‘Once Upon A Time’ S1 finale recap: What was lost, has now been found

S1 Ep 22
What does this mean for Season 2? (Photo credit: ABC)

Sunday night’s finale took fans on an emotional rollercoaster ride as we worried about Henry’s comatose state, wondered if Regina and Mr. Gold could be trusted, hoped that Emma could break the curse, and wished for True Love to conquer all in the end.

Fairytale Land: “That’s the thing about true love – it can slip through your fingers. It’s the most powerful magic in the world, the only magic powerful enough to break any curse. It must be protected at all cost.”

The finale picks up from where Prince Charming left off last week after Snow White had taken a bite of the poison apple. He sits in his cell and softly declares, “I will find you, Snow. I will always find you.” When two guards open the cage door to drag the prince off to his death, he knocks them out and makes a run for it through the castle corridors. As two armed guards close in on him, on of them draws his bow and arrow and takes aim; Charming holds his breathe for a moment and sighs in relief when the arrow pierces through the other guard. The sharp-shooter removes his helmet to reveal the first pleasant surprise of the night: it’s the Huntsman!

Before reporting back to the Evil Queen, the Huntsman quickly explains to Charming, “I gave up my heart so that the queen can spare Snow’s. Don’t let my sacrifice be in vain. Find her.” Prince Charming successfully flees the castle, while the Huntsman tells Regina that they could not catch him. The Evil Queen then locates Charming in her magic mirror and transports him from the shore to the middle of the Infinite Forrest, where he suddenly encounters Rumple.

Rumpy is mysteriously invested in Prince Charming and Snow White’s True Love affair, so he wants to make a deal. The Rump casts a spell on Charming’s engagement ring (his mother’s ring that he fervently searched for in the beginning of the season), so now the ring will start to glow as he grows closer to Snow. In order to get the enchanted ring, Charming must first hide Rumple’s True Love potion, which is concealed in a golden egg. But we would never have guessed how dangerous this bizarre location could truly be.

The brave prince pays a visit to Maleficent and that is when all the teasers about seeing her in a different “form” suddenly make complete sense. If you remember the tale of ‘Sleeping Beauty,’ you will recall how Maleficent transforms into a dragon and tries to deep fry Prince Philip. In one of the most awesome scenes of the episode, Charming overcomes Maleficent as a dragon and craftily tosses the golden egg into her gills, thus literally hiding it in “the belly of the beast.” He then swims ashore and returns to Rumpy to collect his reward.

Rumple hands over the sparkling ring and before Charming dashes off to save his princess, Rumpy does him one more little favor. He stops PC and magically dresses him up in a fetching red outfit, befitting of a heroic prince. Charming is curious as to why Rumpy is so greatly invested in their relationship; in his joyfully teasing manner, Rumple replies, “I’m a fan of true love deary, and more importantly, what it creates.”

Prince Charming rapidly races through the woods until he reaches Snow White, encased in a glass coffin and surrounded by her devoted Seven Dwarfs, who fear that he has arrived too late. Nonetheless, Charming wants to say one final goodbye and kisses Snow. She awakens with a smile, happily saying, “You found me.” To which he responds, “Did you doubt I would?”

The reunited couple walks along the coast overlooking her castle and he explains how he found her with his mother’s ring. He shows her the ring and says he never wants to see if off of her finger. Prince Charming proposes and she obviously accepts. So, where do they go from here? Snow White tells her hubby to be that they “take back the kingdom…together.” As they gaze upon their future castle with love and hope in their heart, we are left to wonder about how their fairytale will continue to unfold next season.

Storybrooke: “Magic is coming! …’Cause magic is power!”

Now we fast-forward to what Snow and Charming’s love has “created.” Emma rushes Henry into the hospital and discusses possible causes for his mysterious coma with Dr. Whale. He disregards the apple turnover and all of the information she has given him and insists that there is nothing in this world that can cause Henry’s symptoms. As Emma empties out Henry’s backpack, she sees the storybook and finally realizes that her son was right: “it’s like magic.” Fairytales flash through Emma’s mind and she knows Regina has caused all of this.

In another highly rewarding scene, Emma grabs Regina’s arm and thrusts her against a wall in the storage room. She asks Regina if it is all true and tells her that Henry ate the apple turnover. Regina admits that it is true and she could not let Emma simply walk away; she confesses, “As long as you are alive Henry will never be mine.” Unfortunately, Regina does not know how to save Henry because the effect of magic in this world is “unpredictable.” But there is someone else in town that knows the truth and knows about magic; Emma guesses correctly that it is Mr. Gold, but Regina reveals his true identity as Rumpelstiltskin.

When Emma and Regina visit Mr. Gold, he frankly tells Regina that she should have paid the price for using magic and taking such a dangerous risk. Mr. Gold tells Emma how she can save her son. He says, “True love: The only magic powerful enough to transcend realms and break any curse.” He then explains how he bottled True Love by adding SW and PC’s hair to a potion and included a drop of it in the dark curse, just in case something goes terribly wrong in the future. Emma now understands that she is the savoir and can break the curse because she is the product of True Love. Mr. Gold says Emma is the only one who can retrieve the hidden potion, but getting it will be tricky considering where it was stored. He hands Emma her father’s sword and tells her to use it to get the potion; she and Regina plan to meet later, so that Regina can let her into the secret basement where this mysterious vessel has been kept.

Knowing the truth, Emma rushes to see Henry; she apologizes and leaves the storybook by his bedside. As Emma leaves his room, Regina enters and remorsefully gazes upon Henry. Suddenly, Jefferson appears out of the shadows and asks Regina to uphold her end of their deal. She voids the deal because things did not turn out the way they were supposed to; Jefferson threatens to kill her, but she knows he doesn’t have it in him to ruthlessly kill anther person. As we discover a little later, Jefferson finds another clever way to exact his revenge. Meanwhile, Emma visits August for help.

When she enters his room, she realizes that her epiphany has come too late. She now sees August’s true form as Pinocchio and almost all of his body has completely turned back to wood. She fears a normal person like her can’t do this alone, But August assures her that she is not normal. He tells her that she must break the curse; as the wood starts to spread up his neck, he barely utters, “You can save Henry. You can save us a…” Wood consumes the rest of his face before he can finish and Emma leaves with a newfound determination to not only cure Henry, but release her friends from this evil curse.

Emma and Regina meet at the Storybrooke library, where Regina discloses a hidden elevator leading into the basement. Regina says she trapped an old friend in a different form. This “friend,” as Mr. Gold suggested earlier, would not be happy to see Regina, so she sends Emma down there alone. When Emma enters the basement, we see items from Fairytale Land, such as Snow White’s glass coffin. Holding her father’s sword, she ventures deeper into the dark abyss and then the unthinkable is revealed. Maleficent has been trapped in her dragon form. Inconceivable! Yet true, so in a brilliantly crafted sequence shifting between Fairytale Land and Storybrooke, we watch father and daughter dance with the dragon. Emma instinctively shoots at the dragon, but the bullets are useless. She ultimately throws Charming’s sword into the dragon’s chest and the beast evaporates into dust, unveiling the golden egg. Meanwhile, we return to the hospital where Henry’s condition worsens and Jefferson’s plot is set in motion.

Mary Margaret sits beside Henry and reads him Snow White’s tale from his storybook. Earlier that day, David told her that he was planning on leaving Storybrooke, but he would choose to stay in town, if she loved him and wanted to be with him. Given their rocky history, Mary Margaret regretfully encourages him to leave. As she reads the ending, her eyes fill with tears at the thought of losing her “prince charming” and she confesses to Henry that she only gave him the book because real life is not full of happy endings. Once those words leave her lips, Henry starts coding and Dr. Whale scrambles to save him. A few floors down, Jefferson enters Regina’s secret psych ward to retrieve the key ingredient in fulfilling his vengeance. He frees Belle from her cell; he instructs her to find Mr. Gold and tell him Regina locked her up. Jefferson assures Belle that Mr. Gold will protect her. Well, we know Belle can trust Gold, but can Emma still rely on him?

With the golden egg in hand, Emma waits for Regina to raise her up in the elevator, but she surprisingly find Mr. Gold there instead. He says Regina abandoned her and when Emma starts climbing up the elevator shaft, Gold insists they do not have enough time and asks her to hand the egg over, promising that Henry will be fine. Emma tosses up the egg and Gold runs off. He had tied Regina to a chair, so Emma frees her and they rush to the hospital. Sadly, they are too late. While Emma stares at Henry in shock, Mr. Gold tends to his agenda.

He opens the egg and removes the potion when Belle unexpectedly enters his shop. He looks upon her with awe and holds her arm to be sure she is real. She tells him Regina locked her up and hopes that it means something to him. With tears in eyes and a quivering voice, he embraces his love and promises to protect her. She asks if she knows him and he cryptically says, “No, but you will.” And in a moment, we learn why.

Back in the hospital, Regina sobs and turns to Dr. Whale for comfort while Emma goes over to Henry. She says she loves him and gently kisses his forehead. True Love comes in different forms and her True Love’s kiss broke the curse. Just like the moment Charming kissed Snow, a wave of energy permeates through the town as Henry awakes and tells Emma that he loves her too. The curse has been broken and everyone remembers their fairytale past. The Blue Fairy warns “her majesty” to hide and before she runs Regina tearfully tells Henry, “No matter what you think, no matter what anyone tells you, I do love you!” Elsewhere, those who remember seek out their loved ones.

Charming calls out to Snow from the street and they run towards each other; they hold each other and she passionately kisses him. Again, just like the fairytale flashback, Snow smilingly says, “You found me” and Charming replies, “Did you ever doubt I would?” As the reunited couple continues to celebrate, Regina woefully cries into Henry’s pillow, perhaps regretting how great the cost of her magic has been. Meanwhile, another couple finds each other when Belle remembers Mr. Gold’s identity as she follows him through the woods.

Belle tells Gold that she loves him and hugs him tightly. He says he loves her too, but insists they will have time for that later because there is something he needs to do. He walks over to the wishing well where August had taken Emma earlier this year. Gold says the waters beneath the well will bring back what you have lost and he pours the True Love potion into the well. Surely he will ask for his son, Baelfire, now that everybody remembers the truth in a land with no magic, right? Nope, it seems as those Mr. Gold is still power-hungry Rumpy deep down in his core.

As Emma, Henry and Co. wonder why everybody isn’t returning to Fairytale Land now the curse is broken, they gaze out the window and see a gigantic cloud of purple smoke rolling through the town, knowing that it must be “something bad.” Belle looks at Rumpy and asks what it is; he says, “Magic is coming.” The finale closes with a smile on Regina’s face as she watches the magic fog cloak Storybrooke, brushing over Snow and Charming, and climbing the town tower as the clock strikes 8:15.

What did you think of the finale? Was it as mind-blowing as you expected? What moments did you love or hate? Was there anything you were disappointed by?

Share your thoughts below!


  • Magic in Storybrooke: How will this work out? Does everyone who once had magic in Fairytale Land have their powers back? Does Rumpy control the magic? The look on Regina’s face seemed pleased, so will she have all of her magic powers again?
  • August/Pinocchio: The graphics were amazing when August turned to wood, but should we assume he is dead? Did breaking the curse turn him back into a man? If not, will magic help save him next season?
  • Snow White and Prince Charming: It is always a joy to watch them and fawn over their epic romance. The parallel of their conversations and attachment to each other across both worlds has always been very sweetly depicted. Even the musical score to their relationship stirs up a feeling of wistfulness when we see these two together. What a relief to know that next season will be void of the annoying drama that came with David’s un-charming actions.
  • Mr. Gold/Rumpy: Robert Carlyle is one of this show’s greatest assets. Even when he is being villainous, you can’t help but like him. That is why it is so heartbreaking to see Rumpy give in to the darkness. His love for Baelfire kept him human and he created the curse to be in the same world as his son, yet after all this time, Rumpy chooses magic again. He wants magic to have power, but what will that mean for everyone in Storybrooke? Will Rumpy take over now that Regina has been exposed and “dethroned”? Will he use his magic for good or evil? Will he use it to find Baelfire? So many questions and possibilities. What theories do you have?
  • True Love: It is mostly used in terms of romance, but True Love comes in all forms. If Emma believed sooner and simply kissed Henry as a loving mother, would the curse still have broken?
  • Jefferson doubles-down: It was a clever plan to use Belle as leverage. He probably didn’t think the curse would ever have broken at the time, but now Jefferson has his daughter and his revenge. It will be interesting to see how that all plays out next season.

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