The episode begins with a man and his son camping in the woods. The two of them rush into their tent after being startled by an oncoming storm. The son looks out the back of the tent and sees a black, purple and green storm cloud rushing towards them.
The following morning, they discover a town off in the distance that wasn’t there the day before. The father and son go into the town looking for help, and they meet Sheriff Graham, who welcomes them to Storybrooke.
It turns out that the opening segment took place in 1983, when Regina wakes up in her bedroom surprised to find that her curse worked. She gets dressed and tours the town for the first time. Regina smiles as she walks past Ruby and her grandmother arguing and Dr. Hopper walking his dog. She then visits Mary Margaret at her school and takes her to the hospital to see if the former Snow White recognizes her prince lying in coma. Regina basks in her victory when Mary-Margaret doesn’t recognize David.
Everything is going well until she meets the now stranded man and his son in the diner. The man explains that they are looking for a hotel to stay in for the night. Sheriff Graham tells her that the man and his son wandered into town. Regina replies that the boy and his father are surprises, and she doesn’t like surprises because she finds them threatening. Regina warns Sheriff Graham that bad things happen when she is threatened.
In the present day, Regina grieves over her mother’s death in the family mausoleum. Mr. Gold enters with a rose to pay his respects and states that Cora always had a place in his heart. Regina argues that he killed her, but Gold replies that desperate times call for desperate measures. The Evil Queen understands why he did it, but she swears revenge on Snow White, even though Gold warns her that she’ll lose her son.
Meanwhile, Emma explains to Henry that Mary Margaret was partially responsible for Cora’s death, but Mr. Gold arrives before she can further explain. Gold warns that Regina has vowed vengeance against Mary Margaret for her actions. David reminds him that Mary Margaret saved his life and that he owes her debt. “You’re going to help us stop Regina,” David says.
Back in 1983, Regina enters the diner to find the man and his son sitting in her spot. Perturbed, she tells them that they need to move. The son apologizes for sitting in her seat and gives her gift, which touches her.
Regina spends the next couple of days enjoying what the results of her curse, but she eventually becomes discontented with how everyone simply does what she says. She goes to Gold, and complains that his deal was supposed to make her happy. Regina notes that people obey her because they have to, not because they want to, which makes it not real.
She then telephones the stranded man, Kurt, and asks him to come over for dinner with his son, Owen, before they leave. He accepts her offer.
The episode returns to present day Storybrooke, where a disturbed Regina tears apart her mausoleum and finds a scroll with a spell on it. Later, Gold and David inspect the mausoleum and deduce that Regina is going to use a spell to make someone love her. Henry thinks it’s him. Gold explains that the potion Regina wants to use requires the heart of someone she wants vengeance on, Mary Margaret, in order to be finished. Gold advises them to kill Regina in order to end the blood feud, which upsets Henry
In 1983, Kurt and Owen are eating dinner with Regina. He explains that his wife died six months earlier, and that he had taken his son camping as way to get away from it all. Regina and Owen bond over their shared heartaches. She offers Kurt a new job and a chance to start new by moving up to Storybrooke, but he politely turns her down.
Back in present day, Emma takes Henry to see Neil. He asks Henry to come live with him in New York for a while to keep him away from Regina’s potion. Henry appears to agree, but then he tells Neil he’s going to the restroom and takes off instead.
Meanwhile, Regina shows up at Mary Margaret’s loft to kill her, but Gold is waiting. She warns Mary Margaret that Gold can’t protect her forever.
The show flashes back to 1983, when Regina orders the sheriff to stop Kurt before he crosses the town line. Sheriff Graham is to arrest Kurt for drunk driving and bring the child to her. However, Kurt overhears the conversation and gets away.
Flash-forward to present day. Neil, Emma, David, and Ruby are in the mines looking for Henry when they realize he’s going to blow up the well in hopes of destroying magic.
Meanwhile, Regina gets a call warning her that Henry is out in the woods by himself. She goes looking for him.
In 1983, Kurt and Owen are fleeing from Sheriff Graham, but they are cut off just before the town line. Kurt instructs Owen to run, and then he’s arrested. Regina tries to convince Owen to stay, but he tells her that he doesn’t want to stay like this. She lets him go.
Back in the present, Regina finds Henry by the well as he’s wiring it with dynamite. She makes the dynamite disappear and pleads with Henry to give her a chance. He tells her that the curse won’t make love real. Eventually, Henry convinces Regina to destroy the potion, even though she won’t destroy magic.
Owen returns to the border in 1983, but the state troopers who are accompanying him tell the child that nothing is there as Regina looks on from the other side. He promises to find his father.
The episode ends with Mary-Margaret on Regina’s porch. She pleads with Regina to kill her, but the Evil Queen takes out her heart instead and shows her the black stain in the middle. Regina tells her that the stain will only get bigger and that she doesn’t need to kill her to get what she wants. Mary Margaret is doing it for her. Regina then puts Mary Margaret’s heart back in her chest.
Meanwhile, an adult Owen catches the Regina/Mary Margaret confrontation on video and repeats his promise to his father that he will find him.
One would think that it would difficult to equal last week’s episode, but “Welcome to Storybrooke” did just that. It all comes down to storytelling. Fans of the show have been wondering what life was like when The Evil Queen’s curse brought them to Maine, and now we know.
Every day was almost an exact repeat of the other, which meant that monotony ruled. It was so boring and lifeless that even Regina grew unhappy with her own curse. Her desperate need to be happy caused her to take steps to control and manipulate Kurt and Owen into staying in Storybrooke. Her plan backfired, which resulted in Kurt’s arrest and Owen running away from Regina.
Years later, we find that Regina has learned her lesson. At the episode’s conclusion, she decides to let relinquish control of the situation and let Mary Margaret destroy her family on her own. That’s a sign of growth in Regina’s character. For once, she’s not trying to manipulate the situation. Of course, that doesn’t mean she won’t later, but for the moment, she’s making better decisions. Her love for Henry is forcing her to become a better person.
Speaking of love, there is one issue with this episode. Regina’s plan was to create a potion that would make Henry believe that he loves her. The problem is that it’s already clear that Henry loves her; he just doesn’t approve of her actions. Perhaps it’s not clear to Regina that Henry loves her. Maybe she’s blinded to it at this point, but you would think that she could tell how he feels. The potion feels like nothing more than a plot device.
Overall, “Welcome to Storybrooke” was another superior episode. ABC has a true hit on its hands, which makes it easy to look forward to the rest of the season.