Once Upon a Time is back. At the end of last season we had a dramatic ending – Regina had been exposed for what she was, the whole town remembered who they were or who they had once been. It looked like Regina was doomed – but then, Rumpelstiltskin/Gold had his own plan and managed to bring magic to the world.
It’s from there that we start with a man in New York having a bad bad day where everything goes wrong – who gets a carrier pigeon with a Storybrook postcard with one word on it: “Broken”
In Fairy Land we follow a man, Prince Phillip riding across the wilderness all noble-knight like with his mysterious companion, to cut his way through thorns to a woman laying, asleep, princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty). He tells his companion they don’t need to tell Aurora absolutely everything (uh-huh), before waking her with a kiss. She wakes happily (and the mysterious companion walks away to avoid having to watch them tongue wrestle) but is concerned by the castle being in ruins and her people apparently fled. Prince Phillip reassures her without giving her any answers, just basking in love and optimism that everything will be ok.
While they’re being twee, a wraith appears, knocking the mysterious companion (ok, I’m just going to call her Mulan from here because the mystery isn’t that mysterious if you’ve seen the sneak peaks) aside until Philip runs to fight it, cutting off a chain with an amulet attached – an amulet engraved with a T-shaped symbol.
Mulan takes off her helmet and Aurora has a little “zomg you’re a woman” moment (well she says “girl” and Mulan corrects her, because Mulan is already looking kind of awesome) and Phillip says Mulan has helped him a lot while Aurora has been snoring (she asks again, in disbelief “a woman?!”) Mulan tells them that the Qi Shen – the wraith – sucks souls, marking its victims first, but they all avoided the mark – except, Prince Phillip picked up the amulet and now has it branded into his palm. Aurora asks him what is wrong, but he lies and hides it from her.
They camp for the night at Mulan’s suggestion (with Aurora questioning but Philip, ultimately, supporting Mulan’s wisdom) and we have more lovey tweeness – but Phillip is still disturbed and leaves ostensibly to get fire wood. After a time Aurora comes out of the tent looking for him and finds Mulan making a fire and no Phillip. They realise he has left and Mulan guesses he has been marked – and is determined to go after him. Aurora wants to come as well but Mulan runs ahead, believing Aurora will just slow her down.
Aurora catches up and they have a little argument – Mulan saying that everything Phillip does he does for Aurora and he is sacrificing himself for her – in honour of his wishes she doesn’t want Aurora to put herself at risk. She also points out that she, Mulan, has much better chance against the wraith than Aurora. Aurora protests that she thinks Mulan loves Phillip as well.
They catch up with Phillip and Mulan offers to take the talisman, mark herself so Phillip can live (having previously said that love is sacrifice). Phillip refuses, he’s doing this to save both of them. He says “I love you” (who to I wonder? Aurora, Mulan or both) and the Wraith arrives, sucking his soul, collapsing.
Together, they lay Phillip to rest on the pedestal Aurora was laid upon and they seem to have learned some respect for each other. And Mulan tells her they have to leave – and tells her the full truth that Phillip was keeping from her. Regina cast a terrible curse that ripped everyone away from the land, leaving only this corner untouched. They were frozen for 28 years – and time only just started again, but the land is ravaged and more dangerous than before except for the safe haven they created.
In the real world of Storybrook, David/James and Wet Lettuce Mary Margaret/Snow are surrounded by magical purple magicy stuff and meet up with the celebrating Ruby and Grandma, the Seven Dwarfs – everyone with their memory back, the curse broken. Snow announces her intention to find her daughter – but she’s there, Emma Swan, looking more than a little bemused with the broken curse that she only half believed in and not entirely comfortable with Mary/Snow and David/James pulling her into a parental hug. Henry’s quick to leap into it though – calling David/James “grandpa”.
Leroy/Grumpy asks why they’re actually still in Storybrook though and why there were purple swirls of magic in Storybrook which is supposed to have none. Henry likes the idea and urges Mother Superior/The Blue Fairy to use magic – but she doesn’t have her wand or fairy dust. Leroy/Grumpy says they have to confront who is responsible – Regina, but Emma objects. It’s not Regina who brought magic to the world. Emma leads the small procession to go find Gold/Rumpelstiltskin, what he’s been planning and why he double crossed them. Mary/Snow and David/James want to talk family but Emma is shelving that conversation until she has a bottle of wine or two.