Episode 3 of Once Upon a Time’s new season is called “Rocky Road,” which makes me think the production knows they’re on unsteady ground. After last week’s mishmash of bizarre characterization and unnecessary backstory (I’m still not over drunk driver papa Charming and warlord Bo Peep), OUAT tries to get back on track by introducing the baddie of the first half of the season. We got a glimpse of the Snow Queen last week, but now she’s out in full force.
Robin, Roland, and Marian stop into Elizabeth Mitchell’s shop, Any Given Sundae (groan), for ice cream. Elizabeth Mitchell assures them that all of life’s problems can be solved with ice cream and gives Marian a free cone because she’s new to this world. She heaps on the sprinkles and stealthily imbues it with magic. I’ll admit I didn’t realize that was what she was doing until I looked at my notes after the episode ended. It’s hard to pay attention when someone is obviously the villain and her plan is vague at best.
Emma brings Elsa back to Gold/Rumpel and asks the question I’ve wanted answered since last year’s finale. How did Elsa get inside an urn in Rumpel’s “secret vault of terror?” Rumpel tells her to ask Elsa, who of course has no memory of it, and makes a wise crack about that being an “all too common affliction around these parts.” Dear writers, just because you point it out doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. At this point, OUAT is surpassing soap opera levels of amnesia. Magic amnesia, head bump amnesia, curse amnesia—what’s next?
Turns out it is troll amnesia, which actually fits with Frozen canon. I want to be mad, but this is not nearly the stupidest thing this show has done. Through flashbacks, we learn that Hans and his brothers were amassing an army to take Arendelle. Their secret weapon was a magic urn that could trap magic people inside. Elsa and Kristoff find it first but Elsa won’t destroy it because she wants to learn about other people like her. Hans’ army surrounds them and he holds a sword to Kristoff’s neck. Elsa gives up the urn to save her future brother-in-law and Hans bad-guy monologues and opens the urn. A weird CGI water blob pours out and looks like it’s going to engulf Elsa but instead turns into Elizabeth Mitchell. She freezes Hans and claims she is Elsa’s mother’s sister. She also pulls a Magneto and tries to convince Elsa that all humans will inevitably hate and fear her. Now we know what the urn is. It’s a magic person catcher like whatever Peter Pan was sucked into last season.
Mayor Snow White has organized a town “fireside chat” to discuss the new goings-on. Everyone (logically) wants to know about the ice wall that now surrounds Storybrooke. Snow tries to keep them calm but things get, uh, heated. Elsa is blamed, Snow loses control of the situation and the baby starts crying. Being a working mom is hard, you guys.
I’ve never been much of a Snow White fan, but this season is painful. Every scene with Snow seems shoehorned in. She doesn’t have a story other than “new mom tries to make it work,” which could be pulled from a completely different show. Again, they’ve already done the “overprotective Snow doesn’t want to lose her child again” story with Emma. We don’t need it with the new baby. It’s hard to keep a cast so big busy, but this is not the way. To end a dying scene, Marian collapses and begins to freeze.
If there’s one thing Once Upon a Time is good at, it’s reminding us just how many things Disney/ABC has the rights to. We’ve seen Star Wars references and Disney-accurate outfits. In this episode, while discussing changing her story/happy ending, Regina gives Henry some comics, including Thor and S.H.I.E.L.D. She mentions how the stories in Henry’s book are true and I can’t help think about the crossover fun we could have. What if the S.H.I.E.L.D. comic was also true? What would happen if Emma and Hook crossed paths Agent Coulson and his crew? Would Thor make a decent Disney prince? I half expect a musical episode with the now Disney-owned Muppets. It wouldn’t surprise me if they made The Santa Clause 4: Mrs Clause is Actually an Evil Snow Queen, just for the tie in potential. I’m also a little sad I know that Elizabeth Mitchell is involved in that franchise.
Speaking of crossovers, will Scarlet from the short-lived Once Upon a Time in Wonderland shows up, leads Charming and Emma to the ice cream store, and promptly steals the cash. I guess there wasn’t any character development after I stopped watching that.
Robin finds Regina and asks her to use magic to save Marian but she doesn’t have enough power. He attempts true love’s kiss but it doesn’t work. Robin confesses in front of his frozen wife that he thinks it didn’t work because he is in love with another. Regina rips out Marian’s heart for safe-keeping. Now she won’t die, but she’s stuck as a marian-sicle until they can find a cure. Meanwhile, Hook and Elsa visit Gold again and follow magic to Elizabeth Mitchell (who I will start calling the Snow Queen).
Elsa and Hook have a heart-to-heart about Emma’s ability to love (because we haven’t had one yet this episode) and the Snow Queen stops them before they can contact back-up. Elsa spells out the plot and knows that the Snow Queen is trying to frame her for Marian’s freezing. The Snow Queen decides to take it a step further and attempts to kill Hook too. Elsa’s powers are blocked for some reason but everything’s okay because Emma and Charming show up just in time. Emma blasts the Snow Queen with magic and everyone gets to safety. Emma and Hook kiss and fangirls rejoice. The episode ends with the Snow Queen and Rumpel talking in the forest. Apparently Emma has selective amnesia too (is it trolls?) and has met the Snow Queen before. Rumpel knows more than he’s letting on because … of course he does.
It’s taken three episodes but they’ve finally set up the story. I still had a bit of déjà vu while watching, but not nearly the amount of frustration as last week. I have a feeling this is going to be a really long season.