ONCE UPON A TIME, S4E8+9 ROUNDTABLE: ‘An urn for a hat, as simple as that’

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By Josh Axelrod and David Oliver 

Well, it looks like this half-season of “Once Upon a Time” was sort of conning us in a way. It put so much focus on The Snow Queen and her quest for family that we barely noticed Rumplestiltskin putting together his plan to separate himself from his dagger at the expense of Emma. His plan got derailed this week, but Rumple won’t give up anytime soon. And now that The Snow Queen has cast the spell of shattered sight, all bets are off. Let’s dissect two hours of awesome:

Photo courtesy of TV Buzer

Emma 

DAVID: Say what you will about Jennifer Morrison, but she definitely rose to the occasion in these episodes, at least in my opinion. Her story was pretty reminiscent of Elsa’s from the actual movie “Frozen,” losing control and needing some platonic love/sisterly bonding to save the day. It was pretty scary when she hurt Henry, not going to lie. I’ve actually kind of (gasp!) enjoyed Henry a bit more this season than I have in the past. He’s gotten less annoying, at least in my opinion.

I very much did not like Snow and Charming this episode. For two people who claim to love their daughter, they did a pretty awful job of showing it until finally coming to their senses with Regina’s help, no less. I guess everyone is human, as this show is trying to portray, but come on – you two love each other, why did it take you so long to accept your daughter for who she is so she wouldn’t have to get rid of her magic?

JOSH: Jennifer Morrison is a really mediocre actress. She’s given some great material to work with, but she just can’t convey emotions very well. Luckily for her, her storyline was strong enough that her acting didn’t sink it. Emma was put through the ringer in these two episodes, with her powers out of control and her only salvation coming in the form of Rumple’s trap. Did she really trust that Rumple would just help her without asking for anything in return? His magic always comes at a price.

Those annoying elements aside, the payoff to this storyline was perfect. Only Elsa could possibly understand what Emma was going through, so it’s that fitting that she (and not Henry) was the one that was able to calm Emma down. And now Emma and Elsa both have embraced their powers. Just what The Snow Queen wanted. Dun dun dun!

Anna/Elsa

Photo courtesy of Entertainment Weekly

DAVID: In Arendelle, Anna and Elsa vow to stop the Snow Queen despite her manipulations, even when she tries to make Elsa think Anna tried to trap her in an urn. Again, Elizabeth Lail really is perfectly cast. Her cute “I was absolutely crushed” when she thought Elsa didn’t believe her was so on point, as was her defending her parents. I’m still not really convinced they wanted to take away Elsa’s powers – there has to be more to the story. Though Anna points out, “They were only human.”

Unfortunately, the Snow Queen traps Anna and casts the spell of shattered sight on just her, bringing out her deepest, darkest emotions and going against those she loves. She later lashes out at Elsa, remembering how lonely she was during their childhood. Suddenly “Go away, Anna” is a lot less funny and downright depressing. Anna ends up trapping Elsa in the urn despite the Snow Queen wanting Elsa to trap Anna (good job here, Elsa, love your sister even when she’s treating you terribly, because family).

Anna snaps out of it and Kristoff shows up, but the Snow Queen has other plans and freezes them both – and the rest of the room. Present day, Elsa must confront her own past about not feeling accepted by her family and help Emma, which she does in the knick of time before the sorcerer’s hat sucks up Emma’s magic. She and Emma hold hands and they get her magic under control. Well, until the Snow Queen gets involved and takes away both of theirs…

JOSH: Now we know exactly why everything was the way it was with Anna, Elsa and The Snow Queen when the season started. Anna has been frozen in Arendelle for god knows how long. Anna trapped Elsa in the urn, which Rumple promptly stole. The Snow Queen had Rumple’s hat, but chose to make a deal with the sorcerer instead of Rumple and ended up in our world. All the puzzle pieces fit together beautifully!

I was worried at first that Elsa had bought The Snow Queen’s lies. Thank god it was just an act. Through it all, the sisterly bond between Anna and Elsa never wavered. Anna had to be cursed in order to say anything about Elsa. Now I hate The Snow Queen forever. You can’t curse sweet, innocent Anna and make her vindictive and angry. Blasphemy!

The Snow Queen

Photo courtesy of OUAT Fans

DAVID: Boy, is this lady dealing with some daaaaaaark magic. Between the sorcerer (who is he?!) and Rumple, it’s really hard to say which is necessarily more trustworthy, not to mention how much of a loose cannon she is.

She listens to the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and gets transported into our world, where she (presumably) eventually finds her “sister” in foster child Emma.

In present day, the Snow Queen does nothing while Elsa saves Emma, but this is pretty much what she wanted: All three of them embracing their powers, which means she can use (follow me here) the ribbons she and her original sisters had to finally harness all the magic and have enough power to curse all of Storybrooke, making them all turn against each other. The smoke and mirror (get it?) effect was similar to every other large spell on this show (see: purple at the end of season one, green during season three), but this looked like literal frozen fractals, sort of paying homage to “Frozen.” Well done, “Once” animators.

JOSH: As I said, I really, really don’t like The Snow Queen after what she did to Anna. And yet I still hate Rumple more at this point. David, you covered her pretty well, so I don’t have much more to add here other than Elizabeth Mitchell works the hell out of that dress. It suits her assets quite well. Good work “Once” costume designers.

Rumple/Hook

Photo courtesy of Examiner

DAVID: Ugh, he’s honestly just irredeemable at this point. He wants Emma’s magic so he can use that to separate himself from the dagger once and for all, but he also needs something else – the heart of someone who knew him before he was The Dark One. Cue Hook (NOOOOO). Rumple steals his heart and Hook can’t tell Emma, though he goes to kiss her and obviously loves her. If he dies by Rumple’s hand, I’ll be furious. I doubt they’d kill him off, but this show has certainly seen some twists and turns along those lines (R.I.P. Neal).

JOSH: Colin O’Donoghue absolutely crushed that voice mail to Emma where he admitted his part in Rumple’s schemes, which was all to be with Emma. I swear if this show kills off Hook, it’ll be a travesty. He’s so endearing and charismatic, which is amazing considering he started off as a villain almost as deplorable as Regina.

But more importantly, SCREW YOU RUMPLE. As awful as The Snow Queen is, Rumple is worse. His motivations are completely selfish. He wants power and the ability to break free from the one thing that limits him. To do that, he was willing to lie to Belle, trap Emma in that hat and make everyone’s lives more difficult. At this point, the man’s irredeemable. Even if the storybook gets rewritten, I don’t see a happy ending in his future.

Regina/Robin

Photo courtesy of The Insightful Panda

DAVID: Things got S-T-E-A-M-Y for these two this week. Hot damn. “That was the best sleep I’ve had in a long time,” Robin says to Regina. Hello, subtext. Anyway, Robin helps Regina on her quest to find the author of the book, only for Robin to later find a page mysteriously with a picture of them on it. In his mind, it’s that there are plenty of bright futures out there for her, with many different fates at every turn. To Regina, she believes someone magical tampered with the book. But who?!

JOSH: I think the sorcerer is the author of the storybook. It would make sense, considering he appears to be all-powerful and all-knowing. Whether that theory is right or not, I hope they reveal the author during the season’s back half.

More importantly though, Robin and Regina are officially a hot couple. Not that they weren’t before, but those two were downright crackling with chemistry during their scenes. Robin took it upon himself to find Regina’s happy ending, which he did because he’s Robin Hood. This is going to be a huge problem once Marion unthaws, but for now these two can pretend they’re at their happy endings.

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