Welcome back, friends. Whether you’re new to Once Upon a Time or are a hardcore “oncer,” and whether you’re an integral part of the Rotoscopers community or just stumbled upon our humble home for the first time today, we’re glad you’re here. Each week’s we’re discussing, speculating, and fanboying/fangirling over ABC’s Once Upon a Time right here during our “Storybrooke Sound-Off.”
After a jam-packed season opener last week, things settle down a bit for the second episode of Once Upon a Time‘s fourth season, White Out.
- Storbrooke is freezing. Thanks to, you guessed it, Elsa, a barrier of ice encloses the entire town. Elsa constructed the wall in a somewhat threatening effort to find Anna, though Elsa soon learns Storybrooke’s inhabitants are willing to help her and are more alike her than she thinks.
- Anna in the Enchanted Forest. Basically she’s the one who teaches David how to fight. Kind of a stretch, but ok, let’s go with it. A friend of Kristoff, David (at this time still a shepherd, meaning Anna has been lost for a bangin long time), offers Anna a place to rest on her voyage to discover the secret of her parents’ shipwrecked journey. When Bo Peep (yes, Bo Peep) swears to take David’s farm, Anna promises to train him in battle.
- Mary Margaret as Storybrooke’s new mayor. Not really much going on with this one. The power goes out, Grumpy acknowledges Mary Margaret is technically the new mayor instead of Regina, and Mary Margaret fixes the town’s electricity. There ya go. Mama of the year.
This episode is, overall, very low-key in relation to last week’s premiere. Whereas Tale of Two Sisters was action-driven with a full-scale, multi-point plot going on, White Out takes a different approach and a slower pace to examine fewer characters’ internal struggles on a microscopic level. This contrasts last week’s who’s-who of fairytale cameos and bountiful adventure sequences. Somewhat quickly, we have settled into the season and this episode feels more akin to the style of most of the series, especially where the flashbacks are concerned: a simple narrative of different characters interacting rather than a complicated runthrough within one specific character world (like the premiere did with Frozen). I honestly expected more Frozen-heavy things to continue awhile longer.
Let’s be real, though; Anna just got to the Enchanted Forest. She was so determined to discover the truth about her parents and begin her trip, and just as she arrives she’s willing to take such a lengthy pit stop to help David? To me this seems like the writers struggling to stretch out Anna’s flashback story to meet the 11-episode quota during which the Frozen story arc will be featured.
The decision to focus intricately on fewer subplots means that this time around, we really don’t see much of the principal cast. Rumplestiltskin and Belle only appear briefly, meaning we don’t learn more information about the sorcerer’s hat Rumple found last week. Likewise, Regina is shockingly reduced to one line, meaning we don’t learn more about her plan to discover the author of the fairytale book and gain her happy ending (and nothing with Robin Hood). That being said, I’m glad the writers are focusing on fewer stories at a time and giving each one their full due than try to cram small bits of each one into every episode. (Mary Margaret’s inclusion is the only contradiction to this rule this episode. Her “Imma electrify the town” bit seems like an afterthought thrown in to give her some airtime.)
The character development of Anna and Elsa continues wonderfully here. Anna’s dialogue is spot-on: goal-oriented but not exactly dignified, her outward behavior differing in no way from what she’s thinking on the inside. Elsa, meanwhile, continues to wrestle with controlling her icicles. The happily-ever-after depicted in Frozen seems to have been a temporary solution, with Elsa’s powers to undo her ice still being a matter of circumstance (how she’s feeling, and not knowing how to tap into those feelings that allow it) rather than a matter of permanence.
Elsa showed a bit of a villainous side here, I must say, especially as she threatened to “freeze this town and everyone in it.” Woah. Hold up. What are you talking about? Turns out this really just meant they would be frozen if she can’t find Anna because without Anna, her emotions are haywire… not because she is angry and wants to lead a massacre on purpose. But the way it was initially framed (particularly her tone) felt like it was intentionally supposed to stir audience anger and questioning (or, perhaps, give us a taste of the original Frozen draft with Elsa as the villain). I expected this misunderstanding to play out longer, and I am intrigued (but also kinda disappointed) as to where Elsa’s relationship with Storybrooke will go now that they are already friends.
And then we have the Frozen puns. Oh, goodness, the puns. At least three times, the script blatantly weaves in lyrics from Frozen songs. Here they are ranked, clap-worthy to groan-worthy:
- “Regina, I know you’re in there.” Oooh, clever, I hardly even noticed that one. Well done.
- “Here’s a lunch for your journey.” “I love sandwiches!” Are you serious. But I laughed. So. Good job. Maybe.
- “Elsa, aren’t you cold?” “It never bothered me.” OH MY GOSH. [Face-palm.] COME AHN.
The What-The-Heck Moment: “Who is that?” “She’s a menacing warlord. They call her… Bo Peep.” For real? I don’t know. I just couldn’t take her seriously.
The Magic Moment: All the feels came when Elsa connected with Emma, realizing she isn’t the only one who has felt lonely in the way she has, and the strength that comes from common struggle. Then her being able to melt the ice (because of the love Anna represents, not because of Anna’s physical presence) was a great moment for her character.
The Woah Moment: Well, we knew Elizabeth Mitchell would be coming around at some point… but again, I didn’t think it would be so soon! Elsa at last figures out how to melt the ice, yet her powers still aren’t working like they should. So who’s preventing the ice barrier from coming down? As the camera cuts to a middle-aged blonde in an ice cream parlor, who, with the touch of a finger, transforms milk to frosty ice cream, our imaginations are left to the rest as the episode conludes.
Now it’s your turn. Sound off below!
- How do you feel about the way Elsa’s character is the same yet different from her depiction in Frozen?
- What are your thoughts on the hot mess that is Bo Peep?
- Did you miss Grand Pabbie?
- What is up with Emma and Hook?
- What’s coming for Elizabeth Mitchell?