Emma Swan wonders if the residents of Storybrooke, Maine are somehow actual characters from legendary children's tales. Parallel worlds unravel in this modern take on classic fables where a curse has trapped famed storybook characters in our world.
Emma's life turns upside down when she is visited by Henry, the 10-year-old child she long ago gave up for adoption; Emma brings Henry back to his foster mother in a strange town called Storybrooke.
Regina tries to push Emma out of Storybrooke and Henry's life; information about the Evil Queen's curse comes out.
Emma talks Mary Margaret into reading to an unidentified coma patient in the hospital; Prince Charming and Snow White meet for the first time.
Emma tries to help a pregnant woman get away from Mr. Gold; Cinderella makes a deal with Rumplestiltskin.
Henry explores the inside of a mysterious sinkhole to see if its contents can link Storybrooke to the Fairy Tale world, and Jiminy Cricket yearns to leave the family business and transform into the person he wants to be.
David must choose between staying with Kathryn or leaving her to be with Mary Margaret, with whom he's fallen deeply, and inexplicably, in love.
One of Storybrooke's residents starts to remember fairytale life; the town mourns a death; the Queen tries to find an assassin to kill Snow White.
Emma runs for public office, leading Regina and Mr. Gold to indulge in dirty politics; Rumpelstiltskin searches for a power source to help his son avoid war.
Emma tries to save two children from the foster system by finding their birth father; the evil queen has Hansel and Gretel steal an artifact from a blind witch.
David and Mary Margaret continue to struggle with their feelings; a mysterious stranger in town makes Regina and Emma suspicious; Prince Charming's wedding approaches.
Sidney asks Emma for help uncovering evidence that could expose Regina's corrupt ways; David and Mary Margaret continue to meet secretly; King Leopold is granted three wishes.
When Mr. Gold's house is robbed, Emma suspects he is planning to seek vigilante justice; Ruby, Mary Margaret and Ashley (Jessy Schram) plan a night out on Valentine's Day.
David finally tells Kathryn about his secret romance with Mary Margaret in an attempt to get out of a loveless marriage. Meanwhile, in the fairy-tale world, Prince Charming interrupts his search for Snow White to help Abigail find something she lost.
While Mary Margaret and Leroy rekindle an old and unremembered friendship during the Miners Day festival, Emma looks into the disappearance of Kathryn, David's wife. Meanwhile, in the fairy tale world Grumpy falls in love with a fairy.
Emma hires Ruby to help her, and give the woman a chance to determine what she's good at. Meanwhile, Emma questions David about his possible involvement in Kathryn's disappearance, while in the fairytale world, Red Riding Hood and her fellow villagers are trapped in their village by a bloodthirsty wolf.
While Mary Margaret stands trial in the murder of Kathryn, in the fairy tale world Prince Charming tries to stop Snow from killing Evil Queen Regina.
During her search for Mary Margaret, Emma is kidnapped by a mad man with an affinity for hats; the evil queen hires a man of magic.
Emma works hard to prove Mary Margaret's innocence in Kathryn's murder. Meanwhile, in the fairy-tale world, Regina must choose between marrying for love and happiness—defying her mother, Cora—or money and privilege; and the reason the Evil Queen hates Snow White is revealed.
Mr. Gold attempts to uncover the true identity of August, Emma confronts Regina about her involvement in Kathryn's disappearance, and David tries to apologize and reconcile with Mary Margaret. Meanwhile, in the fairytale land that was, Rumplestiltskin agrees to comply and do whatever it takes if his son can find a way for him to safely give up his powers and turn back into the loving man he used to be.
August promises to enlighten Emma and take her on a journey that will show her how she can beat Regina, and possibly take custody of Henry; and with Mary Margaret returning to work, Regina puts a plan in motion to seduce David. Meanwhile, in the fairytale land that was, with the Evil Queen's curse about to strike, Geppetto agrees to a plan that will save Snow White and Prince Charming's daughter, but with a proviso that could also save his own son.
Henry pleads with Emma to stay in Storybrooke and continue her quest as the savior of the fairytale dwellers, and Regina concocts a plan that could rid her of Emma forever. Meanwhile, back in the fairytale land that was, Snow White enlists the aid of her fellow fairytale cohorts to attack the Evil Queen and save Prince Charming's life.
Emma and Regina team together in order to find a way to save Henry's life. Meanwhile, in the fairytale land that was, Prince Charming attempts to escape from the Evil Queen's clutches in order to reunite with Snow White who, unbeknownst to him, has already taken a bite of the Queen's poison apple.