Regina has been redeemed! It has been a long and difficult journey, but the Evil Queen is officially evil no more. This season’s role reversal is a welcomed shift on “Once Upon A Time.” It is heartwarming to see so many people have faith in Regina, even when she fears she cannot be the Savior they need. Lana Parrilla has always been one of this show’s strengths, so it is great to see her continuously get such meaty material to play with. Although this season is focused on Dark Swan, Emma’s transformation has a resounding effect on the people around her. Everyone is going to be tested as they struggle find a way to stop Emma from completely embracing the darkness and eliminating any hint of the light that lingers within her soul. As “The Price” reveals, we’ll see the contrasting parallels of Emma’s descent into darkness and Regina’s ascension into embracing her role as the new Savior over the course of the missing six weeks in Camelot and the mysterious future that still lies ahead in Storybrooke.
Six weeks ago in Camelot
King Arthur welcomes the Savior and her posse into castle. Camelot has been waiting a decade for their arrival and are throwing a ball in their honor. The Savior is their only hope to free Merlin, who has somehow got stuck in a tree. (Guess that’s why poor Dopey turned into a tree when he crossed the Storybrooke borderline. That’s one weird side effect to Dark Swan’s new curse.) What could be powerful enough to trap the greatest wizard in all the realms? It is going to take a lot of magical mojo to set him free. Since Emma is packing dark magic, Regina steps up and claims to be the Savior. Unfortunately, her magic isn’t strong enough to help Merlin. This is definitely one obstacle we weren’t expecting. But we know our heroes are more than willing to go out on a limb to save Emma (pun totally intended).
Once Emma and Regina have a moment alone, they clear the air before some beef brews between the two magical powerhouses. Regina has possession of the Dark One’s dagger for good reason. We think about all the dangerous things that can happen, but in this scene, we finally have a chance to see the dagger’s inadvertently fun side. Emma is in a huff for being sidelined, but her magic is dangerous. Using dark magic is bad enough, but now the more she uses her dark magic, the more she succumbs to its overwhelming temptation. Regina casually tells Emma to shut up and listen, so the dagger silences her immediately. Although their conversation is poignant, you can’t help but giggle at how literally the dagger takes instructions. Ultimately, both of them are on the same page about letting Regina act as the Savior and preventing Emma from showcasing her dark powers.
While Regina worries about her ability to pull this all off, Percival, one of Arthur’s knights, gives her an amethyst necklace as a token of their appreciation. He even asks her to save him a dance at the ball. It is nice change to see Regina be so warmly welcomed. But it is still taking her some time to adjust. Everyone is excited for the big party, except for Regina. Turns out the Evil Queen never learned how to dance because her husband was always too busy dancing with his precious little Snow. After a couple of outfit changes (aim for something less scary and evil…hilarious!), David gives Regina a dancing lesson. Awww. Sadly, this touching moment is spoiled when we realize that Percival is spying on them through the amethyst. Uh-oh! This isn’t going to end well.
During the ball, Percival cuts in on Regina’s dance with Robin and he reveals his motive for spying. He remembers her as the Evil Queen. He was a little boy when she destroyed his village. She turned and smiled at him in the midst of its destruction. Yeah, Regina had a nasty mean streak. You can’t blame him for not believing that she’s changed, but she really has. We can mostly thank Henry for that. (By the way, Henry’s flirtation with Violet is adorable. It was really sweet to see the whole Charming family together at the ball and even cuter to see David step in and his grandson some pointers. Don’t be surprised if Henry turns to Hook for help with the ladies. The pirate’s got swagger.) But there’s no way Percival, who has a right to think of Regina as the Devil, is going to believe anybody who tells him she has changed her evil ways. A fight breaks out, Robin Hood gets brutally stabbed, and David doesn’t hesitate to ram his blade through Percival. It’s no Red Wedding, but it is one heck of a bloody ball.
The gang rushes Robin to a back room in hopes of saving him. Regina’s magic doesn’t work because Percival’s blade was enchanted to kill her. Wow he really was set on his mission. Regina is completely vulnerable and admits to her friends that she’s already lost the first love of her life, she nearly lost Robin once before and she can’t lose him now. She begs Emma to save him. Oh crap, we know this will come back to bite them in the bum.
Emma is game to use her dark magic to save his life and insists she has enough control to to let it affect her. As Emma is about to do her thing, Rumple appears. Technically it is a bad thing, but Robert Carlyle is sensational and he’s especially entertaining to watch as Dark One Rumple. Love seeing him as Dark Swan’s invisible guide. He warns her that all magic comes with a price. As the official Dark One, she’s supposed to be promised something in return. Emma refuses to play by the rules. She won’t negotiate to save her friend’s life. Regardless, Rumple assures her that Regina will ultimately have to pay a price for Robin’s salvation.
After Robin is saved, Emma steps away claiming to need some rest. Rumple reappears and we see her hand is beginning to shimmer with a sparkly new porcelain coat. It has begun. Rumple snickers, “Tasty, isn’t it…the darkness?” No matter how madly Emma wants to deny it, the darkness seems like an irresistible force. Saving Dark Swan and Merlin are starting to feel like impossible tasks. But King Arthur has faith in his new friends.
Arthur kindly comforts Regina. He says, “Who you were doesn’t matter, only who you are.” That is why this man is a legend. Unfortunately, his wife, Guinevere still has reservations. They share a private moment at the Round Table, which has been built around the stone that held Excalibur. (Awesome.) In true feminine form, Gwen is thinking about the long-run. These guys have already brought trouble to Camelot in just one day, she’s worried about how much more they’ll bring. The Queen of Camelot has a point. Six weeks later, two worlds are rocked by the Dark Swan’s actions. Especially when Regina is called upon to pay the price for having Emma save Robin’s life.
Present day in Storybrooke
Hook is on a mission to rescue his beloved Swan from a life of damnation and destruction. He asks Belle how she dealt with Rumple when he was the Dark One. Would True Love’s kiss work? Belle explains how it is tricky. As we saw with Rumple, True Love existed between RumBelle, it’s just that Rumple also loved power just as much. It’s like the Dark One has two True Loves: a person and power. Belle warns him, “It’s easier to hate the Dark One, than to love one.” So true. Poor Belle has been through hell and back with Rumple. Let’s hope Gold wakes up and treats her right. As for Hook, he’s up for a challenge and goes to see Swan.
Hook cuts to the chase and plants a passionate kiss on Dark Swan. Then he pauses, thinking she’ll be cured. Ha! Like it would be that easy. True Love’s kiss is not enough in this situation, but Swan is still up for some hanky-panky with her rugged pirate beau. Even Hook has to draw the line somewhere. She may be happy being like this and keeping him around as her boy toy, but this is not who he wants to be. Hook is out. He’ll have to find another way.
Hook is a fan favorite for many reasons but he’s been missing his swagger ever since he became a love sick puppy following Emma around. Captain Swan can be great, but Hook needs to get his groove back. A lot of the time, it feels like he’s lost himself in this relationship. He’s left his naughty past behind, which is great, but sometimes it still feels like Hook needs to grow back a pair. This is a solid first step. Happy to see him standing up to Swan instead of becoming a booty call. Elsewhere, other people are trying to break through to Dark Swan in their own ways.
It looks like the Dark One comes with the Beetlejuice calling card, people say her name and she appears. So Henry hopes he can appeal to her maternal instinct and apologizes that they failed her when they were in Camelot. Seriously, the suspense is going to eat away at us until we discover what happened. As always, kudos to Henry for being our little hero. Dark Swan spells it out for Henry and Regina. She built this new curse without the key to breaking it, a Savior. She knows Regina doesn’t have it in her to be one. Don’t count Regina out just yet.
We soon discover that Emma isn’t the only menace in town. Shortly after King Arthur, Gwen and some other people from Camelot find themselves in this strange new land, a creepy, screeching creature swoops in. At first it seems like this thing is after Robin, but we soon learn the whole story. The Fury, a demon from the Underworld (nice way to squeeze some Greek mythology in there), has come to collect the price for Robin’s life. Regina storms to Emma’s house and demands that she calls off her attack dog, but Dark Swan has no control over this situation. Regina wanted Robin’s life spared, so she needs to give her life in return.
We’ve come to the moment of truth. As the River Styx Ferry approaches, Regina steps forward and willingly surrenders herself to the Fury. As the Fury starts sucking-up her life-force, Regina’s friends join her. Even King Arthur tags in. (Always loved the legendary King Arthur, so it is thrilling to have him be a part of this story.) All of their energy combined kills the Fury. Phew! Regina just proved that she is the new Savior. Huzzah!
Afterwards, everyone celebrates at Granny’s. History repeats itself as Henry and Violet innocently flirt by the jukebox, Hook and Belle share a drink while bonding over their doomed True Loves, Regina restores Sneezy back to his natural state, and it feels like there may be hope for Storybrooke and Dark Swan. Although the Charmings make a good point: if the good guys win, then Emma loses. But maybe she needs to lose this time around.
When King Arthur arrived in Storybooke, he said that Excalibur was still missing. Now we see where it has gone. The iconic blade is lodged in its stone home once more and Dark Swan hopes to free it. Rumple has returned to give her more guidance. Emma thinks she has completely embraced the darkness, but her journey isn’t over yet. Rumple delivers a rousing little speech about how Emma is pulled away from the darkness by family, friendship, magic, and love. If she restores the dagger to Excalibur, then the blade can snuff out the light forever. The Dark One will become unstoppable, dare we say, un-savable even, and all hope will be lost. Dark Swan is ready to give up the light, so she tries to remove Excalibur. Thankfully, she cannot. Rumple sneers that she needs to pay a price. Whoa!
“The Price” leaves us with a lot more questions. What kind of price can one pay for Excalibur? Would she need to exchange Merlin’s life to free the blade? Is Merlin still stuck in that tree back in Camelot? Will Hook’s persistence pay-off? Will he succeed in finding a way to bring Emma back from the point of no return? Since King Arthur is destined to wield Excalibur, can he stop Emma from completing her mission? What happens if Arthur makes the blade whole? What kind of power will he have? Is it worth the risk of letting Excalibur (as a whole) fall into the wrong hands? Can the blade be destroyed, eliminating this threat altogether?
This season is off to a fantastic start with two solid episodes setting the stage for a gripping narrative. “Once Upon A Time” is keeping us on the edge of our seats. What did you think of “The Price”? What were your favorite moments? Are you excited to see Regina as the Savior? How do you think Dark Swan can be stopped? How can Merlin be freed from the tree? How did he get there in the first place? Share your thoughts below!
“Once Upon A Time” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.