Reviews

‘Once Upon A Time’ Review: It’s Getting Quite Frosty

When you watch a show obsessively, it gets easier and easier to predict the twists and storyline directions over time. Sometimes that can be comforting, while other times, it can and will take some of the fun out of watching a show. However, when a show you know so well can unexpectedly surprise you, like Once Upon A Time did more than once last night, it’s pretty much the greatest thing in the world for a TV fan.

Rocky Road” continued the season theme of being jam packed with characters and stories (perhaps overly so) while upping the unanswered mysteries to a new level, all while squeezing in major character development (and regression) for some of our favorite characters. There’s a lot to discuss this week so let’s dive right into it.

Dairy Queen

We caught a brief glimpse of Elizabeth Mitchell’s Snow Queen last week and this episode gave us a lot of new information about her. First, we saw her complimenting the Hood family cuteness before cursing Marian’s ice cream with a spell to turn her to ice (clearly she’s Team Outlaw Queen). But the real point of the curse seemed to be to frame Elsa, which worked with most of the townspeople. When Elsa and Hook discovered the truth, the Snow Queen explained that she wanted to teach Elsa a lesson. Elsa was confused, especially since she had no memory of ever meeting the Snow Queen before.

Thanks to the flashbacks (more on them later), the audience got to see the first time Elsa met the Snow Queen, when she was freed from the urn that would later trap Elsa. We also learned that the Snow Queen was Elsa’s aunt (no big surprise there – this is Once Upon A Time – everyone’s related to someone). But what was unexpected was the Snow Queen’s claim that Anna trapped Elsa in the urn because Elsa became too dangerous and Anna turned on her – just like all regular people eventually do to people who have magic. Elsa was not buying that and frankly, neither am I. There’s no way Anna would do that to her sister unless 1) it was an accident or 2) she was led to believe it was the only way to keep her safe. We’ll have to wait and see as more of this story develops.

Another interesting tidbit is the Snow Queen claimed the rock trolls erased Elsa’s memory of her. We know they can do that (we saw them erase Anna’s memory of Elsa’s magic in Frozen), but would the trolls actually do that to Elsa? Or could someone else have erased her memory? While we’re pondering that, let’s talk about the bigger mystery: how the hell does the Snow Queen know Emma and why doesn’t Emma remember her? When Emma showed up to rescue Hook from the Snow Queen’s latest trap, the Snow Queen had a very strange reaction to the sheriff: she seemed taken aback and almost amazed to see her again? She played it cool (no pun intended) when Emma questioned her, but there’s obviously a history there.

Why doesn’t Emma remember? It’s possible she knew the Snow Queen at a very young age. We don’t know the woman’s name (which also strikes me as deliberate since there were two opportunities for her to provide it: once with Marian in the ice cream shop and with Elsa in the flashbacks) so she could be someone Emma would remember if she heard her name. What makes it even more interesting is the fact that Rumple seems to know a lot more about the Snow Queen than he let on and he wants to help her with whatever her plan is (or he wants her indebt to him or some combination of the two). This fascinates me and makes me wonder if magic is the key because magic equals power and nothing interests Rumple more than power (not even his wife or the promise he made to his son’s memory to be a better man).

A Failed True Love’s Kiss

While Rumple does not appear to be growing as a character, Regina showed tremendous development in this episode. She started the episode by giving Henry some comics, presumably to make up for her mistreatment of him while she was pushing him away. Money can’t buy love and everyone knows that, but I still think this was a nice gesture on Regina’s part to share something with her son. And her line about him not getting used to it was perfect because she wanted to make it clear that not everything is going to be solved with a bribe. She displayed even more personal growth when she confessed the real reason she wanted to find the writer of the book to Henry.

I have to admit, I was nervous about this when Regina first broached the subject. But I’m proud of her for coming right out with the truth and I love that Henry agreed to help her so fast and they immediately came up with a codename (Operation Mongoose). I still don’t think a storybook happy ending is what Regina needs to solve her problems, but working with Henry and being honest with him is going to be good for her and hopefully keep her on the right track to learning more about herself along the way.

Robin showed up at the diner to ask Regina for help with Marian, which was awkward for everyone, but again, Regina showed great personal growth when she agreed to help without thinking twice about it. When Robin’s true love kiss didn’t work, everyone assumed it was because Marian was frozen, but he confessed to Regina that it was because he was in love with someone else. Regina’s face lit up (and my shipper heart exploded). Of course this doesn’t change anything because Robin’s still determined to honor his commitment to his wife, but I love that Regina knows without a doubt he only loves her. I’m sure it’s only a small comfort since they can’t be together, but it’s something for her to hold onto.

To keep the ice from spreading to Marian’s heart, Regina took out her heart and placed it in one of her special vault boxes with Robin’s permission. She also promised to do everything in her power to figure out how to save Marian. Again, I’m proud of Regina for doing the right thing and putting Robin (and Roland’s) needs above her own. This is a big step for her. Unfortunately, I can’t help worrying that it’s going to backfire. Anytime someone’s heart is outside their body, there’s a possibility someone can control that person and/or squash it and kill them. I’m not worried Regina will lose her mind and take Marian out, but knowing she’s vulnerable (and being a big believer in Final Destination rules), it doesn’t seem out of the question to me that Marian could die again (Or I could be way off base and she’ll wake up and they’ll find another way to bring Robin and Regina back together).

Once Upon a Parallel

This week’s flashbacks featured Elsa and Kristoff on a journey to stop Hans and his 12 brothers in their plot to trap Elsa in the urn and take over Arendelle. Even though Elsa did not want his help because she didn’t want her sister’s fiancé in danger, Kristoff disobeyed her and made the journey anyway, ultimately ending up in harm’s way. In present day Storybrooke, Emma ordered Hook to stay out of danger and keep Elsa safe and he also ignored her demands and ended up in trouble as well.

While Kristoff and Hook’s stubbornness and determination to do the right thing and keep people they cared about safe matched up nicely, so did Emma and Elsa’s ‘weight of the world on their shoulders’ mentality, something Elsa tried to explain to Hook. Both women feel they have a duty to keep everyone safe and neither one of them feel like they’re very good at it. Elsa worried about Anna in the past and the present and after Regina pointed out how the savior needs saving lately, Emma confessed to her father that she does feel like she’s failing more often than not. What struck me about these scenes is how both woman are/were doing better than they were/are giving themselves credit for, but I think we can all relate to our insecurities getting the best of us at times.

In the flashbacks, Elsa came to realize that Kristoff had been right and she didn’t have to do everything alone. She called him her friend when the Snow Queen wanted to know who he was and that was a major moment for Elsa because she’s not one to let anyone other than Anna get close to her. As for Emma, even though she saved the day, she was still really mad at Hook. He assumed it was a trust issue (since that’s usually what it was in the past), but Emma didn’t hesitate to tell him that she does trust him, she’s just afraid of losing him.

Emma isn’t one to put her heart out on her sleeve, so when she does, it’s always a huge and Jennifer Morrison never fails to bring all of her emotions to the surface. Emma explained to Hook that anyone she’s ever been with romantically, Neal, Graham, even Walsh, has died and she can’t lose him too. The raw emotion in her voice and the tears in her eyes reflected the scared, lonely lost girl inside once more – this is a woman who has spent most of her life alone and she’s not used to opening up her heart because she’s always had terrible results in the past. But her relationship with Hook is different and Emma wants to try and it shows so much character growth that she’s willing to let herself be this vulnerable with him. Hook’s response was perfect – he reminded her that he’s always been good at surviving and then he kissed her passionately to show her that he’s there and he’s not leaving (my fangirl heart cannot even handle this).

Odds and Ends

I wasn’t kidding about this episode being jam packed. We also had Snow dealing with her desire to multitask so she doesn’t miss a second of the baby’s life, even if it means not asking for help or even letting Charming help when he offers. Archie pointed out that she’s overdoing it because she missed everything with Emma, which is true. But I’m not sure his advice is going to be enough to make Snow pull back, not yet. I do wish they would find a way to integrate Snow into the main story instead of keeping her isolated with random townspeople each episode.

We were briefly introduced (or reintroduced if you watched Once Upon a Time in Wonderland) to Will Scarlet when Emma and Charming found him poking around Robin’s tent. He explained he’d once been part of the Merry Men and he led them to the Snow Queen’s trail before stealing money from the cash register and taking off. These were fun scenes for those of us who are already fans of Will’s, but I can’t help thinking this was not the right time to bring him onto a crowded canvas.

While helping Elsa, Hook quickly caught onto the fact that Rumple gave Belle a fake dagger. I like that the show is playing this beat, reviving the rivalry between the two and showing just how well Hook knows Rumple after all these years. But I worry that blackmailing the Dark One, even for the right reasons, is not the wisest course of action. Their understanding of each other is a two-way street and I imagine Rumple can find ways to hurt and manipulate Hook as payback. This story is definitely not over.

Now it’s your turn. Hit the comments and share your thoughts and theories with us. Did you like the episode? Do you think there are too many characters on the show? Which story interests you the most? What do you want to see happen next?

About the author

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. Follow her on Twitter at @SourceMandy.

  • Calli

    Thanks for the lovely review! I really loved 4×03. Even though I agree, it did feel a bit too crowded sometimes and the regulars aren’t getting the screen time I wish they’d get. But it was still a solid episode. I’m intruiged by the Snow Queen knowing Emma and I thought I detected some love in her tone when she called out “Emma”. Or was it fear? I don’t know. There was familiarity there though and I’m really looking forward to find out how the Snow Queen travelled to our world to meet little Emma and what her motivation was…

    Also really enjoyed Killian’s scene with Rumple. There was a real sense of history there (as pointed out by nerdy girl notes) and it was glorious to see that Killian is indeed the one man who can see behind the Dark One’s facade. And he knows how dangerous this game is and he plays it anyway. For the sake of Emma. There are no words for how much I love Killian for that. Colin and Robert are incredibly talented actors (I’d argue the best on the show, followed closely by others of course) and I’m very excited for all their scenes that are yet to come, hoping that Killian will be safe and sound by the end of that particular arc.
    I’m just wondering in re the preview for next week, whether Dr Whale had a price to pay for the magic Rumple exercised for reattaching his hand…

    Other than that, what I enjoy most on OUAT is the solid development of Emma and Killian’s relationship. It does them justice both as individuals and as a couple. It’s been like witnessing a miracle seeing Emma lowering her walls episode by episode ever since she kissed him after they returned from their time travel adventure. Emma is a complicated woman – aka a real woman, and I love that Adam and Eddy are keeping her relationship with Killian real. It makes sense that Emma, now aware and willing to admit to herself and Killian that she wants him in her life, would still struggle with all the damage and hurt that she’s accumulated over the years. I remember he saying to Killian in 3×12, after Walsh turned out to be a flying monkey, that she just can’t have what she wants. Namely love in her life. Neal certainly proved that. And losing Graham before anything could really happen between them didn’t help either. I love Emma for having the strength to WANT to be vulnerable with the man she’s felt a connection to ever since they climbed the beanstalk together and who has earned her trust by proving how real his affections are for her. It’s so wonderful to see Emma open up to Killian. To see him heal some of her hurt just like she’s healed some of his and to see them give each other this most important thing: hope. And love.

    I’ve never been more moved by a fictional tv couple. I can’t believe that we’re getting all this beautiful development in their relationship without the typical “will they won’t they” storyline that seems to be TV show law.
    I hope Adam and Eddy will continue writing them us amazingly as they have up until now.