It was co-written by Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss, and was directed by David M. Barrett.
In the Characters' Past
In 1983, Kurt Flynn (John Pyper-Ferguson) and his young son Owen (Benjamin James Stockham) are camping in the Maine woods and Kurt gives Owen a lanyard he made as a child. Then the Dark Curse, which they perceive as a storm, strikes and damages Kurt's truck. They plan to hike to find help, but soon discover that the town of Storybrooke has appeared in a wilderness area through which they recently drove; Sheriff Graham (Jamie Dornan) welcomes them to town.
Regina (Lana Parrilla) is delighted to discover that her plan has succeeded. She revels in the townspeople's mundane and repetitive lives; every day, Regina wakes in bed with Graham, Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) limps along the sidewalk, Marco (Tony Amendola) repairs the sign over his shop, Granny (Beverley Elliott) and Ruby (Meghan Ory) argue, Dr. Hopper (Raphael Sbarge) walks Pongo, and Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) volunteers at the hospital where she does not recognize the comatose David Nolan (Josh Dallas). Regina is displeased that the Flynns are present, and hastens the repair of the truck so they can return home to New Jersey. However, Regina quickly becomes bored herself as the days pass, and Mary Margaret's meekness makes her realize that everyone's obedience is not real. She confronts Mr. Gold about her displeasure but leaves his shop unsatisfied as he seems to not know what she is talking about. She invites Kurt and Owen to dine at her home that evening. There, Regina learns that Kurt's wife passed away six months earlier and Owen is no longer happy at home. She shares that she, too, wanted a fresh start but that it hasn't been meaningful as she has no one with whom to share it. Owen tells Regina she'd make a good mother. She invites them to relocate to Storybrooke and Owen is enthusiastic about the idea, but Kurt insists that their life is in New Jersey.
The next day, Regina learns the Flynns are leaving. She uses Graham's heart to order him to arrest Kurt and abduct Owen for her. Kurt witnesses this and escape's Regina's office, but Regina and Graham cut off the Flynns' escape from town after a car chase. Kurt orders Owen to run as far as he can, which he does while Graham arrests Kurt. Regina tells Owen she just wants him to stay with her, but he refuses under these circumstances; she apologizes and he runs. Owen returns with police officers, but Storybrooke is no longer evident. Owen vows never to stop looking for his father, while Regina weeps as she reaches out to him from inside Storybrooke.
As Regina places a rose on Cora's coffin in the vault, Gold comes in to pay his own respects. He admits that Cora will always have a place in his heart, but Regina points out that he killed Cora. Gold says that he was desperate and was well aware that Mary Margaret tricked her into killing Cora. Regina vows to kill her step-daughter, but Gold points out that if she does then she'll lose Henry (Jared S. Gilmore). He suggests that she give up her desire for vengeance, pointing out that it has cost her everything, and warns her that she hasn't learned her lesson. When Regina wonders what he means, Gold tells her that no one can have everything that she wants. Despite his warnings, Regina says she will have both Henry and her vengeance on Mary Margaret.
Meanwhile, at the apartment, Henry is concerned about Mary Margaret, who refuses to eat. When Henry realizes that David and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) are hiding the truth and reminds Emma that she lied to him about his father, Emma decides to tell him about what happened and admits that Snow was partially responsible for Cora's death. Henry doesn't believe it, insisting that Mary Margaret wouldn't hurt anyone. Gold arrives to warn them that Regina plans to kill Mary Margaret but doesn't know any more details. David reminds him that he's family now, and that Gold owes Snow a debt for saving his life. Meanwhile, Regina searches through the vault's contents and finds a locket with pictures of her and her mother, then continues searching and finally locates a small scroll that belonged to Cora.
A short time later, Gold takes David to the vault and they realize that Regina has gone through Cora's belongings and figures that Regina plans to use one of Cora's spells on Mary Margaret and realizes that the ingredients necessary for the Curse of the Empty-Hearted are missing. Back at the apartment, Gold explains that the curse can make someone think they are in love with someone else. Henry realizes Regina plans to use it on him, and the curse will give her the "love" of Henry and vengeance on Mary Margaret, which appears to be everything she wants. However, the only thing she needs to make the curse work is the heart of the person she hates the most, which would be Mary Margaret. When Emma says that Gold has to help them, he says that he's fulfilled his debt, and that the only way to eliminate the problem is to kill Regina. As David and Emma consider what he's saying, Henry pleads with his mother and grandfather not to kill Regina, then runs out of the apartment and Emma goes after him. Once she's gone, Gold says to David that Regina's more dangerous than Cora because she has a heart.
Moments later, Emma catches up with Henry and takes him to the diner where Neal (Michael Raymond-James) is waiting, and Emma leaves the two to talk. Neal asks Henry to go to New York where he'll be safe from the curse, but Henry suggests that they figure out a way to eliminate magic from Storybrooke. Neal agrees but suggests that Henry come with him until they can determine how to do so. Meanwhile, Greg (Ethan Embry) comes into the diner to get a sandwich, explaining to Emma that he wants to take a hike to get in some exercise. When Emma asks why he hasn't left, Greg says that the town is growing on him and walks out. As Henry goes to the bathroom, Emma comes over to check on Neal. She's surprised that Henry agreed to go to New York, and then notices that Henry took his backpack with him, realizing that Henry has run off. Emma and Neal go after him.
Meanwhile, Regina breaks into the apartment, only to be stopped by Gold. Regina warns Mary Margaret that he can't watch her forever and leaves.
Hours later, Henry bumps into Greg as he runs through the woods. Henry claims that he's a boy scout trying to get a merit badge, while Greg tells him that he's hiking and taking photos. Henry directs him to the hiking path, and Greg wishes him good luck and walks away, but not before surreptitiously taking a picture of Henry's backpack with his cell phone. Ruby takes David, Emma, and Neal with her as she tracks Henry through the mines, where they learn that Henry has acquired dynamite. Remembering his conversation with Henry at the diner, Neal believes that Henry will use the dynamite to destroy magic. The others deduce that Henry will blow up the wishing well, the site where Gold first brought magic to Storybrooke.
Greg contacts Regina about Henry's whereabouts, and she races towards the well. Just as Henry is about to light the dynamite, Regina approaches Henry. He explains that he wants to get rid of magic because it's ruining everything, and accuses her of casting the curse on him. Regina magically vanishes the dynamite away and says that she doesn't want to lose him. Henry says that the curse won't make him love her for real, but Regina says that it's something and that they'll have everything. Henry echoes Owen's words, saying he doesn't want it to be like this. Emma, David, and Neal arrive and tell her to stop, and all four adults prepare for battle. Henry steps in between them and says that he won't get out of the way until they help him destroy magic. He says that it is making good people do terrible things, and asks Regina to help Emma. Regina says that she can't destroy magic, but does burn the curse scroll. Henry thanks her, and then hugs Emma. They take him away as Regina looks forlornly after her son.
Gold later goes back to the apartment and tells Mary Margaret that Henry convinced Regina to destroy the curse. As he turns to go, Mary Margaret asks how he can live with himself knowing all of the bad things he's done. He explains that he tells himself he's done the right thing over and over until he has convinced himself it really is the right thing.
Shortly afterwards, Regina hears a knock at her door and eagerly goes to answer it, to see that it is Mary Margaret. She tearfully begs Regina to kill her, and that it has to end before anyone else dies. Regina says that Henry would never forgive her if she did, and admits that she never learns from her mistakes. She then pulls out Mary Margaret's heart and looks carefully at it. She discovers a spot of darkness within the heart, and tells her that she darkened herself and that once she has, the darkness will only grow larger and larger. Mary Margaret begs Regina to crush it, but Regina refuses to destroy her when she's destroying herself and her family along with her. She puts Mary Margaret's heart back in and says that she can have everything after all, and then orders her away.
This exchange is being captured on camera by Greg, who secretly records the entire encounter on his cell phone and goes back to his car. As he prepares to drive off, Greg takes out a braided key chain and promises his father that he'll find him, as it is revealed that Greg Mendell is actually Owen Flynn, the young boy that Regina encountered back in 1983.
A tree falling on Kurt Flynn's vehicle is featured in the forest.
"Welcome to Storybrooke" was co-written by producers Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg. Nikita veteran David M. Barrett served as the episode's director.
Owen is the name of Luke Skywalker's uncle in Star Wars.
Kurt mentions that New Jersey is the home of "The Boss," musician Bruce Springsteen.
Kurt and Owen's last name, Flynn, is a reference to Tron: Legacy, written by series co-creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis. In that film, Sam Flynn searches for his father Kevin in a hidden world. In addition, a street bench has a 1983 advertisement for ENCOM personal computers, the fictional computer corporation in both Tron and Tron: Legacy.