‘Once Upon a Time’ Season Premiere Review: Sisters and Monsters

ABC/Katie Yu

Do you want to build an evil snowman? (Yes, I went there and I’m not even sorry). Once Upon a Time is back with its fourth season premiere and Frozen has arrived in Storybrooke. “A Tale of Two Sisters” introduced us to the world of Arendelle and gave our favorite characters a taste of winter when Elsa hit town and panicked, leading to her creating a giant snowman that tried to destroy the townspeople (because the noise scared him, which frankly, I totally get). But that’s only part of the story laid out in the premiere.

Welcome to Arendelle

The episode began with a trip to the past and we got to see Elsa and Anna’s parents just before the storm destroyed the ship and took their lives. Their mother wanted to send a message in a bottle so the girls would know the real reason they took the trip, but would it ever find their way to them (and what did it say)? Fast-forward five years and Elsa had a surprise for her sister on the eve of her wedding – her mother’s dress. Unfortunately, Elsa discovered a journal that led her to believe her parents thought she was a monster and she ran off in a cloud of snow.

Anna refused to let her sister believe the worst and made a vow to find the truth, even if it meant delaying her wedding and journeying to Mist Haven, better known as the Enchanted Forest. While this particular flashback didn’t involve any of our current cast, it worked perfectly as an introduction to Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven and Grand Pabbie (side note: well done with the troll CGI, show). For me, the heart of the movie was the bond between the sisters and it came across beautifully here.

A promise built on a lie

Rumple and Belle had a beautiful wedding in the season three finale and on their way to the honeymoon destination they stopped at the cemetery so Rumple could have a moment with his son. As usual, Rumple’s love for Bae moved me to tears and broke my heart into a thousand pieces. He felt guilty (as he should) for lying to Belle about the dagger and promised Bae that he’d make it right and live his life in a way that would make him proud.

Then the honeymooners headed to a mysterious house Belle discovered on a hike (seriously, no alarms went off in her head? This is Storybrooke! You can’t just ‘borrow’ an abandoned, gorgeous house and assume there won’t be consequences). Rumple switched out the dagger and then treated his wife to a first dance, complete with fairy tale costumes and “Beauty & the Beast” playing on the record player. Insert all the smiles and happy sighs in the world for this perfect scene.

Naturally, the other shoe had to drop when Rumple discovered a mysterious object. Once Belle fell asleep, he grabbed his dagger (and the promise went out the window) and he used it to bring forth the sorcerer’s hat from Fantasia. So not only did Rumple break his vow to Belle (again) and his promise to Bae, but he found a way to channel more power? That’s probably not going to be good for anyone, including him (okay, it’s good for the audience because I have so many questions and want to see where this goes).

(ABC/Eike Schroter

(ABC/Eike Schroter

Saviors don’t have time for Netflix

After the Marian fallout at the diner (which we will get to, be patient), Emma, Henry and Snow worried about Regina’s state of mind. But Emma also had her own relationship on the brain and so did Hook, who told her that she needed to take time to live her life between crises or she would miss it. Of course Leroy chose that moment to warn of the new danger in town and Hook was not amused, but he and Emma leapt into action and chased the ice trail only to be greeted by a giant snowman. The snowman proceeded to run rampant through the town and into the forest.

David suggested that Emma could stop the snowman and Hook once again encouraged her to use her magic. Emma did, but it only made the snowman angrier and he knocked them all unconscious. After the snowman was finally dealt with (yes, more on that later too), Hook asked Emma again why she was avoiding him and this time he sounded a little irritated as well as hurt. Emma tried to use the Regina excuse, but he knows her better than that and believed there was more to the story. Emma admitted there was more to it and then she kissed him and asked him to be patient. He agreed he had time – as long as another monster didn’t show up to kill him.

[Note: non-Captain Swan shippers can skip this paragraph]. What I loved about these scenes were the changes in Emma. Before the season finale adventure, Emma buried her feelings behind her walls to keep her heart safe. Now she’s smiling and blushing when talking about her relationship with Hook (not that’s she ready to call it that), but even more importantly, she’s not running away from him anymore. He’s always pushed her to reveal more than she wants to, but at a certain point, Emma would throw her walls up higher and walk away. This time, even though she wasn’t ready to talk, she kissed him and asked him to be patient because she’s trying and that’s so very vital for her emotional progress as well as their relationship progress.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall…

Aside from Frozen, a good chunk of this episode revolved around Regina and the fallout from Emma and Hook bringing Marian back from the past. Marian did not take it well when she learned her husband had gotten involved with the woman who had almost killed her and that’s understandable. She was also confused when Snow and Emma were both concerned about Regina because Marian only sees her as a monster. Regina ended up walking off alone and took refuge in her office the next day until Robin came to knock on her door.

Regina assumed he thought she was a monster too, but he didn’t. Robin knows that she’s no longer the Evil Queen and she’s changed, just like he has (seriously, we need Robin’s backstory sooner rather than later, show. I want to know about this darkness he alluded to). Regina was touched by Robin’s faith in her and his declaration that everything between them was real, but then came the pain: he planned to honor his vow to Marian (excuse me while I go cry in the corner. Obviously, I expected this, but it still hurt). Robin left and Regina broke a mirror, which made her remember Sidney existed.

So…was anyone else troubled by Sidney’s continuing devotion to his queen? Don’t get me wrong: I love Regina. She’s my favorite character and I want her to find happiness. But she let Sidney take the fall for the Katherine mess and then locked him up and forgot all about him and his first instinct is to rush to help her? Someone get this man an appointment with Archie, stat. Anyway, Regina’s plan (which sounded basically like she was channeling Zelena – still bitter the show killed her) was to go back in time and kill Marian before she could meet Emma, but the problem was that she’s killed so many people over the years, she didn’t remember her (awkward). Sidney showed her the time and place and then Regina happened to stumble onto the scene in the forest where the snowman had knocked everyone unconscious except Marian.

And this instantly became one of my favorite moments in the premiere as Marian asked Regina for help and Regina disappeared in a cloud of magic. She easily could have let the snowman crush Marian and no one would have been the wiser. But she didn’t. She stayed and used her firepower (literally) to get rid of the monster. Does saving Marian’s life here make up for her killing her in the past before Emma changed it? Of course not, but it’s a reflection of Regina’s growth. She does think about the consequences now and even though she’s hurting and heartbroken, she didn’t resort to murder. She knows it’s not the answer and that’s a big deal in her character development.

Of course some might argue that the final scene takes some of it away. After crying on the floor (my heart hurts so much for her), Regina comes up with a new plan. She wants to find out who’s been writing the book and get that person to give villains a happy ending for a change (again, I couldn’t help thinking of Zelena and how she ‘tried to be good’). On the one hand, I’m just shaking my head because Regina still hasn’t learned that you can’t force a happy ending, but on the other hand, I really like the story potential here and the journey she’s going to take.

[Note: non-Outlaw Queen shippers can skip this paragraph]. We knew this episode was going to hurt and it absolutely did, but it also gave me renewed hope for these two. Robin’s determined to do the noble thing and keep his family together, but he loves Regina. Not only was that evident when he came to see her, but when he woke up in the forest and saw her there. That love is not going to disappear and I imagine this won’t be the only episode where they’re thrown together by the town chaos. Bring on the angst and the eventual happy ending. I can try to be patient.

Once Upon a Parallel

If there’s one thing fans can count on, it’s that this show will never, ever be subtle and I absolutely love them for it. Even though the two stories didn’t connect, the parallel between Elsa/Anna/Kristoff and Regina/Emma/Hook was one of my favorite things about the episode. Elsa and Regina believed (or were told, in Regina’s case) they were monsters who did not deserve happiness and they both ran off to be alone and away from people who they could hurt (or who could hurt them). Anna and Emma both swooped in to try and change their minds – Anna because she loves her sister dearly and Emma because she doesn’t want to see Regina throw away all the progress she’s made and she believes that she should get a happy ending too.

Emma and Anna also both put their own lives on hold to help someone else. Anna postponed her wedding and left Kristoff behind to take care of Elsa, which he took in stride. Hook, on the other hand, displayed some irritation when it came to Emma wanting to put Regina first. He loves Emma and he’s going to do as she wishes, but I like that he’s making it clear he’s not happy about it. Like Kristoff, he knows what he signed up for when he got involved with a woman who will always save other people’s happiness before her own, but he does have his limits. His impatience in this episode feels like a major foreshadowing of what’s to come this season (and I am here for it).

Overall, this episode was enjoyable, but it felt disjointed. I understand the show needed to take time to introduce the Frozen characters and make sure people the four or five people (like my dad) who have never seen the movie get to know them, but I hope this is the one and only Frozen-centric episode that isolates them from the main cast. I really wish Emma and Hook had discovered Elsa already, but since they didn’t, please let that happen early in episode two. Anna is on her way to the Enchanted Forest so she’ll be able to connect with our main characters in flashbacks. I don’t like feeling as if I’m watching two different shows, especially since some of the scenes with Snow and Charming and Emma and Hook felt rushed. I love guest stars, I already love the new characters, but I watch this show for the main cast and need to see more of them.

Now it’s your turn. Hit the comments below and share your thoughts and feelings and theories on the episode!

Mandy Treccia
Mandy Treccia has served as TVSource Magazine’s Executive Editor since 2016, formerly as Editorial Director from 2012-2016. She is an avid TV watcher and card carrying fan girl prone to sudden bursts of emotion, ranging from extreme excitement to blind rage during her favorite shows and has on more than once occasion considered having a paper bag on hand to get her through some tough TV moments. Her taste in TV tends to rival that of a thirteen-year-old girl, but she’s okay with that.

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1 Comment

  1. Agree very much. The reason why I watch this show are the regulars. Especially Killian and Emma. I’m completely enchanted by their story. So much it’s troubling really…
    You said everything perfectly so nor much for me to add.
    My favorite moment tonight was Killian confronting Emma about avoiding him and Emma actually not running away – she wasn’t ready to talk yet but she showed him she was in this and this shows so much growth on Emma’s part it moved me to tears! I love how Killian just knew that Emma was holding back something from him and her avoiding him isn’t just Regina related. She truly is an open book to him. Can’t wait for the day Emma will let him completely in and show him she wants him and them just as much as he does.

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