I’m still not exactly sure what to think about Once Upon a Time, but I’ll offer some brief thoughts about this week’s episode after the jump.

One of the more promising aspects of Once Upon a Time is its ability to put a fresh spin on old fairy tales. “The Price of Gold” took advantage of that ability, twisting Cinderella into a darker and more interesting story than the standard Disney version. Here, Cinderella was sent to the prince’s ball not by her fairy godmother, but through a deal with the conniving, deal-addicted Rumpelstiltskin: in exchange for being sent to the ball, she would have to give up her first-born to him.

This story continued in Storybrooke, with Rumpelstiltskin’s real-life equivalent, Mr. Gold, trying to get his hands on the child of Ashley Boyd, the real-life equivalent of Cinderella. Being tasked to find Ashley and bring her back to Storybrooke gave Emma the chance to reflect on her decision to give up motherhood and to advise Ashley to keep the baby if that’s what she desired.

All of this was unfortunately delivered via narrative sledgehammer, with Emma speechifying every ten minutes or so about how Ashley should take control of her own life. Moreover, Henry, the first child character on television that I’ve actively wanted to see die, was present throughout the proceedings. (My reaction to his presence is pretty much the same exasperated one that Emma seems to have, but there’s considerably more venom behind mine.)

But what “The Price of Gold” succeeded at was in world-building, and that’s the main reason why I’m watching this show. It started to involve the various characters in the town a bit more, and I’m beginning to get a feel for Storybrooke’s denizens and how they relate to each other. The episode also began to fill in the gaps in the fairy tale world, linking Snow White and James’s story with Cinderella’s. If Once Upon a Time can tie together all its various fairy tale world stories into a coherent whole, then the show will have not just one, but two fully realized worlds in which it can operate.

Once Upon a Time still suffers from a few problems. It’s frustratingly heavy-handed at times, and Henry and Regina remain weak points. Nonetheless, I’m starting to get sucked into the show’s world. “The Price of Gold” was a middling episode, and I’m still not sure what the show wants to be on a week-to-week basis, but at least I’m interested to see what happens next.

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