Recap 2×01 Broken

Once Upon a Time Season 2 Episode 1 Postcard from Storybrooke saying Broken

Postcard from Storybrooke

The premiere episode of Season 2 introduces new locations and three new characters. One doesn’t last very long.

The episode opens with a close-up of a horse’s head. For a few seconds, it seems as if this could be Fairy Tale Land — but a horn honks, the camera pulls back, and we see that it’s New York City — surprising, because we’ve never seen anyplace in our world before that wasn’t in Boston or in Storybrooke.

A new character, identified only as “Mysterious Man” in the credits, wearing a three-piece suit and carrying a backpack, takes the subway from Central Park to a street with a dingy doorway, where he rides an old-fashioned elevator up to a small studio apartment.

Prominently featured in the room is a rotary telephone, one of several odd juxtapositions of time in the opening sequence. Mysterious Man’s three-piece suit looks too formal for our era, but his backpack is modern. The elevator, with its peeling paint and sliding metal grate, appears ancient — yet elevators like that still do exist in the city today. The clothes worn by the people on the street, and the cars going by, are contemporary — yet the horse-drawn carriage and its quaintly-dressed driver could have been equally at home today or hundreds of years ago.

A pigeon lands on the windowsill — not an unusual sight, except this one leaves a message. It’s a postcard from Storybrooke, with the single word “Broken” written on the back. Presumably, that refers to the curse being broken — but it’s possible it could refer to something else.

Cut to the episode’s second new location. Again, we start the scene with horses, but this time they are galloping through a vast landscape, empty all the way out to the horizon except for a single Arabic-style building, very different from the buildings we’ve seen anywhere in either world before. Everything in this world is brown and gold and rust — a set design as striking in its own way as the castles of the enchanted forest were in theirs.

A prince wakes a princess with a kiss, just as Charming had woken Snow.

Finally, the episode cuts to Storybrooke, where the pretty, but dangerous, purple smoke unleashed in last season’s finale is already dissipating. While David and Mary M are thrilled to know Emma is their daughter, Emma has mixed feelings and resists Mary M’s attempts to have a serious talk. Emma still resents the years she spent alone.

A mob, led by Dr. Whale, gathers to kill Regina, but Emma becomes Regina’s unlikely protector. First, because she knows it was Gold, not Regina, who brought magic to the town. Second, because Henry asks her to protect Regina because, he says, “She’s still my Mom.”

Emma’s not the only one being asked to protect the Evil Queen. Belle asks Gold to promise he won’t kill Regina. He promises, but he might as well have crossed his fingers behind his back because he finds a loophole by trying to get someone (actually something) else to do the killing for him.

Meanwhile, David would just as soon see Regina dead, but he joins the group that’s going to stop the mob attack because he’s afraid Regina could hurt the townsfolk. He needn’t have worried, as Regina is unable to summon her magic powers.

Back in the land where the Princess just woke up, a Wraith pops out of the ground. It looks like a Halloween decoration — it’s got red eyes, a raggedy black sheet-like shroud, and scaly skinned forearms. It has a medallion around its neck and appears to mark its victims when they grasp the metal part, imprinting it into their palms. Then it sucks out their souls via a blue light applied to their faces.

There’s also a Wraith in Storybrooke (we learn later it’s the same Wraith in both lands), summoned by Gold in his Dark One persona to kill Regina.

The Prince’s sidekick, Mulan, takes off her headpiece. “You’re a girl,” Princess Aurora (aka Sleeping Beauty) says. “A woman,” Mulan replies — echoing the dialogue from Charming and Snow’s first meeting.

Despite having two women who love him and want to save him, the Prince gets his soul sucked out of his face. In Storybrooke, Regina and her unlikely crew of defenders fare better against their Wraith.

At first, things don’t look good. Regina’s plan to send the Wraith back to FTL via Jefferson’s hat doesn’t work because she can’t summon any magic — until (apparently) because of Emma’s touch, her magic returns — enough to get the hat going, and enough left over to later try to kill David by making the branches in the wallpaper come alive.

The portal sucks the Wraith away, but then sucks Emma in too. Mary M/Snow, being a good Mom, jumps in after her. David/Charming tries to jump in too, but the portal closes up before he can get there, and he lands flat on the floor.

Again, there’s an echo to a previous episode — one where the portal went in the opposite direction, from FTL to our world, when Rumpel tried to go after Bae, and the ground closed up before he could get through. There’s a difference this time, though: It was Rumpel’s own fault that he missed his chance at the portal, as he hesitated too long, being reluctant to give up his power. David/Charming has no such problem — it is just bad luck that he doesn’t reach the portal in time.

Relationships shift: Henry tells Regina he doesn’t want to see her till she brings back Emma and Mary M. He goes off to live with his grandfather David. Belle dumps Rumpel after finding out he tried to kill Regina, but then comes back to him later. He tells her to leave because he’s a monster, and she says that’s why she has to stay. David promises Henry he will bring Emma and Mary Margaret back. “I will always find them,” David says, his familiar line now expanded from “her” to “them” to include his newfound daughter.

In the end, there are several reveals. At the other end of the portal — where the Wraith, Emma, and Mary M all ended up — is the land of Aurora, Mulan, and the now soulless Prince.

Though Regina said (and, apparently, sincerely believed) that the curse destroyed all of FTL, this piece of it had somehow survived, though time had frozen until the curse was broken.

And just when we thought we knew all of the FTL characters, we learn there is a group of survivors, who I imagine we will meet soon. I’m thinking of them as the fairy tale equivalent of the LOST Tailies — a new and unexpected group of people who seem to pop up out of nowhere in what had previously seemed to be a self-contained, finite world.


— Emma and Snow will have plenty of together time now to bond as mother and daughter.

— I loved the way Robert Carlyle was playing Mr. Gold in this episode. It was as if the character had merged the old Mr. Gold and Rumpelstiltskin and was now something in-between. Gold used some of Rumpel’s mannerisms and pet phrases, but toned then down — for example, saying “Dearie,” as Rumpel would, but without the giggles — so that he didn’t quite sound like Rumpel, but didn’t quite sound like the pre-magic Gold either.

— Lana Parilla was also brilliant, running through a range of emotions. Is this the first time we have seen her really afraid?

— I found the acting of the Philip/Aurora/Mulan trio much less convincing.

Things I’m unsure of

— How does the Wraith’s “marking” work? I thought that marking happened when someone grasped the medallion, imprinting its pattern into their palm — but if so, wouldn’t Mulan have warned Philip not to touch it — and not have told Aurora to take it in the end?

— There’s already been a lot of discussion of this: Last season, Henry called Regina “evil” and said she wasn’t his mother. Now, he says she’s still his Mom. Is this inconsistent, or has the shock of seeing a mob running off to kill Regina awakened something in Henry — or is it just Henry’s decency in not wanting to see her murdered?

— Also much discussed is the question of why Regina said she didn’t know Jefferson. Was she lying or did the purple-smoke magic do odd things to her memory?

What do you think?

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20 responses to “Recap 2×01 Broken

  1. The Jefferson-amnesia moment happened after the first wraith attack… possibly there was some damage done after all?

    • That’s an interesting idea! The Wraith did start sucking out Regina’s soul — so maybe some memory bits came with it.

  2. Interesting thought. She remembers the hat and everything it can do, but can’t remember the one person to whom the hat belonged. Nor that he is the master of the hat. That’s pretty selective amnesia.

  3. Regarding Ms Terri’s thoughts, I too didn’t understand the ‘Wraith marking’ scenario. If Mulan and Philip knew that people can be marked by the Wraith, then why did Philip hold the medallion? Maybe they didn’t know that’s how one becomes marked. If that were true, wouldn’t you think after Philip touched it and became marked, he would have warned Aurora and Mulan? That whole scenario seemed to be not too well thought out.

  4. I wondered about the Jefferson comment too…was she just wanting to know how Emma knew him and in what capacity? For example was she wondering if Jefferson knew something about Emma’s abilities that she didn’t know.

  5. I’m new to this blog, but glad I found it. I’m an avid Once Upon a Time fan, so it is nice to have somewhere to discuss each episode.

    Here are my questions after “Broken”: Of course, the obvious one, who is the man in the beginning in New York who gets the post card. And who sent the postcard to him?

    Now that the curse if broken, Snow should be using the name James or Charming, but she called him David twice in this episode.

    Also, the same for him. In the end, he told Henry he would get Emma and Mary Margaret back. He should have called her Snow.

    And what’s up with killing Prince Phillip? I don’t like that they are messing with Happily Ever After. Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip are supposed to live Happily Ever After. Don’t like that they killed him. I take my Princess fairy tales quite seriously, so don’t mess with them too much. Anyone else not like that Phillip was killed?

    Oh yes! And who is Dr. Whale? They made it clear he doesn’t like Charming. And get this – remember Mary Margaret had a one night stand with Dr. Whale? And she mentioned it in front of David/James/Charming? But, of course, she was cursed and didn’t know what she was doing. But isn’t this going to make a juicier conflict between Dr. Whale and Charming? Ooooh! I can see it now. Dr. Whale (or whoever he is) will tell Charming, “Yeah, I had her too.” It is going to make Charming mad!!! Can’t wait! Great conflict!

  6. Hi, Princess Donna. Welcome to the blog!

    About the names: I’m not sure if we know Charming’s real name. James was his brother, I think. Maybe Charming’s real name could have been David (??).

    Also all the characters now have memories of BOTH their fairytale lives and their Storybrooke lives — and maybe they’ve actually come to think of each other as “David,” “Mary Margaret,” etc., at least in part — the way that someone who moves to another country and learns a new language starts to think in that language. They’ve been using the names “David” and “Mary Margaret” for 28 years — which, in the case of Snow and Charming, is probably longer than they were alive in Fairy Tale Land.

    I agree that Charming already didn’t like Dr. Whale and now has an additional reason to dislike him.

    I hate to say it, but I don’t mind that Philip was killed — the whole Philip/Aurora/Mulan subplot left me cold, and I thought it was woodenly acted, so I wouldn’t have minded if all three of them — instead of just one — had left my screen. I guess there’s also a small possibility that Philip isn’t dead but just (temporarily?) soulless.

    You’re right, they probably should be getting happy endings now that the curse is lifted. Except that Rumpel’s evil magic seems to have supplanted Regina’s curse. It was Rumpel who called up the Wraith that went through the hat and killed Philip. Until someone (Emma? Belle?) deals with Rumpel, there probably still won’t be many happy endings.

    And, as a practical matter, they can’t have too many happy endings yet because then what would the show be about? 😉

  7. Hi Ms. Terri, thanks for responding to my comment.

    You’re right about the names. If they’ve been calling each other those names for 28 years, then it would be hard to change instantly.

    And I liked the Sleeping Beauty story, but didn’t like that they merged Mulan into it. I thought the acting was good. Not great, just good.

    Also, I like your possiblity of Phillip not being totally dead, just soul-less. That gives me hope to hang onto.

  8. I’m still hoping that Graham is not really totally dead – -just needs a new heart or something.. 😉

  9. About Sherrif Graham – Yes, I hope there is a way he can come back too!

    Also, something else I’m wondering about: Are we totally done with flashbacks from Fairytale Land? My son says, no more flashbacks. I think there is room for more flashbacks to explain things, like it did last year. Example: Dr. Whale and his hatred toward Charming. I think the writers might have a flashback to explain “who he is” and “why he has those feelings”, etc.

    Thoughts on flashbacks? Still room to have them? Or are we totally done with them?

  10. We’re definitely going to see more flashbacks. If you don’t mind spoilers, click on the links (in the sidebar under “Categories”) to episodes 2.02, 2.03, and 2.04 to see descriptions of some of the flashback stories that are coming up soon.

  11. Dr. Whale’s identity is driving me crazy. If you have played the Untold Stories app on Facebook, then you know that his psychological profile says that he has a “god complex,” “frames himself as victor in all conflicts,” and “is paranoid.” I honestly believe he is going to be a Greek/Roman god–maybe Mercury, Zeus, or Prometheus. My second guess is Merlin the magician from the King Arthur tales.

    I am really interested in the mysterious stranger at the beginning of the first episode this season. I think he may be from Wonderland and Jefferson sent him the postcard.

  12. I like the idea of his being a god from mythology! If he was a god, that would explain why he could tell Charming/David, “You’re not my prince” — a god would outrank a mere prince. What about a god of the sea — Poseidon or Neptune — to go with his Whale name? Or a god of medicine or healing? Or maybe Pan, because Whale is lecherous.

  13. Have you heard the theory that Dr. Whale is Dr. Frankenstein (the guy who created the monster, not the monster itself)? It sounds improbable at first, but some of the reasons are pretty convincing (see here).

  14. Okay, clicked on Ms. Terri’s link about Dr. Whale being Dr. Frankenstein. I will admit, the facts and clues seem convincing that he could be Dr. Frankenstein. But I somehow think he isn’t.

    The only thing I’m basing my opinion on is when Dr. Whale told Charming, “You’re not my Prince.” He said he with such anymosity (did I spell that correctly?). He just seemed to have a genuine hatred toward Charming. And Dr. Frankenstein wouldn’t even have known Prince Charming.

    Also, Mary Margaret and Dr. Whale did have a one night stand. I really think somehow that is going to come into play later, with Dr. Whale throwing that up into Charming’s face, to make him mad. So that being said, I just don’t see Dr. Frankenstein having a one night stand with Snow White (even though it was modern day world and they were regular people). It just wouldn’t make sense in the story.

  15. Okay, how about Dr. Whale being Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid? That story has to do with the ocean and a whale is in the ocean. Also, that could explain his comment to Charming, “You’re not my Prince.” Because he is another Prince from another Kingdom. Thoughts????

  16. He could be another prince. By the way, last month, David Anders (the actor who plays Dr. Whale) tweeted: “Y’all are NEVER gonna guess who my fairytale character is & I ain’t tellin. Just know it’s gonna be worth the wait.”

  17. Is anyone else a little annoyed at how similar the Wraith is to the Dementors from Harry Potter? Look/Sound/Act the same, except they suck souls using their hands, whereas the Dementors use their mouths. I understand essentially wraiths are life-suckers, but couldn’t they have differed from the Dementors a bit more?

  18. How come “Mr Gold” didn’t morph back to the way “rumple” looks with the glittery skin and the reptilian eyes?

    And thank you Ms. Terri for relaying David Anders tweet. Because if he said “my fairytale character” then imho that lets out Dr. Frankenstein.

  19. Hi, Im a big fan of the show and I love the mistery so much…and i got a few theories so first of all i think the mistery man is Henry’s dad which I also think is Bae!!!! I’ll bet all my money on that…Dr. Whale At first I though it had to do with Mody Dick because of the name, but know that i think about it ..i think he might be Hercules…i mean he has the god complex thing going on… On the other hand there are some stuffs that doesn’t make that much sense but well its FTL after all…for example how can a part of the kingdom didn’t get affected, even for FTL that sounds dump but well they go to go from somewhere otherwise the show would end…so so far Im happy with how things are turning out but please i wanna know where is pinocchio…is he a real boy again? Are they ever going to explain the ginger hair and the brown eyes opposite to august brown hair and blue eye???

What do you think?