‘Once Upon A Time’ S3 Spring premiere recap: Something wicked this way comes

Hook sets out to bring Emma back home to Storybrooke. (Photo credit: Disney/ABC Press)

‘Once Upon A Time’ is on a roll this season! “New York City Serenade” sets the stage for the back end of Season 3 and let’s just say this caboose is full of fun surprises.

This fantastic and fulfilling episode travels between the past and present as we see what happened when our fairytale heroes were first transported back to the Enchanted Forest one year ago and learn how Emma is doing with Henry in present day New York City.

The Enchanted Forest, One Year Ago: “I don’t run from monsters. They run from me.”

Sleepy Beauty and Prince Phillip prepare to have a picnic (love the nod to Disney with blue plates positioned in the shape of Mickey Mouse) when storm clouds suddenly roll in. Magic is coming!

The puff of smoke clears, revealing our core cast of fairytale heroes. As we learn later on, other characters who were trapped in Storybrooke are starting to pop up in their respective homes scattered throughout Fairy Tale Land.

Pregnant Aurora and Phillip are surprised to see everyone and they decide not to tell them about FTL’s new menace. Not cool! A heads-up would’ve been nice. I don’t know why Sleeping Beauty and her beau weren’t honest with Snow & Co. Maybe they still hold a grudge for dealing with the curse chaos in FTL while everyone else lived in ignorant bliss for 28 years. Or maybe they are terrified of the Wicked Witch. Regardless, the gang has a lot of readjusting to do because their kingdom has suffered a blowback from Regina’s curse.

For starters, the Charmings’ castle was destroyed, so Snow must return to her father’s palace, the one that Regina has called home. Looks like it is official, Oncers. Snow White and the Evil Queen have become BFFs because Regina is actually cool with sharing the castle with Snow & Co. Aww!!

As the gang prepares to journey through the woods towards their new/old home, David sees that Hook has another plan in mind. The swoon-worthy swashbuckler is heartbroken. He tried being a hero for Emma’s sake, but “it didn’t take.” Without Emma, heroism is pointless. He always has and always will be a pirate. David empathizes with Hook. They all miss Emma and Henry, but it is the price they must pay. Hook shouldn’t devolve because of it, especially after he’s made so much progress. Sadly, David’s efforts are useless. Hook still calls the Jolly Rodger his home, so he sets out to find his stranded ship. Naturally, Hook isn’t the only one dwelling on a lost loved one.

Neal tells Snow and Charming that he wants to swing by Rumple’s palace to see if there may be any useful trinkets left behind. If all of their possessions return to their place of origin, then everything in Mr. Gold’s shop will have transported back to Fairy Tale Land. The Charmings tell Neal that he shouldn’t try to create another portal back to Emma’s world. There are no loopholes left. Things ended up like this because they had no other choice.

Snow and David feel their pain, but they kind of tell these love-sick puppies to just get used to it. Yeah right. We all know Neal and Hook won’t go down without a fight. We see that Hook finds a way to get to Emma, but what plan does Neal have in mind? Whatever he’s thinking, Belle wants in. She hasn’t given up on her beloved Rumple and she is eager to work with Neal to find a way to bring everyone together again.

Sidebar: Let’s face it. Rumplestiltskin can’t be dead. If he is dead, he’ll be resurrected. ‘OUAT’ can’t lose a talent like Robert Carlyle. Also, if objects are returned to FTL, it raises some questions. Did the Dark One’s dagger return? Or was the dagger destroyed when Rumple plunged in into his father’s back? The dagger is a very powerful weapon, so I’m not sure if it is totally out of play just yet.

During their journey through the woods, Snow realizes that Regina has wandered away from the pack. She tracks her down and catches Regina in another vulnerable moment. The heartache is too much to handle. Regina has removed her heart and is burying it in the woods because she would rather feel nothing than suffer like this. Snow knows exactly how Regina feels and she agrees that the pain is unbearable, but it is also necessary. Without her heart, Regina would feel completely hopeless. If she keeps her heart, there can always be the possibility of feeling something good in the future. (cough True Love cough) Regina listens to Snow and puts her heart back, but she’s not happy about it.

Snow hears something wrestling in the bushes and calls Regina over to take a look. It’s a flying monkey! The creature speeds into the sky, then swoops down and latches onto Regina. Snow struggles to pull Regina away. Next thing you know, arrows are whisking through the air. A few of them hit the monkey, after digging its talons into Regina’s arm, the beast drops her on the ground. I have to admit, this is a much better way for Robin Hood to meet Regina.

It is snark at first sight as Regina is quick to insult Robin’s merry men after they criticize her turn as the Evil Queen. As they make their way back to the rest of the group, Robin Hood is delighted to see Neal and Belle again. Snow channels her inner teenager and nudges Regina, hinting at a possible romance with scruffy Robin Hood:

Snow: “He’s kind of cute, huh?”
Regina: “He smells like forest.”

Well, it’s a start. True Love isn’t always clear from the get go, but I love Robin and Regina’s first encounter. It suits both of their characters and I’m excited to see how their romance will unfold. Moving on…

The gang finally makes it to the castle, but there’s a problem. Someone has cast a protection spell over it. Regina touches the magic barrier and it glows green. Regina is ready to fight back, but the Charmings urge her to wait. They need to know who they are dealing before making a move. In the meantime, Robin Hood says they can stay with his band in the forest. It’s no palace, but they’ll be safe. Before leaving Regina quips, “I don’t run from monsters. They run from me.”

So true. The Wicked Witch better watch her back. Regina is a force to be reckoned with.

New York City, Present Day: “Try using your superpower…You sense something is off.”

As predicted, Walsh (Christopher Gorham) is Emma’s new boyfriend and he’s about to propose. He takes a “bathroom break” before popping the question, giving Hook the perfect time to swoop in for a quick chat. He apologizes for the unwanted kiss. But he was desperate and needed to jog her memory quickly because her family is in danger. He knows this all sounds crazy, but he encourages Emma to follow her gut. Deep down, she can sense that something is off. Hook gives her an address and tells her to meet him in Central Park after checking the place out. He bids her adieu before Walsh returns and asks for Emma’s hand in marriage.

Emma seems more shocked by Walsh’s proposal than she did by Hook’s tall tale. They’ve only been dating for eight months and things are moving too fast. She needs some time to think about it. Emma goes home to Henry who has grown up a bit over the past year. He knew Walsh was going to propose and he isn’t surprised by his mother’s reaction. However, he offers some words of encouragement. He says that every man is not like his father. They all won’t leave her. He also tell Emma to trust her gut. Young Henry has always been so wise. The kid is cool with making Walsh a part of their little family, but Emma still has some qualms, especially since Hook keeps pestering her.

The next morning, Henry has planned a sleepover for himself and set Emma up a dinner date with Walsh. She should meet him and accept his proposal. Henry goes off to school and Emma checks out the address Hook gave her.

Emma walks into Neal’s apartment and everything is exactly the same. She looks around and finds Henry’s camera on the desk. She is bewildered by it and gets the film developed to see what the deal is.

Emma meets Hook in the park and he tells her to drink a magic potion that will restore her memories. Yeah right, like she’s going to do that. She cuffs him to the bench and has him arrested for harassment. Poor Hook! Luckily, he doesn’t suffer for too long.

Emma sees the photos of her and Henry in Storybrooke. She frees Hook and asks if he faked the photos. A few flirtations later, Emma finally drinks the potion and all of her memories come rushing back. Hook is telling the truth. Now Emma feels torn. Her memories may have been a lie but her new life with Walsh is very real.

Hook and Emma go back to her place and he fills her in on where things stand for now. A new curse has been cast and everyone is back in Storybrooke, but they can’t tell what the catch is this time around. They have their memories, so it doesn’t make sense. All he knows is that they need the Savior again. Emma tells Hook to sit tight while she breaks up with Walsh.

Emma and Walsh walk out onto the roof and she apologizes for letting him down. He says that they can take things slow. They don’t even have to get married for a couple of years if that’s what she wants. Sadly it is more than that. Emma’s past has caught up with her and she can’t explain it, but her family needs her. Suddenly, sweet Walsh takes a dark turn. He wishes Emma never drank the potion. Wait…what?

Walsh turns into a flying monkey. Oh hell no! He attacks Emma, she defends herself. Monkey-Walsh hits the concrete and vanishes into a cloud of smoke. Hook heard the commotion and checks to see if Emma is okay.

Emma realizes that she was never safe. She was just living in ignorant bliss. It was nice while it lasted, but clearly none of it was real. Emma has to protect Henry. She doesn’t know how she will convince him of the truth, but she does know they need to go back to Storybrooke.

The next morning Emma tells Henry that she is taking him with her on a new case. Hook knocks on the door and she introduces him as her new client. Finally someone mentions the elephant in the room. Henry comments on Hook’s costume. You have to love Hook’s defensive and juvenile rebuttal. Yes, we were all thinking it, but Hook gets a pass. Chalk it up to the Ichabod Crane effect. Dashing swashbucklers get a free pass because some of us have a weakness for men in period clothing. Anyway, Emma asks Henry to give Hook a hand with their luggage. She grabs her token red leather jacket from the closet and they trio heads to Storybrooke.

Hook keeps an eye on Henry (without scaring the crap out of him with his newly replaced sterling limb) and Emma pays her parents a visit. David opens the door and is ecstatic to see Emma. He explains that the last thing they remember is saying goodbye to her. The whole past year is blank. So how can they possibly know how much time has passed? Because Mary Margaret is pregnant! Aww. I can’t wait to see the significance this little baby will have.

Fairy Tale Land: “The queen may be evil but I’m wicked and wicked always wins.”

As the episode closes, we see the Wicked Witch in Regina’s castle. The monkey has returned with a drop of Regina’s blood. The Wicked Witch’s potion is complete. She ominously cackles, “The queen may be evil but I’m wicked and wicked always wins.”

Uh oh. Did Regina’s play a part in creating the new curse? This bit was confusing because they did say this is taking place one year ago. It seems like the present day, but the monkey brings Regina’s blood as though he just scratched it off of her. Is this pre-curse or present? How we view it makes a difference. Either way, the Wicked Witch is bad news.

The way this episode ended definitely gave me goosebumps. Well done!

Once again, we are left with a lot to ponder. Will Baby Charming be their new Savior? How can this curse be broken? What is the catch to this curse? Did everyone from Fairy Tale Land come over this time around? Where is Rumple? Is there magic in Storybrooke? Can anybody go in and out of town or did Hook do something special? What is the Wicked Witch’s relation to Regina? Is Neal in Storybrooke? If so, why didn’t he get Emma and Henry? How will they get Henry’s memory back? Will he believe Emma when she tells him the truth?

What did you think, Oncers? What surprised you most? What are your favorite moments? What do you hope to see? Do you have any early predictions?

Share your thoughts below and stay tuned for more news!

‘Once Upon A Time’ airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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