Once Upon a Time is back—this time with a little less pixie dust and a little more snow. The cast of the blockbuster, Frozen, makes their live action debut this year. How did they do? We’ll get to that. First, let’s recap where we left the rest of our fairytale fellowship.
After returning from Neverland and defeating Peter Pan (Rumpelstiltskin’s father), Emma Swan, her parents (Prince Charming and Snow White), her son Henry (his father is Rumpelstiltskin’s son, Baelfire … or Neal, while Henry’s adoptive mother is also the Evil Queen), Regina (the previously mentioned Evil Queen) and Captain Hook (who stole and fell in love with Rumpelstiltkin’s wife, befriended Baelfire on his first trip to Neverland, was once a henchman for Regina’s even more evil mother, and is currently not quite dating Emma) found themselves facing off with the Wicked Witch of the West (also Regina’s long lost sister). Snow White gave birth to a baby boy, whom the Wicked Witch stole to enact a spell. Also Baelfire/Neal sacrificed himself, Rumpelstiltskin declared vengeance, and the Evil Queen used the power of good to defeat her sister.
Unfortunately, the spell came into effect anyway and Emma and Hook were transported back in time where they accidentally stopped Charming and Snow from meeting. Since this change would have probably unmade half the cast if left unfixed, Emma and Hook spent some time flirting while putting the future back together. When they got back, everything seemed perfect. Rumpel and Belle got married. Emma and Hook finally kissed. Emma even saved the life of a woman named Marian while in the past, which really ticked off Regina since she’s dating Robin Hood. Oh, and Elsa hitched a ride through the portal via a special urn and is now in present day Storybrooke. Got all that? No? Me neither. On to Frozen.
I was surprised that Once Upon a Time decided to incorporate Frozen so quickly. It’s too new. OUAT is known for putting their spin on some of our Disney favourites, but when it was announced they were adding Frozen, it seemed like pandering. There’s been too much hype. What new could they do with characters we’d been bombarded with all year? More importantly, what would Disney/ABC let them do? As it turns out, quite a lot.
The episode begins with a re-enactment of (spoilers) the shipwreck from Frozen. Elsa and Anna’s parents know their time is running out, but their mother wants to finish one last letter. She tells her husband that the girls must know the truth to keep them safe and they seal the letter into a bottle and toss it overboard before the wave crashes down. We cut to Arendelle five years later and Elsa has a surprise for her younger sister. She brings Anna up to an attic and presents her with their mother’s wedding dress. All is well until Elsa finds a diary and reads a passage about their parents’ voyage. It seems that they were not travelling to the Northern Isles, but to a faraway place in search of a cure for Elsa’s condition. The ever self-doubting Elsa takes this to mean that she’s responsible for their deaths. Anna, on the other hand, sees it as an adventure and–with the help of the trolls, her fiancé, Kristoff, and Sven–heads off alone to find answers. Where is this magical land? Why, the Enchanted Forest of course! Because no one saw that coming! (Next you’re going to tell me that Rumpelstiltskin has something to do with Mickey Mouse….)
Back in the present, Elsa flash-freezes a van containing Grumpy and Sleepy (which may or may not have saved their lives, considering Sleepy fell asleep at the wheel). She conjures up a snow monster to scare off Emma and company and finds a necklace at Mr. Gold’s shop that belonged to her sister. We learn that Elsa is looking for Anna. No word yet on why she was in an urn.
Mr. Gold (a.k.a. Rumpel) isn’t home because he and his new wife have decided to honeymoon in a beautiful abandoned house that has suddenly appeared near town. No one has claimed it, so it’s fair game. Belle is excited to show her new husband around, but he’s distracted by a mysterious box on the table. Belle brings him into her favourite room. It’s a library with bright open windows and shelves of books. An instrumental version of “Beauty and the Beast” begins to play. Rumpel magics them into beautiful real-world versions of the iconic ballroom suit and gown from the Disney film and they begin to dance. This is actual pandering and I don’t even care. It’s cheesy, over-the-top, and I loved every second of it.
Rumbelle’s relationship is going swimmingly, but Regina’s has hit a roadblock. She re-curses Giancarlo Esposito back into a mirror (because Breaking Bad is over and Revolution was cancelled) and asks him to show her when and where Marian is supposed to be killed so she can re-reverse history. Soon she has a change of heart (because is she evil/isn’t she evil? is apparently the only plot they can write for her) and, in a plot that’s way too close to Ever After High for my liking, decides to find the writer of her magic book and create happy endings for the villains. After promising his dead son that he will be good, Rumpel gives Belle the dagger that controls him … and then immediately steals it back and opens a box containing what looks like Mickey’s hat from The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (since Episode 4 is called “The Apprentice,” I assume I’m not crazy).
All in all, the episode was a good way to start the season and surprisingly, most of the best bits were from the Frozen storyline. I was afraid the quirky Anna and stoic Elsa would fall flat in live-action, but the casting works. The optimistic/pessimistic dichotomy plays off each other well, the CGI of the Troll King was not nearly as bad as it could have been, and the snow effects are decent. Creating a plot around the King and Queen of Arendelle’s voyage is a great way to expand the world and I’m excited to see what the first half of the season has in store for Anna and Elsa.
As for the rest of the Storybrooke gang, I hope they can get out of the Rumpel and Regina rut. We’ve seen both these characters battle back and forth with their nature for three seasons. They should probably let it go.