Once Upon A Time: Mostly Convenient Truths

Photo ABC/Jack Rowand
Photo ABC/Jack Rowand

Warning: Spoiler Alert

The Spell of Shattered Sight has descended on Storybrooke, having its desired effect of turning everyone against everyone else. Charming and Snow are sniping at each other. Kristoff is ruing his life decisions, especially the one where he decided to marry Anna. For her part, Anna is trying to be as positive as possible, but she can’t bear the negative energy for too long. She leaves the room to find her sister and Emma and baby Neal.

Emma and Elsa, determined to break The Snow Queen’s curse, but they’re at a total loss for how. Anna conveniently remembers the origins of the curse (disclosed to her by Ingrid in a Villain Soliloquy before she cursed her). The details of the legend of the Trolden Glass aren’t important here, what’s important is that in the legend the only way to break the curse was to kill the king who cast it. Elsa’s horrified at prospective murder, but Emma (and Anna) seem far less troubled. A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to break a curse. Emma knows that more than anyone. Elsa insists that they at least try to reach out to Ingrid to get her to break the curse with her own power. She and Elsa decide to go look for The Snow Queen to see if they can’t convince her (with their powers, or otherwise) to stop the curse. Anna is more than a little miffed about being left behind, but she accepts her babysitting duties when Elsa reassures her that she and Emma will find a way to stop the curse.

Now that the curse has been cast, and everyone in Storybrooke is at each other’s throats, Ingrid is free to stalk around in her ice-queen-finery without having to worry about a low profile. This is good, apparently, because she needs to retrieve a couple purple rock-things (like the kind that had Belle’s memories of her mother!) from the ice cream parlor. Elsa and Emma catch up to her outside and confront her, ordering her to stop the curse, then threatening her with magic if she won’t.

Except, neither Elsa nor Emma can summon their powers. In the placid, assured tones of someone who is completely off of her rocker, Ingrid explains that the love that’s contained in the ribbons the three wear protects each of them from harm. So, as long as they’re all wearing the ribbons, their powers will be useless against her. But it’s all beside the point, she continues, because soon Elsa and Emma will love Ingrid for real and everything will be as fine as it can be in a little town that shouldn’t exist that’s been cursed since its appearance.

Ingrid disappears, and Emma and Elsa see about removing the ribbons. They start at Gold’s Pawnshop, but being as Gold is off packing for his delusional future with Belle and Henry, they only manage to ransack the showroom a bit. After breaking a few blades trying to cut the ribbons off, Emma experiences a moment of clarity: the ribbons have so much love in them that they’re impossible to remove with traditional methods. But what if they could blast them off with some magical hatred? That would probably work, right?

And, as luck would have it, they happen to have an endless supply of angry magical hatred, and it’s sealed up in a vault just waiting for them. Under the curse, Regina is angrier than ever at everyone who’s ever wronged her. As she stews in her vault, she catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror. I had a bit of a heart-skip, because I thought she was going to remember The Genie, but instead, she’s appalled by her business-smart wardrobe. A lady powersuit isn’t the garb of a queen. In a puff of purple smoke, she’s restored to her Enchanted Forest regalia (AND SHE LOOKS ABSOLUTELY PERFECT RIGHT DOWN TO THE LIPSTICK).

Emma manages to blast her way into the vault with Elsa close behind her. Emma has a plan! She’s going to be as antagonistic as possible to Regina and hope that she can catch a blast of magic in just the right way to destroy the ribbon but not get hurt herself. It’s an ambitious plan, but Emma’s the Savior, and she’s descended from a long line of people who got things to work by simply believing that they would. Emma first tries to take a jab at Regina’s wardrobe with a “too late for Halloween” joke, but Regina rebuffs her like she wears that gown—with the “poise and grace of a queen.” Not discouraged, Emma makes a few (untrue) comments about how Emma planned to bring Marian to Storybrooke just to screw with Regina, and Regina does just what Emma expects. With a well-placed leap, Emma manages to put her and Elsa’s wrists into the path of hate-fueled magic without befalling much harm. The rubble created by the blast is enough to stall Regina for a bit so that Elsa and Emma can go face The Snow Queen with their powers uninhibited.

Once Regina comes to, she goes to the sheriff station in search of Emma. She doesn’t find her, of course, but she does find Snow and Charming locked up in separate cells, with Kristoff chained to a desk and Anna trying to keep everyone in good spirits. Regina allows herself to delay vengeance against Emma in favor of vengeance against Snow and Charming. Anna tries to diffuse the tension, but rambling, nervous chatter isn’t something Regina suffers. She’s annoyed by the two strangers present, and sends them “back to where they came from” in a swirl of purple smoke.

With Anna’s tittering gone, Regina again focuses on Snow. Snow is just as anxious to take on Regina as Regina is to engage Snow. Regina swears that Snow isn’t worth being destroyed by magic. She wants to do it the old-fashioned way. Snow’s cell swings open, both women, armed with swords, and the melee begins. It kind of isn’t worth going through a blow-by-blow, but there are some great exchanges between Regina, Queen of Sass and Snow White, Princess Badass.

But wait Regina sent Anna and Kristoff “back where they came from! Are they back in Arendelle?!

No. They’re at the beach, which is apparently the closest that Regina’s magic could get them (which makes sense! Yay for magic making sense in this season at least once!) Cursed Kristoff wants to swim back to Arendelle, but Anna knows isn’t possible. Unable to convince him otherwise, she knocks him unconscious to keep him from trying anything while he’s too cursed to think correctly. And, conveniently, she uses the bottle that her dearly departed mother sent her a message in all those years ago that also very conveniently came through the portal with them when Elsa wished on the necklace! (Well, magic making sense was nice while it lasted). Anyway, the bottle breaks open and Anna finds her mother’s letter and moved to tears and needs to find Elsa right away to tell her about everything! And Ingrid too!

Well, at least both women are in the same place. Emma and Elsa have gone to The Snow Queen’s lair, where Ingrid is waiting for them , unafraid. In the same assured-as-only-a-crazyperson-can-be tones as

earlier, she explains that the three of them will come to love her. True, they managed to destroy the ribbons that she was using to keep their powers in check against her, but they’ll all be a happy family soon enough, so she’s not exactly worried that these two witches are coming at her with their powers ready. They’re hesitating, and Ingrid knows it. And she also knows why! She produces the two rocks she took from the parlor earlier and explains that they’re Elsa and Emma’s memories of Ingrid. Everyone knows magic can’t create love, but Ingrid is planning on using magic to manipulate things so that Emma and Elsa will remember the good times that they had with Ingrid.

Earlier episodes this season gave us the story of how Elsa came to bond with Ingrid, but we still haven’t seen much about Emma’s past with her. Well, until tonight. Our flashback sequence tonight wasn’t of The Enchanted Forest or Arendelle, but instead began in Boston in 1982. We follow Ingrid as she wanders around the city, and witness an encounter with a “psychic” that goes about as well as you’d expect. (As in, the psychic is a charlatan and Ingrid’s displeased).

The next time we see Ingrid is in the scene that immediately follows what Emma found on her camcorder tape. Emma is in the foster home with a jerk named Kevin and Ingrid comes to her assistance. Ingrid is reassuring, and Emma appears to be accepting. However, as soon as Ingrid leaves the room, D-Bag Kevin gets in Emma’s face again. There won’t be someone around to protect her all the time.

Emma decides to run away from the foster home, but Ingrid catches her at the front door. Ingrid plays the scene perfectly—offering sympathy for Emma’s troubles, acknowledging that no one can stop Emma from leaving, and shamelessly hinting that D-Bag Kevin is afraid of spiders and that a lot of plastic spiders hidden in Ingrid’s desk. It’s the right amount of disinterest and truth for Emma to decide she wants to stay.

The two bond. Ingrid remains supportive of Emma, and Emma’s taken aback by what it’s like to be looked after and loved. They even manage to win a toy from a claw machine, but it takes Emma possibly short-circuiting the machine with her quiescent magic to actually win her a stuffed Dalmatian (FORESHADOWING ALERT! Cruella de Ville’s confirmed as a character for the next story arc). Ingrid’s encouraged by the spark of magic she sees in Emma and wants to foster any possibility that it would develop. Unfortunately Ingrid is still pretty unhinged, so she tries to create a near-death experience for Emma to see if she can jostle some powers out of her (like she did when she killed that guy!)

It doesn’t go as well. Ingrid drags Emma into oncoming traffic. Emma is understandably terrified. Ingrid tries to explain the best she can, but Emma’s convinced that Ingrid is crackers (true!) and wants nothing to do with her. It’s assumed that Emma does what she needs to do to get transferred away from Ingrid’s care.

The two meet again in Storybrooke in 2011. Ingrid is running the ice cream parlor and Emma, who has just arrived in town and is beginning to a to forge a relationship with Henry, drops by for some ice cream. Emma immediately recognizes Ingrid and reacts exactly as you would expect pre-Savior Emma to react. She’s completely unnerved and accuses Ingrid of following her. Ingrid attempts to explain but the

confrontation soon reaches a boiling point at which Ingrid takes Emma’s memories of her away (somehow. In a land without magic. Just go with it.)

And the good parts of that story are what Ingrid plans on releasing back into Emma so that Emma will accept Ingrid as her sister.

And it ends just in time for Anna to burst in with the scroll from her parents! So! Very! Convenient!

Anna begins to read the letter aloud. In it, Gerda admits that she was wrong to want to contain and hide Elsa’s powers, just as she was so wrong to act out against her own sister so long ago. The letter confesses everything, even where Ingrid’s urn is, and includes the crystalized memories that she stole from everyone in Arendelle. Queen Gerda loved her sister so much, and was so wrong to act against her, and is so terribly sorry, the letter confides. Elsa’s powers are in reality a blessing, and she’s so sorry that it’s too late for her to make amends.

Elsa’s moved, but Ingrid is too far removed from sanity to react appropriately. She magically seizes Anna, trying to harm her because Anna is too different and will see her as a threat one day. Anna insists that, since her mother was able to forgive and love Ingrid, she will be able to, too. Ingrid continues to magically rage, but then she trips over the letter and reads it for herself.

Memories of girls playing in orchards and dancing at balls flash across the screen. Ingrid’s brought to tears, weeping. She realizes that she was wrong to try to curse the town and steal Emma and Elsa away. She has to undo the curse.

But the only way to undo the curse is for her to die! Emma and Elsa protest, but Ingrid tearfully sacrifices herself. The letter has assured her that she did have the love of her sisters, which is what she’s wanted all along. So, this is the part of the episode where I ugly cried so hard I had to take my glasses off, and I scared both of my cats awake despite not being in the same room as them.

And so the curse begins to break across the town. The Dwarves stop trying to strangle each other. Snow and Regina drop their swords, incredulously laughing at one another at how dramatic they both have been. Regina realizes that the regal finery isn’t the right tone for Storybrooke and magicks herself back into a powersuit. You’re perfect either way, Regina. You just do you.

They gather the baby and spill into the streets to join everyone else in spinning around in no-longer-cursed delight. They run into Elsa, Emma, Anna, and Kristoff (retrieved from his beach-nap). There is so much relieved hugging, you guys. And it’s kind of not a fairytale ending unless Snow White and Prince Charming have a scene-stealing kiss, now is it?

And, oh, I wish I could say “The End!” and stare off in wonderment over what next week’s midseason finale could reveal. But I can’t. Because Rumpelstiltskin.

He’s still planning to sacrifice Hook and cleave himself of the dagger. Cursed Storybrooke or no cursed Storybrooke, he wants to leave town with Belle, Henry, and his powers intact. (Possibly for world-domination, per a vague and menacing comment made to Hook toward the end of the show.) Early in

the show, Gold sent Hook to find where Henry had been hidden, and Hook did so with as much angst as someone who doesn’t have a heart can have. He tracked Henry to Regina’s office, but ultimately failed to retrieve him, because Hook wasn’t around to watch Saturday morning cartoons and so was totally unprepared for the Lots Of Marbles On The Floor trap that Henry had laid out in front of the door. Belle is still under a protective spell/passed out in the back room of the pawnshop. Gold gives Hook one last night before the stars will align and allow him to cast the spell that will remove him from the thrall of the dagger but leave his powers intact.

So, now we know what will be happening next week! Rumpel will get revealed as a bad guy, someone may or may not die because it’s a midseason finale and usually someone dies on this show, and I enter an emotionally despondent state because Once Upon A Time has used the traumatically-injured hopeful-child-turned-coward-turned-villain-turned-hero-turned-villain to break my heart into impossibly tiny pieces.

The Story Continues Next Sunday Night at 8:00 pm on ABC

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