‘Once Upon A Time’ Review: ‘The Price’ Explores Heroism and Sacrifice In Fun Episode
Recap and review of Once Upon A Time – Season 5 Episode 2 – The Price:
Once Upon A Time is flipping alignments in Season 5, offering a refreshing take on its own mission statement. After all, if anyone can change and become a better person, surely the inverse is also true: anyone can fall from heroism to the dark side. “The Price” illustrates the dangers of dark magic, giving the impression of a Savior who turned because her friends didn’t come through for her in the way she always came through for everyone else.
In short, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) is sick of fixing everyone else’s problems, namely Regina’s (Lana Parrilla). And yet, that’s exactly what she ends up doing in the flashback. The structure here is interesting, because these flashbacks are giving us access to memories the characters no longer have in the present, allowing the audience to be at an advantage. It’s a privileged position, and one that adds drama, because we know why the Fury ultimately comes to claim Robin Hood (Sean Maguire), but the characters don’t. We know more than they do, and it adds tension to an already tense narrative. Basically, the flashback reveals that Sir Percival tried to kill Regina for pretending to be the Savior. In attempting to wound her with a sword enchanted to kill her, Robin is the one who is fatally injured. So Regina becomes desperate, pleading with Emma to use her dark magic to save Robin’s life. Emma does so, but it has the unintended side effect of causing an imbalance in the universe. Robin Hood is supposed to be dead, but he’s not, so the Fury demands a new sacrifice in the present, snatching Robin away. As for the flashback, this is the first moment (well, second, if you count Emma force-choking Merida last week) in which Emma is shown to be seduced by the pull of dark magic. She seems to enjoy having this power, and seems thrilled at the possibilities it presents. It’s a great performance from Morrison, who communicates this transition with little more than her facial expressions. Much like last week, her performance is a highlight. So, too, is Parrilla’s. The central character arc this week is Regina’s uncertainty about her ability to be the Savior in place of Emma. The flashback has her pretending to be the Savior in order to fool King Arthur, and inevitably failing in her deception. The present day story, however, has her bravely standing up to the Fury, and offering her own life in exchange for Robin’s. Sure, the Charmings are there to help bail Regina out of the suicide mission, but she showed, for a brief moment, the type of selflessness that the role of Savior demands. It’s a character arc that Parrilla plays really well, and I’m fascinated to see her full transition to the light.
Of course, if Emma has her say, there will be no light to transition to. In the flashback, we learn that Merlin has been trapped in a tree, and the only way to release him is with the Savior’s light magic, which is no longer possible now that Emma is the Dark One. However, it turns out that King Arthur and Queen Guinevere have other motives altogether, as they have a secret plan that involves killing Emma to reclaim the dagger and reforge Excalibur. So while the story has Emma as a villain in the present, it seems clear that forces are aligning against her in the flashback, which adds to the mystery of just how they ended up back in Storybrooke, and why their memories have been erased. In fact, things get even more confusing when King Arthur and his men somehow arrive in Storybrooke, setting off an escalation of the conflict once the Fury also arrives. It’s pretty exciting stuff, although it’s not as interesting as the respective mysteries that surround these arcs. For instance, who is this Violet girl that Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) keeps running into? Can Sneezy be freed after being trapped in a tree like Merlin? And what the hell HAPPENED six weeks ago?! I don’t think there are any obvious answers, necessarily, which is part of why this is as fun as it is, provided the solution to these mysteries are compelling. For now, however, I’m mostly just enjoying the character studies.
In particular, Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) illustrates his growth as a character, when he resists Emma’s offer (in the present day) to join together as a dark couple. “This may be who you think you are, but this is not who I am,” he tells her, and I would argue that this represents a critical, pivotal moment in his character, as it seems as though Hook is genuinely more hero than villain now. Sure, that’s been the case for a while now, but I think there’s always been a risk of him being corrupted at some point in the narrative. But now? I just don’t see that happening. Otherwise, it would have happened here. And, for as much as I like the Hook/Emma relationship, I’m glad it didn’t, because it would have cheapened Killian’s character to have his morality balanced entirely on which side his girlfriend is on. Killian/Hook came out of this episode as a stronger character than he was going in, and that’s both exciting and heartening. And it’s a credit to O’Donoghue that it resonates as strongly as it does.
Still, we have a big reveal on which the cliffhanger rests, as we learn that Emma is also planning to use the dagger to make Excalibur whole again in the present day. In essence, this leaves us with several clashing factions, vying for power: Emma/The Dark One, King Arthur’s men, and Regina-as-The Savior. This could be all-out chaos, and I LOVE that possibility, because it means the stakes will be high. Granted, I don’t exactly expect anyone to die, necessarily, but I do think there are a lot of neat directions this story could take. And while last week’s premiere was better than “The Price”, this is the most excited I’ve been for an early season storyline for Once Upon A Time in a while. This was just plain fun television, with the contrast between the flashbacks and present day, as well as the trouble with the Fury, the developments in Camelot (dancing! A grand ball! Wizards stuck in trees, just like on Game of Thrones!). Count me all-in on Once Upon A Time Season 5.
But what did you think of Once Upon A Time, “The Price”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on Once Upon A Time, read our review of the awesome season premiere!