‘Once Upon a Time’, Ep. 1.04: “Price Of Gold” creates a coming-of-age morality tale

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Once Upon A Time

S1E04, “Price Of Gold”
Directed by Dean White
Written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz
Airs at 8pm ET on ABC

Last week’s episode gave a us a familiar take on Snow White and Prince Charming’s courtship, even though we didn’t have appearances from The Evil Queen, Huntsman nor the seven dwarves. This week’s flashback gives fairy tale land a bit of a twist. The fairytale flashback deals with Cinderella (Jessy Schram) who longs to break free from the confines of her evil stepmom, attend the palace ball, and well, we all know the rest of the story. While attending to her chores, Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother appears with the promise of a better tomorrow. Unfortunately for Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin interrupts the short lived meeting only to reduce her to ashes and get his hands on her magic wand. Rumpelstiltskin then does what he does best, tricking Cinderella into making a deal with him. Cinderella really should learn how to read before signing on the dotted line. We all know that once you shake hands with the devil, no good will come of it. The agreement made: Rumpelstiltskin gets her first born child in exchange for happiness. Of course Cinderella isn’t aware of the price she will pay until it is far too late.

We discover quite a bit about Rumpelstiltskin this week, including that it was he who was responsible for Cinderella’s glass slippers. We also learn that even in imprisonment, Rumpelstiltskin has a few tricks up his sleeve. An eye for an eye – magic to undo magic – when a plan to capture Rumpelstiltskin backfires, it results in the disappearance of the Prince. Where can he be? Unfortunately the episode left us with no clues.

The familiar fairy tale no longer looks the same, and the flashback sequences are suddenly far more interesting. Writer David H. Goldman does a fine job showing the juxtaposition between reality and fantasy in a less manufactured way than from what we saw in last week’s episode. Give credit where credit is due. The writers sure have a hefty task in pacing together every subplot of both worlds, especially given that in fairy tale land, the story is moving back-n-forth.

Cut to Storybrooke and an unwed mother living in Granny’s Inn named Ashley is trying to talk her way out of the adoption deal she made with Mr. Gold so she can keep her unborn child. Her prince isn’t so dashing in this world, leaving her high and dry at the request of his father who isn’t ready to be a granddad. Luckily for Ashley, Emma, who knows a thing or two about giving up babies for adoption, steps in to help. And yet another deal is made with Mr. Gold / Rumpelstiltskin. Is anyone keeping count? Will changing the fate of Ella and her baby’s future in Storybrooke bring a happy ending or more complications for everyone involved? It could be a surprise to some that Emma would fall into Mr. Gold’s strong hold so easily. Then again, she doesn’t believe in fairy tales so there’s really no reason for her to worry about unforeseen consequences.

“The Price of Gold” is actually the best episode of the series thus far. There’s a fair share of forward momentum and the episode creates a coming-of-age morality tale. Taking the easy way out of a situation is only a momentary solution. Changing your life for the better is seldom easy, but patience is a virtue and hard work does pay off. Rumpelstiltskin is empowered by deals made with those who desperately want more. Rumpelstiltskin has always been a cautionary tale about overreaching and especially greed. But Rumpelstiltskin should read from his own rule book. He too overreaches and given that no one is more greedy than him, one has to wonder if he will ever get what he wants.

But this isn’t just an episode about greed, it’s more about responsibility and motherhood. The hour felt somewhat like a cathartic therapy session for Emma, who confronts Ashley about the obstacle of parenthood and how making the decision to keep the child will effect her entire life. Emma knows of what she speaks, having given up Henry when he was a newborn. Emma truly does offer the best advice of all the characters:

“Everyone loves to tell you what you can and can’t do, especially as a mother. People are going to tell you who you are your whole life. You just got to punch back and say no, this is who I am. You want people to look at you differently, than make them. You want to change things, you’re going to have go out there and change them yourself”.

Emma’s attachment to Ashley’s burdens only grows as she recognizes the same unsure attitudes she once experienced as a young, ill-prepared mother-to-be. Not wanting Ashley to suffer the same fate, she offers some more advice:

“Do you know what you are asking for? Are you sure you are ready? Your whole life is going to change once you decide it is yours because running away isn’t an option. You have to grow up and you can’t ever leave”.

With that said, Regina has her own words of wisdom which she so graciously offers to Emma:

“In order for something to grow Miss Swan, it needs roots, and you don’t have any. People don’t change, they only fool themselves into thinking they have”.

Perhaps the biggest improvement this week is in the flashbacks. Watching the characters intersect and affect each other reveals the potential in these recollections. Henry also points out a very important fact. Emma is the only person who can actually leave Storybrooke. It seems that there is a reoccurring trend with every character in town. They all seem to be running away from their problems in one way or another, or at least living in denial.

Rumpelstiltskin takes the spotlight for a revised Cinderella story and Robert Carlyle continues to be a scene stealer with his campy but ever so entertaining performance. One has to still wonder how much he knows about Emma’s and Henry’s past. After all, he did arrange Henry’s arrival. It will be interesting to see if Gold and Emma will ever become allies. Anything is possible.

– Ricky D

Other Observations:

The writers find clever and new ways to connect some memorable fairy tale moments in Storybrooke. Henry dashes back home hoping to beat Regina and drops his sneaker while running up the stairs.

We don’t have any proof that Graham is the Big Bad Wolf, but the signs are all pointing to him. As a sheriff he requires detective skills and tracking skills. Also his appearance, most notably his beard, can make one assume that he is indeed the Wolf.

Notice the signature blue dress from Disney’s Cinderella.

Henry is seen reading an issue of Ultimate Hulk Vs. Wolverine, written by Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof.

Notice the homage to the original Grimm Rumpelstiltskin story as Mr. Gold walks with a pronounced limp.

The clock has moved 15 minutes since the series began. It is now 8:00.

Another new inhabitant of Storybrooke makes his appearance who Ruby/Red Riding Hood calls Billy. Who could he be?





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