Welcome to the 11th installment of our Pride Month series! Each day in the month of June, we will be highlighting a different member of the LGBTQ+ community who we think is a great example of representation and dynamic characterization. We will focus on fictional characters, celebrities, and activists alike — the positive voices within the LGBTQ+ community and in mainstream media. A note: this article contains some spoilers for the series Once Upon a Time.
When the seventh (and ultimately final) season of Once Upon a Time (OUAT) was first announced, fans were upset to learn that many of their favorites would not be returning as series regulars, with new characters taking their place. But soon, these new leads would be embraced by the audience, none more so than Alice (played by Rose Reynolds) and Robin (played by Tiera Skovbye). Both Alice and Robin have connections to the original cast, with Alice the daughter of Wish Hook/Nook (Colin O’Donoghue) and Robin the grown-up daughter of Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) and Zelena (Rebecca Mader). But soon, both characters were given the chance to shine on their own — and with each other. As Alice and Robin’s love story unfolded, fans campaigned for more “MadArcher,” and their storyline ended up being one of the most popular aspects of the final season.
Alice and Robin are both interesting, complex characters in their own right. Alice grew up imprisoned in a tower, searching for her father and looking to experience the world to its fullest. She’s a quirky, funny character who stands up for what she believes in, whether in the Enchanted Realm or in cursed town Hyperion Heights. Robin looks for adventure everywhere, first pursuing magic like her mother but later becoming a skilled archer like her father. She’s matter-of-fact, but has a good heart and a soft spot for Alice.
When they meet for the first time, Alice is trying to find her father, and Robin mistakes her for a spy. Once Robin finally realizes who Alice is, she nicknames her “Tower Girl,” with Alice returning the favor by calling her “Nobin” (new Robin). Robin reveals she’s chasing a troll that attacked a village, and Alice protests that the troll is her friend and is simply scared. Robin wants to win glory by killing the troll and ignores Alice’s pleas not to go after him. But Alice doesn’t give up easily, following Robin for miles to stop her from hurting her friend.
They both arrive at a pub looking for information on the troll. But when Alice reveals she sympathizes with the troll, both she and Robin are thrown in the dungeon. This is where their love begins, as both talk about their lives until now. Robin has lived in Storybrooke for most of her life, so she enchants Alice with tales of modern life including cell phones and Volkswagen Beetles. They also talk about their fathers, with Robin revealing how she fears she’ll never live up to the father she never met. Alice and Nook had a relationship before he was forced to leave her due to a curse, and Alice worries she’ll never see him again. Robin, not wanting to miss her chance at catching the troll, steals Alice’s bobby pin and escapes, apologizing for tricking her but needing to uphold her father’s legacy. Alice eventually saves Robin from the troll, which was summoned by Alice’s loneliness. Robin comforts her, and they begin their relationship.
Their love grows but is soon interrupted by the curse that sends the main cast to a Land Without Magic (Hyperion Heights). Before the curse hits, Alice is able to get a message to Robin, and they reunite. Knowing the curse will take away their memories of each other, Alice reassures Robin, saying “We’ll always know each other. Even when we don’t.” They share a kiss just before the curse goes into effect, sending them both to Hyperion Heights. Once there, Alice becomes “Tilly,” a “crazy” woman who befriends Nook’s new persona “Detective Rogers.” It soon becomes clear Tilly is only seen as crazy because she has memories of her old life when not on her medications. Robin, on the other hand, is now “Margot,” and she first finds Tilly when she saves her from being hit by a truck. They have instant chemistry even without their memories, with Margot telling her mother that she thinks she’s finally met someone worth sticking around for.
Margot asks Tilly on a date, and all is well at first. But then Tilly begins to have one of her bad panic attacks and runs from Margot, not wanting her to see her like that. That night, Tilly finds Margot to apologize and explains her worry about dragging Margot down with her episodes of madness. Margot empathizes with Tilly’s desire to hide her pain. But she says, “you don’t have to worry because it won’t be too much for me, no matter what kind of day it is.”
When the curse is eventually broken and everyone remembers who they are, Alice calls out for Robin, who runs to her as she calls Alice “Tower Girl.” They kiss, and all is well … until it becomes clear there’s still evil lurking in Hyperion Heights. Alice and Robin team up, heading back to Storybrooke to get help. In the final battle, the two help rescue Regina, but also witness a sickened Nook dying from his poisoned heart. Nook asks Robin to take care of his daughter, which she promises to do. She also asks him for permission to ask Alice to marry her, which Nook gladly gives. Robin tells him they will save him, and he will be there to walk Alice down the aisle. After Rumpelstiltskin sacrifices himself to save Nook, Alice and Robin are there to help him. Later at Regina’s coronation, Alice and Robin stand together, with Alice sporting an engagement ring from Robin. While we don’t see their wedding, we know they live happily ever after.
MadArcher was a big moment for a show that had lacked a central LGBTQ+ relationship. The show had previously had one canon LGBTQ+ relationship between Ruby and Dorothy (“Ruby Slippers”) a full five seasons into the show, with only one episode devoted to their romance (with Dorothy a minor character who only appeared in three episodes of the series total, with one occurring when the character was a child). The pairing had been teased as the show’s first LGBTQ+ relationship, but it was ultimately an underwhelming moment for fans. The creators of the show faced backlash for under-developing the romance compared to bigger canon ships on the show, seemingly using the pair to claim representation rather than creating a lasting and well-written LGBTQ+ relationship. MadArcher was an attempt to correct that mistake, and it succeeded. Fans quickly fell for the pair, and Rose Reynolds and Tiera Skovbye both seemed to understand the value of the relationship. As Reynolds told TV Guide, “I was excited to start exploring that love story. For me, it was a no brainer. Love is love.”
Both Reynolds and Skovbye also acknowledged the pressure of following the Ruby Slippers debate in an interview with Entertainment Weekly during the final season:
Rose Reynolds: There’s also the thing of Dorothy and Ruby as well, because we are the second coming of the lesbian couple, so to speak … It felt like, not a weight, but there was a lot to think about in terms of telling their story right, and making sure that it was given its due weight and due care in exploring it, so it didn’t feel rushed or unrealistic or forced, or any of those things …
Tiera Skovbye: I think Rose basically said it, it’s definitely intimidating. I think for me what was most intimidating was hearing some fans with the previous lesbian love story, and how fans were a little bit upset as to why they didn’t continue on with that. Anybody I’ve talked to since then is like, “I’m so happy they’re doing this love story, it’s so good.” I think because it’s done very well and it’s very thought-out. That’s what makes it such a great love story, is that it’s very real; it’s a very real love story. It’s very sweet as it develops. It just gets better.
Reynolds and Skovbye continue to interact with MadArcher fans two years after the cancellation of the show, and their chemistry as friends is hilarious. At the recent Creation Entertainment OUAT reunion in New Jersey, they discussed their hopes for what Robin and Alice would be doing now, leaving the audience in tears of laughter.
They were a groundbreaking relationship for OUAT and gave fans a sweet love story between two strong and powerful characters who complimented each other’s strengths. Alice taught Robin to be more whimsical, and Robin gave Alice safety and security. Undoubtedly, MadArcher deserves to be included in our Pride series.
Be sure to check back here every day this month for more of our Pride spotlights!