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‘Once Upon a Time’ recap: Can ex-Evil Queen Regina be the savior?

“Once Upon a Time” enters the fabled kingdom of Camelot in “The Price” episode, and even though there is a celebratory ball with dancing and a bit of puppy love, there’s also the near death of a hero and the appearance of a fearsome creature brought to life by good intentions.

First, the dwarfs get a quick spotlight. Being proactive, Grumpy and his crew decide they want to get out of town rather than fight against their onetime friend and now evil Dark One Emma Swan, so they’re going to risk crossing the town border. Despite Snow and Charming’s objections, Dopey takes a step over -- and promptly becomes a tree! Not the usual memory loss, just roots.

Six weeks earlier, and back in Camelot, the sisters speak as Regina and Zelena marvel at the kingdom. Regina aims to keep Zelena in check, but we know something will go awry on that front. In a Camelot courtyard, King Arthur tells the heroes that Merlin has been trapped in a tree, and it was foretold that the savior would release him. Regina steps up to say that she’s the savior and will free Merlin. Regina is protecting Emma, seeing as how she’s not only the savior, but the Dark One -- and the Cameloters really don’t like the Dark One.

Back in Storybrooke, Hook goes to Belle to learn a bit more about true love’s kiss -- again, the most powerful magic there is -- and if it might be able to free Emma. Belle’s is not sure, but she does know about loving someone who has become the Dark One, and warns Hook to watch himself.

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Henry meets up with his mom, the Dark Swan, and apologizes for everyone failing her in Camelot, though he can’t remember doing it. Emma -- a spark of maternal feelings there -- says that he didn’t fail her, but everyone else did. Argh! This cryptic Camelot stuff! Anyway, Regina joins them, and is taking it upon herself to save everyone in Storybrooke -- basically from Emma -- and help everyone get their memories back. Emma says that only a savior can do that, and that Regina doesn’t have it in her. Then she hints about a danger that is coming to Storybrooke. Again with the cryptic.

King Arthur rides down a Storybrooke street on his horse, disarming dwarfs as he and a couple of knights arrive. He and other subjects of Camelot were also brought back to Storybrooke from what seems to be Emma’s curse. Robin Hood, Charming and the other Storybrooke denizens try to make them comfortable in their new strange land as Regina struggles with trying to make everyone see that she’s capable of saving them all. Guinevere also shows up. Cool, but there’s something strange, methinks. Her first question? Where’s Excalibur? That’s was odd.

Odder still? What looked to be some kind of evil fairy creature with hummingbird-like wings -- like a more solid version of Peter Pan’s evil shadow -- swoops down in the forest, taking away Robin Hood. And right in front of his little Roland too. Messed up.

Hook and Emma. Killian summons her, just by saying her name, and she invites him into her new home. It’s a nice house, complete with a mysterious door that Hook is unable to explore. He tries to get her to tell him what happened in Camelot, but it’s a no-go. Emma, who has donned a little black dress instead of her femme Dark Lord fashion, actually tries to seduce him. Hook stands his ground, though. The Emma he loved would never do that.

Back in Camelot, Regina is trying to figure out how to free Merlin. Confiding in Snow and Charming, she’s struggling with how to convince people that she, the ex Evil Queen, can be the savior. She also needs to get her groove on at the ball, so Charming teaches her a few steps. Despite the fun, an eye is being kept on her magically.

A quick aside back to Storybrooke. The resourceful Belle has found that the creature that took Robin was a fury. The creature has to have been called in magically and the only way to save Robin from being dragged down to hell or wherever is to offer up another life. A price Regina is willing to pay?

Uh-oh. Henry strikes up a conversation with a local young lady, Violet, at the ball. It’s an everyday occurrence for her, so of course, Henry has to feign indifference, introducing her to his musical device. An iPod in Camelot had to be a bit weird, but Violet seems OK with it. What was weirder was a man trying to kill Regina while they waltzed on the dance floor. The man had been spying on her earlier, and he knew that she wasn’t the savior. Not only because of his magical surveillance, but because he had survived an attack on a village as a child that was carried out by a “smiling” Evil Queen. In his attack, the man instead stabs a chivalrous Robin Hood, with Charming decisively killing the man. Maybe this is why Regina doesn’t like to dance?

Regina, though, isn’t able to save Robin. Instead, Emma uses her new dark powers to revive him, but not without a price. Back in Storybrooke, that price comes in the form of a fury -- back to snatch the life that was saved. As the fury strips Robin of life, Regina arrives in time to fight off the demon, offering up her own life for Robin’s. Snow joins her, though, adding her strength. Then David, then Arthur, then Grumpy. Their combined life force is able to destroy, or chase away, the fury, saving Robin.

So, Emma’s first evil deed, though she may not have known its cost back in Camelot, has been thwarted. She can’t join her friends and loved ones celebrating at Granny’s Diner because that’s just not what the Dark One does -- even missing out on Henry re-meeting Violet at the jukebox. In her new house and in her solace, we find out that her plan -- a plan led by the voice inside of her personified by Rumpel -- is to reunite the dagger with its original host, the sword of Excalibur. She’ll then use it to take out everybody. But even though she brought the embedded sword to Storybrooke, she’s going to need a hero to take it out of the stone.

Wonder who that’s going to be?

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In a new twist, we add insight to the straight-laced recap by publishing occasional questions, concerns and observations submitted by Layla Andre, 8, a fervent fan of “Once Upon a Time” and the daughter of an L.A. Times staff member. They’re probably some of the same that many viewers have.

-- The Seven Dwarfs seem to be more important this season than ever before. Last week Sneezy got turned into stone. (And Regina turned him back into human form! I knew he wouldn’t stay stone!) This week, Dopey got turned into a tree. Grumpy and Belle got to dance. And Doc is Baby Neil’s nanny?!

-- I don’t think Regina is the Savior. Emma is the Savior AND the Dark One. Just because Regina is trying to be good doesn’t mean she is the real Savior.

-- The Fury was cool-looking. It looked like a Dementor from “Harry Potter.”

-- Violet seems nice. It’s nice for Henry to have somebody his own age to hang out with for a change. Maybe writers are better than knights.

jevon.phillips@latimes.com


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