In The Price of Gold, the two worlds seem closer than ever. Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold, like Desmond in LOST, is the one character, at least so far, who is aware of one world while he is in the other. He moves seamlessly from the fairy tale world to Storybrooke as he chases after Cinderella’s/Ashley’s baby. (The fairy tale/Storybrooke names are always related. In this case, a “cinder” is an “ash.”)
The episode starts with Cinderella’s evil stepmother and stepsisters going off to the ball, leaving Cinderella behind, dressed in rags, to clean the cottage. Before the credits are even over, though, the story takes a violent twist away from the traditional tale when Rumpelstiltskin kills the Fairy Godmother.
Until this point, I had hopes that Rumpelstiltskin might not be totally evil. He was, after all, the enemy of the Evil Queen, which perhaps could put him at least partially on the side of good. This scene, though, put that hope to rest. Killing Fairy Godmothers is not cool.
Cinderella, who needs a remedial lesson in not signing contracts without reading them first (especially when offered by someone who just murdered a Fairy Godmother), unknowingly signs away her firstborn. Her husband-the-prince decides to remove Rumpelstiltskin from the picture by locking him in a dungeon the prince had built for just that purpose (so that’s how Rumpelstiltskin got there). This requires magic, and magic always has a price — in this case, the husband’s disappearance while getting water from a well. No one except Rumpelstiltskin knows what happened to him; perhaps he was turned into a frog.
The Storybrooke segment starts with Graham offering Emma a job as his deputy. In a cliffhanger ending, we find out that Graham has been literally in bed with Regina, who of course wants Emma to leave town. Graham has some seriously divided loyalties.
Emma meets the very pregnant Ashley and sees in the 19-year-old girl her own younger self. Emma seems to be working out her own ambivalence or guilt at giving Henry away by urging Ashley to resist pressure to give up her baby.
We find out that Mr. Gold is a pawnbroker, which is very appropriate for someone who loves to make deals with people who are desperate. Ashely, who made a deal with Gold in this world to give him her baby, just as she had made the same deal with Rumpelstiltskin in the last world, breaks into his shop, trying to steal the contract back.
In the end, though, what breaks the contract is Emma substituting herself in the deal as Ashley’s replacement. Continuing with the episode’s mini-theme of people who make foolish deals with Rumpelstiltskin, Emma doesn’t even know what he wants.
This week’s theme: All magic comes with a price
In an earlier episode, Rumpelstiltskin told the Evil Queen that great power requires a great price and that she had to sacrifice something precious — her father. In this episode, Rumpelstiltskin again uses the word “precious” to describe Cinderella’s sacrifice.
In both cases, the magic takes the characters from one world to another. Magic in the form of the Evil Spell let the Evil Queen whisk everyone off to 21st-century New England. Magic in the form of a wave of a wand lets Cinderella enter what is for her also a radically different world, the previously unreachable world of the palace.
Although the Queen’s motivation is evil and Cinderella’s motivation is good, or at least neutral, both have to pay an equally “precious” price.
This could almost be seen as a morality tale with a very conservative message: people who step out of their “natural” social roles (maids becoming princesses) must be punished.
Except that the magic here is Rumpelstiltskin’s magic, which by definition makes it evil. And in the original story, Cinderella and her prince famously lived happily ever after. Most likely, this is just a detour along the way.
(edited to add 11/18/2011) In the beginning of the scene where Regina tells Henry to stay inside while she is at her “council meeting,” Henry sits at the dining room table, reading a comic book called Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk — which was written by Damon Lindelof, who (along with Carlton Cuse) was the executive producer and often the public face of LOST. (Hat tip to Sound on Sight)
Details I liked
Cinderella, looking down and noticing the shoes, asks, “Glass?” Rumpelstiltskin replies: “Every story needs a memorable detail.”
Cinderella’s beautiful blue dress. It looks both modern and antique at the same time. I’d love to see someone wear a dress like that to the Oscars.
The shout-out to the traditional Cinderella story, when Sean puts the shoes on his baby’s feet and sees that they fit, just as the prince in the fairy tale put the glass slipper on Cinderella’s foot and saw that it fit.
The second shout-out to the Cinderella story when Henry, running up the stairs, loses a sneaker, just as Cinderella had lost a slipper when racing home from the ball.
The teaser at the end about who Regina was in bed with — and the unexpectedness of the reveal.
The plot thickens … things we will find out soon (or perhaps not so soon)
What did Rumpelstiltskin want with Cinderella’s child? That reminded me of Season 1 in LOST when the Others were snatching children and also of The Event, where a creepy centuries-old guy was kidnapping half-alien children to extract their youth to keep himself from aging.
Whose side is Graham on, Regina’s or Emma’s? Or is he playing them both?
What is Mr. Gold going to ask Emma to do? And when? Will this be revealed soon, or kept as a teaser until the season finale?
What do you think?
Did you like this episode?
What about the characters of Cinderella/Ashley and her Prince/Sean and the actors who played them? Some people thought the acting was wooden. Agree or disagree? Would you like to learn more about these characters’ stories in a future episode or was this enough?
Do you want to find out Rumpelstiltskin’s back story, or would you rather it remain a mystery? Would it make the story more interesting or less if we found out he has a good reason for being the way he is?
No spoilers, please