Once upon a time, there was a show that featured fairy tale characters living in a small New England town. It started off quite strong, but quickly got so complicated that the writers started to struggle to keep track of every character’s idiosyncrasies and intertwining storylines. Thus, the show remained fun to watch, but descended into an unsalvageable mess full of plot holes.
Of course, we’re talking about Once Upon A Time, ABC’s seven-season hit show where beloved childhood characters scheme, cooperate, turn evil, turn good again, perish in each other’s arms, and come right back to life. From 2011 until 2018, Once Upon a Time entertained viewers for 153 episodes featuring live-action interpretations of beloved Disney and fairy tale characters. However, even the most loyal fans can’t help but notice the many ludicrous gaps in logic where the show’s writers seem to forget about the rules of Storybrooke and its magical denizens.
Some of these are small and easily explained away. Others are so obvious that even loyal, longtime viewers can't help but laugh about them. Maybe they’re not too serious-- after all, Once Upon a Time's premise includes the idea that Rumplestiltskin owns a town where Little Red Riding Hood works in a diner. It’s not a very serious show!
Still, for those fans who know that a show can be super fun and also full of plot holes, here is a rundown of 20 Plot Holes In Once Upon A Time That Fans Can’t Get Over.
20 What happens to Ruby?
Ruby gave Dorothy True Love’s Kiss in season five of Once Upon A Time. The show ran for two more seasons, so what happened to Ruby afterward? Did she and Dorothy live happily ever after? For a character who had been introduced in the pilot episode, Ruby disappears quickly and with very little wrap-up.
Fans of Storybrooke’s favorite werewolf party girl were disappointed that she didn’t get a better conclusion. That said, she did play an important role in the series and eventually got the girl. Maybe the writers felt like that was all she needed to be happy and satisfied in her world. No word on whether she ever made it to Boston, although we can imagine that she and Dorothy eventually get an apartment together.
19 Storybrooke disappears when Greg brings the police
Storybrooke is supposed to be cut off from the whole world. However, Greg and his dad happen to find it, and if something can be found once, then it can be found multiple times. It’s true that Greg is just a kid when this happens, but at the same time, he’s a really competent kid who knows what he’s doing when he brings the police back to where Storybrooke was.
Without its magic, how does Storybrooke disappear? Regina couldn’t have accomplished that at the moment. The town isn’t moving around. If we assume that Greg brought the police back to the right spot, then it seems weird that he wasn’t able to get into the town again.
18 Good Regina keeps the hearts
Regina has a fine collection of hearts when Once Upon a Time begins. She uses them for deeply nefarious purposes, of course, because why else would you hold someone’s heart hostage?
Considering the fact that we never see her return the hearts once she turns good, it seems possible that she just likes having them around. Maybe they make good night lights or statement pieces. Maybe she’s a hoarder who’s intimidated by the sheer number of hearts she’d have to give back. It would have been nice if the show cleared this up, because it seems hard to believe that some of the folks whose hearts Regina tore out wouldn’t have come to see her to request that their stolen organs be replaced.
17 Nobody returns to the Enchanted Forest
These storybook characters all grew up in the world that contains the Enchanted Forest. There’s a portal that could send them home, where they would be much more comfortable and, in many cases, welcome in lavish royal courts. Why aren’t the residents of Storybrooke going back?
A few of them might be happier in their original spaces, where at least they wouldn’t have to hide who they are, and wouldn’t have to deal with all of Storybrooke’s drama. Although it’s possible that they’ve become attached to sliced bread and flushing toilets, it seems silly that nobody thinks to bring these conveniences back home and make a mint on sandwiches and plumbing.
16 Emma’s ability to detect lies disappears
Yes, Emma has several magic powers, including magical location and pyrokinesis. She also states that she can detect lies. However, it’s not clear if this skill is even a little bit real. For example, in season 2, episode 12, she misses the fact that the stranger lied about what he saw prior to the crash. This seems like an easy get for someone who can sense a lie.
There are some possible explanations here. First of all, Emma’s ability to detect lies could be non-magical, or even anecdotal. Or, considering that this is Once Upon a Time, the writers could have forgotten she could do this and accidentally written over it to serve the plot.
15 Cora’s heart should be blackened
Consider the fact that Snow White’s heart starts to turn black when she does evil things. It seems as though evil hearts literally shrivel into lumps of coal in this universe. Fair enough. It’s a show about magic and fairy tales and in it, disembodied hearts can follow their own rules. But why, in that case, does Cora’s heart look so normal when Snow White holds it in her hand in season 5, episode 12?
Cora tried to destroy an innocent, for goodness’ sake. You don’t get much more evil than that. If anyone’s heart should look like a malignant tumor, it’s Cora’s. Yet when Snow holds that heart in her hand, it’s pink and quite normal. So much for consistency.
14 The Furies are inconsistent
Furies are scary nightmare creatures who come to exact the price of magic. We meet one when our heroes use forbidden magic to save Robin’s life, and the ensuring fracas is something of a big deal. After all that drama, you’d expect a Fury to appear every time someone’s brought back from the brink of death, or especially from death itself. Not so!
Hook gets resurrected, too, and in a similar way to Robin. No Fury comes for him, and as the series goes on, it becomes abundantly clear that no Fury is going to stick its spooky CGI head into Storybrooke ever again. Maybe the destruction of the one that was after Robin put the other Furies off fairy tale heroes for good.
13 Where Mary Margaret got the Once Upon a Time storybook
It’s wonderful that Henry gets the Once Upon a Time storybook. That plot point certainly makes seven seasons of storytelling possible. There’s only one problem: where did Mary Margaret get the thing?
Regina and Gold hardly seem sloppy enough to just let it randomly manifest on Snow White’s bookshelf, or to happen to get lost in a box full of book donations, or even to float around Storybrooke in the possession of any character for long. Considering that the book is often in proximity to Regina, it’s weird that she doesn’t find and destroy it. The storybook is a convenient plot point that’s never explained, and thus becomes a plot hole.
12 Tamara electrocutes August
It’s a well-known scientific fact that wood does not conduct electricity. Electrical weapons like tasers work on human beings because human beings aren’t made of wood. August, however, is an actual life-sized wooden puppet when Tamara zaps him. If anything, his ability to resist electricity ought to be a superpower.
August could have nipped the whole Tamara situation right in the bud just by being made of a nonconductive material. If we assume that Tamara’s taser is really so powerful that it can destroy a person, then maybe it would have been more plausible for August to catch fire. We have a feeling that the show’s writers may have slept through a few science classes in high school.
11 There’s no way to get goods in and out of Storybrooke
There’s not much in Storybrooke. There’s pretty much just Granny’s, where everybody seems to eat, and a gas station. It’s low on big-box stores and since it’s closed off from the world at the beginning of season one, it seems unlikely that major delivery services are available to ship in things like new clothing, building material and, well, food! In fact, with so few businesses in town, there can’t be much money going around to buy what few goods there would have to be in a place to which no supplier could deliver.
It begs the question of where Storybrooke’s stuff comes from, especially the modern-day conveniences. Maybe there’s a factory in Storybrooke that we never see.
10 People can’t make money
Aside from the impossibility of importing goods into Storybrooke, there’s no way that everyone in town has a job. There are probably four businesses that we see throughout the show, counting a dwarf-run farm. Even if we ignore the problem of where goods are coming from, it’s ridiculous that there would be enough money in town to pay for those goods.
If Regina’s magic generated an entire town, it also seems possible that it could have generated enough cash to run it. That leads us to another, possibly more pressing question: if Regina’s capable of casting the original curse, then why go to all of this trouble in the first place? Why not stay home and dominate there?
9 Zelena flawlessly masquerades as Marian
Oh, Zelena. The erstwhile Wicked Witch of the West does a great job impersonating the sweet Marion despite her titular wicked nature. In fact, the job she does is a little too good. There is, in fact, zero indication that Marion is anybody other than who she seems to be. Marion’s closest relationships remain seamlessly intact. Zelena seems to remember enough about Marion’s life to play her part to perfection.
Does the six-leaved clover help imposters take on all the mannerisms of the person they’re replacing, too? You’d think Robin would notice, at least. The only way to gloss over this plot hole is to assume that Marion has been apart from her family for so long that their memories of her had grown hazy.
8 The show drops Mulan’s and Aurora’s budding relationship with little follow-up
The first time Once Upon A Time flirted with the idea of two girls flirting with each other, it was when Aurora and Mulan nearly became girlfriends after Phillip’s passing. It would have been nice for the show to follow through on an Aurora-Mulan relationship, but ex-boyfriends do sometimes come back from the grave. What really doesn’t make sense is that Mulan and Aurora have no more history at all.
After the intensity of their nascent feelings, it doesn’t make sense that the show would just forget about them as a couple. This is another decision that Once Upon a Time’s writers might have made to move fans along from a subplot that, for whatever reason, they didn’t like.
7 Liam's age
Let’s do some math. Captain Hook spends 28 years in a time bubble courtesy of Cora. He looks like he’s maybe 25, so when he gets out, his actual age would be over 50. Liam Jones, Hook’s younger brother, travels the seas with Captain Nemo. In order for Liam to still be a young adult of, say, seventeen when Hook meets him in season six, Liam would have had to have been born 33 years after Hook.
Hook eliminates Brennan when Liam is a kid, then gets time bubbled, and to make a long story short, Liam should be in his thirties when he meets Hook again. The timelines don’t work correctly no matter how you piece them together.
6 The Evil Queen is bad at being evil
After Regina splits into good and bad halves, the Evil Queen (Bad Regina) tells Good Regina how to start breaking the sleeping curse. That seems like an uncharacteristically good action, and itself breaks character with how the Evil Queen is supposed to work. In addition, the Evil Queen just sort of forgets to mention that she put a failsafe on the curse so that it couldn’t be broken.
On one hand, maybe she’s trying to waste the good characters’ time. This doesn't make a ton of sense, though, because in that case, she never had to help Regina and company in the first place. Maybe they never would have figured it out. As it was, they eventually triumphed.
5 Hook easily locates Mr. Gold in New York City
Last time we checked, the Enchanted Forest isn’t rife with New York City travel guides. Captain Hook also strikes us as a tech immigrant - someone who encounters technology like, say, GPS late in life. There’s no logical explanation for how quickly and easily he finds Mr. Gold when he’s stuck in New York City. It’s a metro area of literally millions of people. What are the odds that he’d stumble right into Neal’s apartment complex? Slim, that’s what.
Granted, this is a show where a magic mayor rips people’s hearts out to no immediately ill effect. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that some kind of meta-magic is conspiring to make the show more logical. That’s a big stretch even for this series, though.
4 Tamara’s taser defeats a dragon
Tamara sure does love that taser. It must be pretty powerful, too, because it straight-up defeats a dragon. There’s a argument floating around in fan circles that the taser destroy the magic within, which is why it also works on August when he’s made of a non-conductive material. However, August’s momentary survival suggests that the taser isn’t even strong enough to take out the magic required to keep a man made of wood functional in less than ten minutes or so.
Remember how August staggers around and makes cryptic declarations for a while before he perishes? That doesn’t sound like the work of a weapon powerful enough to lay out a giant lizard. Let’s call it the Deus Ex Taser from now on.
3 Belle stays in the hospital even after Gold heals her
It’s sad that Belle loses her memory in season 2. For a second, it looked like she and her beloved Beast, Rumple, could have the sweet reunion that they not only deserved, but which could have maybe made Mr. Gold an all-around more decent, less manipulative guy. Alas, it was not to be. Memory loss notwithstanding, there wasn’t anything else wrong with Belle - Mr. Gold healed her. Why did she have to stay in the Storybrooke hospital?
Imagine how confusing and traumatizing that hospital stay would be for the already confused and traumatized Belle. There’s not really a good reason that one of the other characters can’t take her to a more natural setting, like one of their homes.
2 Regina was already set up for an easy life
Cora schemes, and she does it a lot. She destroys a queen and tries to eliminate a young Snow White. But why? Regina was already the daughter of a prince! Compared to what most of the peasants in this world will live with, Regina is destined to live a life of comfort and luxury. There’s no need for her to be the queen.
In fact, Cora’s machinations place her daughter in jeopardy. What would happen to the young Regina if the Prince’s court finds out that her helicopter mom is an evil, manipulative sociopath? Probably nothing good, and certainly not queendom!
1 Rumplestiltskin tells Regina that magic can’t bring back the fallen
This is probably the biggest plot hole in the entire show. When Rumple teaches Regina magic, he’s quite firm on the point that magic can’t resurrect people form the grave. Considering his impressive level of knowledge and power, you’d think he’d know. If anyone could bring back those who have passed, it would be him, and even after the show established that resurrection is possible, it ought to be so rare that even Rumple wouldn’t expect to see it much during his long life.
Why does the show bring back Emma, Phillip, Hook, Henry, Maleficent, and Anastasia, among others? The answer is clear and simple: because it was easier for the writers! Plus, who wants to see their favorite characters bite the dust?
What other plot holes did you notice in Once Upon a Time? Let us know in the comments!