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Once Upon a Time - Rocky Road - Review

I have more questions than answers now, and I like it. This episode of Once Upon a Time, in my opinion, has continued the upward trend we’ve seen in the previous two. It’s true that we do get quite a bit of Frozen still, but with the Snow Queen on the scene, all of these plots are converging to a single point and I can’t quite unravel it all yet. The dynamics between our favorite characters this episode were very intriguing. Where there was cooperation there was also tension. Characters have grown and their actions and words in “Rocky Road” have shown that. And then there’s the Snow Queen. I loved her chilly demeanor but more importantly I loved the questions raised by her presence in Storybrooke. On top of all this a new mystery forming. What does Rumpelstilskin know that he’s not sharing and what can’t Elsa or Emma remember?

The episode begins with Robin Hood taking his family for a walk through Storybrooke. He goes on about the things that make the modern world unique and at the mention of ice cream, the pair indulge young Roland with a trip to the ice cream parlor we saw at the end of the last episode. Inside, the proprietor is all smiles, giving Maid Marian a cone on the house, though with all their talk of the different flavors this land has to offer, the evilest thing the Snow Queen does is offer Marian vanilla. That and she enchants the ice cream cone for a sinister purpose. I find it interesting that the Snow Queen remarks how a happy family “warms her heart” when clearly it doesn’t. Could this ice mistress have a grudge against familial bliss?

Down the street at the pawn shop, Rumpelstilskin is insisting that he doesn’t know who Elsa is even though the urn she was trapped in was held in his “vault of terrors”, as Emma put it. Elsa herself, doesn’t remember, which Rumple quips is an all too common problem in Storybrooke. I think the show is becoming self-aware and I love it. Lines like Rumple’s are real treats to long time viewers. The Dark One claims to have turned a new leaf, what with the drastic changes in his life recently. And to prove to the Sherriff Squad that he is being honest, he bids Belle use the dagger to compel him to tell the truth. Now we know that this dagger is a dud, so I wonder when this tangle of lies Rumple is weaving will trap him and he’ll have to come clean. And more importantly, I want to see Belle’s reaction to being lied to.

In a flashback, we see Elsa in Arendelle, fretting that Anna has effectively gone missing on her journey. Anna is the only family she has left, so despite Kristoff’s assurance that his fiancĂ© can take care of herself, the queen worries and doesn’t think much of the advice that she must stay in her kingdom to protect it. I like Elsa’s regal hairdo here and I do appreciate Kristoff’s jovial sass. The ice merchant is doing his best to keep Elsa’s spirits up. One of Arendelle’s advisors interrupts the pair and reports that their scouts have news, though not of the lost Anna. Seems trouble is brewing in the Southern Isles as Hans and his brothers are mustering up an army. Kristoff is eager to investigate, but Elsa is extremely protective of him as well, wishing to keep him safe for Anna’s sake. Elsa clearly is already thinking of Kristoff as family and as we will see later in the episode, will do anything to preserve her family, the only group of people who don’t view her as a monster.

In present day Storybrooke, Snow White is trying her hardest to be the best mayor ever, inviting many Storybrooke citizens to a “fireside chat” complete with pre-printed agendas. She insists to Charming that she can handle things, but soon loses control of the meeting as Grumpy and the rest of the town are more concerned with the ice wall that is currently trapping them and their newest visitor, Elsa. While the rabble rabbles, a white streak appears in Marian’s hair and she collapses. Nice subtle Frozen shout out there, I appreciate that. The townsfolk are always so quick to grab their torches and pitchforks, but since ice magic appears to be rare, I can see how they would jump so quickly to Elsa as the cause.

While the disastrous fireside chat is going on, Henry is occupying himself over at Granny’s with a hot cocoa, when Regina stops by bearing comic books (I see you SHIELD). And speaking of books, Regina, as smooth as a porcupine, breaches the subject of the infamous Book and questions her son on who the author might be. Henry assures her that no one knows and very astutely asks Regina what she is plotting. The queen comes clean and explains her plan to change her happy ending once and for all. I really do wonder why it is that Regina believes The Book can influence actual events, that it’s not just a record of things come to pass. I think ultimately this search for the author and perhaps finding out that he cannot change her portrayal in The Book will be a good learning tool for Regina. It will get her to accept the things she cannot change and once and for all leave the past in the past. Henry seems very keen to help Regina with this task, volunteering to help his mother and make a “mission” out of it. They come up with a name for their plan, “Operation Mongoose”, which I think is clever considering Operation Cobra aka season one of Once Upon a Time has come to its end. Henry is no longer striving to defeat the Evil Queen, instead he wishes to redeem her. After this bit of mother/son bonding, Robin appears in the diner, begging for Regina’s help.

Robin takes Regina to Marian, who is unconscious on the mayoral couch, turning blue. Emma and her crew arrive and Regina immediately blames Elsa, considering her ice magic. We are getting reminded time and time again that this sort of wizardry is uncommon. Emma vouches for Elsa without a second though, the friendship cultivated in the ice caves growing stronger by the minute. I know Frozen is only meant to be a closed arc in the first half of this season, but I almost don’t want Elsa to go for the sake of Emma having a peer and friend in her life. With this powerful of a spell, naturally the group concludes that True Love’s Kiss is the only remedy, though when Robin goes to perform said kiss, it has no effect. Charming is reminded of Fredrick encased in gold, which is a wonderful call back to the first season. Emma decides to do some sherriffing to figure out who is responsible for this curse and hopefully get them to break it, while Regina snidely comments that the savior is the one who needs saving nowadays. While still allies, I don’t want these women to be friends, so as much as I didn’t care for Regina’s line, it felt apt given her current attitude towards Emma. Hook wants to accompany Emma, but she pushes him away, forcefully asking that he bring Elsa to the safety of the sheriff’s station, away from the townsfolk who are already gearing up for a bit of angry mob action.

Back in Arendelle of old, Kristoff and Sven the Sassy Reindeer disobey Elsa and do a bit of their own sleuthing. They come across Hans’s camp and we see that he plans conquering Arendelle with the use of a very special urn, one we’ve already seen before. Back at the castle, Elsa is going over strategies with her advisors, when Kristoff barges in with news of this urn and its powers. Elsa, despite the growing danger, is more interested in the fact that there is an object tailored to people with her gifts, implying that she may not be alone in them. The queen wishes to avoid war with the Southern Isles at all costs, so she vetoes the idea of sending an army after Hans and his brothers. What she will sign off on is Kristoff covertly destroying the urn, but only if she can go with him.

As Elsa and Kristoff travel to complete this task, Elsa is still stuck on the idea that there may be others like her out there. Even within her own family, a family that cares for her, Elsa has felt alone. She interestingly equates her situation with Kristoff’s upbringing, since he is a human raised by rock trolls, but though he was unique among his family, the ice merchant knew that the trolls wanted what was best for him, so he never felt alone. At this point, considering what we know of Frozen, I’d say Elsa’s family was extremely harsh regarding their daughter’s uniqueness, to the point where it really damaged her psychologically. Elsa is eternally stuck on her isolation, focusing on that instead of the people right in front of her who care.

Back in present day Storybrooke and true to form, a mob is mustering. If there’s one thing the townsfolk love in Maine, it’s a scapegoat. So, to avoid the angry townspeople, Hook has taken to skulking in the alleys with Elsa. The ice queen, however, does not wish to skulk. She is much keener on discovering who in the town shares her frosty gift. It seems Hook is also thinking along these lines, as he reveals they are not heading towards the sheriff’s station, but instead burst into “the shop with the things”, interrupting Rumple at his work. Hook basically blackmails the Dark One in his own pawn shop into helping the pair, revealing that he knows Rumple slipped his wife a fake dagger. The past has reared its ugly head with Hook recalling that his "crocodile" wouldn’t give up control or power, even to his True Love. This is disappointingly true and I wonder what is going on in Rumpelstilskin’s head. He clearly loves Belle very much, but 300 years of ultimate power have poisoned him. We have seen in the past that magic can be addictive, so is it an addiction that Rumple struggles with or does he have further plans yet to be revealed? I feel the Sorcerer’s hat will come into play with all this.

Rumpelstilskin agrees to help in exchange for the pirate’s silence, though he makes it very clear Hook is playing a dangerous game. Surely this will bite Hook in the leather padded rear later on. Elsa gives Rumple a clipping of the white streak that appeared in Marian’s hair and the imp with the limp performs the hoo doo that he do so well, causing the magic of the spell to reveal itself. The Dark One remarks that this icy magic is similar though not the same to Elsa’s, that magic is unique to the user and this uniqueness can be used to track the magic back to the source. We’ve seen subtle examples of magic behaving like this in that past, such as the difference colors of mystical smoke seen on the show. Rumple frees the magical flurries and the chase begins to find the source of the frosty goings-on.

Meanwhile, Charming and Emma are still on their own prowl. The savior is acting rather hostile towards Charming, so it’s not just her relationship with Hook that’s eating her. The pair arrive at Robin Hood’s camp and spy an intruder, who turns out to be the one and only Knave of Hearts. Still sassy as ever, he gives Emma the slip, but is ultimately tackled by Charming before he can escape the long arm of the law. Now, I really wonder why the Knave is in Storybrooke in the first place. For those not familiar with Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, spoilers ahoy. Will Scarlet aka the Knave of Hearts, former Merry Man and current White King of Wonderland, got his happy ending during the finale of the show. I know the timelines are a bit different, but why is the Knave here? Did Emma and Hook’s dalliance in time travel skew other timelines as well? Is this even really the Knave of Hearts? All this remains to be seen, but I do enjoy his addition in the episode. I was a bit on the fence with bringing him on to Once Upon a Time, hoping it wouldn’t be for comedy’s sake alone, but he’s proven to be an asset.

Case in point, the Knave informs the Storybrooke Sherriff’s Department that while he was about Main Street the other night, thieving it up during the black out, he noticed that the ice cream shop was still frosty despite being without power for a few hours. Very curious indeed. So, the three head back into town and perform a little B & E as part of their investigation. I do enjoy how Emma out-thieves the Knave and references Nealfire as being the one who taught her those tricks. The trio notice that the shop is silent; there are no air compressors running to keep the ice cream coolers cold. I love this detail considering I have to sit next to the Loudest Drink Cooler on Earth at my office, so kudos to the writers for that. They check the back room and see that it is a winter wonderland. Realizing they’ve found their culprit, Emma and Charming turn to address the Knave and see he has skedaddled, along with the contents of the cash register. Emma wants to pursue the Knave of Hearts, but Charming reminds her of the task at hand. Here is where we see the source of some of Emma’s hostility in this episode. Regina’s words stuck with the savior. Emma has been feeling inadequate lately. The pressure of being the savior has really been getting to her, especially since so many things have been occurring. Emma feels as if she can’t do anything right. When you begin to lose faith in yourself, it’s easy to spiral down into a dark place. Emma, most likely, was beginning to question every choice she was making, instead of going with her instinct and inherent skills. One of my favorite things about Emma is that she is portrayed this way. In theory, she is the savior, this magical being who is destined to save everyone, but in practice she is a woman who has been through a lot in her life and is still figuring out her role. She makes mistakes and that’s ok.

Over at the mayoral office, Maid Marian is still chilling (heh heh) on the couch. The ice curse is slowly moving towards her heart, similar to what we saw happen in the Frozen movie, though I also believe this is a reference to the original Snow Queen tale, where a shard of ice pierced one of the character’s hearts, turning them into a cold and unloving person. Obviously, what we see here on Once Upon a Time has more dire consequences than a bad attitude. Regina has a drastic plan, but it involves Robin trusting her completely, which he earnestly assures the queen he does.

Flashback to Elsa and Kristoff on their mission. They’ve uncovered the urn and Elsa goes to destroy it, but is instead intrigued by the runes etched into its side. Elsa wants to preserve the urn and use it to help find others like her. The absence and attitudes towards magic in Arendelle really have me wondering what exactly Anna and Elsa’s parents said in the message they sent away in that bottle. Elsa’s hesitation leaves an opening for Hans and his many brothers to ambush Kristoff and Elsa. Our heroic pair provide to be a good match for the boys from the Southern Isles, that is, until Hans has Kristoff at sword point. Elsa trades the urn for Kristoff’s safety. Even though she will be trapped, she trusts the ice merchant to find Anna and save her kingdom. Hans opens the urn and some sort of mystical white goop flows out, heading towards Elsa. However, it’s doesn’t consume her. Instead, it takes on the shape of a woman and reveals itself to be the Snow Queen, who deftly freezes Hans solid.

This is the point in tonight’s episode that I began to get caught off guard. Who put the Snow Queen in her urn in the first place? And what’s the queen’s motivation? She makes it a point to tell Elsa how special the young woman is, but is this kindness or manipulation? Elsa doesn’t seem to care, she’s just excited that there is someone like her in the world. The two return to the castle, geeking out about the things they can do with their ice powers, which is actually rather sweet considering Elsa was never able to connect with someone like this before. The Snow Queen pauses at a painting of Anna and Elsa’s parents and reveals that their mother is her sister. Elsa never heard of her due to painful events in the past that lead to the Snow Queen being trapped in that urn. While the Snow Queen stresses that she will help Elsa find the missing Anna, I am suspicious as to whether or not she is tell the truth regarding her familial relationship with Elsa. Something is not adding up.

Back in the present, Hook and Elsa are tromping through the forest, hot on the cold trail of magical snow flurries fluttering before them. Elsa is amused that Hook has a distaste for all magic but Emma’s. She gently reminds Hook that she and the savior are very alike and that the pirate should realize that it’s not Hook that Emma is running from, but herself and the pressure the savior is under to succeed. One day in Storybrooke and Elsa has all these messy relationships figured out. This character grows on me the more I see her. The snow magic finally rejoins with its source and Hook and Elsa spy on the Snow Queen doing some sort of wizardry in a forest clearing. We really don’t get a good look at what she’s tinkering with. Hook and Elsa hide out behind some logs and we get an amusing scene of the two of them trying to make heads or tails of the cell phone Emma gave her boyfriend. Audiences, my self included, love these kind of “ancient beings dealing with modern technology” scenes.

Elsa actually is less afraid of the Snow Queen and more interested in the woman since she’s never seen another person like herself. That’s right, Elsa has no memory of meeting the Snow Queen in the past. Before our pair of heroes can retreat for help the Snow Queen spots them. The icy monarch claims that rock trolls altered Elsa’s memories and that the two of them have a lot of catching up to do. The Snow Queen really does not seem to care for those without magic. She claims that Anna of all people was the one to put Elsa in the urn since “normal” people always end up fearing their kind, but I really don’t think I can believe her, especially since the Snow Queen flat out lies about Marian’s frosty fate being an accident, then turns right around and admits it was intentional. She was trying to teach Elsa the “trust no one” lesson by having the town turn on her, though this doesn’t seem very effective since the town could have proven to be accepting. There is something going on here that I can’t tease out just yet.

However, before the Snow Queen can further her manipulation, Emma and Charming arrive on the scene with a shout of “Hey, Dairy Queen!” That has to be my favorite line of the night. The levity it brings breaks quickly when the Snow Queen utters a surprised “Emma?”, then quickly denies knowing the savior. Emma has no clue who the woman is and uses her light magic to flashbang the Snow Queen, knocking her aside. This upper hand does not last, for the Snow Queen flees while Charming saves Hook from falling icicles. As our heroes regroup, Emma remarks how familiar it seemed when the Snow Queen said her name. The savior is also a bit short with Hook, since he went off and got himself into danger. Elsa, the smart cookie that she is, believes the Snow Queen to be lying about Anna, but unfortunately cannot be sure without her memory, while Emma remarks that it’s important to note that the Snow Queen was already in Storybrooke before Elsa arrived. Emma Swan, asking the important questions, though what does it all mean?

At the mayoral office, Maid Marian is almost a solid ice cube at this point. Robin Hood and Regina have been keeping watch and the former admits that he knows why True Love’s Kiss didn’t work. He’s in love with someone else. Regina seems simultaneously overjoyed and depressed at this confession, knowing that Robin Hood made an oath to be faithful to his wife. Henry finally arrives back from the vault, bearing a heart box. Drastic measures indeed, for the only way to stop the ice curse from reaching Marian’s heart is to remove the organ from her body, Cora Mills-style. Regina places the heart in the box and vows that while Marian remains in limbo, she will find a cure.

Later that night at Granny’s, Emma brushes Hook off once again, but the pirate will not so easily let her leave him this time. He demands to know why she doesn’t trust him, why she is pulling away from him. Then Emma blurts out the truth. She’s afraid of losing Hook. Everyone she’s ever loved has died: Graham, Neal, and even Walsh. Emma admits that she couldn’t go through losing Hook as well. The pirate seems humbled by this confession and assures Emma not to worry, that he is very good at surviving as they share a kiss in the street. Wow. I was actually shocked that this episode when there. And I’m glad it did. This has to be my favorite moment of the night, even though it’s a rather depressing truth. There are many discussions online regarding the fate that each of Emma’s lovers befell and I am thrilled that the show no only is acknowledging that, but showing us the effect that this had on Emma. Her walls have been coming down in regards to her family, and yet she is finding that every time she makes herself more vulnerable in other ways, she continue to get hurt. I want Emma Swan’s relationship with Hook to show a healing in her, that she can trust that this person will not be taken from her. I think with this revelation, we are on the right path.

Elsewhere, we get our final scene of the night. The Snow Queen is lurking out in the woods, when Rumpelstilskin of all people appears behind her. They are definitely familiar with each other, though who doesn’t know the imp with the limp. Things apparently didn’t work out the way the Snow Queen wanted, and Rumple inquires if Emma remembered her. Now, what the hell is going on here? Rumpelstilskin asks if the Snow Queen wants his help, to which she replies that when she needs a deal, she’s find him. I’m not sure what to make of this interaction, but a theory comes to mind regarding Emma and the Snow Queen. I personally think that the Snow Queen is also Emma’s foster mother, the one that gave Emma up after a short while and sent her back in to the system. For whatever reason, the Snow Queen was in our world and happened to become the guardian of the savior. But that even opens up a slew of other questions. Why did the Snow Queen give Emma up? How did the Snow Queen come to our world? What’s Rumple’s stake in all this and why is he helping her? I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to find out.

That’s it for “Rocky Road”! What did you think readers? Leave a few words in the comments section!

This episode was extremely enjoyable for me since it began weaving another mystery that I am thrilled to try and solve. Again, I feel as I did in season one of Once Upon a Time, not quite sure of where this is all going, what shady deals are happening, but along for the ride. Even with the framing of Frozen, I still think we are getting some great scenes with our main cast, though I have to say the recent trend of ABC releasing deleted scenes may not be my favorite thing. While I enjoy that we are getting to see these delete moments sooner rather than later, they are such good character-driven scenes that I wish they could be left in the episode. I understand the constraints of editing for broadcast, but still...they are some great scenes.

So, now that we have the Snow Queen in all her glory, I am intrigued, as always, with the newest villain. I like the idea of comparing the Frozen take on the Snow Queen tale to the more traditional and sinister version. The Snow Queen, whose first name I hope we learn soon because writing out “Snow Queen” is become more tedious by the paragraph, is so cold in her demeanor, I can’t tell where the truth begins and the lies end. And if my theory is correct and she was Emma’s foster mother, imagining that type of woman raising Emma makes me want the savior’s back story even more.

What did you think of the Knave of Hearts’s debut? I always enjoyed him in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, he was a personal favorite and clearly a break out character and I’m interested to see what he brings to the table here in Storybrooke. However, I really hope the happy ending he achieved in Wonderland is preserved. The Knave, while a comedic character, also was a very tortured person. He was a man that ripped his own heart out because the love of his life had broken it and he couldn’t stand the pain. I want to see how he fits in with the rest of our Storybrooke favorites.

The interactions in the episode, both romantic and otherwise, were the most enjoyable part. Seeing Archie fulfill his role as a conscience with Snow White, or Regina and Henry bonding as mother and son, making up for lost years, was great. Even the more tense moments, like Hook and Rumple’s quiet confrontation in the pawn shop, grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. And on the romantic side of things, the struggles that both Regina and Emma are going through regarding their separate suitors really speaks to me. I normally glide over the romantic stuff, but showing these couples struggling and yet still giving them hope catches my interest. I’m not sensing the endless will-they-won’t-they one sometimes gets with TV couples. With these two pairs it’s more of a question of when.

Tune in next week to see if any dance brooms show up in “The Apprentice”!

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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