When is a Tale not a Fairy Tale?: “OUAT” 5.1 Review PART 1


Dark Swan Emma

Season five is now upon us! The glitzy, cringe-fest, character-studded opera that we love, hate, and hate to admit we love, is back. ABC’s Once Upon a Time (OUAT) opened its season five with “The Dark Swan,” returning to the dilemma we last left: will Emma be more Savior or Dark One?


That said, in an episode filled with Saviors and Dark Ones and Tilda Swinton-esque hairdos, what sparked my fascination most was a side character, surprisingly.

Ladies and gentleman, welcome Nurse Ratched.

Nurse Severe, aka Nurse Ratched, in “OUAT”

Fans of the show will recognize her as the nurse who helped to falsely imprison Belle in the first season before keeping her falsely repressed in the second season. Dubbed “the Severe Nurse” since her name was not made known until last night’s episode, her exact fairy tale role was unclear. Speculation of her fairy tale counterpart has ranged from Cinderella’s step mother to Ursula to Mother Gothel. But last night Henry finally confirmed her identity as Nurse Ratched, from Ken Kesey’s One Flies Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and it’s 1975 film adaptation. 

Nurse Ratched Louise
Nurse Ratched, played to Oscar-nominee perfection by Louise Fleming

But wait–One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest isn’t a fairy tale. Then again, OUAT has never shied from tales that aren’t critically or immediately recognized as fairy tales. That said, however, public reception of tales like Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland/ Through the Looking Glass and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus shows that these tales are treated as fairy tales.

Characters from both of these creations show up in OUAT. Viewers of the show will remember Dr. Whale as Victor Frankenstein, though he does belong to a different world than the Fairy tale Forest. And Alice and the Mad Hatter also belong to a different world than the Fairy tale Forest, just as Storybrooke, Maine, is separated from Camelot. The addition of “the Author” to last season opens up the doors to any fairy tale, through any world portal.

Dr. Frankenstein
Dr. Frankenstein, aka Dr. Whale, in “OUAT”

Yet OUAT’s past tales (Alice in Wonderland, “Robin Hood,” “Arthur and the Round Table”)are at least received in the public conscious as fairy tales, which One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest definitely is not. It is a story, it’s inclusion explained by the “Author” and world portals. But if the distinction is just “Story,” what will be next for OUAT? Anything in the Disney domain? These days that could range from Star Wars to Avengers to Duck Tales to Kim Possible. Is what we should expect for OUAT season 10? Snow White running around with Chewbacca and Rufus to defeat Loki (who viewers find out is also Baba Yaga)?

Readers, what do you think? Is OUAT overstepping it’s bounds? Stay tuned, PART 2 of this review will be posted soon.

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