Once in Love
And the best of these, is love. Whose kiss set off fireworks in your brain? For me the crowd went wild when Belle kissed Rumple in Skin Deep. I don’t mean to imply that I didn’t smile and that there were no fireworks for any one else, that would be at best disingenuous. But I suspect that for most fans, a favorite exists, the pair whose love touches us more strongly than the others.
Among human sympathies, love is a beautiful one. I for one happily admit I am a sucker for a love story and that many of my favorite stories are love stories. While not a universal motivator, love comes darn close. It interests the vast majority of us to at least some degree. Once has delightfully taken on the challenge of writing not one, but many love stories.
Writing a romance that endures in intensity and fascination over the long course of a television show is a huge challenge. They don’t call it the Moonlighting Curse for nothing. It might have something to do with the fact that in real life it would seem that the most successful of loves are outwardly boring. To further complicate a writer’s life, fans are now all wise to the will-they/won’t-they tension device. Telling a unique love story that we have never seen before raises the bar even further.
One of Once’s greatest challenges is also among its greatest strengths. Once has a HUGE cast of both regulars and supporting actors. This gives Once a rich and real feel often lost to more insular TV shows who seem to have a revolving door of guest stars. Shows with small casts and few recurring roles outside that core group can feel claustrophobic and frankly unrealistic because the characters have no friends, family or lives outside that tiny circle. These shows have no periphery.
Once has an ocean’s worth of peripheral characters who dart in and out to delight us.
But they also consume the all precious resource: time.
Few among main cast do not, currently, have a significant other. That means that to include all the regulars and their significant others eleven people need time to tell their stories. That is astounding. Ten of these are regular cast. In addition to this, Once has commonly added a villain or three and sometimes their significant others. This gets right down to it.
Whose stories get time and how? Is there time left for anything other than romance?
The result thus far has been a shifting focus from one pair to the next. This concept reminds me of a pearl necklace. Each pair has their own string of pearls with each pearl being a major event in the course of the relationship and the string between representing smaller moments like being seen together (or apart) in an episode that doesn’t focus on their particular arc.
And yes, there is time for plot aside from snuggles. This seems largely achieved by using the relationships to push the plot instead of, as many stories do, using romance as a distant B story. I particularly appreciate this because love is not the cute B story in real life, it is a big hairy focus and chiefly important among life events in our day to day existences. If we have it, it is like the inner hub of a wheel with our exterior life orbiting around it connected by the myriad of supportive spokes. If we don’t have it, we are looking for it. Love, of course, has many forms and I do not mean to imply that there are not those who lack a romantic partner who are not seeking one. But we all of us seek love and support from those around us. We humans are social creatures.
While it is my opinion that Once has been largely successful in love, not all of its pairs have, I believe, shared equally this success. I think they all bare a closer look.
*Please note, past this point, current knowledge of the show is assumed, be spoiled at your own risk.*
Before we depart on that adventure though, it bears mentioning that a vibrant fan cultures exists around the concept of “‘ships.” This is short for relationships and has a rich tradition with all kinds of charming customs along for the ride. I beg your patience while I define a few terms for the uninitiated.
Fan Fiction: stories written by fans about the characters in their favorite stories (source work), often but not exclusively TV, movies and books. The fans use the characters and/or settings already established to write their own work. This often takes the shape of what the fans wish they could see in canon (explicitly shown in the source work).
‘Ship names: when a new canon, or not canon, ‘ship appears in the collective consciousness of the fans it typically gets a name. Rumbelle, Caskett et cetera.
Slash: don’t run away, this article will remain G-rated. If the character names don’t form a pleasing mashup or another fitting epithet doesn’t emerge (e.g. OutlawQueen) fans simply use a slash ” / ” between character names to denote a pairing: Mulder/Scully. Slash used to be the descriptive tag denoting a homosexual relationship pairing, but it is no longer exclusively used this way.
Now that the fan community has had a bit of explication, let’s take a look at Once ‘shipping habits among fans. While the sample I am about to share with you really only captures fanfic authors, it does give us an idea about the passions running through the fandom.
|Relationship||Number of Stories Specifying this Pairing|
|CaptainSwan (Killian Jones “Hook”/Emma Swan)||8.1k|
|SwanQueen (Emma Swan/Regina Mills)||11.1k|
|Snowing (Snow White/Prince Charming)||1.7k|
|OutlawQueen (Robin Hood/Regina Mills)||2.3k|
Some of you picked up right of the bat that the most commonly written about pairing does not exist in canon: SwanQueen. You would also be correct to note that I did not include every possible pairing and that a glaring omission might be SwanFire. I decided to restrict our study to current, living and most commonly known pairings for the sake of brevity and broad relevance.
Now, without further ado, let’s explore these ‘ships and their effectiveness/longevity in more detail. We’ll try on choose your own adventure style- why not choose them all? Since I have already made my bias known to you, I will begin with my favorite.
Come check out my Once projects: