Warning: Spoiler Alert
Okay, last week’s episode of Once Upon A Time had a ton of plot movement with maybe not a lot of character development. Tonight’s opening sequence suggests a more in-depth look at Rumpel and Belle, as well as the Robin Hood/Marian/Regina issue. As I was doing my notes for this piece, I distinctly wrote “Oh, please, please let this episode be steeped in some tortured love.”
OUAT, you’ve never let me down.
We begin with Robin, Marian, and Roland idly strolling along Storybrooke’s charming streets. The darling family stops in to the local ice cream parlor for a treat. But, when the local ice creamery’s run by an evil Snow Queen that no one seems to recognize, someone’s gonna get cursed. Not that I’m complaining about plot, but why does anyone from the Enchanted Forest still eat dessert? Between Regina’s apples and the Blind Witch’s gingerbread house, it seems like sugar comes with more of a risk than just some hyperglycemia.
The trio heads over to City Hall, where Mayor Mary Margaret’s holding a fireside chat, hoping to foster a sense of trust between the mayor’s office and the citizens of Storybrooke. A new mayor in a still-unfamiliar world with a newborn baby in tow hosting her fist civic event? Not even Snow White’s blinding optimism and faith in her fellow-man can get this to go smoothly, especially when Leroy and Granny begin the rabble-rousing the minute someone breathes a words about that pesky ice wall surrounding the town. Things look to be getting hairy, and fast, but Marian collapses in a perfectly timed fairytale swoon. Technically, Marian fainting is directly related to the ice wall problem, but it’s enough of a distraction to swiftly end the meeting.
Across town, Regina is meeting up with Henry at Granny’s. It’s nice to see her out of the house, isn’t it? She confesses to Henry that she wants to know more about his Once Upon A Time book, because she’s written as a villain in it, and she doesn’t want to be a villain anymore. Regina, girl, the truth will set you free. Henry thinks her plan is absolutely brilliant, and the two begin to discuss their plan. Henry’s growing up, and Operation Cobra is officially over. It’s time for a new mission, with his other mama. Operation Mongoose. (And, I’m crying for the first time so far this episode. That. Didn’t. Take. Long.)
Of course, Robin rushes in with news of Marian’s plight. Regina, being the woman of steel that she is, vows to help her in any way that she can. Upon examining Marian, however, she realizes she can’t do much. The magic is slowly freezing her. As Regina is attempting to slow down the spell, Hook, Emma, and Elsa arrive on scene. Regina, understandably distressed that she’s barely able to save her ex-boyfriend’s wife from ice magic, throws some shade Elsa’s way. Elsa swears that she didn’t cast the curse, but admits that she knows that an act of true love will stop ice magic.
An act of true love, eh? And Marian’s husband is right there. Convenient for curse, breaking, but,Regina, please don’t look. I could hardly bear to look, myself. Except, the kiss that Robin bestows on Marian while their son eagerly looks on doesn’t work. She remains frozen, Robin remains distressed, Regina remains looking stunned and ill, and I continue to cry.
So, no True Love’s Kiss to break this curse. The crew sets out to find other means of breaking the spell. Emma orders an indignant Hook to escort an equally indignant Elsa to the sheriff’s station to keep her safe. The Good People of Storybrooke are proving to be rabble-rousers, and law and order is hard to keep while most of the citizens are scaring themselves out of their wits with panic. Emma and David take off into the woods to investigate, trusting that Elsa and Hook will be safe at the station. Hook isn’t quite having Emma’s insistence that he stay out-of-the-way, and instead takes Elsa to pay another visit to Mr. Gold’s Pawnshop.
Elsa, Hook, Emma, and David had been there earlier in the day, demanding to know why Elsa was in an urn in Rumpelstiltskin’s vault. He claims to have no idea, but the crew is (understandably) unconvinced. He swears to turning over a new leaf, invoking the memory of his lost son, and the hope of the new love in his life. He orders Belle to use his dagger to compel him to tell the truth. She’s horrified, but she complies, and he repeats that he doesn’t know Elsa, or her sister, and certainly has no idea why she was in his vault. That dagger, though? Remember how Rumpelstiltskin was using it to magic up those coasters at the end of the previous episode? Yeah, that dagger isn’t real. RUMPELSTILTSKIN, WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING? YOUR WIFE IS GONNA BE SO MAD AT YOU.
Hook insists that he knows that Gold’s earlier denial was false, and threatens to expose his deception to Belle. Gold doesn’t bother feigning innocence, but deals with Hook to aid he and Elsa track down the origin of Marian’s curse. He explains that every person’s magic is unique. By converting a lock of Marian’s cursed hair into the original energy of the curse, the magic will seek its source. Hook and Elsa follow the pillar of snowflakes as it drifts out of the shop and back towards Storybrooke’s forest. Good job, Rumpelstiltskin, helping those two. Please keep doing the right thing.
Emma and David search another part of the forest, stumbling upon Robin Hood’s camp. They discover someone ransacking the tents, and, after a brief chase and an Oklahoma-drill to the chest via David, they capture and confront the thief. Oh, and thief he is. Will Scarlett, former Merry Man, before he and Robin had some, uhm, differences in opinion. He heard about Marian’s curse and thinks that he might know something about it.
See, in last week’s blackout, he happened to be doing some low-key looting in Storybrooke. When he stumbled into the ice cream parlor, though, he realized that everything was still frozen. He’s a thief, but he’s no fool. He was trying to track down Robin to tell him about the ice magic he had uncovered. Emma and David escort him to the (closed-in-the-middle-of-the-day) ice cream parlor (which, by the way, appears to be named Any Given Sundae, and I don’t even know what to do about that). Sure enough, they discover that everything is magically being kept cold. They also discover that they shouldn’t leave a thief unattended, because Will Scarlett promptly empties the cash register and beats the scene.
The two are then summoned to the west side of the forest by a frantic voicemail from Captain Hook. Captain Hook has a cell phone. I love this show. He and Elsa chased the snow magic through the woods, to find The Snow Queen, in her stunning Bob-Mackie-esque regalia, working some of her magic. Elsa’s enthralled –she’s never seen someone else with magic like hers before. The Snow Queen discovers Elsa and Hook spying on her, and quickly greets Elsa as an old friend while imprisoning Hook. Elsa’s stunned and confused; she claims she’s never seen this woman before. But, admittedly, she doesn’t know how she wound up in that urn, either…
Back in Arendelle, Kristoff and Elsa are discussing Anna’s disappearance in what I can only assume is Arendelle’s Oval Office/Situation Room/Batcave. Elsa is furious. An incredibly adorable stubborn-older-sister and a well-meaning-but-smart-mouthed-little-brother dynamic between the two is beginning to develop. As Elsa stews, furious with Kristoff’s enthusiastic rebuffs, she’s approached by a general bringing news of an army amassing in the mountains and headed toward Arendelle. In the Once Upon A Time universe, Anna and Hans’ breakup must have been a bit more acrimonious than it was in the cartoon, because the army’s headed up by Hans and his brothers.
Kristoff volunteers to go scout the army, since he knows the mountains so well. Elsa forbids it, as he is a civilian and she is the queen and he is not to put himself at risk. In true little-brother fashion, Kristoff agrees with Elsa and then promptly ignores her. He and Sven spy on Hans and his brothers’ well-armed, well-staffed forces. Hans and his brothers don’t have the adorable, teasing relationship that Elsa and Kristoff are developing. They have the kind of brotherly love that inspires siblings to hold each other down and spit in their mouths. The brothers are in the middle of a “who’s gonna rule Arendelle” pissing contest when Hans reveals his secret weapon. A scroll, with a picture of a very familiar-looking urn. This urn, Hans explains, can trap Elsa and her magic, leaving the throne of Arendelle vacant and ready for a douchey prince from the south to take over as king.
Kristoff returns to the Situation Room to tell Elsa of their intentions, and, after a bit of very traditional chiding by her military advisors, it’s decided that Elsa and Kristoff should try to beat Hans to the urn and destroy it. They set out immediately, their journey filled with more future-in-law bonding time. They manage to beat Hans to the urn, and Elsa picks it up to destroy it, but of course, it can’t ever be that easy.
The urn reveals ancient runes that neither Elsa nor Kristoff can read. Kristoff urges Elsa to destroy the urn before Hans can use it, but Elsa’s drawn to the writing. If urns like that exist, that must mean that other people with magical powers existed at one time, too, right? Elsa’s powers are still a burden to her, and she very obviously feels isolated because of her “gifts.” Elsa’s personal crisis gets worse when Hans and his brothers enter the cave, demanding she turn the urn over.
Fighting ensues, ending with Hans opening the urn to capture Elsa, but not before Hans gives Elsa an obnoxious, hurtful lecture about how she’s a dangerous monster. As he pours out the contents of the urn, a puddle creeps across the floor towards Elsa. Instead of imprisoning her, however, the puddle suddenly twitches and begins to form into something person-shaped.
SNOW QUEEN. WE HAVE ARENDELLE SNOW QUEEN. Elsa’s enthralled, even as the Snow Queen wastes Prince Hans with some ice magic and sends his dude-bros running. Apparently, Hans shouldn’t have made those lousy comments about people with magical abilities So! Even though Elsa can’t remember The Snow Queen, they’ve obviously met. Elsa is ecstatic with the discovery of another person with magic like hers; the pair and Kristoff depart back to Arendelle.
Elsa and The Snow Queen do know each other, and The Snow Queen wastes no time in trying to convince Elsa that everyone who doesn’t have powers like theirs is their enemy. Then, Queen begins dropping bombs. She claims the rock trolls that raised Kristoff removed her memories, and Anna’s memories as well, because the effects of her magic were too painful to live with. Then, she insists that Anna herself is the one who trapped Elsa in that urn. She insists that Hook must die, because otherwise he will only betray Elsa. David and Emma arrive; The Snow Queen greets Emma warmly but claims that it’s only Emma’s reputation as sheriff and Savior that she recognizes. Emma uses her magic to save Hook, but The Snow Queen manages to escape before anyone can manage to gain any more information about her origin or purpose in Storybrooke.
Elsa is, again, horrified that her existence is bringing such trouble to the people around her. Emma begins to build the framework for this mystery—Elsa arrived in Storybrooke by accident, but The Snow Queen has been there all long, just waiting for her chance to spring into some unknown action.
We get another look into Arendelle, as Elsa gleefully shows her new friend the castle she occupies. The Snow Queen seems to fit right in as she glides through the stately rooms. The Snow Queen and Elsa share a moment admiring a portrait of Elsa’s mother, and The Snow Queen admits that Elsa’s mother was her own sister. The Snow Queen Is Elsa’s aunt, and she is quite eager to see her sister. Elsa tearfully informs her that she died many years ago. The Snow Queen warmly assures Elsa that she’ll help her find Anna and reunite the family.
Right. Because a secret aunt who got trapped in an urn all your life is clearly just looking out for your best interests.
Back in Storybrooke, the battle with The Snow Queen has left Elsa reeling with horrible possibilities and hasn’t uncovered a way to save Marian. Regina and Robin are still watching over her, attempting to slow the curse before it reaches her heart. She may not know ice magic very well, but she knows heart magic. She offers Robin a risky treatment—it won’t cure her, but it will keep her safe until they can find a permanent solution. Robin accepts.
And then he tells Regina that there was perhaps another explanation for why his kiss didn’t wake Marian, and that explanation is that it wasn’t True Love’s Kiss. He’s madly in love with Regina, but he’s committed to his marriage with Marian, and I can’t ever quit crying.
Before anyone dies of unrequited love, Henry arrives with materials to help Regina save Marian. He’s retrieved a heart chest from Regina’s vault. She plunges her fist into Marian’s chest and removes her heart, unaffected by the curse. Regina holds her True Love’s wife’s heart in her hands, and responsibly puts it into a vault for safekeeping.
If this villain doesn’t get a happy ending, I don’t know what I’m going to do.
Hook and Emma are still fighting—Emma is outraged that Hook constantly ignores her orders to stay out-of-the-way and keep safe. Hook’s frustrated with Emma constantly shutting him out. He demands to know why Emma won’t trust him.
Sigh. Hook, you kind of don’t understand women, do you?
Emma explains—it’s not that she doesn’t trust him. It’s that everyone she ever loved, from Graham to Neal, has wound up dead, and she’s not sure what will happen if she loses him, too. And because it’s a fairytale, they make out like teenagers in the middle of the street.
The Snow Queen is still skulking around Storybrooke’s forest, but she’s not alone. Rumpelstiltskin is waiting for her in a clearing, wondering if she’s ready to make a deal yet, or if Emma recognized her. So, we know that Belle doesn’t have the real dagger, because he lied through his teeth when she compelled him to tell the truth about Elsa. If he knows The Snow Queen, he knows Elsa, and he knows Anna. RUMPELSTILTSKIN, YOUR WIFE IS GOING TO FIND OUT THAT YOU HAVE BEEN LYING TO HER, AND YOU ARE GONNA BE IN SO MUCH TROUBLE YOU’LL WISH ZELENA STILL HAD YOUR DAGGER.
But that’s where we left it. Next week’s preview gave us a taste of an actual, real-live, Emma-and-Hook date, but I quit watching after that, because I love it best when this show surprises me.
The Story Continues Next Sunday at 8:00 pm on ABC.