Tonight’s Once is an exploration of control—and more specifically, what happens when people lose it. Basically, there are two possible outcomes: the terrible one (murdering your sister, murdering the guy who’s trying to kidnap your sister, murdering an innocent brick wall), and the super-duper hot one (macking on a woman who is very much not your wife).
Let’s focus on the first, less-fun category, since that’s where much of the episode dwells. Exhibit A: The Snow Queen’s long-awaited fairybacks, which tell the tale of three sisters who want nothing more than to leave their podunk town behind and move to Moscow. Er. Actually, it’s a story that’s much like the beginning of Frozen (what a shock!): Ingrid learns as a young girl that she’s endowed with surprisingly powerful ice magic. After accidentally deploying said magic to tragic ends (would-be kidnapper, meet frozen tree branch), her younger sisters Helga and Gerda promise to help her figure out how to keep her abilities safely contained.
Spoiler alert: The princesses know next to nothing about high-level sorcery. By the time all three have blossomed into young women, Ingrid has decided it would be in the kingdom’s best interest for her to make herself scarce most of the year. She comes to the palace only for special occasions, like their father’s 70th birthday party—a shindig that looks an awful lot like Elsa’s Frozen coronation. The two events even share one of the same guests: the Duke of WeaselTown, here a strapping(-ish) young man with his eye on Princess Helga. And yes, even in his youth, he danced like this:
Oh, what gaiety! For everyone except Ingrid, that is, who stands off in a corner by herself and accidentally creates a sad little snowstorm. A kingdom of ice-olation, and it looks like she’s the queen!
As much as Ingrid wishes she could be part of that world (Arendelle’s got great dinglehoppers), she’s too worried about accidentally hurting someone to join in the festivities. Ah, but Gerda’s heard tell of a mysterious wizard who may be able to give Ingrid the help she wants. Just, like, 30 years after she first decided she needed it. Guess what his name is? You’ll never guess. You’ll never guess! You’ll never—oh, what’s that? You said “Rumplestiltskin,” like, 10 minutes ago?
Cut to the sisters paying a visit to the Dark One’s castle, all clutching each others’ hands like they’re trying to exchange long protein strings. Rumple, of course, has just the droids they’re looking for, in the form of a) a handsome pair of gloves that resemble the ones Elsa wears in the movie and b) that magical containment urn, which he tells the gals to use as a last-ditch failsafe. (And we all know how well Elizabeth Mitchell does with failsafes.)
He is, however, more forthcoming than usual with the siblings, telling them that they don’t really need either of his trinkets; the best way to help Ingrid is through their sisterly bond, one of the many forms that Twue Wuv can take. Whatever; Ingrid hasn’t yet seen Interstellar, so she doesn’t understand quite how powerful Wuv can be. So she takes Rumple’s offerings, in exchange for something seemingly insignificant—the ribbons she and her sisters have been wearing since the day Ingrid first discovered her powers, which represent the promise they made to always help one another. Great idea, Ing. What could possibly go wrong now?
NEXT: Everything goes wrong