Welcome back to Storybrooke from a long summer, my fellow Once Upon a Time fans.
Last year, I would watch the episode and immediately sit down to write my recap. Last night a friend hosted a viewing party, and by the time I got home, it was too late to write the recap. Frankly, that was okay because I was still trying to wrap my head around a few of the events. Frankly, trying to summarize it all is going to be hard. I feel so sorry for the poor guy who has to try to do that.
Oh wait. That’s me.
Seriously, don’t rely on my recap. This is one episode that must be watched. So shut down this page and find a way to actually watch this episode. It really is that good.
Ready now? I’m going to share my thoughts on things, but please remember that spoilers are going to start immediately if not sooner.
The episode opens in New York City where a mystery man is shown walking around the city before returning to what we assume is his apartment. It’s raining out, and he tries to shut his window, and in the process loses his phone/mp3 player out the window (after a couple of viewings I still can quite tell what it was). As he stares down at it, a pigeon flies in and lands on the window sill. He has a postcard in his mouth. On the back, it just has one word – Broken. The man flips it over, and the picture side has a shot of the clock and the words “Welcome to Storybrooke.”
Speaking of which, we return to Storybrooke just as the purplish haze is starting to dissipate. Mary Margaret and James are still embracing, but as the smoke clears, they set out to learn what that was. Their search is quickly stopped when they are reunited with this old friends Ruby, Granny, and the dwarves. Obviously, everyone now remembers what is happening and the biggest question on their minds is, if the curse is broken, why didn’t they go back?
Meanwhile, Emma and Henry join the group. Mary Margaret is thrilled to see her daughter, and hugs her. David even joins in, but Emma is not returning the hug. Henry, meanwhile, looks at David and asks “Grandpa?” That drew a laugh from the group I was watching with.
As this bigger group is trying to figure out what the magic was, the Blue Ferry shows up and announces that the purple mist was magic. “I can feel it.” But when asked why her wings aren’t back, she explains magic is different and she still doesn’t quite know what that means.
Just then, Dr. Archibald arrives and announces that Dr. Whale is leading a group to attack Regina. They set off to stop the mob, especially afraid that Regina now has magic again. She doesn’t, and our heroes arrive just in time to stop the mob from a little vengeance. Along the way, we learn why even though the curse is broken no one has gone home yet. It seems the curse destroyed their homeland, so there is nothing to go back to. David has to get right in Dr. Whale’s face to get him to stop, but even then, Dr. Whale says, “You aren’t my prince.” To which David responds, “Who are you, anyway?”
Regina is placed in the jail for her own protection, while Emma wants to track down Mr. Gold and find out why he double crossed her at the library in the season finale.
Speaking of Gold, he and Belle have returned to his shop. (And as a by product of the magic, Belle’s hair is now a darker shade of brown than it was in last year’s season finale. Frankly, I like it better this way. Okay, they never explain this continuity error, but I’m going to go with this explanation.) Belle now fully remembers their prior relationship, and begs Gold to give up his magic and desire for power and revenge so they can live happily ever after. He agrees that he will not kill Regina and goes into the other room to find her some clothes to wear. Instead, he takes a medallion out of a pouch. He very carefully puts on gloves and then leaves with it.
He arrives at the jail just after the others have left. He tells Regina that he will not be killing her but will give her a fate worth than death. With that, he yanks her hand out of the bars and places the medallion directly on her hand. There is a searing sound for several seconds, and then he lets go. With a satisfied smile, he leaves.
Out in the woods, he takes his Rumplestiltskin knife and plunges it down next to the medallion on the ground. From there, he summons a dark power.
Before reaching Gold’s shop, Emma sends Henry off somewhere with Ruby. (I’m guessing there was a deleted scene we missed or something because I never did understand why.) Then Mary Margaret finally demands that she and Emma have a mother/daughter talk. That’s when Emma finally shares how upset she is with her parents. Yes, she’s found them. Yes, they sent her away to break the curse. But to her, she is still focused on the fact that she was sent away. It was a curse itself in some regards, and she is not happy with her parents as a result. It is also hinted at directly at this point that Mary Margaret has a fling with Dr. Whale.
Back at his shop, Emma, Mary Margaret, and David confront Gold, who manages to keep twisting what they say to make himself look not so bad. Emma calls him on it, but just then lights start to go out with bangs and pops. She demands to know what is going on. He explains that is a wraith he’s summoned to deal with Regina. It will kill her by taking her soul. The trio rush out to try to save her, since Emma has promised Henry that Regina will live. But Belle comes from the back room. She’s heard the whole thing and confronts Gold on it. He tries his word play with her, but she is having none of it. Upset that he is breaking his promise to her, she storms out.
Back at the sheriff’s station, the trio arrives just as the wraith has arrived and is beginning to take Regina’s soul. The three of them try to stop it, and finally Mary Margaret does. In a move that shows she is getting her Snow White back, she uses the flame from a lighter and hairspray to wound it enough to get it to retreat. But Regina warns it will come back once it has regenerated, and she has a plan to get rid of it once and for all.
That plan involves opening a portal via Jefferson’s hat (which Emma immediately recognizes) to send it to the now ruined land of Fairy Tale where it can’t harm anyone. Regina tries to spin the hat to open the portal, but nothing happens. Meanwhile, the wraith has returned, and David and Mary Margaret are fighting it. Only when Emma touches Regina’s arm does the portal open. And it’s just in time. The wraith is sucked into Fairy Tale. Unfortunately, Emma is standing too close and the wraith grabs her and pulls her in. Mary Margaret cries out that she is not leaving her daughter behind and jumps in. David tries to follow as well, but the portal closes and he smashes the hat.
Upset, David tries to turn on Regina, but she seems to finally have some magic back, and she pins him to the wall, and branches grow out of her wallpaper to hold him there. As she is threatening to kill him, Henry and Ruby walk in. Henry immediately grasps the situation and refuses to stay with Regina any more. A newly released David agrees to take him in. And our last shot of them is the two of them moving into Mary Margaret and Emma’s apartment while David promises he will do everything he can to get the two women back.
Meanwhile, after a long walk, Belle returns to Gold, explaining that obviously he needs her to tame the beast and make him good again.
Phew. I feel like a ton has happened. And we haven’t even addressed Fairy Tale yet.
Our first shot there is of two warriors fighting their way through branches. One of them is Prince Phillip, and the other is so shrouded you can’t tell who it is (although I was pretty sure it was a woman). Phillip walks over to a woman lying on a platform of stone with a spinning wheel next to her. He says, “If this works, we will only tell her what we absolutely must so as not to upset her.” And then he kisses her. Yes, it’s Aurora and yes, she wakes up.
Their happy reunion is short lived since a wraith appears from out of the floor. Phillip cuts the medallion off of it, and it flies away. He picks it up with his bare hand and looks at it. We head back to Storybrooke at this point to learn a bit more about the medallion and how that is what is used to mark the victims of the wraith. Our next scene here, Phillip explains that much of their kingdom is in ruins and monsters like they just saw have begun to over run it. As Aurora reassures Phillip that they can defend their kingdom together, they embrace, and we see the mark on Phillip’s hand.
About this point, we learn the second warrior is Mulan, who has been helping Phillip try to find and rescue Aurora. They set out into the woods, and find a good place to camp for the night since the wraith won’t attack sleeping/still figures and only hunts at night.
Phillip goes out for firewood, but never returns. When Aurora finds Mulan starting the fire, they figure out that Phillip has been marked and left to protect Aurora. Mulan takes off after him to help him fight, but Aurora isn’t taking that and tracks down Mulan. The two woman find him just as the wraith attacks him and takes his soul. Along the way, Aurora also accuses Mulan of being in love with Phillip, a charge Mulan tries to deny.
In our final scene of the episode, Aurora and Mulan are placing Phillip back on the bed where Aurora had just lain. Mulan then announces that they must return to their people. It’s then we learn the truth. While time has only advanced one year while Aurora was under her curse, 28 years have really advanced. Most of their lands were destroyed by a curse, but for some unknown reason, their part was spared. They have been attacked by monsters and the land ravaged. Most of the remaining people are hiding out together.
And the wraith? It came through a portal and was brought by the two people who are making noise under some rubble. Mulan lifts back some of the rubble from where it appeared earlier, and reveals Mary Margaret and Emma.
Okay, let’s see what we’ve got here.
Fairy Tale as our characters knew it is gone, except for one small part that is now a wasteland. Mary Margaret and Emma have been banished there as well, and with the hat smashed, there’s no easy way to get them.
Dr. Whale is not someone that the rest of the cast seems to know, even with their memories back. Is he Pinocchio’s whale? That’s a bit obviously, but I’ve always wondered.
Why didn’t Regina have any magic until Emma touched her? She sure seems to have it now.
Is Phillip beyond hope? Or can he be saved some how? (I assume Aurora tried kissing him. Perhaps another deleted scene?)
And who is the mystery man at the start of the episode? We never saw him again. Is that Henry’s dad? Rumplestiltskin’s son? Both? Who sent the postcard? Dr. Whale?
I’m not exactly happy with the introduction of the wraiths. Seems too similar to the dementors in Harry Potter to me. (We all commented on that last night.) But I’m sure those were based on creatures in older literature, so I’ll let it pass with just a mild complaint.
And I hope we don’t spend all season with three stories each episode – Storybrooke, Fairy Tale, and the newly discovered Wasteland. And only doing two of the three isn’t much better. I hated it when they did that on Lost.
Also interesting to note, Dr. Archibald and August have been removed from the main cast credits while Ruby and Belle have been added. I knew about the additions, and making Dr. Archibald a guest star makes sense since I don’t think they used him as much as they planned to in season 1. But what does this mean for the fate of Pinocchio?
I’m afraid I’ve got more questions than theories at this point. Please sound off in the comments on your theories and this episode in general.
And while we wait, take a look at my review of the Once Upon a Time – Season 1 set.