Once Upon a Time: The Snow Queen Review

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by Marianne Paluso (Marianne_P81)



What if something that made you special and unique could also hurt the people you loved the most? And what if those that you loved suddenly looked at you in fear as if you were a monster? Those were the questions raised on this week’s Once Upon a Time, “The Snow Queen,” an episode beautifully executed in terms of performance, meaningful parallels, and emotional resonance.

In Arendelle of the past the tragic history of the Snow Queen Ingrid is revealed. As a child Ingrid and her younger sisters Helga and Gerda discover Ingrid’s power after a dangerous kidnapping attempt from a stranger. After this event, they form an even stronger sisterly bond symbolized in the yellow ribbons they each wear, vowing to always look out for each other and help Ingrid learn to control her magic. But years pass and Ingrid’s power only grows stronger, so much so that the sisters seek out Rumplestiltskin for help. He offers her gloves that can conceal her magic as well as an urn that can trap her in exchange for their ribbons, claiming that with enough love even ordinary objects can posses a special kind of magic. This is reminiscent of the hairs he collected from Snow and Charming which formed a True Love potion, and leads me to believe that these ribbons are special indeed. Unfortunately for Ingrid, this journey did not end her suffering. After Helga’s intended the Duke of Weselton makes advances towards Ingrid and her magic comes out, Helga tries to intervene and is accidently frozen and crumbles to pieces in front of Ingrid’s horrified eyes. Elizabeth Mitchell played the scene with such shock, horror, and devastation that it brought tears to my eyes. And when Gerda discovers what happened, calls her sister a monster, and traps her in the urn, I have never felt more sympathy for a Once Upon a Time villain.

This tragedy from Ingrid’s past fuels her motivations in the present, perhaps even more disturbing considering the sadness that led her to this dark place. But I would be remiss if I did not first discuss a significant development for Regina and Robin’s relationship. Robin seeks out Regina telling her that his heart keeps leading him to her. But she says if he wants to save Marian he must forget about her. Hearing about his conflicted heart is understandably tortuous for her and Robin feels completely lost. But it is a conversation Robin has with Will Scarlet about love that proves to be profound and inspiring, further solidifying the theme for the season. Firstly, the fact that we still don’t know what happened to his true love Anastasia is alarming. Whatever her fate, Will remains silent. But beautifully so, his ability to see the good in others and belief that love is always worth fighting for remains the same. This moment leads Robin to ignore his sense of honor and duty, throw caution to the wind, and kiss Regina. A passionate kiss it was, but also an easy solution and end to their story. Part of what Regina loves about him is that he is an honorable man and the fact that this goes against that honor will surely lead to dramatic complications.

Meanwhile, a pleasant gathering of new moms including Cinderella, Aurora, and Snow turned to one of sorrow as Emma arrives and sees not only what she missed as a child, but also what she was not able to do with Henry. This brings up painful emotions that causes her magic to make the bottle she’s holding suddenly boil. And when Emma reaches out to her baby brother, Snow pulls back in hesitation, exactly the kind of reaction Ingrid was hoping for. Speaking of Ingrid, they are able to capture her and bring her to the Sheriff’s Station for interrogation. In truth, she let herself be caught merely as a plan to get inside Emma’s head and drive a wedge between her and her family. These scenes were quite painful to watch but Jennifer Morrison played them with such brilliance as we see Emma slowly unravel in the wounded expressive looks in her eyes and tone in her voice. Ingrid plays upon Emma’s deep fears and scars: her abandonment issues, feeling more like a savior than a daughter, and worst of all that her parents are so happy to finally have a child who is “normal.” Though it’s quite possible that baby Neal has magic too, the point to this heart wrenching dialogue was to make Emma question the one thing she was at last happily embracing: true love in all its forms. She gets so angry that she accidentally blasts a hole through a wall to the station. Ingrid disappears having succeeded in her plot, while Emma is left behind horrified. Her parents, Killian, Henry, Elsa, Rumple and Belle all arrive and she warns them to stay back unable to control her magic. And tragedy almost repeated itself in the emotional scene that followed.

It is important to examine the way this scene was crafted from a visual and storytelling perspective. Elsa of course would completely understand what Emma is going through but she is a new friend so far away from her in the scene. It is David and Killian who are physically closest to Emma, significant because they are the two people who understand Emma the most and have experienced situations similar to what befalls her now. In 3×14 “The Tower” David literally fought his darkest self, one that was letting fear that he would fail as a father overcome him. And most recently, in 4×4 “The Apprentice” Killian feared a dark side was returning after Rumple reattached his hand. This second parallel especially is compelling as both Rumple and Ingrid relate that they were merely showing Killian and Emma who they truly are, playing on their deepest fears and insecurities. David was able to overcome his fears when he accepted that they were a part of him. But Killian has yet to overcome his doubts, which will quite possibly mirror Emma’s current struggle. Moreover, in this scene when Killian reaches out for her, magic blasts out of her knocking over a lamppost. Killian is so concerned for Emma that his gaze never leaves her as David pushes him out of harm’s way of the falling post. Snow yells at her daughter and Emma’s expression was what was truly tragic. Of course Snow instantly regretted her reaction but Emma quickly flees the scene and her loved ones. This provided another resonant parallel. At essentially the same time last season in 3×6 “Ariel,” Emma had to listen to her mother express her deep sadness of having to give Emma up and her desire to have another baby. And now Emma is once again hurt by her mother. I was glad to see Snow so quickly realize that in that moment she failed as a mother. She may love her daughter very much, but she still does not completely connect with her. This season, I hope to see them work to become as close and connected as Emma and Mary Margaret once were.

Moreover, it was both lovely and sad to see Killian be the only one to physically reach out to Emma and the look on his face was not one filled with fear but deep concern for the woman he loves. He has proven to be someone who can comfort her when she’s sad, lift her up when she’s doubtful, and urge her to embrace the magic within her. And in this moment when he so desperately wants to help her he cannot. She won’t let him or anyone else. With worries and uncertainty causing her emotions to run high, the magic she has finally begun to embrace becomes something she does not feel proud of but rather fearful of. Importantly, Emma has been hurt her entire life so much so that her coping mechanism became repression. Never one to be unguarded, her ability to love and feel has always been there but reluctant to surface. And now that she has slowly begun to open herself up again to love, to no longer conceal her feelings, she is faced with the horrific possibility of hurting those she cares for the most. As heartbreaking as this seems for Emma’s character, it feels like a necessary step on her road to happiness. Sometimes the most arduous of circumstances lead us to realize just how strong we are. Once Upon a Time demonstrates how True Love is the most powerful magic of all. And if this season is about never giving up on those we love, it feels almost certain that Killian, Henry, and her parents will never give up on her, while she will learn to never give up on herself. For Killian and Emma especially it is beautiful to remember how much they’ve done for each other. She made him believe in love again and he encouraged her to believe in herself. She gave up her magic to save his life and he gave up his ship to bring her back home. They so willingly gave up pieces of themselves for the other that it is certain that they will never give up on each other.

In the final scene, Ingrid comes to Rumple to make a deal. She will tell him the final illusive thing he must do to cleave himself from the power of the dagger in exchange for her yellow ribbons. He agrees and after she whispers it to him, he says he will take great pleasure in performing this final task. What could it be? Anyone who diligently watches the show would agree that only one thing would give Rumple that look of sadistic pleasure: hurting Killian. Though it could be something else, I am sure it still stings that Milah chose to be with Killian instead of him and he no doubt would take great pleasure in taking love away from him again. Whatever is next will surely continue to be painful as the past few episodes have been. This is the crucial darkest point to the first half of the season. When all hope seems lost, that is when love and faith truly prevail against all odds. The pain is potent, but if you are fighting for true love it is always worth it.

Favorite Moments:
Though truly painful to watch I marveled at Jennifer Morrison and Elizabeth Mitchell’s performances are they watched their loved ones reactions to their magic. Will Scarlet’s speech about love also helped to remind me why I loved his character in Wonderland so much and solidified a beautiful overarching theme for not only this season but the entire series: that True love is rare and always worth fighting for.

Favorite Lines:

Will Scarlet: When you see the good in someone you don’t give up on them, especially if they don’t see it in themselves. And if you’re ever lucky enough to find true love, you fight for it. Every day.

Killian: [The mirror] must be broken. I’ve been staring at it all day and I think I’m even more devilishly handsome and charming than usual.

Elsa: Can you read this?

Emma: Elvish? No I didn’t even see Lord of the Rings.


    One Comment

  1. GuestNovember 14th, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Thank you for this article, I really enjoyed it.

    Do you think that Emma will give up her powers?

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