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Once Upon a Time: Rocky Road Review

Evil never comes alone to Storybrooke. Two snow queens should equal a formula for disaster in the making, but it’s a slow-burn to a battle of the blizzards as Once Upon a Time struggles to thaw out of its comfort zone. Between an icy new antagonist and a wealth of story arcs gone cold, “Rocky Road” can’t seem to heat up the scene just as soon as something wicked is casting some excitement on us soon.

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Our newest sorceress knows everyone it seems, as mysterious as she is fashionable. Elizabeth Mitchell’s performance hits an odd beat too–the Snow Queen’s obviously evil and Mitchell plays her with such polite, vanilla flavor that you don’t want to believe it. You can’t believe it, and therein lies the problem for a villainess all too happy to be another pretty face more seen than heard.

Back in Storybrooke, Elsa continues to share a few cute, if unessential, scenes with her new friends. On their own, Elsa and Anna simply fall back into Frozen clichés of the worried sibling and the magical, sparkly princess. Once Upon a Time shows just how much the show cost itself opting for a literal interpretation than something subtle, much less easier on the Frozen puns.

At least our captain stole the best quote of the night for his explanation of a cell phone: “I press the Emma button and she answers, usually.” It’s puzzling to think how uneventful Colin O’Donoghue’s run in the series has been since Pan, but at least he nails those sort of lines every time.

Beyond watching Emma comb the woods like always, we got the always nice highlight of seeing some her powers in action even against the episode shuffling around with the same baggage she’s carried since the pilot. Neither Emma or her dialogue can convince us she’s still coping with failing, nor is it possible to count how many times she’s claimed lying as her “superpower,” to greater or lesser effect. This episode she at least knew the Snow Queen recognized her, whatever significance that will lend itself to.

In the middle of the magic, it’s Mr. Gold’s “retirement” that’s proving to be the hardest nut to crack. Three episodes in, Gold’s uncomfortable absence reminds us once again just how much the show relies on the man’s masterful flair. A woman in his life might do the trick for Gold, but his lie to Belle raises all the best doubts, if not only for a minute. Old habits die hard as the episode’s hair-raising end would so lead us to believe and maybe we’re right in hoping that  good ‘ole Rumpelstiltskin is bringing this honeymoon to a spectacular end.

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Once Upon a Time in Wonderland‘s uncanny Jake Gyllenhaal lookalike, Michael Socha, also manages to pop up in an appearance of some note as Will Scarlett, and all too brief of one at that. He’s as charming of a Merry Man as a Knave of Hearts, if not an amusing addition to Once’s Sherwood Forest, but in the meantime Socha’s Scarlett is keeping a rather safe distance from the action.

Storybrooke couldn’t help but be left to the dogs in the meantime. They have a mayor they should all be happy with, but a gang of them are suddenly falling into this weird mob mentality that all started last episode. Grumpy may be their logical ringleader, but even Dr. Hopper? It can’t help but feel like even Storybrooke’s own are going mad with nothing to do. If only Snow got their wifi up and running.

It’s the scheming at the Mills household that elaborates on the most promising arc. Post-Oz, it’s Regina’s pain that’s been the most sidetrack of everyone’s in the wake of losing Robin Hood to Marian, and it’s only better she’s not liable to let us forget. Leave it to fate for Regina to be the one to hold her Marian’s own heart in her hands (quite literally) and make us wonder just how much revenge still means to her. It’s all like putting dope in a crack addict’s glove box and after four seasons, we can’t wait to see if Regina succumbs with her son’s love on the line.

Before it’s fourth episode, Once Upon a Time’s having quite the time breaking the ice. While our Frozen cast may just be warming up to the idea of risks, it’s someone of the old guard that’s more likely to be stirring up some more eventful trouble. Once inched closer to reuniting our two sisters, but if anything, Rocky Road proved just how long of an uphill climb ’til there’s  a real snow day.

Once Upon a Time airs every Sunday night at 8/7 central only on ABC. Catch all of the latest episode reviews right here at Leviathyn.


Good Things

  • Regina's Love Triangle
  • Snow Queen Intrigue To Come

Bad Things

  • Elsa's dull spotlight
  • Rumple's increasing absence
  • Storybrooke's losing it