How Snow White Got Her Groove Back… A Once Upon a Time Season 1 Retrospective

Happy Nice Time People is thrilled to introduce Julie Kushner, our newest recapper! Julie’s internet profile claims she’s a lawyer with a degree from George Washington University, but that can’t possibly be true. It also says she lives in New Jersey with a cat named Piglet, which seems altogether more likely.

Julie will be recapping Once Upon a Time when the new season starts Sunday, September 28. In the meantime, she’ll get you caught up by recapping Seasons 1-3 one at time.

So, without further ado…

Fairytale characters have it easy…


They’ve never been to high school, or college, or had to suffer through the SATs…

They don’t pay taxes, or have mortgages, or student loans to pay off.  (In fact, I’m pretty sure almost none of them have anything resembling a full-time job … well, except, of course, for the dwarves. )

They’ve never visited the dentist… the pediatrician… or (gasp) the gynecologist.

They’ve never gotten stuck in traffic, or stuck in an elevator, or stuck talking on the phone to a really persistent telemarketer during dinner time.

They’ve never gotten the Blue Screen of Death on their Laptop …

Theirs is a world of black and white, good and evil, right and wrong…

Where everyone who wishes them harm wears a telltale sneer or has a Machiavellian laugh…

Where the soft kiss of a prince or princess is all that lies between them and their much deserved happily ever after…

Correction. Fairytale characters used to have it easy… until a Wicked Queen named Regina put a curse upon them all…

Now Snow White has a terrible haircut and a painful, forbidden crush on a married man…

Cinderella is 16 and Pregnant…

Sleeping Beauty is suffering from a serious case of narcolepsy…

And Bookworm Belle has been deemed certifiably insane.

lost claire

And that, my friends is what is so incredibly awesome about Once Upon a Time. It takes characters you’ve known and loved your entire life and reveals them to be incredibly effed up… just like YOU!

Let’s take a trip down Memory Lane, shall we?

“I’ll steal your happiness, if it’s the last thing I do.”

Once upon a time, a Wicked Queen put a curse on Snow White, causing her to fall into a deathly sleep by forcing her to eat, in essence, a rotten apple…

Then, Prince Charming came along, sucked her face, and woke her from the dead.

And she became a zombie.

snow white zombie

Just kidding! True Love’s Kiss woke the beautiful Snow White. And she and the prince lived… wait for it… Happily Ever After.

That’s the part of the story everybody knows.

What they don’t know is that, afterward, the Wicked Queen crashed Snow White and Prince Charming’s wedding and promised them that their lives, and the lives of all their wedding guests, would suck, if it was the last thing she did.

And suck, they were about to… BIG TIME.

Sometime later… in what may or may not be an alternate universe (actually, I know the answer to that question, but I don’t want to spoil it just yet)… our modern-day soon-to-be heroine Emma Swan celebrates her 28th birthday by beating the crap out of some guy while wearing a cotton-candy colored dress and a pair of super high heels…

Emma describes herself as a “bail bonds person,” but, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what that is. I’m guessing it’s like a female version of Dog the Bounty Hunter?


We know that Emma is “lonely” because she buys herself the single scrawniest cupcake in the world and then actually puts a candle in it to wish herself happy birthday.

Oh honey, if you’re ringing in 28 all by your lonesome, at least buy yourself an entire cake! (It’s not like you’re getting laid this evening and have to worry about The Bedtime Bloat…)

Speaking of getting laid…. Hey Emma, I know what YOU did ten years ago!

Henry, a vaguely Harry Potter-esque looking child, with just the slightest hint of Kid from The Sixth Sense, hunts Emma down to her apartment, tells her that he’s her son, and threatens to cry kidnapping if she doesn’t drive him back to his home in someplace called…


Now, I know, as viewers, we are all supposed to think Henry is incredibly adorable… and be so happy that Emma’s Dog-the-Bounty-Hunter, cotton-candy-dress-wearing, lame-cupcake-eating life is about to be made soooo much better now that this little tyke has come and given it true meaning.

But, you know what? This is kind of my worst nightmare. To me, the first five minutes of the pilot episode of Once Upon a Time would make for the most effective commercial for condoms EVER!

OUAT Henry

Fortunately, we don’t have much time to ponder that, because we are off to Storybrooke, where a good portion of Once Upon a Time’s first season takes place.

You see, as it turns, out “Adorable Henry” has come to retrieve Emma on THIS day in particular in hopes of fulfilling a prophecy he read about in one of his fairytale books… a prophecy that said the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming (also, coincidentally, named Emma) would save all of Fairytale Land from the curse the Wicked Queen put upon them… on her 28th birthday.

Why 28, you ask? Because that’s probably the youngest that actress Jennifer Morrison could believably play, while still being theoretically old enough to have produced from her womb a child old enough to attend Hogwarts with Harry in Book 2.

So, how did the much-blessed daughter of two of the most famous fairytale characters in history wind up a jaded, snarky bounty hunter with a penchant for red leather jackets and really small cupcakes, who got knocked up by an absentee dad at the age of 18?

By hiding in a tree with Pinocchio, of course!

Yeah, I know it’s weird. But don’t forget, this is fairytale world… a place where a girl’s best friends are a pack of mice and nobody at all finds that strange or creepy.

cinderella mice

What happened, basically, is that the Wicked Queen put a curse on all of Fairytale Land, so that they’d forget their true identities and be forced to live forever in a place where time never moves, a place worse than Hell itself… THE SUBURBS!

But before that curse took hold, Snow White and Prince Charming arranged for their newborn baby and Pinocchio to stow away in a tree that was immune from the curse, in the hopes that 28 years later she’d come and rescue her fairytale forefathers from the hideous fate of becoming Mommy Bloggers and Soccer Dads with mind-numbing office jobs and secret porn addictions.


StoryBrooke – Where are they now (er…I mean then…as in, back in Season 1)?

Now, THIS is where things get interesting. Because once the intrepid Henry has strong-armed Emma into coming to Storybrooke—thanks to a little game he likes to call Operation Cobra (and some well placed fairytale flashbacks)—she, like the rest of us, gets to learn what horrific fates the Wicked Queen’s Curse has bestowed upon our favorite childhood fairytale characters.

Here are just a few of the highlights…

Snow White – a.k.a. Mary Margaret Blanchard


I’m going to go out on a limb and say Snow White suffered the worst fate of all her fairytale friends… and that’s saying a lot, especially if you consider the fact that…

Prince Charming started off the season in a COMA…

The Hot Hipster Huntsman doesn’t make it to Season 2…

Pinocchio has a Phantom Wooden Limb Problem (insert inappropriate boner joke here)…

And Belle is locked away in the nuthouse, looking very much like her alter ego, the chick from Lost who went wackadoo late in the series and fashioned herself her very own Dead Squirrel Baby…

So, why does Snow White’s life suck the most, you ask?

Exhibit 1 – THE HAIR! Holy heck, is that a hideous ‘do! The Wicked Queen has clearly stolen her nemesis’s good fashion sense, right along with her memories of love and heroism.

I mean, did you not see her in those fairytale flashbacks? Girlfriend was downright adorable. Now… not so much.


If Henry’s theory is to be believed—that, before Emma came to Storybrooke, time in the town stayed in everlasting limbo—then…

Snow White, a.k.a. Mary Margaret, spent the last 28 years of her life dressed like an 85-year-old ex-nun and teaching kids to build the same ugly bird houses over… and over… and over again…

And she went to the hospital to fall in love with a coma patient, because everyone knows that coma patients make the very best boyfriends.

OUAT Snow White and Charming Coma

Best date ever!

Emma’s arrival in town didn’t improve Mary Margaret’s life much, at least at first.

She still had bad hair and horrible taste in clothes… and now, what’s worse, she was finally aging.

Before long, Snow White would be destined to become Snow Slightly Greying with Crow’s Feet and Saggy Boobs.

And Coma Guy? Well, he finally woke up…

Buuuuuuuttttt it turns out HE’S MARRIED… to the daughter of King Midas, no less.

But that doesn’t mean he isn’t above getting a little Snow White action on the side…

And this, my friends, was perhaps Once Upon a Time’s most controversial plotline (at least until they completely shat upon my childhood memories of Peter Pan… but that’s a story for another season).

Snow White? A homewrecker, branded with a Scarlet A by the only town she’s ever known? Prince Charming? A philanderer with a mistress?

I mean, sure, we all knew that Snow White and Prince Charming were destined to be together and it was just the curse that was keeping them apart. But still… Ouch!


Then there was whole plotline where Mary Margaret was framed for killing David’s wife Katherine, only to be vindicated when the once-daughter of King Midas popped up in town alive two episodes later.

Yeah, that kind of sucked…

What’s more? Meek and milquetoast Mary Margaret, more than any of her fairytale to cursed-tale counterparts, seemed to lack the sass and strength of her alter ego, Snow White, a character who, in flashbacks, appeared fearless…




And a pretty damn good shot…

OUAT Snow White golden arrow

But then again, perhaps, this was all part of the Wicked Queen’s design.

Recognizing her true nature toward the end of Season 1 goes a long way toward helping Mary Margaret become cool again… but she still has a long way to go… and lots of hair to grow.

Prince Charming—a.k.a. David Nolan

Unlike Snow White, Prince Charming has a pretty convincing excuse for losing some of his swashbuckling personality on the trip from Fairytale Land to Storybrooke. For starters, he came into this world DEAD…

That’s right, DEAD! While attempting to secure Emma’s safe passage into the World of the Non-Cursed, Prince Charming got stabbed in the heart. And even “True Love’s Kiss” did precisely nada to bring him back to the land of the living.

So our sweet prince spent the last 28 years NAPPING! He awoke with no memory at all of his previous princely life, just like everyone else, but also, because of the whole Coma Thing, no memory of the life the curse fabricated for him, a life that involved being married to a woman who was most certainly not his Happily Ever After.

All of you cheating spouses out there, you are going to want to write this down. Because I’m about to give you a spectacular excuse for your dalliances. Try this one on for size:  “I’m not really cheating, because, in an alternate realm, the woman with whom I appear to be cheating is actually my wife and the mother of the child who is now approximately my age.”

I mean, how do you argue with that, right?

Interestingly enough, Prince Charming’s detour into multiple personality disorder began back in pre-curse Fairytale Land, where he was born a poor farm boy forced to assume the identity of his separated-at-birth twin prince brother.

Is your head spinning? Stay with me, because things are about to get weirder…

The Wicked Queen—a.k.a, Regina

OK… so Emma is the daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White, which makes her son, Henry, their grandchild, a fact unbeknownst to them for most of the season.

In fact, Snow and Charming, a.k.a. Mary and David, would never even entertain the fact that the Harry Potter-looking kid is their grandson because…

  • They aren’t married,
  • They aren’t old enough to have grandkids, and
  • Henry is the son of the mayor of Storybrooke, Regina.

Talk about creepy coincidences! When post-curse Regina—a woman who, to her knowledge, is the only fairytale character to retain her pre-curse memories, if not outright identity—decides to adopt a son and name it after her own father who she murdered to enact the Curse, she chooses, of all children, the SON of the woman destined to be her undoing.

This is likely because karma has GPS (and so does Rumpelstiltskin, a.k.a. Mr. Gold, but more on him later).


As the season progresses, we learn very little about Mayor Regina, who plays things pretty close to the vest, for obvious reasons. (I mean, you’ve got to really hate yourself a lot deep down to enact a curse that puts you in a town with only people you despise, forever and ever.)

But we learn plenty about the Wicked Queen and what she was like in Fairytale Land…

How she obtained the Curse from Rumpelstiltskin in exchange for promising to make him rich and powerful in Storybrooke…

How she then stole that curse from Maleficent…

How she blames Snow White for bringing about the death of her one true love, back when Snow was just a little girl…

And then there was that whole horrible, patricide thing.

In Storybrooke, though ridiculously boring, things for the Wicked Queen seem somewhat less grim.

She’s traded her binding Dresses of Evil for sensible suits.

OUAT Regina

She lives in a big house, has a good job, lots of power, and a son—who doesn’t particularly love her, granted, but tolerates her despite believing her to be evil.

Oh, did I mention she gets to have sex on the regular with the guy from Fifty Shades of Grey?


The Huntsman—a.k.a. Sheriff Graham

This, my fairytale friends, is my kind of guy.

He loves animals, because he believes them to be pure of heart in ways that humans are not…

He is honorable… and was willing to sacrifice himself to save the life of an innocent Snow White, even if it meant literally losing his heart to the Queen…

He’s got an accent!

His ass looks superb in tight pants!

OUAT Huntsman Calvin Klein ad

He, like Snow, is a great shot…

A shameless flirt…

And, from what I can see, a spectacular kisser…

Honestly, can you blame Regina for using this man to satisfy her womanly wiles?

Because I can’t. But I most certainly can blame her for squashing his heart to ashes once he left her for Emma, upon starting to recognize his true nature.

The Huntsman will go down in Once Upon a Time history for being the first fairytale character to remember his true identity… and Storybrooke’s first major death.

Farewell, my sexy Huntsman. See you in a few months on the big screen, naked and adorned by whips and chains… as you should be.

Granny and Little Red Riding Hood

In what was perhaps Once Upon a Time’s most daringly brilliant move (note: that thing they did later on with Peter Pan was also daring, but pretty damn awful), the show took the well known tale of Little Red Riding Hood’s terrifying encounter with the Big Bad Wolfand turned it entirely on its head.

Granted, I’ve always found the original tale of Little Red Riding Hood a bit suspect and more than a bit gross. I actually like the Once Upon a Time one better. It makes more sense. After all, how are we honestly to believe that a young girl would mistake a wolf for her grandmother just because he was wearing a robe? I mean, was the woman really that hideous? To me, that’s kind of ageist.

My, what big teeth you have? Seriously! What about, my, what a hairy face you have??? No cream is going to hide that. And as a woman who is no stranger to the eyebrow waxing, I would know.

Also, if you recall, in the original fairytale the wolf actually EATS Little Red Riding Hood. He swallows her whole and doesn’t chew, allowing the Huntsman to actually CUT HER OUT OF THE WOLF’S STOMACH to free her!

First of all, ewwwww!

Second of all, how big exactly was that wolf? Was it a werewolf? Was it the King Kong of Wolves? Because otherwise, I’m not entirely sure Red would fit in his stomach, I don’t care how small and adorable she was!

For Once Upon a Time to determine that Little Red Riding Hood was actually the wolf herself, forced to wear her trademark red cloak not because red was totally her color, but because it was the only thing that kept her from turning into a beast and eating all her friends, was actually kind of genius because it explained all the inconsistencies of the original tale in a way that actually made some sense.

In Storybrooke, Little Red is a goth chick/waitress, who’s giving her grandmother hell by spending every night out partying like any good teen wolf would.

In short, Little Red is A LOT awesome. And if you try to slut shame her for the way she dresses, I will reach my hand through this computer and 100% wolf out on you.

Just sayin’.


If Little Red Riding Hood was Once’s best take on a classic character, Cinderella was probably the worst.

OUAT Cinderella

For one of the most popular princesses in fairytale (and Disney) history, this chick was kind of blah… both in her connect-the-dots backstory and in her Storybrooke incarnation as a pregnant teen whose boyfriend’s parents disapproved of her (and who was forced to do housekeeping type work to make ends meet).

For obvious reasons, she wasn’t seen much again after her signature episode… possibly because Little Red ate her.

Just kidding! Maybe.

Rumplestiltskin, a.k.a. Mr. Gold

OUAT Rumple

You know him as the childhood villain with the really weird name, who spins straw into gold and has an odd penchant for taking people’s babies for no discernable reason.

But in Once Upon a Time, he’s FABULOUS!

For one thing, dude’s got style. Because there aren’t many men who could rock a face full of gold glitter and still manage to look menacing…

(Though I suspect you could find a few of them at your local burlesque club.)

Also, Rumplestiltskin is SUPER important to this series because he pretty much plays every male villain you ever read about  in a fairytale who isn’t Captain Hook.

He’s Rumplestiltskin, obviously, but he’s also the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, the Crocodile from Peter Pan (more on that next season), and something called The Dark One…

Sure, he looks like an aging gay lounge singer, laughs like a ten-year-old girl, and has been known to annoy everyone he encounters by calling them “dearie” and repeatedly spouting out clichés like “all magic has a price” and “would you like to make a deal?” and “hey, mind if I take your baby?”

But apart from that, he’s oddly charming and slightly delightful.

I mean, how could you not feel bad for a guy whose wife left him to become a pirate…

Who inadvertently dropped his son into a portal to another dimension…

And who gave his heart to a bookworm, only to see her whisked away to a wonky bin?

OUAT Rumple yells

In Storybrooke, Rumple is Mr. Gold, an extremely wealthy man who literally owns the entire town but still wiles his days away working at a pawnshop for sh*ts and giggles. This incarnation dresses less like Frankie from Big Brother 16

big brother 16 jamie

And more like Nucky from Boardwalk Empire…


He laughs less, sneers more, has a penchant for cracked glassware, and seems to be carrying a much heavier load on his shoulders since entering Storybrooke, which might be why he uses a cane…

You see, while in Fairytale Land, Rumpelstiltskin was at best a manipulative, fair-weather friend, and at worst an enemy to our fairytale heroes. In Storybrooke, he may just be the most unlikely of allies.

After all, thanks to a little bit of magic potion-drinking, he and Regina are the only people who made the transition to post-curse world with memory of their prior lives fully intact. And for Mr. Gold, surviving and eventually helping to break the Wicked Queen’s Curse may be the only way back to the two loves of his life…

His long lost son, Baelfire…

And the Beauty to his Beast…


OUAT Belle

You know that pesky Bad Boy Fetish with which most of us females are painfully afflicted? You know, the one that makes you believe you can tame the wild beast in any man simply by loving him enough to save him from himself?

Blame this chick for that.

She was the first… a bookish beauty who fell in love with a beast, and, in doing so, made him a man.

Sure, it’s not the best message to send our children about love. But still, it remains one of my favorite fairytale romances of all time.

Because nothing says sexy like the tension of a love-hate relationship gone very right.

In Fairytale Land, many thought that Belle was insane… for having the gall to be a smart woman thirsting for knowledge… and for having the audacity to be beautiful and desire something that, at least on the outside, was ugly and monstrous.

So, of course, it’s fitting that Regina would choose to lock Rumpelstiltskin’s second greatest love away in an insane asylum.

Then again, maybe she just did it because she saw that episode of Lost with the squirrel baby. I mean, THAT was creepy.

Lost claire bobblehead

You know who else is arguably a few crayons short of full 64-set in Storybrooke?

The Mad Hatter—a.k.a. Jefferson

OUAT Mad Hatter

Earlier in this retrospective, I mentioned that Regina and Rumple were the only two fairytale characters to travel across the realm remembering their true identities. That’s not entirely true. Two other guys came to the “Real World” also with at least some idea of who they were.

They both just weren’t clever enough to present that knowledge in a way that didn’t make them look certifiably psychotic.

Meet Jefferson. All things considered, things seem to be going rather well for him in Storybrooke. He’s young, single, rich, fashionable in a sort of goth emo way, with a heavy penchant for guyliner, spectacular hair, and a really nifty collection of hats…

He’s basically a good-looking extra from Clockwork Orange.

clockwork orange

And while a guy like this should be spending his cursed days living it up and bedding down with all the lesser, unspoken-for fairytale maidens in the land (I hear most of the Little Mermaid’s sisters are single!), he instead decides to spend his days compulsively making hats, stalking a little girl he believes to be his daughter, and… I almost forgot…

Kidnapping the town’s newest sheriff and newest murder suspect.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing multiple times and expecting different results…

Jefferson exemplifies insanity by repeatedly lending his magic portal-jumping hats to Regina and then acting surprised when she uses them for her own gain and leaves him trapped in a hat-making prison of his own making.

It’s a good thing he’s pretty.

Another man who is pretty and kind of dumb…

Pinocchio—a.k.a. August

OUAT Pinnochio

In a world where it seems like everyone over the age of 30 is secretly getting Botox injections or popping Viagra, it’s refreshing to see a guy with such an over-abundance of wood…

Tasked with keeping Emma The Savior safe until her 28th birthday—and then helping her to break the Wicked Queen’s Curse and doing a pretty crap job at it most of the time—grown-up Pinocchio still wins a few cool points by riding a motorcycle, possibly writing the book of fairytales that started Henry on his quest to find Emma in the first place, and being the hairiest puppet I have ever seen in my whole life.

But that wood thing…

It’s gotta be embarrassing when you are trying to hit it off with a lovely lady friend like Emma, and bam… WOOD and lots of it.

I know some of you guys have been there, am I right?

But the thing about August is that only True Believers can see his wood… So you would think it would be an easy problem to hide right?

OUAT Pinnochio motorcycle

WRONG! August just has to tell EVERYBODY about his wood. He talks about it until he’s wood in the face… literally…

And then, just when Emma finally comes to believe his ridiculous story…

This happens…

OUAT Pinnochio full wood

Proving that it is not easy being woody…

But hey, things could always be worse…

Pinocchio could be…


OUAT Maleficient

A dragon locked in a library, with a painful egg in her ear.

Vampire Pam would be so pissed.


Jiminy Cricket

jiminy cricket

An insect with a penchant for umbrellas…

OUAT Jiminy Cricket

Just kidding, Jiminy actually ended up fashioning himself a pretty cool gig in Storybrooke land. He’s a shrink with an adorable pet Dalmatian we know better as Pongo…

OUAT Jiminy Human

Not bad for a guy who spent his days in Fairytale Land evading large-footed men and cans of Raid. (Assuming they had Raid in Fairytale Land.)

So, now that you’ve been introduced to all the important players, let’s recap how they all ended up in the Season 1 finale, shall we?

Save Henry, Save the World

Having exhausted all hope of ever getting her son to truly love her, Regina is forced to literally pull a poison apple out of a hat (Thanks, Jefferson, ya moron!) and bake it into an apple turnover designed to place Emma under the same sleeping curse to which her mother nearly succumbed approximately 28 years earlier.

OUAT Henry coma

What she doesn’t count on, of course, is her own beloved Henry taking the bait and falling straight into a coma as a result.

Now, former enemies Regina and Emma are forced to do the one thing they never planned on doing (but, ironically enough, will end up doing again at least once every season after this), work together to save the mildly annoying child they have both grown to love.

Mr. Gold/Rumple instructs the pair to retrieve from Dragon Maleficent the egg containing some true love elixir the former supervillain purportedly fashioned with the locks of both Emma’s parents hair. And so Emma dutifully heads to the library (which is totally abandoned because clearly no one except Henry knows how to read in this town… either that or the Curse provided everyone with their own Kindles) to quite literally slay a dragon.

OUAT dragon

Once again, Vampire Pam is pissed…

The only problem is that it was all a dirty trick on the part of Rumple/Gold, who snatches the potion from Emma no sooner than she extracts it.

Then Jefferson goes and frees Crazy Belle and sends her to Rumple, which is nice, though I’m not quite sure he deserves it right now.

You can probably guess what happens next…

Henry dies.

surprised monkey

For about two seconds.  Then Emma kisses him on the forehead and breaks the Curse.

That was easy! All that dragon-slaying for nothing.

Now, everyone remembers who they are, which is great for Mary Margaret (GROW YOUR HAIR!) and David Nolan… and Rumple and Belle…

But UBER crappy for Regina, who was kind of already hated around town for being a biznitch, except now our fairytale characters are free to hate her outwardly.

But wait there’s more…

Rumple still has the pretty purple potion, which he dumps into a well, which basically causes a big ole purple fart to spread throughout the town of Storybrooke.

OUAT purple smoke

“What the heck is that?” Emma Swan asks, who hasn’t seen this much purple fart since the time her last boyfriend dumped her and she gorged on an entire bag of grape Blow Pops.

“Something bad,” says Henry ominously.

And yes, purple farts ARE pretty bad. But bringing magic to a town run by two evil geniuses is potentially much worse.

Because, as we’ve been told about 550 times on this show…

“All magic has a price.”

OUAT magic price

And that’s Season 1 of OUAT in a nutshell.

Until next time, my Dearies!

For more Julie Kushner, check out TV Recappers Anonymous or buy one of her four novels!

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