For weeks, we’ve been teased with promos that claim “Magic is Coming,” and given that Once Upon A Time is a show where things are often not taken at face value, I had to wonder what the real meaning behind the phrase was. After all, the fairytale show turned itself on its head in May with a game changing and explosive finale that not only left the residents of Storybrooke remembering their true identities, but also had them facing another kind of threat – a dark and mysterious purple smoke that seemed to bring an aura of danger even more potent than the curse that trapped them in the first place. And we as found out tonight, we were right to be a little wary.
We’ll slide into the jam-packed, jaw-dropping (and yes, there was literal jaw dropping on my end) season premiere in a bit but first, let’s talk about the characters of Prince Phillip, Mulan, and Princess Aurora – all of whom were all introduced in this hour. One of the things I praised this show for last year was the way that it re-invented character relationships with the aid of imaginative storytelling (ie., Snow White being friends with Red Riding Hood and Grumpy falling in love with the Blue Fairy.) In that same vein, it was a treat to see the characters of Mulan and Aurora teaming up – and at points, even clashing – especially since the original fairy tales of each span a time period of over 40 years. Jamie Chung makes a striking warrior and steps perfectly into the role of the headstrong princess, while Sarah Bolger brings just the right air of naiveté and regalness to her role as Princess Aurora. I can’t wait to see more from both actresses as the season moves forward.
Kitsis and Horowitz continue their streak of piecing together a compelling and detailed premiere, and one filled with fun references and a more than a few subtle call backs. Anyone who is a hardcore fan of the show will immediately pick up on the pilot parallel that was Prince Phillip waking up Aurora with a magical kiss, and the cold opening was a winking nod to iconic LOST opens when we would get strange glimpses into unfamiliar lives set to catchy music. I also loved the touch of Charming telling Henry (in reference to his lost loves) that “I will find them. I will always find them” – a variation on the line that has since become a classic Snow White/Prince Charming staple.
And of course, there were the reunions, which we already knew to be coming based on the final moments in last season’s finale. Not surprisingly, I was just as emotional as the characters, particularly while watching the Charming family. (By the way – if waiting an entire season for the reunion of Snow and Charming was an emotional payoff, I don’t want to know what it would have been like if the show had dragged out their story.) Sandwiched in between these moments of joy, we also saw Henry recognizing his grandparents and Emma finally realizing the truth about her birth parents. Naturally, she doesn’t take well to the fact that they’re fairytale characters and it was nice to see that element of realism come into play. Perhaps it’s not common to find out your parents are Prince Charming and Snow White, but it’s certainly common to feel unnerved when you find out your parents aren’t who you thought they were. Once has always managed to convey these underlying meanings of real world emotion underneath magic smoke and vanishing spells, and it’s a testament unto itself that the show can completely change up its story and still be compelling. Even though the Storybrooke residents are now aware of their true selves, it doesn’t change their relationships or actions – in fact, it adds depth to their characters and gives us entirely new character dynamics. Regina working with the Charmings? Brilliant. Josh Dallas bringing his Prince Charming actions to his modern-day persona? Entirely awesome. (And if women around the country weren’t already in love with Dallas, I suspect after this season he’ll have an entirely new flock of admirers.)
Since magic has indeed come to Storybrooke, does that mean everything is will be as it was before the curse? Hardly. As we saw through different situations (Regina trapping David with wallpaper, the hat portal opening) it’s soon established that magic is different in this world. And while it can be used in certain ways, it certainly can’t be used as liberally as it was before, which seems like something we can thank Mr. Gold for. The peasant-turned-sorcerer-turned-proprietor was less than thrilled when he found out that Regina had been keeping his love, Belle, locked away right under his nose and even though Belle urged him not to become the monster he once was, it seemed that the old Rumpelstiltskin couldn’t be contained. His anger led him to imprison Regina before sending her a “fate worse than death” – a wraith, otherwise known as a soul sucking demon. Iit’s a concept similar to the dementors of the Harry Potter world and certainly, visual effects wise, the comparison is more than a little uncanny.) Regina is saved as the Charming family (urged by son Henry to “do good”) comes to her rescue, but it soon becomes clear that in order to stop the wraith, it has to be sent to a place where it can be trapped.
Regina’s bright idea is to use Jefferson’s hat to open a magic portal, which in the grand scheme of things seems like an easy fix – except for the fact that the operation doesn’t go entirely as planned. Emma is dragged into the hat portal while engaged in battle and consumed with the fear of losing her daughter once again, Mary Margaret jumps in after her. In a nice reverse touch from the pilot where Mary Margaret was the one left alone, as this leaves a desolate David alone without a way to rescue the two people he loves most. (Did you notice how Regina was unable to work her magic until Emma touched her arm? I’m wondering what that means for our characters. Mr. Gold seems to know that “magic works differently” here, but I’m not sure if that specific moment was intentional on his part. Nonetheless, I’m curious to see what will happen now that Mr. Gold is, for the most part, the one “in charge.”)
To understand the history and background of the magical wraith Mr. Gold unleashed on Regina, we have to enter the story of Mulan, Prince Phillip and Aurora. After saving Aurora from her deep sleep, Phillip is accidentally “marked” by the wraith while defending his love. Naturally, he hides this fact from both girls as they start on their journey, but eventually, he ends up sacrificing himself so that they can live. Quite a different twist on Sleeping Beauty’s story, isn’t it? A devastated Mulan and Aurora mourn for their prince, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Phillip is not exactly dead. And even if he is, I’m willing to bet we haven’t seen the last of him, especially if the two girls are sticking around. (Flashbacks, anyone?)
As per the normal Once formula, we spent the hour bouncing between two worlds: Storybrooke and fairytale. The mega twist of the night? The fairytale land we supposed to be a flashback was eventually revealed by Mulan to be present day. Apparently, when The Evil Queen originally dispensed her curse, there was a part of the fairytale world that was left untouched … a land was frozen for 28 years until now. And just as our heads were processing that bit of information, we found out exactly where Mary Margaret and Emma disappeared to when they were pulled into the magic hat.
In other words: welcome to the real fairytale world, Emma Swan. (Game-changer, indeed!)
As a fan of the show, I’m incredibly excited to see how this story plays out. Throwing Emma into another unfamiliar world, when she’s already not sure of her place in her real one? It’s a wonderful way to keep the story fresh and build on even more character development. And given Aurora’s rather feisty personality, it’s going to be interesting to see how she clashes with Mary Margaret – especially given her already soured view.
Some other burning questions & leftover thoughts:
- The exchange between Dr. Whale and Charming, where Whale defiantly protested, “You’re not my prince!” left me a little curious. We’re getting some back-story on the character in the next few weeks, but what’s your take on who he might be? And what history would he have that would cause him to dislike Charming? My theory is that there’s a tie-in to Charming’s identical brother, and some sort of history that has left him a little bitter about the whole situation.
- Belle cleans up rather nice, doesn’t she? It’s so refreshing and wonderful to have Emilie de Ravin as a series regular, and I know I’m not the only one who feels that way.
- We’re supposed to be meeting more characters this season – including Captain Hook. Will these characters come through the portal? Or are they getting to Storybrooke in a different way? Is Mr. Gold perhaps sending for his own “army” of fairytale friends for a certain reason, or will he be caught off guard just as much as everyone else will?
What was your reaction to the arrival of Mary Margaret and Emma in fairytale land? What did you think of the premiere, and what moment(s) was your favorite? Share your comments below!
Photo Courtesy of ABC