Phew! Season 4A’s penultimate episode veered from campy fun to big-hearted earnestness and back again (see: the teaser for next week) so quickly that I’m still feeling the aftereffects of whiplash.
But which of those very different modes did the show execute more successfully? Well, that’s probably a matter of personal preference. Are you a dewy-eyed Snow White who frolics through life, smiling at strangers and charming bluebirds into doing your bidding? If so, you probably frowned during the mean stuff but clapped in glee during the evening’s big denouement, in which it turned out that love, indeed, was the answer to the Frozen arc all along.
If, however, you happen to be a cynical, suspiciously squinting Snow Dark—the sort of person who smirks with delight when fairy tale characters lose all traces of sweetness, who’s been yearning to see OUAT present a villain who isn’t wicked because of some past trauma, but just because being the evil character in a fairy tale is really freakin’ fun—well, in that case, dearie, come sit by me.
And please cackle along with me as we witness how the Spell of Shattered Sight has affected Charming and Snow: From adjoining jail cells, they’re sniping at each other in an exceptionally amusing way. She calls him a shepherd and a fraud, proving that even at her worst Snow is a lot kinder than I am. He sneers that for all he knows, Baby Neal is actually Dr. Whale’s. Boom, slap! It’s like OUAT meets Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and I could watch it all the livelong day.
Unfortunately, Kitsis and Horowitz have other ideas. They’re going to sic curse-immune Elsa and Emma on Ingrid—at least, once the blondes figure out how to remove the magical ribbons from their wrists. As long as they’re bound by Ingrid’s tokens—symbols of sisterly love—they can’t do the Snow Queen any harm. If those shackles were to be broken, though—say, by a hate as great as the love Ingrid bears her “sisters”—they’d be free to hold out their hands and shoot CGI fireworks at the ice witch. But where can they find hate that powerful, even in a Storybrooke grappling with a spell that’s all about hate? (Even Happy’s shooting a crossbow!)
Three words: Regina. Effing. Mills.
Or should I say the Evil Queen? Because once Regina’s afflicted with Shattered Sight, she basically morphs back into her pre-backstory season 1 self. The shift is signified both by a gloriously drag-tastic costume change—into a cleavage-baring goth gown worthy of Elvira—and by the satisfied smirk that creeps onto her face when Regina senses the Savior approaching her vault. Anyone else get the sense that Lana Parrilla misses this incarnation of her character as much as I just realized I do?
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Emma quickly figures out how to make Regina inadvertently give her and Elsa the help they need. All it’ll take is a few clever lies—first, that she brought Marian to Storybrooke specifically to screw up Regina’s happy ending, and secondly, that she’s been parading her romance with Hook around just so that Regina will be forced to watch the sort of contented relationship she’ll never be able to enjoy herself. Regina can’t tell she’s being played like a fiddle as she sends one of her signature fireballs screaming toward Emma and Elsa… and they hold up their wrists like a pair of aspiring Wonder Women. The ribbons absorb the flame, then disappear; Emma and Elsa scram, on foot, because there’s no way an enraged nearly all-powerful sorceress will be able to follow them.
NEXT: When Emma Met Ingrid