Monday, October 27, 2014

That "Perfect" Girl is Gone

Review/Recap of Once Upon a Time, 4.05 "Breaking Glass" - Spoilers!

I don't know if anyone's noticed (no one's said anything - granted, nobody ever says anything about my reviews - but that's neither here nor there. I do this for myself), but all of the titles of these Once Upon a Time posts for Season 4 are all taken from lyrics from the Frozen soundtrack. It was a little bit of a challenge I set for myself - to see if I could find a title from any Frozen song that fit in with the episode, regardless of how much of a stretch it was. So far, they've all fit in pretty well (though I'm thinking I may wish that I saved my title for "White Out" for later. Eh, whatever).  This episode is no exception, but I am allowing myself a tiny tweak. Not to the words, but in how they're presented. And I will tell you why.

In the movie Frozen, Elsa grows up thinking that she had to hide her powers from everyone. Her parents ingrain her with "Conceal, don't feel. Don't let it show." This mantra becomes part of her to the point that she is incapacitated with fear whenever her powers start to manifest themselves. She sees her powers as a flaw - something to be eradicated. Or at the very least, hidden away. Hiding her powers is an achievement and something to strive for until she can do it entirely. Or, perfectly, if you like. Until on the day of her coronation, her loses control of her powers and everybody sees what she can do. And all her striving for perfection is gone. Elsa will never be perfect in hiding her powers because now everyone knows about them. Thus, we get the anthem of "Let It Go" - or, somewhat more accurately - "Everybody already knows that I'm a screw-up, so to hell it with! I'm going to show off everything I can do!"

So, when I hear the lyric "that perfect girl is gone" - I hear the sentiment of a person who was told that one way is best, but she can't achieve that because it's an impossible goal. Elsa's done trying to hide and trying to keep up the illusion of "perfection" - the illusion that she is the ideal ruler for Arendelle, that she has no magic and that she isn't a danger to anyone else. Because perfection, honestly, is killing her. It's killing who she really is and it's killing her chance at a happy life.

However, throughout the movie, we see that happiness is not found in perfection. It's found in being honest and real with yourself and the people you love. It's found in living your life and trying your best, knowing and accepting that you will fail and not everything is going to go your way. But it's also found in the fun moments - in the silly moments. Like turning the city square into a skating rink in the middle of July (or whenever that was) and letting everyone ice skate the way Elsa and Anna did when they were kids.

So, yeah, that perfect girl is gone. Because what Elsa ends up becoming is so much better than being this artificial version of "perfect."

That's great for Frozen and all - but what does that have to do with Once Upon a Time? Quite a bit, actually (continuing on this theme of "It would have been a crime against humanity NOT to incorporate Frozen into OUAT Season 4!")

She Now Joins the Plotline, Already in Progress

Regina Mills hasn't had a whole lot to do this season, admittedly. Then again, she's kind of been on... well, I don't want to say that she's been on a pout, per se. But holing herself up in her vault on the pretense of trying to find a way to cure Maid Marian doesn't lead to a lot of time and room for character development (okay, yeah, she probably really is trying to find a cure, but watching her dig through spellbooks and dusty potion cabinets does not make for compelling television). But in this episode, it was good to see her finally get a chance to stop with this reenactment of "Wizard Angst" and join the search for Snow Queen Prime.

On her way, she runs into Emma who is still trying to make amends for the whole Maid Marian thing. And Regina is totally justified in her anger - even if she's a little... over the top, shall we say, in expressing it. This situation is not easy at all. You feel bad for Regina for losing the love of her life in such a weird way. But you also can't fault Emma for her actions either. And it's easy to be mad at Regina for lashing out the way she does. But we do have to give her credit (as Emma does) that Regina is trying to save Marian. So, there's that. But Regina is certainly not interested in being friends with Emma.

I'm not really sure what I think of Regina lately. One of the things I loved about Season 3B is seeing how far Regina has come from being the Evil Queen that inspires fear in everyone she meets. A huge part of that was finding love with Robin Hood and how he seemed to be one of the few people who didn't hold Regina's past against her. Even back in Season 2 and the first half of Season 3, the people that knew Regina best still held onto those old hatreds - even when she was clearly trying to be better and earn their forgiveness. But Robin didn't - for whatever reasons he had (that we haven't had a chance to explore, but I hope we get there soon). Even with Marian back and her (understandable) fear of the Evil Queen - Robin still trusts and loves Regina, even though his code of honor forbids him from being with her.

I can understand Regina lashing out against Emma, even if I don't like it. Regina once told Rumplestiltskin that the only thing she has is her anger. It protects her and fuels her powers. And though we did see that love fueled her ability to use light magic at the end of Season 3 - well, now she believes she doesn't have love. So, she goes back to her anger. And we saw it in this episode - she is mired even more deeply in her dark magic because that's what she's comfortable with. Which means she belittles and threatens Emma. Emma's an easy target for Regina's anger. Even moreso since Emma is trying to reach out and be Regina's friend - that's when you're the most vulnerable and susceptible to being hurt. Regina sees that as Emma's weakness and she exploits it - leaving Emma to go back to the sheriff's station with regret and guilt and hurt weighing deeply on her mind, not just about Regina, but about things that happened to her in the past.

But yeah - Regina's storyline and her character development is complicated. I like how the story's being told, even if I don't really like Regina's actions right now. And not just because she's hurting my favorite precious duckling princess Emma - but also because it's kind of uncomfortable for me to watch. There are elements of Regina's story that ring embarrassingly true for me (and I'm certain other people have this as well) - where you've been hurt by someone you once considered a friend or at least an ally and you convince yourself that they never truly had your best interests. That they were always going to betray you in time and you have to wall yourself off against that ever happening again. Even when you think of going back and trying to patch things up - you're still afraid that it might happen again and you want to avoid that as much as possible. Even if it means you also close yourself off from true happiness.

Just some food for thought.

Seen It Before

I don't know about the rest of you, but I've been pleading for more Emma Swan backstory and in this episode, we finally got some (I really hope this is something that becomes a regular thing because I really enjoyed Abby Ross as young Emma). Emma's thieving ways started early - more or less out of necessity (and people wonder why she ends up with the pirate. Come on, people! This is a foregone conclusion!). She meets a girl named Lily who says she too is a runaway orphan and they team up to be lonely, thieving runaways together (so Neal didn't teach Emma everything about being a thief. Good to know). Together, they break into this super-fancy summer house (this being autumn in Minnesota, so all the rich vacationers are gone) and they basically enjoy their life on the run and become besties. It's damn adorable.

Except... it turns out that Lily is not an orphan as she led Emma to believe. Lily actually has a family who's looking for her - in fact, her dad is the one who's come to find her. And the absolute hurt in young Emma's face and voice - look, we know that Emma spent her entire life wishing she had a family. It was always in the forefront of her mind. She would give anything to have what Lily has - and Lily is the one running away from it. Try as Emma might, she can't forgive someone who would give up something (that she thinks is) so wonderful and great. Add the lying on top of it - yeah, teenage Emma is somewhat justified in turning away from Lily.

(to be fair - we don't know the kind of home life Lily has. But the fact that her father was out looking for her does give a huge indication that she is loved and cared for. Which is more than Emma's ever had).

One With the Wind and Sky

Back in the world of present day Storybrooke, Elsa thinks she sees Anna in the mists in the graveyard (yeah, yeah, ABC we get it - it's Halloween, you needed some spooktacular thing to put in your promotional stuff this week. Even though Once Upon a Time is a pretty Halloween-ish show to begin with. But whatever), so she takes off after ghost!Anna. And we know who's waiting on the other end of this mini-quest. It's a pretty straightforward trope - but anything to see Elsa make that ice bridge. Because that will never not be cool)

Snow Queen Prime shows up to be one of the smoothest villains that Once has ever had. No offense to the wonderful Rebecca Mader's delightfully evil Wicked Witch (who I adored last season), but I am seriously enjoying Elizabeth Mitchell's Snow Queen. She's evil in a vastly different way than Zelena - where Zelena was tough and brash in her confidence that she has everything under control and she's not above gloating at very victory, the Snow Queen is (appropriately) cooler and more subdued in her approach. We still don't have the foggiest idea what she's up to (I've really got to stop with these weather puns) and Snow Queen Prime isn't about to tell us. But we want her to tell us. We want to know what she's up to. And with the addition of this mirror... well, you really oughta go read Hans Christian Andersen's original tale The Snow Queen and you'll probably have a good idea of what's going to happen (and seeing as what the focus has been in the previous episodes, I'm suddenly very fearful for a certain dashing rapscallion/scoundrel...)

I needed another "Let It Go" gif in here. For reasons.
Date Night with the Charmings

Last week, Captain Swan got their big splashy date night and it was, appropriately, beautiful and feelsy and wonderful and made me all kinds of happy (and I'm just going to pretend that thing with Rumple didn't happen. Until I have to remember it for story reasons, that is. And I will probably start swearing again). This week, the B-plot was Snow and Charming taking a much-deserved break from sheriffing and mayoring and babying to have a nice night out together. Snow is, understandably, hesitant to leave baby Baelfire (I refuse to call him that other name), though even new parents deserve and need some time off. So, leaving the baby with Belle (FINALLY! She gets something to do!), they head out for a nighttime stroll. Except Will Scarlet has escaped from the sheriff's station. But that's okay - because Snowing (Snow + Charming) spent their honeymoon going after a gorgon (...yeah... that happened), so date night can certainly be chasing after an escaped convict (whose crime was drunkenly breaking into the library. Hey, I can understand. If I drank, I would probably do the same thing. Maybe).

Using her Mad Tracking Skillz (is that even a meme anymore?) Snow finds Will out on the beach reenacting Holes. And lovely Princess Mayor Rainbow Lollipop deduces that her charming hubby planned this whole thing in order to help Snow feel like a badass again - let the vicious criminal loose so she could have the opportunity to track and apprehend Storybrooke's newest village idiot (Grumpy was unavailable for comment).

Well - it was cute and all, but Snow really needs to have more faith in her own abilities (and the jail cell at the station needs some new locks. Put that in along the security system replacement budget. Betamax... I ask you...)

Rekindling a Beautiful... Tolerance

Back to Regina and Emma in the woods - they have some tracking of their own to do in trying to find Elsa and Snow Queen Prime (not hard when Elsa leaves an ice bridge to follow - wait a second...)

I will not tire of these
And Regina realizes that Sidney has betrayed her (to be fair, she did trap him in a mirror again), so she and Emma have to work together to beat the Snow Queen (and I'm sad that Marshmallow didn't make a repeat appearance. Then again, would I really want something of Elsa's being used for evil?) After they beat the Snow Queen and Elsa's freed from her prison, Queenie decides that she's got what she came for and she beats it the hell out of there.

(oh, PS - Regina's back to using dark magic again. *le sigh* And she'd come so far, too)

With this season being all about Emma, I think it's fantastic that she's trying to mend fences with Regina here. And not just mend what was already broken, but to reinforce it - by admitting to Regina that she hoped that the two of them could be friends. I mean, the Frozen Swan friendship is wonderful. But (sadly) it's only going to last through this half-season (as much as I plead on Tumblr that the Frozen characters could stay because they're all awesome). And even though Emma has her family and a guy that she cares about - she also needs a friend. And it would be nice if that friend understood something of having magical powers. Regina and Emma's friendship was kind of starting to develop last season when Regina was teaching Emma to use her powers - though at that point it was a mentor-student relationship and only born out of necessity. But wouldn't it be neat if they started to kind of like each other on a more informal basis?

Well - one can dream.

Other Things I Liked/Noticed

- I laughed mightily when Charming listed Asgard as one of the improbably places that he and Snow could end up on their walk. One, because there's nothing saying Once couldn't incorporate Norse mythology into their story at some point (or that Disney-owned Marvel couldn't let Thor into the place). Two, because Josh Dallas played Fandral in the first Thor and that was just a hilarious moment. So, thank you for that.

- Hook wasn't in this episode much, but that's okay. Once is an ensemble show and each storyline needs the time it deserves, so everyone has to take turns (as much as I would totally watch the hell out of the Emma and Hook show). But what we did get of Hook was awesome. Especially since Emma is opening up to him more - that he's interested in her past and her childhood memories and she's willing to share that with him. The entire ending scene in the sheriff's station -

If they keep giving me reason to use this, by damn, I'm going to keep using it!
- Elsa's new purple cloak thingy! Back when they were filming these early episodes, Georgina Haig either tweeted or mentioned in an interview that the flowy Elsa cape kept getting stuck on tree branches during scenes in the forest and they'd have to stop filming and get her untangled. So, I wonder if the new cloak was an innovation out of the necessity of her having to be out in the woods. Or if it was just her showing off her ice-wardrobe-making abilities and trying out new colors. Either way - I liked it!

- A tiny nitpick - but the young Emma flashbacks were supposed to have taken place in 1998. Lily mentions something about her strange birthmark making her feel special like Harry Potter. Except... Harry Potter really wasn't that big of a thing in 1998. It was around, certainly (Philosopher's Stone was published in the UK in 1997, Sorcerer's Stone in the US in 1998). But it wasn't quite the cultural touchstone it is now. It wasn't until Prisoner of Azkaban was published that it really started getting momentum and being this huge phenomenon. It's a tiny thing, but where I spent much of my high school and college years being totally obsessed with Harry Potter - well... don't argue with me on this.

- Snow Queen Prime's Fortress of Solitude was really cool looking. Scary as hell, but cool (sorry - no getting around that pun)

- Will Scarlet's fitting in nicely. Emma even shared her Pop Tart with him.

- Snow Queen Prime was one of Emma's foster parents back in the day! Can I just say - CALLED IT!!!
You need a villain gif to celebrate a villain theory.
- Who was taking pictures of Regina and Robin Hood kissing? Not to mention Neal and Emma? I mean... is the Person of Interest Machine sending out souvenir selfies as a side job? What is the deal??

In Conclusion

Regina's out of her vault (yay!) But she's still not exactly buddied-up to Emma. Or anyone, really (well, that's par for the course, isn't it?) Emma's pretty much let all her walls down and she's opened up to other people (still not over the kissing and the hand holding!) This episode was kind of like a "bridge" between all the high-powered emotional set-up in this stretch of the story and the (presumably) high-stakes plotline full of death and consequences (okay, there better NOT be any death because given who the candidates would be for Whose Demise Will Kill the Fandom the Most - I don't like my chances). And I have to say - it's nice to be able to go to bed without that adrenaline rush of "OMG THIS SHOW YOU GUYS!!!!!1!!11" keeping me awake.

But if this was the short rest before All Hell Breaks Loose... what does that mean for the rest of the season?

Next Time

Oh, Rumple. You hated it.

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