excalibur to bring him back to life, thus tethering the both of them to the dark without any real evil behavior at all.
8 There are other kinds of powerful spells/curses besides memory ones
As we’ve already seen, Once Upon A Time certainly used memory curses quite often. However, just because memory spells were frequently used in the series, this doesn’t mean that they were the only kind of spell around – or even the most powerful of them all.
Sleeping curses were also used quite often in the series, and could prove disastrous if cast with just enough dark magic.
Protection spells can become so powerful that they can conceal an entire town an healing spells can heal the smallest of wounds or save lives in the blink of an eye, despite the effort that such magic takes to cast.
Memory spells may be what Once Upon A Time is most known for using – and overusing – but there were plenty of other spells that were used just as often, and to just as great effect.
7 People were able to leave Storybrooke without forgetting everything about it
The rules of the Storybrooke town line have been inconsistently applied at best.
In season two, when Belle inadvertently sets foot across the town line, she loses all of her memories of those closest to her, including her love, Rumpelstiltskin, and her best friend, Ruby.
However, other characters have crossed the town line and been entirely unaffected by the magical protection keeping Storybrooke safe from the outside world.
Regina, as we know, went back and forth to points outside of Maine many times during the preceding 28 years.
Greg and Tamara are also able to cross the town lines, with Greg even remembering the tiny town for years and years after a traumatic encounter within it during his childhood.
6 The Frozen storyline did actually serve a purpose
From the moment it was revealed that the residents of Arendelle would be crossing over to Storybrooke, fans everywhere complained of corporate synergy and the Disneyfication of Once Upon A Time.
As the Frozen arc took shape in the first half of season four, it was clear that certain parts of it were certainly relying on and capitalizing upon Frozen‘s box office success.
Further, Disney allegedly mostly prevented the series from dressing the characters in anything other than their movie outfits, which didn’t allow the characters to have Storybrooke modernized counterparts.
However, all cynicism aside, the introduction of characters like Elsa and Anna did serve an ultimate purpose, as they allowed Emma to come into her own as a magic user.
This allowed her to learn to love all parts of herself even when she felt isolated from those most important to her.
5 Regina’s adoption of Henry would never have been legal
Almost an entire episode in the third season of the series is devoted to Regina’s decision to adopt a child – namely, Henry, son of Emma Swan and grandchild of Snow and Charming, Regina’s sworn enemies.
While the series bends a lot of logical realities for the sake of dramatic storytelling, this one is particularly egregious, as there is no possible way that Regina’s adoption could ever have been deemed legal.
Regina travels out of state for the adoption, and thus would have to provide proof of residence, identity, and the like.
However, as Storybrooke, Maine ostensibly does not exist to anyone outside of the little hamlet, and as Regina’s paper trail background would surely be a very shoddy one, there’s no way that her background check could ever have been approved.
4 Almost all of the main couples are incredibly toxic
Once Upon A Time had the misfortune of airing at a time when social media factored heavily into narrative storytelling and character decisions.
Fan couple culture, in particular, led to a real creative decline in the series, as it became increasingly about toxic romantic pairings and less about the family aspect that the series began with.
Robin and Regina engage in an extramarital affair. Robin’s relationship with Regina results in his being repeatedly assaulted and fathering a child as a result of that assault. Eventually, their relationship even leads to his own demise.
Rumpelstiltskin and Belle have a relationship fraught with lies and betrayal from the very beginning. Hook and Emma frequently lie to one another as well, engaging in their fair share of ugly verbal fights, particularly when Hook was saddled with the Dark One’s powers.
Out of the core couples, Snow and Charming have the least blemishes on their record, although they’re hardly as squeaky clean as the series likes fans to think.
3 Regina assaulted Graham
Poor Graham. The huntsman turned town sheriff never once had a fair shake of things during his brief tenure in the series’ first season.
Justice was never brought for his untimely demise, and the truth of the circumstances leading up to it was never learned by any of the people who had been close to him.
Thus, Regina never faced any consequences, yet again.
However, before his demise, Graham was subjected to at least 28 years of abuse, once again at Regina’s hands.
In the Enchanted Forest, Regina steals Graham’s heart – and his agency along with it, going so far as to call him her pet.
In Storybrooke, under the memory curse, Graham spends 28 years as Regina’s unwilling intimate partner, subjected to countless incidents of abuse.
2 Rumple and Belle never had a healthy relationship
The fairytale of Beauty and the Beast has long been debated as to whether it is in fact romantic at all, or whether it is instead something toxic, ghastly, and a cautionary tale.
After all, a beast keeps a young girl captive in his castle, and somehow, she falls for him. If that doesn’t scream Stockholm syndrome, very few things do.
On Once Upon A Time, it’s even worse, as Rumpelstiltskin is not only the Beast, but also the trickster himself, the Dark One, the Crocodile, and countless other evil beings in various fairytales.
Yet, somehow, Belle, one of the kindest of them all, falls for him time and again, rarely sticking to her guns when she does try to leave him.
Inevitably, she finds her way back to him, no matter what evil he does or what lies he tells her.
However, from day one until the very end, their relationship was never a healthy one, no matter how the series tried to frame it.
1 The show was always meant to be Emma’s story
When Once Upon A Time began, the story had a clear focus: the Charming family, and their inevitable reunion. Emma Swan was the protagonist of the series, and it was her hero’s journey that we were following.
Or, at least, that’s how the show was meant to be.
However, most likely in attempts to pander to vocal fan bases on social media, as the seasons wore on, characters who were clearly originally meant to be supporting began to receive greater prominence.
Certain seasons of the series struggled under the weight of the characters that the show was forced to accommodate.
However, in the end, the show remained driven by Emma’s journey, her relationship with her parents, and her relationship with her son.
It’s what made the concept of a seventh season without almost any of the Charmings such a laughable concept – and such a colossal failure, as well.
Can you think of any other common misconceptions about Once Upon A Time? Let us know in the comments!