Monday, November 17, 2014

The Heart of Gold Shines

Review/Recap of Once Upon a Time 4.08, "Smash the Mirror" - Spoilers!

[A Quick Note On My Subject Line: I've been (kind of trickily) using lyrics from Frozen to head up my Once Upon a Time reviews this half-season. I couldn't really think of one to fit this episode, though (not one that I hadn't already used). But then I remembered the song the choir sings at Elsa's coronation - "Heimr Amadalr." The lyrics are Old Norse and I found the translation here (it's a great article about Norse music and chants and well-worth a read - guess HISHE got a few things wrong in their Frozen parody video). Anyway, I chose this particular lyric in honor of Emma learning to love herself and control her powers. And it has nothing to do with anyone else. And I mean absolutely NO ONE else, so get that idea out of your head right now.]

You know, if Once had more two-hour long episodes, I would watch the hell out of that. They do some pretty amazing stuff with more time to flesh out storylines. Also, some pretty painful stuff. But that comes with the territory.

First off all - Rumplestiltskin -

Now that's out of my system (for now).

One of the things I've enjoyed most about the Once meets Frozen is how seamlessly the Frozen storyline has paralleled what's been going on in Storybrooke. I've talked about how (before I knew Frozen was coming to Once) that I thought there were a lot of parallels between Queen Elsa and Emma Swan. Especially about magic and learning to love yourself and accepting the love others have for you too. And - oh man - did this episode deliver on that parallel. And I'm glad that I wasn't the only one seeing that as well.

Something that Once excels at is the ability to parallel the past with the present. Usually, the parallels happen because the fairy tale characters' stories are running alongside their modern day counterparts - but this time, it's more thematic than character-driven. Sure, Elsa's in both stories, but her role is vastly different in both scenarios. It's like they're already telling us what's going to happen in the present by showing us what happened in the past. It's quite clever and a lot of fun to watch.

Another thing - I'm glad that this season takes place after the events of the movie. I'm glad that Elsa and Anna (and Kristoff, of course) have already experienced all that growth that came from Anna's sacrifice of true love. Earlier this week, ABC put out a sneak peek of Elsa coming to see Anna in the prison cell and Elsa was all about "Aunt Ingrid said you attacked her and you're a terrible awful sister and you're going to be punished!" I called "shenanigans" on that one because - that wouldn't make a lick of sense (unless Ingrid was doing something pretty damn shady to get Elsa to believe her over her sister). But, luckily it turned out that Elsa was smarter than that and she had a plan (*insert "called it!" happy dance here* And it was a pretty ingenious plan.

Back in Storybrooke - well, let's deal with some... not exactly happy things. Actually, it makes life even more complicated, but that's what were here for. Robin and Regina have reconciled as much as they can (off-screen. On a family show) - which, while that's great for the shippers (and I count myself among the Outlaw Queen fans), man, that makes things tough in reality. Though it's interesting that Regina recruited Robin to be part of Operation: Mongoose and finding the author of the book. And boy, did that plot escalate quickly. Again - Once plays the long game with this stuff. I'm sure this will come back to be resolved in Season 4B (the eternal optimist side of me says so anyway).

Elsewhere, Emma's still missing. Henry does find her, but her magic's still going absolutely nuts and she accidentally hurts him, which leads her to go find Mr. Gold for a solution.

Excuse me -

And for those of us who've been paying attention this season and Know What's Up - the solution that Gold doesn't-suggest involves Emma being sucked into the Sorcerer's Hat Of DOOM! But yes, her magic won't be able to hurt anybody ever again! No problem.

(what a jackass)

To Emma's everlasting credit, she calls home and tells her folks that, yes, everything's going to be peachy! Getting rid of my magic, Mom and Dad! Be home in time for dinner!

(what gets me is that David and Mary Margaret actually thought this was a good idea. Man, the idiot ball is strong in Storybrooke tonight).

With Team Charming benching themselves in this round (to be fair, Henry's kind of got a good reason), it's up to Hook and Elsa - in their own individual ways - to step in and be there for Emma.

Of course, Killian knows precisely what Rumple's got going on. Because he was there the first time that lying sack of horse manure used the hat. So, he goes to Gold's shop to corner the wily old Crocodile (and yes, I jumped about ten feet in the air when Killian barged into the shop, shouting for Gold to show himself. There has never been a reason for Killian to be so pissed, but damn if it wasn't delicious to watch). Problem is, Gold isn't there. And neither is Emma. And what follows is the most heartbreaking scene in the history of heartbreak and if Colin O'Donoghue doesn't get nominated for a all the awards next year simply on the strength of his performance in this episode, there is zero justice in the world and I don't want to live on this planet anymore. That phone call where Killian confesses everything about the hat and Gold and the dagger and the blackmail - I mean, that would be enough. But there's that last line where he says he hopes Emma doesn't forgive him because that means she got the message in time to save herself. I had to think about that one - why in the world wouldn't she forgive him? But - in an episode that revolves around loving yourself and believing that you are enough - Killian Jones simply doesn't believe that he is good enough for anyone, least of all Emma Swan. Sure, he's got that cocky attitude and confident swagger - but that's all just for show. Deep down, he still thinks of himself as someone who's done awful things and been consumed with revenge and there's no coming back from that. Even now, even after all the heroic things he's done - he still believes that he is nothing more than a villain.

And here, my friends, this is why Killian is my favorite Once character. This is why I completely buy into the character twists the writers have given Captain Hook, even when I'm still a little iffy on Rumple and the Evil Queen. You want villains? Okay, villains - there you go. All kinds of motives to do bad things and get in the way of happy endings and all that schtick. Rumple just goes after more power - even after he promised on his son's grave that he would try to be a better man in honor of Neal's memory (well, that all went to shit after this episode, didn't it?) Regina - well, Regina tried to do good at the end of Season 3, but that went flying out the window at the first sign of trouble. She blames the author of some magical book and not herself for her own choices and her response to those setbacks. Killian - what does he do? Completely fesses up to his mistakes, even when he thinks it's going to cost him the one person that he cares about more than anything else, including himself.

And even after all that - Emma never got his message.

Speaking of Emma - that Snow Queen's twisted as all get out. I mean, yes, we got her tragic backstory last week. But, again, her response to trials and setbacks doesn't exactly recommend her for sympathy. If anything, I'm voting with Elsa and Anna to get that chick back in the magic urn.

Yeah - still not loving the whole idea of her making up her own family and forcing people to be part of it. I mean... really??

So, Emma makes a really crappy choice. One that the Snow Queen doesn't want her to make. And at this point, I'm torn. Rumple and Ingrid both are at odds with each other and I don't want either of them to get what they want. Who do I root for? The obvious answer is Emma - but what she thinks is going to make her happy isn't really going to solve the problem. In fact, it'll probably make things even worse. But keeping her magic - well, she can probably do a lot more with her magic than locked away in that old hat.

But we're forgetting one key player in all this. Someone who has magic and who's had it go berserk on her and who learned to control her emotions and, thus, control her magic. Someone who, long before it was officially announced she was going to be part of this story, I believed would have some wisdom and advice to impart to Emma - if only some intrepid fan fiction writer would oblige.

People - this is why Queen Elsa of Arendelle was brought on Once Upon a Time. Because she's been exactly where Emma is. Scared of herself, scared for those she loves, trying to run away (which, remember, up until last season was Emma's go-to solution for everything). Elsa did what nobody - not even Regina - could do. She showed Emma how to accept herself. And absolutely everything about herself. Her magic, yes, but also her past and her mistakes and her doubts - everything that makes Emma who she is.

Oh wait - I have a song that goes along with this. Hang on -

What's incredible about this is that Elsa is virtually a stranger to Emma. Sure, they've grown to be best friends throughout this season, but there are people who've been in Emma's corner for a lot longer. I guess it takes someone you just met to point out what your loved ones have been pointing out forever before you finally believe it (and this is not a dig at Emma. How many times has a parent or sibling or other family member said something to you and you just dismiss it as "Oh, you have to say that" and you ignore it?) But because it's Elsa saying these encouraging things to Emma and pointing out that she's been able to control her magic even without Anna around - there's something to be said for speaking from experience. It's like - Emma couldn't believe in true love before she met her parents and learned their story that she could believe in it for herself (that's what last season's finale was about). This season, Emma had to learn for herself that her magic was a good thing and it was part of her - it's not just a tool to be used in last-resort emergency situations.

And she can even make fun and pretty things with it. Like fireworks. Happy 4th of July, Storybrooke!

(okay, it's probably actually March, but you get the idea).

Other Things I Liked/Noticed -

- Robin Hood and Will Scarlet "breaking into" the library. During normal business hours. Good job, boys.

- This is me putting on my librarian hat - Why in the name of all that is good and holy is The Cat in the Hat shelved next to the car repair manuals?? Belle - what kind of cataloging system are you even using?? The Drunk-and-Passed-Out-in-the-Gutter system?

- Regina owes someone a quarter. No-effing-kidding.

- Elsa believing in Anna up until her very last moment before she's completely sucked into that urn. My heart...

- Someone on Tumblr pointed this out - when Emma takes Elsa's hand, the rainbow-light-magic-wave of True Love magic spiraled out. This is because Emma is the Product of True Love(tm) and that's what her magic is made of. I thought that was a nice touch.

It kind of feels like we're at a turning point here. And here I'm going to get into the part of the episode that had the RAGE MONSTER rearing its ugly head. Because here is yet another exhibit of Why I Hate Rumplestiltskin and Wish All Manner of Death and Destruction Upon His Head. Emma's fine - she didn't choose Door #1 and get hit with the mother of all zonks! and things are going to be okay. But Rumple's got Killian tied up in an effort to stop him from going after Emma. Killian's back to being all swagger and confidence and "yeah - eff you Dark One!" And this is where I'm back to being quite concerned for my favorite pirate captain. Because Rumple is a pain in the ass and he lives to cause grief in my life. Apparently, so does Ingrid. Because that little bit of info she whispered to Rumple last week? I knew it was going to come back and smack Killian in the head. And - behold - I hate it when I'm right.

(PS - Did anyone else twig that the last time Rumple had Killian tied up at the same time he's working to kill someone Killian loves was clear back in Season 2 when Rumple killed Milah? I could have happily gone my entire life without making that connection, but since I had it pointed out to me, I need to share the suffering. You're welcome).

Rumple rips out Killian's heart (Killian's bright and shining and pure heart, it must be said) and now, he's got himself a puppet that he can use without resorting to blackmail. And... I don't like where this is going. Because if Rumple can use Killian's heart to free himself from the dagger... Killian's either going to be trapped in the hat or dead. And since the writers would be batshit insane to kill off one of their most popular characters, I predict that Season 4B is going involve Killian being separated from Emma in some way because of that rat bastard Rumple and Emma's going to have to go on some kind of rescue mission to get him back (details not important at this stage). One thing's for sure - there is angst ahead for the good ship Captain Swan. And while I'm glad to see this because it means there's some deliciously wonderful storytelling coming for my favorites - it also means that this is going to hurt and it's going to hurt bad.

(I couldn't even fully enjoy Emma and Killian's little reunion because I knew that Rumple had Killian's heart in his pocket and I was constantly waiting for something terrible to happen because Rumple now has the means to control Killian and anything Rumple has control over is mucho no bueno).

For now - I have two weeks to stew in my rage and shouting and DAMN YOU RUMPLE! before the next episode.

(they enjoy my suffering).


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