Who Is Once Upon a Time's Mystery Man? We Spy 12 Clues -- Plus, Our Season Premiere Recap

Warning: The following contains spoilers from Once Upon a Time‘s Season 2 premiere.

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?

RELATED | Fall TV Preview: Once Upon a Time Bosses Tease Lots Identity Crises, Snow’s Secret and Rumple’s Wrath

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.

RELATED | Matt’s Inside Line Has Scoop on a Once Upon a Time Return

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.


Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Mellie says:

    White Rabbit is a pretty strong guess at this point. Baelfire doesn’t make sense, the timeline insists that Bael and Rumple’s storyline happened a LONG time before any of Regina’s business began, like nothing to sniff at. So it only makes sense that Bae now has to be an old man, not some young love-interest looking guy.

    Current support for the White Rabbit:
    Red Hand+Watch
    Pocket watches/monocles
    Rabbit paper-weight on desk.
    Hatter reference on wall.

    Who would have sent the message? Jefferson. Someone else pointed out how Jefferson always knew who he was and that it makes sense he could have contacts outside of Storybrooke and I completely agree with that.

    I also like the suggestion that someone else made… About how he could have been brought to Storybrooke like everyone else, but he left. And if you leave, you can’t come back… Unless the curse were to be broken.

    • Kelly says:

      Time here may be different than fairytale time or the curse could have transported them to a time when Bae was here/younger. Rumple created the curse and thought August was Bae so it does make some sense.

      • Templar says:

        This may be a case of “When” are we. Bael may have come into our world at a time when Emma was about 8 or 10 years old. We know where they were, but not when. Time travel is at play here.

  2. MyReligionIsWhovian says:

    Those guys need to adjust their definition of ‘sooner.’ Within the first nine episodes? -_-

  3. Kelly says:

    I liked Graham/Huntsman getting featured in recap. hope that means we will see him again. i liked that belle stands up to rumple and that they were honest at the end. Bolds well for them being partners.

    • Katherine215 says:

      I’m REALLY hoping we see the Graham alive again. He was my favorite character. :(

    • gdv says:

      I read that the show producers weren’t expecting Graham/Huntsman to be such a favorite among fans, and had already decided to kill him off since day 1. So now they’re looking for ways to bring him back every so often in flashbacks (like they did in S1 finale).

  4. Jessica says:

    Because of the pocket watch I am thinking the white rabbit. But we will see.

  5. tp says:

    The letters describing the items is confusing to me. (I) is named as two different things. A print and a giant pencil sharpener. (L) is supposed to be a record player but it’s by the cameras. (J) is supposed to be cameras but it’s by the wall. Somebody help me out and explain it like I’m in kindergaten please. lol.

  6. patti says:

    I thought in season one Mal and Regina talked about the sleeping curse not working on sleeping beauty but now it’s happening after all went to storybrooke including malificent

    • Bigby says:

      Aurora mentioned in tonights episode that Maleficent has threatened not only herself, but her mother too. So I’m assuming Aurora’s mother was the very FIRST sleeping beauty and that is whom Regina and Mal were referring to in season one.

  7. Missy Kelly says:

    Mulan and Phillip seemed like a Disney exec trying to bring more marketing dollars into characters that haven’t been generating cash rather than a natural offshoot of the story. Although, they tied it in nicely at the end it probably would have worked better if we spent the time with the characters we know and love and let that story spill out over the season.

  8. Mike says:

    My guess is Cogsworth or Lumiere — who betrayed Belle to the Queen and was rewarded as a result.

  9. Meg says:

    I loved the way Henry was with Regina at the end looks like the evil queen has lost her happy ending now!! And I definitely agree that the mystery man is most likely Bea and Henry’s dad! Where is August? He and Emma should be together!

  10. Alicia L. says:

    Great episode, I have one problem though, Snow called out the wrong name when Charming went to close the wooden guard rail! Is that suppose to be the confusion on the identity front since they are living to separate lives or am a crazy?

    • ldmrmom says:

      Alicia -it was not the not the wrong name. Charming’s first name was named David in both worlds. I assume because in most tellings of the Snow White tale, the prince has no name other than “the Prince” or “Charming.” :)

  11. Emily says:

    My immediate thought was Henry’s father, but bealfeire is a good guess as well

  12. Lucie says:

    Could the randomness of his apartment be sort of an link to Rumple’s pawn shop?

  13. JJfreedom says:

    Great recap BTW! Love the Easter Egg pics…definitely helped me with missing LOST. I love the idea that its the white rabbit or even Cosworth from Beauty and the Beast.

    Call me crazy but I think I read an article recently in regards to Henry’s dad. The writers or maybe it was Jennifer Morrison explaining that his storyline will be explained in one episode and he’s has no connections in regards to Fairytale Land/Strorybrooke.
    Does this ring a bell for anyone?

  14. JJfreedom says:

    To further support the White Rabbit theory…on the desk he leans against to try and close the window, there are cutouts that look like keyholes on the front.

  15. I think the mystery man is the White Rabbit and Jefferson/Mad Hatter sent him the postcard. Speaking of Jefferson I was hoping they’d show his reunion with his daughter. Now why Regina said who’s Jefferson is weird.

    So if FTL still exists I guess they have to save it this season & get everyone back.
    About Dr.Whale he said “You aren’t my prince” sounding like he emphasized the my hmmmm

  16. Jenna says:

    Was it Mr. Bales?

  17. Natalie says:

    I think Baelfire is the one who is Henry’s dad, but I’m not so sure this mystery stranger is Bael. I think it’s a logical choice to assume that, however I think that a lot of the clues in the apartment go another direction. I agree with the people who think he’s the white rabbit because of the clocks, the wall sign and the rabbit paper weight on his desk.

  18. David says:

    Baelfire/Henry’s Dad/CHIP?!

  19. baelfire aka henry’s dad! der :) the beauty and the beast track from the album cemented that for me (since Gold is the ‘Beast’ and Baelfire’s father).

  20. panett87 says:

    My vote is that it’s Henry’s dad OR Rumple’s son. My vote is that it’s Rumple’s son, I just can’t figure out who sent the postcard??

    • Templar says:

      Maybe Rumpel sent it. It came by carrier pigeon with no stamp which would indicate magic. Kind of reminded me of Harry’s owl.

  21. Gaia says:

    My first thought was the Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland…but he could be Bealfire as well…
    Anyway, it was an AWESOME premiere!!!

  22. WenRaz says:

    I just really want to see the reunion of Jefferson the Hatter and his daughter!

  23. elaine says:

    Its the rabbit no doubt about it… See Tim Burton film description http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Rabbit … If he was Baelfire who sent him the dove? Thats why that whole theory doesnt click

  24. threeboysmom says:

    Where is everyone seeing a rabbit paperweight? I keep looking and coming up empty-handed.

    • Templar says:

      When looking in the window, on the right, there is a rabbit dressed in a long skirt with one arm extended holding what looks like a head [may be a basket though]. it looks like one of those dressed up easter decorations.

  25. H2OHen says:

    The majority of the “stuff” around the apartment is audio-related. Microphones, 8-tracks, record player, old radios, records… plus he drops an iPod. Its not as random as it looks at first glance.

  26. DG says:

    if it isn’t going to be Baelfire or the white rabbit, my preferred choice would be that Mysterious Man is Jack the Giant Killer. Somehow banished from Storybrooke out of fear that he’s some unstable psychopath that not even giants can handle. Now that would be an interesting twist.

  27. TVDIVA says:

    I say it is Baelfire and the postcard came from Jefferson. I also think Baelfire is Henry’s dad. I think that would set up the most family conflict.

  28. Lori says:

    Maybe I’m crazy but I think he’s the smoking catepillar or the chesire cat from Alice in Wonderland.

  29. red says:

    The woman holding a bowling ball looks like a queen holding a head. Off with their heads type queen.

  30. AT says:

    Wasn’t there someone outside of Storybrook who helped Gold arrange Henry’s adoption?

    • Templar says:

      Try this on for size. Baelfire is Henry’s dad. Rumpel/Gold can come and go from Storybrooke since he wrote in his own terms for the curse. He has found Bael, but Bael is prevented from entering SB by the curse. Together they arrange the adoption of Emma’s child so that Gold can keep him safe. The guy in NYC is Baelfire and Gold sent the postcard [no stamp, carrier pigeon] by magic, to let him know the curse is broken.

  31. Robin says:

    My mind was completely blown when Emma, and Snow went through the hat! I was like NOOOO!!! The situation seems hopeless! gah! Charming is so sweet though reassuring Henry that he’s going to get them back.

    I think the M.M. is the white rabbit, based on the clues and the stuff someone else said in the comments.

  32. Lauren says:

    Ok let’s stop and think for a minute. Bae was 13 when he went through the portal, and Emma hadn’t even been born yet. If Bae did end up in our world by the time Emma was 18 when she had Henry Bae would have been 31 because he didn’t come through with the curse. It is possible I’m not denying that (Hell these days we’ve seen weirder and worse outside of TV) but how do we even know that Bae ended up in our world? Going on the Once idea that there are many worlds, ours may not be the only one without magic.

    • Templar says:

      Two possibilities: The beanstalk took him to Neverland for a time with the Lost Boys where he didn’t age. Then he came to our world when Emma was ten or so. Or, he rode the beanstalk directly to our world [but not to Storybrooke], but to a future time when Emma was 10 or so. Time is a factor because Regina had Jefferson go back in time for the apple to make the turnover. A Wrinkle in Time.

  33. Stacie says:

    Loved this episode. This is gonna be a great season!

  34. H.Houston says:

    That would make sense that he was Henry’s father because he was not in the fairytale land when Regina made the curse – he was already on this side of the rift. He wouldn’t have been able to enter Storybrook until the curse was broken. BUT the big question looms – WHO knows who he is and sent him a carrier message bird telling him that the curse had been lifted?

  35. Djames13 says:

    The print/poster beside the door to the left is an illustration done a few years ago by a graphic design studio from the Minneapolis. The studio is called Aesthetic Apparatus. It’s called “Control & Capital”. Not sure what it represents in this scene unless just the visual of the red glove is important.

  36. Hayley Frome says:

    I am thinking Peter Pan.

  37. amanda zustra says:

    He’s the author of “Once Upon A Time”, son of Rumple and father of Henry. Wow…this guy has a lot of greatness for sure. Or am I just going way too out here?

  38. Rae says:

    I really don’t understand the preoccupation with Bale being Henry’s father. Its too easy for this show, they aren’t going to be that obvious.
    I like the idea of the mysterious man being the White rabbit, though, when I saw the hatter sign when I watched the episode it made me go oooh, but my mind never went there.
    I think he could be Bale, and that the postcard was delivered by August, who is the only possible person in my mind. The only other people who were aware of their TRUE identity, Jefferson, Regina and Rumple were all bound by the curse. How could they have met this man? August could have during his travels, someone who helped him own up to his mistake, hopefully when we find out what happened to him we will have our answer.

    • Templar says:

      Not to put too fine a point on it, but August is presently WOOD and not capable of communicating in any way. I believe Gold sent it. Like nudge nudge the coast is clear. It’s safe to come here now.

  39. Ljbmully says:

    Why did they pan the camera on the horse rein when the mystery msn walked by it. Did that symbol have meaning?

  40. Sloane says:

    Did they REALLY only let Prince Phillip (Julian freakin Morris) last ONE episode or does he have a chance of.coming back? I was SO looking forward to him this season. And he lasted one.freakin.episode.. :(

    • Temperence says:

      The writers were interviewed, and said that he’s not necessarily dead, just his soul has been removed. When there is magic, there is a possibility that anything can happen. Perhaps Aurora and Mulan are going to go hunting wraith to retrieve Phillip’s soul…

  41. Louisa says:

    Baelfire AND Henry’s father.

  42. Temperence says:

    He’s the March Hare. But I absolutely love the idea of Baelfire being Henry’s day… which makes Rumple his grandfather and ties all this lovely mess in a nice tight bow.

  43. Iris says:

    Things in the apartment appear be related to all the fairy tales and characters. He lives in little italy, Regina is an italian word and Lana parrilla is half italian and from NY. I think he’s connected to Regina somehow. Maybe a Regina and Daniel baby?

    • Iris says:

      Maybe Regina is the millers’s daughter who gave up her baby to Rumple which would explain why she asked him what his name was in ftl, why she told Jefferson “you don’t abandon family”, why she hid Belle from Rumple and why she loves Henry so much that’s the he’s only person she would never hurt.

    • nick1372 says:

      You’re making connections out of nothing. “regina” means “queen” in Latin. It has nothing to do with Italy or the little one in Manhattan.

  44. Jen says:

    We think it is Beast. My husband was a huge fan of lost and in lost the character played by belle was in love with Charley and Charley’s girl is the name of the song being played when we saw him initially. Then song 4 on the CD was beauty and the beast.

  45. Thomas Loy Bumgarner says:

    Maybe it is Captain James Hook or someone new not from Fairy Tele Land

  46. Iris says:

    Waistcoat, “cleaner and Hatter”, monocles, clocks – I will guess White Rabbit and Jefferson sent the post card.

    • Iris says:

      I will also add to the clues the pocket watch. the white rabbit has the ability to travel between wonderland and the real world so maybe he was in the real world when the curse was cast which would have left him out. Thus why he received the post card notifying him that the curse was broken and he could go back.

  47. ej says:

    No one seems to have considered that pigeon flew faster than Hedwig on over-caffined owl treats. The teaser’s gotta be a flash-forward and at some point before epi 9 we’ll figure out who sent the postcard with their magic weegee board. Don’t put faith in Track 4. Most of the others could be applied to characters or themes on the show. March Hare? Maybe, but August was given away (in part) by his paperweight; it would be kind of lame to use that plot bunny again. Peter’s a possibility, since his growing up (either by choice to avoid the curse or some other loophole) would be ironic, but then he’d upstage Hook’s arrival. There’s Bae, but I think like August, that’s a red-herring; after all, even if Rumple could use magic to find him writing “Broken” on a postcard is just too witty and engimatic for that estranged relationship, plus the fact that Bae doesn’t know about the curse and not even Regina knows about him. The only other possibility I can think of is Jack. EK and AH said (not sure where, Comic Con maybe?) that Jack is gonna show up this season “charismatic, MYSTERIOUS, and running from his past.” I’m on board with the possibility that he could be the baby daddy whichever character he otherwise may be. Either way, I look forward to finding out where Bae ended up, how Hook got rejuvinated, if Jefferson will come back for a full-fledged story (or if SS is just gonna do frequent cameos as an excuse to fly to the Couve and hook up with Jemo off set), if Jack is on the run from vengeful fairies, how Henry reacts to finding out Emma lied about his dad (gotta help Regina’s cause), and where MM fits in b/c MRJ is AWESOME!

    • replyer says:

      “flew faster than Hedwig on over-caffined owl treats.” – Hilarious. I agree with you. Peter is my favorite of the theories, but I’m very skeptical about the validity of the argument. I think there’s more evidence for Peter than Baelfire or March Hare, but Jack seems like a highly plausible idea as well. You’re right about track 4 and the other tracks being just as applicable lyrics-wise, though it is curious that the title is “Beauty and The Beast.” I hope the writers will not make Mysterious Man turn out to be Baelfire. It just isn’t right somehow. Of course, I suppose Baelfire could be Jack (using the magic bean), and there is a possible (though remote) Wheel of Time connection there, but I hope not.

  48. Kiki says:

    I’m going for the White Rabbit! In the original story he could move from Wonderland to the real world, where he met Alice for the first time, with no (evidence of) magic or tricks; Jefferson sent him the postcard once the curse was broken; plus, he’s wearing a waistcoat :-). I don’t think Baelfire is Henry’s dad, as it seemed to me that Rumple was still looking for him; I believe Mr Gold actually “planned” Henry, otherwise Emma would have never known about Fairy-tale land, so he chose someone very specifically. He must have been from the FTL though, so that Henry could enter Storybrook when he was adopted. Emma will need a lot of help from Archie, if Henry’s father is a fairytale character! :-)

  49. agitra says:

    Disney 1951 March Hare: Clean cup, clean cup, move down, move down, clean cup, clean cup, move down! I’m guessing a Wonderland character as The Cleaners and Hatters sign. And, I don’t want it to be Baelfire/Henry’s dad, yet. I think the writers are more devious than that and it will take longer to reveal Bael.

    • I can’t wait to learn who is Henry’s father. I hope it is the white rabbit and Emma is Alice in Wonderland clones. I got a feeling that writer is doing a great job fooling everyone with all the clue. I can’t wait when the identity of Henry is finally reveal and how his parent meet and why it didn’t work.

  50. tvdiva says:

    FYI – We find out who Henry’s father is in episode 6. While we all want the mysterious man to be Bael/Henry’s father, I think Henry’s father may have been a one night stand and may no nothing about Henry.