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So yeah: Once is reeallly doubling down on the whole Frozen thing, huh? If you crunched a chunk of ice every time the cold stuff was mentioned by name in tonight’s episode, chances are you’d be missing a tooth or two by the time the hour drew to a close. We spent so much time in Elsa’s plaster stalagmite forest—I’m sorry, her totally rad ice cave—that there was barely a moment to spare for either Regina or Rumpelstiltskin. Both Once stalwarts got just one scene apiece (well, two for Rump, if you count his past self clutching his crystal ball and giggling); neither of those scenes did anything to advance the villains’ big season 4 arcs.
Instead, there was lots of Elsa, and Anna, and repetition of three core themes: 1. you shouldn’t build walls (emotional or icily literal) to keep people out, 2. impossible battles are the battles most worth fighting (think Anna learned this from General Custer, who will appear on the show sometime after OUAT starts mining the Hall of Presidents for material?), and 3. surviving isn’t the same thing as really living, man. (That last bit must be courtesy of uncredited OUAT consulting producer Matthew McConaughey.)
True, Once is no stranger to this sort of heavy-handed moralizing. In fact, it’s actually one of the reasons so many of us were won over by the show in the first place—its moral compass, wide-eyed optimism, and big, beating heart combined make Once a charming throwback when it’s at its best. That said, the themes were laid on about as thick as that plaster tonight—which is disappointing mostly because “White Out” was written by TV vet Jane Espenson, the Buffy alum who’s been behind some of Once‘s finest episodes (“Desperate Souls,” “The Miller’s Daughter”). Although she also wrote the Frankenstein episode. So.
We must, however, give Espenson credit for bringing to life one of Once‘s most delightfully weird creations: Little Bo Peep, the warlord who lives down the lane. She speaks in a wicked cockney drawl, like Adele accepting a Golden Globe. She’s dressed like Scarlett O’Hara wearing the curtains, only crazier. She uses her shepherd’s crook to “brand” people who owe her money, thereby making them unwilling members of her “flock.” She’s played by Robin Weigert, perhaps best known (among dads, anyway) for playing Calamity Jane on Deadwood. And Weigert, clearly, is having a total blast in her role, which goes a long way toward selling this particular brand of insanity.
NEXT: This chick never loses her sheep