Stars: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla, Jared Gilmore, Josh Dallas, Raphael Sbarge, Eion Bailey
Writer: Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz
Director: Dean White
Network: ABC, Sunday nights, 8 p.m.
Original Telecast: May 13, 2012
What a season finale. There may have been times when I questioned the writers, but “A Land Without Magic” does nothing but prove just how well-crafted ONCE UPON A TIME is. This is exactly where the story was headed way back last spring when they presumably shot the pilot that became the first episode. Not only that, you’ve got pay-off, wonderful tension and performances. It’s just a great episode and a lovely end to the first season, with some interesting set up for next season.
Since the beginning of the show is rather critical to how things end up in this episode, let’s briefly recap. Regina, The Evil Queen (Lana Parilla) has sent the whole of the magic forest to “A Land Without Magic,” namely modern-day Storybrooke, Maine, where no one remembers who they really are. Except for Regina and Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle), who were both behind the curse, it turns out.
Regina’s adopted son Henry (Jared Gilmore) knows what’s going on because Mary Margaret/Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) gave him a book with all the fairy tales in it. Henry, however, is the son of Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), who is actually the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming/David (Josh Dallas). Emma gave Henry up for adoption and we still don’t know how Regina got him, except that Mr. Gold set it up somehow.
Oh, and August/Pinnochio (Eion Bailey) also is on top of things, because he, like Emma, was in the magic chest that transported them to this world apart from the curse. Only since Emma was a baby when it happened, she doesn’t really believe in all that stuff.
When we left last week’s episode, Henry had eaten an apple turnover that Regina had made to put Emma into permanent sleep, kind of like how she did to Snow White. Of course, True Love’s kiss broke that spell. Well, Henry isn’t so lucky. Emma takes him into the hospital, screaming at the doctor.
In the fairy tale world, Charming is stuck in Regina’s dungeon and is about to be executed when he gets some help from The Huntsman (Jamie Dornan), and escapes. The catch, now, is that he has to find Snow White, who is currently permanently asleep.
Back at the hospital, they get Henry stable, but not much more. Emma, in an effort to figure out what poisoned him, dumps his bag and finds The Book and when she grabs it, flashes back to when she was an infant and being put in the magic cupboard. Regina comes running in, freaking out about Henry, which is perhaps not a good move on her part because Emma is pretty overwrought herself and she flat out attacks Regina and demands to know what was in the turnover.
Unfortunately, also, for Regina, Emma finally starts buying into the whole magic thing and demands that “Her Majesty” reverse the spell. Only making the spell was the last bit of magic Regina had. But Regina suggests they talk to Mr. Gold, who as Rumpelstiltskin is busy helping Charming find Snow. The thing is, they both want the same thing – to foil Regina, so Charming reluctantly goes along with it. His quest will be to hide Rumpel’s last bit of True Love potion in the belly of the beast.
However, David isn’t having as easy a time with Mary Margaret. She’s still feeling pretty raw because he didn’t believe in her and there’s his wife and all, even though they’re splitting. So David tells her that he’s leaving for Boston unless she gives him a reason to stay. And she doesn’t.
Mr. Gold tells Regina and Emma that he did save a little True Love potion for a rainy day, but Emma has to find it and he gives her Charming’s sword. Oh, and Jefferson (Sebastian Stan) shows up – he’s the Mad Hatter that presumably made it to this world via another route. He challenges Regina about getting his daughter back, but since Henry is still out, Regina isn’t buying it and in typical Regina fashion, blames Jefferson and refuses to turn over the girl.
In the meantime, we see Charming challenge Maleficent, who turns into a dragon, that Emma has to fight, because that’s where the potion is hiding, and we see a lovely montage of Charming trying to get the fancy golden egg into the dragon and Emma trying to kill the dragon. Sorry, Emma, guns don’t work fire-breathing dragons.
In the hospital, Mary Margaret gets a little weird as she reads to Henry from the book, specifically the part about Prince Charming finding Snow White in the glass coffin. Which is when Henry flatlines and everyone rushes in to help.
Ah, but Jefferson is busy, too. He slips down to the hospital basement, goes to the dungeon ward and opens up a padded cell in which a young woman has been held prisoner. She’s told to visit Mr. Gold and tell him that Regina had imprisoned her in the hospital basement.
Back in the dragon’s lair, Charming gets the egg into the dragon’s gullet and Emma throws the sword into the dragon’s chest and disintegrates it. Charming finds Snow, wakes her and promptly proposes. Only there’s a problem. Charming’s father and her stepmother, but together they decide to take back the kingdom.
When Emma and Regina present Gold with the potion, he absconds with it. They go back to the hospital and it’s too late for Henry. What? They killed the kid?? Nah. Emma tells him she loves him and kisses him and breaks the curse and he awakes. In fact, everyone awakes and remembers who they are, including the young woman that Jefferson found in the hospital. She’s Belle (Emilie de Raven), and Mr. Gold is happy to see her and they declare their love.
Snow and Charming find each other in Storybrook. Gold takes Belle to the wishing well in the woods, where he uses some of the True Love potion to pull something out of the well.
Yep. It’s magic, and it’s coming to town. Regina is smiling and the clock lands on 8:15, just where it was when the show started.
Yes, we have a few loose ends, such as Rumpelstiltskin’s son, and why everyone is still in Storybrooke, and why Regina chose to adopt Henry, but we also have an excellent set up for next season. But we’ve got lots of answers and they didn’t stretch things out too long on the breaking the curse thing. It’s satisfying and still leaves you wanting to see what happens next. The ultimate proof will be the next season or two, but if this is as good as it gets, who cares? It’s pretty durned good.
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Article: TV Review: ONCE UPON A TIME – Season 1 – “A Land Without Magic” – Season Finale