October 1, 2012




WHERE WE WERE:  Watching a season finale that looked like it could end the series, as Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), AKA the daughter of Snow White/Mary Margaret Blanchard (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming/David Nolan (Josh Dallas), gave her seemingly dead biological son Henry (Jared Gilmore) a kiss of true love that not only brought Henry back from the dead, but broke the curse that had been placed on Storybrooke, Maine and all its inhabitants by the evil Queen/town Mayor (and Henry’s adopted mother) Regina (Lana Parrilla), making them all instantly aware that they were in fact living embodiments of fairy tale characters.  The curse that was the entire premise of the series.  Which was now done.  Finished.  Over.

WHERE WE ARE:  Instantly thereafter.  One other thing had happened at the end of the season finale:  Rumpelstiltsken/Mr. Gold (Robert Carylyle) had released some purple smoke through the town, related to an elixir of true love he’d put together, prompting the line “Magic is coming.”  So yes, series creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz (also writers of the season 2 premiere, directed by Ralph Hemecker) hadn’t gone completely crazy–they’ve still got some twists up their sleeve.

In fact, a pretty dandy one.  It turns out that Regina’s curse had destroyed all of fairy tale land–except for one outpost, which was preserved for some reason we don’t currently know.  We meet a few of the residents, though:  Sleeping Beauty (Sarah Bolger), her Prince Philip (Julian Morris) and–somewhat disconcertingly–Mulan (Jamie Cheung).  Also, a wraith that sucks the soul out of anyone marked by its amulet.  As it happens, Rumpel/Gold had so marked Regina, as his clever way of getting rid of her without technically breaking his vow to reunited love Belle (new series regular Emilie de Raven) that he wouldn’t “kill” her.  What he didn’t reckon on was that Emma, Snow and Charming, with admittedly a bit of ambivalence, weren’t willing to let Regina’s soul get sucked, so they figured out a way to send the wraith back to what they think is the oblivion of their old home.  And what they didn’t reckon on was that the wraith would grab Emma and take her and Snow back with it to the remaining corner of that land.

So we’re left with Regina and Rumpel at open war, Henry rooming with his, well, grandfather Prince Charming back in Storybrooke, and mother and daughter Snow White and Emma marooned in an otherwise blasted universe with Sleeping Beauty and Mulan.  Oh, and who the hell was that guy in NY (real, location-shot New York, too, not a backlot) at the very beginning of the episode, who gets a mysterious postcard alerting him that the curse has been broken?  Yeah, that should provide enough story for a chunk of another season.

Once Upon A Time was the most pleasant surprise of the 2011-12 broadcast season, a spectacle that combined narrative ingenuity, an absorbing, reasonably consistent mythology and a fair amount of heart and humor in a neat weekly package.  It was also a smash hit, giving ABC a platform it used last night to re-launch Revenge to good results.  The cast (especially Padilla, Goodwin and Carlyle) hits the right spot on the extravagant-to-believable continuum, and the show makes extremely good use of digital green-screen technology to achieve an epic look on a TV budget.  (Although that wraith last night was a little high-school pageant looking.)  It is, of all the mythology-laden fantasies on cable and broadcast TV, perhaps the best and most inventive pure yarn, and what it has in smarts it matches in guts, as evidenced by its complete left turn in last spring’s finale.  Like all satisfying tales, it ‘s a show that makes one desperate to know what, really what, will happen next.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."