New York City Serenade (Once Upon a Time)
|"New York City Serenade"|
|Once Upon a Time episode|
|Directed by||Billy Gierhart|
|Written by||Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz|
|Original air date||March 9, 2014|
"New York City Serenade" is the twelfth episode of the third season of the American fantasy drama series Once Upon a Time, and the show's 56th episode overall. The episode marks the mid-season premiere of the show, following the executive producers' decision to split the season into two volumes. It aired on March 9, 2014, with a special entitled "Wicked is Coming" preceding the premiere.
In this episode, after the fairy tale characters return to the Enchanted Forest, they discover something has changed that now places their lives in danger, resulting in Hook (Colin O'Donoghue)'s escaping to the real world in an effort to restore Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison)'s memories so she can save them.
Most commentators commented positively on the episode, especially due to the unpredictable nature of the new storylines created by the writers and producers. Upon airing, the episode was watched by 7.66 million viewers, attaining an 18-49 rating of 2.4. This presents a significant rise from the previous episode. Furthermore, the episode achieved its highest weekly viewership rank for the series since the second episode of the second season in October 2012.
New York City's skyline appears in the background.
In and Outside Storybrooke
Emma Swan, in her new life with Henry in New York City, goes on a date with her new boyfriend Walsh (Christopher Gorham) when she is interrupted by Hook who is imploring her to remember herself and that her family needs to be saved. Emma angrily rebuffs him despite using her gift to prove he isn't lying. Hook passes her a note stating that it's an address where she will find her answers. After Hook leaves Walsh proposes to Emma who says she needs time to think.
Emma hands Henry a permission slip for a field trip the next morning and finds the note that Hook gave her which is the address for Neal's apartment in the city. She goes to the apartment and finds nothing of interest until she finds a camera with the name "HENRY" on it. Emma meets with Hook in Central Park who again tries to convince her by producing a memory potion. Again Emma doesn't believe him and handcuffs Hook to a bike rack and tells passing by NYPD officers that Hook assaulted her.
Emma is walking Henry home discussing her feelings of adding a third person to her and Henry's small family of which Henry is in favor. After dropping him off Emma looks at photos developed from Henry's Camera showing Storybrooke and their flight. She bails Hook out of jail and after talking to him drinks the memory potion which restores her memory.
Hook and Emma are having a drink so he can tell Emma about the events of the past year. Walsh arrives (as Henry set up a dinner between Emma and him) and Emma decides to tell him that she can't marry him. Walsh tells Emma that he wishes that she hadn't drunk the potion which perplexes Emma. Walsh reveals himself to be a flying monkey in disguise forcing Emma to beat him off with a pipe.
The next morning Emma tells Henry that she needs his help with a case. Henry is overjoyed at the prospect of no school and helping his mother. Hook arrives to help Henry pack Emma's yellow bug as she puts on her red leather jacket. At night the trio arrive in Storybrooke with Henry asleep in the car. Emma searches out Snow and Charming and shares an emotional reunion with them as all three remember each other. Snow is visibly pregnant and they tell Emma that they are trapped in Storybrooke again and do not remember the past year. Emma asks who could have done such a thing.
In the Enchanted Forest
Storybrooke characters arrive back in the Enchanted Forest due to the curse and are met by Prince Phillip and a pregnant Princess Aurora. After catching up, Snow, Charming and Regina decide to make for Regina's castle since she protected it prior to the curse. Aurora and Phillip argue about telling "her" about the returned Storybrooke characters. Shortly after leaving Aurora and Phillip, Hook states he has always been a pirate and leaves the group.
During the march to Regina's castle, Grumpy points out that the Queen is missing, and Snow finds her burying something in the forest. Regina is burying her heart due to the pain of never seeing Henry again, and the fact that he doesn't remember her. Snow convinces her that Regina can have happiness and that she deserves to find it for Henry, which leads to Regina putting the heart back in her chest. Snow and Regina are then accosted by a flying monkey, but saved by Robin Hood (Sean Maguire).
While walking to the castle, Belle and Neal talk about finding a way to bring Rumplestiltskin back, and are reunited with Robin Hood. As the characters reach the castle, Regina realizes someone else has dispelled her protective barrier and put up their own. Robin Hood offers them shelter in Sherwood Forest until they can figure out their next move.
A flying monkey returns to the castle with the blood of Regina from his attack and upon the insistence of a green skinned woman (Rebecca Mader) she adds it to a potion as she says she'll get her revenge. She also states that while the Queen may be evil, she is wicked, and wicked always win, revealing herself as the Wicked Witch of the West.
Lost actress Rebecca Mader's casting as an upcoming villain for the series was announced in December 2013. It was later revealed that she will play The Wicked Witch of the West, despite rumors that she would be playing the One Hundred and One Dalmatians antagonist Cruella De Vil. Other casting confirmations for the second half of the season include Alexandra Metz as Rapunzel, Sunny Mabrey as Glinda the Good Witch, and Henri Lubatti as Lumiere.
In regard to the episode's setting, producer Adam Horowitz said to The Hollywood Reporter "The most fun is to deepen the characters and keep telling their story. So to see Emma and Henry in the real world is really interesting. The premiere is a lot about that." He then said regarding the tone for the rest of the season "I would say there is a sense of delicious fun that the Wicked Witch brings. It is a different tone than the fall. We felt Peter Pan was a very psychological villain and very Machiavellian. The Wicked Witch operates from a place of delicious wickedness."
Edward Kitsis and Horowitz also confirmed that they would incorporate Ginnifer Goodwin's pregnancy into the story, as she is currently expecting a child with co-star and fiance Josh Dallas. Prior to this episode's airing, a special entitled "Wicked is Coming" is scheduled to air, which features interviews from the cast and the executive producers regarding the series's upcoming developments.
The episode proved to be a welcome relief after its hiatus and from its previous outing as it placed a 2.4/7 among 18-49s with 7.66 million American viewers tuning in, taking the top spot in the 8 to 9 p.m. hour in terms of ratings, even though The Amazing Race had more viewers during that hour. The outing also helped improved ABC's revamped Sunday night schedule that saw its viewership from this episode carried over to the debut of another fantasy series, Resurrection. The 18-49 share and viewing figures marked the highest ratings for the season since its second episode in October 2013.
The episode was met with mostly positive reviews, with many critics complimenting the unpredictable nature of the new storylines created by the writers and producers.
Amy Ratcliffe of IGN gave the episode a 9.1 out of 10, saying "The spring return of Once was creative and seemed to infuse the show with fresh energy. It even felt like the actors were more comfortable with each other. Hopefully the new curse and the introduction of the Wicked Witch keeps things lively." Though she did criticize the absurdity of Emma having been dating a flying monkey for eight months.
Lily Sparks of TV.com gave the episode a positive review, saying
Good things happened: I’m super glad everyone is back in Storybrooke. It’s fantastic that Emma’s memory has been restored so quickly. It’s an interesting shift in dynamic that she will now be trying to convince Henry that all this stuff is real. The crazy train is pulling out of the station, and I'm getting on board. We'll know in a few more stops whether it's headed in the complete wrong direction.
Courtney Vaudreuil of TV Equals also complimented the unpredictable setting that the writers have created stating "I don’t want to be prematurely optimistic, but I like the reboot in Once Upon a Time. I can’t tell what direction they’re going to go in next, which is nice. I am hopeful that all of Henry-centric stories are a thing of the past. Rebecca Mader looks fantastic as the Wicked Witch, so I’m excited to see what she does with the part." Christine Orlado of TV Fanatic gave the episode 4.6 out of 5 stars, praising the relationship between Snow White and Regina saying, "I loved the changes that have occurred between Snow and Regina. It's best for the kingdom if they band together, but there are doubts as to whether Regina is really on board, until Snow finds her burying her own heart." She continued, quoting Regina's line "I don't run from monsters. They run from me.", and naming it one of her favorite quotes from the show.
In a more critical review, Gwen Ihnat of The A.V. Club gave the episode a C-, noting that "A progressive restart can help rejuvenate a series (or a relationship), but not when nothing changes. Sure, the villain is now a Wicked Witch instead of an Evil Queen, but give or take a flying monkey, that doesn’t help much. You can repave it all you want with yellow bricks, but it’s still the same road." 
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