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Once Upon a Time - Breaking Glass - Review

Another strong entry in this season of Once Upon a Time. I enjoyed this episode more than last week’s, and though one or two things bugged me while watching, on the whole I had fun with this one. I love that the show is consistently calling back to the first season, keeping the viewer in familiar territory while showcasing four seasons of growth. Finally, we are getting more glimpses into Emma’s back story, as well as seeing the further development of the savior’s character. I loved the scene with Emma and Hook at the end because of what it meant for Emma to open up like that. And of course, the Snow Queen. As always, the villains of Once Upon a Time are one of the show’s strongest elements and this newest one is no exception. I have to admit, Sydney’s part in the episode caught me off guard, making for an enjoyable twist. The more answers we get, the more questions I have.

The episode opens with the Snow Queen, already setting up a frosty base somewhere in Storybrooke. She’s performing her signature ice magic, creating what looks like a frozen golem. Clearly, no good will come of this. I love the look of the Snow Queen, but it’s Elizabeth Mitchell’s performance that really makes the character for me. She’s so, for lack of a better word, cold; so calculating and driven, like an icicle straight to your heart. The quiet, sinister vibe she gives off contrasts sharply with Elsa’s surprising warmth and her caring demeanor. This is something we haven’t seen yet on Once Upon a Time, the contrast between the Disney-fication of a tale and it’s darker, more traditional source. Seeing both versions of this story battling against each other has proven to be both entertaining and intriguing.

Over at the sheriff’s station, Emma and Elsa are pulling boxes upon boxes of files out of storage in hopes that they will be able to find some clue regarding the Snow Queen. It really sticks with Emma that both she and her new friend have had dealings with the ice witch and neither can remember. Hook arrives from the mayor’s office with more files and he’s still sporting his new modern threads, so when is Elsa going to ditch the sparkly blue dress? During our heroes search, the Knave of Hearts, who is still captive in the jail cell, has been making quite a racket. The Knave is literally two seconds away from banging on the bars of his cell with a tin cup, looking for his dinner. Emma placates the thief with a pop tart, then goes back to her search.

As Elsa and Emma go through the old files from the mayor’s office, they come across an envelope full of old pictures of Emma and Henry, ones taken by Sydney Glass as he spied on the savior at the behest of Regina. Seeing those pictures reminds Emma of when she first arrived in town and I admit as a long time viewer it was nice to get a reminder of how all this craziness began. But Emma is soon shocked to find a picture of herself and the Snow Queen having what looks to be a confrontation in the ice cream parlor. Emma is shaken that she has no recollection of meeting the Snow Queen while the first curse was in effect, but knows that Sydney must and she and Elsa head out to find the missing mirror. This has to be one of the more interesting developments for me because it throws a few questions into the air, the biggest one I have being if Emma supposedly met the Snow Queen back in season one, what did we miss? Are there more moments than just this one encounter caught on film that we haven’t seen? How much time did the Snow Queen erase from Emma’s memory and what effect will that have on events from season one that we thought we knew?

Over at the vault, Regina is getting more and more frustrated that she can’t find a cure for Marian. Sydney appears in his mirror and takes the opportunity to sass Regina about her various nemeses when the queen demands to know if he’s located the Snow Queen yet. The magical mirror has had no luck in that department, preventing Regina from forcing Her Royal Iciness to lift the freezing curse on Marian. In her frustration, Regina has no qualms in threatening Sydney in order to get results from him, which upon a second viewing of the episode should have set off warning bells in my head.

Emma and Elsa arrive just outside the vault and Emma hesitates to go in and talk to Regina. Those pictures she and Elsa uncovered reminded Emma of her old season one rivalry with Madam Mayor. Emma remarks that they are right back to that conflict, though to me it seems that season one Regina would go out of her way to make Emma’s life miserable, while season 4 Regina just wants to be left alone and to stew in her own negative thoughts. Elsa is optimistic that if the pair was able to mend fences before, they would be able to do it again. However, Emma is firm in the belief that once you screw someone over, you can never take that back. As we will see from the flashbacks in tonight’s episode, young Emma had a terrible experience with giving someone her trust and then having it betrayed. Elsa is smart enough to realize that she doesn’t want to be around for this one and opts to wait in the car. Is it weird it bothered me that Emma didn’t leave Elsa the keys so she could at least listen to the radio?

We flashback to a young Emma Swan who we see is terrible at shoplifting. Emma is found out easily, but lucky for her, a strange girl saves her bacon, or in this case ill-gotten pop tarts. The mystery girl helps the soon to be savior pull off a con and get the groceries, but the coast isn’t clear as the girls are chased by a man in a car as they leave the store. Once the pair make it to safety, they introduce themselves. The mystery girl’s name is Lily. Could this be short for Tiger Lily, the Indian maiden from the Peter Pan tale? Theories online are already enthusiastic about the possibility, though I’m not so sure. What do you think, readers?

A little while later, young Emma and her new friend are enjoying a meal from their stolen groceries. Emma explains how she ran away from her foster home and references the flashback we saw in episode 3x21 "Snow Drifts", where she saw another little girl get adopted and realized that she was too old, that no one cared for her or wanted to adopt her. Lily sympathizes, commenting that she knows what it’s like to feel invisible and unwanted. Emma reasons that the man chasing them must have been a social services worker who was after Lily, though the girl’s hesitation speaks to the fact that this might not be the case. Changing the subject, Lily tell Emma of her grand scheme, to squat in some nearby summer homes that are closed for the winter. And she wants Emma to come with her, figuring they are better off sticking together. Because Emma’s childhood was so traumatic, we know this friendship will not end well and its worst knowing this because it seems like Emma finally found someone who understood and appreciated her, who liked the soon to be savior for herself alone.

Back in present day Storybrooke, Emma wanders down into the vault and finds Regina, who is rather hostile at the intrusion. The queen knows nothing of the picture troubling Emma and doesn’t offer to direct her to Sydney when the savior mentions that she wants to question him, yet no one knows where he is. Regina wishes to be left alone to solve the problem she believes Emma created. The savior earnestly wants to help Regina with her problem, but the queen scoffs and claims that Emma “never had her back”. Emma seems very keen to mend things between her and Regina. Could part of her gradual acceptance of letting people in to her life be the need to fix relationships instead of running away from them?

Emma leaves the vault so she and Regina can focus on their separate goals, only the savior find Elsa has vanished from the car. It turns out the ice queen heard Anna’s voice calling for help and left to investigate. So while Emma goes on the hunt for the missing Elsa, Regina, who had been pining over a photo of her and Robin (who took this photo by the way, no one was in the room when this happened), gets news of her own. Sydney has reappeared in the mirror’s refection once more, eager to inform his queen that he has located the Snow Queen's lair. Well, that was easy. At first, magic mirror wants to bargain for the information. Sydney no longer wishes to be kept under glass, but Regina isn’t foolish enough to grant his request without knowing that he actually has the information she seeks. The pair argue for a moment and Regina reminds Sydney that instead of the mirror she can banish him back to the hospital basement any time she wants. This causes the magic mirror to yield and begin explaining how his queen can find the one she seeks. Throughout this entire exchange, Sydney seems much more smug and less simpering and groveling towards Regina than we’ve seen in the past. Well, except for that one time back in season one when he was conning Emma. Hmm.

And so, we cut to Regina Mills, Action Sorceress tramping through the woods using a compact to keep in touch with Sydney as if he was her personal GPS. Emma, on her own search, stumbles upon the queen and explains her hunch that Elsa went off the find the Snow Queen by herself. Emma is curious as to what Regina is doing in the woods at night by herself. Certainly not gardening. Regina admits that she is also snooping around trying to find the Snow Queen so that maybe she can be forced to lift the frozen curse on Marian. Emma believes that it’s best if they stick together since they share a common goal, but Regina is less than thrilled at the idea. She is again hostile towards the savior, not in her normal sassy way, the queen is downright mean to Emma. Regina really has no time for the savior.

Further in the woods, Elsa is running through the brush looking for Anna, following the sound of her voice. She comes across a large ravine and spies her sister on the other side. With a flourish of her hands, Elsa of Arendelle performs some impressive ice magic (and a nice bit of CGI. Seriously, it looks good) and creates a bridge to go after her sister. But Elsa maybe makes it a few steps across when Anna disappears from sight, pushing Elsa to hurry up. When the icy queen finally finds Anna, she is more than relieved, however this is short lived when the Snow Queen arrives out of nowhere.

The Snow Queen banishes Anna, who was in fact the ice golem from the beginning of the episode, and chains Elsa to the forest floor. The Snow Queen needs Elsa, she desires that Elsa control her fear. There is a reference made to the fact that Elsa did once have the chance to master her fears and squandered the opportunity. I wonder if the Snow Queen made good on her promise to teach Elsa in the past, only for a falling out to have occurred between them. Perhaps that was caused by Anna, which is why she is now missing. The Snow Queen informs Elsa that the more frightened she is, the tighter her chains will bind her, keeping her out of the Snow Queen’s way. And then one of my favorite bits of dialogue from this episode occurs. The Snow Queen, so softly and gently tells Elsa that she could tell her everything will be fine, that she won’t be harmed, but the young woman’s fear and worry are what the Snow Queen needs right now. Just… brrrrr! This Snow Queen is shaping up to be quite sinister. I love how that line was read, that yes she could tell Elsa everything she wants to hear, but the ugly truth, the truth that will make the Queen of Arendelle squirm, is what will serve the Snow Queen better.

While this is going on, Emma and Regina are still wandering around in the woods. Regina berates Emma for her lack of magical knowledge and crushes the savior off when she mentions how well she did under Regina’s tutelage. Man, Emma is laying on the compliments pretty thick and I think this has to be the one thing that bothered me the most about the episode. Regina was pretty abusive to Emma throughout this episode and I’m honestly surprised Emma didn’t say “To hell with this” and left Regina in the woods. In fact, in this scene Regina really loses her temper with Emma, expressing her anger that the savior ruined her shot at a happy ending, something she had sacrificed and basically begged, bartered, and killed for. I understand Emma is through with turning her back on important people in her life, but this just seems odd in regards to her and Regina’s relationship. Though, I do like the fact that Regina informs Emma that, intentionally or not, she hurt someone deeply and now she has to live with that. In my mind, this goes back to a revelation Emma had last season that the “good” guys aren’t always good and the villains aren’t always “bad”. Everyone sees themselves as the hero of their own story and sees their actions as justified.

Another flashback and we see Lily and Emma literally breaking glass to enter the summer house. They have a great time, playing video games and enjoying junk food. Emma notices a mark in the shape of a star on Lily’s wrist. Lily doesn’t know how she got it, but shyly admits that she believes it makes her special and unique. Then, Lily grabs Emma’s wrist and draws a similar star, saying it will make the blonde special too. I wonder if this is why Emma chose her wrist as the place for her flower tattoo. The pair then discovers a camcorder and proceeds to goof off, recording themselves making silly faces. Lily wants them to promise that they will stay friends no matter what. Yeah, is definitely not going to end well. So later on that night the pair are fast asleep on the couch, when someone enters the summer home. Emma springs into action, ready to attack the intruder with a knick knack from the mantelpiece, declaring that neither she nor Lily are going back in the system. Though not everything is as it seems. The mysterious man, the one from the car earlier, emerges from the shadows and addresses Lily as “Lilith”. This is her father who has come to take her home. Lily lied to Emma and betrayed her trust.

In the present day woods of Storybrooke, Regina and Emma find Elsa’s ice bridge. It’s at this point when Regina’s… crankiness finally got on my nerves. As the pair cross the bridge, Emma realizes something is not right, that the flux in the weather isn’t Elsa, it’s the Snow Queen! Regina realizes that Sydney had lead her into a trap and Emma realizes that Regina lied to her about knowing Sydney’s whereabouts. The magic mirror has defected over to the Snow Queen’s side. I have to say, I was extremely amused at Regina shouting at Sydney through the compact mirror. I can’t put my finger on why, just the indignation that she has been duped is really funny to me. As Emma and Regina fight against the gale force winds, there is a creaking and cracking as the ice bridge begins to give way. The pair sprint to the edge and barely leap to safety. Unfortunately, they now have even bigger problems. The Snow Queen was busy and a gigantic ice Viking lumbers into view.

Regina tries to melt the beast, then Emma attempts to destroy it using concussive blasts of her light magic, but neither are effective on their own. Emma suggest she and Regina work together and combine their magical efforts. The queen looks like she wants to be combative and protests, but common sense wins out and together they melt the ice Viking into a sloppy puddle. Regina’s magic is red here and while this might just be a result of her using primarily fire as a weapon, we do know that the color of magic tends to be important. Considering recent Rumple related events of last episode, I would make a note to keep an eye on all magic from now on.

Before Emma and Regina can catch their breath, the Snow Queen appears out of thin air, silently, like Batman. It’s a little unnerving because like Peter Pan last season, you never know where she could be hiding, watching. The Snow Queen magics Regina’s compact mirror into her hand and uses the Force to choke the life out of first Regina, then Emma when they protest. Luck for the queen and the savior, the Snow Queen is knocked butt over bustier by none other than Elsa. The queen of Arendelle had mastered her fear for the moment and broken free of her chains. Hmm, seems a bit too easy to me. The Snow Queen rises from the ground and did anyone else think the way she did so was rather unnatural? There is something very off about this woman. The Snow Queen is deeply impressed that Elsa had beaten her fear, so much so it makes me wonder if she really does care about Elsa. Regina, Emma, and Elsa step forward to end things between them and the Snow Queen, but the icy villain vanishes, having claimed what she desired, Regina’s compact. The CGI effect that represents the Snow Queen’s teleporting magic looks great by the way.

With the immediate threat gone, Emma allows herself to be irritated that Regina wasn’t honest about Sydney, that knowing the magic mirror was involved could have made things easier in their battle. Regina snaps back that she and the savior aren’t “buddy buddy” and that Emma need to quit trying to garner forgiveness. I kind of agree with the Evil Queen on this one. Elsa steps in to try and moderate the argument, reminding both women that Storybrooke doesn’t stand a chance if they are divided, but Regina simply doesn’t want to make nice and poofs herself away. This entire episode, Regina has been gratingly hostile, while Emma has been striving almost for her approval. I understand the Emma is adrift and in new territory, letting her parents in, letting Hook in, but it seems to be a rather fast development that she would seek out Regina like this. As guilty as she is, it just feels odd that Emma try so hard to befriend Regina, though this may be a result of those infamous Swan walls coming down and the savior allowing herself to be more vulnerable.

In a final flashback to Emma’s past, we see Lily in a car, getting ready to be brought back home, trying desperately to talk to Emma. Lily wants Emma to come find her as soon as she can so they can run away together. Even though lily got adopted, she claims to be just like Emma and reminds the soon to be savior that they promised to be friends forever. But Emma is still broken over that fact that Lily tricked her, so she ignores the girl crying in the car and rubs off the star drawn on her wrist. The biggest betrayal is putting your faith in someone, hoping that they might be different, that they might be someone you trust, only to have them confirm your worst fears. As much as you want to pretend like nothing happened, people like Emma, people who have felt very little love in their lives, don’t forget someone misusing their trust easily. In Emma’s case, Lily robbed the savior of her ability to put her faith in others.

Back at the Snow Queen’s Fortress of Solitude, the Snow Queen herself is seen dismissing Sydney Glass, wishing nothing from him. It was the physical mirror the villainess was after. The Snow Queen has then reflects (ha) on the nature of mirrors. Mirrors reflect our essence, she says, and are a receptacle of the soul. This particular mirror is important as it is full of dark magic from Regina’s imprisonment of Sydney. The Snow Queen goes on to say that with it she will finally get what she has been denied too long and here we actually see the villainess show a touch of emotion through her cold exterior. As Sydney slinks out of her lair, the Snow Queen Batman’s her way into his path and leaves him with a chilling warning. This has to be my favorite Snow Queen scene so far. Her quiet, calculating sinister vibe is great, especially when she does get slightly emotional and you see this fury leaking out under her frozen mask. When she popped in front of Sydney just to toy with and frighten him, I got a chill myself.

The Snow Queen continues to gaze into Regina’s compact, then with a wave of her hand, cracks the mirror. She summons a larger looking glass, very similar to the one that used to hold Sydney in the vault. The glass in the Snow Queen’s mirror is spider webbed with all sorts of chips and cracks and right in the center a large piece is missing. Gingerly, the Snow Queen plucks a shard of glass from the compact and uses it to fill in her mirror, all the cracks melting away as it mends. The Snow Queen remarks that soon she will have what she wants; a family that loves her. I’m almost certain that if the Snow Queen is truly related to Elsa, Elsa’s family were the ones who trapped her in the urn. They already seem hostile towards their own daughter, I’m sure they would be plain terrified of the stronger, more confident Snow Queen.

Back in Storybrooke and per Elsa’s encouragement, Emma goes to see Regina one last time. Emma admits that she has been down this road before, and references how she pushed Lily away instead of trying to work things out and regretted that but it was too late, damage was done. Emma doesn’t want to make that mistake again by allowing her and Regina to drift apart. Emma believes that Regina is one of the only people who understands what it’s like to be neglected. Emma was looking for Regina to be a friend since her parents and Henry can’t fulfill that role in her life. Regina seems surprised that someone would want to be her friend and appears to have let go of some of her hostility. This could be because Regina never had a friend either, her only potential peers have been young Snow White, who betrayed her confidence and Maleficent, who she considered “her only friend” and yet Regina did horrible things to her. I have always said that Regina and Emma are two sides of the same coin, that they were both faced with similar circumstances and the only thing that separated them where their choices. I am so excited that Once Upon a Time has decided to explore that aspect of these two women, who are so different and yet so alike.

Later that night, Emma is in sheriff’s station, deep in thought, when she pulls out her box of possessions, last seen in season one. This is Emma’s life in a box. Hook arrives and immediately senses Emma is upset, so naturally he offers his cure-all, rum. This man is single-handedly (bad pun alert) keeping the sugar can industry in business. Emma explains the significance of what’s the box and Hook encourages her to share it with him. This is a huge step Emma and it’s nice to see that Hook isn’t pressuring her, he’s letting Emma take the lead and move at a pace that she’s comfortable with. Emma shows Hook things from her past, like her old glasses (I love that) and a picture of her and Nealfire, though once again who is snooping around taking these photos? Emma pulls out her baby blanket and discovers the camcorder from the summer house at the bottom of the box. All of the day’s events have made her think of that particular moment in her life, so she watches the recording with Hook. Again, Hook is very gentle with Emma and is supportive of her need to share these parts of her life. As they watch the clip of the two young girls goofing off, Hook doesn’t seem to recognize Lily, so there goes the Tiger Lily theory I guess. Suddenly, the tape cuts to another recording, this time in Emma’s newest foster home. Emma is confused because she doesn’t remember this part of the recording at all. And the reason why becomes abundantly clear when the Snow Queen pops into view. Hook and Emma are absolutely stunned. I guess that’s one theory that’s confirmed.

And there you have it, “Breaking Glass”? What did you think of this latest episode? Leave us a comment!

Again, I believe this episode to be a great addition to the current Once Upon a Time line up. I feel like I should have seen Sydney’s betrayal coming and yet I was so wrapped up in the story that it slipped right by me. Now that we have confirmation that the Snow Queen was one of Emma’s foster parents, I just want to know more. I want to know why the Snow Queen gave Emma up when she clearly was moved when she saw the savior in the woods. I want to know what their confrontation was about in the ice cream shop during the events of season one. I truly want to know why the Snow Queen stole Emma’s memories, was it to protect the savior or herself? And most importantly, I want to know if Emma is going to tell Snow White about this and how Snow will feel. She just started connecting with the daughter she lost all those years ago, how is she going to react when she finds out the woman who was able to experience part of Emma’s growing up somehow threw all that away?

The Snow and Charming B story, while I get was meant to show us how Snow is moving on from past fears brought on by losing Emma, was the weakest part of the episode. I normally enjoy Snow and Charming, but this adventure felt a little dull and out of place to me. It did give us more to think about regarding the Knave, such as why he is in town and why he is burying things on the beach when he used to live in town and could have hid things in his old apartment, but on the whole didn’t so much for the plot. I preferred Snow’s story earlier in the season with the generator and her new mayoral duties.

This episode is meant to have us parallel Emma’s past fallout with Lily and her current tenuous situation with Regina, but I don’t think that is the best comparison. Yes, we see how Emma is worried that burned bridges with stay burned, but she and Lily had a bond that she and Regina do not. I never really saw Regina and Emma as friends and kind of don’t want them to be. They work best as we saw them in season 3b, allies with commonalities like Henry or their goals. I feel it’s more in line with their characters to have a tension always be between them. They have a lot of history, both within Storybrooke and from before Emma was even born. The friendship between these two just seemed to spring up a bit fast and I personally would have liked to see Emma focus more on her relationship with Elsa as they both have more in common.

This season of OUaT keeps getting better and better! Tune in next week for “Family Business”.

About the Author – Ashley B
Ashley is as serious as a sleeping curse when she says television is her life. Professional event planner, avid movie viewer, convention enthusiast, and resident sass master, Ashley writes reviews for ABC's Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and Galavant, as well as Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. She looks forward each week to the weird and wonderful world her favorite television programs provide.
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