Let’s Get Cold Together: Once Upon a Time, “A Tale of Two Sisters”

Princesses! Saviors! Princes! Sympathetic evil queens! Unsympathetic evil queens! Witches! A sexy pirate! A young actor looking increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of staying on this show! Magic! Time Travel! Distortions of every fairy tale and story you’ve ever know! Plot holes that no magic can fix! That’s right, it’s time once again for fairy tale Sundays, as the fourth season of ABC’s Once Upon a Time takes on Frozen.

SPOILERS BELOW.

A few words before we get going. I had only kindly feelings towards Frozen until my next door neighbors did a terrible, terrible thing: they not only bought their little girls Elsa T-shirts and sweatshirts, but bought them the Frozen CDs in English and Spanish. Parents, don’t do this to your innocent neighbors. Like, ever. Readers, you have not truly suffered until you have heard little kids shrieking “DO YOU WANT TO BUILD A SNOWMAN!” In Florida. IN JULY. Against the CD played at top volume. It is all kinds of wrong. We are talking actual tears pouring from my eyes here. So it is entirely possible that some of these feelings may spill out into these posts.

I felt everyone should be warned.

And now, onto the actual episode.

Previously, on three seasons of Once Upon a Time, so much happened that ABC needed a full hour to try to recap it, which is more time than I have. Here is what you need to know:

1. The show leaps back and forth between a land of fairy tale and magic and a town in a place the show likes to pretend is Maine, which was originally mostly without any magic at all and now has giant snowmen stomping around it, which I have been assured is not really all that common in Maine.

2. Practically everyone but everyone on this show turns out to be related to one another somehow. Or in love. Not, thankfully, both. (This is still Disney, not HBO.) I mean everyone. That random fire hydrant on the street? Is TOTALLY going to end up being one of Snow White’s grandfathers. Or Regina’s long lost brother. I’m calling it now, folks.

3. Rumplestiltskin (the guy who sometimes has scaly skin, and sometimes not) and Regina (the woman in all of the fabulous, fabulous hats) are evil when the plot needs them to be and good when the plot needs them to be. Rumple just married Belle and Regina is in love with Robin Hood. Roll with this.

4. Snow White and Prince Charming now have an adorable little baby who apparently will be played by a doll this season to ensure that no real life babies get stomped on by giant snowmen.

5. Emma, aka the main hero of the show, and Captain Hook, aka the sexy pirate of this show, totally made out, like, lots. Many gifs of this continue to give portions of Tumblr a reason to exist.

6. Henry, Emma’s biological son and Regina’s adopted son, has a Magic Book. This may sound boring but is about to be a plot point. Hang on.

7. Elsewhere, the Walt Disney Company made a hideous amount of money on a little film called Frozen.

Previously, on Frozen, Disney princesses Elsa and Anna had a number of adventures and met a reindeer and some dude named Kristoff. Also some things got frozen.

All caught up now? Great. Let’s go!

Over In Fairy Tale Land, the ship carrying Elsa and Anna’s parents gets shipwrecked, but fortunately not before their mother can throw a bottle over the side of the sinking ship to send her daughters one last message, like, maybe your daughters would be a lot happier if you were spending this time trying to find some loose planks to create some sort of raft thing to help you stay alive, just saying. We flash forward to a very sad scene of Elsa and Anna in front of their parents’ seriously oversized gravestones, which surprisingly turns into a happy scene when it becomes clear that yes, Anna is about to marry Kristoff. Which immediately turns into another surprising revelation: the Frozen stuff isn’t, like every other previous fairy tale treatment on Once Upon a Time, some sort of twisted retelling that puts a new spin on the old fairy tale, or, rather, the old Disney cartoon, but a direct sequel to the Frozen movie.

This was a surprise, and a nice touch for several reasons: one, the original Frozen was itself an alternative version of the classic Disney fairy tale cartoons in many ways, which were themselves alternative versions of the original fairy tales, so making an alternative version of an alternative version of an alternative—you know, I think I’m getting a bit lost here, but I also think you might know what I mean. Two, after three seasons, this show has already done a number of variations on “you only think you know what happened, but here’s the real story,” so changing this formula is probably a very needed change, and three, I, for one, was not looking forward to finding out that what really happened was that Sven the Reindeer was plotting to take over the throne from day one, only to have his plans crushed by Anna’s true love.

Also, of all of the Disney cartoons, Frozen is one of the most ripe for a sequel: after all, it ends just as Elsa has gotten back control of her powers. What could she do with that? That has potential.

Anyway, Anna decides to sail off to the Enchanted Forest to find out what her parents were really after, leaving Elsa behind on the docks to stare into Kristoff’s eyes for just a touch longer than she really should. Let’s all hope that scene doesn’t mean what I think it does.

Over in Storybrooke, Regina is totes sad because, thanks to Emma and Captain Hook’s past time traveling adventures, Robin Hood’s formerly dead wife Maid Marian, who is also the mother of his child, is all alive. It doesn’t help that Maid Marian says some very mean (if completely accurate) things. The other Storybrooke characters try to chase after and comfort Regina, but she, sadly, is not in the mood to build a snowman. Instead, she stalks off to the hospital to free the Mirror, the guy who used to work for her and carry out her evil plans until he got an offer for a lot more money from another network. Both of them kindly overlook that the real reason for his absence is that he’s been on another television show and immediately go back to plotting evil.

Meanwhile, Rumple and Belle are romantically visiting a gravestone, so that Rumple can monologue about his Evil Upcoming Plans before going on his honeymoon. Where he promptly freezes Belle (no, really) just as she’s launching into lovely romantic dialogue about being able to see the ocean from every room of this place and all that. Just to show that he’s not totally anti-romance, though, he unfreezes her and dances with her to the music from Beauty and the Beast. (Do you think they watched the cartoon before this, or afterwards? Cause Emma did point out, in the show, that Storybrooke has Netflix. Just saying.)

Incidentally? All of this? Happening while Elsa is walking around town, freezing dwarfs inside their vehicle, and pretty much no one noticing. For hours.

Sometimes I think this town deserves to be cursed.

Eventually, Grumpy runs down the street and announces that the town is under attack. Again. It’s not on screen, but I like to think that most of the residents just shrugged and went back to surfing the internet. Or watching Netflix. Whatever. Emma and Hook, as the chosen heroes, chase after Elsa.

At this point my brother, who had never seen the show before, wanted to know why the vampire was chasing Elsa instead of hanging out on True Blood. Show, you might want to update Hook’s wardrobe and eyeliner at some point. Just saying.

Anyway, all of the chasing finally inspired Elsa to build a snowman. Yes, I went there, but in my defense, so did the show. This was the sort of giant snowman that stalks through cities. Come on, we were all thinking it: the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Well, not all of us: Grumpy yelled out something like “EVIL SNOWMAN!” which proves that he really needs to be making more use of streaming video services.

The Marshmallow—that is, the Snowman—attacked Our Heroes, almost but not quite killing Marian until Regina showed up to save the day. This, rather than giving her the satisfaction of doing a job well done, made her cry and cry over the fact that Henry’s magical book of fairy tales never gave her a happy ending, just because she’s a villain.

Sidenote: this does not make any sense. If the book makes happy endings happen, then how come in just last season, the happy endings were all vanishing from the book thanks to Hook and Emma’s little Fun With Time Travel? I am not going to dwell on this.

Moving on. Regina announces that she needs to find the writer of the book and make him write a happy ending for her, which is all very meta. It’s about to get more meta in the very next scene, which shows Rumple summoning—and I swear I am not making this up—Mickey’s Sorcerer Hat.

The hat worn by the corporate logo of the producer of the show.

It doesn’t get much more meta than that.

(And in case anyone is wondering, yes, you can pick up all kinds of assorted Disney pins at the shop located right underneath Mickey’s Sorcerer Hat in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Including pins showing Snow White and the Wicked Witch. See? Totally meta.)

So now you have it. Disney is totally against villains. And against villains getting their happy endings. If the writer of the fairy tale book does turn out to be a mouse with a squeaky voice and large hands—well. It might be the first thing that totally made sense on this show.

Also, Emma and Captain Hook shared a tiny kiss. Captain Swan fans, your ship is still sailing. Even if at least one viewer temporarily thought it was sailing with a vampire on board.


Mari Ness lives in central Florida, near the lands of the Mouse.

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