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Once Upon a Time Season Finale Recap: "A Land Without Magic"


This Changes EVERYTHING! Once Upon a Time managed to tie up almost every dangling thread in a swashbuckling, adrenaline-filled, roller coaster finale; all the while also setting up a game-changing premise for season two.

We open in Fairytale, although most of the best action in this episode happens in Storybrooke. More on that later. First, Prince Charming finds an unlikely ally in the long-missing Huntsman, who breaks him out of the Queen’s jail.  As he aimlessly wanders through the Infinite Forest, searching for a way out, Rumplestiltskin appears and shows Charming a ring. It’s his mother’s long-lost ring. Rumple tells the Prince that he’s bestowed magic on the ring and now it will help him locate his lost love, Snow White. But first, the Prince must take the True Love potion Rumple has whipped up (remember the locks of hair he stole from Charming and Snow?) and hide it in the safest spot possible, as Rumple is saving the potion for a “rainy day”.  Unfortunately for Charming, that safe spot is in the belly of the Dragon Maleficent.

Nobody can call Charming a coward as he accepts the challenge. After an awesome fight, Charming manages to jam the potion into the dragon’s mouth and then hightail it out the nearest window.

Proving he really is everywhere, Rumple awaits the Prince’s exit. Impressed with Charming’s feat, Rumple gives him his mother’s ring and some really regal-looking red duds. He tells the Prince he can now find his true love. Charming then happens upon the Seven Dwarfs, who tell him it’s too late. The heartbroken Prince bends down to kiss Snow goodbye….and….with true love’s kiss, Snow awakens! The sleep spell is broken!

As good as that is, the Storybrooke action puts Fairytale to shame as Henry lies comatose in the hospital.  The doctors are stumped (they don’t teach you how to cure magic spells in medical school) and frantic Emma upends Henry’s backpack, looking for any clues to help her son.  Henry’s fairy tale book falls out and Emma picks it up. With that one action, and with the book in her hands, the truth is finally revealed to Emma and she now knows, with unfailing certainty, that the fairytales are real.  HALLELUJAH!  Emma’s resistance to the truth has been my biggest pet peeve of the season and while this may have a bit contrived, who cares?! She finally believes!

And with that new knowledge, Emma is a woman possessed. She slams Regina into some shelving (Go Emma!)  and demands Regina cough up more magic to cure Henry. Regina reveals that she can’t; she used the last of her magic to make the turnover. Regina tells Emma they need to go to Mr. Gold for help. 

Before visiting Gold, Emma makes her way to August’s room, needing her friend’s help. But August is almost fully reverted to Pinocchio and is helpless. Before Emma’s very eyes, August becomes all puppet once more. This was a surprisingly poignant scene and I can only hope August comes back in man-form next season.

While Emma visits August/Pinocchio, Regina receives her own caller in Jefferson. He demands to know where his daughter is; but Regina reneges on their original bargain and tells Jefferson since Emma never ate the poisoned turnover; their deal is no longer valid.  Furious and bent on revenge, Jefferson concocts a sleeping potion of his own and mixes it into a coffee, meant for the psych ward nurse. Once she’s safely unconscious, Jefferson steals her keys and unlocks… Belle!  He tells her to go find the man called Gold and tell him that it was Regina that locked her away (Is Gold going to be steamed at that bit of news).

Meanwhile, Emma and Regina confront Gold, who reveals to the two women that he has indeed saved a potion for a “rainy day”. (Remember the True Love vial that Charming rescued in FairyTale? Rumple is really a dastardly bastard, isn’t he?) He tells Emma that she must be the one to retrieve the magic potion in order for it to work. He then opens a case and reveals Emma’s father’s sword, which she must also use.  The symmetry here is wonderful with both father and daughter using the same weapon to defeat Maleficent.  The coming full circle moments abound in this episode and it works to marvelous effect.

Emma and Regina end up in the basement of Storybrooke’s library but Emma goes down to face the beast alone. (Turns out Regina trapped Maleficent there for the duration of the curse and the dragon isn’t on speaking turns with her, as a result. Who could blame her?)

After an awesome CGI-filled sword (and gun) fight with the humongous fire-breathing beast, Emma finally throws her father’s sword into the belly of the beast. With that, Maleficent explodes in a fiery mess and the magic potion lands at Emma’s feet.

Proving once and for all he’s bad to the bone, Mr. Gold meets Emma as she comes back up the basement elevator and falsely tells her Regina has abandoned her. He tells Emma to throw up the potion, which Emma stupidly does. With that, Gold runs away, leaving Emma and a bound and gagged Regina in his dust.

As he hoards the magic potion, Gold is surprised by Belle walking in and asking if he’s Mr. Gold. Overjoyed his Belle is alive, Gold hugs and kisses her and promises her she will remember him. Foreshadowing?

Meanwhile, back in the hospital, poor Henry has actually passed away. Emma, heartbroken, bends over her son, tells him she loves him, and gives him a kiss. Again, remember Love’s True Kiss? The same kiss that Charming used to wake up Snow? It seems their daughter has the same gift, because her kiss woke Henry up, too! 

But more, much more than that, the ENTIRE town is waking up at that exact moment and remembering who they really are!  The citizens of Storybrooke remember they are Fairy Tale characters! In fact, David is wandering through the streets of town and spies Mary Margaret.  He cries out, “Snow!”.  And Mary Margaret/Snow White runs to David/Charming and the two embrace, finally recognizing each other. And really, let’s let it truly be over with the David/Margaret storyline, please.  Snow and Charming are golden. The other two–not so much.

Finally, Mr. Gold and Bella approach a well. Bella now also remembers who she really is. Gold drops the magic potion into the well, saying that the water inside returns something that is lost. With that, a purple fog/smoke descends over the town.  Turns out the purple mist is a metaphor for MAGIC!

And with that, Season Two is going to be a whole new ball game for the residents of Storybrooke. Not only do they all remember who they are, but Rumple and Regina will have their full powers restored! And won’t this be fun?!  Let the games begin this fall with Season Two.

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