“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.
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.