Season 1, Episode 1
Airdate October 23, 2011
Written by Edward Kitsis
Adam Horowitz
Directed by Mark Mylod
Episode Guide
The Thing You Love Most
Pilot is the series premiere of the American Fairy Tale/Drama television series Once Upon a Time. It introduces each of the main characters, as well as establishes the basic premises of the series, which details the beginnings of a curse placed upon the Enchanted Forest and the start of a destiny for its only savior, a present-day woman who can break the curse.

The episode was co-written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, and was directed by Mark Mylod. Kitsis and Horowitz sought to write new perspectives of familiar characters, and featured the themes of hope, family, and motherhood. "Pilot" sets the template for the rest of the series, as it jumps between their curses selves in Storybrooke, Maine and their original lives in the Enchanted Forest. Every actor first approached for the series accepted after being sent a script; this included Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White and Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan.

Before it made its debut, ABC allowed viewers in the United States to see the pilot on the Internet Movie Database's website several days before it aired. It premiered in the United States on ABC on October 23, 2011. In Canada, CTV broadcast the series an hour ahead of ABC's debut, airing it at 7 pm in most regions. The episode received mostly positive reviews and was watched by 12.93 million viewers, scoring a 4.0 rating/11% share in the 18-49 demographic, ranking first in its timeslot. It was ABC's most watched pilot since the first episode of Ugly Betty.

View the Pilot Gallery.


Event chronology

The Enchanted Forest flashbacks occur in various places of the overall timeline. The Land Without Magic events of this episode occur after "Firebird", and before the present-day events of "The Thing You Love Most". The scene where Emma accepts the room key at the inn takes place concurrently with the opening scene of "Selfless, Brave and True".

In the Characters' Past

Prince Charming (Joshua Dallas) rides to the rescue of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), who is comatose after eating a poisoned apple that was given to her by the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla). Doc informs Charming that he is too late, but Charming kisses Snow regardless, breaking the curse. On the wedding day of Snow White and Prince Charming, the Evil Queen arrives and delivers an ominous threat about a powerful curse she intends to release upon them. Some time later, a pregnant Snow White is worried about the curse and visits Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle), who issues a prophecy that the Queen's curse will take them all someplace terrible where there will be no happy endings. He also reveals that Snow White's unborn daughter, Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), will return when she is 28 years old to rescue them, thus beginning a crucial battle with the Queen. Following the Blue Fairy's (Keegan Connor Tracy) advice, Geppetto (Tony Amendola) and Pinocchio (Jakob Davies) fashion a wardrobe from a magical tree which will allow one person to escape the Queen's curse. On the day Snow White gives birth to her daughter, the Queen's curse strikes. Prince Charming places their daughter in the magic wardrobe, but is mortally wounded battling the Queen's henchmen. The Queen stands triumphantly over Snow White and Prince Charming, as the Curse takes them "somewhere horrible."

In Storybrooke

In Present-day Boston, Emma Swan (Morrison) lives a lonely existence working as a bail bondsman and bounty hunter. She is approached by a ten-year-old boy, Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), who identifies himself as her son, whom she had given up for adoption as a teenager. Not wanting a relationship with him, Emma agrees to drive him back to his home in Storybrooke, Maine. Along the way, Henry shows her a large book of fairy tales he has, insisting that all of the stories in it are real. When they arrive in Storybrooke, Henry informs her that everyone in town is in reality a fairy tale character, exiled by the curse and with no memory of their real identities. This includes his therapist Archie Hopper (Raphael Sbarge), who is really Jiminy Cricket, and his teacher Mary Margaret Blanchard (Goodwin), who is really Snow White. Henry claims that time is frozen in Storybrooke and the people are unable to leave, but that the curse will be broken by Emma. A skeptical Emma returns Henry to his adopted mother, the town Mayor, Regina (Parrilla), who is really the Evil Queen. Emma attempts to leave but after having drunk apple cider given to her by the Mayor and nearly hitting a wolf she has a car accident where she is knocked out. She is arrested and taken to Storybrooke Jail. When Henry runs away again, Emma makes a deal with the Mayor and Sheriff Graham (Jamie Dornan): if they release her, she will find him. After exhausting all possibilities she speaks with Mary Margaret, who tells Emma to "Check his castle." After finding Henry at a wooden jungle gym (which bears a resemblance to Prince Charming's castle), they talk and Emma decides to stay in Storybrooke temporarily, especially after Regina warns her to leave town. This leads Emma to be suspicious of the mayor's motives.

Shortly after her conversation with Emma, Mary Margaret Blanchard volunteers at Storybrooke Hospital, placing flowers at the bedside of patients. She stops in the ICU where a John Doe (Dallas), Prince Charming, is sleeping in a coma. Mary Margaret is unaware of who he is. Meanwhile, at the Mayor's home, Regina takes the book from Henry's room and goes downstairs to look at her mirror, with an expression that seems to acknowledge she is aware of her fairy tale existence.

As Emma arrives at Granny's Bed & Breakfast, she is given a key to her room by the elderly proprietor (Beverley Elliot), who is actually Granny from Little Red Riding Hood. She comes downstairs after yelling at Ruby (Meghan Ory), her granddaughter, followed by a man who came to collect money: Mr. Gold (Carlyle), Rumpelstiltskin who also helped build and owns the entire town. When Emma mentions her name, Mr. Gold pauses as if he knew something about her. Emma's decision to stay in Storybrooke causes the hands of the town clock, previously frozen at 8:15, to begin moving again.

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