ABC’s Once Upon a Time opened Season 2 neither in Storybrooke nor in fairytale land. It wasn’t even Boston. Instead, the setting was… New York City?
Even more curious was the focus of those first two minutes — a character listed in the credits only as “Mysterious Man,” played by True Blood/Terriers alum Michael Raymond-James.
“People wondered if we were going to start in Storybrooke or fairytale land. We started in a third place,” series cocreator Eddy Kitis tells TVLine. “We wanted to start in a world nobody expected.”
What are viewers not named Desmond Hume to make of the jarring Season 2 opening and its enigmatic subject? “We’re very excited about the answer to who he is, and to reveal that sooner rather than later” — sometime within the first nine episodes, says cocreator Adam Horowitz.
Until “sooner” arrives, the show bosses hint that Mysterious Man’s apartment was not decorated in a vacuum. “We try to be meticulous with the production design, so… yes, there’s stuff in the apartment specific to the character,” says Horowitz. Adds Kitsis: “There’s one thing in there in particular … I’m not going to say what it is…. that has very significant meaning.”
Fine, twist our arm. TVLine paid ridiculously close attention to the opening sequence, and even freeze-framed for you both sides of the Mysterious Man’s digs, calling out possible clues to his identity. One item in particular raised a red flag for us. Here now the photos and the sum total of our observations. (Plus, our full recap can be found on Page 2.)
1 | Mysterious Man apparently works on the Upper West Side, cutting through Central Park on his way home — and then taking an odd detour to East 47th St. — before hopping on the N-line subway at the 5th Avenue station.
2 | Mysterious Man lives on Grand Street in Little Italy, across from the famous Piemonte Ravioli Co.
3 | Mysterious Man’s apartment is teeming with anachronisms including pocket watches and monocles (see letter A in photos below), radios and clocks (C), cameras (L) and desk microphones (K).
4 | His other vintage possessions include a “Cleaner & Hatters” sign (B), a corded rotary-dial phone (D), a cobbler’s wooden shoe forms (G) and a Berol Giant manual pencil sharpener (J). Is he an anachronism himself, something out of time and place?
That said, the music player/phone he watches tumble down the fire escape seems modern enough. (Also, he’s a better man than I, who would have openly wept if my Blackberry ever left my hand.)
5 | Speaking of music… the tune playing throughout is “Charley’s Girl,” a Lou Reed ditty that warns, “You better watch out” because “she’s gonna turn you in” — as a beautiful blonde bail bondsperson might?
6 | Dreamcatcher (H)! Women’s bowling trophy (E)!…?
7 | Speaking again of music, the Mysterious Man loves his wax — which he presumably spins on his Desmond-like record player (M) — and just album covers in general. One example (I) is a print of John Guliak’s 7 Stories & 13 Songs. (If that’s also an album cover hanging to the left of the doorway, my research came up empty in ID’ing it. Any help?)
8 | But perhaps most… curious … is something that was barely yet purposefully glimpsed. Just after the Mysterious Man arrives home, the camera angle changes to peer down at the bookcase with the radios. Sticking out from behind it is a sign (inset, letter F) bearing the logo for the progressive punk rock band NoMeansNo — specifically, the logo used on the album The Day Everything Became Isolated and Destroyed. I’m just spit-balling here, but if you wish to risk being spoiled, check out the fourth track.
Lastly, let’s not forget the message delivered to this man via “air mail” — a postcard from Storybrooke bearing the simple message: “Broken.” Which to me suggests he was never able to enter the Maine town… until now.