Once Upon a Time: “The Price of Magic”

“All magic comes with a price.”  When Rumpelstiltskin first utters this ubiquitous phrase in season one of ABC’s Once Upon A Time, the weight of it escapes us.  As the series has progressed, however, every time a character begs for a magical way to save a loved one, to exact revenge, or even to just make one simple wish come true, a feeling of impending doom descends.  We’ve seen enough by now to know that all magic, both dark and light, has consequences, and no one can quite predict the end results.

“The Price of Magic” takes us all the way back to season 1 and re-tells the story in such a way that we begin to see the connecting threads are growing ever deeper, ever more tangled, and deadly serious.

Blonde woman [Emma] in red leather jacket At the beginning of season 1, we enter Storybrooke, Maine on the heels of the main character, Emma Swan, who is returning a small boy named Henry to his adoptive mother, Regina — the Mayor of Storybrooke.  Though Henry maintains that Emma is his birth-mother and that is stepmother is ‘evil’, Emma cannot legally keep Henry.  She remains in Storybrooke, however, suspicious of Regina’s handling of Henry, who is a sensitive and, in her opinion, overly imaginative child.  Henry begins to wheedle his way into her heart and confides in her that he thinks the town is under a curse and that everyone is a fairy tale character, including her.

Throughout season one, Henry’s beliefs are proven true as we are introduced to such characters as Red Riding Hood, Jiminy Cricket, and Rumpelstiltskin.  We see these characters’ back stories in flashbacks that lead up to their being sent to Storybrooke as part of a curse cast by their mayor, Regina, who was once an evil queen, though her flashbacks show a young woman changed by tragedy.  Emma Swan is the only person who can break the curse and return the characters to their original identities.  At the end of the season, through the machinations of two very powerful players, people begin to remember who they are, and magic arrives in Storybrooke.

This story, however, does not yet have a happy ending.  Season two opens with Snow White and Emma thrown back into fairyland and Prince Charming attempting to put the town back together while he tries to find a way for Snow White and Emma to come back. Rumpelstiltskin and Regina make it difficult for him, attempting to further their own agendas.  Snow White and Emma meet new characters, including Regina’s mother, Cora, and her henchman Killian Jones.  Things take a turn for the worse when a traitor is discovered and the means to get home are stolen.  Snow White and Emma fight pirates, giants, a wraith and ogres on their quest to return to Storybrooke.

Regina's mother, cora, in a blue ball gownThe second season introduces parallel story lines as well as flashbacks that go even further than before, introducing us to Regina’s mother’s heartbreaking story line.  And of course once we see Cora’s back story we start to feel sorry for her, even though she is one of the most villainous characters in the show.   Rumpelstiltskin’s story gets deeper as well, and we begin to see the consequences of past actions start to intertwine.  Meanwhile, in Storybrooke, it is discovered that no one can leave town.  If they do, they revert to their cursed personalities, resulting in a permanent loss of their fairy tale identity.  In other parts of the world, people seemingly unconnected to our fantasy characters are starting to close in, and they don’t appear to be friendly.One other interesting twist: Emma’s old boyfriend, Henry’s father, returns, and is revealed to be one of Storybrooke’s most important characters, perhaps the very reason it even exists.Snow White and Prince Charming confront Regina in clock towerDuring the episodes most recently aired, Emma and Snow White manage to return to Storybrooke, but Cora and her henchman are also successful in finding a way to the town, resulting in a horrifying choice made by Snow White, the one person who could always be trusted to do the right thing.  The feud between Regina and Snow White reaches earth-shattering proportions, and it remains to be seen whether this will end in another curse or the beginning of yet another magical war.  Once again, magic has a price, and this time it could be fatal for everyone.While Once Upon A Time does have its share of pageant princess gowns and cheesy dialogue, the show has a lot going for it: mainly, Robert Carlyle’s fantastic turn as the sympathetic villain Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin and the overarching themes of family, love, identity, and consequences.  The psychology of each character is perfectly plotted, resulting in three-dimensional characters that you love and hate.  We see the hollowness of revenge, the cost of using magic as a shortcut to happiness, and the search for love and family, presented in tightly written story arcs by such great TV writers as Jane Espenson (Buffy), Andrew Chambliss (Dollhouse), Ian B. Goldberg (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and the show’s creators, both writers from Lost.Season one is available on Netflix Instant, and I’d highly recommend it for those who have a penchant for re-imagined fairy tales and/or fast-paced, complex story lines.”The Price of Magic” was a reminder of why I fell in love with this show, and I’ll be tuning in to see how the story arc resolves itself.  Hopefully it involves lots of scenes with Rumpelstiltskin.
K.M. Cone

K.M. Cone

K.M. Cone is a story nerd, particularly for the episodic stories told via the medium of television. When not parked in front of the TV, K.M. Cone can be found writing kooky urban fantasy on her personal site, attempting to learn German, or making a huge pot of soup for her friends, who are probably coming over to join her in her latest TV or animated film obsession.
K.M. Cone

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