Come Here Often? Once Upon a Time Episode Review, Welcome to Storybrooke

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I have to say I really enjoyed this week’s episode of Once Upon a Time. We continued the trend of exposition into characters’ past, this time a little closer the present with some great insight into Regina’s personality and motivations; especially as it relates to Henry, because everything in this show has to involve him in some way. Snow White is mercifully silent through most of the episode but has a pretty cool scene at the end. Unfortunately this scene also sets the stage for the high probability of many, many weepy and mopey Snow White scenes going forward. Still no sign of Hook, I really hope he didn’t starve to death in that storage unit Emma locked him in in New York City. We get great insights into people’s lives in Storybrooke pre-Emma, though that brings up some questions for me that I will discuss later.

All of the flashbacks in this episode involve Our World, circa 1983; right after Regina enacts the Dark Curse in the Enchanted Forest and transports her victims to the town of Storybrooke. In the beginning everything comes up roses for Regina. She is mayor and everyone fears her and does what she says. We see the return of BLANK as the sheriff, who really does what she commands as she continues to control his magically removed/enchanted heart. She uses this for various town controlling/physical intimacy tasks. It is made clear that her motivation for adopting Henry is loneliness. She realizes that people in the town are not choosing to obey her, thus acknowledging her greatness and rightness, but are instead compelled to do so by the curse. After bonding (and eventually trying to abduct) a father and son from Our World who were caught in Storybrooke when the curse was cast, she realizes that her loneliness must be rectified.

After swearing (even more) vengeance on Snow White for killing her mother, Regina finds a curse in Cora’s belongings that will allow her to compel Henry to think he loves Regina. Henry decides that magic is to blame for all this tomfoolery lately and decides, because he is ten years old, to blow up magic by destroying the wishing well with dynamite stolen from the dwarf mines. He is stopped by Regina, who destroys the curse in front of him so he will know she actually loves him.

At the end of the episode Snow White shows up at Regina’s door and begs Regina to kill her because she feels so guilty over killing Cora. Regina initially declines because Henry would never forgive her. She then rips out Snow’s heart but declines to crush it after seeing it has been blackened, stating that Snow will destroy her family on her own and Regina just needs to wait.

We then learn that the stranger Greg who crashed into town is actually the son of the father that Regina abducted in 1983. He escaped, but was unable to return to the town with the state police due to the curse.

Here is my question: How exactly did the whole “frozen in time” thing discussed in season 1 work for the people in Storybrooke? We see that in 1983 they had 1980s-level technology and society: cars, phones, various references to Bruce Springsteen. Fast forward to 2012 and Henry is using the internet to find his birth mother, Emma. People have cell phones, computers, hybrid cars, etc. Were these things suddenly popped into Storybrooke as they were invented and people’s memories altered to reflect this? Time isn’t really frozen if these things are introduced gradually, is it? And for that matter what about after Henry got there? Didn’t he notice that he was getting older and transferring to different grades while all of his classmates stayed back and didn’t age? How did his classmates explain this to themselves? Was everyone in the school diagnosed with some kind of Benjamin Button-like diseases and also so bad at school they were held back every year since 1983? Don’t forget, we KNOW for CERTAIN that people didn’t age, not just because of the adults but because Hansel and Gretel remained children separated from their father since 1983. They were the same age in 2012 that they were when the curse was enacted.

As I said, I really enjoyed this episode with all the great character exposition of Regina. We also get confirmation of a sticking point: Rumplestilskin did not remember his past until Emma came to Storybrooke. Which brings us to another question, if he didn’t remember the Curse and for that matter didn’t know Emma was Henry’s mother/the Savior what explains his procuring Henry for Regina to adopt? Is there some other force at work here?

Gregory Hartmann