Once Upon a Time: The Price of Gold

Snow: "Do you realize what an inspiration you are to everyone?"
Cinderella: "All I did was get married."
Snow: "All you did was show that anyone can change her life."

This is the first time Once Upon a Time outright contradicts fairy tale canon. I was a little bothered at first, mostly because the Fairy Godmother could very well be wearing a red shirt; but later I was bothered because the show implied we should be rooting for the wrong character.

On one side we have Cinderella, the poor girl who becomes princess. It’s the most famous of rags to riches stories, and a symbol of it, nowadays. In the original story (the Disney version, I mean), Cinderella ascends out of sheer luck, because she happened to have a Fairy Godmother. (It’s a pity I know no fairies to baptize my children. That could be handy.) Of course, since she’s killed mid-sentence, her godchild has to make a deal.

Which brings to the other side: Rumpelstiltskin, beautifully overacted by Robert Carlyle. He’s your regular Mephistopheles, making deals and demanding his price. He’s obviously no angel (re: murdering the Fairy Godmother like it’s nothing), and loves having first-borns, for some reason I don’t want to know. He’s greedy, reckless when making a deal, and when he’s not willing to pay the price, he lies and tricks the other party into imprisonment.

No, wait, that last part is not about him, it’s about Cinderella. He’s actually very straightforward and honest about what he expects from his deals, lives up to his end, and clearly states that “all magic comes at a price”. He even repeats the same theatrical gesture every time he says it, just to emphasize. He even warned her that he knew she was trying to trap him and that she could take back the second deal before he signed it, giving her a chance to be honest. He told her his name when they first met, for God’s sake. How can Rumpie be the bad guy here?

She even confesses to the prince: “But I made a deal. I can't break that. He's too powerful.” In other words, she’s not worried about honor or the future of her baby; she fears the repercussions. A little too late, if you ask me. Maybe you can attribute it to youth and stupidity; maybe I’m being too harsh in my judgment. You can’t say she’s not responsible, though.

Her real world counterpart, Ashley (cinder, ash, get it?), is more of a victim of circumstances, manipulated by all. Emma tells her not to listen to what everybody says, which she promptly obeys. She doesn’t exactly have a strong personality, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, Cinderella was prominent in this episode, but it was all about Emma regretting having given Henry up and vicariously make up for her mistake. Unfortunately, she had to make a deal without knowing what price she’ll pay, exactly. Unlike Cinderella, she did it for a noble cause. And I bet the favor he’ll ask Emma will be related to defeating Regina. Emma will have to do something really bad to break the curse, and Gold will push her to it. At least Ashley is grateful.

Bits and pieces

- Flirting just entered sexual harassment territory now that the Sheriff hired Emma as a deputy.

- Speaking of the Sheriff, if someone told during the pilot that Emma and Regina would be involved in a love triangle, I wouldn’t believe it.

- For the first time, Ruby had something more to do than just look pretty.

- Mr. Gold, played more subtly by Robert Carlyle, doesn’t seem like he’d be a bad father, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

- I continue enjoying Jennifer Morrison’s performance a lot. She’s a big part of why this show works.

- Regina obviously shops at Evil Gap, an all-black clothing store for villains.

- Henry dropping his shoe on the stairs was a cute touch.

- How long had Ashley been pregnant before Emma restarted the clock?

Quotes

Rumpelstiltskin: “Do you know what this is?”
Cinderella: “Pure magic.”
Rumpelstiltskin: “Pure evil. Trust me. I've done you a favor.”
I believe him.

Henry: “Do you know who that is?”
Emma: “Yeah, of course I do.”
Henry: “Who? 'Cause I'm still trying to figure it out.”

Three out of four red-shirted token black characters.

6 comments:

CrazyCris said...

Regina and the Sherif? *shudder*

I'm afraid that pushes him back towards the Big Bad Wolf and away from the Huntsman... When will we get to know more about this guy?

I enjoyed all the looks henry kept giving Emma as all of this was going on, as if he was realising how it had been for her to give him up all those years ago.

henbe said...

Is Ruby some sort of slutty Red Riding Hood, since she totes a toy wolf and sports red in her clothing?
First time poster, but long time lover of the site and the reviews :)

Daniel Laino said...

Whenever I see someone making a deal, I never blame the one who offered it, in this case Rumpelstiltskin, because he warned Cinderella of the consequences... So I don't think he's guilty of anything, she's the only one to blame.
Yeah, Jennifer Morrison’s performance is really great.
What I most enjoy about the show is that it's not only about the sweet side of the stories, but the dark side as well...
The text is great, my friend, congrats!

Sam B said...

Robert C was sublime this week - he has always been a fantastic actor and so versatile.

Anyone else think Ruby looked like a drug-free Amy Winehouse?!! :-)



I've been trying to get all my friends to watch this show as I think it is fantastic. All the actors are good, even the kid, and I'm not usually a fan of how American shows portray the young uns (Too sweet and far too unbelievable!!)

Serena + Pumpkin said...

Here's where I'm completely confused - and I'm not sure if it's just me, or a gap that the writers haven't addressed.

If time stood still, so to speak, in Storybrooke, how did Henry age? I'm guessing that he aged, while others didn't, because he's from the outside. But how didn't anyone else notice? If everyone stays the same age, but Henry grew up, wouldn't someone realize?

ChrisB said...

This one bothered me a bit. I am a firm believer in making choices and then accepting the consequences of those choices, both good and bad. The Cinderella story is just the opposite of this, at least the one most of us grew up with. As Gus so rightly points out, the girl is lucky enough to have someone wave a magic wand and all her problems disappear. Ah, if only life were so simple.

In this version, Ella is forced to make a choice (which I liked), but then refuses to accept the consequences (which I didn't). And in the Storybrooke version, she doesn't have to face any consequences at all. She gets to keep her guy and her baby; it is Emma who will eventually pay the price for her. Bothering.