Who among us hasn’t found our long-lost birth mother, defeated the greatest sum of evil over the course of six seasons, seen our grandparents die every which way to Sunday, turned back all those advancements for one final curse, beaten said curse, sat down for dinner, wrote a book on all those wonderful stories, seen it all fall apart, and then been greeted at our door by a little girl looking to do the same thing you did years back? It’s a tale as old as time.
So as we welcome Once Upon a Time back, we’re ready because, in a way, haven’t we been here before? We season 7 veterans — we’re here for every iteration of and explanation for Regina/Roni there is. We love the characters, but we aren’t married to them because what we love most is the story, and boy howdy, do we have another story ahead of us.
When we left off last season, it seemed we had stumbled onto a happily ever after, but as Emma said, there’s no real happily ever after because the story keeps going. So we pick up in the future, in Hyperion Heights, Washington — purposefully across the world (okay, country) from Storybrooke, Maine — where Lucy has found her father. Who is it, if you don’t remember? Oh, it’s Henry.
But let’s go back a second. The Henry we’ve always known has to wrap up his story, so he throws on a leather jacket and a fancy backpack because high school is over. Operation Cobra is complete. And he has to get on a motorcycle (?! LOL, OKAY) and find out where he belongs. So, he throws his only magic bean and tells Regina goodbye as he rides a motorcycle (I CANNOT GET OVER THIS) into a whole new land.
And when he gets to that new land as sexy, grown-man Henry in a better-fitting jacket, he wrecks the first damn magic carriage he sees — and who’s riding in it but Cinderella (Dania Ramirez)? This brings us to what I’m sure will be a season-long case study and awareness campaign that I’m starting now called, “Who the Hell Gave Henry a Motorcycle?”
But with every new world come at least one to four alternative worlds, which is why we shift to Seattle, where Henry is an Uber driver. Do you, Henry. Anyway, after a shift of very important riders, Henry goes home and throws down his keys. We get a close-up shot of that swan keychain from back in season 2. But as Henry sits down to write again, that’s when Lucy shows up, introducing herself as his daughter.
Anyway, she’s begging him to come with her back to Hyperion Heights because her mom, Cinderella, is there, and this is how the curse is broken. Her grandmother, Lady Tremaine, who is the wicked stepmother, is working to make the “up-and-coming neighborhood” even more up and coming by inviting in outsiders to force the fairy tale people out and separate them forever. That’s right, y’all. This new story is about the gentrification of magic. But Henry is not impressed.
Meanwhile, in my favorite twist ever, Cinderella is working at a chicken restaurant. She’s late for her shift, and her supervisor is being a real jerk about it all, but he can afford to because she needs this job and can’t quit, right? Wrong. She has integrity, so she refuses to apologize and quits.
Back in Cinderella’s real world, they’re doing some damage control after that carriage crash. Henry, ever intent on helping Cindy’s story along, offers to help her find her prince and get where she needs to go — she can just hop on the back of his motorcycle. But back in Seattle, Lucy’s doing the same for her dad, stealing his laptop and telling him to meet her at Roni’s. Who’s Roni? THE NEW REGINA, WITH A WONDERFUL LOOSE-CURL BOB. She owns a bar now that sometimes Alice (Rose Reynolds) — hey, girl — lurks on top of.
Roni’s is being bought out by Belfrey. No, not that one. Victoria Belfrey (Gabrielle Anwar), the evil stepmother. She’s changing the neighborhood, and it’s the whitest version of gentrification you’ve ever seen. Anyway, Henry tries to level with Roni and say, “Imagine if I walked in here and told you that I was your son.” Get it? It’s ironic! (Recap continues on page 2)
In the past world where Henry is aware of his past, he and Cinderella hop on his motorcycle, and he explains his story to her, but here’s the twist: They don’t ride off together. She steals his motorcycle after a quick jab to the jaw.
When Jacinda (which is an exciting twist on Cinderella) gets home from her no-longer-chicken-restaurant-job, she goes to wake up Lucy, who is off doing her mischief. She says that if she can’t find her soon, they’ll both pay because Victoria is going to be pissed. And that’s when we meet Victoria. She’s terrible and fierce and wonderful and works in a giant tower and people treat her like Miranda Priestly.
In the alternate, un-cursed world, Lady Tremaine is super ruthless — and NOT a fan of magic, as she prefers using straight-up fear. She clips the Fairy Godmother’s wings off while she’s sleeping. But to prove a point, she decides to use the wand to legitimately eliminate Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. Lucy, in the real world, is on to her games, wishing on a well that used to be in the middle of a garden. Lucy makes a wish in this abandoned lot before telling Jacinda that she found her father.
So Jacinda snatches that laptop back and heads to Roni’s, and Henry is SMITTEN with Jacinda from the get-go. There’s some serious chemistry, so Roni whips out two drinks and plays to be a much older bartender than even the incomparable Lana Parilla is capable of playing. And with the clink of a glass, we jet back to the time when Cinderella made it to the ball. Tiana (Mekia Cox) is at the ball too, where she hilariously turns down frog legs to eat.
Right as Cinderella is about to approach the prince, she’s interrupted by Henry, who, despite getting clocked off his motorcycle, has brought Cinderella a hyacinth, which is often a symbol of rebirth. DO YOU GET IT? Anyway, Henry nabs his dagger back that Cinderella stole, and she finally admits her intent: She’s come here to kill the prince because he’s stolen everything from her. Henry tries to stop her so she can start over, but he’s too late; Henry faints as Alice (hey, girl!) stands over him with a wink. He drank something that sent him into Alice’s clutches. And she warns Henry that he needs to go home because when it’s not your story, bad things happen.
And of course, she’s working with Weaver, whom you may remember best as Rumple or Mr. Gold or you know, whoever. And he’s torturing people, so he’s doing great. Back at Roni’s, Henry is having a chit-chat with Jacinda. She wants a little home out on an island in the bay. They’re interrupted by Victoria, who has decided that Lucy is going to move back in with her, permanently. And to boot, she threatens Henry. Naturally, when Henry walks out to leave, his car is gone. The police are super unhelpful, except for Rogers…not Polly Rogers, as you might hope, but he is our boy Captain Hook in police gear. (Recap continues on page 3)
Henry runs over to find Lucy and ask about his car, and when he determines that she didn’t go full Grand Theft Auto on him, he says he’s going to take off. But Lucy has to stop him, so she keeps pressing until Henry screams out that he lost his wife and daughter in a fire. But those are the cursed memories!! And that’s why he can’t write. He needs his old life back to tell the story he’s supposed to tell, but Henry’s still not down for it, and man, Lucy is BUMMED. But Jacinda rolls up because she’s ready to live her story now. The only problem is their car gives out.
In Cinderella’s world, Jacinda finally confronts the prince to kill him, but she can’t follow through. She sees that dagger and stops herself. But from behind, the evil stepmother shows up and stabs the prince because, well, he rejected Drizella. Man, dating in magic world is TOUGH TIMES. She blames it on Cinderella, but Henry tells Cinderella to take his bike and meet him later. They’ll escape at midnight into that portal back to his world.
In the real world, Henry is back at the police station trying to track down his car when Victoria shows up looking for Lucy and Jacinda. They agree to work together for the time being, but Jacinda and Lucy are going to make a fresh start on that island Jacinda talked about. Lucy is concerned about Henry, but hey, sometimes you have to make a clean break. Just as Lucy agrees to move on with the plan, though, Rogers and Ivy (Adelaide Kane) show up to snatch her back from Jacinda. Ivy also turns Lucy’s storybook over to be destroyed because fiction is harder than fantasy. But when Rogers holds it, something stirs inside of him.
Back in Cinderella-land, Henry attempts to meet Cinderella at the portal, but she doesn’t show. And when the alarm goes off on his cell phone at midnight (the roaming charges must have been ASTRONOMICAL), he has to make a choice. As he steps toward that portal, he finds Cinderella’s slipper right there at the rebirth flowers. You know what that means? Operation Glass Slipper is a GO.
In the real world, Rogers is upgraded to detective, and he’s going to be matched with…oh, Lord. It’s Weaver, a.k.a. Rumple, a.k.a. Gold. Can you IMAGINE? Back at Roni’s, Roni has decided not to sign her bar over to Victoria because she was inspired by Jacinda’s resilience. Roni’s is Roni’s bar. That’s why it’s named Roni’s! So she’s holding out for now — she is probably going to lose, but hey, she also might not. As for Jacinda, she returns to Mr. Cluck’s and gets her job back. And Henry shows back up to that random lot with a bouquet of hyacinths. And Rogers stands with that book, longingly looking at a drawing of Emma. And in the final moments, as Jacinda is sweeping, she finds her own quarter and drops it in, making her own wish. In that moment, Henry finds the first line to his next book. With that, a hyacinth grows in that vacant lot.
And so begins our next happily ever after.