Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Friday’s episode of Once Upon a Time. Read at your own risk!
It’s been the question plaguing Once Upon a Time fans throughout the show’s rebooted seventh season: What the heck is going on with the timeline?
At the close of season 6, the show jumped ahead in time. A cursed, grown-up Henry (Andrew J. West) was living in Seattle when he’s approached by his daughter, Lucy (Alison Fernandez), to help save his family. The scene left many fans scratching their heads, wondering how it would be possible for Henry to already have an 8-year-old daughter.
Friday’s episode finally answered that question, as Regina (Lana Parrilla) desperately tried to convince a still-cursed Henry that she’s actually his mother. She tries to explain that Eloise (Emma Booth) cast a curse on them that actually sent them back in time, meaning a younger version of Henry is still currently living in Storybrooke at that very moment.
Older Henry doesn’t believe her until he calls younger Henry himself, ultimately imparting some wisdom that eventually spurs his younger self to eventually leave Storybrooke to find his own story, which is what we saw in the season 7 premiere.
“Where they’re sent is essentially where season 7 began,” executive producer Adam Horowitz explains of the cursed Hyperion Heights. The events of this season have therefore taken place concurrently with what’s happening in Storybrooke not long after the events of the season 6 finale. “They were actually sent back in time to that period, in the real world, before Henry graduated, and before he left.”
In case you’re still not following how this is possible, think of it this way: Henry left Storybrooke in the season 7 premiere, went off to live his life in another realm, where he met and fell in love with Cinderella (Dania Ramirez), with whom he had a child. The curse was then cast on Lucy’s eighth birthday, sending these fairy tale characters to the real-life town of Hyperion Heights in their past, but Storybrooke’s present.
The reveal actually speaks to the very clever way OUAT has gotten away with none of the original heroes — like Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) or Emma (Jennifer Morrison) — showing up to rescue the cursed crew in Hyperion Heights. “Everybody in Storybrooke would have no idea that anyone was gone or in trouble, so no one would come after them,” Horowitz says. “What’s been going on throughout the whole season, the reason that Emma’s never shown up, or nobody’s ever come to look for them, is as far as they’re concerned, everybody’s back in Storybrooke and fine.”
Knowing how this timeline works will become vital in the final two episodes as, now that they’re awake from the curse, our heroes will look to the residents of Storybrooke for help in battling the show’s final villain, Wish Realm Rumple — the penultimate hour is called “Homecoming” for a reason. In the meantime, get the scoop on what’s in store for the final episodes of Once Upon a Time here, and check out exclusive photos from the series finale here.
Once Upon a Time airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.