This is Fairy Tale Land. It's filled with magic, monsters and all of the characters we all know from stories growing up. It's real, and so are the people in it. But unlike the "happily ever after" you may have heard about, their stories continued, and The Evil Queen cast a Dark Curse over the land....
This is Storybrooke. It's a quiet, little, New England town filled with people who go about their everyday lives with no idea who they really are. The Queen's Curse has trapped them here and placed her in near-complete control. They have no real memories and no real hope.
Once Upon A Time is, at its core, a story about hope.
"For us, that’s what a fairy tale is. It’s that ability to think your life will get better. It’s why you buy a lottery ticket—because if you win you get to tell your boss that you’re quitting and you get to move to Paris or wherever and be who you always wanted to be. And that’s Cinderella, right? One day she’s sweeping up and the next she’s going to the ball. Adam and I just wanted to write about something hopeful that for one hour a week allows one to put everything aside and have that feeling that your dreams just may come true."
- Edward Kitsis, Co-Creator/Executive Producer
About Season 1: Emma Swan’s life has been anything but a fairytale. A 28-year-old bail bondsperson, she’s been taking care of herself since she was abandoned as a baby. But when Henry—the son she gave up 10 years ago—finds her, everything changes. Henry is desperate for his mom’s help and thinks that Emma is actually the long, lost daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. Yes, the actual Snow White and Prince Charming. Even stranger, Henry believes that Storybrooke, the sleepy New England town he calls home, is really part of a curse cast by the Evil Queen, freezing fairytale characters in the modern world with no memory of their former selves.
Of course the seen-it-all Emma doesn’t believe a word, but when she gets to Storybrooke, she can’t help sensing that everything’s not quite what it seems. As Henry shows Emma around with the help of his fairytale book, the town, and its inhabitants like Henry’s therapist Archie Hopper and the enigmatic Mr. Gold, seem just strange enough to set off her already suspicious nature. She becomes even more concerned for Henry when she meets his adopted mother, Regina, who he suspects is none other than the Evil Queen herself!
Storybrooke is a place where magic has been forgotten—but is still powerfully close—and happily ever after seems just out of reach. In order to understand where the fairytale world’s former inhabitants came from, and what ultimately led to the Evil Queen’s wrath, you’ll need a glimpse into their previous lives. But it might just turn everything you’ve ever believed about these characters upside-down. Meanwhile, the epic battle for the future of all worlds, modern and fairytale alike, is about to begin. For good to win, Emma will have to accept her destiny and fight like hell. For detailed recaps please visit Once Upon a Time's Season 1 Episode Guide.
About Season 2: To ensure that no one in Fairy Tale Land—especially Snow White—had any more "happily ever afters," Evil Queen Regina cast a curse which trapped the fairy tale characters, frozen in time, and brought them into our modern world. Although still alive, they had no knowledge of their former selves and were sleepwalking through life—ageless—for 28 years, until a savior arrived in the form of Emma Swan. Unbeknownst to Emma, she was the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, who had whisked her out of Fairy Tale Land and into our world as an infant to save her from The Curse. Abandoned as a baby, Emma's life was anything but magical; her last job was as a bail bondsperson, but she mostly drifted without much of a life plan. When her 10-year-old son, Henry—whom she had given up for adoption years earlier—appeared on her doorstep with a book of fairy tales and a wild story about how Emma was the progeny of fairy tale characters trapped in a town called Storybrooke, she thought he was crazy. But curiosity got the better of her, and when she brought Henry back to the town—where Regina, ever the control freak, had made herself mayor and was also Henry's adoptive mother—Emma soon discovered that Storybrooke was more than it seemed. Over time she came to believe the stories were true, began to see cracks in the curse, and was finally able to break it.
Reality and myth were merged as the fairy tale characters began awakening, once The Curse was lifted, and remembered who they were. But to their dismay they were not transported back to fairy tale land. And to make matters worse, Rumplestiltskin—aka Mr. Gold—in an effort to gain the upper hand in his power struggle with Regina, introduced magic into the town. In fairy tales magic has its place, but in our world it can have unfathomable consequences. Now the fairy tale characters must contend with magic in their quest to find a way home, as new fairy tale characters are revealed, old acquaintances are revisited, and some we had come to believe could be trusted will turn against their own kind. For detailed recaps please visit Once Upon a Time's Season 2 Episode Guide.
About Season 3: Welcome to Storybrooke, Maine, a small town that probably won't show up on your GPS, but it's a magical place to visit. Reality and myth merged after Emma broke Regina's curse, which had deprived the fairytale characters of their memories and trapped them in our modern world. When they finally regained their identities, our heroes were dismayed to discover that they weren't transported back to Fairy Tale Land. To make matters worse, Rumplestiltskin—aka Mr. Gold—decided to escalate his power struggle with Regina by introducing magic into the town. But this is our world, and magic always has a tendency to yield unfathomable consequences.
The first order of business this season was to save Henry, who had been kidnapped and transported through a portal to Neverland. But Neverland was a much darker place than one remembers, and our heroes had to face a foe more powerful than the Dark One himself—Peter Pan. After being tricked and led astray for days—and learning that he was also Rumplestiltskin's father—Pan was defeated and trapped inside Pandora's Box. Our heroes returned to Storybrooke, only to discover that Pan had switched bodies with Henry and was about to enact a curse that would have killed every living soul in town. But after discovering the switch and restoring Henry back into his body, Rumplestiltskin paid the ultimate price by sacrificing his life and killing Pan. In turn, Regina obliterated her original curse, which erased Storybrooke from existence and whisked its residents back to Fairy Tale Land, leaving Emma and Henry together back in our world with pleasant memories—but with no memories of Storybrooke or its residents, and with Storybrooke itself seemingly gone for good. And they all lived happily ever after... Hardly!
All is not well back in the Enchanted Forest when Hook comes calling on Emma in New York City in an attempt to jog her memory so that she can once again help her fairy tale family and friends out of a desperate situation. Everyone she holds dear is in danger as a new foe emerges—the Wicked Witch of the West. Hook now must enlist Emma in an epic struggle that spans worlds: with the highest stakes possible—the fate of her family. No one remembers how they were transported back or the past year they had spent back in Fairy Tale Land. But someone in town is responsible for this curse, and all clues point to the Wicked Witch of the West.
The Wicked Witch, aka Zelena, forced Rumplestiltskin to help her carry out her evil plan. The struggle between them leads to the death of Neal. A trip to Oz reveals that Zelena is Regina’s half-sister. She plots to go back in time to kill Snow White’s mother, whose actions sent her down a wicked path. An epic battle takes place. In the end, Rumplestiltskin kills the Wicked Witch while setting forth the opening of a time portal. Emma and Hook are pulled inside. They return to Storybrooke with a prisoner from a far off place. Regina is crushed to see that it’s Marian, Robin Hood’s first love. Someone else came forth from the time portal. Her name is Elsa. She demonstrates her power to freeze anything as she makes her way toward downtown Storybrooke. For detailed recaps please visit Once Upon a Time's Season 3 Episode Guide.
About Season 4: After defeating Zelena — the Wicked Witch of the West — Emma and Hook were pulled into her time portal, which brought them back to the Enchanted Forest of the past. When they accidentally thwarted the initial meeting of Snow White and Prince Charming, Emma and Hook had to find a way to fix the timeline and get them together, or risk altering their futures and possibly obliterating Emma and Henry's existence; not an easy task to undertake. When Emma was captured by The Evil Queen, she met a female prisoner scheduled to be executed. Upon finding a way to escape, Emma saved the prisoner's life by taking her along. But Hook believed the woman's fate was to die and feared that things could be altered by her continued existence. After successfully getting her parents back on track, Emma, Hook and the prisoner found themselves captured by Rumplestiltskin and imprisoned in a room that contained his most unpredictable magic. With no way to escape, Emma discovered that her own magic had returned, and she was able to whisk herself, Hook and the prisoner back to present day Storybrooke. Upon their joyous return, Emma learned that the prisoner was none other than Robin Hood's wife, Marian, who was presumed dead in the previous timeline. Regina and Robin Hood had begun to fall madly in love with one another, but with Marian's return, their relationship could be in danger. And, unbeknownst to anyone, Emma and Hook also brought back Elsa.
You never give up on the people you love...
The Storybrooke residents do not know what Elsa has in store for them. Back in the past, in Elsa's kingdom of Arendelle, we will discover what happened to her, her sister Anna and Kristoff, and how and why Elsa became a prisoner of Rumplestiltskin.
And now that Emma has brought back Robin Hood's wife, Marian, and possibly sparked the end of Regina's relationship with him, will she return to her old, evil ways and do everything in her power to get even? And newlyweds Belle and Rumplestiltskin continue to be deeply in love with each other. But Rumple is hiding a secret from Belle -- one that, if found out, could destroy their happiness - he continues to be the master of the dagger that calls upon him to be the Dark One. Can Emma and Hook commit to one another, and can these two damaged people take their love to the next level?
Mary Margaret and David have a new baby, Prince Neal, and are looking forward to raising him into a proud, brave and loving adult. But they are still sad that they were not able to do this with Emma, instead helping her escape the curse when she was first born and not meeting her again until she was 28 years old.
Henry is very happy to have both of his mothers back in Storybrooke. But with biological mom Emma and paternal grandfather Rumplestiltskin's blood running through his veins, he will be tested by both the light and the darkness.
Finally, Will Scarlet (Michael Socha, "Once Upon a Time in Wonderland"), a former member of Robin Hood's band of Merry Men, has traveled across many lands to make his way to Storybrooke. He finds himself intertwined in the goings-on in town for the first time as his mysterious past pushes him to an unknown future.
As the season continues, new fairy tale characters will be revealed and old acquaintances will be revisited. But not everyone can be trusted.
For detailed recaps please visit Once Upon a Time's Season 4 Episode Guide.