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Once Upon a Time Pre-Premiere Speculation

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Once Upon a Time premieres next Sunday with “Broken.” Presumably referring to the now-broken curse, which Emma shattered in the season one finale, “Broken” will begin to unravel the effects of the curse being lifted—and also begin to explore the consequences of Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) bringing magic to Storybrooke. As the curse broke, Fairy Tale Land characters began to awaken to their true selves. Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) found her Charming (Josh Dallas), Belle (Emilie de Ravin) remembered Rumple and that she loved him. All of the characters seemed to be coming out of a dream state.

But with a last remaining vial of “the most powerful magic” bottled, retrieved from the belly of Maleficent’s (Kristin Bauer) dragon, Mr. Gold brings into the real world powerful magic, and the entire town of Storybrooke is engulfed in a purple haze (apologies to Jimi Hendrix), and only Gold and a wickedly grinning Regina seemed pleased.

The season finale leaves many threads dangling and new possibilities (and dangers) waiting in the wings. So let’s take a look at where things stand for the residents of Storybrooke as the season opens.

Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) has fulfilled her destiny and lifted the Evil Queen’s (Lana Parrilla) curse. With town likely turned against Regina (also Parrilla), including her adopted son Henry (Jared Gilmore), Emma is likely to pick up full time Mom duties along with her role as sheriff. But Emma also has some fairly heavy emotional issues to deal with. As Ginnifer Goodwin told me at Comic-Con in July, Emma is going to be trying to cope with the understanding that her best friend Mary Margaret (Goodwin) is also her mother Snow White—and they are the same age!

Unlike the other Storybrooke residents, Emma is a product of this world (more or less), will she come to accept that she really isn’t, and is in fact a being from an entirely different world? I could see her spending significant time on Archie’s (Raphael Sbarge, who also plays Jiminy Cricket) couch. In fact, I can see Archie doing quite a lot of business as these conflicted (literally) characters try to cope with their new fantastical reality!

As for Regina, looking so pleased watching the return of magic to spread over the town, I don’t think her smile will last very long. Her prime focus this season will be to reconnect with Henry, and that won’t be easy. In addition, the entire town is probably out for her head (as the season two promos have shown), so I don’t know how long she’s going to stay mayor. Although, I can imagine she has some clever magic up her evil sleeve to terrify and control the townspeople. Unless, that is, Rumple’s magic is more powerful and can control her!

One of my favorite narrative bawdy ballads out of British Isles folk tradition is called “The Twa (Two) Magicians” (Childe Ballad 44). It tells of two powerful magicians, one male and one female, with the male in pursuit, and as the pursued changes herself into various incarnations, the male sorcerer trumps her. Although the scenario doesn’t fit exactly the narrative we now understand of the Rumple-Evil Queen relationship, I can’t get the image of this song (which I performed for years) out of my head thinking about the dance between Regina and Rumple. Given the new realities of Storybrooke, their dance will undoubtedly ramp up and intensify this season, and, Lana told me last week, we will learn much more about their relationship long ago and far away in Fairytale Land.

But while Regina fixates on recovering her son from Emma, Mr. Gold’s intense gaze shall focused elsewhere. Rumple has his Belle back. Long beliving her dead, Rumple is stunned when she turns up in the pawnshop, lost and broken. He can barely believe she is real and not apparition conjured from his mind (I loved that moment of recognition in the season one finale). What Regina has done to Belle is cruel beyond measure, and I guarantee that Rumple will want to exact revenge; something that Belle is likely to oppose.

Beyond Belle, I believe that Rumple will continue to search for his son Baelfire (Dylan Schmid). We know that not a day has gone by that Rumple hasn’t regretted letting go of Baelfire’s hand. As he tells Archie in last season’s “The Return,” Rumple has spent much of his life hoping to find a way of reuniting with him.

I believe that the curse was created in the first place so that Rumple could enter the world into which Baelfire slips, this “world without magic,” and has sought him here ever since and his entire reason for living.

But although the curse had brought Rumple into that world, it has also prevented prevented him from leaving Storybrooke to seek Baelfire when he could not locate him. This is why breaking the curse had been so important to Mr. Gold.

And now, bringing magic back into his life gives him the power to cross realms and use everything at his disposal to find him. However, now that Mr. Gold has retrieved his magic, how will he use it? To acquire more power? Will he use it only to find his son? Will he use it to get revenge on Regina? Or will Belle and her love for him mitigate his darker proclivities? Which asks the question, “is love stronger than the desire for power?”

I also wonder, now that Belle is back, will she reunite with her father. We now know that it was not her father, but Regina, who imprisoned her. He’s in Storybrooke, but will she find him?

And what of our reunited lovers Snow White and Prince Charming? Now that they are together again, will they stay together? And what of the new knowledge that their daughter is Emma Swan? How will they deal with the fact that they have a fully grown child?

Although we already know much of their back-story, we don’t know how they reclaimed the kingdom? When last we leave them, they are about to take on both her mother and his father. They are paupers – no money, no power, and certainly not Royals. So what happens between their reuniting in Fairytale Land and their lavish wedding?

And where did the events of the season one finale leave August (also known as Pinocchio) and the Mad Hatter? When last we  August had turned into life-size wooden puppet Pinocchio, unable speak or move.

And as for the Mad Hatter, will he get his revenge on Regina for failing to keep her part of the bargain to reunite him with his long-lost daughter? He’s the one, of course, who frees Belle, in the hopes that she would go to Mr. Gold, tell him that Regina had imprisoned her, and Gold in turn, would do what he could not – do away with her. I would also like to learn how he knows so much both about Belle’s imprisonment and her relationship to Rumple?

In addition to the season one characters, we’ll meet many new ones as season two unfolds, including Captain Hook (whose relationship with Rumple goes back to the time before he became the Dark One), Mulan, Sleeping Beauty and her Prince Phillip, and more!

Today is just the start of a full week of Once Upon a Time coverage on Blogcritics. Tomorrow, I’ll be telling you more about a fantastic Once Upon a Time  charity auction being held by the U.K. Once Upon a Fan site, with all proceeds going to one of Robert Carlye’s favorite charities, With Kids Glasgow. But for now, I will tell you that there are many exclusive items, including my Comic-Con press pass, autographed by the cast (the winner will also get several previously unpublished photos I snapped of the gang in the press room). But the real prize is the original “chipped cup” from last season’s “Skin Deep” (donated by Mr. Carlyle himself, and autographed by both he and Emilie de Ravin!).

Wednesday, look for my exclusive one-on-one interview with the Evil Queen herself, the fabulous Lana Parrilla, and then Thursday, I’ll be talking with Once writer-producer extraordinaire Jane Espenson about Once Upon a Time and her webseries Husbands. That should go live either Friday or Saturday along with my review of the season two premiere.

Also—after the season premiere, join me in for a live chat after the East Coast airing or after the West Coast airing. We’ll be live for one hour after each.

So expect the coming week to be filled with Once Upon a Time—all in anticipation of next Sunday’s season two premiere on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • Lily

    I found the sorcerer/sorceress folk song you mention really meaningful. We watched the first season on Netflix, so had a sense for the way the story unfolded. We were at first impressed by the strong female characters. Then, something happened, and men started to take over from the women.

    Compare Regina with Rumple. Rumple is the more powerful magician, and he determines the arc and cliffhanger of the first season, not Regina. Add to it the fact that (imo) Carlyle is a far better actor than Parrillo, and we have replaced a promising female villain with a fascinating male villain.

    Emma, the hero, remains cold and distant throughout the season, only becoming a “believer” in a split second in the penultimate episode. She is utterly passive throughout the series, influences nothing, and her role as a savior turns out to be a good mother who loves her son. This does not bode well for the second season, as I fear she is on the verge of turning into a mommy who juggles a job and parenting while dealing with her own new-found parents…and this was NOT how the season started.

    Snow White story is, sadly, one of the most repetitive arcs I have ever had the mispleasure to see in a series. Yes, she loves Charming. Yes, they’ll be separated. Yes, true love will conquer all. Yes, we know how it’ll turn out, so can we PLEASE move on?

    Compare Emma and Snow White with Mad Hatter and Augustine, or with Rumple. Again, the well written characters are male, not female. When a character takes over in interest in a series, they have taken over the series.

    I see a Lost situation developing, with women turning into love interests (Penny, Juliet, Sun) while men (Linus, Locke, Desmond) determine the story arc and carry through the philosophical bent of the writers.

    ngl it’s disappointing, but I will watch second season.

  • Betsy

    Barbara, I think he’d had time to accomodate himself to Bae’s loss…..plus he knew Bae was alive out there, somewhere. Belle’s “death” completely unhinged Rumple until he just let go and became the insane imp we saw in the pilot. I have always thought he purposely wanted to forget for those 28 years because he could no longer live with the pain and crushing guilt he felt over Belle’s death. He was willing to forgo memories of the good times together, how good she made him feel, because he couldn’t get past the anguish. How tragic…but understandable. He had to find someway to cope and forgetting was the easiest way. Imagine all his memories of her flooding him at once upon hearing Emma’s name? I have no idea how Gold didn’t go insane just trying to handle them.

    His beating of Mo was wrenching. That man went insane – he completely lost his grip on reality. It wasn’t because he lost a cup – it was because he lost Belle all over again, something he couldn’t deal with. He cradled that cup upon it’s return – then held it firmly in his hands – as if it was Belle he was holding. From his POV, it WAS Belle. Without it, I do not think he ever would have recovered

  • Jane E

    I just can’t wait for next Sunday and want to be surprised!

  • Sharon

    Another fine point about Rumple I thought was clever is how he also had no memory of FTL until he met Emma. What a good idea not to remember until Emma arrives. As Rumple constructed the curse, I think he gave himself a break for 28 years!

  • Nancy–could very well be! I am curiouser and curiouser (to quote Alice) about him.

  • Nancy

    I would watch this for Pinnochio and the Mad Hatter alone. Supposedly, this season will also unveil the true identity of Doctor Whale. Could he be connected to the whale from Pinnochio’s legend?

  • I totally agree with you, that the imprisonment of Belle was not only cruel to Belle, it was cruel (perhaps moreso) to Rumple. It probably destroyed him completely (perhaps even more than his loss of Baelfire), sending him further into darkness.

  • Betsy

    Great summation, Barbara. Gold’s quest for power/magic has been for one reason and one reason only – to find his son. If he wanted power, he could have just stayed in FTL. I do believe that Gold’s love for Belle is his greatest strength. I think he will try his level best to not go out and kill Regina, lol, but Belle is also human and no saint. I’m sure she wants some sort of revenge – she just doesn’t want the man she loves to go down Regina’s path. Her being around him, just loving him and him loving her, must have an effect on him. Love truly is the most powerful magic in the world and I dearly hope Belle will play a part in trying to find Bae. After all, they are to eventually be a family, so why not start now.

    I will say that I never ever thought Maurice imprisoned Belle….I thought it was fairly clear that the Queen was lying, lying to destroy Rumple internally, to make him hate himself even more than he already did. I think it was her cruelest thing yet – beyond anything she’s done and that’s saying a lot.