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The Olympics and Oscar season are over, which means Sunday nights are free again for scripted programming on ABC. Many of the networks highest rated shows were wisely put on hold so audiences didn't have to chose between rooting for Team USA or following the lives of their favorite scripted characters. So get your DVR's ready, because TV is back!

Last night marked the return of every Disney fans favorite show on ABC, Once Upon a Time. We last saw the characters on December 15th fighting to save their lives from Pan, who turned out to be Rumplestiltskin's father (Is everybody on this show related?). To kill Pan, Rumple had to kill himself as well. However, Pan had set off his curse before dying. In a seemingly final act of love for Henry, Regina (aka The Evil Queen) cast a spell that returned all of the fairy tale characters back to the Enchanted Forest. The limitations of the curse only allowed those affected by the original curse that created Storybrook to return, meaning Emma and Henry had to stay behind. But don't worry, Regina set them up with a beautiful life together where Emma never gave Henry up for adoption. The episode ended with a knock on their door. When Emma answered it, Hook was there saying that her family is in trouble. The only problem is Emma and Henry have no memories of their fairytale roots or the events that have transpired in the series thus far.

Then came the heartbreaking news that fans would have to wait until March to find out what happens next, but the tease was that "Wicked" was coming. Ding dong, the witch is not dead! At the D23 Expo last August, I attended the Once Upon a Time presentation where Edward Katsis and Adam Horowitz gave some teases into what they had planned for season 3. They mentioned that the first half would be a complete story arch surrounding Neverland and Pan, but were very vague about what the rest of the season would entail. During the Q&A portion of the presentation, a fan asked about Oz since Henry's book had a photo of flying monkeys in it way back in episode one. Their answer was that they had been saving Oz for "something special," which I interpreted as another spin-off series like Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. But it seems that what they really meant was that Oz would be the center of the second half of this season.

Given the length of the gap, ABC aired an hour-long special before the return called Wicked is Coming.  This special covered the characters stories so far, with talking head shots of the actors sharing their love for the characters and the series as a whole. If you followed Lost during its run on ABC, this special was incredibly similar to the shows they would air at the beginning of each season. The series' creators shared insight that the rest of the season will be about the meaning of home, in particular Emma who grew up without a home and what that means to her. Given everything we've seen on the series before, the only guarantee is that you can take everything you know about Oz and throw it out. This story won't be like the one you know so well.

STOP READING HERE IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THIS EPISODE AND WANT TO AVOID SPOILERS!

The new episode, New York Serenade, juxtaposes a year ago in the Enchanted Forest with one year later in New York City. In the Enchanted Forest, Phillip and Aurora witness our Storybrook friends return to their kingdom. Shortly after their return, Snow and Regina are attacked by a winged monkey on the journey to their kingdom. Robin Hood joins the group to help them find their way home when they find a protection spell was cast blocking them from getting to their castle.

In New York City, Emma is dating a guy named Wyatt who proposes to her. Hook returns again to convince Emma that her birth parents need her help. Photographic proof turns up in the form of Henry's camera, which he left in Neal's apartment last season when they helped Rumple reunite with his son. Hook offers Emma a potion that restores her memory, forcing her to turn down the marriage proposal to protect Wyatt. However it turns out she was being conned by him when he turns out to be a flying monkey in disguise, sent to stop her from helping her family. Emma puts on her red leather jacket and returns to Storybrook with Henry and Hook in her vintage yellow Beetle.

The town that vanished is back with all of its inhabitants, who don't remember leaving. Nobody has any memories of what happened last year, but Mary Margaret (Snow White) is pregnant now. The only thing they are sure of is that somebody cast another curse. Back in the Enchanted Forrest, a flying monkey brings a vile of the queen's blood to the Wicked Witch of the West, who is going to get her revenge on the queen for making her evil.

The heavy marketing for the return featured the Wicked Witch of the West at the center. With so much hype for the episode and the introduction of this character, the plot sort of felt like a non-event. The character is kept a mystery for the first two acts, which probably would have made the episode more gripping if we were in the dark as well. I'm used to these types of episodes posing new questions. The first half of the season certainly posed many of them, but there are just two questions I'm curious about. They are:

  • Who was the Wicked Witch before the queen made her evil?
  • Rumplestiltskin was in the marketing for this event, how and when will he return?

Maybe it's a case of too much hype, but I felt much more intrigued by the first half of season three than the second. However, I trust this team to turn this premise around into a captivating story that will keep me glued to ABC every sunday at 8:00/7:00 central.