Title Shattered Sight
Two-Sentence Summary As the Spell of Shattered Sight takes hold of the residents of Storybrooke, Emma, Elsa, and Anna search for a way to defeat Ingrid. In flashbacks, we learn what happened to Emma during her time as Ingrid’s foster child and how she lost all memories of that time.
Favorite Line “Still want to hold hands, sing ‘Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah?’” (Snow)
My Thoughts “Shattered Sight” was an emotional roller coaster. Throughout the course of one hour, it had me laughing, cheering, crying, ugly crying, swooning, feeling pride for my favorite characters, and feeling wonderfully nervous and excited about what’s to come in next week’s midseason finale. This was an incredibly well-balanced episode, and that actually took me by surprise. I was ready to laugh and maybe cry a little bit at the interactions brought about by the Spell of Shattered Sight, but I certainly did not expect to end up sobbing harder than I have at any point while watching this show since Emma drove away in last season’s “Going Home”—and to do that over a character we just met this season. But such is the magic of Elizabeth Mitchell and the power of a well-written redemption story.
Even before the brilliant emotional tour de force of the episode’s climax, I was already thinking of “Shattered Sight” as one of my favorite episodes of the season because it was so much fun to watch. Every little detail of the spell’s effects on the residents of Storybrooke was brilliant—from Happy somehow getting Granny’s crossbow to Kristoff throwing papers at Charming in the background of one of the scenes in the sheriff’s station. My only desire was that we could have seen even more of it—I wanted to see Dark Robin and Dark Archie and even more Dark Henry (I was so hoping he’d run into Regina or Emma because I think there could have been some really deep stuff to come out of those interactions). But I had a feeling this spell would get broken before this episode was done, setting up a climatic finale showdown with this season’s real villain: Rumplestiltskin. And, despite my love for all of the wonderfully snarky scenes this spell gave us, I don’t think this kind of campy stuff would have carried over well for more than one episode. It was perfect just as it was.
I could have watched any combination of cursed Kristoff/Charming/Snow/Regina interact forever and still wanted more because all of the actors were just so good in this episode. You could tell they were enjoying playing these different sides to their roles (or, in Lana Parrilla’s case, returning to a side she hasn’t gotten to show in a while). It was the most alive I have seen Snow and Charming as characters in a long time, and it was nice to see my favorite couple on the show get a lot of screen time after a half-season that has (understandably) seen them and their relationship mostly in the background.
Cursed Kristoff and Charming were wonderful in the way they couldn’t even really insult each other. Seriously, guys, “ice man” and “stable boy” are the best insults you’ve got? It was kind of adorable, if I’m being honest. But the real fun of those sheriff station scenes was in watching Snow and Charming—the epitome of True Love—go at each other. I was happy to see all of their fighting played more for laughs than drama because, ultimately, this episode made me cry enough and I didn’t need them to be another cause for tears. Instead, they were the King and Queen of Snark. I wasn’t sure which moment I liked best: Charming commenting on Snow hitting him in the head when they first met (which seems to be a common theme among Once Upon a Time couples, as Anna and Kristoff joined the ranks in this episode), the fact that Whale was brought up again, or Charming telling Snow that their stroller isn’t actually new (just “gently used”). Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin were fantastic in this episode. They seemed to relish this chance to explore this side of Snow and Charming’s relationship, and, for the real-life married couple, it had to be fun to take the gloves off and spar like this for an episode.
In the end, though, I loved that, even while cursed, Charming ended up having Snow’s back when it came to fighting Regina. Yes, they said some nasty things to each other, but, ultimately, they still worked as a team when push literally came to shove against the Evil Queen. They earned that kiss after the spell was broken. Once again, Dallas and Goodwin proved that they are every bit the perfect fairytale couple with that kiss. I missed their love story more than I realized, and it was so nice to see them get a lovely, romantic moment before this half-season comes to a close.
For as much as I loved Snow and Charming’s interactions, I think I had even more fun watching Snow and Regina go at each other. For a while now, we’ve watched these women put their pasts aside and forge a kind of tentative friendship, but there was still a lot swept under the rug, which they didn’t hold back when this spell hit.
Have I mentioned I loved Goodwin in this episode? For as annoyed as I get with Snow sometimes, when Goodwin is given good material to work with, she’s simply the best. And this episode allowed us to see her really sink her teeth into a side of Snow that only appeared in Season One’s “Heart of Darkness.” Her confrontation with Anna was wonderful because usually those two characters are very similar, but Dark Snow could not be further from hopeful, optimistic Anna. And Goodwin didn’t hold back in showing that. From calling Anna “Swiss Miss” to her smile when she talked about killing Cora, I could not get enough of this side of Snow. Goodwin was the best she’s been in ages in this episode, and that was put to great use opposite a fellow actor in Parrilla who was clearly having the time of her life playing Evil Queen Regina again.
Snow and Regina’s swordfight was everything I never knew I always wanted. Even at her darkest, Snow is still a devoted mother, and I loved that no spell could take away her desire to protect her baby. And how much fun was it to see these two fierce female fighters in all their glory? It was such a great reminder of Snow’s badass side. And I don’t know about anyone else, but Snow screaming “I was 10!” in response to Regina bringing up Daniel again had me cheering and laughing at the same time. It was the kind of reaction I’ve always had in my head when it came to Regina blaming Snow more than Cora for Daniel’s death, so it was the best kind of catharsis to watch one of my favorite characters voice what’s been in my head for so many seasons now.
In the end, what the spell reminded these characters and us was just how far they’ve come since the days when they were sworn enemies. That’s what made their reactions upon the spell being broken so wonderful. Their laughter came from a sense of understanding how far they’ve come and how ridiculous it looked for them to be back to Square One—complete with Regain in her full Evil Queen outfit. What I loved most about their hysterical laughter was that it felt real (and looked real, especially Parrilla’s reaction). They were so relieved to be free of a spell that could have killed them that all of those emotions of confusion, relief, and joy spilled out as laughter. Sometimes you just have to laugh at the insanity that is your life when you have a moment to reflect on it, and it’s about time these characters were able to do that.
While Snow and Charming’s cursed selves were like nothing we’ve ever seen before (except for a very brief time with Snow), Regina turned back into someone we know well. And it furthered highlighted her growth as a character over the last few seasons. From fighting to the death with Snow to wanting to kill Emma again, this spell brought back a part of Regina that she’d worked so hard to put behind her—even if it is fun to see for us as an audience every once in a while. While the Regina we know now is someone driven by love strong enough to break curses even without her heart, this Regina was driven by hate strong enough to cause magic of its own. All magic is emotion, and it was very smart of Emma to know who to go to for the strongest kind of hatred she could find. And just like Snow and Regina’s interactions showed how far that relationship has come, Emma and Regina’s scene in the vault reminded me of how much those two have grown from their purely antagonistic relationship in Season One.
“Shattered Sight” was an episode about growth. The spell gave us a chance to think about how much these characters (especially Regina) have grown, Rumplestiltskin and Hook’s interactions showed how much Hook has grown, the flashbacks reminded us how much Emma has grown, and Ingrid’s fate showed that it’s never too late to grow into the best version of yourself. It would seem that heroes—or at least those characters who do heroic things—are the characters who actively choose to be better than who they were. They’re the characters who know they didn’t always make the right choices, but they have the power to choose to make the right ones now—and they make that right choice, even if it means giving up everything to do it. That’s an important thing to have the audience reflect on before a midseason finale entitled “Heroes and Villains.”
I’m going to say this now before I go any further into Ingrid’s story: I have never cried so hard over a death on Once Upon a Time. In only a handful of episodes, the writers and Mitchell created a character who I felt so intensely for that I actually said out loud as she was dying, “I just don’t want her to leave!” Yes, I wept mostly for the beauty of Ingrid’s redemption, but part of me also wept for the loss of a brilliant, captivating character and an actor whose talents have made this season something truly special.
The flashbacks in this episode were fantastic. It all started with the wonderful fish-out-of-water stuff with Ingrid in 1980s Boston. (Her earnest “Thank you” as payment to the psychic killed me—Mitchell’s delivery was flawless.) But the real heart of those flashbacks was in seeing the way Ingrid and Emma did genuinely love each other at one time, and the real tragedy of those flashbacks was waiting for and watching the way it fell apart. In that way, it actually reminded me a lot of “Tallahassee.” I spent both episodes waiting for the other shoe to drop, for Emma to end up alone and feeling unloved once again, and when it happened, it left my heart crushed for this teenage girl who thought she had found a home with someone only to lose it.
Kudos to Abby Ross for once again nailing Jennifer Morrison’s mannerisms and vocal inflections, but also for making me feel emotionally engaged by the beauty of her own performance, too. She had wonderful chemistry with Mitchell. What broke my heart the most was the way Mitchell so clearly showed that Ingrid did love Emma; she just didn’t know how to love in a healthy way anymore. Ingrid was so broken that she became fixated on magic instead of on genuine love, which is the only thing that can make a family. Instead of holding on to the pure joy of the moment when Emma told her she loved her, Ingrid wanted more and put Emma in danger just to try to bring out her magic. She thought she needed Emma to accept her magic in order for them to be a family, when all she needed was Emma’s love, which she already had at that point.
Young Emma and Ingrid’s last scene was so heartbreaking because Ross sold Emma’s disappointment so well. You could see her start to believe that no one could ever love her just for her. Once again, we saw Emma lose a chance at a family because someone got caught up in prophecies and a destiny she had no say in choosing. It broke my heart, but it also made me feel so proud for this character, because she’s finally accepted that people can genuinely love her without ulterior motives. She’s grown and healed so much from that broken teenage girl, even with the added heartbreak of having Neal leave her after what Ingrid did. This season has been so strongly focused on Emma’s growth, and this episode was a perfect way to allow us to reflect back on who she used to be and the heartbreaks that made her who she was when we first met her (which we were also reminded of in that little flashback to Season One-era Storybrooke, complete with Emma’s curls and blue leather jacket, both of which I missed even more than I originally thought I did).
The flashbacks also showcased why Ingrid was this show’s most compelling and complex villain since its earliest days. Mitchell showed so clearly that Ingrid’s love for Emma was never fake, and that right away made it difficult for me to want her to die, despite that being the only way to break the disastrous spell she cast. There was an inherent warmth to Ingrid in the flashbacks that contrasted beautifully with her icy exterior in the present, and her entire character arc has me thinking about intentions versus actions and other deep thoughts, which only the best arcs on this show have done. Ingrid was driven by love, but it was a selfish kind of love—caring more about the way her family would accept her than what she was doing in the name of forming that family.
Ultimately, though, Ingrid’s desire to love and be loved turned from selfish and monstrous to selfless and heroic. I had a feeling the message in the bottle we saw in the last episode would become important in breaking the spell, and I also had a feeling the letter would be about Gerda wishing she would have accepted her sister instead of putting her in the urn. As Frozen taught us, the love between sisters can thaw a frozen heart, and that’s exactly what happened with Ingrid. At first, she didn’t believe Anna because she still saw Anna as an extension of the worst in Gerda (while, to Ingrid, Elsa was an extension of the best in her). But reading those words for herself and reliving those memories of love warmed the part of her that she’d purposely frozen for all of those years, the part that she chose to turn into a monster.
Ingrid’s understanding that it was her choices that made her a monster perfectly reflected one of this season’s main themes: Our choices define us, and when we make better choices, we can change the way people perceive us. Ingrid knew she was responsible for choosing to become a monster; she didn’t blame anyone else, and that’s the first step on the road to redemption—taking ownership of your actions. She also knew that she could choose to do the right thing and stop being a monster, even if it meant dying in the process. The selflessness inherent in that action was so beautiful, choosing love and sacrifice over power. In her last moments, Ingrid believed in her own goodness again, and that was truly touching to see.
Also in her last moments, Ingrid was able to see that what makes a person special isn’t their magical powers but their ability to love. That’s why it was so powerful to see her include Anna in the group of women she called special. Anna, Elsa, and Emma are special because of everything they are—not just their magic (or lack thereof). Magic doesn’t define you; love defines you. That’s why Ingrid will be remembered (at least by me) not for the spell she cast but for the way she ended it. My lasting memory of this character will be her facing death with a smile because she’s getting to see her sisters again. It was the most poignant way imaginable to bring the most important themes of Frozen to the conclusion of the Snow Queen’s arc. And it left me moved beyond anything I could ever have expected.
I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Ingrid, and I’m not ready to say goodbye to Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff next week. I’m going to miss Elizabeth Lail’s pitch-perfect work as Anna, her wonderful relationship with Kristoff, and the beautiful friendship we got to witness between Emma and Elsa. I’m already prepared to be a mess next week when it comes to saying goodbye to them.
But it’s not quite time to say goodbye yet. There’s still one villain left to be discovered right under everyone’s noses before we can have a bittersweet sendoff for these Frozen characters. If Ingrid’s story showed me how powerful it can be to let go of a need for control and choose to let love define you instead, then it also highlighted how low Rumplestiltskin has sunk in his inability to comprehend anything more important that power. Ingrid chose to be more than a monster in the end, but Rumplestiltskin seems to have chosen to stop believing he can ever be more than his worst self. It’s a sharp contrast with Ingrid, as well as with Regina and Hook. Regina has come so far from her Evil Queen days, while Rumplestiltskin is still very much the Dark One. And Hook has gone from a man consumed by darkness to a man who can still smile so brightly even without a heart at the mere possibility of Emma saying they’re “together,” a man who has gone from almost letting Storybrooke be destroyed to using his dying wish to beg the man who’s going to kill him to spare not just Emma but the whole town. Love has changed both Regina and Hook (and it changed Ingrid in the end, too), but Rumplestiltskin is refusing to let love of any kind deter him from his plans for world domination. (Such a cliché endgame, Rumple.)
I still wonder if sacrificing himself for love and having that all end up for naught is playing a big role in Rumplestiltskin’s full-villain mode right now. He tried to do the sacrificial thing for love, and he still lost his son. But even that reason isn’t enough to justify his selfish plans. Part of me hopes that shot of Belle in bed before Rumplestiltskin revealed his big plans to Hook at the end of the episode means she heard him. (But would they have made it clearer if that was the case?) No matter when she finds out, though, I can’t wait for her to show him that he can’t selfishly have both love and power. And I can’t wait for Hook’s heart to get put back in his chest. And I can’t wait to see the Queens of Darkness (Maleficent, Ursula, and Cruella) descend on Storybrooke. Basically, it’s only Monday, and I already can’t wait for Sunday, even though it seems I’ve just stopped crying from this episode.