It started with a kiss. How did it end up like this?
That is what fans of Once Upon A Time have been asking for years because what was once an epic testament to the power of love stopped making sense roughly midway through the series.
True love's kiss was more or less an invention of Disney.
If you read the original versions of Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or Beauty and the Beast, none of the curses are broken by True Love's Kiss.
Disney's Snow White was the first time the True Love's Kiss trope was used, and Disney kept using it in subsequent movies. They even parodied the idea in Disney's Enchanted with the song "True Love's Kiss."
While more mature and in-depth than classic Disney tales, Once Upon A Time was, first and foremost, a Disney show. They chose to focus on the story of Snow White, the first full-length animated Disney movie.
Because of this, Snow and Charming are the couple we need to believe in from the beginning.
Once Upon A Time Season 1 Episode 1 opened promisingly enough, showcasing that iconic True Love's Kiss.
As the show progressed, True Love, which is epitomized in the act of True Love's Kiss, was espoused as the most powerful magic of all.
In the word's of Rumplestilskin it is "the only magic powerful enough to transcend realms and break any curse."
This included The Dark Curse, which Emma Swan broke on Once Upon A Time Season 1 Episode 22 by kissing her son Henry.
Let's give Once's writers their due; this was the first time True Love's kiss had been between family as opposed to lovers. Frozen and Maleficent had not come out yet when the episode aired, and the idea was quite groundbreaking.
It seemed like Once Upon A Time had True Love all figured out. It was this epic, rare thing. It was powerful and could break curses and create happiness. And yes, it need not be between a couple. A mother and son would do. So far, so good.
Well, not exactly. There were a few chinks in the armor.
See, True Love was lofted as this special, rare thing. Yet on Once Upon A Time Season 1 Episode 13, Charming suggests Abigal save her love Fredrick with it. Now, it isn't so much the suggestion itself. Abigal loves Fredrick truly, so it couldn't hurt to try.
The issue is how casually Charming made the suggestion.
This man was born a shepherd, and while The Dark One had struck a deal to make him a prince, his knowledge of and interaction with magic up until this point was fairly minimal.
His education was also likely lacking.
Yet he suggests True Love's Kiss as though he is suggesting taking Tylenol for a headache.
He's familiar with this cure in a way that implies it is common and Abigal's response that of course, she tried that implies much the same. It is even clarified that it only didn't work because the gold got in the way.
These two characters who have a love we never heard of before and never heard of again apparently share True Love.
As the show goes on, it becomes clear that pretty much every character has a True Love. In some cases, characters have multiple True Loves. This is mostly implied.
Some True Love's were never officially confirmed, but the implication is that these people found True Love twice such as with Marian/Robin/Regina or Daniel/Regina/Robin.
However, it is more or less confirmed when we discover Emma and Killian share true love.
On Once Upon A Time Season 1 Episode 7 , Emma kissed Graham and he began to wake up from the curse. When she kissed him back, he fully regained his memories of being The Huntsman in the Enchanted Forest. The implication of her breaking the curse on him is that they are True Loves.
Yet on Once Upon A Time Season 5 Episode 20, Emma and Killian pass a Ture Love test in the Underworld. Killian was reluctant to take the test, because while he loved Emma, he literally said to her, "But True Love is the rarest magic of all. Are you certain?"
Killian, what world have you been living in for the past few years? Because in Storybrooke, True Love is everywhere. If someone shares True Love's Kiss, you know it must be Tuesday.
Again, the issue isn't that everybody has a True Love, or even more than one. Emma should be able to love her son truly as well as her future husband and if someone's True Love dies they should get another shot at it.
But they are always saying that it is this rare, mystical thing and it just isn't.
So, the confusion about how rare True Love really is is frustrating but surmountable. However, as we have moved on to Season 5, allow me to bring up the scene that broke the camel's back. Even Rumbelle haters have to admit this one was a doozy.
On the latter half of Season 5, Rumple and Belle are having marital issues, and for reasons too complicated to go into, Belle puts herself under a sleeping curse to protect their unborn child.
On Once Upon A Time Season 5 Episode 20 Rumple tries to kiss her awake. It is an epic fail. Sorry Rumbellers.
Except we know that the two shared True Love at one point. That was confirmed by a kiss on Once Upon A Time Season 1 Episode 12.
We also know that, whether you think they should or shouldn't be together, they do work out their marital issues and end the show as a couple.
Yet True Love's Kiss failed because they were fighting.
What? What does that say about True Love? That it comes and goes? That you can fall out of True Love and then back into it? Or that the writers were simply smoking something.
It would seem that this scene says that lovers must be in love at the moment of the kiss or it won't work, which is backed up by the idea that a person with amnesia can't share True Love's Kiss, something established on Once Upon A Time Season 1 Episode 16.
Okay. So True Love is about what you felt before you were cursed. It is malleable. It is not fated. Except ...
On Once Upon A Time Season 6 Episode 7, the audience learns that Snow and Charming met before we thought. They were strangers talking through a door. They didn't know each other from Adam, yet the second their hands touched a sapling born by the first spark of True Love started to grow.
So they were always destined to be True Love, even though they didn't know each other or love each other yet. Isn't that sweet?
I'll answer. Yes, it is sweet but it is also inconsistent.
Because we now know that True Love only exists when the people feel that they love each other, and while I'm sure Snow was grateful that a stranger saved her from capture and David was grateful for the coins she gave him they didn't love each other yet.
The spark sparked because they were fated to share True Love, and that was first contact. So True Love should work whether the people are currently in love or not.
Yet for Belle and Rumple a lover's quarrel was enough to keep her sleeping. See what I mean about True Love and True Love's Kiss being thin?
There were a few times when True Love's Kiss didn't work for Snow and Charming as well.
As previously stated, when Snow drank the forgetting potion, David was unable to restore her memories of him by kissing her on Once Upon A Time Season 1 Episode 16. There was another time True Love's Kiss failed the Charmings, though.
On Once Upon A Time Season 2 Episode 8 Charming goes under a sleeping curse and ends up in mystical room of fire. This is where people go when under True Love's Kiss aparrently.
Snow was able to visit this room by going to sleep since she had once been under a sleeping curse. She and David tried kissing to wake him up, but it did not work because a kiss in a netherworld apparently does not count.
I will now direct your attention to Once Upon A Time Season 6 Episode 1. Remember how Belle put herself under a sleeping curse in Season 5 and Rumple was unable to wake her?
Well, he travels to her cursed dream world to try and wake her up there and is unsuccessful. However, the spirit of her unborn fetus is also in the dream, fully grown somehow, and he kisses her to wake her up.
I have no words for all the ways that this True Love's Kiss made no sense.
A fully conscious, fully adult version of the child growing inside her kisses her in a cursed dreamworld, and it counts.
Snow and Charming, the main couple of the show for the first few seasons, who overcame everything and are #TrueLoveGoals couldn't make True Love's Kiss work in a dream world, but Gideon can even though he still has gills.
Did Snow and Charming just do it wrong that one time? Maybe the forgot to turn the on switch.
So, here's what we have. True Love is super-rare, even though everybody has one and sometimes more than one. It can be your kid, your parent or your lover.
It is something fated that sparks a sapling the first time you make physical contact, even if you aren't in love yet. But you have to be in love and not in the middle of a quarrel for True Love's Kiss to work.
True Love's Kiss is The Enchanted Forest's answer to every bad thing that ever happens and everybody knows about it even if they know nothing about magic.
Oh, and did I mention it can work if you have a mortal wound? Like if you, say, get stabbed with a sword and die as Emma did on Once Upon A Time Season 6 Episode 22 True Love's Kiss can totally wake you up.
But if you get stabbed with a sword, as Charming did on Once Upon A Time Season 1 Episode 1, True Love's Kiss won't wake you up. In that case, you need the medicine provided by a modern-day hospital. You'll still be in a coma though.
True Love and True Love's Kiss lost all meaning by the end of Once Upon A Time's seven-season run, which is a shame when you consider how well they started.
This invention of Disney was original, inspiring and even groundbreaking in it's time. Once Upon A Time tried to draw on that and started strong.
Eventually, however, True Love's Kiss got downgraded to a plot device that switched it's rules whenever was convenient.
I guess we can kiss any chance of understanding this powerful magic goodbye.
What are your thoughts on True Love's Kiss? Did Once do Disney dirty? Did the concept ever make sense in the first place? Let us know in the comments.
Leora W is a staff writer for TV Fanatic..