Once Upon a Time: The Price Review

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by Marianne Paluso (@Marianne_P81)

If the first two episodes are any indication, season five of Once Upon a Time is going to be truly amazing. Penned by Andrew Chambliss and Dana Hogan, who also wrote two other favorite episodes in “Poor Unfortunate Soul” and “The Apprentice,” this writing duo is quickly becoming my favorite with another fantastic episode. “The Price” was romantic, intense, fast-paced, somber, and exciting with perfectly balanced storylines that hit all the right emotional notes. Just as we saw in season 3B, we see parallels between a present day Storybrooke with a villain with enigmatic motivations and residents without their memories, and flashbacks to what happened in Camelot that led Emma to embrace the darkness. The first pieces to that puzzle were revealed as we discover that Merlin is trapped inside a great tree and is prophesized that the Savior will be able to free him. When Arthur asks their identity, Regina uses the dagger to stop Emma from revealing herself and claims the title. Although this was done out of protection so Emma would not have to use dark magic, there was something uncomfortable about watching Regina control her, especially when she smiles when she accidentally does so. Regina is contrite and Emma is thankful but there was still an underlying feeling that this may be one of the first of a list of things that pushes Emma towards darkness, because sometimes decisions, even if made for the right reasons, can be bad ones. But it’s not simply a lack of control that could have lead Emma down that path, seen when the ball thrown in their honor takes a tragic turn. Percival asks Regina for a dance knowing her true identity: the Evil Queen who slaughtered his village as a boy, all with a smile on her face. He tries to kills her, but Robin and David intervene and slay the vengeful knight. But Robin is mortally wounded and when Regina’s magic is blocked from healing him, she asks Emma to save him. They all protest, but Regina is so devastated at the thought of losing Robin she pleads for Emma’s help, who, despite Rumple’s voice in her head that gleefully tells her a price must be paid, heals him with her magic. This affects her so deeply that she immediately kisses Killian, clinging onto him with all her might, once again trying to quiet the darkness inside of her. Only Emma remembers these events in Camelot, making our characters in Storybrooke confused and fraught with worry. Henry is sad believing he failed his mother, Killian wants to believe True Love’s Kiss will save her and is heartbroken when it doesn’t, Snow and David fear that in winning this time their daughter will lose, and Regina doubts her ability to protect the town and have people actually trust her. When Robin is taken by a fury, the price of the magic used to save him in Camelot being a life, Regina and the others desperately try to save him. His soul is about to be taken to the underworld when Regina offers her own life instead, to which Snow, David, Leroy, and Arthur all stand with her, fighting off the grim reaper and saving Robin’s life. They won this battle but one is still raging inside Emma when we see that Excalibur is in the basement of her new home, and that if she wants to make it whole and snuff out the light forever, she will have to pay the price. What that price is remains to be seen, but it is sure to be a significant one.

“The Price” was truly an abundance of riches. I already love King Arthur and Guinevere (Liam Garrigan and Joana Metrass), who are the perfect combination of regal elegance and mysterious uncertainty. And my heart melted when Leroy gave Belle hope and she asked him to dance at the ball, reminding us of the sweet friendship they share. Indeed, the Camelot Ball was a beautiful gift wrapped in resplendent, colorful grandeur. Regina’s insecurity about not being able to dance was endearing and seeing David teach her was incredibly sweet. Equally touching was the moment Emma shares with her mother, as she tells her about the dreams she had of helping her daughter prepare for such a night. As the two gaze into the mirror, we see both joy and sadness reflected back. This unique mother/daughter relationship has been denied so much – it was why Snow was so enthusiastic when Emma went on her first date with Killian. Here there is an underlying sadness that Snow’s dream has come true in a time when Emma must hide her true identity and be battling against a dark force. But the happiness in being able to share this moment together outweighs that sorrow as Emma takes her mother’s hand and rests her cheek onto it. And this complexity and range of emotions was beautifully played by Morrison and Goodwin. That happiness is matched when the two walk down the grand staircase toward the men they love. The smile Killian and David share was so sweet as they are in awe of their ladyloves, Emma truly stunning in a white ball gown. It was an exquisite prelude to what Emma and Killian’s wedding would look like, the awestruck look and loving smile in Killian’s eyes resembling one a groom would display watching his bride walk down the aisle. And Snow and David’s dreams of seeing their daughter at a ball finally came true. The looks of love and happiness were also shared by Regina and Robin, who at one moment are so lost in each other, sharing a beautiful kiss, that the forget they are meant to be dancing and giggle as they try to keep up with the next steps. Even Henry was experiencing the first signs of love when he meets a sweet girl named Violet and they share the magic of an iPod together. Exquisitely directed by Romeo Tirone, and made beautiful by Stephen Jackson’s cinematography that captured the luminous glow of the setting, this ball reflected that for a few perfect moments, they were all able to experience the happiness of a romantic and idyllic fairy tale. Unfortunately this happiness was short lived when the ball took its tragic turn. The look of sheer panic on Regina’s face when Robin is near death was heart wrenching to see because we have seen this look before when she lost Daniel. But her expression here was far worse as Robin is the truest romantic love Regina has ever felt. It’s true the Evil Queen is great fun to watch, but these moments of complete vulnerability are when I like Regina the most and when Parrilla really shines, and these instances where Robin was nearly lost and saved were particularly poignant. Of course the real poignancy of the second time this happens came from the way the heroes all banded together, joining hands and stopping the fury from claiming Robin. And what I really love is that this scene felt like a lovely indicator that saving the town and Emma from darkness will be a team effort. This sense of camaraderie was wonderful especially from Regina, Snow, and David. Once upon a time they were a fractured family and now they are a united one.

The most captivating moments were that of Emma’s contrasting personas, Killian’s reactions towards her, and Belle’s sense of wisdom, compassion, and understanding. In Camelot, Emma and Killian were able to share much needed happy moments together. She is lighter and brighter with him beside her and the darkness within her is quieted. But after she uses magic to heal Robin, and likes the way the power feels, the heavy pull of the darkness returns, so she kisses Killian with great fervor, hoping the true love they feel will destroy that darkness she feels bubbling to the surface. But the allure proved too strong, the image of Rumple taunting her that she liked the taste of power too much for their kiss to truly free her. I had been longing for a clear explanation of the way in which True Love’s Kiss could destroy the Dark One, and it is clear as day not only in this moment but also in one in which Killian asks Belle why it never worked between her and Rumple. The answer is simple. It did work for a moment but when he realized he’d lose his power, he pulled away. He chose power over love. Belle’s wisdom and empathy here is lovely and the friendship and shared experience she and Killian now share is unique and wonderful. Killian has faith that their fate will not be the same, and it’s that faith he has in his and Emma’s love that makes the next scene so devastating. The Emma in Storybrooke is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The Dark Swan that transports Killian to her new home is indulgent and sensual, wanting nothing more than to be alone with her “pirate.” When Killian passionately kisses her, she slyly smiles when their lips part, but Killian pulls back in disbelief and heartbreak that True Love’s Kiss failed – again. Colin O’Donoghue expressed Killian’s utter confusion potently as his eyes dart back and forth searching her face for a reason why. She tells him it’s because there is nothing to fix. This is who she is and doesn’t understand why no one can accept her. He knows better and wants to know what happened in Camelot, but she refuses to say so, much as she wishes she could. It was enthralling to watch Jennifer Morrison’s performance in this scene. The moment you see the softness shine through contrasted with her new selfish side is remarkable. The ways she smiles, wanting him to stay is not warm and sweet, but instead seductive with an underlying sinister nature. And the soft expression in her eyes when he says she can tell him anything resembles the gentleness of the Emma he fell in love with. These shifts are subtle and the fact that they all happen within moments of each other is astounding.

Killian may truly love Emma no matter what but he also will not stand idly by and watch the woman he loves fall deep into the darkness she helped him to overcome not long ago.  The passion between them is palpable and it would have been easy to simply succumb to her temptations. But true love is never easy. It must be fought for. And as he tells a Belle who sweetly commiserates over their failed attempts at true love’s kiss, he spent over a century trying to destroy the Dark One, he can spent at least that long trying to save the woman he loves. One of things I loved most about all of these scenes was the authenticity and rawness of the feelings expressed, especially on Killian’s part. In any love story it is natural to enjoy the happy, romantic moments. But what gives the story its depth and brevity are the moments of sorrow and intensity. Killian’s emotions range from hope and love, to heartbreak and shock, and anger and determination. That is what real love entails. It is not an everlasting state of perfect bliss. True love is passion and joy, kisses and fights, smiles and tears. You may struggle along the way but no matter what it is always worth it. This recognition of what love truly is and can overcome is what I believe Emma’s battle will be with. The Darkness she has embraced always fights against that pull towards the light and love in all its forms that this light embodies. When we see the true Emma shine through as she watches her loved ones from afar, feeling the same isolation and loneliness she felt at the beginning of the series, the price of power becomes crystal clear. She sadly sits alone in her new home, stroking the dagger with a mix of somber resignation and possession (it was so reminiscent of the way Frodo was with the One Ring), when Rumple surprisingly appears to her again showing her the way to snuff out the light forever. In a truly moving montage, we see just how strongly the darkness has taken a hold of Emma, paralleled with those who will do anything to help her through this battle between the light and dark: the family she wants to protect, the friendships that are special, the magic that can fight her, and most especially the love that will never give up.  The beauty of this story will be the battle between the Savior and The Dark One residing in one person, between Emma, the brave and good woman with a deeply loving heart, and the Dark Swan, the selfish woman who is choosing power over love. In the end there is always hope she will find the strength to overcome her demons and embrace the light once more.

Favorite Moments:  I never thought I would enjoy watching not just one but two instances of a failed True Love’s Kiss between Emma and Killian, but the hope and passion behind these was so deeply felt and gorgeously performed, that I was enthralled because we know why they could not work and it has nothing to do with how truly they love each other. This feels like a prelude to a epically romantic moment on the horizon for this profoundly beautiful couple. The Ball at Camelot and all of the lovely romantic and familial moments were equally beautiful, from seeing Regina and Robin so happy that that forget where they were, and the sweetness of Henry’s first crush, to seeing the pride and joy on Snow and David’s face seeing their daughter at a royal ball, and precious moments of happiness between Emma and Killian as their looks of love and dance resembled what could be a wedding. Regina offering her own life for Robin’s was deeply poignant as was the moment others stood up with her. And lastly, seeing how far the friendship between Killian and Belle has come is so fantastic as they can relate to each other in a way that no one else can.

Favorite Lines:
Killian: I spent over a century trying to find a way to kill the bloody crocodile, I can spend at least that long trying to save the woman I love.

Dark One Rumple: As long as the Dark One has existed, one thing has always held us back. The pull of the family we were so desperate to protect, the friendships that make it impossible to forget who we used to be, the magic that threatens to undo our most evil deeds, and worst of all, the love that refuses to give up on us.

Belle: It is far easier to hate a Dark One than it is to love one.


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