We open on the familiar sight of a majestic white horse, its head decorated with a plume of bright red feathers. But while assuming we've found ourselves in Fairy Tale Land, we pull back to discover we're in an unexpected locale: New York City in all its kinetic glory. A stranger walks past the horse and across the bustling street to his apartment building. Entering his apartment, a sudden thunderstorm kicks up, and our stranger realizes, exasperated, that he left a window open, and wind and rain now pelt his desk. He rushes over to close the window, but it's stuck. He tries to force it, but in his fumbled efforts drops his phone down the fire escape. Not his day. He slumps onto his desk, this is too much. Just then... a pigeon lands in front of him on the window sill. Tied to its foot is a piece of cardboard. After the bird flies away the man picks up the cardboard and looks at it. Written in thick black ink, it carries a simple message: "BROKEN". The man turns the message over and we see it's actually a postcard, and the picture on the front is of a clock tower, and in excitable typeface, "Greetings from Storybrooke, Maine!" And from this mind-melt we're off to...
Fairy Tale Land. Riding through an inhospitable terrain we find a handsome Prince, ignoring the brutal environment as he pushes his steed. Behind the Prince another rider follows on horseback. This warrior, wearing Asian designed armor, is masked, but is clearly following the Prince's lead as they arrive at the once beautiful courtyard of a castle. In the middle of the courtyard, a sleeping figure rests next to a spinning wheel. And if there's any doubt who this sleeping princess is, the Prince utters "Aurora." That's right. This is Sleeping Beauty. Then, Prince Phillip uses True Love's Kiss to awaken Aurora, who is as overwhelmed to be reunited with Phillip as she is shocked to see her once beautiful castle in ruins. Phillip tells her that the worst of it is over, and that they'll restore the castle so that they can live their dream of being together there forever. She asks Phillip where everyone is and why the castle needs to be rebuilt. He tells her it's a long story and that she needs rest. Aurora tells him she's had her fill of rest. Phillip tells her to come with him to a safe haven where their people have gathered. Not from Maleficent, she can no longer harm them, but from other dangers that have arisen since she fell asleep. But, he tells her, it's nothing they can't handle...
Back to Storybrooke to find our characters just where we left them at the end of the season, enveloped in a thick purple smoke manifested by the one and only Mr. Gold. And through this thick haze we find Mary Margaret and David, holding each other tightly. Mary Margaret asks David the question that's on all of our minds... "What's happening?" David, resolved to find out, grabs her hand and as the smoke dissipates, leads her to other residents who are overcome with sudden recognition. Memories have been returned to Storybrooke. David and Mary Margaret approach Ruby and Granny. Ruby asks "Snow?" As Mary Margaret nods. They hug, their shared history making itself clear. As this emotional moment takes place we hear "Your highness?"
David turns to see Leroy (aka Grumpy), and his six brethren. The dwarfs are reunited, and bow to Mary Margaret and David, their Prince and Princess. But before any of these incredible revelations can settle in, Mary Margaret knows what she needs to do: find her daughter. But we turn to find Emma has already joined the growing throng, and is finally, tearfully reunited with her mother and father. An accompanying Henry can't hold back a "Told you so." As they all share hugs that have been decades in the making, Henry turns to David. "Grandpa?" David says yes, he supposes so, putting an affectionate hand on Henry's shoulder. But the confusion and questions start to ramp up. The dwarfs and other townspeople all want to know what the smoke was, who did this to them, and why, if the curse is broken, haven't they returned to Fairy Tale Land? Just then, Mother Superior (aka The Blue Fairy) steps in and tells everyone that magic has returned to Storybrooke, although things are more complicated now, especially without a supply of Fairy Dust. But Leroy brushes this aside, saying it's clear who did this: the Evil Queen Regina. Emma disagrees, realizing... "It wasn't the Queen."
Cut to her prime suspect, Mr. Gold as he stands with Belle at the well that was the epicenter of the now dissipated purple smoke. Gold is grateful to see Belle again; he thought she was dead all this time. She tells him that Regina kidnapped her and kept her captive these last twenty-eight years. Gold is infuriated, fire burning in his eyes, and tells her he will not let this stand. But Belle says that they need to put it behind them now. She makes Gold promise that he won't give in to his hate and kill Regina for what she did. She tells him she'll be with him if he can just let this vengeance go, and not seek harm to Regina. Gold gives his promise. But even as they share a kiss and then embrace, we can tell Gold's uneasy with this agreement.
Meanwhile, a determined Emma leads Mary Margaret and David towards Gold and hopefully some answers. As she plows ahead, Mary Margaret sees a chance to try and connect with her daughter. She wants to know everything that she missed. But Emma resists, telling her mother and father that, while she's spent her whole life waiting to meet them, she just needs a little bit of time. Archie, fully aware now of being Jiminy Cricket, and of his status as conscience for the town, approaches our heroes and tells them that he tried to talk the enraged residents out of going after Regina, but he couldn't stop them. Just then, Emma, Mary Margaret and David see a large mob of townspeople, led by Dr. Whale. Henry pleads that they stop them from hurting Regina because "she's still my mom." Moved by this, Emma makes a chilling point: since magic has returned to Storybrooke, the Queen may have her powers back. If so, this angry mob might be heading straight to their doom. And as Emma, Mary Margaret and David prepare to do what they can to avoid slaughter, we leave Storybrooke, taking us back to...
Aurora's castle, where we find Prince Phillip and Aurora together, but our mysterious warrior seems deeply distracted by something. As the warrior moves toward the door, it bursts open, shooting the warrior across the room by a terrifying shadowy demon called the Wraith. Phillip pulls his sword to fight off the creature, as the warrior regroups to join the fight. But this is a creature of enormous power, and the best Phillip and the warrior can do is knock a talisman off of the creature, which causes it to give up its pursuit. For now.
We return to Storybrooke, joining Gold and Belle as they enter his pawn shop. Gold tells Belle he intends to find a pretty dress from among his stock for Belle to wear. She agrees, but as Gold goes into his back room we find he's not looking for clothes at all, instead he retrieves a talisman that's identical to the one we just saw in Prince Phillips's possession. As the shock of this sinks in...
We join the Dr. Whale led mob outside of Regina's house, with Whale pounding on her door and telling her to open up or they'll force their way in. Regina answers the door calmly, seemingly unconcerned, even as Dr. Whale threatens to make her suffer. But Regina's patience wears thin, and she summons her magic to attack the mob, and... nothing happens? Regina is as shocked as everyone else when her magic fizzles. Just as Whale is about to take advantage of her weakness, Emma, Mary Margaret, David and Henry break through the crowd. Emma confronts the mob, asking them if they're really prepared to be as bad as Regina and make themselves into murderers. Whale offers resistance, but Mary Margaret and David finally make him back down.
SLAM. The door to the jail cell in the Sheriff's Station closes, sealing Regina inside. Regina tells them that Gold is Rumplestiltskin, and that he'll do anything to get revenge on her. Emma decides to get Henry out of harm's way by leaving him with Ruby. As soon as Regina is left alone in her cell, however, she is visited by none other than Gold. He reveals to Regina that he knows she's kept his love imprisoned, and even though he's made a promise to Belle that he wouldn't kill her, he assures her a fate worse than death. And with that, Gold's arm lunges through the bars of the cell and grabs Regina's arm. Then, with his gloved hand, he presses the talisman to Regina's palm. Off of Regina's shock, Gold assures her that she's about to meet up with the one thing no one can escape: their destiny. A gloating Gold dangles the talisman in front of Regina and…
Flash to Fairy Tale Land, where Phillip holds the identical talisman. He and Aurora survey the devastation when the warrior removes the helmet to reveal a beautiful Asian woman who says her name is Mulan. Mulan explains to Aurora that the Wraith comes after those who are marked and will not give up until it eats their souls, damning them for all eternity. What Aurora doesn't know, and Mulan might, is that Phillip is concealing a glowing mark on his hand. The Wraith is coming for him, and it's only a matter of time before it finds him. But being the brave hero he is, he tells Aurora everything is going to be fine.
Back in Storybrooke, Gold comes home to see Belle sleeping peacefully, and then goes out to the woods, where he reveals he's carrying The Dark One's dagger; the familiar and terrifying Kris blade edged-weapon with Rumplestiltskin magically written along the blade. Gold sets the talisman on the ground and then stabs the dagger down into the earth near it, exclaiming "The Dark One summons thee!" In the jail cell, Regina's hand suddenly glows like Phillip's. That's right, she's been marked. Back in the woods, Gold watches as the Wraith emerges from the talisman, then takes off into the night. Gold smiles, pleased.
Later, outside of Granny's, Emma has a tender moment with Henry before sending him off with Ruby to watch after him. David and Mary Margaret look on proudly, and he notices that Mary Margaret is eager to have Emma to open up to them. But he tells her not to rush things, and she agrees... only to immediately succumb to her worry a minute later, blurting out to Emma that they need to talk. Mary Margaret tries to force a heart to heart, but Emma resists, reminding her and David that no matter how good their reasons for giving her up, while she was free from the Queen's curse, she still grew up all alone; a curse in and of itself. Emma asks her heartbroken parents, "Which curse is worse?"
Back in Fairy Take Land, as the sun sets into an imposing forest, Mulan encourages Phillip and Aurora to temporarily stop their journey and camp for the night, saying that keeping still is their best chance when the Wraith is loose at night. They agree, but Aurora can't sleep. Her excitement to be awake and with Phillip is too much for that. She comforts herself knowing they'll be together forever now. And Phillip, ever the stoic hero, continues to shield Aurora from his curse, assuring her they will always be together. He kisses her deeply and tells her he's going to get some wood for a fire. Then a woeful Phillip leaves the tent and Aurora, not knowing if he'll see her again.
We return to Storybrooke, where Emma, Mary Margaret and David arrive at Gold's to interrogate him. Emma accuses Gold of trying to sabotage the town, but Gold surprises her by stating that he kept all of the promises he made her. Namely, Henry survived, the curse was lifted and she was reunited with her family. Although everyone is taken aback by this potent argument, Emma persists, wanting to know what the purple smoke was. Gold tells her that it was magic returning to Storybrooke, but when Emma asks why? Gold replies "Not telling." Just then, a shudder moves through the room. The wind stirs, and outside streetlights start to explode and fall over. When Emma asks Gold what it is, he tells her it's his gift to them. Something that will take care of Regina once and for all. The Wraith is here. David and Mary Margaret decide they need to leave to confront the Wraith in any way they can, and as Emma follows them out Gold reminds her she still owes him a favor. After they leave, Belle comes out from the back room, having heard it all. She confronts Gold, revealing her despair that despite his clever way of holding to his promise without actually killing Regina himself, she now knows he hasn't changed at all. Before Gold can stop her, she's gone.
Back to Fairy Tale Land, at the campsite, a distant roar of the Wraith causes Aurora and Mulan to realize that Phillip hasn't returned yet to the campsite. Aurora questions Mulan, who treats her brusquely as she prepares a campfire. A frightened Aurora presses Mulan, who finally admits what she knows: Phillip has been marked by the Wraith. Aurora is shocked, but Mulan is already in motion, she's going after him. Aurora tells Mulan she wants to come, too, but Mulan tells her she'll only slow her down. Mulan then takes off into the forest, leaving a seemingly terrified Aurora alone in the camp.
Back at the Sheriff's Station, we find Regina still locked in her cell. The lights suddenly pop out. Sensing trouble approaching Regina rises, but before she can even react she is face to face with the Wraith in all its horror. It easily wrenches open the door of Regina's cell and starts to suck out her soul, until... "HEY!" In a sudden appearance, David picks up a chair and courageously charges the Wraith. But the Wraith's power is too great, and it flings David across the room, then sends a desk careening towards him, which he barely dodges. As Regina is again attacked, she tells her would-be rescuers that light is The Wraith's only weakness. Mary Margaret and Emma seize the moment, taking up a lighter and aerosol can, and WHOOOSH!, send a massive flame at the Wraith, causing it to suddenly flee the jail. In the aftermath, Regina explains to David, Emma and Mary Margaret what the Wraith was, adding that they didn't kill it, they only scared it off. Although all of them are torn about whether to make Regina's fate their concern, Regina reminds them that Gold is behind this, and that once she's gone he'll make their lives worse than she ever could. Regina suggests to the torn trio of heroes that they send the Wraith somewhere it can't hurt anyone. Emma, Mary Margaret and David take this in, dubious but also hopeful.
In Regina's office, Emma talks to Regina while Mary Margaret and David look for material to make torches. Regina produces Jefferson's Hat Box, but Regina denies knowing Jefferson, lying to Emma. Emma reveals to Regina that Henry made her promise to protect Regina, which Regina is quietly moved by. As Mary Margaret and David bring their brooms to the office, Mary Margaret concedes to David that he was right; she shouldn't have tried to push things with Emma. But she can't let go of having missed everything in Emma's life. David reminds her that the important thing is they're together now. Rejoining Emma and Regina in Regina's office, Regina explains that the hat will create a portal that will send the Wraith to Fairy Tale Land. Mary Margaret is confused, having assumed their land was gone. Regina says it is, which is why it's the perfect place to send the Wraith. It can't hurt anyone in a void. Emma: "Awesome. So do it." As Regina tries, the group notices the now familiar signs of the Wraith's approach. Lights popping, wind gusting, and then the sounds of the damned crying out in agony. Suddenly the council chamber is in chaos. The Wraith attack is underway. Emma and Regina make a dash for the hat, with Regina grabbing it, and placing it on the floor as... NOTHING HAPPENS.
Meanwhile, we rejoin Mulan in the darkened forest, searching for Phillip. She hears a noise, pulls out her sword only to see... Aurora, atop a horse, a bit smug at having caught up with Mulan, and demanding to accompany the warrior. Mulan slams Aurora, telling her that she has no idea what Phillip has given up to rescue her; it's a sacrifice of which Aurora has no conception, Mulan's passionate tirade clues Aurora in to something. "You love him." Mulan denies this, protesting that they are merely warriors who have fought by each other's side, but Aurora is unconvinced. Mulan dismisses the Princess and tells her that she, Mulan, is the best chance Phillip has. Neither woman can seem to accept the perspective of the other, but when Aurora tells Mulan that she's willing to do whatever it takes to help Phillip, Mulan sees the resolve of the Princess. A nearby roar lets them know that the Wraith is nearby. They depart towards the noise together.
Emma and Regina share a desperate moment as the Wraith lunges across the room at them. But David is ready with a torch, which he waves at the Wraith, only to have it wave its cloak at David, extinguishing the flame, and leaving them in DARKNESS. This is bad. Mary Margaret notices a bottle of whiskey on a nearby bar. She pours the bottle around the room, then calling out to David, who, getting her idea, pulls out his Zippo lighter, flicks it, and WHOOOSH! The alcohol ignites, and a wall of flame rises up. With this momentary reprieve, Regina struggles to make Jefferson's hat work. And with the fire in the room and David's swinging torch keeping the Wraith at bay, we go to—
Another torch being swung, this one by Prince Phillip in a clearing in the forest. Phillip, defiant: "Come on, you bastard!" Phillip hears a noise, suspects the Wraith, but instead it's Mulan and Aurora running up. Phillip tells them to stay back, but they protest, wanting to help him fight. Phillip tells them it's futile, and that he's already decided that he'll need to sacrifice himself. But Mulan tells him there is a way. To Aurora's shock, she offers to use the talisman to mark herself and take Phillip's place. Mulan had told her before that love means sacrifice, and now she's proving it. But Phillip won't let Mulan take his place, even as the Wraith appears. He tells Aurora and Mulan that they have to keep each other safe. And before they can protest further, Phillip drops his torch and surrenders himself to the Wraith. Aurora and Mulan cry out as Phillip's soul is sucked from his body. He falls to the ground, limp. The Wraith, sated, shoots back INTO THE TALISMAN. The necklace lies on the ground. As Aurora and Mulan take in this horror…
ROOOOAARR!!! In the council chamber, the Wraith pushes against the wall of flames. Regina frantically tries to make Jefferson's hat work as Mary Margaret, David and Emma watch on. Regina "It's not working!" Regina seems to be failing until… Emma puts a supportive hand on her. The hat starts to spin! Did Regina figure it out, or was it Emma's help? We won't find out now. Wind rushes in through a cracked window, blowing out the torches, and the Wraith charges at Regina. At the last moment, Emma pushes Regina out of the way, causing the Wraith to miss her and get SUCKED into the open portal, screaming in agony as it disappears into the void. Just as this unlikely victory starts to set in, though, a talon-like beam of energy shoots out of the portal and GRABS EMMA, pulling her into the vortex. Mary Margaret cries out to Emma in horror, then without thinking charges the portal as she yells "I'm not losing her again" and jumps in after her. David: "Neither am I." He leaps at the portal, but… he's too late. It shuts. David slams onto the floor next to the charred remains of the hat. He's aghast as he realizes that his daughter and the love of his life have been sucked into an infinite void.
In Fairy Tale Land, back at the courtyard of Aurora's castle, Mulan and Aurora have placed Phillip's body on the dais where Aurora once slept. Aurora confesses her grief to Mulan as she looks around the ruined castle that was going to be her and Phillip's home. Mulan asks Aurora how she came to be cursed here by the sleeping spell, and Aurora reminds her that she's not the only one who knows about sacrifice. Mulan, moved by this, gives Aurora the talisman as a keepsake of Phillip, and Aurora thanks her for it.
Jump back to the council chamber, where David's anger at Regina is building. He demands to know where Emma and Mary Margaret are. Regina says she they could be anywhere. Or nowhere. He asks if they're dead, and Regina says she doesn't know. David, furious, "I should've killed you myself." Regina taunts him, and as David moves toward her, she magically flings him against the wall, and branches from the wallpaper come to life, choking David. Oh yeah, this is definitely our Evil Queen, and she's showing her power for the first time in Storybrooke. She approaches David and tells him he's no hero, he's just the son of a shepherd. As she prepares to kill him… "Mom?" Regina turns to see HENRY, who has just come in with Ruby to witness his adoptive mother killing his grandfather. Seeing the fear and sadness on Henry's face, Regina quickly softens, with the branches retreating from David's throat. Henry asks Regina where his mom is, and when Regina tells him they're gone, disappeared through a portal; it's too much for Henry. He tells her she really is the Evil Queen. Regina tries to reach him, but Henry tells her that the only way to prove to him that she really loves him is to get Emma and Mary Margaret back. Until then, he doesn't want to see her. When Regina asks where he'll go, David speaks up, and says Henry can stay with him. David takes Henry's hand and leads him out of the destroyed council chamber, while Regina watches, devastated.
In the back room of his shop, we find Gold sitting at an antique spinning wheel, spinning straw. But it's not turning to gold. Magic is indeed harder in this world. Gold stops his spinning when Belle startles him. She tells him that she's been out walking, and that this is a strange land. Gold questions her; he thought she didn't want to see him. And she didn't, but she was worried about him. Gold tells her that the Wraith is gone, but Regina lives. "So you didn't get what you wanted?" Gold is conflicted. He didn't, and yet… Belle is here. Gold: "That remains to be seen." And as that hangs there, Belle notices her chipped teacup. She's surprised Gold kept it, but he tells her it's one of his most prized possessions. Belle smiles, touched, but this gives Gold pause. Very unexpectedly, he tells her she has to go. Despite what she hopes he's still a monster. But that, Belle tells him, is exactly why she has to stay. From a touched Mr. Gold, we go to—
Mary Margaret's apartment. David leads Henry inside, and both of them suddenly feel even more alone. David, determined to fight through the despair, tells Henry not to worry: Emma and Mary Margaret are still alive. When Henry asks how he knows, David tells him "I have faith." Henry seems unsure until David adds that he will find them. He will always find them. Now this is our Prince Charming.
Back at the courtyard of Aurora's castle, Aurora gazes at her lost love until Mulan tells her they need to leave. It's not safe. Aurora is confused, aren't they safe now that the Wraith is gone? Mulan tells her there are other dangers. She needs to tell Aurora the truth. About everything. Aurora, stunned, listens as Mulan tells her much has changed since she fell asleep. Something even worse happened. She asks Aurora if she's familiar with the Evil Queen Regina. Aurora is. Mulan tells her that Regina placed a terrible curse on the land, one that ripped everyone away to a different world. Mulan says that, this corner of the land was untouched, though they were frozen for 28 years, until time recently started again. Mulan knows something must have weakened the curse's power. Mulan describes how, after time started, she was able to resume her search with Phillip, but even having accomplished their goal of finding her, the land is ravaged, with dangers more fearsome than Aurora can imagine. Those that have survived found a safe haven, one they must travel to now. But before they can start moving, they hear a RUSTLING coming from nearby, then the rubble shifts beneath them. Mulan draws her sword, telling Aurora to stay back, then kicks aside the rubble. Her eyes widen. Aurora: "What is it? What do you see?" Mulan, eyes still fixed, tells her "That's what brought the Wraith here. That's what killed our Prince." And then we see what Mulan is looking at: an unconscious EMMA and MARY MARGARET. As our brains melt, we get it. Guess what folks? That was not a flashback. We're in present day Fairy Tale Land. The Wraith was the same one that terrorized Storybrooke! And Emma and Mary Margaret? Are now trapped in Fairy Tale Land with two very, very pissed off princesses. Welcome to Season Two.