'Once Upon A Time' 1.22: Season 1 Finale "A Land Without Magic" or "Holding Out For A Hero"

Oh, my dear, dear readers.  We all knew this day would come, didn’t we?  And we’d all anticipated it with fear and loathing and general what-the-heckery as the show hurtled towards a denouement.  Or something else that’s French and mysterious.  Anyhoo, I watched this with something akin to dread because with all the publicity from Eddie and Adam lately, the word “gamechanger” had stuck in my head.  I don’t much like a change of game; generally I don’t know the rules and throw the ball the wrong way.  I was worried that the show might do the same.  Still, I feel it necessary to write this recap with the caveat that Lana Parilla should get all the awards.  Ever.  And without her, this show would never have intrigued me the way it has done.

We begin with Charming locked up in the Evil Queen’s dungeon.  I think I want a dungeon.  Just for the space, really.  And maybe the shackles.  Anyway, Charming is going on about “I will always find you”.  AGAIN.  We know, Charming, okay?  It’s one thing that irritates me about this show – they find a phrase and use it death.  We all get it.  Snow.  Charming.  True love.  Yadda yadda yadda.

The Huntsman returns!

Guards come to take Charming to his impending death (sneaky, Regina, you said you weren’t going to kill him) but he’s saved by a mysterious bowman who turns out to be Graham.  Uh, the Huntsman, I mean.  He tells Charming he’s “a friend” and helps him escape.  Oh, and he makes a nice little speech about how he “gave up” his heart to spare Snow’s.  Noble.

Emma believes

Henry is taken to Storybrooke hospital and Dr. Whale can’t find anything that might have caused his condition.  Emma waves the apple turnover in front of his face and I nod gravely.  I’m a diabetic.  I know how dangerous desserts can be.  Whale says that there’s “no explanation.  It’s like…”  Oh.  Magic.  And Emma, holding the book in her hands, has a blitz of memories and I LOVE the look on JMo’s face here as Regina runs in.  She looks so dangerous.  It’s a great look on her.

“You did this,” she says and grabs Regina by the arm, shoving her into a janitor’s closet.  She throws her against some shelves and the two tussle before Emma rams Regina up against the wall, one hand on her wrist and the other across her neck.  In the closet.  I think I once read a fanfic where this happened.  I might have even written a fanfic where this happened.

Anyway.  Moving on.

Emma and Regina in the closet

Emma tells Regina that Henry ate the apple turnover and Regina is all “but that was meant for you!”  I kind of like the fact that Regina’s a pretty craptastic villain.  Everything she does goes wrong, one way or another.  “It’s true isn’t it?” Emma says and Regina tries to bluff, but you know, she’s being jammed up against the closet wall and I can say from experience that when THAT happens, it’s best to be honest.  Wait, what are we talking about here?  Oh, yes, the curse.  Emma won’t take no for an answer and Regina basically crumbles.

Emma tells Regina that she was leaving town and why couldn’t she just have left things alone?  “Because as long as you’re alive Henry will never be mine,” Regina answers.  Oh, first little heartbreak of the episode.  No, I’m okay.  I just have something in my eye.

Emma demands that Regina wakes Henry up and Regina says that she can’t; she used the last of her magic to make the turnover.  But she doesn’t know the effects as “magic here is unpredictable”.  Hm.  I feel like this might be important somewhere along the line, somehow…  Although it’s hard to hear what Regina’s saying over the sound of JMo panting all over her.  In the closet.  I need to start handing out subtext points for this show next season, because they’re kind of at DefCon 1 here.

Regina says they need help and that there’s one other person in the town who knows about “this…about magic”.  Yep, Mr. Gold.  Please, ladies, don’t even go there.  You know he’s a weasel who can’t be trusted.  Why don’t fictional characters on TV shows ever listen to me?

Back at Evil Central, the queen is pissy with the Huntsman because Charming escaped.  She pins him against the wall and might I say that Jamie Dornan is still one of the prettiest boys they’ve had on this show.  Yum.  Her mirror shows Charming running through the forest and she trips him up with magic.  Hee.  There was really no need for that.  But she did it anyway because…well, EVIL.

In the forest Rumpelstiltskin meets Charming and offers him a way to find Snow – he enchants Charming’s ring.  Yeah, the ugly one.  They fight and it’s very manly and there are swords clanging and quips flying and it’s all good epic stuff.  James has really come along since those days of looking after goats, yes?

Rumples and the enchanted ring

Rumples basically forces Charming into dealing with him because they both want the same thing – Charming and his true love to be together.  Yes, Rumples is invested in their future, right?  It’s all part of his plan.

In Storybrooke, David approaches Mary Margaret and tells her that what he feels for her is love and that she’s the only thing that’s made sense to him since he woke up from his coma.  He tells her that he’s moving to Boston (into the apartment that Kathryn put a down payment on…that doesn’t sit well with me, but I’m not sure why) and he wants her to go with him.  She says she can’t.  And Josh Dallas shows us his “single tear” action.  That man cries in every episode, I swear.  Strong AND sensitive.  It’s like Shonda Rhimes created him or something.

Rumples shows Charming the true love potion he made and confesses that he loved someone once.  “A brief flicker of light against amidst the notion of darkness.”  God, I love Robert Carlyle; everything he says with a flourish like that sounds positively Shakespearian.  He tells Charming that his potion can break any curse (ANY CURSE – write that down) and that he wants him to hide it in “the belly of the beast” because he’s “saving it for a rainy day”.

Regina and Emma go to see Mr. Gold and he’s all smug because Emma believes.  She asks him for help and he reminds them that all magic comes with a price.  AGAIN.  Sometimes I think the writers of this show just shove these lines in repeatedly when they’re not sure what a character should say.  Thankfully, Carlyle makes it sound new every time he says it.  Regina says that Henry shouldn’t have to pay the price and Gold tells her “no, you should”.  Well…okay.  I get that.  But surely in the karmic cycle of things Regina’s going to get hers soon, right?

Gold explains that he made a potion from true love and placed a drop on the parchment when he created the curse as a “safety valve”.  Emma FINALLY understands that that’s why she’s the savior.  Slowest Sheriff in town, I tell ya.  Regina asks what they do and Gold tells her that SHE does nothing.  That Henry is Emma’s son.  Ooh, harsh.  I’m really not down with this show constantly telling me that adoptive parents aren’t “real” parents.  That’s just unkind and untrue and kind of mean, quite frankly.  But Regina calls him a “twisted little imp”.  I’m glad she managed to get at least one insult in.  She gets an A for effort.

It seems that the potion is inside something that Gold and Regina call “her”.  Someone that Regina has brought over to our world under the curse.  Emma’s pretty clueless.  And I’m just going to leave THAT statement there…

Gold shows Emma and Regina the sword

Gold opens a box on the counter and Emma stares at it.  “What is that?” she asks.  Seriously?  I take back my previous assertion about Emma being the slowest Sheriff in town.  NOW she’s the slowest Sheriff in town because it’s a sword, Emma.  It’s a big sword.  Even I can tell what it is, you dinkus.  But it’s not just ANY sword.  Oh no; it’s her father’s sword.  That’s a cool inheritance, right?  All I ever got from my father was a sneaky cigarette now and then and words of advice that I’ve successfully managed to wipe from my memory.  Charming, he’s not.

Emma tells Henry that she should have believed him and leaves the book with him.  She apologizes to him and it’s kind of touching really.  But then she quickly gives Regina bitchface and tells her she’s got ten minutes.  Uh, with her own son?  Please, Sheriff.  Do the words “closed” and “adoption” mean nothing to you?

Regina tells Henry she’s sorry and leans over him, crying, when Jefferson appears, wanting recompense for the help he gave to her.  She tells him that, as the intended victim never ate the turnover, it makes their deal null and void.  When he says he’s “not done” with her yet, she almost challenges him to kill her, knowing that he won’t – that he doesn’t have it in him.  I found this scene kind of curious in a way.  It reminded me of that scene in “Stable Boy” where Cora criticizes Regina and Regina snaps at Daniel.  In her moments of greatest weakness, Regina always seeks out those who are weaker than her and goes in for the kill.  She’s ruthless, really, because she knows just where to hit people so that they’ll hurt for days.  And telling Jefferson that, essentially, he’s not man enough to kill her is the only way she can assert her authority over him, I suppose.  God, she’s a messed up person, isn’t she?

Emma goes to visit August who is almost completely wooden.  Insert your own jokes here, folks.  She wants his help, saying it’s all “too much.  I just talked to the Evil Queen and Rumpelstiltskin…”  But August tells her she can save Henry; that she can save all of…

August turns to wood

And then he turns completely to wood.  Wait – what?  Does this mean he’s dead now?  I was just starting to like him!  Darnit.  Emma cries and then lifts her head and assumes the Look Of Righteous Justice.  Hurrah!  She’s all determined.  My spirits are somewhat lifted by the hope that she and Regina will throw down again at some point.  Like kissing, but not!

Regina meets Emma outside the library (remember, it’s all boarded up?) and unlocks the door.  “What is this place?” Emma asks.  Come ON.  Is this the episode where our hero throws out stupid questions instead of getting on with saving the world?  Yes, I rather think it is.

“Would you like a tour or shall we just get to it?” Regina asks her.  Oh, my Evil Queen.  I love it when your bitchery shines through.  Regina opens a secret doorway that has a secret elevator behind it and pulls on a secret handle to open the doors, telling Emma to get in.  She needs to stay up top and lower Emma down, saying that Emma has very little choice other than to trust her.  She tells Emma that there’s an “old friend” down there.  Yes, because I ALWAYS keep my old friends in the basement of abandoned libraries.  Don’t you?

Emma and Regina in the library

Emma tells Regina that if Henry dies, so does she.  And she’s making that threat with a very big, very shiny sword in her hand so I think we should all take note.  She also calls Regina “Your Majesty”.  I may have swooned a little.

I actually quite liked the action scenes that follow this.  Charming is at Maleficent’s castle, seeking “the beast”.  I LOVE that Maleficent is back, and especially so because she turns into a huge, honkin’, deadly dragon.

Down in the library basement, Emma sees Snow’s coffin in the caves there and backs up against something…which turns out to be a huge, honkin’, deadly dragon!

So we’re cutting between father and daughter, both battling the same beast and there’s flames and running and swiping with a sword.  It’s very exciting.  But the thing I love the most is how they faithfully created Maleficent as a dragon from the Disney movie.  I always had a bit of a thing for her in Sleeping Beauty and they haven’t disappointed me here.  Who doesn’t dragons, right?

Emma and Maleficent

Charming is great with the heroics.  Emma?  Not so much.  There’s a lot of flailing and hiding and shooting…yes, Emma shoots at Maleficent with her gun.  Aww.  Silly Sheriff.  Charming completes his task and hides the silver egg with the love potion in it INSIDE Maleficent, while the dragon in the library (which is a great title for a book, by the way) advances on Emma.

Mary Margaret is reading the book of fairytales to Henry in hospital.  She tells Henry that she gave him the book because “life doesn’t always have a happy ending”.  Just then, the monitor starts beeping and Dr. Whale rushes in with a crew of nurses.  Unbeknownst to them, a figure opens the door that leads down to the cranky nurse and the mental asylum.  It’s Jefferson.  He gives the nurse some tea and about five seconds later, she’s out for the count.  Okay, I know that sleeping pills can knock you out but that’s FAST.  And kind of ridiculous.  But I tell myself I should stop expecting too much and that this show survives on convenient plot points and coincidences (like Regina’s plan to seduce David that I still can’t quite believe was plotted ahead of time.  I can’t.  Don’t judge me).

There’s the sad patient still sweeping the floor (honestly, how messy can that asylum be?  Nobody goes down there, ever), and a door that has “S.Glass” written outside it.  Oh, Regina.  You locked Sidney up after all he did for you?  And in the mental asylum?  Lady, the cojones on you, seriously.

Jefferson frees Belle

Jefferson frees Belle and tells her to go and find Mr. Gold.  He says that she should tell him “Regina locked you up”.  And that, when she does, Mr. Gold will know what to do.  Oh, I just BET he will.  But I can’t wait to see his face when he realizes that Belle isn’t dead.  If I were keeping score between Gold and Regina right now, I’d be marking her card with big, pointy black crosses.

Rumples meets Charming on the lakeshore and I’m momentarily distracted by how lovely Josh Dallas looks when he’s shiny and wet.  My Pretty Boy-o-meter is off the scale.  Show me someone ugly, please, I need to balance everything out again.  Casting a spell over Charming, Rumples changes his outfit into one that’s slightly less manly (just LOOK at that collar and cravat combo) but recognizable.  Charming asks why Rumples wants to help them.  “I’m a fan of true love, dearie,” Rumples tells him.  “And, more importantly, what it creates.”

Here’s where I officially tell you that, in my eyes, Rumpelstiltskin is a much more nefarious villain than Regina.  He’s been manipulating everyone for centuries, like some sort of insane conductor.  This was always his plan, to get Snow and Charming together so that they could create Emma.  Let’s not forget that Rumples can see into the future, so he must have had a least a head start on the rest of our gang, not to mention playing the Evil Queen like a Stradivarius.  Her fault is that she fell for it and allowed him to use her own emotions against her.  Eh, well.  Evil is sometimes as stupid as our venerable town Sheriff, I guess.

Back in Storybrooke, Emma realizes that her gun is no use against a dragon (coulda told you that, Sheriff) and instead hurls the sword towards its chest, much like James did to the Evil Queen on his wedding day.  Yes; I like the symmetry here.  Plus, when the dragon kind of explodes and turns to ash, JMo has this adorable “Oh shit” look on her face that’s just sort of perfect.  I love it when my heroes are heroic, and she was running over rocks and throwing swords and…oh, it made my heart glad.  I’m just going to sit right here until my very own savior comes to rescue me, okay?  I realize I may be waiting some time.  I should probably get some snacks.

We get to see the scene where Charming wakes Snow, just like in the pilot episode.  I have to say that on rewatches, there’s a continuity and throwback between episodes that I really enjoy.  I like that they don’t “forget” things that happened and I actually think it’s pretty neat the way they slide these scenes into latter episodes.  It also makes a nice connection with the pilot episode and with the underlying themes of the show: the fairytale not told.  Nice job, show!

Snow and Charming - reunited at last

Charming proposes to Snow and even a bitter, cynical old boot like me got a little misty at this.  They’re cute together!  Snow suggests they “take back the kingdom”.  I love that SHE’S the one who comes up with the idea; it empowers her as a character and as a separate entity from the Disney version.  I think I like Snow more than Mary Margaret; Snow has grown up by necessity and learned to fend for herself and I approve of this because it’s made her a much more interesting character than her historical representations would suggest.

David is packing his truck in Storybrooke, preparing to leave.  He doesn’t look especially pleased by it, but running away seems to be his MO (are you listening, Emma Swan?).  I have little to no time to ponder THAT familial trait though, as David drives across the junction without so much as a turn signal.  I mean, okay, Storybrooke’s a sleepy little place and there are two random citizens shuffling across the road, but come on.  Safety first, David.

The elevator shudders to a halt and Emma shouts up the shaft.  I like the way she says Regina’s name, if I’m honest with you.  Gold appears in the open doorway above her and convinces her to throw up the silver egg, telling her that time is of the essence and that if she wants to save Henry, she should do it.

Now, what was it that Regina said?  Something along the lines of “don’t trust him”?  I know she’s the Evil Queen but at least she was dishing out some good advice.  But Emma is SO desperate and SO naïve about these things that she hands the silver egg over to Gold.  We all let out a collective groan.  Suddenly I wonder if sending Emma down to fight the dragon was a good idea, after all.

When Emma finally reaches the library, she sees Regina tied to a chair with some tape over her mouth.  I take a minute to appreciate this and then Emma Swan has to go and ruin it all by freeing Regina, who tells Emma that Gold tricked her.  “Gold!  He manipulated all of this!” Regina snarls.  Now I love the way she says his name.  I may rewind that later.  But Regina’s finally figured it out – that everything she ever did, or took, or cursed was all part of his greater plan.  Wow, it’s not a stellar day for the Mayor, is it?

They go to chase Gold and their cellphones both ring.  Wait a second…why are they calling Emma?  It has to be because she’s the Sheriff and not his mother because there is NO way they’d call HER about Henry.  Closed adoption, anyone?  Come on, show; you can do better than this.  Stop beating me about the head with your views on parenthood and tie Regina up in a chair again, okay?  I liked that part.

Emma and Regina run up the hospital stairs and god, I’m now utterly convinced that my spin-off idea of “Henry Has Two Mommies” might actually work!  But my glee soon turns to sorrow, encouraged by the melancholy violin playing in the background and the slow-motion shots of Emma and Regina staring at Dr. Whale and the Blue Fairy – sorry – Mother Superior.  Nuns.  I always found them a little sinister and now I know why.  I don’t like that Blue Fairy AT ALL and think she’s involved in this somewhere along the way.

Emma sees Henry's body

Interesting blocking choices here, as Emma enters Henry’s room while Regina walks up to the window outside.  I wonder if the distancing was purposeful that way, with a physical representation of the metaphorical barrier between her and Henry.  Whether it was intended or not, I like it because it really brings home the futility that Regina is feeling right now.  Oh, and there goes my heart again, breaking into little pieces.  Damnit, Lana Parilla, would you STOP with those faces?  You’re killing me here.

Emma steps up to Henry’s bed and lets out a long, defeated breath.  I shall call this episode “The One Where JMo Breathes A Lot”, I think.

Gold unlocks the silver egg and takes out the potion, hiding the egg when someone comes into the shop.  It’s Belle.  I love, love, LOVE Robert Carlyle in this scene.  Everything’s written across his face; he’s no longer the inscrutable Mr. Gold but a man who’s regained something he thought he’d lost forever.  Belle says she was told he would protect her and he pulls her into an embrace, telling her that he will.  Despite my feelings about Rumples, this really is a lovely scene and if it weren’t for Carlyle and Parilla, I probably wouldn’t be so invested in this ridiculous show.  It’s a love/hate thing.

I may need to look away during the next few minutes because of Lana Parilla’s face.  Thank god she throws herself into Dr. Whale’s arms and cries against his chest.  Regina is SO sad and SO broken at this point and Parilla manages to convey it all with a sharp intake of breath and her cry of “No…”.  It’s brilliant and it makes me have all sorts of feelings.  Damn you, show!  See?  Told you it was a love/hate thing.

Emma is crying as she leans over Henry and tells him that she loves him.  Then she kisses him and a magical wind sweeps through the room.  Henry wakes up and tells Emma that he loves her too.  Ugh.  My heart.

Emma kisses Henry and tells him she loves him

“You saved me,” he tells her.  “You did it!” says Regina, and I can’t work out whether she’s terrified, disgusted or overjoyed.  Probably all three.  And the magical wind crosses town; we see Mary Margaret is almost pushed over by it; we see Granny and Ruby and Archie all under its effects.  And then, almost past the city limits, we see David in his truck, screeching to a halt as he remembers who he is.  I actually loved this scene – the music is divine and very fairytale-esque; the shocked looks on faces are wonderful and manage to convey everything without saying a word.  In short, it’s kind of beautiful.

Emma asks Henry what’s happening and he tells her that he thinks she’s broken the curse.  The Blue Fairy tells them that it was “true love’s kiss”.  Behind her, Regina says “No…” again and this time, it’s because she’s realized that her worst nightmare has come true – Emma’s not only woken Henry with true love but she’s also broken the curse.  Awesome.

“If I were you, your Majesty, I’d find a place to hide,” the Blue Fairy says.  Oh, I see that Mother Superior has dropped the “mother” and is now just being superior.  Nice.

Regina tells Henry she loves him

Regina rushes to Henry’s bed and says “No matter what you think.  No matter what anyone tells you, I do love you.”  Ugh.  Stop it, Regina.  It’s easier to hate and dismiss you when you aren’t having all these FEELINGS all over the place.  She runs from the hospital room and I can’t help wondering if all there is for her now is imprisonment or an execution or some sort of fairytale justice.  Because in all the fairytales, the Evil Queen is vanquished, right?  Usually by death.

David is back in Storybrooke and sees Mary Margaret across the street.  “Snow!”  “Charming.”  And there’s kissing and hugging and laughing and crying and…oh.  There’s also THAT line again.  Enough, already.  Ginny Goodwin is great in this scene.  Josh Dallas is…pretty.

Back at the Mayoral mansion, Regina is in Henry’s room, holding his pillow against her and crying.  Whatever remnants of my heart were still left in my chest have now packed their bags and gone on holiday to somewhere that TV shows don’t try to break you.  TNT, or SyFy.

Gold is in the forest with Belle and she remembers, calling him by his real name.  She tells him that she loves him, and he says he loves her too.  Aww.  It’s nice to see tenderness on his face; Carlyle is so excellent at emoting and always has been and I have to say, I’m a little pleased for Rumples right here.  It’s the most human we’ve seen Gold look since he thought he’d found Bae in “The Return”.

There’s a little wishing well in the forest and Gold explains that the waters “return that which is lost”.  Are we all keeping up?  Yes, that’s what August said.  And yes, water is meant to carry strange powers.  This water does, too, as Gold pours his love potion into it and a strange, purple mist comes out of the well and billows out across the forest.

In the hospital, Emma wants to know why everyone didn’t just go back to Fairy Tale Land.  Henry says he doesn’t know and they’re distracted by a nurse dropping something and staring out of the window.  As they gather round, they stare out of the window in horror as the purple mist sweeps across the edges of town.  Emma asks what it is and Henry simply says “something bad”.

In the forest, Belle says she doesn’t understand.  Aw, bless.  Well she HAS been locked in a cell for thirty years.  That’s probably enough to skew anyone’s cognitive skills.  Gold explains that they live in a world without magic and that he’s bringing it back.  Why?  “Because magic is power.”  Now, you see, this sums him up for me.  Even with the love of his life by his side, he STILL craves power/magic.  He can’t live without it and its heady effects will always, always encourage him to choose it over everyone else.  I can’t help but think that this will have serious repercussions next season, because Gold has just essentially made the same mistake that he did with Bae.  Bad things, people.  I see bad things on the horizon.

Regina, however, doesn’t, as she stares out of the window at the magic and a little smirk appears on her face.  I’ve been asked by several people what I thought it meant and, to be honest, I’m not really sure.  But a possible theory is that she recognizes it for what it is.  And if magic is power, then for a woman who has been rendered powerless, it represents an opportunity.  It’s a chance for her to get her power back.  And also sets up an unholy battle between her and Gold.  So if you’re listening, writers, this is the way I want the show to go.  Carlyle and Parilla are magnificent together so do something with that, will you?  Thanks.

Magic covers the clock face in Storybrooke

The purple magic cloud covers the town and looms over Charming and Snow, finally enveloping them.  It reaches up towards the clock tower and the music is some of Mark Isham’s best here; it’s perfectly matched to the gravity and splendor of what we’re seeing and my only regret is that it’s not on the soundtrack CD (mine only arrived on Saturday).  Just before the magic cloud covers the clock face completely, the minute hand moves forwards and we’re left with the time: 8.15, before the whole screen is engulfed by magic.

Phew.  I don’t know about you but the finale exhausted me a little.  I liked that it was action-packed and that Emma FINALLY became the hero we wanted her to be.  I hope that, next season, she steps up to the responsibility of who she is and maybe swings a sword again.  That was nice.

And here’s the thing about this show: it’s not the best show on TV, nor is it the most well-written or even acted in some episodes (Jamie Dornan, I’m looking at you), but it’s engaging and interesting enough to keep me watching.  Perhaps without realizing it, this show has produced some of the most complex, layered villains I’ve ever seen and I cherish their creation because there’s something fascinating about evil people being…well evil.  I mean, that’s why we love fairytales, isn’t it?  I also really like that the show seems familiar because of the known characters, but that they’ve twisted some of the fairytales around and given us an unforgettable back story.

It’s going to be a long summer, isn’t it?

Thanks to Ahkna and Grande Caps for the pictures.


  1. I still think Gold’s response to Belle’s “I love you” (present tense) was “I loved you” (past tense). Gold’s given his soul entirely over to the power/magic. Regina’s confession to Henry was “I love you” (present tense). I think she’s not going to have as happy a time in this new magic-enabled Storybrooke as Gold. *That* will be a character arc to watch.

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