Warning: This post does have SPOILERS.
We are so excited to have a “Once Upon A Time”contributor! NDM Jen is a HUGE fan of the show & will be here every Monday to recap the episode and share her thoughts. Be sure to check back every week and share your thoughts with Jen, too! Are you interested in a Facebook group? Let us know in the comments. This post is lengthy due to reviewing the ABC special and the first episode.
First of all, how excited am I to be blogging about Once Upon a Time for The Disney Driven Life? Love this show, love Disney, am a loud and proud NDM. Yay! I hope you’ll join in the fun and visit every week to talk all things OUAT with me!
Okay, so who needs a Season Three recap? The OUAT team was kind enough, as always, to give us a review of the previous season, in case you forgot any of the scrumptious details over the looooooong summer hiatus. In an hour-long special titled “Storybrooke has Frozen Over,” executive producers Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz reminded us about all things Season Three (and earlier).
First up: Regina (Lana Parrilla). As you probably remember, all of our story book friends ended up in Storybrooke twenty-eight years before Season One began, due to a curse cast by Regina, an Evil Queen in search of her own happy ending. Regina started down her evil path thanks to her desire for revenge against a young Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), who inadvertently caused the death of Regina’s first love. She was trained in dark magic by Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) and was everyone’s favorite villain for two seasons, but she eventually spent most of Season Three redeeming herself and trying to be good. Things really started looking up for Regina when she met Robin Hood (Sean Maguire), who had previously been revealed to us (thanks to Tinkerbell and a look at the lion tattoo on his forearm) as Regina’s true love.
Season Three was split between rescuing Henry from Neverland and vanquishing Zelena (Rebecca Mader), the Wicked Witch of the West (and Regina’s half-sister). Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold enjoyed his own redemption arc, reconciling at last with his estranged son, Baelfire/Neal (Michael Raymond-James), sacrificing himself to save Storybrooke from his father, the evil Peter Pan (Robbie Kay) only to return as a prisoner of Zelena, and finally reuniting with his true love, Belle (Emilie de Ravin), who he married in the season finale. Belle, who remained steadfast to her Beast throughout the season, despite all signs pointing to Rumple’s demise, was rewarded when Rumple relinquished his dagger to her as a symbol of his devotion (although in a final twist, we discovered that Rumple was not able to make that final commitment to Belle, and gave her a fake dagger, keeping the real one for himself).
Snow and Charming (and how much do you love that Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas fell in love and got married in real life???) continued their fairy tale romance, proving time and again throughout the season that their love was stronger than any obstacle. They ended the season with the birth of their son, who they named (in a moment that made you feel all the feels) in honor of the fallen Neal.
Ah yes, the death of Neal. A noble but tragic end for a terrific character, Neal sacrificed himself to save his father (and, ultimately, everyone in Storybrooke) from Zelena. It was compelling storytelling…..and also conveniently resolved the Neal/Emma/Hook triangle very decisively. I am a HUGE Hook fan, so yeah, I’m glad he’s getting the girl (or so it seems, anyway, but I suspect nothing will be easy when it comes to the future of the Hook/Emma relationship) but I was sad to see the end of such a great character.
So with the death of Zelena at the end of Season Three, everyone seemed on the path to their happily ever afters…but in one last twist, the time portal that Zelena was so desperate to create opened after all, and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) were sucked through. They landed, conveniently enough, in the Enchanted Forest of the past, right at the moment when Snow met Charming for the first time. Emma, being Emma, managed to mess that meeting up, and so she and Hook had to seek out Rumpelstiltskin’s help to ensure that Snow and Charming would meet and the future would not change. Through a series of misadventures, Emma ends up rescuing the imprisoned (and sentenced to death) Marion (Christie Laing), and the three of them end up locked in Rumple’s vault of super scary things. Emma manages to use her light magic to open the time portal again, and the three of them return to present-day Storybrooke (along with a mysterious urn). Emma then secures herself a spot on Regina’s hate list once again, as it is revealed that Marian is the long-lost wife of Robin Hood. So much for Regina’s happily ever after.
And then, the moment that set the entire internet abuzz….the mysterious urn that came through the portal from Rumple’s vault opened, and who should appear but everyone’s favorite Snow Queen, Elsa. What??? Fade to black, see you in September. Best cliffhanger ever, setting off a summer of speculation about just what it would mean to bring Frozen to OUAT. And all that guessing finally ended, tonight!
A Tale of Two Sisters
“A long time ago….” In a scene lifted straight from Frozen, Season Four of Once Upon a Time opened with a ship being tossed on an angry sea, on a dark and stormy night. A woman, looking remarkably like Anna, desperately writing as her husband urges her to consider her actions. Elsa must know the truth, she insists, and shoves the message into a bottle just before the ship is lost. Cut to “Five years later” (“So two years after Frozen!” my nine-year-old was very quick to point out!) and we see a very recognizable Anna (Elizabeth Lail) and Elsa (Georgina Haig) laying flowers on their parents’ graves in Arendelle. Another quick cut, to “Our World,” and we see Elsa arriving in Storybrooke, freezing things as she goes. On purpose? Or is Elsa still not in total control of her powers?
The story picks up immediately following the Season Three finale, with Regina storming out of Granny’s after the arrival of Marian. Emma is hot on her heels, trying to apologize for bringing Marian back, but Regina snaps at her to “stop helping.” Robin brings Marian outside to meet Regina, and Marian is furious that he has clearly been fraternizing with the Evil Queen who imprisoned her and sentenced her to death. Naturally, because Storybrooke, Snow, Charming and Henry all join in the conversation, and Regina stalks off, leaving everyone to worry how she will handle this turn of events.
Leroy (Lee Arenberg) and Walter (Faustino di Bauda) (or Grumpy and Sleepy, if you prefer) are headed home from Granny’s when Walter falls asleep at the wheel, almost hitting Elsa, who is still walking up the road towards town. Elsa reacts by freezing the van in its tracks. She continues into town, and sees a wedding dress in a shop window. She flashes back to Arendelle, and we see her leading Anna to an attic in the palace, to surprise her with their mother’s wedding dress. She presents Anna with a snowflake pendant, “something new to go with the something borrowed,” and Anna disappears behind a curtain to try the gown on. (Is it me, or is Anna a giant dope? My preliminary thoughts on her character is that the goofiness and clumsiness that made her such an adorable and endearing animated character do NOT translate very well to a real human character. I will be interested to see how this character develops.) As Anna tries on the gown, Elsa discovers what appears to be a diary. She reads for a moment, and snowflakes start to swirl in the air around her. Clearly the two years that have elapsed since we last saw Elsa in Frozen have not been long enough for her to gain full control over her powers, as she still seems to be reacting to moments of stress/high emotion with unchecked precipitation. Anna appears in the wedding dress, sees the snow, and immediately asks Elsa what’s wrong. Elsa replies that it’s her fault their parents are dead.
Meanwhile, back in Storybrooke, Belle drives Rumple to the cemetery to visit Neal’s grave. In a private moment, Rumple confesses to his son that he lied to Belle about the dagger. Depressed that he has started off his second chance at true love with a lie, he asks Neal to give him the strength to tell her the truth, and to give her the real dagger.
Robin goes to visit Regina at her office, and tells her that he may be a thief, but he lives by his code, and as such, he must keep his marriage vows to Marian. Regina is devastated. Robin leaves, and Regina’s grief turns to anger, causing her to shatter a mirror. She picks up a shard of the broken glass, and that old Regina gleam comes to her eye. She heads to the hospital, where she has kept Mr. Glass imprisoned all this time.
After the visit to the cemetery, Belle and Rumple arrive at a deserted mansion to spend their honeymoon. As Belle begins to explore the house, Rumple freezes time so that he can switch the real dagger for the fake dagger in Belle’s handbag. Just as he unfreezes time, he catches sight of a very unusual looking artifact on the table…but when Belle questions him about it, he simply says the people who lived there have interesting taste. And then…guess what? Anyone who was waiting for a straight-from-the-animated-film moment was rewarded with Belle in a gold ball gown, Rumple in a blue tail coat, and a scratchy Victrola playing “Beauty and the Beast” as they danced around an empty ballroom. Personally, I could have gone without that moment. I have really enjoyed the non-literal way that OUAT has adapted the Beauty and the Beast story, with Rumple as the Beast figure rather than a cursed prince, and I thought the somewhat silly, “poof”-style magic to change their clothes (when Rumple is best known for potions and curses and far more complicated bits of sorcery) was a bit cheesy. What did you think? Have you been eagerly awaiting this classic moment, or would you have skipped it?
Back in town, Snow, Charming, Emma, Henry and the baby are out on a family walk. Snow is trying to talk to Emma about Hook, she’s being evasive, Hook appears, Emma is her usual prickly, standoff-ish self. Poor Hook. He definitely didn’t pick an easy woman to fall in love with. Come on, Emma!! It’s HOOK. What’s the hold up here? Anyway, Grumpy comes running into town, yelling about the frozen van, and they spot Elsa’s ice trail. Naturally, Emma and Hook follow it. As they do.
Flashback to Arendelle, where Anna finds Elsa in the forest, and Elsa tells her what the diary said. Anna is still pretty dopey, and says they should go to see her future in-laws.
Back in Storybrooke, we see Emma and Hook run past a troll statue, hot on the heels of Elsa, who somehow thinks she can hide, despite the TRAIL OF ICE she is leaving. Just as Hook and Emma are about to find her, a swirl of ice and snow (frozen fractals?) coalesces into a giant Snow Monster (Marshmallow Jr.?), begging the question: Did Elsa do this on purpose? Does she have that kind of control over her powers, or is the Snow Monster manifested out of her fear and stress?
Another flashback to Arendelle. Elsa and Anna visit the trolls, specifically Grandpappy, a bit of animation almost identical to the film. Grandpappy tells them that he doesn’t know exactly what their parents were doing on their voyage, but he did know they were headed to a place called Misthaven (so no, they were not on their way to Rapunzel’s wedding). Anna says they must got to Misthaven and find out what their parents were planning to do, but Elsa says no. She says they can not leave Arendelle vulnerable to Hans and his brothers. Anna says she will go alone, just give her two weeks, but Elsa still refuses to allow it.
The Snow Monster has everyone occupied in Storybrooke (best Grumpy line of the episode: “Evil snowman – RUN!!”) and Elsa escapes discovery, but not before finding a newspaper with a photo of Rumple and Belle, that shows Belle wearing the snowflake pendant.
Regina visits Mr. Glass (the excellent Giancarlo Esposito), and tells him about Marian. She says she wants to “remove” Marian, which Glass takes to mean she wants him to kill Marian, but Regina says no, she wants to go back in time to before Emma saves Marian and kill her then. She says she needs Glass to show her when Marian was taken prisoner, and sends him back into the Magic Mirror. Needless to say, Glass is NOT happy at this turn of events, but shows Regina what she wants to see: herself, in full Evil Queen mode, at the moment when she ordered Marian’s arrest. In light of Regina’s recent history of being nice, you would think that seeing herself the way she used to be would be shocking or upsetting to her, but she seemed pretty pleased, and resolved to doing Marian in.
Out on the street, everyone is still running from the snow monster. Elsa sees Mr. Gold’s shop, and flashes back to Arendelle, where we meet Sven and Kristoff (Scott Michael Foster). Elsa, looking for Anna, questions Kristoff. Kristoff and Elsa do not seem to have a particularly friendly relationship, nor is Kristoff nearly as likable, in my opinion, as he is in the film. Kristoff hem and haws, but finally admits that Anna has booked passage on a ship to Misthaven.
The snow monster has chased Emma and Hook into the woods, to the Merry Men’s encampment. Emma tries to use her light magic against it, but it doesn’t have an effect on it. The snow monster stuns everyone except Marian. Just as it seems the snow monster is going to attack Marian, Regina steps out from behind a tree (how did she get there? Why?) Marian pleads for help, but Regina disappears in a cloud of purple smoke. Right at the last moment, the snow monster disintegrates, and Regina is revealed behind it, having saved Marian after all.
Regina decides that the book of stories is to blame for her seemingly unhappy fate. She tells Glass she is going to find the author and make them write the villains a happy ending.
Elsa breaks into Gold’s shop, presumably in search of the snowflake pendant. Flashback to Arendelle, where she was unable to stop Anna from departing on the ship to Misthaven. Kristoff tells her that Anna wanted him to stay behind, to keep Elsa company, and says that Misthaven is in the Enchanted Forest.
Back to the honeymooners, where we see a restless Rumple remove the real dagger from Belle’s bag once again. He uses the dagger over the mysterious artifact he noticed earlier, and it transforms…..into what can only be described as Sorcerer Mickey’s iconic blue hat. Really? Really. What else could it be? Fade to black.
So there it is! Was the Season Four premiere worth the wait? Was the inclusion of Frozen all you hoped for, or do you think that they failed to put the OUAT spin on that story and characters? Too soon to tell? What about that ballroom scene – Love it or Hate it? Do you think Regina is really back on the road to evil, and is that a good or bad thing? Are you just going to smack Emma if she doesn’t let down her defenses and jump into Hook’s arms? And what’s up with the Sorcerer Mickey hat? Does this mean everyone’s favorite mouse will make an appearance, and how do we really feel about THAT?? Or maybe the hat has fallen into someone else’s hands….anyone seen Maleficent, lately? Or maybe we’re going to meet its original owner, Yen Sid?
Let me know what you think! I’m looking forward to chatting about all things OUAT with you, all season long!