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.

[CONTINUE TO NEXT PAGE FOR FULL RECAP]

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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299 Comments
  1. Thomas Loy Bumgarner says:

    Do we know if Oz or Narnia are even in the writer’s mind? Does that mean Aslan/Jesus Christ will correct Regina and her mother’s attitude or Gold/Rumpelstilkin as in healing? Doubt Disney/ABC will use C. S. Lewis.

  2. issie says:

    If you look closley in the mystrey man’s room there is a dream catcher by the window. Baelfire was given one by his little girlfriend in the first season in the return !!! before going through the portal. its identical to the dream catcher given to him in the return, just saying!!

  3. Faith says:

    On the blackberry/window shot, what about the small door on the right of the desk with the enormous keyhole? Looks reminiscent of the door Alice follows rabbit through in her story.

  4. Fairy Dust says:

    Great article but I have a correction on where the Mystery Man lives. He actually lives on Mulberry Street…not Grand St. There are two Piemonte storefronts…one on Grand and one on Mulberry. The storefront on Mulberry matches the Piemonte storefront we are shown in the opening scene of Broken. If you take a peek at that building on google street view the building is currently covered with scaffolding, but if you zoom in you can see the door that MM enters.

    Mulberry Street, the main street of Little Italy has such a rich history…the Mafia…and farther south the infamous Five Point section….and of course there is Billy Joel’s song, “Big Man on Mulberry Street.”

  5. sabrina says:

    ITS BAE!!!!!!!

  6. Jae says:

    I think he’s March Hare or White Rabbit as well. This show takes a LOT of cues from Disney, (Smee’s red hat, Beauty’s name being Belle, Dopey’s purple hat, Sleeping Beauty’s name being Aurora and the Evil Fairy being named Maleficent, among many) so to me, it would make sense that all those clocks represent the White Rabbit most of all, but also possibly the Hatter’s friend…The March Hare. he does have a wile look about him. sure it could be Bae, but why? they have a better story w/the whole Peter Pan thing. And as much as i’ve heard people talk about it not being possible for Bae to be Peter Pan because he “went to a land with out magic” i dont think people remember just what the Blue Fair said to Bae about it. Bae said to the Blue Fairy: Magic is everywhere. EVERYWHERE people. it’s just a matter of degrees, what Bae wanted was for them to go where his father (Rumple) specifically had no powers. Just as Regina’s powers are “Different” in Storybrooke, so to might Rumples have been if he had gone with Bae through the portal. The Blue Fairy said “You see, what ails your father is specific to our realm. His powers do not belong here. You must go where you can escape this wretched curse.” So, somewhere, where his powers were inept. So far we’ve seen 4 lands “places”- 1. Storybrooke 2. Fairytale Land/Enchanted Forrest where the Storybrooke characters are from. 3. Neverland and the Mysterious Man’s land- which i think is Wonderland. it makes sense, considering that Emma and Snow are trapped inside what is left of FTL. Hook and Cora were together and if you remember, Cora was banished from FTL through a looking glass (i.e. Wonderland). Another reason (and the main one really) that i think Bae might be Peter Pan, You don’t grow up there. Rumple as The Dark One has lived for many many many years (i believe it was said on the show upwards of 300 years) and that he had spent all that time searching for his long lost son, which would make Bae a very old man by the time the story w/Emma happens. The only place in which Rumple’s powers might not work but where Bae would not age is Neverland. Neverland is full of Pixie Dust and stuff. The Blue Fairy’s name is Star, Neverland was “the second star on the right”, what if Neverland is the origins of the faires, including Tinkerbell herself, and Fairies have strong magic, maybe so strong that dark magic like that of The Dark One is not able to work or is blocked or weakened somehow.
    All conjecture of course, but considering how tight lipped they’ve been about the show’s plots and how we’ve had one surprise after another (Pinocchio was once a guess for some as Bae) it’s the best I’ve been able to string together to fit the timeline, facts, hints, and possibilities thus far. :P

    • Jae says:

      Pardon me a correction:
      All the clocks AND monocles. if you’ve seen the Disney cartoon (as much of this show seems to take little props from) the White Rabbit has a monocle.

  7. ej says:

    SPOILER ALERT!!! If you want to know who MRJ is playing, either check out Michael Raymond-James’ Twitter page @MRaymondJames or go directly to @OnceBG. The Bulgarian site posted behind the scenes pictures from the episode in which our MM next appears.

  8. I still believe that he is Mr. Gold’s son and Henry’s father. I hope that the answer will be solved next year.

  9. K. says:

    I can say with most certainty that an easter egg in his apartment is the dream catcher – he and emma found it in that motel in ep. Tallahassee

  10. He is Baefire, will be seen this Sunday and also was the stranger who hit Hook but doesn’t know he is Rumplestilkins son.

  11. technology says:

    I will be confident We’ve look at this identical sort of declaration elsewhere, it should be gaining popularity using the world

  12. We know the stranger in NYC is Baefire. As to the man whose car hit Hook, turns out to be the boy who Regina originally wanted to adopt and has returned looking for his father(they were camping in the woods).

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