OpinionReviewsTelevision & Film

ONCE UPON A TIME There Was Magic in the Air

Episode 2.01 “Broken”

And we’re back!

And so is magic. And so is Belle. And Red, and Granny, and the seven dwarves andeveryonerememberswhotheyareandmyohmy… wait.

OK. From the beginning, which is a cold open introducing a new character (played by Michael Raymond-James) in the real world. Who is this guy? And what does he have to do with our story? The only thing we get is the arrival of a carrier pigeon with a postcard from Storybrooke. The word “Broken” is written on the back. Who sent it?

And then we slam over to Fairy Tale Land, where Prince Phillip awakens Sleeping Beauty. Aurora is taken aback at the condition of the palace (what’s left of it) and Phillip hems and haws about what’s going on in the realm. This is also our introduction to Mulan, wearing a helmet to hide her features, so when she finally takes the helmet off — gasp! — it’s a girl!

It would have been a bigger moment if we hadn’t all known she was going to be there — writers.

Meanwhile, in Storybrooke, everyone’s wondering just what’s going on — since the curse is broken, they should all have gone back to Fairy Tale Land, right? And while Snow White and Prince Charming are all awash with love in their hearts and a warm glow on their faces because they have their daughter restored to them, Emma isn’t all that chummy yet. She’s still processing everything that’s just happened.

While some people might think Emma’s treatment of her folks is somewhat out of character, I saw it as a natural extension of Emma at the beginning of the show — isolated, lonely, very hands-off. Remember, she’s gone all this time with the idea that her parents abandoned her, which has informed every decision she’s made — relationships, jobs, moving around the country — so it’s perfectly logical that she’d have to get used to this.

Remember, too, she’s got no context in which to work. To her, Mary Margaret is still Mary Margaret — maybe even younger than Emma. And even though there was that magic flash when Emma touched Henry’s book in the finale, she still hasn’t had time to get all this straight in her head. I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt for a few episodes.

Not so the people of Storybrooke when it comes to Regina. They’re livid, and the angry mob — led by Dr. Whale — descend on Regina’s place to lynch her. Whale has everyone worked up, and Emma’s Posse shows up just in time to remind everyone that she’s still the sheriff and they’re all still stuck in Storybrooke. And it’s interesting that Charming doesn’t know Whale. That’s significant, and I’m sure it will figure into future episodes. How is it that Whale’s identity isn’t known to these people?

And we have several moments throughout in which we get hit on the head with the whole “magic is different here” trope. Blue Fairy says it. Rumplestiltskin says it. Regina says it. We get it.

The confrontation between Rumplestiltskin and Regina is a fine bit of scenery chewing, something that’s always fun to watch when these two go after each other. The fact that Rumple sort of finds a loophole in his promise to Belle not to kill Regina — well, that’s just icing on the cake, right?

He’s out for Regina’s blood, after finding out what really happened with Belle. He’s livid. And after Belle walks out, only to come back, we all realize — and Belle says it — that she has to stay with him to keep him from becoming the terrible beast that could destroy everything. Belle recognizes the man inside the monster, and she’s the one keeping the pressure cooker from exploding.

This thread will come into play this season. Has to.

And now we get to the meat of the story: the wraith. Comparisons to Harry Potter’s Dementors aside, the CG on this creature was pretty good — even though Aurora’s castle was a little choppy. The “soul sucking” effect was handled pretty well, even though Phillip dropped a lot faster than Regina would have, had the Charming Party not arrived in the nick of time.

Those that have lamented Phillip’s quick demise should note Mulan’s comment about the sound of souls trying to escape the wraith — implying that if the wraith were to actually be destroyed instead of locked in the Cave of Wonders for a thousand years, every sould might be restored?

Now, here’s where I have some issue with the episode: the matter of time.

Mulan’s part of Fairy Tale Land escaped Regina’s curse (was George Takei watching over them?) but didn’t come out completely unscathed. It seems everyone has been frozen in time for 28 years. All this time that the Storybrooke residents have been living at 8:15, the FTL folks have been stuck. OK, so far.

But how is it, then, that Gold has the wraith talisman? Because if you watch carefully, the wraith is wearing it when Gold conjures him up after Phillip has cut it off at the castle — and we now know that events in Fairy Tale Land are happening concurrently. Which means this is the same wraith in both places.

So it appears to be thus: Gold conjures the wraith. Wraith wreaks havoc in Storybrooke. Regina uses Jefferson’s hat to open a portal to Fairy Tale Land, not knowing anything is left. Wraith gets sucked in, dragging Emma with it, followed by Snow. Wraith bursts into the castle where Phillip cuts off the talisman. Wraith wreaks havoc in FTL and goes back into the talisman. Mulan and Aurora find Emma and Snow under the debris, which has been sitting in the same place from the beginning of the episode.

Almost makes my head hurt thinking fourth dimensionally.


[Official Show Site at ABC]     [Previous recap: “A Land Without Magic (season one finale)”]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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