Everyone knows the story of Cinderella, right? Young girl with a cruel stepmother and step sisters, saved by a fairy godmother, goes to the ball and marries her prince after fitting into a size three shoe? Well, that was a lie.
The basics of the story are the same – but when the fairy godmother is blown up by Rumpelstiltskin, a darker story begins to unfold. Ella, desperate for a chance to make a new life, makes a deal with evil itself just to get a chance to go to the ball. As Rumpelstiltskin says, “Magic comes with a price.” If only Ella had heeded his counsel.
Back in Storybrooke, Emma continues to defy Regina’s mandates and is spending time with Henry discussing Operation Cobra. Sheriff Graham shows up as soon as Henry leaves, offering Emma a job as a deputy, which she doesn’t accept just yet. Regina joins next for another showdown of words; Emma spills her cinnamon cocoa on her shirt and heads to the laundry.
Stripping off her shirt in what feels like a Lost homage, Emma meets Ashley, Cinderella’s counterpart in the real world, who is pregnant and visibly upset. Inspired by her interaction with Emma, Ashley breaks into Mr. Gold’s pawn shop, ending with Mr. Gold knocked out and on the floor with a cut on his head. Something tells me this Cinderella isn’t one to be messed with.
Regina heads out to a city council meeting, so naturally Henry leaves to meet up with Emma. Before he arrives, Mr. Gold visits Emma and asks her to find Ashley. She possesses something of “value” that is Mr. Gold’s. If you know the story of Rumpelstiltskin, and remember that Mr. Gold is the one who brought Henry to Regina, you should be able to piece together what he wants.
In the fairy tale realm, Ella attends a ball celebrating her marriage to Prince Thomas. (As a side note: I really hope that one day all these mini-kingdoms in the fairy tale realm will be given a good explanation.) After an awkward dance with Snow White (now married to James, a.k.a. Prince Charming), Rumpelstiltskin cuts in and reveals what will be given in return for the magic: Ella’s first born child.
Thomas arrives home early to find Ella packing in an attempt to flee before Rumpelstiltskin can take her child from her. After sharing the details of her bargain, Thomas has a plan to make another deal.
Emma, with Henry in tow, visits Ruby (Red Riding Hood) to get more information on Ashley. This takes her to Ashley’s boyfriend, Sean (Thomas), and Sean’s father who made the deal with Mr. Gold to take away the baby. They return to Ruby, who has let Ashley take her car to escape Storybrooke. Henry reminds Emma that she is the only one who has a choice to leave Storybrooke; for the rest of them, “bad things will happen.”
James, Thomas, and Grumpy have a plan to capture Rumpelstiltskin by having Ella lie to him and having him sign a new deal with a quill enchanted by the Blue Fairy.
Emma and Henry find Ashley on the side of the road having contractions. Ashley is sure she wants to keep her child and Emma is going to do whatever it takes to make sure she keeps him.
Meanwhile, Ella makes the deal with Rumpelstiltskin. As I’ve said before, Lost is one of very few shows where flashbacks worked, but Once Upon A Time looks like it will join that category. The viewer knows that the deal worked, because Rumpelstiltskin is in jail; but the price Ella paid to put him there is revealed as well. Thomas disappears, and Rumpelstiltskin reminds her, “All magic comes with a price.” Thomas will not be found, until the baby is his.
In Storybrooke, Emma protects Ashley’s baby by making a deal with Mr. Gold herself to free the child; she now owes him “a favor.” Ella has Alexandra, and Sean arrives at the hospital. Emma has broken the curse for the now-happy couple – but at what price?
Meanwhile, Regina’s city council meeting is nothing more than a scam for her to sleep around. And if you’ve been watching the show, you’ll know exactly who with. Regina arrives home right after Henry with a great little Cinderella-esque moment.
Emma decides that she’s ready to put down some roots, calling Sheriff Graham and accepting the position as deputy. Of course, it’s then revealed he was the one who just spent the day with Regina. Bummer! (My first reaction was that Regina was forcing him in their relationship, which is a bit icky for a TV-PG family-touted show.) As to who Sheriff Graham was in the fairy tales, we can only guess, and his motives are still unclear.
It’s been interesting to see how Once Upon A Time mirrors Lost in many ways, especially as new characters are introduced in both Storybrooke and the fairy tale land. If ratings are any indication, I’m not the only one who’s really enjoying the almost-Disney show. The fairy tales have been presented in a unique way and Emma’s story is compelling. Emma keeps the portions in Storybrooke grounded, despite being overshadowed by the colorful and exciting fairy tales. Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold has proved to be worse than Maleficent or Regina, and hopefully he will be one of the main players in the “battle” everyone is looking forward to. Overall, I’m inclined to continue to recommend this show to genre fans, though the fourth episode gave me pause. Despite getting closer to revealing mysteries, it seems like we’re still just adding to them.
Once Upon A Time will be back a week from Sunday (November 27th).