“Once upon a time…” Well, that’s how most fairy tales start and season three of ABC’s hit series Once Upon a Time has come to an end, expanding the cast to include characters from Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, and The Wizard of Oz. The advertisements for the two-hour season finale promised that we would not believe where our favorite Storybrook characters were going next. The ads may have been a bit misleading, but the final teaser for season four was still exciting.
In the beginning of this season, Henry was captured and taken to Never Never Land. Peter Pan wasn’t the innocent boy who wouldn’t grow up that we knew from the classic J. M. Barrie tale, but was actually Rumplestiltskin’s cowardly father Malcolm who traded his son for regained youth. His time as the leader of Never Land was limited by magic inside of an hourglass. The only way to refill it was to surrender the heart of the “truest believer” to the island.
After decades of luring children to Never Land in search of the heart, Pan finally found it in Henry. The only problem was that Hook, Regina, Emma, Snow, Charming and Rumplestiltskin followed Henry to the second star to the right and straight on ‘til morning. At the last minute, they retrieved Henry’s heart and trapped Pan in Pandora’s Box… or so they thought.
Pan had brilliantly traded bodies with Henry, meaning Henry in Pan’s body was really the one trapped in Pandora’s Box. This allowed Pan to access Regina’s original curse and modify it so that he could turn Storybrook into a new Never Land. Rumplestiltskin was the only one who could stop him and to do it, he had to use his Dark One blade to stab himself and his father. At the last minute, Regina was able to modify the curse to send everyone back to the Enchanted Forest, except Emma and Henry had to stay behind. Her love for Henry caused her to create false memories for them and a new life in New York City.
Doesn’t that feel like a conclusion to season three? Well, it’s not. A year later, Hook found a way back and knocked on Emma’s door to try and revive her memories. After awakening her with a potion, she returned to Storybrook where everyone was back with no memories of what happened during the past year.d
Before Regina’s mother Cora married her father, she was tricked by a man posing as a prince into an intimate mistake that resulted in a baby girl named Zelena. Not wanting to spoil her own future, Regina sent the baby to Oz where she grew up and later learned of her mother and sister in the Enchanted Forest. After being transported there by the Wizard of Oz, she was secretly trained by Rumplestiltskin at the same time he was training Regina.
When the Storybrook characters returned to the Enchanted Forest, Zelena (aka the Wicked Witch of the West) had taken over Regina’s castle. During their missing year Neal sacrificed himself to resurrect Rumplestiltskin, Regina and Robin Hood started a romance, while Snow and Charming decided to get pregnant. Zelena threatened their unborn child, so they sought help from Glinda who informed them that “light magic” is the only way to defeat Zelena. Believing this to mean Emma, they enacted a new curse to return them to Storybrook. Aware of the curse that’s coming, Zelena added a curse to make everyone forget what happened except for her.
Zelena’s new plan was to enact a time traveling spell to change the past. Regina harnessed the good inside her to create the light magic that could defeat Zelena and she was locked in prison. When Rumplestiltskin visited her cell, he avenged his son’s death by killing her, which undid all of her spells but also unknowingly added the final ingredient to her time travel curse.
Emma and Hook found themselves in the Enchanted Forest before Snow and Charming got together. Worse, they prevented them from meeting and had to get assistance from the Dark One to fix everything. While there, they freed an innocent woman sentenced to death by Regina and brought her back to Storybrook. That woman ended up being Maid Marion, Robin Hood’s deceased love which made Regina irate. But perhaps nothing can prepare Storybrook for what secretly came with them. Out of a small urn rose a blonde woman in a sparkly blue dress with the ability to create ice at her fingertips…
Literally all that we know from the finale about season four is that Elsa is coming. Season three actually felt like three mini-seasons in one with its three semi-connected plots. Never Land felt disconnected from Oz, which felt disconnected from the two-part time travel finale. I think this worked fairly well this season, but I’m worried the writers have lost juicy enough stories to carry a full season. Will season four be able to return to a full season story arch, or will multiple stories per season be the new normal? Sadly we won’t know much until next Fall, so until then I’ll just be singing “In Summer” and crossing my fingers for many Frozen references in the next season of Once Upon a Time.