ONCE UPON A TIME: The Magic of Storybrooke Lurking Beneath the Surface (2012)

In last week’s episode “The Return,” a piece of the puzzle was revealed as August W. Booth a.k.a. The Stranger tried to pose as Mr. Gold’s long-lost son Baelfire.  While the episode did little to illuminate who August really is, we do now know that August is dying.  He has some kind of disease that is killing him and he is desperate to find a cure.  But the far more interesting revelation was that August even remembered that such a thing as magic existed, and he knew who Mr. Gold really is and that Mr. Gold had the power to cure him.  That knowledge is far more telling.  Despite Mr. Gold’s protest that there is no magic in Storybrooke, we have seen glimpses of it as the curse has been weakened by the mere presence of Emma.

Eoin Bailey as August/The Stranger

Emma’s return has sent ripple-effects across the entire Storybrooke realm.  It not only unfroze time, but it sparked a reawakening in several of the characters.  David not only woke up from his coma, but Sheriff Graham had begun to remember his life as the Huntsman.  Similarly, Ruby discovered, but does not yet understand, that she has unusual wolf-like abilities – such as a keen sense of smell and ultra-keen hearing.  And Jefferson remembered his life as the Mad Hatter and that he had a daughter.  When Regina asked Mr. Gold in the episode “Skin Deep” what was his real name and he reluctantly replied: Rumplestiltskin, the more pertinent question should have been:  how long has he known that he is Rumplestiltskin?  Wouldn’t it be far more interesting to know if he has known since the day the curse was enacted, or if he only recently remembered his real identity?

Emma’s presence has already changed so much in the lives of Storybrooke, as they slowly regain their former memories and discover their true identities.  So when Mr. Gold asserted that there is no magic in Storybrooke, he was fundamentally wrong.  Everything about Storybrooke is infused with magic.  The curse makes it so.  The curse is magic and it created and maintains the illusory real-world that they live in trapped until the curse is either broken or wears off.  It may be a powerful curse, but it can be broken.  It’s stranglehold on the inhabitants of Storybrooke has already begun to loosen, and that lack of complete control is evident in the cracks of the facade of the carefully constructed lies foist upon them by Regina.  David and Mary-Margaret are not just two people wishing they could be together; they are Snow White and Prince Charming and married in their real lives.  Every fiber of their being screams with frustration at the lie they are being forced to live and it confounds their brains as they struggle with what they think they know and what they feel must be true.

Regina and Sheriff Graham’s heart

Add in the fact that Regina was able to calmly walk into her vault and crush the heart of the Huntsman, which subsequently killed Sheriff Graham, it was further proof that magic is still there.  It just has to be accessed.  Regina clearly knows this and it worries her that Mr. Gold may know this too.  Alas, Mr. Gold has not yet figured that he may actually still have the ability to wield magic again.  But once he does, what will he do then?

Jefferson and August are certainly convinced that magic must be lurking around Storybrooke – that it only need to be tapped into.  Jefferson was so desperate to get back to his real life that he kidnapped Mary-Margaret and set a trap for Emma, believing Emma was the key to accessing the innate magic.  Given that Jefferson disappeared once Mary-Margaret kicked him out the window and left only a hat behind, he was perhaps not wrong.  Did Jefferson actually get his wish answered and he was able to travel back through a portal back to his fairytale world?  Or is he lurking out in the woods awaiting his next chance to strike again?  Lying in wait to see who might really have magic at their fingertips?  We do not yet know but are hoping he was able to return home.

So August’s belief that Mr. Gold still has magic and that August could steal it from Mr. Gold by commanding him through the dagger and invoking the power of The Dark One was not so far-fetched.  August’s own memories that have resurfaced and the fact that he knew about Henry’s book pointed him in the direction of the most powerful person in Storybrooke.  What he did not anticipate that is that, while Mr. Gold may know who he once was, he did not realize that Mr. Gold has no clue that he can still wield magic.

Jennifer Morrison as Emma

But let’s presuppose that Mr. Gold was shackled under the curse, unaware of his true identity and now that he knows who he is, he has not yet figured out that with the curse weakening that his own magical powers may be slowly coming back too.  One way or another, August was not wrong.  There is magic in Storybrooke and those who used to command it, either still can or will be able to as their memories return.

Emma has been the key.  She may not yet believe in the curse or that everyone living in Storybrooke is a fairytale character who lived in a world of magic and mystery, but she also cannot explain everything that is happening all around her either.  Magic is alive and well in Storybrooke — it is just needs to be set free and invoked again.  August may have simply been looking in the wrong place.  It’s not in Rumplestiltskin’s dagger; it is in the people who attract it.  August should spend more time with Emma, then he too may discover that magic is hovering nearby.  It is almost as if wherever Emma is, there be magic.  She is a “hot spot” for it.

In the upcoming episode “The Stranger,” we will finally learn the identity of August and what his story is from the fairytale world.  But whether August finds what he is truly looking for – a cure and hope for the future — that remains to be seen. So be sure to tune in for an all new episode of ONCE UPON A TIME, Sunday, April 29th at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.  August’s story has just begun!

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