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Season 1
Once Upon a Time Season 1

No. of episodes

22

Original release

October 23, 2011 – May 13, 2012

Premiere

Pilot

Finale

A Land Without Magic

Previous

N/A

Next

Season 2

The first season of the ABC television series Once Upon a Time premiered on October 23, 2011 and concluded on May 13, 2012. The series was created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. The series centers around the Enchanted Forest and Storybrooke, and the Evil Queen's (Lana Parrilla) plot to destroy everyone's happiness so she can be the only one with a happy ending.

Once Upon a Time's first season received "generally favorable" reviews from critics. Metacritic gave it a score of 66 out of 100 based on 26 reviews. Washington Post's Hank Stuever called the series "a smartly-crafted reward for fans of light fantasy, with the right mix of cleverness, action and romance." Verne Gay of Newsday said the series "glows with a near-theatrical shine, challenging viewers to think about TV drama as something other than boilerplate."

The pilot episode was watched by 12.93 million viewers and achieved an adult 18-49 rating/share of 4.0/10. Those numbers dipped late in the season to a series low of 8.36 million viewers and a 2.8/8 adult 18-49 rating/share in April 2012, but rebounded slightly for the season finale with 9.66 million viewers and a 3.3/10 adult 18-49 rating/share.

Plot

The show is based on the theory that there is an alternate universe where every classic fairy tale character (new and old) exists—a world that has a loose connection to our world. On the night of her 28th birthday, bail bonds collector Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) is reunited with Henry Mills (Jared S. Gilmore)—the son she gave up for adoption ten years previous—and takes him back to his hometown of Storybrooke, Maine—a place where nothing is what it seems.

Henry has in his possession a large book of fairy tales and is convinced that Emma is the daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), who sent her away so she would be protected from a powerful curse enacted by the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla), a curse in which the queen is the only one with a happy ending. It's because of the curse that everyone in Storybrooke is frozen in time with no memories of their former selves—except for the Queen, who is Storybrooke's mayor and Henry's adoptive mother, Regina Mills. Emma refuses to believe a word of Henry's "theory" and returns Henry home, but then decides to remain in the New England town after getting attached to Henry which causes the hands of the clock tower to move for the first time in 28 years.

It's soon revealed that Snow and Charming, concerned for the safety of their unborn child, went to seek advice from the imprisoned trickster Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle). In return for the child's name, he would tells them their only hope is the child, who would return on her 28th birthday and begin "The Final Battle". The child, an infant girl, is born on the day the Queen enacts her curse and is placed in a wardrobe carved out of an enchanted tree which takes the child to our world, where she is raised by adoptive parents as Emma Swan.

As Emma stays in Storybrooke and is soon elected as Sheriff following the sudden death of the previous Sheriff, Graham Humbert (Jamie Dornan), Regina's antagonistic attitude raises her suspicions and prompts her to move in with Henry's teacher Mary Margaret Blanchard, who is really her mother Snow White. Regina's bitter rivalry with Storybrooke's wealthiest resident, Mr. Gold, becomes heated when she learns he is aware of his true identity as Rumplestiltskin when she asks about Emma's relationship to the curse. Mary Margaret falls in love with David Nolan, a coma patient who, in reality is Emma's father Prince Charming, wakes up after she reads Henry's fairytale book to him as a favor to Henry. David, however, is married to Kathryn Nolan, the woman who is (in the fairy tale world) his ex-fiancee Princess Abigail daughter of King Midas. Unable to deny their love, David and Mary Margaret soon begin a secret relationship that becomes public and upsets Kathryn.

Kathryn eventually decides to go to Boston and let David be with Mary Margaret only to disappear before leaving Storybrooke, due to an effect of the curse being that no one can leave the town. Some time later an antique jewelry box which belonged to Mary Margaret when she was a child is found buried near the old toll bridge and is revealed to contain a human heart which is proven to be Kathryn's via DNA testing. Mary Margaret is arrested for Kathryn's supposed murder and is about to be prosecuted by corrupt District Attorney Albert Spencer (Alan Dale), who's really Prince Charming's adoptive father King George, when Kathryn is found alive in an alley. She reveals that someone abducted her and held her captive in a basement for several days but she managed to escape. When corrupt Daily Mirror chief editor Sidney Glass (Giancarlo Esposito), who's actually the Magic Mirror, confesses to having abducted Kathryn in order to jump-start his career, Emma is not convinced and comes to the conclusion that Regina orchestrated the conspiracy.

Emma soon discovers that writer August W. Booth (Eion Bailey), who is the first stranger ever to arrive in town after she did, is from the Other World and that he is Pinocchio, who was sent to our world through the same wardrobe that brought Emma to watch over her. But he abandoned her out of fear and is slowly turning back into a wooden puppet. Emma then makes an attempt to take Henry out of Storybrooke forever, but is then forced to reconsider when he refuses to go. Emma makes a deal with Regina in which she leaves but still visits Henry on occasion.

But Regina knows Emma's true identity and has retrieved her poisoned apple (the same one she used on Snow White) in order to use it on Emma in the form of an apple turnover. Henry takes a bite of the turnover, collapses to the floor unconscious, and proves to Emma the curse is real. Emma, who now starts to believe after seeing flashbacks of her true past, is forced to forge an alliance with Regina and retrieves Rumplestiltskin's true love potion from underneath the Clock Tower, only to have Mr. Gold steal it leaving Emma halfway up the elevator shaft and Regina tied to a chair and gagged.

When Henry is pronounced dead, Emma and Regina return to the Hospital to say goodbye to his body. Emma kisses him on the forehead, causing a pulse of energy to engulf the entire town and restore everyone's true memories while freeing Henry from the effects of the poisoned apple. Snow and Charming reunite with each other and Regina returns to her mansion alone as Emma begins to wonder why no one is returning to the Other World since the curse is broken. Rumplestiltskin reunites with his true love Belle (Emilie de Ravin) and takes her to a Wishing Well deep in the heart of the forest, a well with the power to restore that which one had lost. He takes the potion and drops it into the well, causing a purple cloud to emerge and consume Storybrooke as the Clock Tower strikes 8:15.

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