Guess what beats the Snow Queen. (Did you guess love? Because the answer is love.)
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
Yeah… somehow, Regina doesn’t realize that Emma and Elsa have absconded to Ingrid’s Fortress of Solitude. Instead, she heads to the sheriff’s office, where she finds Snow and David, still sniping—and decides to change course. First things first: Regina waves her wrist and magicks Kristoff and Anna away to the beach where they first landed in Storybrooke. Then she turns her focus on the royal couple. She wants to kill them both—but she knows a swordfight against David wouldn’t be any fun. (You’ve got to figure he’d fall and accidentally impale himself a few minutes in.)
So instead, Regina lets Snow out of her cell, conjures up blades for both of them, and prepares to face her longtime nemesis in a knock-down, drag-out, magic-free fight to the death. Why no magic? Because Regina likes the idea of doing this the old-fashioned way: “I want to watch you bleed,” she hisses. Whoa, somebody got Game of Thrones in my Once!
Well, until you remember that we just watched Henry set a Home Alone booby trap for Hook… and we’re firmly back on ABC.
At Ingrid’s Brrr-ow, the Snow Queen is shocked to learn that her nonconsensual sisters have removed the friendship bracelets she made them. But she said no give-backs! No matter; Ingrid’s still going to give Elsa and Emma presents that she’s been hiding in her ice cream shop’s carrot sorbet bin. (Because who, in their right mind, has ever ordered the carrot sorbet?) They’re matching purple stones—one reading BE FRI, the ST ENDS. Or, you know, rocks that contain the memories she stole from the blondes long ago. Well, some of the memories; Ingrid decided to save just the good stuff.
If Emma peered into her stone—or some unaltered remembrall—she’d see tonight’s flashbacks, which chronicle Young Emma’s brief sojourn at Ms. Ingrid’s Home for Peculiar Children. The scenes don’t explain how Ingrid managed to track Emma down, or why it took her until 1999 to do so—but they do prove that the savior and the Snow Queen enjoyed a true bond, solidified by prank-pulling and carnival visits and pushing each other in front of cars.
Er, actually, strike that; Emma ran away from Ingrid after that last one. The Snow Queen, believing that Emma had begun to exhibit signs of magic, thrust her charge in front of a moving vehicle and demanded her to stop it using only the power within. Emma rightfully took this to mean that her foster mother was a total whack job and ran away from her that very night. Two years later, Ingrid traveled to Maine; somehow, the scroll the Sorcerer’s Apprentice gave her allows her to pass through the barriers around Storybrooke, and she started a new life there. (Why in 2001, though, when Storybrooke first appeared in 1983—is that just when Ingrid decided she’d had enough of pretending to care about foster kids? And how did Ingrid have the power to remove the savior’s memories when Emma came to Ingrid’s ice cream shop in November 2011—before the first curse was broken and magic returned to Storybrooke? We know Ingrid didn’t retain her powers when she came to Earth because she couldn’t freeze that charlatan of a psychic in Boston. Eh… details!)
Back to the Ice Cave action. Stones or no stones, Emma is prepared to take the Snow Queen down and end the curse—even though Elsa can’t summon the strength to kill her aunt. Ms. Swan holds up her hands, gets ready to save the town once again…
NEXT: Amor sororis omnia vincit
… until she’s interrupted by Anna, who got from that deserted beach to the Ice Cave in record time for someone without powers. (Has anyone ever drawn a scale map of Storybrooke?) She comes bearing a gift that could change everything: the message in a bottle Queen Gerda dropped into the ocean before her ship sank.
Turns out that it doesn’t contain Sting lyrics, or the secret to taking away Elsa’s powers; it’s a formal apology for trying to remove those powers in the first place. In the letter, Gerda laments how she couldn’t accept her daughter for who she was, and reveals that she has similar regrets about Ingrid: “I’d give anything to take back what I did, to hold her hands one more time.” The bottle also contains one last radical rock—a memory stone containing everything Gerda had troll-vacced from Arendelle’s collective memory. (Well, at least from everyone except Gerda—though we didn’t see her ask Grandpabbie to spare her from the memory spell he cast to make all the realm forget about Helga and Ingrid.)
At first, Ingrid responds as anyone would: by trying to strangle Anna. But then, quick as you can say Heel-Face Turn, she realizes that her sister really did love her and that Storybrooke doesn’t deserve this curse… as well as the fact that she can reverse it only by absorbing the spell back into her, killing herself in the process (in a sequence that’s either heartbreaking or cheese-tastic; your mileage may vary). “She sacrificed herself for us. For all of us,” Emma says somberly after Ingrid is gone. “Well, only if you consider cleaning up your own damn mess to be a sacrifice,” says nobody in response, somehow.
And so we’ve reached HugTime, when everyone who’s been afflicted by Shattered Sight begins to settle their disputes, beating their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Disney character will not take up sword against Disney character, nor will they train for war anymore. Hooray, the arc is over!
Well, all except for one loose end. Because even though Ingrid’s big plan didn’t work, Rump is still planning to use the hat’s power to free him from his dagger, to abscond from Storybrooke with Belle and Henry in tow… and to kill Hook. What’s that they say about there being no rest for the wicked?
– Is even Shattered Sight no match for a mother’s affection? Though the curse supposedly turns all loved ones against each other, Cursed Snow acted as protective of Baby Neal as ever. Also, during Snow and Regina’s big brawl, Charming helped out his wife at least once—maybe in his cursed mind, it was an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” kinda situation?
– Uh, when’s someone gonna remember that Kristoff is still lying unconscious on that beach? In a freakin’ blizzard?
– Elsa calls Anna the smartest person she knows, proving that Elsa really should get out more.
– Before Emma realizes how to get rid of the ribbons, she tries to cut hers off with a dagger (understandable) and… a shofar. What’s with TV and shofars lately?
– Cursed David brings up a good point about Kristoff: “What are you doing selling ice in Arendelle?!”
– But this is probably the line of the night: “That’s right: Snow White’s a murderer.”
– Young Emma really wants you to know she read Harry Potter. OUAT knows Disney doesn’t own that character too, right?
– Our season 4B villains—Cruella DeVille, Ursula, and a returning Maleficent—are officially on the way next week, and they’ve officially been dubbed the Queens of Darkness. Also next week: Pongo! Try to contain yourselves.
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