It’s baaack! ABC’s hit fantasy TV series Once Upon a Time is back from its lengthy midseason hiatus to return for its back half of 11 episodes. Fans have been champing a the bit to find out what has happened to the folk of Storybrooke after Rumplestiltskin (AKA Mr. Gold, played by Robert Carlyle) did away with Peter Pan (AKA Rumple’s dad, played by Robbie Kaye).
There is no question that Gold sacrificed himself for the good of everyone else in a turn of nobility that few expected amongst those who know him the land of fairytale characters he inhabits. But…is he really dead? Did we see the dagger? Or did it disappear in the same puff of smoke that took out Gold and his father?
We know something happened. We are transported at the end of season 3.5 finale to New York, one year later to find Emma and Henry a happy family, only to have a mysterious (to Emma) stranger knock on her door insisting she knows him–and insisting that she must accompany him to save her parents and everyone else. Of course she doesn’t believe him, and Henry knows nothing.
In the premiere, “New York City Serenade,” we find the Storybrooke refugees returning to the Enchanted Forest, greeted there by a very pregnant Princess Aurora (Sarah Bolger) and Prince Philip (Julian Morris). Forging an uneasy alliance with Regina (Lana Parrilla), Snow (a heavily robed-to-conceal-her-pregnancy Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) move to retake their castle and kingdom. But there is a problem (more than one, of course), and therein lies the narrative of season 3.5.
“New York City Serenade” sets the stage for everything that is to come moving through the backend of season three. Emma has a new squeeze who springs a few unwelcome surprises on her, and while Henry doesn’t remember a thing about Storybrooke, Captain Hook makes quite the effort to get Emma to recall who and what she is. After all, Emma Swan is the savior of them all.
In fairytale land, our heroes are dogged by mysterious force — some sort of monster, perhaps. Of course it is no surprise to Once Upon a Time viewer that the new terror of the Enchanted Forest will be none other than the wicked witch. But who she is in the realm, and who she is to the storybook characters we already know, is still the question. And as the second half of season three unfolds, we will find out just what her relationship is to everyone involved. This episode also brings back the popular Robin Hood, who might just be the only real ally with the wiles to defeat this newest threat.
One thing you should be aware of while viewing the episode. The narrative moves back and forth between the real world with Emma, Henry, Emma’s boyfriend Walsh, and Capt. Hook, and the Enchanted Forest. The real world story takes place one year from the breaking of the curse in the season three midseason finale, while the enchanted Forest story takes place immediately after Mr. Gold’s death and the breaking of the curse. Capt. Hook appears in both timelines, so it can occasionally get a bit disorienting.
For those who are wondering, neither Rumplestiltskin nor Mr. Gold appear in the episode. Clearly, both Neil, now Baelfire and Belle mourn him, and Belle makes an observation that suggests we have not forever lost the resilient Rumple.
Tune in Monday night to Let’s Talk TV, and we will discuss the episode in depth. Once Upon a Time airs Sunday night 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC.