This past TV season saw the end to some fairly long-running shows. One of them was the ABC staple Once Upon A Time. The seven-season long series took audiences throughout new takes on familiar fairy-tales. What’s not to like? We’re a culture that grew up on Disney movies and the promise of the happy ending. Seeing those stories given new life was definitely amazing to watch.
More than that, the show was known for its redemption arcs for classic villains. For the most part, the redemption they found was usually through love. By loving others and being loved in return, they were inspired to try to be better people. In turn, it led to them securing their happily ever after - or at least, working toward their happy endings. It wasn’t always an easy path but it was worth it in the end. Let’s be real, does the course of true love ever run smooth?
While different forms of love have been explored over the course of the series, the romantic relationships tended to get a good chunk of the focus. While some of these couples made us believe in the power of true love, others left us thinking that maybe Storybrooke could have benefitted from online dating. Some even started off stron,g but kind of buckled as the seasons progressed. It's time look back over the course of the show and consider the various couplings.
Here are 10 Couples That Hurt Once Upon A Time (And 10 Couples That Saved It).
20 HURT: Rumple/Evil Queen
Regina splitting up from her darkest aspects of her personality could have been a more interesting plotline than it ended up being. However, several things from this season six plot had us full body cringing. One of them? The weird kind of flirty but not relationship between the Evil Queen and Rumpelstiltskin.
Regina was the only person Rumple taught who didn’t end up in love with him. That was thrown out when the Evil Queen kissed him.
It was definitely one of the most uncomfortable moments of the whole series.
At least in terms of awkward kissing, it just felt like a disservice to both of the characters. We were glad when things firmly ended.
19 SAVED: Regina/Daniel
After most of season one showed Regina being awful, audiences finally saw how a villain becomes a villain. In the episode “The Stable Boy”, the tragic backstory of her true love was shown. More importantly, it showed that Regina wasn’t always evil. Instead, it was circumstances out of her control that left her feeling cornered and put her down the path of darkness.
The relationship between Regina and Daniel, even though it was shown in one episode, felt lived in and real.
Kudos definitely should be given to Lana Parrilla and Noah Bean for their chemistry. Even though the screen time was short, the relationship felt believable. More importantly, it showed the possibility that Regina could be redeemed.
18 HURT: Dr. Whale/Mary Margaret Blanchard
While the whole date with Doctor Whale was supposed to show that, however unconsciously, Mary Margaret and David belonged together, it was also pretty over the top comical how bad it was. It’s not a bad thing, per se, it just felt like it was hammering something that didn’t need to be hammered.
The audiences know that the Mary Margaret and David belong together. Did the date have to be that bad for them to realize it?
In the end, it stuck enough to be a running joke over two seasons. We never saw Whale, aka Frankenstein, again. The whole thing felt superfluous in the end.
17 SAVED: Henry/Violet
One of the more interesting parts of season five was seeing Henry take those first steps into exploring romance. First love, after all, is often times a bit awkward, a bit sweet, and you have no idea what you’re doing.
Watching Henry as he waded through those thoughts and feelings with Violet was equal parts sweet and heartbreaking.
It was definitely a needed turn as it showed that Henry was growing up. Maybe he didn’t get his happily ever after with Violet, but we so rarely do with first love. At least there are some fond memories made along the way.
16 HURT: Belle/Will Scarlet
Bringing Will Scarlet onto the main Once after Once Upon A Time in Wonderland was canceled felt like a bizarre move. After all, Will found his happy ending. It just didn’t make sense.
What made even less sense was making him a main character for the season and not doing anything with him. The whole insult to injury that came with it was when he and Belle had a thing.
Belle was dipping her toes into finding love after Rumple so thoroughly broke her heart. That’s a healthy thought process, but nothing was really explored with it. We still don’t know what happened to Wonderland and the Red Queen. There was a whole plot between these two that could have been a lot more interesting than what we got in the end.
15 SAVED: Zelena/Hades
Some romances are destined to end in tragedy. While the relationship between Zelena and Hades tended to have more baby-napping then would be comfortable, it was still interesting to see two villains find love. Over the course of the back half of season five, Zelena and Hades had to deal with that.
They weren’t good people, but they still loved each other.
Hades still chose Zelena first, but Zelena, who ached for love, chose her family. She was never going to be a nice person. Her actions leading up to the end were still reprehensible. The fact that she chose her sister, who she was jealous more than anything, over true love did send her down an interesting path that led to her daughter one day becoming a hero in her own right.
14 HURT: Kathryn Nolan/David Nolan
One does have to wonder how long Regina had Kathryn waiting in the wings in Storybrooke just in case David woke from his coma. While they were just as much victims to the curse, that didn’t make their chemistry any less flat. The focus of the curse was firmly on keeping Snow White and Prince Charming as miserable as possible, so having David be married made sense.
There were just other questions like: Why was he John Doe for so long? Why didn’t Regina set this up in the beginning?
Kathryn and David just had no chemistry together, which made sitting through their scenes just so painful. In the end, they both received their happily ever afters far away from each other.
13 SAVED: Dorothy/Ruby
In the category of “couples we wish had more time together,” we have Dorothy Gale and Ruby. In the fifth season episode “Ruby Slippers”, the duo meets and falls in love over the course of the episode.
It was refreshing to see an underused character and a long-neglected character find their own happy endings in the course of the episode.
Plus, it was the first successful LGBT relationship to be shown on the show, though the couple only appeared in the one episode.
Their happy ending came at a crucial time in the Underworld story arc, when Emma’s happy ending plus Hades machinations made it feel like no one’s happiness was assured. Seeing Ruby and Dorothy fall in love and find their own happiness with each other was a needed breath of fresh air.
12 HURT: Cruella/Isaac
Isaac the Author was never meant to insert himself into other people’s stories or unduly affect them in any way. He, of course, broke this rule and was generally a wormy sort of character. Cruella was, well, Cruella.
A lot of fans thought bringing her into things felt a bit shoehorned, mainly because she didn’t fit in with the whole Enchanted Forest. Much like how Ursula was humanized and redeemed in her episode, the romance between Cruella and Isaac was supposed to be a sort of doomed romance.
It did not work out that way. Patrick Fischler and Victoria Smurfit had decent chemistry. Their whole sudden doomed romance, however, was shoehorned into an episode. It left both of them looking worse than when they started, leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
11 SAVED: Aladdin/Jasmine
More so than any of the other recurring guest romances, Aladdin and Jasmine brought something special to Once Upon A Time season six. The reimagined Once backstory saw Aladdin as the Savior of Agrabah and Jasmine as the one who seeks him out to fulfill it.
Their romance was equal parts adorable and frustrating, as they kept disappearing from the narrative over the course of the season.
Part of it really comes down to the chemistry between Deniz Akdeniz and Karen David, who each left their own stamp on their roles. In the end, the pair were able to secure their happily ever after and save Agrabah from Jafar.
Honestly the chemistry in the live-action Aladdin movie should be just as good as this was.
10 HURT: Emma Swan/Walsh
During the year that Emma and Henry forgot about Storybrooke, it made sense that Emma would find a relationship. She forgot everything about Storybrooke, her family, and her unresolved romantic feelings. It was just something that made a lot of sense.
The issue was that Walsh was not that interesting and nothing more than a device to tease Zelena as the season 3B villain. You just have to wonder if people from the Enchanted Forest has some kind of homing beacon for others like them.
Honestly, the team did a better job with whole “dating the enemy” thing with Tamara and Neal. Repeating themselves with a one-off character just seemed a bit cheap.
9 SAVED: Henry/Cinderella
Once Upon A Time’s seventh season had a rather Herculean task of setting up a reboot of the show within the show. Whether or not it worked is entirely up to the fans, yet the romance aspect of it was still strong.
Much like the first season needed a good grounding in Snow White and Charming, the seventh season needed the same in Henry and Cinderella. For the most part, it worked.
Andrew J. West and Alison Fernandez created a believable and grounded sort of romance for their characters.
It helped create a solid touchstone for the seventh season. We definitely wish that we could have seen more of the couple after the show was cancelled.
8 HURT: Rumple/Cora
What is it with the women in this family and falling in love with Rumpelstiltskin? The romance between Cora and Rumple was a strictly for one episode only, but it felt like one episode too much.
While “The Miller’s Daughter” provided some much-needed understanding into Cora’s motivations, the feelings she had for Rumple felt added in as an explanation for ripping out her own heart.
There could have been other reasons than an ill-fated romance for Cora to rip out her own heart. While the romance was the focal point of the episode, it wasn’t really brought up in the limited interactions the pair had in season two. It feels like something should have carried over, ripped out heart or no.
7 SAVED: Alice/Robin
Another excellent romance in season seven of Once was between Alice and Robin. The pair had a sweet and heartwarming bond that survived even into the Curse. More than that, it was the first LGBT romance in the show that was given due attention and allowed to grow over the season.
It blossomed into a sweet and loving relationship between two women who accepted each other and encouraged the best in the other.
It was only fitting that this pair was officially engaged by the end of the season. After working so hard to find each other again, they deserved their own happy ending. We just only wish that we could have seen the wedding!
6 HURT: Regina/Sheriff Graham
Relationships where someone is essentially in it against their will are always going to hurt a show. Calling Regina and Graham a couple doesn’t sound quite right since he couldn't choose to be with her.
Even though the pair were together very briefly in the first season, their whole relationship just had a pervasive uncomfortableness that made it hard to watch.
Ultimately, Regina crushes Graham’s heart to dust, making him one of the earliest casualties of the series. It was definitely one that hurt the most because he had that something with Emma. Still, if it meant that we didn’t have to sit through the gross relationship between Regina and Graham? Then we’re just glad that it’s over.
5 SAVED: Regina/Robin Hood
On the opposite end of the Regina/Graham coupling is Regina and Robin Hood. The couple, rather fascinatingly, represents the second chance at true love that each of them share.
In the past, Regina had Daniel and Robin had Marian. Regina had run from a chance to have her true love with Robin and went down the dark path. Maybe it needed to happen for them to have their chance. Either way, their relationship was more tribulation than triumph.
When the pair were together, they were devoted to each other.
Though it ended in tragedy, it did allow to Regina to fully commit to her own heroism and goodness. Sometimes, love can only transform us, no matter how brief it is.
4 HURT: Robin/Zelena
Back to couples who only exist due to shady and uncomfortable means, let's look at Zelena and Robin. The reveal that Maid Marian was actually Zelena in disguise had come as an uncomfortable shock.
If she was so good at magic how did she not know about the whole ice curse thing? Why did she agree to separate from Robin?
Mainly, it also felt like a way to punish Regina and torment her a bit more for drama’s sake. There can be drama from being in a relationship and having to open your heart to someone. It felt like by having Zelena use Robin in this way that it wasn’t fair to Regina’s arc.
3 SAVED: Snow White/Prince Charming
In a show about fairytale characters, there were few fairytale romances that lived up to the standard set by Snow White and Prince Charming. Maybe it’s because Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas legitimately fell in love onset. Maybe it's that they more than earned their happy ending and made us all believe in the power of true love.
Either way over the course of six seasons, audiences watched how true love worked. It was work: communication, trust, understanding, and love. It was basically a foundation that they had to build and continually tend to.
Even though love at first sight exists with these two, true love takes work.
Snow and Charming proved that the work was always worth it.
2 HURT: Belle/Rumple
This one hurts the most because this was the couple who had so much potential to be truly great. Belle and Rumpelstiltskin had such a great story to them. Belle and her kind determination could even save the heart as corrupted as Rumple’s.
Yet time and time again, he disappointed her. He picked power over love, he continually lied to her. Even when she leaves him and tries to find her own happiness, Belle is always pulled back in. It was an unending cycle of the same retread of their issues, eventually you just wish they would put them both out of their misery.
In the end, season seven saw Rumple and Belle have a happy life together and reunite in the afterlife. Still, after all that came before it, you had to wonder if it was worth it.
1 SAVED: Emma Swan/Killian Jones
It’s always nice to see two people who have been hurt by the world time and time again find each other and fall in love. Emma and Killian were a slow burn sort of romance in the Once Upon A Time world. While Killian was always attracted to Emma, he needed to choose being a better person over his revenge. We saw shades of this in season two, but when he committed to becoming more heroic he (mostly) stayed the course.
Over the seasons, the two of them had their relationship tested time and again, but they would always work through it. They earned their true love through blood and sweat and a journey to the Underworld itself.
When the Black Fairy was finally defeated, their happy ending was assured.
The final moments of them, with their baby daughter Hope, showed that love could bring peace to the weariest of souls.
Who's your favorite couple on Once Upon a Time? Let us know in the comments!