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?
Note on the new commenting system: You can sign in with your WordPress, Facebook, or Twitter accounts, but you don’t have to. That’s totally optional. You can still leave a comment the same way as before, just by putting a name in the Name Box. Filling out the Email and Website Boxes is also totally optional.