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'Once Upon a Time': Season Two Premieres With Magic and Angst

October 2nd, 2012 9:38am EDT

The cast of Once Upon a Time. The second season of the hit TV show “Once Upon a Time” premiered on Sunday, September 30th, with a new character walking the rainy streets of a busy city – obviously, not the sleepy town of Storybrooke. A post card on his windowsill from Storybrooke read “Broken,” cuing the opening credits and a Dementor-looking creature of Harry Potter fame in the familiar woods behind the show title.

The premiere story begins with two riders traveling through rugged terrain, towards an Arabian-style castle complete with yet another sleeping woman. “If this works, we don’t tell anyone right away,” the dashing young hero declares, and promptly awakens the unknown woman with a kiss. “I told you not to come after me,” she half-heartedly chastises him, before asking how long she’s been asleep. He promises to help restore her kingdom, and informs her they’re free of Maleficent, the evil queen of Sleeping Beauty fame. We saw Emma (Jennifer Morrison) vanquish Maleficent at the end of season 1.

Cut to Charming and Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas), who stand in the middle of Storybrooke as the purple fog introduced at the end of season 1 falls away. In case you missed the finale for last season, the citizens of Storybrooke were freed from the curse – at least, the amnesia component of the spell – and now remember who they are, and what used to be. Snow is greeted by Red Riding Hood (Meghan Ory), the seven dwarves, and finally her daughter, Emma. The scene was heartfelt, though mostly due to Gennifer Goodwin’s ability to convey emotion, especially when mother and daughter embraced. Henry (Jared Gilmore) greeted Prince Charming as Grandpa, and the four enjoyed a brief moment of true reunion before questions about the events started to arise.

Belle (Emilie d Ravin) and Rumplestilzkin (Robert Carlyle) were still at the well within the woods, with Belle explaining to Rumple that Regina (Lana Parrilla) kept her hostage and locked away. “Is that why you wanted this, the magic, for revenge?” she asked, and forced Rumple to promise he wouldn’t give into his hatred and kill Regina, so that the two of them could be together. Amazingly, Rumple actually agreed to this, and embraced Belle with a kiss before peering off into the distance with a look that promised one thing: Trouble.

The story jumped back to Emma, her parents, and numerous members walking down Main Street. Snow inquired if she wanted to talk about “it,” as in Emma’s life and the discovery of her parentage among other things; in a nutshell, the entire events of season 1. “Could we do everything maybe later? Like with a glass of wine – several bottles?” Emma replied, quickly changing the subject. “I just need a little time.” And who can blame her, really? Fortunately, a mob on the way to attack and kill Regina pulled everyone’s attention away from Emma and Snow, with Henry reminding them that Regina is still his mom.

Another dislocating flash back to the scene of Sleeping Beauty (Sarah Bolger), elsewhere in the world, with the prince’s companion wandering off from the couple to explore an earthquake. A large, hovering and hooded black spectre appeared – presumably the one from the opening titles – lashing out against the guard and happy couple. It dropped a medallion, which prompted the prince to deem the spectre “something bad.” Meanwhile, Rumple and Belle return to his little shop of horrors, where Rumple retrieved an ornate metal box containing the same unknown medallion with an Asian-inspired glyph. As usual, Rumple continues to be in the mix of everything, while Regina is nowhere to be seen. So much for Rumple not giving into his hate and allowing him and Belle to live in happiness, huh?

Regina calmly answered the door to face the mob, looking pale and radiant – and unconcerned – as ever. “You wanted to see your Queen? Well, my dears, here she is,” she stated, raising her arms and displaying her utter lack of power. Charming, Prince, and Emma arrived just in time to prevent a lynching, coming face to face with a new stranger who pointed out Charming isn’t his prince. Snow recommended locking Regina up, for her own safety and for everyone else’s, and as she was locked in she told Prince and Snow that their fairytale land is gone.

Rumple showed up to face Regina alone, and in their usual showdown of power and stubbornness with iron bars between them. Rumple confronted Regina about Belle, and informed her that he won’t be killing her thanks to a promise. He informed her there is one thing no one can escape: Destiny. “And I promise, yours is particularly unpleasant,” he mocked.

Back in the Arabian lands, the armored guard is revealed to be Mulan (Jamie Chung) of Disney Princess fame, who cautioned Sleeping Beauty and her Prince that the medallion denotes the dreaded soulsuckers. Prince Phillip unfortunately was marked by one of the creatures, the dark spectre, which he of course hid from not only his beloved but his closest ally, Mulan. Elsewhere, Rumple ventured into the woods with his medallion, apparently summoning the soulsucker and causing the glyph to appear on Regina’s palm.

Once again, Snow tried to corner Emma for a discussion about their connection. Snow was struggling with the realization that they’re mother and daughter, and her lack of conviction that Emma is glad to learn she has parents. Emma countered that all she’s ever known is that her parents sent her away, and for some reason both Snow and Prince seem unable to recognize Emma’s side of the equation. “Which curse is worse,” Emma countered, when Snow said she’d have been cursed if they’d kept her with them; Emma’s stance, it seems, is that they’d have all at least been together. Lots of angst and awkward pauses in conversation seem to be in the future for the mother-daughter pair, especially since for the majority of season 1 the two were a couple of girlfriends sharing stories and escapades.

Prince Phillip and Sleeping Beauty spent some time snogging in the woods, before he disappeared for a promised “five minutes” that ended up being much more. I’m sure none of us are surprised by that, given the dynamic of the show, but I can’t help feeling sorry for the seemingly oblivious women that compose the cast of ‘Once Upon a Time.’ Emma is singularly exempt from this rule; she even threatened to punch Rumple in the face if he didn’t answer her questions. He revealed that the purple haze was, in fact, magic, but declined to explain why he summoned it forth. “That is my gift to you. That is going to take care of Regina,” he told Emma, while lights flashed and sirens screeched outside. “You still owe me a favor,” he reminded Emma just before they left his shop.

Belle emerged from the back room, looking ravishing and disgruntled, and accused Rumple of lying to her. “I will not kill her,” Rumple protested, and she told him he played with words. Crying, she fled the shop, even as Rumple declared he was sorry for being the villain we all know he is. I couldn’t help wishing he’d look at Belle, smirk in his evil-version way, and ask, “Have we met?” Actor plays a fantastic villain, and I’m honestly relieved to see he won’t be completely changing his behavior and personality simply because Belle has returned.

Sleeping Beauty and Mulan became concerned once they realized Prince Phillip didn’t actually return, and Mulan revealed that Phillip was marked by the soulsucker. Back in Storybrooke, Regina was visited by the dark spectre while in jail, which held out its hand to begin sucking the life from her. Prince, Snow, and Emma showed up just in time, and for some inexplicable reason rescued Regina from her fate. Regina called it a wraith, and told them it’s regenerating elsewhere, but won’t stop until it devours its prey: her. “You can’t kill something that’s already dead,” she said, and Prince assured he votes they let it kill her. Emma said she made a promise to Henry, and thus can’t let the Evil Queen be killed, thus ensuring Regina will be with us a little longer.

Back at her home, Regina asked Emma if Henry really asked her to protect her, while opening a hatbox that belonged to Jefferson. “It will open a portal to our land,” Regina explained, while setting the hat down in the middle of the room. In sending the spectre back to their land, and thus oblivion, she theorized they could be rid of the creature. Considering Rumple summoned the creature using a relic from their old land, the premise seemed unlikely. Back in fantasy land, Mulan was tracking Prince Phillip while being followed by a determined and slightly delusional Sleeping Beauty. Mulan, who seems truly disgruntled and unimpressed with Sleeping Beauty, questioned her understanding of sacrifice. Sleeping Beauty accused her of being in love with the Prince, which Mulan naturally denied, even while Regina and Prince battled with the soulsucker elsewhere with fire and the magical hat.

Prince Phillip seemed a bit perturbed to see Mulan and Sleeping Beauty arrive. Lots of crying, pleading, bargaining and angst ensued, with Phillip’s noble sacrifice of himself over the woman he loves – whichever it might be, considering his token “I love you” was aimed rather vaguely over his shoulder. The spectre arrived and quickly devoured his soul, leaving him in the arms of a weeping Sleeping Beauty. Fortunately for Regina, their battle with the wraith was going much better, and the hat actually activated.

However, instead of banishing the wraith into a land that allegedly ceases to exist, Regina managed to shove the wraith into oblivion with its hand wrapped around Emma’s ankle. Snow jumped into the void after them, and Prince attempted to only to faceplant on the floor with a thud of fail. Obviously, the writers can’t be simply killing off the two biggest stars and crucial characters of the plot, so it seems their homeland isn’t entirely destroyed.

Prince Phillip also failed pretty badly at survival, and the story jumped to the faraway land with Mulan and Sleeping Beauty preparing his body for burial. “You should have it,” Mulan told her, handing her the medallion that indirectly killed her beloved.

“Are they dead?” Prince screamed at Regina, who flung him against the wall and wrapped vines around him. With her magic having returned, at least enough for horticulture, Regina seemed determined to kill Prince then and there. Henry arrived just in time, walking in on the scene and asking where his mom and grandma had gone. “You really are the evil queen,” he told Regina, “I don’t want to see you again.” He told Regina to get Emma and Snow back, and left with grandpa – I mean, Prince Charming.

Belle came back to the shop to see Rumple, who told her “the beast is gone.” She picked up the teacup with the chip, another little nod to the Disney classic, and Rumple told her it’s the only thing he “truly cherishes.” He told Belle she must leave because he’s still a monster, which she countered by saying that’s the reason she must stay; a rather twisted hallmark moment, perhaps inspiring women to stay in questionable relationships worldwide.

Mulan informed Sleeping Beauty that Regina casted a curse on the land, ripping everyone away to a different world. “This corner of the land was untouched, and no one knows why.” She spoke of dangers beyond imagine, but that a safe haven exists within their pocket of land immune from Regina’s spell. She found Snow and Emma in a pile of rubble, and told Sleeping Beauty that they had brought the wraith that killed their prince.

Things don’t bode well for Snow and her daughter, but perhaps their accidental voyage to a faraway place and the one convenient corner of the world immune to Regina’s magic will give them a chance to bond as mother and daughter. I’m sure the writers have big plans for ‘Once Upon a Time,’ and hopefully it won’t take an entire season for the characters we enjoy to figure out basic secrets and plot devices. Check back with us weekly for another recap of ‘Once Upon a Time,’ and chat with me on Twitter during the show’s Sunday evening airings at @WriterLoriMay and #OnceUponaTime.

Related: Ginnifer Goodwin, Once Upon A Time, Starpulse Exclusives, Recaps, Fall Preview, Drama, ABC

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