Once Upon a Time Season 1 Recap (All Spoilers, All the Time)

10 Oct

As I’ve noted previously, I often devour TV shows.  My latest has been Once Upon a Time so I can watch season 2 as it comes out.  I thought I might do some recaps of it, just for kicks.

First, let’s talk about how I (and all the girls I watch it with) call this show Xena Damages.

Because this show is all about badass ladies doing badass things in a badass, fantastical world filled with magic, overacting, and oddly poor CGI (à la Xena), but it is also about non-linear storytelling and an HBIC who wears delicious skirt suits, ruthlessly orchestrates people’s destructions, and rips people’s hearts out (à la Damages).

So, Emma Swan is a bailbondswoman in modern-day Boston.  This means, of course, that she is a BA.  Drink this in because she turns whiny and annoying soon.

It’s her birthday, and Henry, her kid she gave up for closed adoption 10 years ago, stops by and says she’s urgently needed in his small town–Storybrooke, ME–to break a curse that his adopted mom–The Evil Queen/Mayor Regina Mills–has put on everyone that has made them all forget that they’re really fairy tale characters because this is the only way she can have a happy ending and she doesn’t want anybody else to have one, and Emma was sent to this land as a baby in a magic wardrobe to come back and save everybody when she turns 28 although she looks significantly older than that.  Emma agrees to take Henry home even though she doesn’t believe him.  When she gets there, the clock in the townsquare, which has not moved a second since anyone can remember, starts ticking

Of course, it’s all true, and through the Damages-esque flashbacks, we learn all about everyone’s past life as fairy tale characters:

Why didn’t I put these characters in alphabetical order instead of this stupid, loosely-in-order-of-significance-and-kinda-grouped-with-related-stories order?

So in between, or among, the unveiling of all these backstory plots, we get  the forestory plot in which Regina wants to get rid of Emma a lot because she’s afraid Emma really is the savior and also tries to get Mary Margaret a lot because she hates her.

First on the docket, she gets Emma kicked out of Granny’s bed and breakfast, and Emma is forced to move in with Mary Margaret.

Ooh girl. Now it’s on.

Then the sherriff–The Woodsman–deputizes Emma and starts remembering his fairy tale life.  He and Emma check out the cemetery, to maybe see if Mayor Mills is keeping hearts or magic or anything up in there.  Regina shows up just as they decide she’s not doing that magic stuff, but the sheriff breaks off their loveless affair anyway.  A grave-sight punch-out ensues when Emma tells Regina that she’s terrible. Then, after Emma and the sheriff leave (to canoodle at the station), Regina straight up ashifies the sheriff’s heart, which she had kept locked in a vault beneath her dad’s grave after all!

Then because Emma’s the only deputy (?), she becomes sheriff, but Regina tries to get Sidney Glass–her faithful (M)mirror minion–elected sheriff.  Emma accepts help from Mr. Gold on being elected.  He engineers a fire at the courthouse so that Emma will be forced to save Regina so that the town will like her and elect her.  But he knows Emma will tell the truth–that Gold set the fire–and the town will like her for that, too.  Win-win-win.

So Emma’s sheriff.  And then Sidney Glass gets “fired” (à la Tom from Damages) so that Emma will trust him and work with him on exposing Regina for the evil tyrant she is.  This culminates in a money scandal and Henry going down an abandoned mine shaft to prove Regina keeps secret shady Evil Queen stuff down there.  Turns out, Regina was putting the money into building a new playground over the bull-dozed abandoned mine.  Sounds a lot safer than the rickety play castle by the sea that Henry liked…?

David gallantly tries to cleanse The Tramp Mobile

Well, none of this has the desired effect, and meanwhile Mary Margaret and her married coma-amnesia boyfriend have been seeing each other on the sly.  Regina befriends the wife, Kathryn (Damages’s Awful American Accent!  whose accent is slightly better now, but she’s super gaunt-looking.  Eat a cheeseburger, Ellen’s would-be-sister-in-law).  And it gets out all over town that Mary Margaret is a homewrecker, and someone vandalizes her already-super-ugly station wagon, which is both hilarious and awful.

But even all that’s not enough to interfere with true love, so Regina strikes a deal with Mr. Gold to have Kathryn killed and for Mary Margaret to be framed for it by burying Kathryn’s heart in Mary Margaret’s jewelry box under the toll bridge, which had been her and David’s make-out point.

Mr. Gold’s playing both sides, though, and agrees to defend Mary Margaret.  Also, Kathryn’s not actually dead and wanders home one day.

And no one cares whom that heart actually belonged to.  At all.

And Sidney Glass confesses to kidnapping Kathryn.

So Regina’s so pissed about all of this, of course.  And Mr. Gold is so happy about all this, of course, because his main goal this whole time has been to irk Regina, unseat her power, and get the curse broken so he can go find his kid who ran away from him in fairy tale land.

Oh, you ride a motorcycle and take girls on dates to wells? I’ll bring the cups and pulley system!

A mysterious, dreamy stranger on a motorcycle shows up (in the wrong town.  I’m waiting for you, mysterious, dreamy stranger on a motorcycle!).  He tries to convince Emma that the curse is real because he was actually sent to this land to protect her but then he neglected his duties and now he’s turning back into wood (because he’s Pinocchio).

Emma decides she’s had it with this town and tries to kidnap Henry (because she’s an awesome sheriff…?), but he wants her to stay and break the curse.  She talks to Dr. Hopper–the town psychiatrist–who tells her she has no case for custody, so she decides she’ll negotiate with Regina to see Henry whenever she wants but that she will still leave town.

Regina, meanwhile, has used her last bit of magic in this world–the ring her true love (David from Damages, also looking gaunt, but at least he has better taste in fairy tale land.  Regina > Ellen Parsons)–gave her in order to retrieve her famous poison apple via the Mad Hatter’s hat (which opens up portals to other worlds).

She bakes it into a single, delicious-looking turnover (counting her evil magic before it hatches, putting it all in one basket, etc.) and gives it to Emma.  As Emma’s about to leave, Henry comes over, sees the turnover, knows what’s about to go down and so sacrifices himself.

Boom!  Comatose!

“Miss Swan!  Please! You’re wrinkling my favorite blazer!”

Everyone rushes to the hospital where Emma and Regina fight in the closet for a few very tense moments before they decide to work together to un-comatose Henry.  They seek out Mr. Gold, who has bottled some true love via Charming and Snow White’s hair, but it’s hidden in the belly of a beast.

Emma literally must take up her father’s sword and slay a dragon.  Lolwut?

Then Mr. Gold steals the true love potion that Emma retrieved from the dragon and runs off to the woods, where he finds Belle (to whom he is the Beast. dawww!) who has been locked up in the insanity ward by Regina and subsequently released by The Mad Hatter.  Mr. Gold is pissed anew.

Emma and Regina rush back to the ER where Henry has code-blued, and Emma’s mom-true-love kiss both wakes him up and ends the curse on the whole town:  Suddenly everyone remembers his or her old life.  Regina runs off to cry in Henry’s bedroom–presumably about how she’s probably going to be lynched and also how her kid doesn’t love her.

Meanwhile, Mr. Gold puts the true love potion down the well that brings back things that were lost.  Cue purple cloud of magic rolling over the place.


  • Emma states early on she has a “super power” by which she can detect when people lie. Throughout the season, villain after villain after good guy deceive her. Um… k.
  • Did Regina know that Henry was Emma’s child when she adopted him?  Mr. Gold surely knew and secured this particular adoption to ensure the curse’s breaking.
  • If nobody ages in this town except for Henry, how does everyone explain why he grows but nobody else does?
  • We know that Regina’s dad met an unfortunate end.  Did her mother suffer a similar fate?  Or is her mother secretly the Queen of Hearts?  That would be a good one–hearts.  Cuz she likes to rip ’em out.  Get it?  Ay oh!
  • Henry is Emma’s son, which makes Mary Margaret/Snow White his grandmother, which makes Regina his step-great-grandmother, but he is also Regina’s son, which makes him Emma’s step-uncle, which makes him his own great-step-uncle.

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