The show opens with a fairy tale moment come to life – Prince Charming discovers Snow White (perfectly portrayed by Ginnifer Goodwin, Big Love) in a glass coffin, and his kiss brings her back to life. He promises he will always find her. We flash forward to their wedding day. As they are about to kiss, the Evil Queen appears. Snow grabs her husband’s sword and stands her ground, proclaiming “she’s not a queen anymore!” Charming tells her she’s lost, but the Queen claims she is there to give them a gift – one day of happiness before she sets a plan in motion that will destroy everything they love. A worried Snow and Charming transform into an illustration on a page. The book belongs to a young boy, who gets off a bus in Boston and grabs a cab.
Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison, House) is on a blind date, and reveals it’s her birthday, she has no family, and that she happens to be bail bondsman and her date is her target. Later, Emma returns home and as she blows out the candle on her single cupcake, there is a knock on the door. It’s the boy from earlier, who introduces himself as Henry, her son. Emma denies having a son, but when he asks if she gave up a child ten years ago, it begins to sink in. She threatens to call the cops; he threatens to tell them she kidnapped him. Emma has one “superpower” – she knows when people are lying – and doesn’t buy it. Henry just wants her to come to Storybrooke, Maine. She reluctantly agrees to drive him home.
Snow is now very pregnant and clearly unsettled. Charming asks what’s wrong, she replies she is unable to get the Queen’s threat out of her head. She begs to talk to him, for her peace of mind. Charming reluctantly agrees.
Emma and Henry are on the road, and she is curious asks about his book of fairy tales. He tells her they are all true and that everything in his book actually happened, and she is in the book. Emma thinks he has problems, and he believes she will fix them.
Another book transition and we join Charming and Snow as they are brought to Rumpelstiltskin. In exchange for their daughter’s name (Emma), he reveals the Queen intends to create a prison of time, but their unborn daughter will return on her 28th birthday for the final battle.
Emma and Henry reach Storybrooke. She notes the broken clock in middle of town, he explains that time has stopped and the fairy tale characters are trapped, unaware of what happened. They run into his shrink (Jiminy Cricket), who directs Emma to the mayor’s house.
Charming wants to fight the curse, but Snow is hopeless. The Blue Fairy presents an enchanted piece of wood that can save one person from the curse. Geppetto offers to make it into a wardrobe.
Emma brings Henry home, and the mayor, Regina, is none other than the Evil Queen. Regina is unsettled by the birth mother’s arrival, as it was a closed adoption. Emma confirms that she and the father (who doesn’t know) will not be a problem. Regina apologizes for Henry’s behavior, but when Emma mentions the fairy tales, she has no idea what she’s talking about. On the way out of town, Emma notices Henry’s book on her seat then swerves to miss a wolf in the road, resulting in a crash.
As the enchanted wardrobe is being made, Snow tells Charming she doesn’t want to leave him behind. Unfortunately, both the baby and the curse are on the way.
Emma wakes up in the local lockup. The real world counterparts of Geppetto and Grumpy are present. The sheriff says Regina makes a mean drink, Emma counters there was a wolf in the road. Regina rushes in, since Henry has run away again. Emma offers to help look. A search of Henry’s computer shows he used his teacher’s credit card to track Emma down.
Regina confronts Mary Margaret Blanchard (Snow White), but she knows nothing about Henry’s search for Emma. She laments giving him the book, and Regina is upset they both know of this book and she doesn’t. She storms off. Emma asks Ms. Blanchard about the book, and she replies Henry is very lonely and she was trying to give him hope. She knows where he is.
By the time the wardrobe is finished, Snow is too far into labor and the baby is born. She asks Charming to send Emma to safety. Charming fights through the Queen’s soldiers with sword in one hand, Emma in the other. He places her in the wardrobe. He is stabbed in the side shortly afterwards, but when a soldier opens the door, she’s gone.
Emma finds Henry at a playground by the beach, and gives him the book. Henry says it’s ok she gave him away, because it’s the same reason Snow White gave her away – to give her the best chance. Emma looks like she might break. Her parents left her by the side of the freeway. Henry says it was where the wardrobe brought her through. He begs her to stay for a week, but she says his mother wants him, and takes him home.
Snow stumbles into the wardrobe room, and finds Charming bleeding on the ground. She tries to revive him with a kiss, to no avail. The Evil Queen appears and asks about the baby, but the solider confirms she’s gone and Snow is hopeful. The curse swirls around them and the Queen says they’re going “somewhere horrible.”
Emma brings Henry home. She says birthday her wish was not to be alone. Regina icily reminds her the adoption is closed and she intends to keep it that way. Emma asks if she loves Henry. She sneers, “of course I love him,” but the look on Emma’s face makes it obvious she’s lying. Inside, Regina nervously takes Henry’s book and holds it up to a mirror.
Elsewhere, Ms. Blanchard is volunteering at the hospital and leaves flowers at the comatose John Doe’s (Charming) beside.
Emma finds a small inn, run by an elderly woman and her granddaughter (Red Riding Hood and Granny). When Emma gives her name, Mr. Gold (Rumpelstiltskin) seemingly appears from nowhere to collect the rent. He is clearly disliked and apparently owns the whole town. As soon as Emma confirms with Granny that she is staying for “just a week,” the clock in the middle of town begins to tell time again. Watching from his window, Henry smiles.
What we know so far:
Not much other than the basic premise of the curse. Regina obviously knows what’s going on, but does Mr. Gold? Did Regina adopt Henry knowingly? When did the book appear? And what is the story between Snow and the Queen? I’m wary of the “go backwards to go forwards” storytelling that the writers from Lost have established, but I’m willing to see where this goes.