Once Upon a Time "The Price of Magic" Review: Don't Put Magic Under a Microscope

By Lily Sparks

Apr 15, 2013

Once Upon a Time Special Episode: "The Price of Magic"

In this endless OUAT hiatus, I’ve been stunned how often I’ve missed new episodes of the series. Missed them desperately. Found myself re-watching episodes (holla Netflix!) and wondering where Season 2 will end up. I've craved the honest, forehead-slapping surprise this fairytale B.S. brings to my heart, and what an utter escape hatch from reality Storybrooke is for me. So even though I knew this week's "The Price of Magic" episode was an aggrandized clip show put together by a writer’s assistant and a promo editor overnight while everyone else from OUAT was on vacation, I couldn’t keep myself away.

My bad. Seeing all the events of Season 2 presented as a chain of causative events did not do the show any favors. This is probably how judges feel in night court when a tweaker comes in and explains why they were in the 7-Eleven parking lot humping a pool noodle while shouting "Respect your elders!" ("Okay so there was this magic bean and...") The biggest lesson I've learned in trying to recap this magic is that one must not recap this magic. Much like a Monet painting, OUAT falls apart up close—but take a few steps back, and it's an engrossing and impressionistic masterpiece. 

Poor Kitsis and Horowitz themselves had to pop out their director chairs and present the various bits of plot they’ve been spackling together as some sort of logical progression—and it was so impossible. The guys looked vaguely embarrassed.This isn’t Breaking Bad, y'all. OUAT is not about telling a carefully crafted story. What K&H are selling is a set of characters that people will keep watching no matter what, and an intriguing premise that begs to be resolved. An ideal skill set for serial television! They are modern-day Sheherazades! But hot damn did it all fall apart as a précis.

Surely this episode was some form of penance from a studio executive who was sick of seeing them flout their own story logic. K&H guiltily listed the myriad number of ways you can go from dimension to dimension (beans, mirrors, spinning hat, armoire ash, et. al.) like students explaining why they solved a word problem wrong. They mumbledy-mumbled about the hearts and catalogued the workarounds they gave Rumple to move his quest for Bae forward (a magic shawl! A magic globe!). I felt eerily grateful I hadn't tried to rope any noobs into catching up on OUAT by watching this episode with me. 

"The Price of Magic" was an hour of our time, is the thing. This particular episode wasn't worth the hour, but generally OUAT is, and I hope no one got frightened away by seeing this as their entrance to the series. Real fans have got a good-enough handle on the world’s logic —which is to say that they've let go of giving a damn—and for them this was a superfluous watch. But no first-time viewer could've sat through this without bursting into tears or cackling laughter. You could even hear the voiceover guy getting  flummoxed by his own explanations. I bet in the recording booth he would stop himself mid-line and be like “But Hook alias Killian Jones had craftily pocketed the desiccated magical Bean and so… whoops, I just had an aneurysm.” 

The summation of messy, messy Season 2 also reminded us how many loose ends this show has left to unravel on their own. Remember Aurora and Mulan? What the hell even happened to them? Remember Cora’s zombie army? Is Ethan Embry really a necessary part of this viewing experience? Did we really have to rewind August to child-actor size? Did we need another villain with no connection to the already fractured narrative, a.k.a. Tamara? Our main Savior heroine, who personifies true love and the Light Side of All-Powerful Magic, agreed to steal $20,000 of watches?

I have a lot of questions about this series. I’ve seriously invested a lot of my mental landscape to it over the course the season. But I think my fellow TV.com OUAT fans are my best bet for any sort of real, practical answers, so I’m really hoping you’ll help me by answering these questions.






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  • MisfitChicks Apr 18, 2013

    I hope the writers and producers realize how wobbly their story lines are from watching this show.

  • OuAt Apr 16, 2013

    Does anyone remember all those interviews that Raphael Sbarge did in the summer/fall talking about how much was in store for Archie and how integral he was about to become? Did he mean he'd get locked under the poop deck of a magical ship and nobody would care what happened to him afterward?

    I know I get shot down every time I say this, but I really do feel bad for these actors. I feel like they are promised storylines that end up on the cutting room floor, or they go from integral to peripheral, or when they actually DO get screen time they are given these incredibly stupid lines. There is entirely too much fat in this series. Cut the crap, cut the guest star spots, cut the story bridges to nowhere, cut the spinoff. Make the show you promised us in Season 1. We actually liked it before you failed at painting the peacock.

  • LilyRoRoSparks Staff May 12, 2013

    OMG just saw this comment and its so brilliant. Poor Raphael Sbarge. You just know he was telling all his friends "this is my season on the show. wait and see."
    Actors man, ACTORS. They have it alternately the easiest and hardest of everyone.

  • reginaravenna Apr 16, 2013


  • cosmos25 Apr 16, 2013

    I just hope the don't kill Regina's character. To me she makes the show.
    They should have her find love and have her repent for all the hurt she's caused.

  • sunfiretakesit Apr 16, 2013

    Of course you can't do a summary of a series that links ALL fantasy and fairy tale stories and expect it to come off as purely logical. Still, I enjoyed this episode since it filled in some of the blanks that I had about the previous season AND brought me up to speed for next week's new episode after another annoying break. I really want to see the family tree for this show since it has such a convoluted geneaology!

  • loldude1 Apr 16, 2013

    It's not a matter of purely logical. Even slightly logical would be a big step up. There are holes big enough to sail a puny invisible pirate ship through.

  • OuAt Apr 16, 2013

    I agree. I think people misrepresent the logic argument. Nobody is saying that it would be logical in our world to jump into a magical hat. But in a fantasy world where that IS logical, there at least have to be consistent rules about it. It's a flimsy reponse to say, "Well fairytales aren't real, so you shouldn't expect them to be logical, duh."

  • sunfiretakesit Oct 27, 2013

    I'm not expecting real worlld logic from the series...just a consistency within the fantasy worlds they take place in. You can see this further in the new Wonderland series where they are tying Anastasia and Will Scarlet to Wonderland and the Knave of Hearts and the sarlacc of Star Wars.

  • MathieasMcNau Apr 16, 2013

    I thought it was going to be more of a 'making of' rather than a clip show. Didn't the promo show Robert Carlilie standing in front of a green screen with the voice over alluding to going 'behind the magic'?

  • vcivi Apr 16, 2013

    This was not a good decision to make this episode...people have to wait already ages before the next episode comes again and then we get this....and the worst part is..that i watched it with the idea..that in the end, maybe we are going to see some spoilers orso of what to come...but nothing...absolutely nothing...!!!!

  • punkin Apr 16, 2013

    I'm not sure which producer is Horowitz and which is Kitsis, but I kinda liked the guy to the right - the chubbier one. He did seem rather embarrassed about being put on the spot (anywhere other than his ATM, of course), while the fellow to his right seemed arrogant. Sorta like 'What! You don't get dumb??? Then you must not be smart!!!'

    Watching this recap was interesting for me, as during the first 20 minutes, I was thinking 'Wow! This show is so clever! How could I ever doubt?' Then the wacky characterizations just kept piling up, and even though I had seen most of the shows, I began thinking 'Huh? WTF? HUH?' And then watching the producer to the left continue to act as if this plotting was clever just became hilarious.

    So the show has again succeeded in entertaining me. And I figure that watching this show is SO much more evolved than watching an actual train wreck. RIP, the original promise of the high-concept. But hey, viva the colorful icing, viva the Regina one-liners, and viva Swan Queen!

  • OuAt Apr 16, 2013

    Every word of this made me laugh. You are spot on as usual, Punkin!

  • punkin Apr 17, 2013

    Well shucks! Thank you :-)

  • Shreela Apr 16, 2013

    "Did Kitsis and Horowitz seem a little embarrassed by having to lay the story out?" Although it would be better if they hadn't written such a confusing mess, I'm grateful they realized and did an explaination-review. Hopefully this will get them to write better long-story.

  • TyroneKnightMo Apr 16, 2013

    I feel like this article might have come across better if it was written by someone who isn't a stan.

  • mad-pac Apr 16, 2013

    The episode title should've been, "The Price of Watching an Episode that Doesn't Advance the Story One Inch."

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