Episode Air Dates: October 23rd 2011 – May 13th 2012 (Season 1)
September 30th 2012 – May 12th 2013 (Season 2)
September 29th 2013 – May 11th 2014 (Season 3)
Reviewed by: Joshua Andre
Once Upon A Time (Season 1, 2 and 3)
S1, 2 and 3 Recap
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parilla, Josh Dallas, Colon O’Donoghue, Michael Raymond-James, Jared S. Gilmore, Barbara Hershey, Giancarlo Esposito, Meghan Ory, Beverly Elliot, Lee Arenberg, Eion Bailey, Emilie De Ravin, Robert Carlyle, Raphael Sbarge, Sarah Bolger, Julian Morris, Jamie Chung, Chris Gauthier, Sean Maguire, Robbie Kay, Rebecca Mader, Rose McIver, Sebastian Stan
If you didn’t figure out from my top 10’s post a few weeks ago, let me spell it out for you. Once Upon a Time, a fairytale/fantasy family drama, which debuted in 2011, is one of my favourite shows on TV at the moment. And Season 4 is right around the corner (actually the premiere episode is on today, wow, time flies, doesn’t it?). I’ll be reviewing Season 4 episodes, but before I do, let me quickly recap Seasons 1-3, for those who haven’t seen the show are just want a refresher. Beware, spoilers are coming, so if you want to watch OUAT at your own pace, don’t read on.
For me, OUAT was intriguing in season 1, solid, but somewhat losing its way a bit in season 2, but totally and utterly amazing in season 3. Now that I have acted like a fan, I’ll put on my reviewing hat! With the show one of the veterans on ABC, and one of the first to be renewed every season, despite a few flaws, OUAT takes us back to our childhood, and reintroduces us many Disney characters and other fairytales, and flips some of them on their head, creating clever renditions of characters we all know and love. Just take a look at the OUAT characters wikipedia page! And bear with me, because now I am listing- Snow White, Prince Charming, The Evil Queen, Red Riding Hood, Rumplestiltskin, Belle, Grumpy, Granny, Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio, The Magic Mirror, Captain Hook, Aurora, Mulan, Peter Pan, The Wicked Witch Of The West, Smee, Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Tinkerbell, The Mad Hatter…this list goes on. All of these loveable heroes and villains are present in some incarnation within the past 66 episodes and some of them beyond that, as reality and fantasy collide in this fun filled journey and adventure.
Ok, let’s dive into the spoiler heavy recap of one of my most favourite TV shows that is currently airing. Seeing that the show is deep into its episodes, a recap of all seasons is probably not feasible, otherwise this recap could balloon out to 3000 words or more. Instead, I will direct you to the recap wikipedia pages of Season 1, Season 2 and Season 3– as they do a more thorough job than me, and much more in detailed that I probably have time for. But what I will do is talk about season 1, 2 and 3 in a few paragraphs (my spin on the recaps so to speak) then quickly talk about season 4 for a bit as well. Ready?
Here’s the non-spoilery premise of OUAT (with all of the events occurring in the pilot episode: the story follows the protagonist Emma Swan, originally living as a bails-bond person in Boston, who is approached one night by a boy named Henry who claims to be her son that she gave up years ago. He also claims to be from a town called Storybrooke, which is really cursed for the past 28 years by the Evil Queen, who’s his adoptive mother. The series then takes Emma and Henry to Storybrooke, where she stays for an extended period of time, and becomes the sheriff, all the while entertaining and humouring Henry’s beliefs that she is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, and also destined to break the curse to bring back all the happy endings, of all the people living in Storybrooke, who are fairytale characters also. Soon enough, Emma starts to believe Henry, and from then on the drama really starts.
In Season 1, the show is a bit more procedural than it is now. With many of the characters not remembering who they really are, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) finds herself living with her mother Snow White aka Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) and being the Sheriff of the town, while Snow and David (Josh Dallas), who has woken from the hospital with amnesia, try to rekindle their true love even if they do not know who they are (this on-again-off-again relationship occurs throughout the whole season). Red aka Ruby (Meghan Ory) longs to break away from her role as a waitress, and in an episode, she becomes Emma’s deputy for a while. Pinocchio (Eion Bailey), who previously escaped the curse and was supposed to look after Emma in the real world, comes to Storybrooke, with his legs starting to turn to wood, trying to persuade Emma to believe in Henry’s story.
With Snow and David reuniting just after David’s fake wife Kathryn (Anastasia Griffith) is kidnapped and then returned; Jefferson, The Mad Hatter (Sebastian Stan)n kidnaps Emma and Snow, claiming that he remembers his previous life because his curse was to never forget. His intense talk with Emma brings her closer to the truth. With episodes littered also with back stories of the characters including revelations that Red is the wolf, that Rumplestilskin doubles as the beast, and is a love interest for Belle (who is locked away in an asylum by Regina (Lana Parilla) in Storybrooke), that the Magic Mirror (Giancarlo Esposito) is the genie as well, and also explaining how Snow’s father died, how David and Snow met, how Rumple became The Dark One, how Regina’s mother killed her first love, as well as how Pinocchio managed to escape the curse, and what we have is a fun filled and intense first season.
Culminating in Regina and Rumple both revealing that they have remembered who they are for quite a while (only because Henry (Jared S Gilmore) eats a poisoned apple and slips into a coma; the curse finally breaks (after Emma battles the dragon formerly known as Maleficent), and everyone has two sets of memories in their heads. Belle is broken out of prison by Jefferson, and is reunited with Rumple, and in the final moments, Rumple brings magic to Storybrooke, leaving the season in an almighty cliff-hanger.
In Season 2, there is slightly a bit more cohesion, however in the back end of the season has so many things going on that it’s hard to keep up. Immediately we know the reason why Rumple brought magic to the world, and that is to find his son Baelfire, whom he lost in a portal many years before. Belle supports Rumple’s noble cause, and helps him create a potion that protects people’s memories, as it was discovered that Storybrooke inhabitants who have been affected by the curse lose their memories when crossing the line. At the same time, a quick reunion between Snow, David and Emma is cut short when Rumple unleashes a wraith on Regina for locking Belle away, and both Emma and Snow are sucked into a portal from Jefferson’s hat. They are sucked into the Enchanted Forest, and meet those unaffected by the curse- Mulan (Jamie Chung) and Aurora (Sarah Bolger) help Snow and Emma try to return home, all the while manoeuvring Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) and Regina’s mother Cora (Barbara Hershey), who have ulterior motives for returning to Storybrooke with them.
While in a fairytale flashback, it reveals that Hook destroyed Rumple’s marriage with his wife Miah, and was ultimately responsible for Baelfire growing up without a mother, Hook is still hell-bent on revenge. He shoots Belle, as soon as Rumple is nearly on his way to find his son, and as a consequence Belle has amnesia, until the season’s end. With Emma and Snow safely returned from the Enchanted Forest (thanks to Regina’s magic and David’s determination), Emma and Henry travel with Rumple to New York, where Baelfire is. Revealed to be Neal Cassidy (Michael Raymond-James), who is Henry’s father, which is a shock to Emma, Rumple and Henry, Bae is initially reluctant to travel to Storybrooke, but a scuffle with a vengeful Hook mortally wounds Rumple. Back at Storybrooke, Snow kills Cora to save Rumple’s life, setting Regina off on a darker path than before.
The last few episodes of Season 2 feature recurring characters Owen (Ethan Embry) and Tamara (Sonequa Martin Green) on their quest to rid the world of magic. Both of them arrive in Storybrooke under false pretences, and both insert themselves in the lives of the core characters. With Tamara masquerading as Neal’s fiancé, Regina and Rumple have to band together with the heroes to save the town. The season ends with Regina saving the town and being a hero, Neal shot by Tamara and falling into a portal to the Enchanted Forest, and Greg and Tamara kidnapping Henry, bringing him to their leader, who has been searching for him for a while. Hook switches sides many times during the last batch of episodes too, ultimately ending with him trying to redeem himself and be a hero; and with Belle’s memories restored after a while; Emma, Snow, David, Regina, Hook and Rumple travel on Hook’s Jolly Roger to Neverland, where Henry is held by the nefarious Peter Pan (Robbie Kay).
Did you catch all of the storylines in season 2? A bit all over the place right? That’s even without me telling you all a bit about the flashback parts! That’s why in Season 3, the creators of the show changed the format of the show, and split it up into 2 distinct parts. Season 3A focused on rescuing Henry from Neverland, from the clutches of Peter Pan, who turned out to be Rumplestilskin’s father and Henry’s great-grandfather, and also helping Tinkerbell, Wendy and other lost boys escape as well. In flashbacks, the friendship between Regina and Tinkerbell was explored, as was the reason Hook became a pirate, and as the heroes and antiheroes became closer to finding out Pan’s true mission, we see just how malicious and cunning he is. Back in Storybrooke, with Belle ‘leading’ the town, we see a friendship blossom with Ariel, who also lives on Neverland as well, and that is how the core group on Neverland communicated with Storybrooke. As Peter Pan is defeated at the end of the 11 episode arc (not without some hiccups, with Henry and Pan swapping bodies for a bit), Tinkerbell, Wendy and the lost boys find a new home, Neal is rescued from Neverland (we find out that he lived with John, Michael and Wendy for a while earlier), but a irreversible curse from Pan brings everyone back to the Enchanted Forest, but the price is Emma and Henry’s memories. While Rumple seemingly dies to save everyone else, the cliffhanger at the end of the midseason finale, has Hook coming to Emma’s apartment in New York after a year, claiming that she needs to go back to help her family as there has been some trouble.
The most recent batch of 11 episodes explores Regina’s rivalry with her sister- the Wicked Witch of the West. It was she, who brought everyone back to Storybrooke, and as Emma’s memory returns, Henry is led to Storybrooke under the guise of a work case, and then the investigating begins. Hook, Regina, Snow, David and Emma quickly discover that Rumple is alive and working for Zelena (Rebecca Mader), Regina’s half sister. As Rumple is freed eventually, Zelena kills Neal, then sets about collecting ingredients for a time travel spell- she plans to go back in time to kill Snow’s mother, as it is revealed through a flashback that Cora and Leopold, Snow’s father, were previously in love, but Cora was already pregnant with Zelena and didn’t want to lose Leopold. With Ava destroying any kind of happiness, Zelena wanted to make sure that she won and her sister lost. With the side stories being Hook and Emma’s burgeoning romance, Regina and Robin Hood’s attraction, as well as the epic finale when Emma and Hook went to the past inadvertently, thus indirectly messing up history, and bringing back Maid Marian from the dead; the stage is set for an epic season 4, especially with Frozen characters brought into the fray.
It’s clear that the 3rd season seemed to be more focused, and with season 4 set to be split seasons, Season 4A is featuring a host of characters from the Frozen movie which released in December 2013 (inclusive of Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Sven- yes an actual live reindeer!) who will interact with the Storybrooke characters and possibly intersecting with many storylines. , With the villain from Season 4B has been announced, with Maleficent returning, as well as some Princess and the Frog rumours and Belle’s mother being cast as well; I can only see greater things for this popular and respected TV show! Now… that’s all the spoilers explained, so let’s watch the season 4 premiere, or refresh ourselves with some previous episodes if you all want to!
Did all 66 episodes of the Once Upon A Time leave a lasting impression on you? Did any themes in the episodes speak to you, and which was it? What elements of the show are you enjoying- Emma and Hook’s trip to the past and subsequent mess up of history, Regina and Rumple’s slow burn redemptions, the fact that Robin Hood has to choose between two women now, or Snow and Charming’s second chance at parenting with baby Neal? Will you be tuning in today and in the next weeks when the Frozen characters are introduced in Season 4? Let us know in the comments.
RIYL: Grimm, Arrow, Supernatural, Revenge, Merlin
Rating: 4.5/5 (based on 66 episodes)
Once Upon A Time Season 4 airs every Sunday at 8/7c on ABC.