TV Time: Once Upon a Time 4.01

Welcome (or welcome back), friends, to my Once Upon a Time reviews! I’ve been looking forward to writing this since the Season Three finale aired in May, so let the fun (and the discussion) begin!

Source: spoilertv.com

Source: spoilertv.com

Title A Tale of Two Sisters

Two-Sentence Summary As Elsa finds herself in Storybrooke, flashbacks show what happened when she discovered a journal that revealed her parents’ fatal journey was undertaken to figure out how to deal with their magical daughter—a journey that Anna decides to retrace, leading her to the Enchanted Forest. Elsa isn’t the only new arrival from Emma and Hook’s trip to the past to cause problems in Storybrooke; Marian’s presence forces Regina to confront whether or not she can ever have a happy ending and whether or not she’s still the “monster” she once was.

Favorite Lines
Emma: Want to go home and see what’s on Netflix?
Hook: I don’t know what that is, but sure!

My Thoughts Remember when last season ended and I was worried about how the Frozen storyline was going to be handled on Once Upon a Time? It’s amazing how great casting can make all the difference in the world. I know it’s only been one episode, but the Frozen characters were some of my favorite parts of this Once Upon a Time premiere. That might also be because so much was going on in Storybrooke that the Frozen flashbacks gave me a chance to breathe in the middle of the present-day chaos and revolving door of new plot developments.

Don’t get me wrong; one of this episode’s biggest strengths was the way it laid a solid foundation for all of the major storylines to come this season (or at least in this half of the season). It served as a great introduction for people tuning in for the first time because of the Frozen hype, and it attempted to quell some of the unrest surrounding both the Neverland and Wicked Witch arcs last season—sometimes it felt like the characters were going in circles (on occasion, quite literally) with only one major conflict to deal with.

However, anyone who’s familiar with my feelings about Once Upon a Time knows that I would rather have a hundred episodes of characters walking through the Neverland jungle—doing little to advance the plot but growing tremendously as characters—instead of a repeat of Season Two’s plot-heavy mess. I’ll withhold my judgment on the sheer number of major stories introduced in this premiere until I see if they turn out as disjointed as they could be or as connected as I hope they will be. If nothing else, they made for a fast-paced premiere filled with plenty of new mysteries to uncover—one of which I’ve been waiting for since I first saw the pilot.

The Frozen flashbacks also have their own central mystery: Who were Anna and Elsa’s parents going to see in Misthaven (or is it Mist Haven?)—aka the Enchanted Forest? My guess is Rumplestiltskin, and that’s where all the trouble will come with Elsa ending up in his vault and Anna’s necklace being in Mr. Gold’s shop. I liked that these flashbacks did what Once Upon a Time does best; they showed what happens after the story as we know it ends, making Anna and Elsa feel like real people and not just fairytale princesses (or a princess and a queen if we’re being technical).

I was most impressed with how faithful the writers and actors were not just to the details of Frozen but to the very essence of what makes these characters so unique. Of course, it was fun to see the nods to the film in everything from the beautiful costumes and the surprisingly good CGI for Grand Pabbie to the perfection that was Sven (Who knew a real reindeer could be so sassy?). But what I loved the most was the care taken to get Anna and Elsa (and Kristoff, too, in the little we saw of him) just right.

Elizabeth Lail was the perfecting casting choice for Anna. She was suitably adorable and slightly awkward, but where she really excelled was showing Anna’s unfailing optimism and belief in the good in people—especially her sister. There’s real strength to be found in optimism, and Once Upon a Time has always celebrated that. So it shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did that Anna would undertake this quest by herself out of love for and belief in her sister. It was a heroic act, and it was treated as such. Many people look at Anna in the film and want to only focus on her comedic side. However, what I love most about Anna is her belief that no one—especially not her sister—should have to suffer and struggle alone. That made her choice to leave Kristoff with Elsa as she made the journey alone so powerful; it was a choice to put Elsa before herself, and that’s the truest kind of love there is.

I’m excited to see what Anna leaving Kristoff behind means for his relationship with Elsa, because it was fun to see how strained and imperfect it is so far. It was also fun to see that Kristoff has grown into even more of a perfect match for Anna—someone who believes in her strength completely while most people write her off as flighty, and we all know that true love on this show is true belief in a person’s best self.

In that same vein, it will also be interesting to see how Elsa handles not having Anna near her to remind her of her best self. I loved that Elsa was still working to accept herself and that she still struggled with both seeing herself as a monster and with pushing away her sister’s encouragement and love. Anna was right; having a sister means you’re not alone. But it was nice to see that, just because Elsa had accepted that she didn’t have to be alone, it wasn’t always easy for her to believe it; it made her feel more realistic.

I’d never heard of Georgina Haig before she was cast as Elsa, but now I feel like one of her biggest fans because she was incredible. So much of this Frozen story was riding on having the right Elsa, and Haig was phenomenal from the start. I loved the warm but still reserved tone in her flashback scenes because I thought they channeled Elsa’s movie characterization brilliantly. But I was most impressed with the silently stunning work she did in Elsa’s moments in Storybrooke.

Elsa’s magic becomes uncontrollable when she’s afraid, and it could be easy for an actor to overplay the “fear” aspect of this character. But Haig made Elsa’s fear feel like real anxiety, which is what this character is all about. Elsa is a woman who lives in a constant state of worry that something will make her so afraid that she’ll lose control again, and that’s something people with anxiety can strongly relate to. It’s also something Haig captured perfectly—that fear of yourself and who you are when your anxiety is at its worst. From her shaking hands and her tight fists as she struggled to control her magic just walking down the street to her struggle to control her breathing as she hid, the physical details of her anxiety were heartbreaking. I just wanted someone to hug her, and that’s a high compliment for Haig. This was the most immediately attached I’ve ever felt to a new character on Once Upon a Time, and it left me more excited than ever for her to interact with the main cast starting next week.

That main cast had plenty to do in this episode without actually meeting Elsa, although they did get acquainted with her snow monster. (Thanks to another warning from everyone’s favorite town crier, Grumpy.) It seems that Elsa is now on a mission to find Rumplestiltskin, but he was a little busy in this episode. I’m still so frustrated with him for lying to Belle; even secretly giving her the real dagger did little to make me happy because she still doesn’t know what he did to Zelena (or that their marriage was based on a lie). And it didn’t help that he used it again anyway at the end of the episode to reveal a classic piece of Disney lore (the sorcerer’s hat!), which had me clapping in my seat while simultaneously wondering where this will fit into the stories being told this season (especially since I would have thought he was the sorcerer if anyone was going to be).

However, I’d be lying if I said two of the most beautiful moments this week weren’t courtesy of Robert Carlyle. The story he told at Neal’s grave about the only time he felt like a man who could keep his son safe broke my heart. I’m now more certain than ever that a monologue delivered by Carlyle will almost always be an episode highlight for me. (Although did anyone else get momentarily distracted by the fact that Neal’s headstone only said “son” and not “father,” too?) And, of course, no matter how annoyed I am with his lying to Belle, that dance was beautiful. Between the lovely way Frozen was handled so far, the hat, and this dance, “A Tale of Two Sisters” was a Disney fan’s dream. As soon as the first notes of “Beauty and the Beast,” started, I lost it from the sheer force of nostalgia alone. That movie and that scene in particular were formative for me and so many in my generation, and it was wonderful to see it given such special treatment on the show.

Rumplestiltskin’s constant dance of one step forward, two steps back with his inner demons had me very worried that Regina would follow a similar pattern in this premiere. It was a fear echoed by Henry, whose concern for his mother was believable; he’s seen her darkness, so it was understandable that he would be worried about her growth being set back by her pain. It was also sweet to see him understand that Emma wouldn’t be able to get through to Regina, but he might have a chance.

Regina’s struggle to decide whether or not she’s a monster was a nice parallel with Elsa fearing that she was a monster. And it provided some truly beautiful—but devastating—moments for Lana Parrilla to shine (especially when Robin came to visit her). But for a little while, I was worried that she was going to give in to her darker impulses, especially when she brought Sidney back from the asylum. It’s always a pleasure to see Giancarlo Esposito again, and his “I can probably tell you that you’re wearing too much eye makeup” was one of my favorite lines in the episode. But his return was meant to show us that Regina was about to go back down the path to being the Evil Queen, so I couldn’t be too happy to see him.

However, Regina has come so far since she last saw Sidney. She’s known true love, she’s wielded light magic, and she’s grown so much. I think we all knew that she couldn’t let Marian die. That’s not who she is anymore. She may not be perfect, but she’s not a monster anymore. Heroes don’t kill, and while she may not feel like a hero all the time, that lesson seems to have stuck with her. If she’s going to find a happy ending, she knew it couldn’t be that way.

Regina’s plan for finding a happy ending seems very convoluted, but I’m hoping it ends up being a plan that doesn’t really pan out. Changing the book shouldn’t be the point; it should be about changing yourself to be a better person. Regina needs to learn that a happy ending isn’t something that comes easy after doing a few heroic deeds; it’s something even the most heroic on this show fight for every day. I feel that Regina’s arc this season will be about discovering that you can’t forcibly change fate; you can only change yourself and your own choices. Therefore, I don’t think her plan to change the book will succeed (Although it might change as she changes.), but I am excited to explore more of this area of the show’s mythology. I’ve been eager to know who wrote the book since we first saw it.

Regina shut everyone out as she dealt with her problems in this episode, which was a very Elsa-like move. Luckily for her, she had her own Anna to remind her that everyone deserves to be happy. The fact that Emma was the Anna to Regina’s Elsa showed just how far Emma has come. That final scene between Emma and Regina, with the door separating them, was such a beautiful nod to Frozen’s “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” scene. What I loved the most was the way it showcased Emma’s empathy, which is an underrated part of her character. Emma knows what it’s like to push people away because you’re hurting, and she knows how hard it can be to face challenges on your own. She also knows now how much better things can be when you have people to lean on. That scene could have only happened after the stability last season’s finale gave Emma. She’s not pushing people away anymore; she’s actually reaching out to help.

Emma’s parallels with Anna in this episode extended to her sacrificing some romantic moments to help Regina, much like Anna did by putting her marriage on hold to go on her journey. But, as is usually the case with Emma, it’s more complicated than her simply needing time to help Regina at the expense of spending time with Hook.

This is all new for Emma, as was shown in her nice little moment of girl talk with her mom (much more of this, please!). Just like I loved the fact that Elsa’s fears about herself and her magic didn’t immediately go away, I loved that one genuine kiss between Emma and Hook didn’t magically erase all of Emma’s fears and insecurities. Opening your heart to love isn’t done in one moment; it’s a process, and it’s one I’m eager to watch both Emma and Hook go through this season. I’m especially eager to see Hook fight for Emma’s happiness the way Emma is fighting for Regina’s (and everyone else’s). His annoyance with Emma’s “there’s a crisis” deflection was a perfect echo of what her father told her last season (and what he helped her mother discover before she was born); you can’t put your happiness on hold until there are no more crises.

Emma is still the woman who said that the life she wanted (a happy, peaceful life with a stable relationship) wasn’t in the cards for the savior. She needs someone like Hook to remind her that she can be the savior and have a life full of love and happiness. Her job is to fight for everyone to have their happy endings, and his job seems to be to remind her to fight for her own, too—even if that happiness is just a night in watching Netflix. He may not know what that is yet, but one look at his smile proved that all he needed to know was that it was a chance to spend time with Emma. Emma needs that as much as she needs his support of her magic. She needs someone who loves seeing her embrace her magical side but also simply wants to spend time with her as Emma.

Hook isn’t afraid to be honest with Emma, and his openness has made her more open in return. It was nice to see them talk through the issue of Emma avoiding him instead of just letting it fester. What I loved most about that little moment in the woods was the fact that Emma didn’t run away from him when things got too deep like she used to do. In fact, she smiled at him when he called her out for avoiding him (another lovely moment of subtle acting by Jennifer Morrison) instead of rolling her eyes or stiffening up like she used to. She was honest with him about her guilt over Regina, but, of course, Hook read her like an open book and knew there was more.

In the past, Hook being able to see right through her defenses would have freaked Emma out; it would have made her push him away or just turn and walk away from him without another word. However, this isn’t the same Emma. She may still have things to work through emotionally before she can let herself completely dive into this relationship, but she’s trying. And she wanted him to know that. So she did the only thing she could do to prove that the other reason she was avoiding him wasn’t because she didn’t want him; she kissed him. Once again, it was Emma initiating a kiss between them, making the choice to show him that she does want to make this work, even if she still has things to work though.

Then, Emma told him two words that are so important for her character growth: “Be patient.” Like her saying “Good” in “Going Home,” this was Emma giving Hook the most she could give at that time. She may not be ready to tell him exactly what’s holding her back, but she wants him to know that she’s hopeful she’ll overcome it and be able to give him the love he deserves. Emma was once someone who tried to push people away because she feared they would leave anyway. But she’s not that woman anymore. Instead, she’s trying to be more open, and she needed Hook to know that she wants whatever they have and could have. It was also nice to see that the one thing she asked of him—patience—is the one thing we know he has in spades. (And if we didn’t know that, he admitted it right after.)

It was fun to watch Emma smile so much in this episode after a season that saw very little happiness for her (until the very end). At the end of last season, all I really wanted in Season Four was for Regina to keep from backsliding completely, the Frozen story to be handled with care, and more happiness and growth for Emma. I’m a happy woman today because “A Tale of Two Sisters” gave me all of those things and more. Was it perhaps a little crowded and plot-heavy? Yes. But the character beats it had were strong and emotionally resonant enough to make me excited for everything that’s coming our way this season.

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51 thoughts on “TV Time: Once Upon a Time 4.01

  1. Great timing – I saw you posted this not 5 minutes after I finished watching the episode (I missed it last night! but that gave me a chance to finish my season 3 rewatch with the finale this morning before watching the premiere, so alls well that ends well). I haven’t even been on tumblr yet.

    omg I loved the line about Netflix and that smile – probably prompted more by the “want to go home” part than the Netflix part, although he probably knew that was some kind of pleasant domestic activity, and who really cares if he gets to go home with her?! But that was a nice little nod to the fans (and really, he needs to be shown Peter Pan and the Wizard of Oz at the very least!). And the smiles – those 2 just need to keep smiling all the smiles. I loved that they talked about the avoidance as well. I couldn’t take any more of Emma shutting down and stalking away. That would have felt all wrong. We can all be patient. I felt like Emma had a little bit of a tease in there too, like it’s going to be worth it when she finally can give him her full attention.

    The trust that he has in her magic (I love how she keeps forgetting she can do magic!) is a wonderful constant.

    I agree on the Rumple front – he’s making some progress, and at least he acknowledges that he started the marriage with a lie, and feels bad for that. But in the end his promises and his son come first (including when he arranged for the gravestone). I had no idea what the thing was that he revealed with the dagger (my Disney ignorance – another story I will enjoy learning more about, I guess). And I rolled my eyes at the Beauty and the Beast scene – I’m not quite over my Disney cynicism! lol. Nice house though. Can’t wait to find out whose that is. And my mind immediately connected that to who wrote the book. Maybe?

    Regina was good. She struggled a lot, which you would expect. She didn’t regress immediately or fully, she still had hope (when Robin told her that what they had was real, oh man, he got her hopes up and then crushed her – and he pretty much set it up, Marian has to die for him and Regina to be together – and she was meant to die, so I can’t help but think she won’t make it too many episodes, though I’m certain Regina won’t have a hand in it). Excited to find out more about the book! I didn’t make the connection between Regina and Anna in the scene with the door, but yes, of course. I just felt like Regina was so very vulnerable there – something we’ve never seen from her, which I would consider progress. She’s still acting like a villain in trying to fix things to go her way though – much like her envious sister last season.

    OMG so much happened… Frozen! I loved the casting. I love how they’re setting up Elsa to be a kindred spirit for Emma, struggling with her magic (maybe?). There’s obviously a lot being set up and who knows where this is going to take us. But I’m on board. Loved it! 😀

    • I’m so happy you loved it, too, and I can’t wait to talk about this whole season with you as it all unfolds!

      I absolutely agree that Emma and Hook just need to keep smiling as much as possible. It’s a beautiful thing to see both of them smiling so freely and genuinely with each other. Both characters deserve happiness, and I’m so excited to watch them work towards being their happiest, most open selves with each other. And is it too much to ask for us to get to see the Netflix date at some point? You can’t drop that line in and not deliver, writers. 😉

      I can see where Disney cynics would roll their eyes at the Rumplestiltskin/Belle dance, but, you know me, not a cynical bone in my body—for better or worse. 😉

      I cannot wait to see Emma and Elsa meet next week!

  2. Hi I love your reviews & this one cheered me up as I was disappointed with Emma’s treatment of Hook. After only 8 months with a flying monkey man she claimed she was “in love” and considering marriage. When he turned into the monkey, she claimed she had her heart broken. She’s known Hook for like two years, he’s always been there for her, and he is way sexier. But she’s still pushing him away. Just felt flat after momentum of the finale. I don’t know why he even bothers.

    So she easily falls for Walsh but but not Hook cause–why? Writers just stringing us along for another season? And it’s not because in NYC she had her memory altered. The new memories had her only keeping Henry; her orphan/foster child past and Neal abandoning her–the source of her issues–would have been the same.

    • Welcome—thank you for the kind words and for sharing your thoughts! I can understand your frustration, but it’s not one I share. I actually thought Emma showed tremendous growth towards opening herself up to Hook in this episode.

      Technically, she probably knew Walsh longer than she’s known Hook—or at least Hook independent of his quest for revenge. The entire Neverland arc was only about a week long, then Emma spent a year not knowing who Hook was, and then 3B happened over the course of only another week or couple of weeks. For someone who has been hurt as badly as Emma has (and Walsh was another layer of hurt keeping her from opening up to Hook), it’s a miracle she’s opening her heart to him at all. Although Emma didn’t have false memories in NYC of not being abandoned, having Henry meant she was used to having love in her life and sharing her life with someone. That probably made it easier for her to fall for Walsh.

      For me, the beauty of Emma’s growth is that it comes in baby steps. It makes even the smallest moments—like her being open enough to ask Hook to be patient because she does want him—feel monumental. I don’t see her asking for patience as pushing him away; I see it as letting him know that she wants to try to make things work in their relationship but she’s still working through some things. And I have a feeling she won’t be asking for patience all season; payoff is coming. 😉

  3. First episodes of a season (or mid-season) are tricky for this show because there is SO much plot that needs to be set up. Storylines need to be introduced so we know where the half season is headed and that doesn’t always lead to the best episodes when considered individually. I liked what the episode set up more than I actually liked the episode itself, I think.

    I was really happy with all the Frozen elements that were introduced (mostly due to casting) and am even more excited to see those characters interact with all the established characters. I was impressed with the CGI for Grant Pabbie and the ice that formed around Elsa.

    I was similarly bugged by Neal’s gravestone. He’s relationship to Henry may not have gotten the same prominence on the show that his relationship with Rumple did, but it really should have been mentioned on there. I’m more than a little fed up with Rumple right now but Robert Carlyle always sounds so sincere and heartbreaking when he does anything related to Rumple’s failures as a parent that I can’t help believing that maybe this time things will be different for him. Then he inevitably lets me down later in the episode.

    My heart broke for Regina in this episode. I’m so proud of her for not letting Marian die but that sad smile as she walked away was heartbreaking. I want that happy ending for her so much but I also want her to realize that even though she was the Evil Queen in the past, she isn’t still a villain and I would love the book to change to reflect that without her interfering and potentially threatening its creator.

    And finally, I completely agree with all your thoughts on Emma and Hook (shocking, I know). The Netflix comment and the Hook smile that resulted from it were just completely precious and I do want them to have a Netflix date sometime where Emma introduces Hook to all her favorite movies. What really got me though was that kiss. It was a kiss that said that Emma couldn’t give him what he was asking for at the moment but she wasn’t running away. She wasn’t denying what she feels for him and I think that’s such a huge step for her to take. She doesn’t know how to grab that happy ending yet but she knows she’d like one with him at some point.

    • First of all, how surprising that we have the same opinions on Emma and Hook. 😉 Your thoughts on that kiss are so perfect. It was a promise that she’s going to try to get over that last hurdle so she can have the same open heart she sees when she looks at him. And you know I have a soft spot for moments where Emma gives him literally all she can in a moment of vulnerability.

      I also totally agree that mythology-heavy shows like OUAT always have premieres with an abundance of exposition. This one I especially understood because they were banking on lots of new viewers with the Frozen story (which they got with those fantastic premiere ratings).

      I’m so happy I wasn’t the only one who found the headstone weird. At first I thought it was because Neal died before Henry’s memories were restored, but Henry did know his dad died. It felt like a glaring omission, especially because I thought including “father and son” on the headstone would have summed up Neal’s whole arc nicely.

      Finally, I’m glad I’m not alone in always hoping that Rumplestiltskin will change but always ending up disappointed. I blame Robert Carlyle and his ability to make me feel ALL THE FEELINGS.

    • I did forget to mention the Pabbie CGI which was uniquely good as most of the CGI has been laughable on the show. But moreso Yes Yes Yes about enjoying the set up more than the actual episode.

  4. Nice to see your reviews again. 🙂 I agree with everything you said. I’m still displeased with Marian being there, I really don’t see the point besides destroying all the character development that happened to Regina during season 3. They had better have a REALLY good reason for her being there.

    The scenes between Belle and Rumplestiltskin were cute, but I too am still a bit annoyed with the way their relationship started out. I hope Rumplestiltskin becomes a better man like Neal knew he could be, but that house seems to have shaken him up quite a bit. I wonder who it belongs to? Yen Sid from “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” perhaps? Since the hat is there.

    I look forward to seeing more of the Frozen gang, they all fit so well. I felt so bad for Elsa, and I was waiting for her to bump into someone who would tell her that everything was going to be okay and that she wasn’t a monster.

    I loved the way Emma and Hook interacted with one another, especially his clueless look regarding Netflix. He doesn’t even care what it is, if it means just being with her he’ll take it.

    • Thank you for the comment; it’s nice seeing you around here again, too! 🙂

      I’m hopeful that Marian will get a story beyond just being a roadblock to Regina’s happiness. I’ve always loved Maid Marian in every version of the Robin Hood story, so I want more for one of my favorite legendary ladies than to just be a point in a love triangle.

      Yen Sid is who I’m hoping the house and hat belong to because it would be such a fun way to tie a little nod to Walt Disney into the show. I’ve seen some awesome fan theories today about Yen Sid (sometimes this fandom is awesome), and now I just want to see him make an appearance somehow.

      I’m so happy I’m not the only one who just wanted Elsa to find someone who could tell her not be afraid. The girl looks like she could use a hug (or a billion hugs).

  5. Great recap! My favorite parts were the Regina stuff but I also think with all the drama of the current cast,the flashbacks to the Frozen sisters were a nice break. I also love the show chose to keep continuity and not try to change the Frozen story and just pick up later.

    My only real complaint is I wish the show would learn better action sequences. I’m tired of a group of the heroes meeting a bad guy character and almost IMMEDIATELY everybody falls down knocked out. It’s getting rather hilarious.

    Oh and the other issue I had was given how long their parents have been gone, was it really necessary for Anna to leave on her wedding day?

    • Good point about everyone immediately getting knocked out! I had been annoyed at how everyone conveniently stays knocked out for just the right amount of time – in the finale Marian was knocked out for hours and hours! No harm done though. Just a little brain injury! It doesn’t really annoy me though – it kind of amuses me. But you’re right, it isn’t really very good action writing.

    • Thank you so much! I totally agree that the Frozen flashbacks were a welcome break from the dramatics happening in Storybrooke. Sometimes introductions of new characters can feel like unwelcome distractions from the main story, but this actually felt like a really well-executed and appreciated breath of fresh air.

      I do think you’re right about the action sequences. It’s getting ridiculous that the heroes end up getting knocked to the ground in literally every confrontation with villains (or frozen in place like what happened with Pan). I used to get annoyed by it, but now all I can do is laugh. I’m hopeful that maybe Emma will learn to harness the full power of her magic, and that won’t happen as much anymore.

  6. Phew! that was some review! But a reminder of how much they managed to pack into 45 minutes of screen time.

    You discussed all of the Frozen elements perfectly, so I wont say much beyond I loved all of the characters immediately. I did feel like it was a little heavy on the Frozen backstory right away, but I am biased as a long time fan of the show. I completely understand why it was done this way for the new viewer, and I am willing to be patient (Emma was asking the audience too right?). Although if there isn’t some serious character integration between Frozen and Storybrooke by the end of the next episode I might start to get a tad cranky.

    I loved your thoughts on Emma and your feelings echoed mine perfectly. “Opening your heart to love isn’t done in one moment; it’s a process, and it’s one I’m eager to watch both Emma and Hook go through this season.” A million times yes. In my notes after watching the show last night (yes, I have to write notes after episodes before bed now because my brain wont shut off otherwise) I wrote how proud I was of Emma in this episode. From the way she tried to use her magic to fight the snow monster (with Hook’s encouragement), to her telling Regina she is going to fight for her happiness, to the way she showed Hook that yes, she is in this with him. All I saw was progress from her last night. And yes she still needs some space, but she isn’t shutting Hook out. Seeing as how its been what a day since their time travel adventure, Emma still has things to work out. I wouldn’t call her impulsive when it comes to her feelings. She still wants to be careful. She needs some time to think and plan and feel ready, and she isn’t quite there yet, and I don’t expect her to be. I honestly couldn’t be happier as an Emma fan.

    As for the main Storybrooke plot concerning Regina, there was a lot of back and fourth going on. I feel like the roller coaster of emotion almost gave me whiplash. I am glad she went through all those emotions, I just didn’t quite expect to see them all in one episode. If there was any scene where Regina disappointed me the most, it was her scene with Robin. Robin was being open and honest with her, and letting her know that he was incredibly conflicted and upset about the situation, yet Regina seemed to have zero empathy for him. You would think she would at least have a sliver of understanding there. What if Daniel all of a sudden came back? (ok I know he did but lets ignore that for the sake of my argument) She should at least understand this on some level. What this told me is Regina is not quite at a place in her redemption arc to truly love another person romantically. I think she has learned that parental love isn’t selfish, but she seems to have some way to go with the other forms. I will say my favorite part of Regina’s arc in this episode came from the fact that when she forced Sidney to show her who Marian was in the enchanted forest, she had to come face to face with the version of herself that made that choice to kill her (side note, I am not quite sure how she thought she was going to go back in time, its not like it was easy the first time). Ever since the finale I was looking forward to her having to come to terms with her past murderous self, but again, I wasn’t expecting it to happen so soon, and I expected it to be a much bigger moment than it was. Perhaps it will be revisited again in this half season.

    This brings me to the storybook. I actually love this plot development. I think the dialogue was a little clunky at the end, but the way I read this scene, Regina needs the validation that having her side of the story included in the book would provide. The storybook as it exists now represents the traditional good vs evil view of fairytales. Once Upon a Time as a show has taken those stories and shown us that they are much more complex and grey than the original story may seem, and Regina wants the storybook to reflect that (how very meta). As you know from our previous conversations, one of my favorite scenes of the entire show is the conversation between Hook and Regina on the Jolly Roger discussing the idea of villains not getting happy endings, so I am thrilled they have chosen to revisit it in such a huge way. There is also the huge theme of fate and destiny (something another villian on the show, Rumple, has always struggled with) that can easily be tied in here as well. And maybe Regina does truly think at this moment that simply by writing herself a happy ending it will come true, but I would assume that through the course of the season she will learn is up to her to write (and earn) her own happy ending.

    Ok, this is getting way too long. Other random tidbits:

    -more giddy Killian please
    -I laughed way too hard at sleepy being DD and falling asleep at the wheel.
    -Grumpy in general was hilarious this episode
    -There was something about Anna in the forest wearing her wedding dress calling for grand pappie that I thought was pretty much the cutest thing ever.
    -I saw that headstone and said “Ouch!” out loud to myself.
    -Was I the only one that thought Regina’s “Its time for villians to get their happy endings!” seemed like a commercial for Halloween Time at Disneyland?
    -I am really excited about the sorcerer’s hat. Henry has to be Mickey, right?

    • Shauna, it’s finally time to talk about OUAT every Monday again! And I just want to say that this comment reminded me of why I looked forward to Mondays so much last season; it meant talking about a show I love with an incredible group of people who care about it as much as I do and open my eyes to even more great things about it.

      To start, a couple of thoughts on your random tidbits:
      – Sleepy being Grumpy’s DD was hilarious and the exact kind of humor I expect from this show.
      – I didn’t put two and two together with Henry and the sorcerer’s apprentice role until you mentioned it, but now it NEEDS to be true. With the spoiler about him spending time in the pawn shop, this seems like a definite possibility.

      As far as the Frozen stuff goes, I think we’ll already be getting some major Emma/Elsa interaction next week (and Charming/Anna flashbacks), so it looks like your wish has been granted. 🙂

      I feel like Emma fans are a very happy bunch today. You’re not the only one who felt proud of her after this episode ended. It was actually the dominant emotion I felt after the whole thing was done—total pride in Emma’s slowly (but steadily) opening heart and open emotions not just with Hook but with Regina too. To see her smile so much was beautiful, and to see her kiss Hook where she once would have pushed him away was incredible. Emma’s realistic growth has always been a pleasure to watch, and this episode made me believe it’s going to be more rewarding than ever to watch her journey this season.

      I appreciate your take on the Regina and Robin scene because I actually felt for Regina there. She wasn’t really empathetic; you’re right about that. But I could almost understand her not being able to empathetic in that exact moment; she was genuinely hurting, and, maybe it was just me falling under the spell of Lana Parrilla’s tears, but I actually wanted to hug her in that scene. I saw her lack of empathy as fighting to hold it together until Robin left, but I could definitely see where you’re coming from. You’re right in thinking that if her first instinct after Robin choosing Marian is to go back in time and kill her “competition,” then she’s probably not as ready for a healthy romantic relationship as I thought. But thankfully, she saw for herself that it was a horrible plan. I also agree with you that things moved very quickly on the Regina front in this episode; it did feel like whiplash at times. I wonder if that’s why I was so confused about the book until I read your comment.

      I absolutely loved your take on the storybook mythology. I think it’s an astute observation that the stories are traditional; the heroes are happy and the villains must never get a happy ending. And I’m also a fan of that Hook/Regina moment, so I’m looking forward to the show directly addressing the idea that happy endings aren’t about who’s fated to have them but who’s earned them by fighting for their own happiness and the happiness of others. I’ve always been a big believer in the life philosophy that we have to be the authors of our own life stories, so I hope this development teaches Regina that she has the power to change the narrative by becoming more than a villain. I have a feeling letting go of the past is going to be a major theme of this season (along with not giving up on the people you love), and that has the potential to be reflected really wonderfully in Regina’s story.

      • When I posted this I hadnt seen the press photos for 4×2 yet, but those along with the synopsis have put me at ease regarding the Frozen/Storybooke integration.

        I think my interpretations of Regina just go to show how the different women on this show resonate so differently with each person. I relate to Emma on a ridiculously personal level that almost everything about her makes perfect sense to me. With Regina I am usually just scratching my head or left frustrated because I have absolutely no idea where she is coming from. But I love that they are different in that way, because it always gives me something to think about.

        I actually think that if they go the magic angle with Henry this season it would open up some interesting storylines. They have never really implied that Henry has magic before, but he IS the son of the savior. For some reason I just have this mental image of Henry using magic to try to do his chores or his homework and things going awry.

    • I thought the same thing about Regina not understanding Robin and where he was coming from. If Daniel came back alive, she would be feeling a bit torn too. And I cracked up so much at Sleepy falling asleep at the wheel, too 🙂

    • I so enjoyed this and especially your take on the Storybook mythology. I felt like you fate and free will are quickly forming in the undercurrent for the show. I do think the scene with Regina is a bit different. Her love of Daniel is tied to her innocence and life prior to magic. Her magic was born out of that loss. Her change last year wasn’t a fundamental change in who she was, but a change towards understanding that her power was hers to use, how she saw fit. Robin loving her and ultimately leaving her is about the fact that Robin sees her for who she is, the woman who has chosen to make different decisions. Learning that she wasn’t wrong, that Robin does see her for who she is but still makes a noble decision. It takes every fiber of her being just to hold steady. When he leaves she retreats to her anger. The mirror break is that moment that floods in that manipulation she is capable of, but she navigates back to the woman Robin knows.

      For me I think Regina’s journey will not be about reconciling the actions she took, but understanding that to move forward doesn’t mean paying penance for your past but by rectifying it with your actions in the present. It’s why I was so thrilled she broke free from the tree in Neverland. Life isn’t about regret. It’s about when you know better, you do better. Regina knows better now. So she looks into the past and honors what she sees, the change that has come from her time in the Enchanted Forest. It’s just like when she taps into light magic. She understands that her magic isn’t monolithic, she is fully capable of both and it is hers to chose which path she takes. Believing you deserve happiness shouldn’t be a conditional clause. It should simply be. Regardless of our mistakes and choices, happiness is something we need to believe we deserve to make happen. Our methods may be misguided at times, but I think the power in the closing scenes with Regina was the realization that Marion wasn’t the cause of her unhappiness, it is about the perceptions that define us that aren’t always of our own making. That’s something I am curious to see unfold.

  7. I found the episode’s storytelling skills to be wonderful, it’s easy to forget that for all the great emotional characterizations the show is capable of, it’s also in my opinion, the most entertaining drama of all time

    I LOVED Emma’s scenes with Hook and Regina and found Jennifer Morrison to be aces. The way Emma’s eyes reacted to Hook in this episode was perfect. Perhaps one of JMo’s best acted episodes. I’m extremely happy with how the writers have treated Emma as their franchise player since Season 3 began. For me she is just as strong a character as Regina and Rumplestiltskin, with her journey to an emotional home being as long and compelling as their journey to redemption. I’m glad they realize that.

    What I took as one of the themes of this season after this episode, is the happy ending is incredibly hard to get, “it’s never over” so to speak in terms of the hurdles. Emma had her big kiss with Hook but woke up the next day finding out there is no one day solution to her emotional guardedness, Regina saw her happy ending slide away to reveal her villain past is still there, Elsa unfreezing Arendelle at the end of Frozen didn’t permanently erase the feelings of anxiety and self-blame around others that have been built up so long. And while Snow’s scenes were short in this episode I suspect she’ll find out her pain about not raising Emma will not suddenly go away now that she has a new baby.

    This all ties in very well with the Regina plot developments, as she wants to try and change fate with the book. Clearly Regina is latching onto any plan that takes the responsibility away from her own choices and puts them onto fate – even an idea as half baked as “the book=fate”, a theory which doesn’t seem to be built on much except Marian coincidentally getting saved and her happy ending restored. What’s interesting is Regina wants to be a villain and get her happy ending at the same time. It makes me think Regina being a villain is “all she has” in her own mind, echoing a line in the Tinkerbell episode last year about how she didn’t want to give up her anger because it was all she had. Yet by having no choice by to save Marian, it proves Regina is no longer a villain, but she can’t see herself as a hero – so to her, what does that leave her as? I feel this is part of the reason Regina feels so lost in this episode. I’m interested to see if Emma-Regina this season parallels early Emma-Henry at all… Emma like she was then, remains the objective, evidence gathering part of the pair, not willing to believe until there’s no doubt that the book is magic. While like Henry, Regina appears now to be placing a belief in the book and likewise, greater magics. Notably Regina-Robin Hood and Emma-Hook’s relationships after they got together were followed up in by such different ways, Regina jumped headfirst in and immediately thought this is my fate and happy ending, while Emma is all doubts

    And I didn’t even mention Rumplestiltskin’s scenes in this episode, including some beautiful ones dancing with Belle and the gravestone and how Rumple is in fact, farther away from being a hero than Regina right now, for his good intentions. Other than of course fessing up and simply giving Belle the dagger, Rumple could have switched the daggers back in a stronger way than just putting it in her purse. Rumple still refuses to build a box he can’t get out of, he knew all along he could get it out of her purse later. It’s only when truly giving it to her (which he never did) that she now controls the power of the Dark One.

    Also in regards to Giancarlo Esposito’s Mr. Glass, I know he’s not around enough for them to give him a more developed role, but I was thinking about the difference between him and Belle. Belle sees the good in Regina, but Mr. Glass is in love with the monster in Regina. That’s why his love for her has never had the same power on Regina as Belle’s does on Rumple.

    Very happy to have Once back

    • Thank you so much for this thoughtful comment!

      I also thought Jennifer Morrison was wonderful in this episode. I’m always drawn towards the subtle things she does to show Emma’s emotional state—because Emma isn’t one to talk about her feelings very often or show them in big ways (until they all spill out at once). In this episode, it was all in the little smiles and the surprising softness she projected; those things showed that this is an Emma who is building on what she discovered about herself and her home in the finale, and she’s working on being more open to everyone around her. Like you said, her arc is just as compelling to me as the redemption arcs for the show’s villains—if not more so.

      I loved everything you said about the theme of a happy ending not being easy or even being an ending, really. There’s no quick fix for years of struggles. Like you said, it’s something we already saw in this episode with Emma and Hook’s relationship, Regina’s story, and Elsa’s flashbacks. I love the realism in the idea that problems don’t get solved overnight, especially not emotional hurdles. It’s about the journey towards becoming a happier person—not just the one event that in a traditional fairytale would mark the “happy ending.” You were spot-on in your analysis of that theme. 🙂

  8. First of all, that Beauty and the Beast moment made me cry. It’s always been one of my Disney favorites. I spent most of the episode alternating between wanting to hug Regina and shake her and tell her “No, don’t go back to being evil!” I completely agree with you about the Frozen actors capturing their characters perfectly. I think my new favorite is Sven :). I’m actually excited they’ve introduced all these new plot developments. I think it was a good way to start off the season. And I have faith that they will continue to make character development important as the season continues. Of course, I also can’t wait to see the growth in Emma and Hook’s relationship. And more adorable moments like the “Netflix” and “Be patient” moments. You’re right, her telling Hook to be patient and kissing him was different from what she would’ve done before. It’s definitely progress and it makes me so happy to see. Not everyone can see the progress she’s made but I love how Hook recognizes the things that could be considered only as “little steps” as more than that. He knows that they’re actually huge steps for Emma and is willing to wait as long as it takes.

    • Thanks so much for your comment! I’m glad I’m not the only Beauty and the Beast lover who cried at that moment. 🙂

      I absolutely loved what you said about Hook seeing what others might not see in terms of Emma’s growth. He understands her, so he knows how huge it is for her to be open with him at all. It’s why all he needed was that little reassurance that she wasn’t avoiding him because she regretted kissing him.

      And I echo your hope for more adorable moments like the Netflix conversation. Little gems like that never fail to make me smile.

  9. Great review of last night’s episode. I really enjoyed reading your breakdown.
    Really loved the parallels between Elsa/Anna/Kristoff and Regina/Emma/Hook. When Kristoff told Elsa that Anna would succeed, it totally reminded me of when Hook told Emma he had yet to see her fail in Neverland. And Hook encouraging Emma to embrace her magic is always sweet to watch, but I loved the Netflix scene because it was a great reminder that while Emma maybe the savior, to Hook she is just Emma and that is who he wants to spend time with. The first set of Frozen/OUAT parallels have me even more excited for Elsa/Anna paralleling Emma/Hook as Emma tries to deal with her magic.

    I agree that they started an awful lot of stories with this premiere but I believe who wrote the book will be a story that covers both seasons. And while Frozen may only be the first half of the season, Rumple’s magic addiction, Emma/Hook’s relationship and Snowing as new parents are stories that will probably continue through the entire season – just with new villains and challenges. So hopefully they can continue to balance everything out.

    As for Regina and the book – it really stuck out to when Emma told her she had to fight. It totally reminded me of Emma telling Ashley that if she wanted people to view her differently she had to make them. And Hook telling Rumple that a man who doesn’t fight for what he wants deserves what he gets. (And I totally love that both Hook and Emma’s life philosophies are so similar.) I like that we didn’t see Regina regress past her initial impulse to seek out Sidney to get rid of Marian, but at the same time she hasn’t come for circle in dealing with her past mistakes and her past choices, so her seeking out the book author to make him/her give her a happy ending feels like she is cheating rather than fighting for her own happy ending. Regina said people didn’t see her differently than what she was but that isn’t true, if people didn’t see her differently then Emma, Snow, etc. wouldn’t have been so concerned about Regina when Marian was calling her a monster outside the diner. People do see her differently – but at the same time 30+ years of tormenting people isn’t going to be wiped out just because she has behaved for the last year. Also, considering that Emma wasn’t even in the book (except as a baby) until a trip to the past couldn’t it be a sign that the book isn’t finished and is still being written if it could rewrite itself? And is Hook even in the book outside of his dance with Emma?

    Finally, I love the potential foreshadowing in the stories. Regina talking about villains getting happy endings has me a little worried that maybe she should have specified herself getting a happy ending because I’m pretty sure some villains idea of a happy ending is to see their enemies dead which makes me even more curious about Maleficent returning. Also loved Emma telling Hook to “be patient” but that combined with Hook’s comments about being killed by a snow monster reminded me that Emma has always been forced to confront her feelings in life/death situations – like when Henry ate the turnover – and I had always hoped that Emma/Hook would be the exception to the rule.

    • Thank you so much for the kind words and the very thoughtful comment! You’re definitely not the only one who thought Kristoff saying that Anna always succeeds was very similar to Hook telling Emma he had yet to see her fail in Neverland. I will forever adore the way so many of the men on this show support the strong women that they love.

      I also agree that Regina wanting to change the book by force instead of fighting for her happy ending by working to be a better version of herself feels like cheating, but I really do suspect she’ll come to learn this at some point this season. All of the heroes are still fighting for their happy endings; their lives aren’t perfect just because they’re heroes. And that’s something I’m not sure Regina understands yet. She needs some of the patience Emma is asking Hook to have.

      I really hope the “villains get a happy ending” thing doesn’t end up being too literal—it would make for interesting storytelling, but I can’t see that ending well for the heroes and I just want my favorite characters to enjoy their happiness for a little bit. 😉 Also, I definitely think Hook’s line is foreshadowing some kind of life-threatening situation, but I do think Emma’s feelings will be made fairly clear—if not explicit—before then. It may force her to actually confront expressing “love” in no uncertain terms, but that’s just who Emma is, I think. Some people need a push to get all the way there—not with feeling emotions but with expressing them openly. I’d rather her feelings were expressed in a quieter moment, but I’ll take Emma Swan openness wherever I can get it. I’m easy like that. 😉

      • I don’t know how literal things will be with the storybook – but I do think that Regina may get a lot more than she bargained for when she starts digging into the origin of the book and it could lead to even more problems for the people of Storybrooke. I also think there is a parallel to Regina casting the first curse to get what she wanted and now Regina wanting to rewrite the book to get what she wants. But I am hoping that in the end Regina may realize that rewriting the book isn’t going to get her what she wants.
        I agree that all the heroes are fighting for their happy endings, but that also makes me ask what constitutes a happy ending? And does Regina even know what that is for her? Do any of the characters?
        With Emma trapped in the ice cave in 4×2 I wonder if she will find herself confronting her feelings even sooner that expected. We know Emma’s magic is based in emotion, but what if almost freezing to death in the ice cave is the catalyst for Emma having a hard time controlling her magic because she found herself embracing emotions she wasn’t ready to deal with?

  10. I shared your worries about bringing Frozen on, and I was also worried because I really, really adored that movie. I watched it with my own sister and it was a very powerful thing for us to watch together. So I was nervous about them getting the sisters wrong, but everything was pretty much perfect. I’m so impressed with both actresses; Anna was bright and bubbly with that steel inner core and Elsa was strong and regal but you could see that the fear she carries inside herself that she’s going to hurt someone again isn’t gone. I think that actually fits well with one of Once’s themes – you may have these big moments of happiness but you still have to keep fighting to keep them. Elsa was so anxious about hurting people with her powers that she stayed locked in a room for years; that doesn’t go away overnight, and control over her powers doesn’t come in a day, either.

    Learning that her parents left Arendelle because of her had to have been like her worst nightmare – confirmation that she hadn’t just hurt Anna, she had (perhaps) indirectly caused her parents’ deaths. I also loved that you can sense how desperately she wants to embrace her sister’s love for her but is held back by the fear that she’ll hurt her; Elsa loves her sister enough to give her up if it means keeping her safe despite how much she loves her and is lonely and wants Anna with her. Georgina did a great job of highlighting that Elsa was battling deep anxiety the entire time she was in Storybrooke; I am very impressed. I’m also with you on being intrigued about Elsa/Kristoff; I like that they carried over Elsa’s reservations from the movie because those aren’t gone in a day either! I also suspect that nobody would be good enough for Elsa’s little sister anyway though.

    I had fears for Regina too. A backslide is the last thing I want for her anymore; I got enough of that in season 2! I was so proud of her when she saved Marian, and that “I guess you’re a monster/I guess I’m not” exchange was really brilliant for me, because on the surface is was Marian realizing that maybe she’s wrong – although frankly her reaction was entirely understandable – but underneath, you could tell that Regina was realizing it, too. That she has the chance now to NOT be a monster, it’s something that is in her hands and nobody else’s. And also that she doesn’t WANT to be a monster. I feel like she’s having the same realization that Hook had last season on a much bigger scale – Regina is not the kind of person who can now just go back to how she used to be; those clothes don’t fit anymore, so to speak. As angry as she was about the situation, I don’t think she would have truly relished Marian dying in that instant; it felt wrong to her, so she intervened and saved Marian’s life.

    But I feel like she’s not quite out of the woods yet – now, instead of killing her in SB, she wants to make it so that Emma never had the chance to save her, which means killing her in the past. Okay. I’m waiting to see where this goes because I doubt she’ll succeed even if she doesn’t change her mind like she just did with the ice monster. I’m intrigued about learning more about the book though – what powers it might or might not have, who wrote it, things like that. When it comes to the book, I think that maybe Regina feels like seeing herself in that book as someone other than the villain will be validation; that book is full of princesses finding their true loves and the “good guys” beating the bad guys time after time, so maybe if the BOOK says she’s getting a happy ending, it will mean once and for all that she’s not just a villain anymore. Regina has been worried that her descent into villainy meant that she was never going to get a happy ending for a long time – so worried she even asked Hook about it – so this will be almost like catharsis, to see herself put on the same level as Snow and Charming and Belle and Rumple and maybe even Emma and Hook. Seeing herself in the book had a profound effect on Emma in last season’s finale; maybe it will be the same for Regina this season.

    And I loved the Regina/Emma scene too. I wish it had been longer because it felt kind of rushed, but Regina is someone who needs people to believe in her and remind her that there are things worth fighting for. And she also needs someone who WILL fight for her, who will show her that they care, even when she’s having a hard time. The show has showed before that Snow and Henry have been staunch Regina believers; they’ve had some doubts when things got really bad but in the end, they always came through and tried to remind her of the goodness that’s at her core, the goodness that the world tried to stomp out many times. I’m really glad to see Emma really join the ranks of the believers, because I’ve always thought Regina’s capacity for good is just as big if not bigger as the capacity she once had for evil. If she can find that again and truly believe in herself and believe she’s a good person, I think it will have a truly profound affect on her.

    As for Hook and Emma – I’m in agreement with everything you said. Hook has always been someone who puts Emma before anything and everything else in Storybrooke including “the greater good”; he wants her to think of herself instead of just thinking of everyone else and what they need constantly and he has no problem pointing out that if she doesn’t look for small moments in the chaos, she’ll lose herself to being the Savior, being the one who fixes everything, with very little left for herself. I’m really glad that Emma has someone she can be a little bit more open with than she is with anyone else. I’m also glad that whatever is happening between them, it’s something that they’re feeling out and getting used to, because they both have major issues that SHOULD make it so that they can’t just kiss once and be at their happily ever after. They’ll get there, but again, it’s something they’ll have to fight for.

    I’m excited to see more of this season, a bit nervous about some things but mostly willing to just see what comes next.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us—it’s nice to have you back to join our OUAT discussions! 🙂

      I love that you feel a connection to Frozen because it was something you shared with your sister; it’s something that I also shared with my sister, so I understand your hope that they would get that Anna/Elsa relationship right on the show. Your analysis of all things Frozen was spot-on, so all I have to say is one big YES to all of it. I especially loved your comment that no one is probably good enough for Elsa’s baby sister, because that’s exactly how older sisters feel (or at least how I feel).

      I really enjoyed reading your take on Regina. You brought up an interesting point about Regina being someone who needs people to believe in her—and I think so much of that stems from her childhood with the mother she had. The book would be a permanent kind of validation for her, so I can see why that would be attractive. And yes, it’s wonderful to see Emma remind Regina that happiness is worth fighting for—because it shows that Emma has come to believe in not just her role as the savior but also that happiness is something worth fighting for.

  11. Hello everyone! Loved your review Katie – what I really enjoy about your reviews is that you actually like Emma – most reviews/comments I read on OUAT usually seem to focus on Rumple or Regina’s stories and while I enjoy watching those characters Emma is the character I am most invested in and so it’s great to read your reviews!

    Now onto the actual episode – no surprise I loved all the Hook and Emma scenes, I think everything I loved about them has been covered already – but I’ll just say it’s great to see Emma smiling! I loved Elsa and Anna as well – once again the casting dept has got it 100% right. And I’m looking forward to founding out who wrote the book.

    My take on the Regina/Robin/Marian story is that I really think they will use Marian as a way to force Regina to acknowledge all the pain she caused when she killed all those people as the Evil Queen. If you think about it Marian is literally Regina’s past coming back to haunt her! Also I think they’ll use the story to show Robin how evil Regina was before – what I mean by this is that he doesn’t seem to think she was that evil in the past – but Emma has seen Hook’s dark side and Belle knows Rumple really struggles to be good so I really want to see Robin doing the same with Regina. Regina killed his first wife in the past and I really want to see how Robin reacts to that – and if the show does not acknowledge it well then I really can’t buy into Regina and Robin as a couple……

    • Welcome back, Joan, and thanks for the kind words! I love that these reviews are places where those of us who love Emma can talk about her because I am getting so sick of other TV critics tearing down her character or just not talking about her at all. As you said, Regina and Rumplestiltskin are amazing characters, too, but Emma deserves some love—and I’m happy to provide that. 🙂

      I really like what you said about Regina needing to come clean to Robin about killing Marian in the first timeline. It’s the only way that relationship can have a solid foundation. He needs to be able to see all of her—the good and the bad.

  12. OK, lets deal with Frozen first. I was not a fan of the movie and was less than enthused about the idea of their being integrated into the plots of our beloved Storybrooke characters, especially given my less than thrilled reactions to Zelena last season. However, that said they’ve cast it brilliantly and I am willing to reserve judgement until they’ve had ample time to integrate this story. While I appreciated the set up for Elsa and Anna, I felt her Storybrooke interactions were more convenient than interesting.

    That said, when we got to spend time with the core characters it felt like they were clearing setting the stage about changing your personal fate for all involved. That for me was the recurring pattern the opening of this season brought. Like you, I felt like they tried to lay a lot of ground in this opening hour and hope that they slow down a bit to spend some time on plot points rather than merely pointing towards them.

    What I love about this show is that all roads lead back to family and often parent and child. This is why the scene of the episode for me was Rumple at Neal’s grave (and yes it was odd that it didn’t say beloved father). However, this confession to his son was pitch perfect. It set up Rumple’s season perfectly in that here is the person who now has a real purpose for being the better man. Ensuring his life quest – getting Bae back – wasn’t in vain. He understands who he is intrinsically as he talks about his failings in giving into to being the Dark One. But for me, the moment that was most salient was as he knelt before the gravestone, like you would if you were looking a child in the eye and talked about his happiness “because for the first time ever I felt like a man. That I could truly look out for your alone…all I ever needed was you, your love.” As a parent, in particular as a single parent the day to day grind is wrought with doubt and failure. And when you are most afraid or most convinced you are incapable a child will give you a sign that you are doing better than OK, that you are their safety. And that is what fills you with bravery. Even in death Rumple’s purpose is Neal. To be the man that deserves the sacrifice and belief Neal had in him. Rumple controls through manipulation. That’s not an easy habit to break. His love for Belle notwithstanding, the sorcerers hat proves that Rumple’s journey will continue to be riddled in that complex need to control from the fear of the unknown. Just as he put Elsa in the tomb because he couldn’t control her her magic, Rumple’s ongoing struggle will be about letting go of control – whether well intentioned or evil. That is the real cross he carries. Control is what allows him to navigate his fears. He doesn’t know how to function without it.

    OK lets get one thing out of the way. No matter what you think of last night’s opening Regina’s focus is clear. Her journey is a path that brings her back to love. How she gets there becomes the question. I think her handling in the early half of the episode was wonderfully real. She’s angry and understandably upset but she has no where to put that anger, because clearly there is no one to blame. Regina of past would have blamed Emma and sought revenge nearly immediately. But all that she and they went through mattered. It mattered not only to Emma but clearly to Regina. So she walks away, she retreats in her sadness and emotions because she doesn’t know what else to do. We see it happen again with Robin. Oh Lana Parilla how you broke my heart when you went from acceptance, to hope to devastation all over the course of that conversation with Robin. Again, for Regina, how does she process these emotions. There is no where for them to go because Robin loves her, but he chooses to honor his vows in spite of it. There is no one to blame and her anger leaps out of her, shattering the old mirror she used as the evil queen. She’s not defaulting to old behavior, because her change is real, but how she resolves her pain is something yet to be discovered.

    For me the crux of this episode lies not in Regina’s knee jerk reaction to recruit the mirror back onto the wall, but what she does with the information. That flashback gives us the Evil Queen and for the first time Regina is not one and the same with her Enchanted Forest life. She’s changed, Storybrooke and life has changed her path, changed her fate. She doesn’t realize it because she is determined to do it through the prism of gaining her happy ending. That’s not the point. For me the power was how Regina responds to the flashback. She sees that Marion’s words “if you had a family, if you had love you wouldn’t have to be so cruel.” By looking at who she was in the mirror, Regina sees who she was and the pain that drove the evil within her. It’s why her anger shattering the mirror (as opposed to setting something on fire) was poignant for me. She has the very things Marion claims she didn’t in the Enchanted Forest. It clearly marks why that difference matters and how it causes different decisions. As a result she saves Marion. Not because she particularly wants to, but because it is the right thing to do. That is what I love about Regina. She isn’t trying to be good, she’s just trying to the best version of herself. A flawed, but passionate person believing she deserves happiness and that happiness can’t be won by destroying others. That’s the lesson of destroying the snow monster. And why for me it was important that she did it from behind the monster as opposed to standing between Regina and Marion. It wasn’t for show or to be the hero. It was simply the right thing to do, much like Emma saving Marion in the first place. It is also why she doesn’t stay. Her good actions, doesn’t mean she isn’t hurting.

    You Wrote: “Changing the book shouldn’t be the point; it should be about changing yourself to be a better person. Regina needs to learn that a happy ending isn’t something that comes easy after doing a few heroic deeds; it’s something even the most heroic on this show fight for every day. I feel that Regina’s arc this season will be about discovering that you can’t forcibly change fate; you can only change yourself and your own choices.”

    I don’t think changing the book is the point (certainly not for the show) but also ultimately not for Regina either. The cadence of villains never getting their happy ending is an important point. I think about that story Nathan Fillion tells about when he was on Buffy and Whedon taught him that villains don’t believe they are evil, they are misunderstood. What drives them is simply different. Thus the interesting question – what constitutes happy endings – earned or otherwise. Regina has changed and her actions speak to it this episode. The question over this next arc is how does she reconcile that change with the ongoing perception of who she is. It’s not merely about villains getting their happy endings. That’s why her realization to say “This book is why I am suffering, not Marion…I thought not being the villain would change things but this book, these stories only see me one way.” shows an understanding that perception can control our fate to a degree and the journey isn’t about merely changing who you are but the preconceived ideas of what you are (in this case villains) supposed to be. To use a grandiose term we love in non-profits about minority populations – it’s about creating a culture shift for how we look at who a villain is and frankly the arrival of Elsa (given what we know of her from Frozen) is someone who intrinsically has battled that fate as well.

    Other Random Thoughts:
    – I can’t help thinking that their is this interesting triangle that is Rumple Regina and Elsa. All three are driven to actions by fear and emotions. For Rumple Elsa is the power/evil he fears and can’t control and Regina’s is the one he created and attempted to control.
    – I missed Charming and Snow. from their worst selves.
    – Regina and Rumple’s parallel is always interesting to me, this episode it felt like they were inverted in paths towards and away
    – I loved the parallel you drew between Frozen and the doorway, as well as Elsa/Regina. Interesting and one I hadn’t considered.
    – I am utterly baffled by the connection of the sorcerers hat and the dagger
    – I am fascinated by the idea of finding the author of the book and unlocking its power on fate.

    • Its nice to see our storybook interpretations are similar 🙂 I also kept thinking of Emma’s line, “Just because you believe something, doesn’t make it true”. I am interested to see if that idea is brought up again or challenged in any way.

      I liked how you brought up the idea of villains not knowing they are villains. It was clear at the beginning of Season 3 that Regina never saw herself as a villain before Greg told her she was. Then by the mid season 3 finale, she seems to accept herself as a villain, thinking she doesnt deserve a happy ending (in which Henry has the great line “you’re not a villain, you’re my mom”). And through 3B and her use of light magic and true love’s kiss we are at the present and her feelings of misrepresentation in the storybook. Its an interesting progression and one I am excited to see unfold this season.

    • First of all, let me just say that it’s a pleasure to have you back once again sharing your take on this show with you. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this comment, and you did not disappoint. 🙂

      The handling of Zelena also left me with some trepidation about Frozen, but I’ve come to the conclusion that the biggest problem I personally had with Zelena was the retelling of the Wicked Witch’s story had been done before—and done better. Everything they did I would compare with Wicked, and it never lived up to that high bar. With Frozen, they have a clean slate and no expectations or things to compare it to, so I’m already feeling better about it than I did about Zelena. Also, having watched the movie this summer (with Heather) with the specific purpose of trying to see how this would fit into the OUAT world, the parallels between Elsa and Emma are just so rich and plentiful that I know it won’t feel as forced as what they were trying to do with Zelena and Regina. They don’t have to manufacture a familial connection this time; they have a much more natural path to follow with Emma and Elsa connecting as kindred spirits.

      I have very little to say about your takes on Rumplestiltskin and Regina because you said it all so well. Carlyle and Parrilla are just so good at breaking our hearts. That scene with Regina and Robin was so moving for me to watch because, like you said, Regina had nowhere to place her blame—she was left with all of these emotions and no proper outlet for them. Her silent tears in that scene made me want to cry right along with her because you could feel her hope slipping right through her fingers, and we all know how painful losing hope is for these characters.

      I also loved your take on what’s shaping up to be a main theme this season—taking control of your fate. You are 100% right when you say that Regina’s arc is going to be about reconciling the changes she’s gone through with the perception of her that exists because of who she was. I also see that same path being taken by Rumplestiltskin as he works to be better than the coward and villain people have seen him as; Hook as he tries to have people see him as someone worthy of Emma’s love and not just a pirate; Emma as she tries to be more than the loner she was for so long; and Elsa as she works to prove to people that she’s not a villain at all. It’s also about not internally believing in that public perception, too. For so long, all of these characters have defined themselves by who they were, and they’ve used that to push away love. By embracing the idea that you can be more than who you were (a villain, a coward, a “monster,” a pirate, a loner…), you can change the narrative. You can, in the words of Emma, “punch back and say, ‘No, this is who I am.'” I’m very much looking forward to how that theme plays out for all of these characters this season.

  13. Great review Nic!

    Just wanted to point out a (partial) explanation for the gravestone thing. When they buried Neal they wouldn’t have written beloved father because Henry didn’t have his memories yet.

    Still, it’s only a partial explanation because of all, Rumple could just snap his fingers and change the gravestone’s marking at any time.

    • I thought the same thing re the gravestone – that it would have been awkward to acknowledge Neal as Henry’s father when Henry has no memory of Neal or any idea that Neal even know about him.
      But I also think it has more to do with Neal being the catalyst for Rumple’s story in the first place. I was rewatching season 3 this summer and early in 3A (episode 4, I think) Rumple tells Neal that he is his happy ending. Looking back that should have been a giant red flag that Neal was doomed. Once Rumple reunited with his son and got his happy ending – then what? Neal’s death was all about Rumple. Most of Rumple’s choices were to reunite with Neal, now what will Rumple’s choices be trying to honor Neal’s sacrifice.
      Neal was Henry’s biological father, but he was only in Henry’s life for maybe a month or two total in the OUAT timeline. I think it would be interesting if they delved into how he feels about his father’s death, but also how he feels now that he knows the truth about what happened to Emma because of Neal. I think there is a lot they could do with Henry coming to terms with the father he knew and the father he is never going to get the chance to know. And then maybe they can change the tombstone.

    • Thanks, I do love writing about this show in this space. Everyone’s perspectives are so interesting and we all take such different things from the same show.

      About Neal, I feel like the gravestone was a prop error. Because at the end of Quiet Minds Emma tells Henry that the reason they are in Storybrooke is because of his father and that he has died. He also attends the funeral with the knowledge of who they are burying. And by the time there would have been a headstone, he would have had his memory back.

      At first I thought it was because Rumple did the headstone, but then it would have said Baelfire. So that landed me back at it potentially being a prop mistake.

      • The thing is Bae/Neal has ALWAYS been mentioned as a SON, son of Rumple… the curse was made coz Rumple wanted his son… so having written son there is the RIGHT thing! Because really Bae was a PLOT device that saw us why on Rumple’s part and the SON
        Neal was NEVER a dad to Henry, he might be the father but he never actually was… so NO i think the headstone is pretty spot on.
        Neal and Henry knew each other for what like 2 weeks thats it!
        Bae/Neal is always seen as a SON, and then the man who betrayed Emma and the reason for her 11 yrs of heartbreak and whatever else (due to the fact that he never wanted to see his father or go back in that world – he was always running away from his father), yes he is also Henry’s father but on the whole a SON to his father – the very cause of Rumple’s journey and i still say Rumple was NEVER going to have his son back for good after the devastating acts and lives he has damaged and taken… consequence… Bae was going to die along the way.
        So i still think the headstone was pretty right – for Rumple and for Bae, because the ending was with Rumple and Bae as well. Should of really wrote Baelfire on the headstone as well!

        Thanks Nerdygirl for a great review as always 🙂

        • Thank you for the kind words! And I agree with the prevailing sentiment that the headstone was done to focus more on the Rumple/Bae dynamic than anything else, but then I would have thought they’d put “Baelfire” on there instead of “Neal.” I think you’re right in saying that Neal’s story was more about him and his father than him and his son, especially because he wasn’t in Henry’s life for very long. I do think Neal could have been a good father and wanted to be one, but he didn’t really have enough time to form the kind of relationship with Henry that matched the depth and importance (in terms of the overall show) of what he had with his own father.

          • It makes me wonder if Neal even accepted the part of himself as Baelfire at all.. because he was hellbent on never coming back into the world and then letting Emma go time and time again and not even handing himself in at all and again chances and chances showed us he wasnt going to go back at all. And again he was hellbent on being Neal – Its Neal he shouts his name to his father in Neverland and also he tells Tink… Its Neal. And also none of the characters REALLY knew him as Bae except his dad and Hook, and even with Emma – in Neverland it just felt like she HARDLY knew the guy when she learnt things about him – its like they were talking of two ppl in there.
            And its one of the reason and i think for most of i assume that we just couldnt see Bae and Neal as same, there was disjoint and to me that has to be done purposely or something and how they presented Neal [first off as someone who betrayed Emma in the worse possible way] because this show has pretty much got casting right and character traits right and character development and again a big thing that again shows that Neal was just NOT going to be more and esp not the one for Emma because how he was presented and his act of leaving her how he did…. negative all around, even his death was the consequences of using dark magic, and he was dead man walking from then on. So i do think maybe usage of Neal on the headstone was due to the fact maybe Neal never really went back to being Bae or acknowledged he was Bae because he sure as didnt really accept it.

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  15. [” The fact that Emma was the Anna to Regina’s Elsa showed just how far Emma has come. That final scene between Emma and Regina, with the door separating them, was such a beautiful nod to Frozen’s “Do You Wanna Build a Snowman?” scene. What I loved the most was the way it showcased Emma’s empathy, which is an underrated part of her character. Emma knows what it’s like to push people away because you’re hurting, and she knows how hard it can be to face challenges on your own. She also knows now how much better things can be when you have people to lean on. That scene could have only happened after the stability last season’s finale gave Emma. She’s not pushing people away anymore; she’s actually reaching out to help.”]

    I wish I could completely agree with you. I honestly do. But I have a problem. And her name is . . . Emma.

    It was nice that Emma tried to give hope to Regina. And it was proper that she felt some kind of guilt over ruining Regina’s romance with Robin. But . . . I remembered something she said to Regina in this episode:

    “Henry brought me to Storybrooke to bring back the happy endings. My job is not done until I do that for everyone, including you.”

    Was she kidding? Really? I think Emma has allowed this belief that she has to save everyone affect her ego. She feels guilty for ruining Regina’s romance, but she fails to realize that her belief into “savior” led her to make the big mistake of saving Marian’s life. Yes, it was a mistake. Emma disrupted the timeline, thanks to her ego. She may be consciously reluctant to embrace the label of “savior”. But subconsciously, it’s easy to see that she already has. And that’s not good. Emma became the “savior” solely to break the first curse. That’s it. There was no reason for her to maintain this label. I have no problems with wanting to help someone. But not to the extent that she (and the other characters) had to dump this label upon her. And because Emma allowed herself to embrace this label, she made a serious mistake in saving someone that should have remained dead in the past. In fact, she is quickly becoming another Jack Shephard (of “LOST”).

    I hope that Kitsis and Horowitz recognizes this troubling aspect of Emma’s character and eventually explore it before the series ends.

    • Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. I feel like the question of whether or not Emma saving Marion was wrong is something we might just have to agree to disagree on. I understand the fact that she messed up the timeline and that she did so knowingly and not accidentally. But I just can’t physically bring myself to say that she should have sat back and let another human being die. I also don’t think she did it because of her ego; I think she did it because—savior or not—she’s not the kind of person who would let someone die if they could help it. Her parents are the same way, and neither of them has the title of “savior.”

      I really don’t think Emma was saying what she said to Regina about bringing back the happy endings out of some sense of duty. Yes, there is a part of her that might try to take on too much responsibility as “the savior” (but I think a lot of that is because other people demand it of her), but I think her statement to Regina was made more as a friend than “the savior.” It wasn’t an egotistical comment; it was a genuine statement of wanting to help make someone happy—or at least that’s how I saw it. But the beauty of fiction is that we can all interpret it in different ways and talk about those different interpretations with each other.

      • The Phoebe Halliwell character from “CHARMED” was faced with a similar situation. She and her sisters had traveled back to 1975 – three years before the death of their mother. Phoebe was tempted to leave a warning to her mother about the latter’s fate so that she would survive. And for a brief moment, she gave in to that temptation. But in the end, Phoebe realized that she would have changed the timeline and they would end up facing some serious consequences.

        I found it odd that Emma convinced Rumpelstiltskin to drink that memory erasing potion so that he would not be tempted to change the timeline and save Neal. Yet, she ignored Hook’s warning and saved Marian . . . and changed the timeline. You may not think she is suffering from arrogance, but I do. She needs to get over herself and this ridiculous “savior” label.

        YOU CANNOT SAVE EVERYONE . . . even if your intentions are good. As far as I’m concerned, Emma has a savior complex that the show needs to address.

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