Welcome to Once Upon A Time Observations — your weekly clues and connections guide through the ABC fantasy series. This week, we visit “A Land Without Magic”.


  • The foreshadowing clue for this episode, embedded in the title card, is the arrival of magic to Storybrooke.

  • The contents of Henry’s bag contain a couple of LOST nods — an Apollo bar and a Geronimo Jackson album.
  • There’s also an Avengers Vs X-Men comic, no doubt feeding Henry’s fantastical notions of being a superhero, while the comic’s ‘return of the Phoenix to Earth’ storyline serves the concept of magic coming/returning to Earth.

  • The most powerful magic of them all — true love, made from the DNA of Snow and Charming. Rumples only has a bottle of the stuff left; his ‘failsafe’ in case the curse didn’t quite work out how he planned.

  • Confirmation that Rumples did indeed use some of the love potion to create the dark curse, thus explaining why Emma is the saviour. Good to see her role in all of this isn’t as arbitrary as it could have been, though clearly the potion itself could have been made from a different love.
  • Still, the fact that Rumples specifically chose Snow and Charming’s love is interesting in itself, as it reflects something about Rumples and the kind of love he values, the kind he would have liked to have had under different circumstances. In that sense, the curse is indeed a melting pot, and a ‘contradiction’, with love portrayed as both the ultimate weapon and defense.
  • In short, it’s fitting that true love, the most powerful magic in the realm, is capable of breaking any curse — including one manifested from true love.

  • Fittingly, the most powerful magic has to be hidden inside the belly of a beast — Maleficent, making her fire-breathing return. The parallel is decent, as Charming puts his love inside the dragon, while his daughter removes it in Storybrooke.
  • Indeed, surely one of the episode’s most interesting reveals is that Maleficent lurks within Storybrooke as a dragon, trapped in form by Regina who keeps her hidden deep within the bowels of the land without magic, where she keeps quite a few of her other secrets – buried.

  • August transforming back into wood — creepiest moment since the entire “Dreamy” episode?

  • Emma notices her mother’s glass coffin underneath Storybrooke, and continuity is observed with the hole in the coffin, a callback to “That Still Small Voice” when Regina discovered the shard.

  • Jefferson drugs Nurse Severe and frees unforgetta-Belle. But how did Jefferson know about Belle? Perhaps he had something to do with her faux-demise in FTL? Whatever the case, he was one of the few to retain his FTL memory, so it’s not impossible that he’d know about her.

  • Who is S. Glass? I’m assuming this is where Sidney Glass is being kept?

  • The story comes full-circle to the opening lines of the story, as Charming finds his way to his beloved Snow courtesy of Rumples, who has a very vested interest in their future — a motivation driven by his own love for his son who he vowed to find.
  • “I will always find you” (Charming’s quote) can also apply to Rumples. Even though he’s yet to find his Bae Bundle, the motivation is huge.

  • Snow’s desire to “take back the kingdom” was an interesting little moment. Just the look on Snow’s face, is enough to imply revenge was a real motivator, if not a lust for power. Just because she’s Snow White, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have it in her. Of course, some might say it’s justified, but I’m sure Regina could use the same excuse.
  • That aside, it’s obviously useful that we see this in order to understand how they came to be where they were in the pilot.

  • Emma’s love for Henry finally breaks the curse, at least partially, bringing back the FTLies memories and making Regina’s worst nightmare a real possibility.
  • The Storybrooke Wishing Well comes back into play in a spectacular way, as Gold proves that the mythology of the magic waters are very much real. Magic was indeed underneath Storybrooke all along. The symbolism here works.

  • He drops his love potion down the shaft and brings back that which had been lost — magic is coming to Storybrooke and this makes Gold powerful and Regina very happy.

  • The best shot of the episode goes to a reflective Regina..

  • No it doesn’t, it goes to perhaps the most poignant visual that could have closed the first chapter, given the way it began — the town clock ticking (and possibly stopping?) on 8:15, as the land Once without magic is intersected by the land that was.
  • Emma’s flashback when touching the One book was interesting. She had to truly believe in magic/squeeze out all her love for it to trigger her ‘memory’ (so to speak). Predictable, but functional.
  • Jennifer Morrison’s transformation when approaching the “you did this” line – her best singular moment of the series?
  • I like the way Regina transported Charming to the Infinite Forest of Infinity, although I can’t quite recall her being able to remote view without a reflective object being at the scene. Speaking of the Infinite Forest of Infinity, this seems to be where Regina trapped Hansel and Gretel.
  • Rumples’ sword fight with Charming was entertaining. Interesting that Charming managed to gash him despite all his magic. They’re obviously building the Charmster up here, but Rumples’ momentary shock/surprise and subsequent healing was a nice little moment. I imagine it’s a been a while since he was physically hurt. The ‘monster’ bleeds. Symbolism.
  • A touch contrived that August turned back into wood the moment Emma paid him a visit. Emma’s reaction to seeing such a stiff demise felt understated (she was more taken aback by Regina’s secret shaft), but I guess she had other concerns on her mind.
  • Maleficent – a chapter of FTL-past buried underneath the town library (i.e. the clock tower), nice. Might there be other secrets in, or under, the town’s numerous abandoned buildings?
  • Logical that Emma decided to use her gun instead of her father’s sword in her battle against Maleficent – until the sword presented itself as a more useful instrument. Of course, having the ‘destiny moment’ with the sword was always going to happen.
  • Mary narrating over Emma’s battle with her own Snow White story was an interesting amalgamation, giving the unfolding events more of that meta-feel.
  • Not such a smart move by the world’s best lie detector to suddenly trust Gold with the egg-stremely lovely potion, especially since he seemed so unconvincing. She could have easily wrapped it her jacket and climbed up with it. Still, Gold had to get hold of it somehow.
  • Belle is another one of those contrivance characters for me, right up there with the Blue Fairy, Nova, Grumpy, Emma, Nolan, and Mary. Gold’s reaction to her felt underplayed, but to be fair, he too had other things on his mind.
  • Emma kissing Henry and breaking the curse may have been as predictable as Henry munching an apple turnover with his name on it, but it was well acted and beautifully scored.
  • Regina’s surprise, mixed with relief at Emma’s undoing of the curse was interesting and well-conveyed. I still find Henry’s treatment of Regina to be a little on the ungrateful, contrived side, but admittedly it must be hard to find that line when telling such a specific story. Still, it would be nice to see OUAT blur the lines (in general) a bit more. Season 2?
  • It seems fitting that Emma should help Gold ‘break’ the curse after her parents helped Rumps create it.

Previously On Once Upon A Time: 1.21 “An Apple Red As Blood

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  1. Dave says

    The moment emma touched the book until Regina admits its true is the single most epic minute of the entire season for me.

    I love Jennifer’s face when regina walked into the room.

    Like: Thumb up 3

  2. Briar says

    “Snow’s desire to “take back the kingdom” was an interesting little moment. Just the look on Snow’s face, is enough to imply revenge was a real motivator, if not a lust for power.”

    Speaking as a citizen of a country with a queen who has selflessly ruled for 60 years, I can see another reason for Snow’s desire to take back the kingdom: duty. She owes it to the citizens (the 99 per cent) to take back the kingdom from the evil queen, who does lust for revenge and power. Snow is the evil queen’s opposite, so while one character has evil reasons for wanting power, she will have good ones. I know that this is old fashioned thinking in an age where “money” has become the only good (and is even used as an adjective in place of good by some people – oh, that’s money!) but if any show can revive traditional values and mores, it is Once Upon a Time.

    Like: Thumb up 4

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