Two-Sentence Summary As the Spell of Shattered Sight looms in the distance, the residents of Storybrooke prepare for the worst. Even a happy reunion between Anna and Elsa can’t stop it, especially after Rumplestiltskin orders Hook to trap the fairies (who were working on a counter-spell) in the sorcerer’s hat.
Favorite Line “Well if the mayor only has to worry about one villain—and it’s herself—that frees up a lot of time for infrastructure and other issues.” (Snow)
My Thoughts When Once Upon a Time is driven by pure emotion, there’s nothing else on television that makes me feel like this show. “Fall” was basically a series of deeply emotional moments strung together by some very small (but significant) points of plot progression, and sometimes that’s exactly what this show needs—to take a step back from breathless plotting and twists and simply allow these characters time to open their hearts to one another. Episodes like this one show off the talents and chemistry of this cast, and they’re reminders that Once Upon a Time isn’t afraid to wear its heart on its sleeve.
There’s something special about episodes of Once Upon a Time centered on the arrival of a curse (“Pilot,” “Going Home,” all of the Snow/Charming stuff in “A Curious Thing”). If there’s one thing this show gets right every single time, it’s goodbyes. These actors tap into something special in episodes like this; their emotions are so palpable that it’s easy to forget that every spell and curse on this show gets broken, and for every tearful goodbye there’s a good chance of a happy reunion. That’s a sign of good acting—when you forget that logically things have to work out okay because you’re so caught up in the emotions of characters who don’t know that everything will work out in the end.
I felt that sense of emotional reaction overriding logic most strongly in Anna and Kristoff’s scenes in this episode, which surprised me. I don’t know how it happened, but these two have become one of my favorite couples on Once Upon a Time, despite only seeing them together in a handful of episodes over less than half of a season. It’s not just because both Scott Michael Foster and Elizabeth Lail have perfectly channeled their Frozen film counterparts. (Although how perfect was Lail once again in her moments on Blackbeard’s ship and her disgusted “I sang with you!” to Hans?) It’s because Once Upon a Time has done what it does best with this couple: It’s given their love story weight and depth; it’s made them true partners; and it’s tested them in ways beyond even the darkest moments of the story we all know about them. I loved watching them take down Hans and his brothers as a team because it reminded me of my favorite moments between Snow and Charming—moments of fighting side by side, trusting that the other had their back.
That little moment of victory, however, was short-lived. Although Anna was clearly right about pirates being better than wizards (a nice little nod to everything going on with Rumplestiltskin and Hook), that still doesn’t mean pirates are the kind of people you can easily trust. While it was a little too convenient for Anna and Kristoff to wind up on the Jolly Roger, it was a nice way to tie in some long-awaited exposition about what happened to Hook’s beloved ship after he traded it for the bean to get to Emma in New York. I was more than a little confused about how Blackbeard had the ship and the story about Hook making him walk the plank if this was in the past, but it all made sense once Hans revealed that everyone had been frozen for 30 years. The question then became: Why would they get unfrozen now? Did Ingrid mean for that to happen, or was it the result of all of her magic being needed for the Shattered Sight spell? We’ll probably get the answer to that eventually, but even if we don’t, I won’t lose too much sleep over it. I didn’t love this storyline because of its plot; I loved it because it made me cry like a baby when I didn’t expect it at all.
When Anna started saying her wedding vows to Kristoff, thinking they were going to die, I lost it. In an episode full of painful goodbyes, this one was the one I never saw coming and was consequently the one that blindsided me with its emotional power. Kudos to Foster and Lail for making me truly believe their characters’ love and desperation in that moment. They have incredible chemistry, and it was what made that scene so touching. It was especially heartbreaking to see Anna—the pinnacle of optimism—so sure that they were going to die, so completely without the hope that has come to define her character. But that’s what made it even more romantic to see Kristoff try to help her hold on to that hope. In an episode filled with interactions between characters who bring out the best in each other (fittingly, before the worst is brought out because of this curse), it was beautiful to see that Anna—who has always helped others stay positive—has someone in her life who is devoted to helping her stay strong when she is at her lowest point. That’s what true love does—it helps you hold onto hope in even the most hopeless situations.
One of the themes of this episode was that hope pays off in the end (which is foreshadowing for both the Shattered Sight spell and for what’s going on with Hook’s heart). Kristoff’s hope that they would make it out alive worked in tandem with Elsa’s hope that she would find Anna. Both situations looked pretty grim, but it turned out that all that was needed to reunite the sisters was a wish from Elsa’s pure heart. Yes, the deus ex machina nature of the wishing star was a little much to swallow, but this show has never been one for people who can’t take a little plot contrivance every now and then. What mattered wasn’t the star itself but the pure love behind the wish—the kind of love between these sisters that has thawed frozen hearts and now has been proven to work across realms to bring them back to each other. Because that’s what loved ones do on this show—they always find each other.
Anna and Elsa’s reunion was absolutely beautiful. It was as joyful a moment as I’ve seen on this show. And so much of that joy came from the way Lail and Georgina Haig played their reunion. I loved the way their voices went up an octave in their excitement because it added so much realism to that moment. If Lail and Foster made me believe the love Anna and Kristoff have for each other, then the same can be said of Lail and Haig. When Elsa and Anna finally hugged one another again, I was overcome with relief and happiness for these sisters—even more than I felt at any point during Frozen. I say this every single week, but can we please keep these characters longer than just the next two episodes? They have been such phenomenal additions to this show, and the actors fit in like puzzle pieces I didn’t even know this cast was missing until they arrived.
Despite the heavy nature of this episode’s main plot, there were still some moments of pure joy and humor interwoven throughout, like Anna and Elsa’s reunion. I loved all of the banter when the main group was trying to decide what to do with Elsa’s necklace. (I also found it interesting that Emma keeps getting played by people giving her pouches missing their contents—first Hook, now Elsa.) I also loved the happy reunion between Charming, Anna, and Kristoff. That scene was a much-needed moment to smile before the very emotional last few scenes of the episode. Another reason I would like these Frozen characters to stay is so that I can get more of Kristoff and Charming’s bromance. I have now affectionately dubbed them “haircut buddies,” and I don’t want to only have two episodes to expand on their friendship beyond their hair.
The joy of all of these reunions didn’t last long, however, thanks to Rumplestiltskin. I have to admit, I was surprised to see him show some humanity in including Henry in his deal with Ingrid, but that sense of pleasant surprise went away when he told Hook that he would choose himself over everyone else every time. That kind of selfishness is its own kind of cowardice, and part of me still wonders if it’s taken over his character because he did the brave thing once and sacrificed himself for the town, and it only ended in him losing his son and coming back as the Dark One. It’s easier to be selfish; it’s safer. But in the world of Once Upon a Time, the easy way is hardly ever the right way.
While no act will ever be as cowardly as letting Bae go, I think using Hook to do his dirty work is a close second. If there’s one positive thing you could say about Regina when she was at her worst, it’s that she owned who she was. She didn’t hide her darkness. Rumplestiltskin, however, is trying to have it both ways, and it’s killing me to watch him get away with it right now. Instead of going in there himself and trapping the fairies, he made Hook do it to eliminate the risk of getting caught. He thinks he’s getting blood on Hook’s hands to keep his clean, and he’s having fun torturing a man who wants none of this kind of darkness. I know that this is all happening so that when Rumplestiltskin’s hubris-driven self is brought down, it will feel even more earned. But that doesn’t make it easy to watch him kiss Belle and tell her he has to fear being hurt by her darkness when it’s his darkness that’s already wreaking havoc on not just their marriage but all of Storybrooke.
No matter how shady I think the Blue Fairy is (and I do think she’s shady), I still didn’t want to see her get sucked into the hat. And I think a lot of that had to do with how convincing Keegan Connor Tracy was at showing just how afraid Blue was. Her fear in those moments of hiding was palpable, as was Hook’s disgust with himself when he was hiding from Emma and the Frozen gang. I said it after the last episode, and this week proved it to be true: It may be hard to watch Hook so consumed by self-loathing, guilt, and shame over what Rumplestiltskin is making him do, but Colin O’Donoghue plays it so well that you can understand why it had to be him not just from a plot perspective but from the perspective of using an actor’s talents to the fullest.
It’s fascinating to watch O’Donoghue and Robert Carlyle play off each other as actors, and it’s fascinating to watch Hook and Rumplestiltskin clash as characters. They are perfect foils, and that was evident in the scene where Hook confronted Rumplestiltskin outside of his shop about Belle. Love has always driven Hook’s character—for better or worse. He literally cannot comprehend something that’s worth more than having someone truly love you for all you are. But Rumplestiltskin believes that power is worth far more than love; although he also believes he can have both.
Rumplestiltskin’s arrogance when it comes to love is such a sharp contrast to both Hook and Regina. The latter two are shown struggling to believe themselves worthy of love, even as they work every day to be better people than who they were. Rumplestiltskin, however, knows he hasn’t changed and isn’t going to try to be a better man, even for Belle—at least not anymore. It’s difficult to watch both Regina and especially Hook suffer and struggle while Rumplestiltskin is close to having his cake and eating it too in terms of power and love, but I have to hold on to the belief that this isn’t the kind of show that would let Rumplestiltskin get everything he desires while the two characters who are working to be better people are left to suffer. He’ll get what’s coming to him (I think by the midseason finale), and I really hope it at least partly comes at the hands of the wife whose love he treats with such little respect.
While Rumplestiltskin may not treat love with the respect it deserves, he was the only one in this episode, which featured some truly outstanding moments of emotional power between loved ones. What I enjoyed most about all of the goodbyes was that they each reflected the idea of people saying goodbye to those who helped them be their best selves on the eve of a spell designed to bring out their worst selves. This spell is designed to literally blind you to the good in others and in yourself, so it made sense for the relationships focused on in this episode to be relationships built on the idea of love helping you see the good in the world and in yourself.
It started with Robin and Regina. Say what you want about where their relationship is right now, but there’s no denying that Robin’s love played a role in Regina growing as a person. He’s supported her and believed in her, and Lana Parrilla made me feel how much it hurt Regina to think that she could lose that because of this spell. And Robin himself is driven by his love for his son, too, and that’s why the little moment we saw between him and Roland was so poignant (and not just adorable). This spell isn’t just going to turn lovers on each other; it’s going to turn parents against their children, which is horribly tragic. And whatever you think about Robin at this point, he’s clearly a good father. Him touching Henry’s head in a very fatherly way added to that sense and was also simply a very sweet gesture. To think that this man who is so warm towards the children he clearly loves could turn cold and even deadly towards them is proof of how awful this spell is.
I got that same feeling watching Regina say goodbye to Henry. That was one of the farewells that got to me the most because Parrilla has always been so good at making me feel just how much Regina loves her son. Henry has played such an important role in Regina’s quest towards becoming a better person, and it continued even in this scene, with her apologizing to Henry for not prioritizing Operation Mongoose above what’s been going on with Robin. You could feel her regret over not spending more time with her son before this spell was going to turn her into someone who would be blind to the goodness in Henry and the goodness he’s helped her find in herself. It was heartbreaking bit of acting from Parrilla.
The love between parents and children has always been something this show has celebrated, so it’s natural that a spell designed to destroy that love would bring about heavy emotions. And nowhere were those emotions heavier than in watching Snow and Charming have to say goodbye to not one but both of their children in the face of dark magic once again. Watching Ginnifer Goodwin’s face contort with grief was almost too much to take as she touched Neal’s head through the prison bars. Hasn’t this family suffered enough?
The only saving grace this time was that they were entrusting one child to the care of the other. The symbolism of Snow finally putting Neal in Emma’s arms after being so afraid to do that only days before was more poignant than any words she spoke about not fearing Emma’s magic. But it was still nice to hear the words—and to have Emma hear the words—too. The look of understanding Goodwin and Jennifer Morrison showed on the faces of both mother and daughter was beautiful. And just like Kristoff gave Anna hope when things looked their bleakest, Snow gave her daughter hope. The sincerity behind her belief in her daughter was lovely to see. For as mad as I’ve been with Snow, she was every bit the mother I’ve wanted her to be towards Emma in this scene. Elsa was right; Emma has great parents who believe in her and support her (which made me sad because Elsa never had that). Their optimism may be infuriating sometimes, but it’s going to help Emma get through the trials ahead because that kind of hopeful, supportive love has always given characters on this show strength in the darkest times.
Morrison absolutely broke my heart as she reacted to having to lock her parents up in jail cells, looking every bit as lost and scared of being without them as she did in “Going Home.” There are moments when Morrison shows us the little girl desperately wanting her parents who hides just under Emma’s surface, and those moments always make me cry. Nobody on any TV show I watch plays raw vulnerability as well as she does. But nothing Emma did made me cry more than her reaction to having to say goodbye to Hook. It all started with the way her voice broke as soon as she saw him, asking Elsa to hold her brother with such sadness in her voice that it’s still making me emotional to think about even now. Because, while Emma’s goodbye to her parents was just as emotional as it was in “Going Home,” her goodbye to Hook was a thousand times more emotional because of how far she’s come as a character and how hopeless this moment was supposed to be for Hook.
O’Donoghue played this farewell with such a sense of finality; from the moment Emma walked up to him, you could see Hook trying to look at her as long as he possibly could because he believed this would be his last chance to do so. And when Emma said she wasn’t a “tearful goodbye kiss person,” you could see the subtle hint of fear on his face that she wouldn’t let him say goodbye at all, that she wouldn’t let him kiss her one last time. It was a very small beat, but O’Donoghue played it perfectly.
The Emma we saw in “Going Home” wasn’t a tearful goodbye kiss person. She was still scared to be completely vulnerable with Hook, but she still gave him all she could, even if that was just one word. Now, she still gives him all she can, but it’s so much more than just one word. This whole season has been about building a sense of safety for Emma with Hook in an emotional sense, and that paid off in this scene. The Emma of the past would have pushed him away because she was afraid of how much it would hurt to kiss him goodbye and how much it would break her to be vulnerable with him only to have him leave. Emma isn’t that person anymore. Morrison did such a great job of showing that Emma trusts Hook enough to let him see her at her most vulnerable, which allowed her to be a tearful goodbye kiss person just this once. And that’s the bravest kind of person she can be—someone who knows she’d rather have one more moment of love that could hurt in the end than run away from having what could be one last kiss because she’s afraid of the pain that might come afterward.
And what a kiss it was. O’Donoghue and Morrison put so much desperation and vulnerability into that moment. It was raw and intimate and absolutely devastating in its emotion. And when Hook said his last goodbye, you could see his struggle not to tell her he loved her, even if this was his last chance to do so. He didn’t want to burden her with that knowledge if he was going to die. He already knew he was breaking his promise to survive so she wouldn’t have to lose anyone else, and you could see him not wanting to make it harder for her after he’s gone by telling her he loves her. In the end, though, Emma clearly knew something was going on with him. Her expression as she touched her lips showed that she instinctively sensed something was off in his kiss. It was a lovely parallel to Hook touching his lips after their first kiss, thrown off completely by “what the kiss exposed.” This kiss exposed to Emma not just that something was wrong but that she loves him enough now to be able to sense that just in his kiss.
The hopelessness Hook felt contrasted well with the hope Charming felt as the spell came closer. He truly believed that nothing could come between him and Snow, and that was perhaps the most beautiful statement of love in an episode basically bursting with love. Once again, Josh Dallas killed me with his sincerity, and I found myself wanting to believe it, too. And that made it even harder to watch the spell take hold. The beauty of Snow and Charming holding hands was replaced by the tragedy of those hands pulling away from each other and the camera pulling back to reveal their faces. The brutal coldness in Snow’s eyes is something I won’t soon forget. My hat goes off to Goodwin for being able to look at her real-life husband with such harshness. That one shot was enough to have me waiting with bated breath for next week’s episode.
The entire last sequence, with the spell descending on Storybrooke, was masterfully directed by Mario Van Peebles, my favorite Once Upon a Time director. It was gorgeous to look at even as it broke my heart to watch. Thankfully, though, for as good as this show is at crafting emotional goodbyes, it’s just as good at crafting wonderful reunions. That’s what we have to look forward to now, and I can’t wait.