[This is a review of Once Upon a Time season 3, episode 12. There will be SPOILERS.]

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s… the long-awaited, mid-season premiere of Once Upon A Time! ‘New York City Serenade’ kicks off a solid run of episodes leading up to the finale in May. Old friends are reunited, new foes are introduced and the stage is prepped for an all new adventure.

Time jumps are standard fare after a hiatus but in classic OUAT style, there are two worlds involved. First, the whole Storybrooke crew is back in the Enchanted Forest and their story picks up at the moment of return. But Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) have a story to tell too, back on Earth. Theirs takes place a year after Regina’s rebooted curse.   

Aside from crashing a picnic, the excitement doesn’t pick up in the Enchanted Forest until after Snow’s (Ginnifer Goodwin) monologue on pain. It’s been a known secret that the Wicked Witch of the West (Rebecca Mader) was landing here this season and the first hint of her existence is the flying monkey that attacks Snow and Regina (Lana Parrilla). Next, there’s the forcefield, until we finally get a glimpse of the villain herself in the closing seconds.

But while the adventure begins in the Enchanted Forest, the episode belongs to Emma, here in our world. Faced with Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) and his eye-opening scavenger hunt, she’s got a choice to make. A choice that means giving up her life of comfort for the more painful truth. Not to mention a rooftop encounter with her would-be fiancé-turned-flying-monkey.

The writers do a good job here. Showing both sides of Emma’s struggle and making it interesting, even though you know all along what her choice will be. Henry’s dialogue isn’t the greatest – still – and the poor kid’s voice is breaking, but one can hope they keep his story interesting by holding his memories at bay for a few episodes at least.

Meanwhile, the show leaves us with one huge question: What happened between the hero’s return [pictured above] and the very pregnant Snow’s return to Storybrooke a year later?

Clearly the Witch and her flying minions have something to do with it. They’ve had a spy on Emma for the past eight months, not to mention that vial of Regina’s blood. And the question as to how the entire town ended up back in Storybrooke with their memories wiped is sure to be an interesting one.

What did you think?

Once Upon A Time returns next Sunday with “Witch Hunt”  @8pm on ABC.