I tuned into Once Upon a Time this week and was surprised to find that is was on for two hours instead of one. (Apparently, November Sweeps is still a thing! Who knew?) This was good news for fans, and not-so good news when you have to be up early Monday morning. But, I made it through, and honestly, I’m glad “Smash the Mirror” was extended. By the halfway point, I was deep in the story and didn’t want it to end. We got some answers, some new problems, and a few character moments that tugged at the heartstrings. I know I’ve been hard on OUAT this season, but I do it out of love.
We flashback to Arendelle where we see Ingrid burying the Apprentice’s box and freezing it closed. She then visits the cabin of the Apprentice to make a deal—the hat for “happiness.” More specifically, she wants the Apprentice to ask the Sorcerer to find her a perfect magic sister, and she’s willing to wait as long as it takes. The Apprentice tells her that the Sorcerer doesn’t make deals, especially with those who have fallen to the dark side.
Emma is where we left her last episode, sulking in her car. As she gets more and more worked up, her magic begins to freak out. Although everyone is looking for her, Henry finds her first and tries to talk some sense into her. Emma accidentally blasts him and continues to tell him to leave. After another malfunction Henry gives up and runs away. Ingrid decides this is the perfect time to show up and tell Emma that she needs to embrace who she is.
Now, this entire storyline would have been a hell of a lot more believable if they’d given us any indication before this arc that Emma was having difficulties with her powers. Sure, they’re new, but every problem before now had been getting them to work at all, not instability. In fact, it seemed like Ingrid was the one who created the instability (or at least enhanced it) to separate Emma from her family a few episodes ago. If she needs Emma to embrace her power (which arguably, she did last season), was there any point to convincing Emma she was dangerous to begin with?
Buildup! That’s what’s missing from this show. There’s a lack of connectivity, which is weird to say about a show where every single character is connected.
Anyway, while the rest of the gang is looking for Emma, Regina and Robin Hood are having sexy times in Regina’s mausoleum. How many shows can you say that about? We cut to them the morning after and apparently Regina rocked his world. Of course this is a family show so Robin says, “That was the best [pause] sleep [pause] I’ve had in a very long time.” Wink, wink, nudge nudge. Say no more.
Regina does the pessimistic pull away thing like she has every episode this season and says a second bout of hanky-panky is out of the question. Locking a man in a mirror is fine, but sleeping with a married man more than once is crossing the line. She shows him the magic book, which he later steals, because he wants to help her believe she can have a happy ending. He then finds a loophole in the no-more-sex decision and they decide it’s technically still the same time if they don’t leave the room.
We’ve finally gotten to the “Anna and Elsa like chocolate” portion of the Frozen pandering, as Elsa makes a huge chocolate-themed dinner for her sister. (We’re done now, right? There can’t be any more Frozen references, can there?) Ingrid shows up and tells Elsa that Anna attacked her with the magic hat and was lying about their parent’s mission. She admits it was Elsa’s mother who put her in the urn and warns that Anna will to the same to Elsa. Anna is also locked up the dungeon. Elsa seems to be on Ingrid’s side as she interrogates her sister, but it’s all a ruse for the guards. The girls hatch a plan to trap Ingrid inside the urn, and investigate the abandoned section of the castle to find it. Anna finds the urn (and a Hans-sicle) in a closet and the sisters have a heart-to-heart about their parents. Anna then returns to her cell and waits for Ingrid. Ingrid is one step ahead of everyone and chains up Anna while forcing her to recite some Norse myths about a sad king and his mirror. This king decided his kingdom should share his pain and used dark magic to inflict it on his kingdom and let them destroy themselves. Ingrid casts the same spell on Anna.
Emma decides that she can’t live with her powers and goes to Rumpel for help. He tells her to meet him at an abandoned manor at sundown and he’ll attempt an old spell. Really, he’s going to suck her into the magic hat and take her power to help separate himself from the dagger and take over the world. His redemption arc isn’t going nearly as well as Regina’s. Rumpel then visits Ingrid to ensure she won’t stop Emma from coming to him. Using the ashes of the urn, Rumpel creates the OUAT version of a devil’s trap, which keeps Ingrid within its confines. (If you get that reference you’re going to want to read Mia’s review of this week’s Supernatural).
Regina arrives at the Charmings with her shirt half-buttoned and goes to check on Henry. Apparently the X-Men parallels are intentional, because Regina flips through a Wolverine comic before magicking away her sons head wound. Henry wishes he could have helped Emma, but he couldn’t because he’s a boring old human with no powers and Regina gives him the best be yourself pep-talk of the season. She then goes downstairs to do the same with the rest of the household. Emma checks in and tells Snow that she’s going to let Rumpel take away her magic and both Regina and Hook think this is insane. Hook uses the “I don’t know how this technology works” excuse to leave and call Emma, begging her not to trust the crocodile. He calls again and admits to being blackmailed by Rumpel. He’s willing to make her hate him and ruin their relationship to save her life. It’s a nice moment and you actually see the depth of this character. Underneath all the suave braggadocio, he does care. He goes to confront Rumpel but he isn’t at his shop. Instead, he finds a map to where Emma is headed.
Emma runs into a magic hologram of the Snow Queen on her way to meet Rumpel, but doesn’t listen when she says to turn back. Rumpel engages the hat and invites Emma into the room. Stepping into it will solve all her problems. She asks Rumpel if he would make the same choice and he flat out says no and admits to basically being a selfish asshole who shouldn’t be trusted. Emma trusts him anyway, but it takes her long enough to decide that our entire main cast has time to arrive at the mansion. Hook gets there first, but is no match for Rumpel. Rumpel holds him against the gate and goads him with thoughts of Milah. Snow and Regina discuss fate and the nature of evil and Snow assures Regina that nobody’s perfect and good things can happen. Regina gets a call from Robin who tells her to meet him at the library. An extra page of the magic book—an alternate path–appeared in Robin’s satchel. The both take it as a sign of free will and make out.
Elsa is able to sneak into the house just as Emma is about to open the door. Emma is scared, but is soon convinced that Elsa knows best. She takes her hand and learns the life lesson that loving yourself harnesses your magic. Rumpel is pissed Emma chose wisely and takes it out on Hook. According to Ingrid, he needs the heart of someone who knew him before becoming the Dark One. That would be Hook, and he rips out Hook’s heart and is now pulling Hook’s strings. (So many Pinocchio references, Disney. If only you hadn’t already used that character–poorly–seasons ago.)
Back in Arendelle, Elsa is happily examining her chocolate menu again when Anna returns with the urn. This time she’s angry and starts confronting Elsa about her abandonment as a child. Ingrid appears and Elsa accuses her of casting a spell. Ingrid says, “Yep, I did,” but it only makes people say what they’re really thinking. Anna threatens to put Elsa into the urn and Ingrid urges her to use her power on her sister. To Ingrid’s surprise, Elsa allows Anna to capture her. Ingrid is furious about losing her magic sister and freezes the entire castle, Anna, Kristoff, and all. Rumpel takes the urn and wants to make a deal for the hat, but the Apprentice gets there first. He tells Ingrid that she can have her magic sisters in time if she goes to a new land. She is skeptical because of his “no deals” policy, but agrees. She gives him the hat and walks through a door into 1982.
The devil’s trap wears off and Ingrid puts on the ribbon from last episode. The other two appear on Elsa and Emma. Rumpel appears in her lair to threaten Ingrid, but she’ll have none of it. The ribbons harness the magic of all three of them and funnel it to Ingrid. With the wave of her hand, her mirror shatters and a fog of spell spills out. We are now definitely through the looking glass.
Tonight’s baddies were at their best and the plot found its pacing. Is OUAT gutsy enough to kill off one of its fan favourite characters? I’m actually excited to find out.