Once Upon a Time: Breaking Glass Review


Spoilers Ahead

What I’ve loved so far about this season of Once Upon a Time is how they have managed to balance dramatic mystery with sweet and heartfelt moments. Moreover, it has been wonderful to see Emma Swan be featured so much in the forefront. She is the main character, but there are pieces of her past that have not been revealed and different relationships ready to be further explored. Her journey and ever-evolving relationships have been a joy to witness over the past 3 seasons as she slowly let down her guard and opened her heart. So far, this season has mainly focused on her finally being open enough to fall in love, but this episode revolved around the importance of friendship and revealed a glimpse into her life as a lonely teenager. Firstly, bravo to the Once Upon a Time casting department for finding Abby Ross. She captures Emma’s essence wonderfully and is a dead ringer for Jennifer Morrison. We flashback to 1998 where Emma meets Lily, another girl whom she thinks has also run away from a foster home. The two become fast friends, bonding over a shared sentiment of feeling invisible. It brought tears to my eyes when Emma told a story of a young girl being adopted, believing she is too old and has missed her chance. She believes no one will ever look at her the way this “perfect looking couple” had looked at that young girl. When young Emma and Lily break into a large house, they play video games, record a silly video and promise to remain friends forever. But when Lily’s father finds them, Emma feels betrayed by her new friend’s lies and walks away without forgiveness despite Lily’s tearful plea that although she has a home, she still feels completely alone. In spite of the pain, these poignant scenes were a welcome part to the episode and Emma’s storyline, for they illuminated just another reason why she has been so reluctant to trust and open her heart to others. Emma has so often been lied to by those who professed to care for her, and even if their affection was real, it does not take away the hurt and makes her guarded heart completely understandable. Revealing this glimpse of her past perhaps makes it even more beautiful to witness those pieces of her heart that were once broken slowly beginning to heal.

In present day Storybrooke, Emma and Elsa discover a photo of Emma with the Snow Queen taken by Sidney Glass. With no memory of the incident, Emma seeks out Regina hoping for information, but she balks back, saying she is busy trying to save her true love’s wife. In truth, Regina has been diligently trying to find a cure for Marian’s freezing spell and asks her magic mirror Sidney to track down the Snow Queen so she can force her to unfreeze Marian. Emma leaves but discovers that Elsa is now missing (she had been lured out into the woods by the Snow Queen) and so she ventures out to find her, stumbling upon Regina again who is now on Snow’s Queen’s trail thanks to her magic mirror. In terms of plot, this venture out into the woods revealed that Sidney was walking these ladies into a trap, working for the Snow Queen and allowing her to obtain a key item for her enigmatic agenda: she takes Regina’s mirror and breaks it, placing a final shard into a large mirror she has obviously been forging for a while. She believes she now can have what she truly deserves: a family that loves her. Elizabeth Mitchell’s performance is absolutely (for lack of a better word) chilling and I am vastly enjoying this mystery surrounding her. If it is familial love that she desires, how will her mirror help her in gaining this? And is that truly all that she wants?

In terms of character exploration, this episode gave Emma and Regina a chance to lash out their problems. It was very difficult to watch Regina act so volatile towards Emma, bitterly yelling at her for ruining her life, especially when Emma was reaching out to her in earnest. But one line of Regina’s particularly struck me. She tells Emma to learn to live with the fact that she has hurt someone. Regina’s flaws have always been her lack of self-awareness and misplaced anger. But here I believe what Regina is truly saying is that she has to live with all the terrible things she has done. Her lack of remorse may not be that it doesn’t exist, but rather that facing those demons inside is too difficult. So she buries them, because if she truly thought about them, she would realize something even more difficult and painful than a loss of love. Because of this, she lashes out at Emma. She deflects. It was striking to me how much this episode dealt with mirrors in both the literal and symbolic sense, in dialogue, physical manifestations, and figurative reflection. Until Regina takes that proverbial look into the mirror, she will never find the happy ending that she is seeking. Her anger at Emma certainly feels unwarranted from a viewer’s perspective but when looking at it from both a psychological and storytelling one, this hostility perhaps does serve a purpose. As far as Regina came last season, “losing” Robin caused her to revert back to her old ways, but importantly, not completely. It is easier for Regina to be angry with Emma than to look inward and be angry with herself. I believe this will be a crucial arc for Regina’s character that will continue to play out for a long time. Moreover, Emma’s reaction to the situation displays another layer to her character’s growth. Remembering what happened in the past with Lily, she did not want to repeat past mistakes. She regrets not forgiving her old friend and in truth was seeking friendship from Regina. Emma has her family but they can’t always understand her because they don’t share feelings of rejection or misunderstanding the way Regina does. Regina seemed to be honestly surprised by this and no longer wanting to kill her was at least a step in a positive direction. Will they ever truly be friends? That is difficult to say, but that small moment of surprise for Regina showed that there is hope for true growth for her character, and Emma’s hope that camaraderie is possible just further proves what an astoundingly inspiring person she is to extend that hand of friendship.

If Emma and Regina’s storyline provided a great deal of drama, it was well balanced with the sweet moments involving Snow, David, Belle, Emma, and Killian. David convinces Snow that they need a night out alone while Belle babysits baby Neal. It was brief but seeing Belle cradle the little Prince was truly touching. Will this be in her character’s future? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, Snow and David discover that Will Scarlet has escaped from his prison cell and David excitedly convinces her to go on a “Prince and Princess” adventure to track him down. After searching for a while they agree to separate, but as Snow is heading home she finds the thief, and suddenly thinks this was all an elaborate plot by her husband to make her feel like her old self again. This scene between Snow and Will was quite funny and a bright spot in a very intense episode. She pardons Will for his crime, who then takes off quickly and later she thanks David for his thoughtful scheme. Of course he had nothing to do with it but is happy to see his wife’s restored sense of accomplishment and confidence. Their scenes together showcased why these two are the staple of unwavering true love on Once Upon a Time. Always supportive, always showing each other affection, always expressing their love, and always finding each other: Snow White and Prince Charming never fail to demonstrate a relationship we all can dream to aspire to.

What was moving was that in many ways, the tender moments between Snow and David mirrored the brief moments between Emma and Killian that bookended the episode. The show opened with Killian offering Emma help before he took Henry sailing and giving her a small and sweet kiss on the cheek, another first for the couple. But the last scene of the episode, though more serious, was indeed heartwarming. After a long and draining evening, Emma pulls out a box of childhood mementos. Killian can immediately see that something is weighing on her mind and kindly asks if he can see some of these significant items. You can see the trepidation in her eyes, but Emma acquiesces because she is learning to open up. Revealing this part of her past is painful and new and the fact that she feels safe enough to do so with him is touching. He looks at each item with quiet smiles and wonderment and when he sees a picture of her and Neal, you can see both the uncertainty and ache in their eyes. The both cared for him and still feel his loss. Emma then discovers something she had not seen in years: the recording she made with Lily. Killian asks to see the tape and the look on his face as he sees his love young and innocent was nothing short of extraordinary. But he also shows Emma much-needed comfort as he holds her hand and puts his arm around her as she gently rests her head on his shoulder. Emma has felt alone her entire life, but now she has as shoulder to cry on, a man who will show her support and love when she needs it. Importantly, he gives this affection to her naturally and instinctually. He senses she needed comfort and she accepts it. This brief moment of solace beautifully showcases how much these two have grown to care and rely on each other. And the fact that Emma is beginning to experience what her parents find in each other is an exquisite realization for this once lonely, lost girl.

This quiet moment turns to one of shock when another scene comes up on the recording – one that Emma has no memory of. It appears to be another foster home and Emma and Killian are shocked when a familiar face appears – that of the Snow Queen. We knew that they had a history, but this was definitely a surprising twist with more to be revealed. Where this story leads is sure to be an enthralling mystery and I cannot wait for the next installment.

Favorite Moments: Emma and Killian’s new and lovely displays of affection continue to be unfailingly beautiful and touching, Snow and David’s little misunderstanding proved the undying support this couple has for the other, and Emma’s hope that she could find friendship with Regina was a very poignant and well-acted moment by both Morrison and Parrilla. David’s reference of falling through a portal to Asgard was also an amusing nod to his role as Fandral in the film Thor.

Favorite Lines:
Killian (To Emma): Reflective today are we? Show me. I’d love to know more of your beginnings.

Snow (To Will): In your mug shot you look taller. And smarter.

Emma: (To Regina): I wasn’t looking for you to assuage my guilt. I was just looking for you to be my friend.

Snow Queen: Mirrors reflect our mood, our desire, our essence. They are a temporary receptacle for some tiny refraction of our soul.


  1. GuestOctober 30th, 2014 at 11:26 am

    I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on Killian’s secret and how you think Emma will react to it.

    I posted this question earlier but had some computer issues. Sorry if there is a duplicate post.

  2. NatalieNovember 3rd, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    First of all, I appreciate your thoughtful review-I feel like few critics really give this show much credit. Second, I think one element of the show I’ve been struggling with this season is Snow’s character. Maybe it’s because I’ve never liked her as much in Storybrooke as I did in the Enchanted Forest. It’s not that I don’t appreciate her as a mother, I do, but she seems to have lost some of her spark. Deeming her mayor seemed arbitrary, and I hope that she gets a better chance in the future to demonstrate her leadership skills. Most characters seem to translate so well in Storybrooke that they’re even better than their Enchanted Forest incarnations, especially Hook, David, and Regina, that I just want to see more of the Snow we saw in flashbacks.

  3. MarianneNovember 4th, 2014 at 12:18 am

    Thanks for the comments!! The first regarding Killian’s secret I answered in my review for this week’s episode which will be posted soon. The second regarding Snow, I completely understand how you feel. I personally miss the dynamic she and Emma had before the curse was broken. I realize that you can’t go back because she is her mother, but I too would like to see a more fiery Snow this season. I think some of it has to do with balancing so many characters, and her limited presence so far this season may have to do with the fact that Ginnifer is new mother too and may want to spend as much time with her baby as possible That’s just speculation, but definitely possible. But I think there is going to be some great Snow/Charming things coming up so stay tuned 🙂

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