‘Once Upon A Time’ Recap: Where’s the Magic?

by Brittany Houlihan

I have had a lengthy love affair with Once Upon A Time, so you can imagine how stoked I was to see the season premiere on Sunday night.  Sadly, I was a little let down.

If you’re new to the show, here’s the plot: An evil queen (the one who poisoned Snow White with the apple) trapped all of the fairy-tale characters in modern-day Storybrooke, Maine, in which they are unaware of their magical powers and who they really are in the alternate world. The evil queen has become Regina, the town mayor; Snow White is a teacher named Mary Margaret; and Prince Charming is David Nolan, a formerly anonymous coma patient. The first season focuses on Snow White/Mary Margaret and Prince Charming/David’s relationship in both worlds. (And in case you didn’t know, actors Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas are dating in real life.  How cute is that?)

Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter, a baby in the magical world, is now a 28-year-old who must believe in the alternate fairy-tale universe in order to break the spell. When she does–assisted by Henry, the son she once gave up for adoption–the curse of Storybrooke is broken, with the help of Mr. Gold (Rumplestiltskin), who wants to bring the magic back but won’t say why.

So…it’s pretty complicated, even if you follow the story closely.  But on to the recap!

Sunday’s season premiere, confusingly enough, started with a character new to the series. A pigeon brings him a postcard that says “broken” on one side and “Storybrooke” with an image of the town on the other.  He isn’t seen for the rest of the episode.

So far, this season focuses on the tale of Sleeping Beauty (or Aurora) and Prince Phillip (played by the awesome Julian Morris from Pretty Little Liars), which resembles the Disney story more than the traditionally gruesome fairy tales Once Upon A Time tends to follow.  In the magical world, Prince Phillip has a symbol branded into his hand and is therefore sought after by a soul-sucking wraith. Bummer.

Warrior princess Mulan also shows up in this episode, playing Prince Phillip’s masked protector.  Phillip eventually decides to save both Sleeping Beauty’s and Mulan’s lives by running off to be attacked by the wraith on his own.  

Sleeping Beauty and Prince Phillip

While this is being explained in the magical world, we discover that the modern-day characters have all remembered their past lives as fairy-tale characters. It is soon revealed that Regina does not have her evil powers anymore, but Emma, also the town sheriff, locks Regina up for her own safety because the magical townspeople are trying to kill her (and for good reason).

While she’s locked up, Mr. Gold summons the wraiths by branding Regina’s hand. She comes up with the idea to deflect the wraith into the old magical world, where she believes nobody currently lives. Regina, with assistance from Mary Margaret and David, uses the magical hat (from the Mad Hatter, of course), to trap the wraith. The wraith is finally sucked into the hat, but Emma is accidentally sucked in, too. Mary Margaret jumps in after her–and unfortunately, the portal to the magical world closes before David can follow.

Seconds after the portal closes, Regina tries to kill David using her magical powers. (Did she regain them once Emma and Mary Margaret went through the portal, or has she had them the entire time and just pretended not to have them? Mysteries!) Henry rushes in to stop Regina; David decides he will raise Henry himself until they find Emma and Mary Margaret. So ends the modern story.

Back in the land of magic, Mulan and Aurora find modern-day Mary Margaret and Emma under rubble, and Mulan says “That’s what brought the wraith here. That’s what killed our prince.” It’s unclear whether the same wraith is hanging out in both worlds, but regardless: end scene.

I’m disappointed because I really enjoyed the magical world counterparts, which appear like they won’t be coming back with the main characters. I miss the sappy romance stuff between Mary Margaret/Snow White and David/Prince from the first season, which seems very much resolved so far this season. Also, I don’t love Mary Margaret’s constant re-airing of her relationship with Emma, which seems to be a ploy to get closer to her.

The show really excels at cliffhangers: I want to find out what happens to Mary Margaret and Emma in the magical world, if David and Henry are able to find them, and if Regina regains power over people. Mostly, I want to see more fairy tale characters and their involvement in both worlds.

As sappy as some parts may be, I am so sucked into this show–let’s just hope the next couple of episodes get better. In case you haven’t seen it yet (although I’m betting if you’re reading this you have), you can watch the season premiere here.


Images via ABC.com

You may also like

Get the print magazine.

The best of BUST in your inbox!

Subscribe to Our Weekly Newsletter


About Us

Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

©2023 Street Media LLC.  All Right Reserved.