How am I supposed to discuss Once‘s two-hour finale — an epic, fantastical take on Back to the Future complete with far-off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, and a princess in disguise — when all I can talk about, all I can think about, is that final shot, which may just be the most surprising moment in the history of OUAT?
That’s why before we get to the real recap, I’d like to pre-cap the episode’s ending: After the time portal has closed, an ice-blue Alex Mack puddle oozes out from a golden vessel and fills the tracks of Zelena’s time compass. (A sentence I never thought I’d type.) It comes together into a lump and forms a vaguely humanoid shape, which soon resolves itself into none other than… Elsa, ice queen of Arendelle. Also known as the star of Disney’s Frozen, which went from stealth musical to Oscar-winning global phenomenon in just six short months.
The movie’s cultural dominance single-handedly explains how and why Elsa made it from big to little screen so damn quickly — but even so, it’s a bit weird to think of Disney’s newest royal almost immediately joining the ranks of old, established properties like Snow White and Belle. Is her introduction coming too soon? We can’t really answer that until we see how the show ends up handling Elsa — not to mention who ends up being cast as her. (Would you like to see Idina Menzel or Kristen Bell in the role — or would that just be too weird?)
For now — ahem — I suppose I’ll just… let it go. Because we’ve got one hour and 59 more minutes of jam-packed premium fairy tale shenanigans to discuss. In a rarity for Once, season 3’s finale was an almost entirely linear narrative; with the exception of a few brief flashbacks to Emma’s past, which opened up both the first and second hours, the two-parter told just one story all the way through. And that’s the story of Zelena’s time portal, which nobody seems to notice until tiny Baby Charming’s coronation ceremony is well underway. (In the Enchanted Forest, coronations are grand palace affairs filled with pomp and circumstance; in Storybrooke, they’re held at the only restaurant in town. The poor kid’s already both the prince and the pauper.)
One may ask why the finale’s first few scenes spend so much time re-establishing information we already know: Little Emma longed for a true family and a permanent home. Robin Hood lost his first wife, Maid Marian, before falling for Regina. Snow and Charming met when she robbed him, then really fell for each other after fighting off a gang of nasty trolls. The answer, of curse, is that all those details — especially the ones about Snow and Charming’s first encounter — will become relevant again when Emma and Hook accidentally tumble down the portal. Strike that: Ms. Swan tumbles. Hook sighs, notes that “one of these days, [he’s] going to stop chasing this woman,” and heads in after her. Ahh, true(ly reckless) love.
NEXT: Hit it, Marty