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.