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Once Upon a Time: Frozen in Review

December 15, 2014

once-upon-a-time-frozen

At the end of the last season of Once Upon a Time, they revealed that they were going to do a Frozen storyline. My initial reaction (found here) was one of outrage. It was too soon to do Frozen, it didn’t fit the world, it was too commercial. These fears were somewhat assuaged when season four premiered (see my thoughts here), and it seemed that they weren’t going to neglect the major storylines in order to accommodate the Frozen characters and story arc.

That turned out to be largely incorrect. The Frozen storyline wasn’t necessarily bad, but it wasn’t great either. It was, by and large, mediocre . Major plotlines, like Regina’s (Lana Parrilla) and Robin Hood’s (Sean Maguire) relationship, Regina’s search for the author of the storybook with Henry (Jared Gilmore), Emma’s (Jennifer Morrison) and Hook’s (Colin O’Donoghue) furthering romance, and Gold’s (Robert Carlyle) deception with Belle (Emilie de Ravin) went by the wayside.

Once upon a time (pun intended), the main villains were Regina and Gold, so the world was fairly contained and all major storylines were touched upon regularly. However, starting with last season, the stories have centered around major guest stars: Peter Pan (Robbie Kay), Zalina the Wicked Witch (Rebecca Mader), and now the Frozen cast. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Major plotlines did move forward during the Pan arc, especially the romantic ones. And Zalina gave us a glimpse into Regina’s and Gold’s backstories. But Frozen was too focused on Elsa (Georgina Haig), Anna (Elizabeth Lail) and the Snow Queen (Elizabeth Mitchell) to give us any new information about our main characters, and their plotlines didn’t move forward until the very last episode.

I do have to give credit where it is due: Haig, Lail and Scott Michael Foster as Krystoff were excellent, taking hugely popular characters and playing them in a way that felt true to the already iconic original while breathing new life into them. Lail especially was a delight to watch and I expect we will see a great deal more of her in the future.

Sadly though, they were not enough to distract from the convoluted storytelling thoughout this half of the season. Pan and Zalina were in some way related to one or two of our main characters, but somehow Anna managed to meet half the cast during flashbacks that took place far more in Arendelle than in the Enchanted Forest, making it almost feel like a different show altogether. It just seemed like the writers were trying too hard to weave the Frozen world into the Once world, and it felt very forced.

Speaking of forced, the last two episodes wrapped things up in very sudden ways. While they did set up the key to defeating the Snow Queen in the first scene of the season, it still felt very sudden and unlikely when a simple letter made 30 years of a rage-filled evil quest come to an end all at once. Perhaps it’s because Mitchell portrayed the Snow Queen too cool (again, pun intended), so a sudden reverse felt out of character, but I really feel that the writing is more to blame. The phrase “deus ex machina” came to mind, and not just then.

In the final episode of the arc, Anna is about to walk through the door to Arendelle (which conveniently appeared suddenly) when she reveals what she knows about Gold, another deus ex machina moment that felt too convenient, as it gave our heroes the clue that Gold was up to no good as usual. The only good thing that came out of that was that Belle finally figured out that Gold was lying to her and grew a backbone at last, banishing him from the town.

That was about the only real character moment in the finale, with the possible exception of Regina telling Robin he had to go with Marian (Christie Laing) and their son into the real world to save Marian’s life. But even that felt like a convenient device to further Regina’s quest to find the author of the book, a storyline that had barely been mentioned all season but is apparently now extremely important again.

Overall, the Frozen arc was unsatisfying, and the midseason finale was all fluff and setup for the second half of the season, where we will be dealing with Ursula (Merrin Dungey), Cruella de Vil (Victoria Smurfit) and Maleficent (Kristin Bauer van Straten). While I have low expectations for these so-called “Queens of Darkness”, at least they are from the Enchanted Forest and we’ve seen two of them before.

One can only hope that OUAT gets better from here, and they use the new villains to further the plot and character development of our main characters instead of taking over the story.

Once Upon a Time returns Sunday, March 1st at 8pm on ABC.

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