'Once Upon A Time' season 3 in review

The upcoming season 4 premiere of Once Upon a Time airs tomorrow, which means it is time to refresh our memories with a look back at season 3.

When we last saw our fairy-tale family, the chaos wrought by the Wicked Witch of the West had been subdued, only to lead us into a turmoil that threatens Regina’s virtue, and possibly an encounter with a viler antagonist.

We have to wonder what lies in store for our mostly-beloved fairy-tale characters and the new characters we already know are joining them in the new season. Many theories have been put forth regarding the inclusion of the Frozen characters, but recent interviews with Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz suggest that at least Elsa will be a commiserative character. We shall see.

For now, let's revisit those events of season 3 which led us to the current state of affairs in Storybrooke.

Image courtesy of Peter West/ACE/INFphoto.com

[new page = Never Neverland]

Never Neverland

Season 3 was presented with two separate story lines, the first of which dealt with Peter Pan and Neverland. It began with Emma, Regina, Snow, Charming, Rumple, and Hook sailing off to Neverland in search of Henry, who had been abducted by Greg and Tamara. Little did Greg and Tamara know that the “Home Office” was really the Lost Boys, and it was a deadly surprise. But the surprises didn’t end there. Neal survived his gunshot wound, woke up in the Enchanted Forest and immediately set off in search of Emma and Henry, only to discover they were in Neverland. Quite possibly the biggest surprise of all, though, was that Peter Pan is Rumple’s father!

With the help of Robin Hood, and his son Roland, Neal managed to get to Neverland. Once there, he had an unexpected reunion with Rumple. They set off together, until Pan told Neal about the prophecy that led him to trap Rumple and set off alone. He didn’t get very far before he and Henry were back in Pan’s clutches. Meanwhile, in a skirmish with the Lost Boys, Charming was “nicked” by an arrow laced in dreamshade, a deadly poison. Hook saved Charming, conditionally, and was rewarded with a much anticipated kiss from Emma!

[new page = Peter Pan is Evil]

Peter Pan is Evil

Throughout their stint in Neverland, they needed help from others, first Tinker Bell, then Ariel. However, considering how they had been wronged by Regina in the past, they both had to be bribed to help. Tinker Bell was promised her freedom, and Ariel was promised the location of Prince Eric. Ariel agreed to go to Storybrooke and retrieve Pandora’s Box, which could be used to catch and confine Pan.

Of course, things never go as planned. Pan used Wendy to trick Henry into giving up his heart and therefore his life to “save magic.” Unbeknownst to Henry, it was really a ruse so that Pan could obtain immortality. Emma, Hook, Snow and Charming rescued Neal, and met up with Regina and Rumple to save Henry. Pan had Henry’s heart and tricked Rumple into trapping himself in Pandora’s Box, but somehow the rest of the gang rallied back to success. They regained Henry’s heart and headed home with the Lost Boys in tow.

It wasn’t over yet, though. Pan snuck onto their boat as they were leaving and attempted to take Henry’s heart by force. When that didn’t work, he decided to take his shadow. The others figured out how to release Rumple, who then found Pan attacking Henry and managed to finally trap him in Pandora’s Box, or so he thought. In actuality, Pan somehow swapped bodies with Henry so that it was Henry that got trapped in Pandora’s Box and Pan was able to pass himself off as Henry.

[new page = The Curse Undone]

The Curse Undone

Back in Storybrooke, Pan stole Regina’s dark curse and used it to create a “New Neverland.” Simultaneously, the others were able to figure out that Pan swapped bodies with Henry and tricked him into swapping back, only to find out he had re-enacted the curse. The only way to escape was to regain the curse and undo it, sending everyone but Henry and Emma back to the Enchanted Forest. Rumple killed Pan, but only by sacrificing himself, Regina undid the curse, Henry and Emma drove off with new memories, and Storybrooke disappeared as if it had never existed.

[new page = Cursed Again]

Cursed Again

The second half of the season brought us Zelena, the Wicked Witch of the West, along with all her emotional baggage. Hook managed to find Emma and get her to remember Storybrooke and her family. Come to find out, Storybrooke had been restored. Someone had re-enacted the curse yet again, except, this time, no one could remember the year that they spent in the Enchanted Forest.

Emma returned to Storybrooke with Henry, who did not remember a thing and she wasn’t going to tell him. Her goal was to help her family remember what happened over the course of the last year, figure out who recast the spell, make sure everyone is safe, and then get on back to their great life in New York with Henry none the wiser.

[new page = Zelena is the Wicked Witch]

Zelena is the Wicked Witch

It turned out that the wicked witch (Zelena) is Regina’s long lost sister, abandoned at birth and whisked away to Oz. She was the one behind the curse, though at this point we didn’t know why. What we did know was that she somehow resurrected Rumple, who seemed to have gone quite mad. Zelena presented herself to Snow, who was pregnant again, as a midwife, and offered to help with the pregnancy, secretly planning to use the child for some sinister purpose.

During the past year, Neal had searched for a way to return to Emma and Henry. Zelena used this to her advantage by cursing Lumiere to live as a candelabra until he convinced Belle and Neal to resurrect Rumple. Barring some complications, her plan worked. Rumple, always having wanted to save Bae (Neal), consumed him so that he would not die. Now the madness makes sense.

In Storybrooke, Neal became the dominant persona, found Emma, and realized that Emma had to separate him from his father. That was the only way they would know the identity of the curse caster. Emma freed him, at the cost of his life, but Rumple was able to tell her that Zelena is the enemy. So much for the midwife.

[new page =This is the Wicked West]

This is the Wicked West

Neal’s death, however, was not the only consequence of his separation from Rumple. Now, Rumple was susceptible to the control of the dagger, which Zelena wielded. She used him to fight Regina, whom she had evidentially been jealous of for so long that she actually turned green! It’s Regina’s heart that she wanted, but she wasn’t successful due to the fact that Regina left her heart with Robin Hood, literally. It didn’t take Zelena long to figure that out, and she sent the Dark One to take the heart from Robin. As upsetting as this was, it was actually a good thing for the viewers, because we got to see the most passionate kiss yet, between Regina and Robin.

[new page =Emma, the Savior]

Emma, the Savior

Let’s see, in the episode that featured Rapunzel, Zelena took Charming’s courage; she’d been after Snow’s baby, and was threatening to remove Rumple’s brain. This was adding up to be one heck of a spell. In fact, it was a spell to travel through time so that she could change her fate. She wanted to take Regina’s place. There was only one thing standing in her way, Emma.

The ever resourceful Zelena used Hook’s past with Ariel to trick him into professing his love for Emma, which enabled Zelena to curse his lips. If Emma kissed him, she would lose her powers. When Hook refused to play along, Zelena drowned him in front of Emma and told Emma the only way to save him was to kiss him. Emma, being the savior that she is, did just that.

[new page =Regina's Redemption]

Regina's Redemption

Shortly thereafter, Snow finally gave birth, and with Emma’s magic out of the way, Zelena was able to take Snow’s newborn baby. Zelena finally initiated her spell and the time portal began to open. The others tried to stop her, but it was Regina who saved the day. Somehow, using Henry’s belief that she could be a hero, she harnessed white magic and was able to defeat Zelena, but she did not kill her. Instead, she decided to spare her life in the hopes that she would have a change of heart.

Sparing Zelena’s life didn’t do much good considering Rumple snuck into the police station and killed her while no one was looking. Now that’s a secret that, kept from Belle, may be the undoing of their relationship, which would be most disappointing since they just got married.

[new page = Consequences]


Once Zelena died, her magic was free, and found its way back to the time portal she had opened. Hook and Emma went to see what was causing a sudden burst of light, only to get sucked back in time. When they accidentally disrupted her parents’ first meeting, they had to find another way to get them together before the future, their present, was undone. In the process, Emma saved the life of Marian. This could pose a problem because it would change the past for her to survive, so they decided to bring her to the future with them, not knowing she was Robin’s wife.

[new page= What's Next?]

What's Next?

These events from season 3 left us waiting anxiously for season 4 to begin. Who will Robin choose? Will facing unrequited love cause Regina to become the evil queen again? Will Emma and Hook finally “hook up”? Why was Elsa kept in a place for only the darkest and most unpredictable magic?

Hopefully these questions and more will be answered the first half of this coming season, though preferably in the premiere episode set to air Sunday night, September 28, at 8/7c on ABC.

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Carissa Shuman

Carissa is a writer, editor, and artist with a love for science and science fiction.

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