Once Upon a Time loves to explain their villains. No one is evil for just the sake of it. There’s always a reason—a tragedy in their backstory—that turned them down the wrong path. Regina lost her true love, Rumpel was a coward abandoned by his deadbeat father (Peter Pan), The Wicked Witch was also abandoned as a child and believed she was betrayed and cheated out of her rightful family. This week’s lazily titled, “The Snow Queen,” sheds some light on our icy foe’s origin. Like some, it creates a bit of sympathy. Like most, it involves Rumpelstiltskin.
We learned in previous weeks that Ingrid is one of Elsa’s mother’s two sisters and the opening scene takes us back to a time when they were children. The three girls (Ingrid, Helga, and Gerda) chase a kite until it gets stuck in a tree. They pull it down and take the ribbons from its tail. Each of them want the ribbon, but they decide to share it and keep the pieces as a symbol of their sisterhood. The owner of the kite comes and threatens to kidnap the youngest. Out of fear, Ingrid blasts the tree with ice, causing a branch to fall, crushing their would-be captor. Five minutes in and a 12 year old has killed a guy.
Ingrid is understandably shaken, and tells her sisters to keep away. She’s dangerous and doesn’t want to hurt them. The girls won’t go. They’re sisters, love each other, and pledge to stick together, always. The show then cuts to the present where we see, Ingrid the Snow Queen, creating an evil mirror in the clock tower. I’m going to guess something goes wrong with that pledge.
The ensemble takes a backseat to Emma and Ingrid for most of the episode, and even when they are on screen, their plots don’t really advance. Regina and Robin continue their will-they-won’t-they, and Regina convinces herself she needs to let it go (their pun, not mine). Turns out they will and we’re treated to a great big smooch. The will is even spurred on Will Scarlet, and we learn Sad Robin is bad at darts.
Snow and baby Charming go to a mommy and me class with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. I really don’t understand how Cinderella’s baby from Season 1 is the same age the rest of the newborns, but if that’s what I’m choosing to nitpick about, I think my priorities are out of order. Henry sweeps some more in Gold’s shop, and Belle, Charming, and Hook act as gophers. Even Elsa has very little to do after her and Emma learn how to neutralize the Snow Queen’s power with a magic candle. Also, Emma and Elsa neutralize the Snow Queen’s power with a magic candle. This is a new and different candle than what was used to kill Cora and to trap Peter Pan.
The Snow Queen is taken back to the sheriff’s office for questioning. Elsa wants answers, but Emma says she can handle this. The interrogation begins and the two banter about their past. Ingrid wants Emma to accept that she’s different and that makes her an outcast from her family and society–a.k.a Lesson 1 from the Magneto school of recruitment. The entire set up screams X-Men—people hating and fearing what they don’t understand, families being torn apart, a villain who wants what’s best for their own kind. Hell, Elizabeth Mitchell would have made a decent Emma Frost. She looks good in white and has the attitude down. That’s two more than January Jones.
Where was I? Interrogation. Right.
Ingrid explains that because she, Emma, and Elsa are the same,they have a bond thicker than blood. They understand what it is to be different and outsiders. Emma doesn’t want to believe her and resists, getting angrier and angrier until her magic explodes and blows a hole in the wall. Ingrid is pleased, easily releases herself from her handcuffs and disappears. Emma is terrified and warns her family and friends to stay away. They don’t listen and Emma accidentally knocks down a lamp-post. Charming pushes Hook out of the way, but it can’t stay out of the way himself. He’s not badly injured but Snow’s reaction is fear and anger. Snow is mortified by her own reaction. Emma runs away and hides in her car.
So, what made Ingrid so bitter and cold after her sister’s pact? Life as a mutant with magical powers isn’t easy. While her sisters went to parties and balls, Ingrid cloistered herself in fear of being exposed. She attempted to run away, but her sisters wouldn’t have it. Instead, they agreed to see a powerful wizard to help her control her skills. That wizard–no surprise to anyone–was Rumpel. He gave Ingrid gloves to dampen her powers, and I’ll be honest. I enjoy the idea that these gloves, which are the same ones Elsa wears in the film, are magical. It answers the question, “Why would gloves help at all?” There I go, nitpicking again.
Rumpel also gave the girls the urn to be used in desperate situations. In return, Ingrid gave Rumpel the three pieces of ribbon that symbolize their sisterly love. Because symbolism and magic are basically the same thing in this world. Everything goes well until the weasel Duke of Weselton came into the picture (dance moves and all). Although he’d been wooing Helga, he found Ingrid in the garden and got a little handsy. There’s that consent thing again, OUAT.
Anyway, Ingrid pushed him away and accidentally revealed her power. He decided that blackmailing her was the perfect way to rise up in the ranks and when Helga stumbled upon them, he insisted that Ingrid was the one to come on to him. Ingrid tried to explain but Helga didn’t need her to. She knew her sister wouldn’t do that and tore the weasel a new one. In turn, he threatened to expose Ingrid and Ingrid fired a blast of ice a little too quickly. It hit her sister in the heart and she fell to the ground, frozen, and began to crumble to pieces. Gerda arrived and saw what Ingrid has done. Ingrid asked for help, but the clearly traumatized Gerda wouldn’t listen, opened the urn, and forced her sister inside. She then initiated the troll amnesia we already know about. Some of the villain backstories are a little thin, but I have to say, spending decades alone in an urn after accidentally killing my sister would probably drive me a little nutty too.
Back in current day Storybrooke, Ingrid visits Rumpel and offers to make a deal. She’ll tell him what item he needs to rid himself of the dagger and enact his new plan. If he gives her back the ribbons. His big plan? Why, to take over the world! She’ll happily let him do it if he gives her Storybrooke as a consolation prize. The deal is made and Ingrid whispers her information to Rumpel. He grins and is truly delighted to see it through. The audience groans because we’ll probably have to wait a few more episodes to tell us exactly what’s going on.
“The Snow Queen,” had some enjoyable moments and remained surprisingly focused on the central story. Will Emma stay and protect the humans who hate and fear her? We’ll just have to wait and see. Also, if anyone wants to start an X-Men: The Animated Series rewatch, I’m all in!