Recap / Once Upon A Time S 1 E 1 Pilot

Season 1, Episode 1:


Rumplestiltskin: The Queen has created a powerful curse, and it's coming. Soon you'll all be in a prison, just like me, only worse. For your prison, all of our prisons, will be time. For time will stop and we will be trapped someplace horrible where everything we hold dear, everything we love, will be ripped from us while we suffer for all eternity, while the Queen celebrates victorious at last...No more happy endings.

Mary Margaret: Look, I gave the book to him because I want Henry to have the most important thing anyone can have: hope. Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing.

Emma Swan is reunited with Henry - the son she gave up for adoption ten years ago - on the night of her 28th birthday and is drawn to the New England town of Storybrooke, a place where every classic fairy tale character is trapped under the influence of a curse enacted by the Evil Queen. With memories of the past returning and Henry's adoptive mother Regina Mills threatening to keep Henry away from her, Emma will have to accept her destiny and uncover the mystery behind a place where fairytales are to be believed.


  • Action Girl: Snow White is immediately hinted to be this. Emma as well, even in that dress.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: How Henry appears to most viewers, with his little badass bookworm look, his optimistic boldness, and his vulnerability.
  • Ballroom Blitz: The Evil Queen crashes Snow White and Prince Charming's wedding.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Snow White looks perfectly sweet. Until the queen tries to ruin her wedding.
  • Creepy Child: Henry can be a bit creepy in this episode, especially since if you're new coming into the series; his utter confidence in the curse can be rather unsettling. However, he manages to be cute and vulnerable enough for you to like him and root for him.
  • The Cynic: Emma, as opposed to her parents.
  • Deadpan Snarker: How Emma appears for most of the episode.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: As the pilot episode, there are a number of details here that seem...odd in the context of the rest of the show. Most jarring is Snow's claim that Regina hates her "because I was prettier than her", which while a reference to being the "fairest of them all", a later episode in the season would reveal, Regina has a very different motive for hating Snow, and Snow most definitely knows it by this point in the timeline. No reason for this particular discrepancy has ever been given.
    • In a purely cosmetic detail, the cloak Red wears at the Council of Good is much lighter and thinner than the richer, heavier version later on, and is also missing the embroidery. This is especially noticeable in "Red Handed" and the final two episodes of the season (which shows the Council when it is first forming).
  • Emotionless Girl: Emma, until her penultimate scene.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Emma gets two. The first is when she knocks out a fugitive by slamming his head against his steering wheel. The second is when she's alone in her apartment, blowing out the candle on her birthday cupcake.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: At the Council of Good, Granny can be seen crocheting Emma's baby blanket. Not only does this give her more reason to be there and part of Snow White and Charming's story, it makes it even more resonant that it's her bed-and-breakfast Emma decides to stay at in Storybrooke.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: The Queen seemed to be this before becoming mayor and getting Henry, although the writers try to put it to doubt. Rumplestiltskin seemed at least to acknowledge the horrors of the curse.
  • Genre Savvy: While he's imprisoned in a cell, Rumple directs all the information to Snow; Charming is too busy insulting him and refusing to make deals - Snow, on the other hand, is making deals and, more importantly, getting shit done by getting all the information she and Charming and everyone else need, which is exactly what Rumple wants.
  • The Idealist: Charming compared to Snow White, who is still an idealist but suffering from doubt.
  • I'm Standing Right Here: Non-comedic example. Mary Margaret tells Emma that Henry, like all adopted children, struggles with a basic question: "Why would anyone give me away?" She promptly apologizes when it hits her that she just said that to Henry's birth mother.
  • Meaningful Echo: Archie tells Henry that giving into his dark side is always a bad idea, and then Jiminy Cricket says the same thing to Charming.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Emma doesn't believe Henry at all and is about to leave town. Then Regina gets so over-the-top in threatening her if she tries to steal Henry (which, again, wouldn't have been a problem anyway) that she decides whatever's going on in Storybrooke is worth looking into.
  • Sanity Slippage: It's terribly clear that confinement hasn't exactly done... anything good... to Rumplestiltskin's sanity. Though given later developments in the series, he was probably playing this up a bit.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Emma gives one to her "date".
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: Or it would have, if not for Regina's smokey misty dematerializing thing.
    • Charming probably didn't intend for it to work, seeing as he shouted "HEY!" to make her turn around before throwing it. The action was more of a threatening warning to her than an actual assassination attempt.
  • True Love's Kiss
  • Women Are Wiser: Averted. Snow White Hot-Blooded -ly tries to attack the Queen, while Prince Charming tries to talk things out.