I’m not sure what I expected from Emma as the Dark Swan, and I’m not sure what I expected for this week’s episode, titled, “The Price”, but I’m sure of one thing. Whatever I expected, it wasn’t this. This is more than I could have hoped/dreamed for.
This is Once Upon a Time at its best, with scary villains, new and exciting lands, family bonding and relationships we care about. And no, it isn’t all perfect, but so far, two episodes into Season 5, it’s still pretty good. So let’s review!
We open the episode with the dwarves (why is it always the dwarves?) trying to make a run for it. Not that I blame them one bit. Storybrooke doesn’t seem like the safest place to live. Grumpy is, as always, the leader, and when they get to the town line, they have a little discussion about who’s going to be the one to step over the line and check that everything’s okay. This time, it’s Dopey’s turn. Thankfully, he doesn’t turn into a monkey this time. Just a tree.
Funniest part of this scene is that Snow, Charming and Regina get there before Dopey crosses the town line, and they’re very, very good at the convincing thing. (end sarcasm). Snow doesn’t even try. Regina is sassy. Grumpy throws some shade. No wonder Dopey just wants to get away from them.
Then, we’re back to six weeks ago, in Camelot. Guinevere looks shady too, if you ask me, as she welcomes the guests. Granny is happy she’s in a party she doesn’t have to cater. Zelena thinks they should take away the bracelet that stops her from doing magic, because, yes, new land means no brains. Just ask nicely, and I’m sure Regina will agree.
While everyone’s like, shiny new land, pretty, Hook’s desperation is still very much at the forefront. He doesn’t care about anything else – he wants to find Merlin. Emma tries to tell him she’s not going to go dark in one day, but, again, Hook is having none of it. Emma is his while focus. It would be a bit too much, if it weren’t perfectly understandable. She’s his everything. His happy ending, his family and his love, all in one.
Merlin is not gone, however, he’s apparently stuck inside a tree, and only the savior can get him out. Emma is a little reluctant to step forward, but when she’s about to, Regina uses the dagger to make sure she stays back, and proclaims herself the savior.
Back in Storybrooke, what has to be the best on-paper friendship that we’ve never really had a real chance to see developed finally makes an appearance. Hook and Belle have a lot more in common than first glance would attest, and to see Hook come to Belle in this moment is to see the writers finally use common sense to bring together characters who don’t usually get a chance to interact.
Belle seems very philosophical, and also, very clear on who and what she is to Rumplestiltskin, despite the fact that she’s still keeping vigil by his side. She tells Hook that TLK almost worked for them, except Rumple chose power. She doesn’t exactly tell him not to try, but the implication is obvious. Especially when she says: “It’s fair easier to hate a Dark One than it is to love one.”
I’ve been very critical of Belle’s journey on this show, but I don’t really mind that she’s still here, still around Rumple, still hoping that he’s going to be okay. You can’t turn off love, not that easily. But I do hope that she doesn’t just run back into his arms if/when he wakes up. And, I also kind of hope that, when that does happen, Killian is there with the tough love for his friend.
Colin O’Donoghue’s performance in this episode is a thing of beauty. If Jennifer Morrison stole the premiere, this is O’Donoghue’s chance to shine. The emotional turmoil of the Emma/Hook relationship as it stands now gives plenty of opportunity to play stoic/desperate/heartbroken Killian, and there’s not a single thing out of place in his performance. Every time I look at him, it’s like my heart breaks.
Lana Parilla too delivers a great performance, as she goes from sassy Regina to concerned, to determined, to worried. She’s hardly ever afforded to opportunity to play so many sides to this character, and she nails all of them. Especially as she comes to Henry and Emma talking (this Dark One sure is easy to summon). Maybe Regina can’t do this, but if you believe Lana’s expression, she sure is going to try.
Arthur and his knights appear in Storybrooke, because, of course, why not bring more problems to this poor town. He wants an explanation, and the new City Council or whatever (Snow, Charming, Regina and some of the dwarves) admit that Emma is the Dark One, which they apparently failed to mention for the past six weeks. I really like that Snow differentiates between Emma and the Dark One, even if she’s both, but all in all this is a rather useless conversation. Robin comes in a bit later to inform that there’s a whole host of people who came over from Camelot, and the men all leave to …I don’t know, find everyone or something, leaving Regina and Snow to worry about what exactly is coming next.
Back to six weeks ago, Regina explains to Emma that she pretended to be the savior to keep her from having to use magic, and promises that she’ll do whatever she has to do to protect Emma. Take note of this promise, because it comes back to bite Regina in the ass much sooner than you would expect. Emma seems both on edge and grateful, and since I don’t want to start gushing about how Jennifer Morrison is basically playing three different characters, I’ll stop here.
In Storybrooke, Arthur and Guinevere reunite (Someone get Arthur a change of clothes ASAP) and Regina is worried about …well, about everything. About being what the people think, about what she can do. Robin reassures her with a hug, and I understand the sentiment, I do, but we’re going to need actual words from you, Robin. Give us a reason to sigh. Make us fall in love with the way you love this woman. Is that too much to ask?
Not for Hook, it’s not. He walks up to Emma’s car, and apparently the Dark Swan is always looking over the people she loves, because he doesn’t even have to summon her, she just appears and drags him back to her new house. Emma looks very excited to show her boyfriend around, and it’s kind of cute in a very creepy way, because all Killian wants is the Emma he knew and loved back.
Predictably, and in heart-breaking fashion, he goes in for the kiss, and boy, does Emma respond. Lack of passion is apparently not a problem in their relationship, not even with Emma being the Dark One. But Killian doesn’t just want a physical connection. He wants Emma back.
“This may be who you think you are, but this isn’t who I am” He says, as he walks out of the house, and if nothing else, this should be the proof that Killian Jones is no longer a villain. He wants Emma, and he cares for her, and for those exact same reasons he can’t take advantage of her. Even if she wouldn’t see it that way. Even if she wants him too.
We won’t even get into the TLK attempt and what that means, because I have so many feelings about that that I’m going to need a separate piece on the subject.
Regina and the others are busy chasing after a thing that took Robin. (Did I forget to mention a thing took Robin? See, this is how emotionally attached I am to the poor guy). Regina takes a beating, but the others continue in their pursuit.
Flashback to Camelot again, where Percival offers Regina a token for the savior, to wear at the ball. Except Regina is not going to the ball. Because she doesn’t know how to dance.
It’s a light moment in an otherwise dark episode, and it’s strangely effective. At times it seems the writers forget the history between Snow and Regina, and yet, in this particular instance they use their past history to prove how much things have changed, not only with Charming offering to teach her to dance, but with a very fun conversation where Snow tells her to practice she needs to dress the part, and Regina immediately changes into full Evil Queen regalia, only to have Charming point out that she looks a tad scary. Thankfully, her magic allows her to just change dresses at will. I’ve never wanted to have magic more than I did at that moment; I’m not even ashamed to admit.
Snow and Emma also get a tiny moment to bond before the ball, and again, for how short it is, it’s strangely refreshing to see. I need Snow and Charming more involved in the Save Emma campaign. It can’t be all Hook and Regina. It shouldn’t be.
Also, I wouldn’t mind more of the costume department and their matching gowns for Emma and Snow, as corny as that is. Especially if they get to walk down the stairs to the matching looks of awe from their respective partners.
In Rumple’s show, Belle, who is suddenly the source of all knowledge, has figured out what exactly took Robin. It’s a fury, a demon sent from the underworld to collect the unpaid price for magic. It just so happens that the price is a life.
At the ball, there’s a lot of dancing, Henry finally gets his first crush, along with some advice from Gramps, Robin seriously needs some ball-appropriate attire and the writers remembered Belle and Leroy used to be friends. That’s before everything goes wrong, of course, because, what would Once Upon a Time be without some mayhem?
Percival, who, if you think about it isn’t really a bad guy, attacks Regina, because he knows she’s not the savior, she’s the Evil Queen. Robin, who at this point is merely a plot-device, rushes in to try to save the woman who has magic, and ends up hurt. Charming is bad-ass, and no one else moves.
I’m serious. No one else moves.
You see where this going though, don’t you?
Regina doesn’t, because, back in the present, she shows up at Emma’s house to demand she call off the fury. But Emma can’t do that. She’s not the one with a price to pay. Regina is.
The whole conversation between these two women is on point. It takes a Dark Emma to point out all the things someone should have said to Regina ages ago. Because Regina can be better, but she can’t be wholly good if everyone coddles her. She isn’t the Evil Queen anymore, no, but how can we expect her to be the savior if no one is honest with her about the things she did wrong before?
How can we expect her to be the savior if she’s selfish?
And she is. Robin comes first, we see, as in the flashbacks she asks Emma to use her magic, the very thing she swore she wouldn’t do. It’s a very important moment for Regina, and it’s probably not what Emma needs, but it makes me like Regina even more.
Because the thing that bothers me about Robin, for example, is the fact that he can think straight when it comes to Regina. That he can put honor first. Hook certainly can’t think straight when it comes to Emma. And here Regina proves that her love for Robin is true. She cares about him more than she cares about the rest of the world. And that might not be the stuff of heroes, but it’s wholly human, and perfectly understandable.
Emma, after a little chat with Hallucination!Rumple, saves Robin, and then turns to Hook and goes in for a kiss. A True Love’s Kiss. She wants to be rid of the curse, or she thinks she does, because the kiss does not work. Hallucination!Rumple implies it should have, and it didn’t because Emma didn’t really want to let go of the darkness, which is a whole can of worms that, again, I’m not opening right now. I’ll write about it later in the week.
In Storybrooke, the Fury is done with the chase. She’s taking Robin. Which is when Regina shows up, and decides she’s done being selfish. She’s ready to sacrifice herself for Robin. It just so happens that Snow won’t let her do it alone, and Charming wont’ let Snow, and Arthur likes being a hero, and Grumpy isn’t just going to stand there and look bad because he was the only one who did something. And all of that makes the Fury leave.
The whole experience only serves to change Grumpy’s mind about Regina being a hero, which, I’m fine with, she was a hero, but to me, the person who really deserves commendations here is Snow. Regina acted out of love, and she had less time to think about it than Snow did. But I’ll allow the storyline. I’m curious about where they’re going with this. As long as they don’t make Regina out to be a paragon of good all the sudden, I can get on with the program.
Everyone reconvenes at Granny’s, in the end, as always. Killian and Belle share a drink as they commiserate, and once again, Colin O’Donoghue makes my knees buckle at his delivery of this line: “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.”
In Camelot, everyone is still shady, in Storybrooke Emma looks at her family from outside Granny’s and, back in her house, we get a lovely montage of Hallucination!Rumple’s words as he tells Emma that she can finally do what he couldn’t, and reunite Excalibur with the dagger. It’s especially poignant when Belle and Hook are shown together just as Rumple talks about “the love that refuses to give up on us”, but this isn’t a moment for sentimentality, no.
Emma tries to remove the sword from the stone, but, of course, it’s not a simple as that. Hallucination!Rumple tells her that if she wants the sword, she’s going to have to pay the price, and if you’re not thinking about Merlin’s warning from last episode, well, you should be. It’s bound to come into play soon.
Once Upon a Time airs on Sundays, at 8/7c, on ABC.