Once Upon a Time: The Price of Gold

“The Price of Gold” tells the tale of that other mistreated princess, Cinderella, played by Jessy Schram (who I mostly remember from Veronica Mars as the creepily young looking chick Logan used as a bargaining chip in Season 2). In the enchanted realm, Cinderella is, of course, a miserable, enslaved workhorse, dreaming of a different life, until her fairy godmother shows up to grant her wishes … and Rumpelstiltskin explodes her into little floating bits of fairy dust. Wait … what?!? Guess they’re straying far from the original text on this one.

Cinderella is feeling pretty bummed. She was promised beautiful magic and had it snatched away. Rumpelstiltskin is happy to step in, but warns her that, “All magic comes at a price.” Cinderella is desperate enough to pay it, even though she doesn’t yet know what it will be. So Rumpel transforms her into a Princess – with the stunning gown, the sparkling jewels and of course the glass slippers.

Time passes, she falls in love with her prince and her new life begins. On the night of her wedding, the castle is full of admirers and well-wishers. Ella (as she’s now going by) is over the moon as she glides across the dance floor with her new husband. What’s strange about this show is that it’s kind of the Marvel Universe of fairly tales. It pre-supposes that they all exist in the same world at the same time. Generally these worlds have been kept separate in the traditional tales, but in this show, Cinderella and Snow White are both married to princes and ruling over separate kingdoms, at the same time. Oh yeah, and they’re besties! Snow hugs Ella at her wedding and tells her she’s an inspiration to everyone. As George Costanza would put it – WORLDS COLLIDING!

But Ella’s perfect evening is overshadowed when Rumpelstiltskin shows up to claim a spot on her dance card … and remind her that she owes him. He’s decided on a price – her first-born child. Ella is horrified and sinks further into despair when she discovers she’s pregnant. Her first instinct is to run, but her husband (Prince Thomas) wrangles the truth from her and promises to make it right. Together with Snow, Charming, The Blue Fairy and Grumpy, they hatch a plan. Ella will hook Rumpel with a new deal that he can’t resist. She’ll tell him she’s having twins and agree to part with both children in exchange for plentiful soil in her starving kingdom. But when he signs the contract, a magic quill will entrap him.

It goes off without a hitch, but Rumpel warns them again that all magic has a price. By screwing him over and messing with magical forces, they’ll have to face consequences. And just as they are carting Rumpel away to his new jail, Prince Thomas disappears down a well – maybe – Ella finds nothing but his cloak hanging over the side. Rumpel is not surprised, but we’re not sure whether he was directly involved or whether it was the universe course correcting. In any case, he tells Ella she’ll never see Thomas again.

So how is Cinderella doing in Storybrooke? She’s living as Ashley Boyd, a 19-year old maid who is pregnant out of wedlock. Her rich boyfriend Sean (aka Prince Thomas) abandoned her under pressure from his father and she’s staring down single parenthood. Emma first meets Ashley in the laundromat and reaches out to her because she knows what’s it’s like to be young, pregnant and scared. Everyone wants to tell you what to do, but you’re the only one who can choose your future.

Ashley skips town (after breaking into Mr. Gold’s shop) and Mr. Gold hires Emma to track her down. He claims that she stole his property and he doesn’t want to involve the police. But Emma quickly learns that his ‘property’ is still growing inside Ashley’s stomach. Sean’s father brokered a deal and Ashley agreed to sell her baby to Mr. Gold. But now she’s regretting the decision and is desperate to keep the child.

Emma and Henry (who is supposed to be confined to his home while his mother is out at a Council meeting) track Ashley down and find her in the late stages of labour. They rush her to the hospital and Emma promises to help her with Mr. Gold. When he shows up outside the delivery room, Emma plays hardball. She believes his contract won’t hold up in court and bets that there are skeletons rattling around in his closet he doesn’t want exposed. Mr. Gold agrees to leave Ashley alone … in exchange from a future favour from Emma. She says it’s a deal – which is a promise to make to Rumpelstiltskin!

What I found really interesting is that the Queen’s curse was designed to destroy happy endings for everyone. Because as we all know, fairy tales are about ‘happily ever after’. The prince and princess are locked in a romantic embrace as the final page is turned. But the story didn’t exactly stop there for poor Cinderella. She married her handsome prince … and THEN was ambushed at her wedding, got pregnant and agonized over telling her husband about her deal with Rumpel. And just when she thought she had beaten the bad guy, her husband disappears down a well! What the hell kind of happy ending is that?!? But in Storybrooke, Emma brokers a deal with Mr. Gold so Ashley can keep her child. Her preppy boyfriend defies his father and rushes to her bedside with presents for the little one. If I were Cinderella, I wouldn’t be too anxious to go back to my fairy tale life, no matter how pretty my ball gowns were! I hope they explore this idea of ‘happy endings’ further. Maybe Storybrooke isn’t actually a ‘curse’ but just a different, more emotionally complex existence. Rumpelstiltskin orchestrated the curse and he knows more than the Evil Queen does. Maybe he’s messing with her too and pulling more strings behind the scenes.

Interesting Odds and Ends

-Emma was battling her restless nature in this episode, especially after Regina accused her of being rootless. She confronted Emma in the diner and informed her that she was no longer worried about her. She’s betting that Emma won’t be able to stay put long enough to have any real influence in Henry’s life. All of Emma’s worldly possessions were also shipped to Mary Margaret’s apartment and she commented on how ‘light’ Emma travels. But as she dropped Henry off at home after their adventure with Ashley, Emma promised to see him tomorrow. She’s trying to put down roots, even if it’s against her nature. At the end of the episode Emma accepts a job working for the Sheriff.

-Regina has been using weekly ‘council meetings’ as a cover for clandestine hook-ups with a lover … who just happens to be Sheriff Graham. It’s interesting because he’s the only person in town who doesn’t seem scared of her and occasionally even stands up to her. Is that because he knows her intimately? Does he actually like her?

-I am dying for the reveal of the Sheriff’s fairy tale identity. I feel like they might be dropping hints and I haven’t been astute enough to pick-up on them 😉

Photo Courtesy of ABC

One thought on “Once Upon a Time: The Price of Gold

  1. Couldn’t believe they killed off the Fairy Godmother! Sad! Also not impressed with the Sheriff and his extra curricular activity. Theories on his Fairytale Land counterpart?

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