Reviews

‘Once Upon A Time’ Review: ‘Frozen’ Fatigue Overshadows ‘Family Business’

Last night, Once Upon A Time gave viewers a backstory episode for Belle that showed us a piece of her life before Rumple. We got to briefly meet her mother and we learned the real reason her father brought the Dark One to his kingdom. We also discovered Belle spent some time with Anna in Arendelle and knew what happened to her – something she’s been keeping to herself all of this time until she tearfully confessed to Rumple and then Elsa after a run in with the Snow Queen’s mirror.

And that’s where my frustration is rooted. “Family Business” may have been billed as a Belle centric episode and she certainly had more screen time than she has since mid-season three, but at its heart, the episode was once again more about the guest stars and their family business than Belle’s. If it wasn’t for Anna, Belle might never have met Rumple, just like if it wasn’t for Anna, David might never have found his inner hero. Six episodes in and the season is repeating itself.

Contrived connections between characters is nothing new for this show – like Hook said, stay in Storybrooke long enough and you’ll find almost everyone is related. The audience is in on the joke at this point and we all groan and roll our eyes when new familial ties are revealed, but for the most part, it doesn’t actually bother us much. And technically, no new relative revelations were made last night because we already knew Ingrid (she has a name!) was Elsa and Anna’s aunt. So what’s the issue? Balance – the show is twisting itself in knots to make sure all the Frozen characters are tied to our main cast, but the problem is we’re still not seeing enough of the cast we’ve been tuning in for three seasons to see.

I get that Frozen is Disney’s current golden child and I can see why the writers wanted to use the characters – there are so many parallels between the movie and Once Upon A Time and I love when they touch on them. I love the actors; they’ve brought the characters to life flawlessly. But unless something has changed behind the scenes that the producers haven’t revealed yet, these characters are all going to be gone after episode 11 so why are they spending so much time giving us complicated backstories for them while ignoring the stories they’ve started for our series regulars?

Regina has had two major arcs introduced this season: the fallout from Marian returning and her mission with Henry to track down the person who wrote the book. We know the latter is going to last for at least the entire season so I can see why the writers don’t want to give it tons of screen time right now, but couldn’t we at least see Henry snooping in Rumple’s shop or briefly meeting with Regina for Operation Mongoose updates before everyone else comes in to talk about the Snow Queen? At least remind the audience that the story is happening so we can look forward to the payoff.

As for Robin, we did get a brief moment between him and Regina this week. She told him that she doesn’t think she’s going to be able to save Marian and he needs to stop loving her and start loving his wife again so True Love’s Kiss can work. Um, what? First, I don’t think that’s how it works because you can’t fake what’s in your heart, but second, this should have been a major moment for them and the actors did a fantastic job making their sorrow palpable, but it was a blink and you miss it scene, tossed in the middle of hunting down the Snow Queen. Regina and Robin both deserve more than that.

While we’re on the subject of dropped stories, what about the fallout from Hook’s deal with Rumple? The two were in the same room at the beginning of the episode and the focus was on the Snow Queen and Rumple had no interest in aiding in the search. Yes, the scene served as a setup for Belle eventually using the fake dagger to control him, but there were zero hints to remind the audience Rumple still has Hook under his thumb and Hook was dishonest with Emma about how he briefly got his hand back. I don’t doubt we’re going to get back to this story at some point, but shouldn’t there be reminders that it’s happening in the background?

I watch this show obsessively and forget nothing, but most people watch an episode and don’t think about the show again until it airs the following week. It’s jarring to be tossed back into a storyline that you’ve completely forgotten about out of the blue, especially after watching two episodes of Hook not seeming to have a care in the world outside of worrying about Emma (which as a Captain Swan fan, I love and have heart eyes for, but I still need to look at this with a critical eye and it’s annoying that this plot has been completely dropped for the time being, no matter how adorable their budding romance scenes are). I’m not even going to mention Will Scarlet, other than to reiterate that they should have waited to bring him onto the canvas instead of giving out breadcrumbs every other episode.

Then there’s the Snow Queen plot. I love Elizabeth Mitchell and I’ve been looking forward to her coming on the show, but this might be the most contrived plot of them all. She wants Emma and Elsa to replace her non-magical sisters. In Arendelle, she locked up Anna because she got in the way and now she plans to use her magic mirror to shatter the sight of Storybrooke residents so they turn on one another until the two queens and the savior are the only ones left standing. It’s so ridiculous it hurts my head. Why couldn’t she just be evil and want to take over the town because it amused her or she had a grudge against someone? Why does it have to be about her wanting a makeshift family?

I think my main problem with the family angle is the fact that we know she gave up on Elsa at some point (assuming she’s the one who stuffed her into the urn, something I feel like we should know by now) and she left Emma after being her foster mother for six months. So she only wants a family when they cooperate? Yes, that shows that she’s insane, but it’s silly. She wants something so badly, but she gives up when it doesn’t go her way, only to wait 15 years or so to try again? I will absolutely eat my words if there’s a reasonable explanation for this, but for now, I am not impressed.

Let’s circle back to Belle and Rumple because there were important developments for them in this episode. Belle’s guilt over Anna led to her using the dagger to order Rumple to take her to the Snow Queen. He played along, but still tried to stop her from entering the ice palace. It didn’t work and Belle found herself in front of the mirror, reliving the time she didn’t act quickly enough to save Anna and the younger girl ended up in the Snow Queen’s clutches. While I have a hard time believing Belle kept this secret and guilt bottled up all these years, I did love the scene with mean Belle taunting her through the mirror. She called her weak and claimed that was the only reason Rumple married her because she could easily be controlled and that he’d lied to her about the dagger.

Rumple burst in and claimed the Snow Queen was coming and Belle accidentally cut him with the dagger so he used his magic to take them back to the shop. Then he convinced Belle that because she told him to keep watch, he got to come inside when there was danger. She felt so guilty for cutting him and what she did to Anna that she accepted his explanation and then apologized to him for lying and begged for forgiveness because he’d been so honest and trusting with her and she’d ruined it.

As they were hugging, Rumple at least had the decency to look ashamed, but these scenes were hard to watch. He is playing her for a fool and it’s like watching a slow motion car wreck waiting for the truth to be revealed. I know they’re a True Love couple, but I don’t see how the writers are going to repair this relationship once everything is revealed. How can Belle forgive him for the ultimate betrayal, especially after she broke down and confessed how bad she felt keeping something from him? Why should the audience want Belle to forgive him?

Finally, we have a new development on the Mickey’s hat front – the one recurring story that does get decent screen time each episode probably because it’s tied to the Frozen arc. In Arendelle, the Snow Queen ended up with the hat after she kidnapped Anna. In Storybrooke, Rumple paid a visit to Ingrid so she’d see that he possessed the hat now and that she no longer had leverage. Does that mean she brought it to Storybrooke? That seems a little too obvious and she was genuinely surprised to see it so I’m guessing it left her possession somewhere between Arendelle and Storybrooke and the owner of the honeymoon house will come into play. I am curious to see where this particular plot is going.

Now it’s your turn. Hit the comments below and share your thoughts, feelings and theories. Are you tired of Frozen? Do you miss Snow and Charming? Do you like the Snow Queen? Which dropped story do you wish was getting more screen time?

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

    I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment!! I’ve been very nostalgic over the Neverland arc lately – mor because of the landscape (haha) but because of how brilliant it was in shedding more light on the main characters, the people most of us actually watch for.
    As much as I love Frozen, I’m having a hard time understanding why the writers are investing this much time in characters that aren’t going to stick around. And I understand that Anna is good and pure and love and hope combined basically, however I doesn’t feel right to me that I’m being told that some of the characters I’ve loved for so long are only who they are largely because they met Anna at some point in their lives. Maybe my issue with this is really rooted in the fact that the frozen characters and storyline are simply taking up too much time and focus that should be really spent on the characters we watch for. I miss Snowing and i miss the main characters’ story lines being on the forefront.
    As far as the Snow Queen and her motives go, it felt a bit…I don’t know really. Repetitive? Not that we’ve had the exact situation before but wanting a family that loves you so badly that you’re willing to bring doom to almost everyone around you was very reminiscent of Zelena to me. Again, I get that “family” is one of the main topics – if not THE main topic – of the show. However I do wish the writers would be a little more original at this point…
    It definitely feels like they are trying to accomplish a lot of things at the same time – the frozen characters, the snow queen, storylines for the main characters – and everything suffers in the process – especially the main characters’ screen time and the focus on them.
    4×05 had a rather disillusioning effect on me; now 4×06 felt rather flat. Bland even. I’m hoping things will pick up this week.

  • Guest

    Loved the Belle and Magic Mirror scene!

  • Sofi

    Like Beauty this was something I expected for years and I’m happy how it was done. I loved to watch a Belle more round, because the little glimpses of her, make her more fanonical than canonical sometimes, but here, I have a one that was much more worked in comparison. I think that the story of Rumple and Belle is the last bit of adult tale in a show that is more and more obvious dedicated to children and adolescents, with dates and cursed lips, so I apreciate the darkness of it, but I think lacks of continuity. That is killing the stories of this session for the main ones, because looks choppy for them. I loved the scene of the mirror for Emilie de Ravin. I retired myself since episode two of this session and came back to watch Rumple one, and for Belle one. I still don’t know If gonna give my chance to the next one. One thing that is pretty obvious for fans like me, is that what mantain us for the long road, was in my case, watch Robert Carlyle and my appreciation for Emilie, since her screentime is a joke. But at the end of the day was their charisma, and I must include Lana here, with the characters what make me come back for more and tolerate and do oblivion pill to many plot things. I think they are believing too much in the hardcore fans to stay while they try to mantain the frozen fans. But I think the mistake came in how is developing for the main ones, I don’t feel they are selling with strenght to the frozen fans what become addictive for many of us: Robert and Lana, in my case Emilie too. But of course, just an opinion.

  • Roberta

    some things were great, others were boring. i liked the belle story and the moments with rumple were – again – beautiful.
    don`t care about elsa. she does nothing for me. same for anna. liked her in the beginning. now she treats my nervs.
    i don`t like the ingrid,elsa and emma storyline and hook gets more and more boring each week.
    the mirror scene was really great.