Sunday, October 5, 2014

A Force That's Powerful and Strange

Recap/Review of Once Upon a Time Episode 4.02 "White Out" - Spoilers!

Okay - I might have a better handle on how to review these episodes. Hang with me here...

This episode returns to tried and true method of Once focus on a few characters at a time per episode, rather than the whirlwind premiere/finale tradition of dealing with everybody's stories at once. This go-round, the episode focuses on a power outage and a wall of ice plaguing present-day Storybrooke and flashbacks of Anna's continued journey through the Enchanted Forest.  Also, there were Feels Aplenty. From many of the usual suspects, of course (Hook and Emma are determined to kill me this season, I swear), but also some surprising sources as well (we'll get there).

Anna and Charming

Except it isn't Charming. Not yet, anyway. The press releases teased Anna meeting up with David as a shepherd, long before he became a prince and met Snow. And he and his mother are dealing with an evil overlord named... Bo Peep.

(Everyone, welcome to Once Upon a Time).

Turns out, Anna inspires Charming to stand up to Bo Peep, who is actually quite a convincing villain (I had my doubts before I actually saw the episode, I admit). I mean, the costume says "cute little shepherdess," but the attitude says "I'm seriously going to kill you if you don't pay up, kid." And, oddly enough, Charming is a real pushover. And there are reasons for it - reasons that I'm glad the show got to explore here. I can't remember the last time we had anything that dealt with Charming on his own - without Snow. I mean, Snow's great - don't get me wrong. But there's a lot more to the backstory in the Enchanted Forest than Regina and Snow's feud with each other.

And here - Anna actually teaches Charming how to swordfight (yeah, I know about Charming's metal hair band hair - just go with it. He was buds with Kristoff once, apparently). And I love that episode didn't make a big deal out of being a girl teaching a man how to fight - that it was simply one person having a particular skill set teaching that skill set to another person who needed to learn. It wasn't all that "Girl Powaaa!" nonsense that often gets in the way of a good story. Besides, that wouldn't fit in with Anna's character of helping others simply because it's the right thing to do and never mind the danger. It's one of the most refreshing things about Once Upon a Time. There's no agenda, no crappy message, no shoehorned statement - just telling wonderful stories with very real and personable characters.


(Elsa's ice barrier reminded me of the Midway Ice Castles, which are actually not far from where I live - makes me wonder if the Once FX crew took some inspiration from there. Or if it's just random coincidence. But, anything to use The Piano Guys in a blog post, right?)

Elsa, upon discovering her sister may be in Storybrooke, puts up ice walls all around the town which also knock out the power - vowing that nobody gets in or out of town until she finds Anna. But before that, over at Casa de Charming - Henry is packing up a care basket for Regina. Chocolate, red wine (how a minor got hold of that... never mind), a movie - and he's heading over to help her through this whole breakup with Robin Hood. And... I knew this was going to be a feelsy episode - but I didn't quite realize that Henry of all people was going to get this Feels Fest started this early! It got even worse when a raven comes by with a message telling Henry not to come over that night. And poor Henry - who is only trying to help and who is the one person that would probably actually have some success in getting Regina out of this funk - is completely torn up about his mom pushing him away.

(won't lie - I got choked up at that one).

Emma tries to console Henry at Granny's, but the kid will not be consoled (don't blame him) and that's when the blackout hits ("blackout" - "White Out" - oohhhhhh I get it now!) David radios to Emma that he's going to check it out and Emma asks Henry to come along, saying he could call it Operation Nightshade or some such - but nothing doing (HENRY!!! D: Look, this was a distressing thing for me - Henry's the heart and soul of this show and when he's hurting... that just ain't right!)

Beware the Frozen Heart

Emma and David head out to the town line and, yup, it's the wall of ice that did the thing. And who should show up out of the shadows, but Hook, who's evidently been checking things out on his own (and who Emma must have called en route, even though we didn't see it - eh, it'll be on the DVD deleted scenes, I'm sure. Or fanfic writers will make it up. Either way...) And there is just a wonderful little exchange where Hook calls this their second date - because the snow monster was the first date. He's got to count all the life-threatening escapades because they'd probably never get through a quiet dinner together. And what I love about this is that I can't tell if he's just being his usual sarcastic self or if he's masking something else that's cutting a little deeper (or if I'm just reading too much into it). Regardless, Emma's clearly still not ready for any relationship stuff yet (but bonus points for David breaking in to sort of try the "That's my daughter - what are your intentions" talk, but Hook - as usual - has some pretty great lines there. Bless Jane Espenson forever for that. Actually - bless her for this whole damn episode. Many fandoms consider her the High Queen Empress of genre TV writing and I'm starting to see why).

So, Emma goes to get a closer look at the ice wall and she meets Elsa. And Elsa is scared/mad as hell and she's not listening to anything Emma's going to say that doesn't have to do with giving up Anna's whereabouts (like Emma knows where she is). Elsa's powers go nuts for a minute and she seals herself and Emma in the ice wall. Elsa's still trying to bluff her way through this whole thing and get somebody - anybody at all - to find her sister. Problem is, Emma's slowly freezing to death in the ice cave (it's not a problem for Elsa because, well, the cold never bothered her. Yes, friends, that line was actually in the episode).

And - oh man - Charming and Hook's desperation to get Emma out of there. I mean, Hook's out of his mind with worry - trying to chip away at the ice with his hook (I think my heart just about fell to pieces there) - and then he grabs the radio from David when Emma makes contact from inside the ice. Basically, David's got to take charge and think things through clearly. The ice wall was made from magic - they've got to find someone with magic who can help. Which ends up being Rumple - who is (predictably) an ass about the whole thing. And David realizes that he does know Anna from Way Back When (he recognizes the necklace).

Oh - and we meet Bo Peep in Storybrooke. And that encounter was a nice parallel to the Enchanted Forest flashback because David isn't that scared little shepherd kid anymore. And he actually stands up to the woman. Granted, he's come a long way from that time, but it's still a great parallel - doubly great that the show can still find ways to make these parallels, even when the two worlds are so different from each other (yet similar enough).

Back in the ice cave, Emma isn't doing so hot (there's a time and a place for terrible puns, but this ain't it - sorry about that). Elsa tries to keep her awake and talking - in the interim, they find out that they actually have a lot in common. Both have magic that they can't always control. Both have had a lot of responsibilities kind of thrust upon them. They're basically kindred spirits - which, Elsa hasn't had a lot of (and I'm pretty sure Emma's never had that either). Oh, sure - they both have family and people they care about. But it's different when you have a best friend that you can confide in like that. Someone who's been through similar things that you have - who's had the same struggles with accepting yourself and not being afraid to let your true self show, even with the people closest to you.

It's like... last spring, before the whole "Once does Frozen" thing came about, I kept playing "Let It Go" over and over again. And I was continually struck by how much the lyrics just fit with Emma Swan's character. "Let It Go" is not an anthem of "Hey, I've got everything figured out and life is peachy!" "Let It Go" is Elsa basically trying to convince herself (rather defiantly) that she has things under control and she doesn't need anyone in her life because she just makes a mess of it all. It's easier to let your true self show in a way that alienates people, almost. Or that you think you're alienating people. That you believe you're too strange and weird and dangerous and once people see that, they'll leave you alone - that you'll be okay once that happens. And... actually... it doesn't. Even in Frozen - after Elsa's built the ice palace and become the beautiful snow queen - she still paces the floors, trying to control her magic that is clearly not going to be controlled. And it's only after she realizes that she needs to let herself be loved by her sister that she can control her magic. That it's not a threat - it's a gift, even. She says as much to Emma - Elsa needs her sister's unconditional love in order to feel like she can control her powers. And I have a feeling that something similar is going to come into play with Emma (especially since we had that moment where Emma tried to use her own magic to get out and it didn't work - even though last episode, she did use it briefly to try to stop Marshmallow. Though... think about it. Who was standing next to her in that moment? Being encouraging and believing in Emma like he always does? Yup - it was Captain-freaking-Hook. Remind me why I ship Captain Swan again?)

Anyway - Emma's in bad shape. Charming and Hook make it back to the ice wall with (they hope) means of locating Anna. Charming even tells Elsa that he met Anna once and she made a great impact on his life - she taught him things about being brave and standing up against bullies and Elsa is reminded of her sister and she is able to break open the ice cave and get Emma out. What follows is - well, I'm just going to let Tumblr speak for me because... the feels are strong with this one.

(smiles - hugs - hands - relief - David pretty much handing Emma into Hook's arms - I just... yeah - this show you guys. THIS SHOW!)

(The Piano Guys aren't helping in this instance, but I. Do. Not. Care.)

Mayor Mama Snow

By the way - Snow's been unofficially elected as the new mayor since Regina is indisposed at the moment (and because Snow cast the latest curse to bring them into Storybrooke - I guess that's how that works). This whole time, Snow's been trying to get the power back on (no thanks to Grumpy and Granny and Random Dwarf #6). Eventually, Snow gets the generator back up and running - remembering that even generators need to eat (thanks Baby Baelfire - and yes, that's what I'm calling him from now on) and she turns on the fuel line and gets the power back on. Thank goodness for unexpected comic relief (we kinda needed it in this one).

Feels Fest 2014

Hook, David, and Elsa get Emma back to Casa de Charming where Henry's waiting to kill us all with feels and hot chocolate ("I already lost one mom." OH KID COME HERE AND LET ME HUG YOU!) Hook and Emma finish the job with all this ridiculous cuddling and hand holding and looking for all the world like they're the new True Love Couple in town (which, they are). And David has this lovely little speech about how their family never gives up on each other and they always find one another - and then some FREAKING GENIUS in the editing department goes and does THIS to us all after that line.

Folks - I'm blogging to you from the afterlife.

Henry and Regina

And the episode is not done with us yet. Oh no. Because Henry's still got to go after his brunette mom. And emulating his blonde mom's actions of the previous episode, he stands at the door yelling for Regina to let him in because he's not going to give up on her and he wants to see her and he misses his room. So, what does Regina do? She lets him in. Because it's Henry. And I'm dead. Again.

The Snow Queen

PS - There's a Snow Queen in this episode. She owns the ice cream stand in town. And she's played by Elizabeth Mitchell (called it!) But I just don't have the energy to deal with that now. Next week, though.

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