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Once Upon a Time Review: White Out
Rumpelstiltskin. Peter Pan. Ursula. Evil Bo Peep. Three seasons and at least two dozen fairytales later, it’s finally come down to only the silliest for Once Upon a Time. Funny, fascinating, and just a bit too cute at times, ABC’s Frozen fairytale flirts with the best and worst of its newest story arcs while keeping the best in the cooler. A wacky new villainess and a string of strong narrative beats are hitting their stride this past week with all but the best to come.
Just an episode after its premiere, it’s not hard to think of the show’s eventful debut long behind it as Storybrooke quiets down. Trading its fast-paced plotting for a more measured pace, “White Out” wasn’t afraid to experiment while keeping the Frozen train rolling. Elsa and Emma are put on ice while we see just how un-princely David used to be amidst Mary Margaret’s budding leadership skills.
Among the best of these arcs is just how well Elizabeth Lail continues to embody Frozen’s heroine. Lail’s Anna seems to be more than at home in the pigtails and an unlikely sparring partner to a younger and more reluctant David. That Anna was too klutzy in her original appearance to be allowed near pointy objects makes the role all the more comical, but her take charge attitude couldn’t help but make our most unlikely teacher endearing rather than bossy.
What a mess David is, as per his usual schtick. A coward and not the brightest lightbulb in ye olde Enchanted Forest, he spills his escape plan right in front the enemy, and after he miraculously defeated her, running off without disarming them. Please. It’s hard to fathom that the man becomes the David/Charming we know now to the point where it didn’t work, much less take him seriously in a wig he stole from Fabio.
And the shepherdess in between them? Flat and superficial. The ludicrously fashioned Bo Peep, crook and all, amounted to little more than another power-hungry villainess of the week, and overwhelmed by a guy who only picked up a sword for the first time the day before, no less. What kind of warlord only has a few guards? Or much less sports a hoop-skirt? Her crook might mean nothing in a sword fight, but it’s hilarious enough to envision the discussions in the writers’ room that conceived the idea.
Tying the past to the present were Elsa and Emma trapped together, swapping life advice behind an accidental prison of ice. That could have been stretched out longer, but it’s a relief that we’re as far into the Frozen story as we are rather than riding a merry-go round of old bullet points. The two arguably share most of the episode’s touching interactions and Georgina Haig proves serviceable in the blue dress, flaunting the her awkwardness and strength, if such a thing is possible. It’s Emma that can’t control her powers this time around and the role-reversal Elsa is promising for Elsa if developed. Neither of them have real friends both of them hide their secrets, smartly asking what really happens post-evil for Elsa. They also get a couple of bonus points for working in “It never bothered me anyway” line for Elsa about the cold.
In the meantime, the action back in town has cooled off to a degree. Regina’s cooped up at home, no doubt cooking up something predictably evil, and a drought of Robert Carlyle’s Mr. Gold is always a feat to endure. The only snapshot we’re handed is a domestic one with Mary Margaret, one that’s hardly been interesting since the baby on the scene. Leave it to a simple power outage to bring just a sliver of attitude out of our fair Snow for want of lights and wi-fi. “I’m lactating and have slept seven hours in the past week! Find some candles!” she shouts. The reactions from Granny and the dwarves? Priceless.
It’s the clues in this episode that provides the most promising newcomer, though. Elizabeth Mitchell’s part is small at best, pointing to a past in Arendelle and a more inconspicuous one at that. Her introduction was intriguing, maybe too on point that she works at an ice cream shop, if not precociously cliché. Hook and Emma have docked at port, and refreshingly so if it spills into something more complicated with their mutual baggage in between them.
Frozen might very well be a firmest pillar to anchor the series. Elsa and Anna are developing since Elsa’s belting out “Let It Go” in theaters a year ago, and thankfully without an Olaf in sight. Yet the two can’t help but seem like a different series all together. With great power comes great responsibility, and now if only the two could bring something to Mr. Gold’s table, Storybrooke might be snowed in for a long and interesting winter to come.