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Once Upon a Time - White Out - Review

This is what I’m talking about. This is the Once Upon a Time I know and love. I’m glad this week’s installment was so enjoyable and strong, a great way to keep the momentum for the season. Not only did we get bits of back story for Charming, but some great scenes regarding both familial and romantic relationships on the show. The consistency shown with Henry and both his mothers, a complex triumvirate that has had its up and downs in past seasons, was wonderful to see. The Frozen aspect of this episode is blending quite well with the main story and the fact that it is not overshadowing anything to do with our Storybrooke favorites is a relief. And good lord did I enjoy the hell out of Bo Peep. Taking a classic character and giving it an interesting spin, a bit of a twist, that’s Once Upon a Time and that is how I felt about Bo Peep’s treatment. This entire episode really felt to me like the show was returning to its roots and the things that made us fall in love with Storybrooke in the first place.

This week’s episode begins right where the premiere left off. Elsa has vowed to find her sister and decides that until that task is achieved, no one leaves Storybrooke. She summons her icy powers and raises a frozen wall around the town. There’s a lot of walls brought up in this episode, mostly the emotional kind, though Elsa’s physical barrier is a symbol of the theme in this episode, that “walls” are an easy fix, but not the right method to solve one’s problems.

Over at Casa de Charming, Snow White is feeling the full brunt of motherhood as she lacks sleep taking care of Bouncing Baby Neal. Henry is over in the kitchen preparing a care basket for Regina with all the essentials for a break up; wine, chocolate, and so forth. Emma supportive of this and it is fantastic that the show has officially moved on from the “No, he’s MY son” drama that dominated the second and part of the third season. While Henry is preparing his care package, a raven appears bearing a message. Since Snow talks to the birds, naturally I assumed the message was for her, but no it’s for Henry and the news is not good. It’s seems Regina doesn’t want to see her son.

We quickly jump to Granny’s Diner where Henry is in full on teen angst mode. Emma tries to comfort him, reminding him that Regina just wanted her space for now while she was dealing with the newest bump in the road that is her life. We see how Henry has grown from that spunky kid we saw in season one to a more mature teen, shaped by the unique situations he’s experienced. While Emma is trying to comfort her son, the ice wall at the town border knocks out a power line, throwing Storybrooke into darkness. Emma gets the call from Charming that some sherriffing is in order. Leaving Henry at the diner, Emma and Charming go to the town line to investigate and come upon the ice wall, unaware that the culprit, Elsa, is lurking behind it.

Everyone’s favorite pirate soon joins the investigation, having been called by Emma. We see here that Hook is still very keen to get close to the savior, and yet Emma remains distracted by the latest crisis. Emma seems to be keeping Hook at a distance for the moment, which makes sense when you consider her past relationships and how they have ended…abruptly. While Emma goes closer to check out their icy situation, Charming takes the opportunity to question the pirate’s intention with his daughter. I love Daddy Charming moments, I feel that’s where the character shines the most. Hook reminds David that whatever relationship he has with Emma, it’s as much up to the savior as it is the pirate. This is an important addition, for while I feel Hook might be a touch clingy, he does respect that Emma and her wishes come first. While her boyfriend is being grilled by her father, Emma discovers Elsa amidst the ice wall, flurries of anxiety already fluttering. Uh oh.

Meanwhile, in a flashback to the Enchanted Forest of old, Anna arrives at David’s doorstep. It seems that David and Kristoff are familiar, giving us our ties between the Frozen and fairy tale worlds. I wonder how these two came to know each other, through trading perhaps? And yes, Charming is sporting a magnificent Fabio-esque hair-do, can’t have a review of this episode without mentioning that! I like how Anna seems a bit more reserved here, as opposed to last episode. This lends itself to show how serious she takes her current mission. Anna is looking for a place to stay for the night before continuing on her mission and tries to keep Charming in the dark as much as possible, even using a fake name. I’ve been informed by Frozen fans that the false name of “Joan” is a shout out to a scene from the movie where young Anna points to a painting of Joan of Arc and tell her to “hang in there”. The Frozen references will be flowing like water this episode, don’t you worry. Before Charming and Anna can continue their conversation, a prissy carriage rolls up and we are informed that the figure riding in it is someone to be reckoned with, a warlord named….Bo Peep.

Oh, Bo Peep, I have to say I loved it. I was very on the fence when I read the press release that this character would be a threat, but she was just fun with a capital “F”. Slightly campy, you have this woman bedecked in bows and such strolling up with an attitude, extorting Charming and his mother. And yet, she still remained vaguely sinister. I was strongly reminded of Harry Potter’s Dolores Umbridge with this character, someone who is poison wrapped in a pink bow. It’s a great example of how Once Upon a Time takes a character and turns it on its head. I especially liked the touch of Bo Peep’s “sheep”, not the woolen kind, but slaves she will always be able to find, branded through the magic of her shepherd’s crook. And nice twist on the nursery rhyme and a much better interpretation than having her command a flock of rabid ungulates a la the horror flick, Black Sheep.

Anna wants Charming to fight against Bo Peep instead of submitting to the frilly nightmare, even though Charming thinks he can’t win. Bo Peep has apparently enslaved many with that crook and is a powerful warlord... and writing that sentence reminds me of why I like Once Upon a Time. Despite the shepherd’s lack of skills, Anna offers to coach Charming in swordsmanship, having learned a bit from the soldiers in her kingdom, though that detail almost blows her cover. Smooth as ice there, Anna. This makes sense though, that Charming would have picked up a bit of knowledge on how to handle a sword since we see him take to it so naturally in the first season when battling King Midas’s dragon.

Back in Storybrooke, Charming and Hook approach Emma and Elsa, who seem very wary of each other. The sudden arrival of the prince and the pirate startles Elsa like a nervous horse and her ice powers go into overdrive, bringing the frozen wall down on everyone’s heads, cutting her and Emma off from Charming and Hook. In the chaos, Elsa loses her hold on Anna’s necklace, which I feel may become significant later on as this is Elsa’s only tie to her sister. A nice touch in this scene is when the ice comes crashing down, all the music and sound muffles out save for a high pitched, tinnitus-like note. Even the music is frozen in this moment. As the frost and debris clear, Charming and Hook realize they are cut off completely from Emma and what they perceive to be a hostile threat. The pair try in vain to hack through the ice, but even Hook’s hook is no match. Charming realizes that they need magic to sort this problem out, highlighting how magic has evolved from being a threat to our heroes to more of a tool.

Flashback to Fairy Tale Land, where we see Charming getting his battle lessons from Anna. He’s learning quickly and even does his trademark sword twirl, but eventually gets his butt swiftly kicked. Charming is frustrated here, ready to throw in the towel, which frustrates Anna who accuses the shepherd of hiding from his problems, much like her sister did. Anna tries to motivate Charming, telling him that he just needs a push, again like Elsa did. I feel like Elsa has a connection or parallel to almost every Storybrooke character this season. We’ll later see her bonding with Emma, but there is also Regina to consider. It’s no coincidence that both she and the ice queen had the word “monster” flung at them last episode. Charming takes a moment to open up and explain to Anna why he fears loss and this is a surprisingly heavy revelation. The shepherd’s father was a drunk who tried to better himself and stay sober for his son. He failed at the task and fell off the wagon, literally, after avoiding the drink for almost a fortnight. Seeing how his father tried and failed seems to haunt Charming to this day, making him believe that some battles are insurmountable. As tragic as this back story is, it’s still great to learn more about Charming and his past, particularly past events that are more about the real him instead of his time with King George. And I wonder if the reason Charming’s father turned to drink was guilt over giving up James to King George in the first place.

Back to present day Storybrooke and the wall (hold your Game of Thrones jokes until the end please) Elsa puts on a very regal act which reminds me of the Red Queen from Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, another figure who wasn’t a natural monarch and used her station as a way of intimidating people. Here though, Elsa does not seem to have overly malicious intent. She is fearful and being an “ice queen” is her defense. Charming is able to communicate through the ice via walkie talkie, allowing Emma to explaining her incidental captor’s quest to find her sister, as well as allowing Elsa to deliver an ultimatum: help her find Anna or Storybrooke is put on ice.

Though the cold never bothered Elsa, yes we see what you did there show, Emma is feeling the effects of being trapped in an ice cave, her trademark leather jacket offering no relief from the chill and tries to coax Elsa into letting them out. It is here that Emma realizes Elsa can’t control her powers, to which the savior assures the ice queen that she is very much the same. This causes Elsa to open up to Emma a bit. I think for the first time Elsa feels as if she has something in common with another person, that she isn’t a freak. Elsa questions whether Emma was “cursed or born” with her powers, an interesting take her gift that I’ll address a bit later. Cursed, born, or otherwise, it doesn’t matter since Emma can’t summon her light magic to spring them from the ice cave and begins to succumb to hypothermia, growing tired and weak. The best part of this scene is that these two women bond over their common ground. Emma explains that she is a savior and is still figuring out what that role even means and Elsa sympathizes since her monarchy was thrust upon her. This pair were both isolated, handed huge responsibility, and are still struggling to understand what that means. I’m glad to see Emma forming a friendship with someone not in her immediate family and want to see more of this pair together.

While Emma and Elsa are having sharing time in their icy prison, Charming and Hook have rushed off to the pawn shop for some magical advice. Ah, it’s good to see some things don’t change as the pirate and the prince interrupt Belle and Rumpelstilskin in search of a magical solution. Charming explains the frosty situation and Rumple seems to go deep in thought. We know where Elsa’s urn came from, but our heroes do not, so I look forward to when this issue gets addressed. Belle identifies the necklace Emma told him about from the pawn shop records and this jogs Charming’s memory. He realizes that “Joan” was the illusive Anna and knows the exact person in Storybrooke that can help them find her.

Rushing through the darkened streets of Storybrooke, Charming arrives at a butcher’s where none other than Bo Peep is residing. Ok, really quick, who sits in the dark, chopping up meat? That is some Hannibal Lecter grade creep behavior right there. I do think it’s a nice touch that Charming was aware that Bo Peep was in town and both parties left each other to their own devices. You really never know who could be lurking in that town in Maine now. Bo Peep proves to be less that helpful and just as murderous, intent on forcefully introducing Charming to her cleaver. Luckily, the prince has back-up as Captain Hook: Action Pirate helps the prince dispatch Bo Peep. They find Bo Peep’s crook, as the warlord had “branded” Anna with it in the past, capturing the girl from Arendelle to motivate Charming into giving in to Bo Peep’s extortion. This small victory is interrupted by Elsa, mastering modern technology and radioing in via walkie talkie that Emma Swan was freezing to death.

In the past, Charming faces off against Bo Peep’s men in an effort to not only save his farm but Anna, who as I mentioned before, Bo Peep had captured. He dispatches them quickly using the skills Anna taught him, before facing the warlord herself. I like how Bo Peep is ready to get her hands dirty and almost bests the shepherd, but not quite. I’d love to see more of that character and since we know she’s in Storybrooke, perhaps she might team up with any other antagonists looming in the wings. Charming uses the magical crook to locate the captured Anna and frees her. The shepherd explains that he found the strength to fight from the responsibility and honor of saving Anna. Charming wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he ran from that, saying he would be trapped in a life he didn’t want. I really believe Charming realized how his actions were mirroring his father’s; that he didn’t want to let down a person who wholeheartedly believed in him.

In the present day, Charming and Hook arrive back at the ice wall. Charming uses Anna’s words of encouragement, the same words that helped him strive forward when the odds were against him, to connect with Elsa and focus her powers long enough to bore a hole in the frozen wall. This physical breaking of a barrier also helps to symbolize the ongoing theme of this episode, that confronting a problem, while difficult, is the best course as opposed to hiding, running, or giving up. Hook and Emma embrace as the savior popsicle emerges from the ice cave, sharing a nice moment post-danger. All parties return to the family’s loft, with Charming vowing to Elsa that he will help find her sister in gratitude for how Anna helped him years ago.

While all this has been going on, Snow White has been having her own adventure. Soon after Charming and Emma went to investigate the power outage, Grumpy, Happy, and Granny showed up at Casa de Charming demanding that Snow fix their electricity problem. Snow White seems a bit shocked and defers to Regina as the mayor, but is informed that in her funk, the queen no longer wants that job. And Snow, being the reigning monarch in the Enchanted Forest, is the person in charge. I like that Snow acknowledged Regina’s mayoral authority, and I don’t know if I see the princess remaining mayor for long. Best case scenario for me would be Regina and Snow White sharing authority since the former has more experience running a modern community.

So Snow White and Company troop over to where the backup generator for Storybrooke is, none of them knowing how to get the thing working. Grumpy, Granny, and Happy begin speculating as to who might be a better candidate for this electrical engineering. They mentioned Dr. Whale, who actually would have been my vote since he does have that whole “uses electricity to help raise the dead” thing going on. The trio begin to really lay into Snow White, complaining about all the modern technology they are without due to the blackout and Snow flips her stressed out new mommy lid, not so gently reminding the three that they survived a lifetime without DVR and dishwashers, they can deal with this.

So the three sulk away, leaving Snow White and Bouncing Baby Neal to figure out how to restore power to the town. And Snow initially doesn’t do that great of a job at it. We see Baby Neal getting fussy, and I really thought for a moment he would take after his big sister and display a bit of magic to get the juice flowing in Storybrooke, but instead his need to feed inspires Snow to look for the fuel pump, juicing up the generators and bringing power back to the town. This whole B story was very light and amusing, and actually opens an interesting door for Snow White as the current authority in Storybrooke.

As the power flickers back to life throughout the town, back at the loft everyone is working on defrosting the savior. Hook rustles up a space heater, showing he is quickly learning the ways of this modern realm. If that’s the case, hopefully a wardrobe change is in order soon. There is lots of family bonding here among the Charmings and even Hook and Emma have a bit of a moment, tightly clasping hands. Even is this pair can’t articulate their feelings or emotions well, they are learning to get past their own barriers. While this portrait of familial bliss is going on, Elsa is aloof. She is alone in the world and feels it now more than ever since she lost Anna’s necklace, her one tie to family. Charming tries to keep her spirits up, using Bo Peep’s crook to try and locate the missing Anna. When the magical staff initially fails to bring up an image, all fear the worst… but then a heartbeat is heard emanating from the staff, bringing hope.

In a final flashback, we see Anna heading off on her journey. We get another Frozen reference, Anna’s love of sandwiches, as Charming’s mother Ruth presents her with a care package for her trip. Anna questions Ruth about magic in this realm. It seems that in Arendelle magic is quite scarce, and I don’t know if this was intended to be amusing, but I got a kick out of Anna asking if magic was a regular occurrence and Ruth pretty much responding, “oh, you don’t even know”. On a more serious note, Ruth clues Anna in on the existence of a powerful wizard, one who could answer Anna’s questions regarding magic, though she won’t say his name aloud. No prizes for guessing this is Rumpelstilskin, and sure enough this is confirmed as Anna trots off into the distance, sounding out the Dark One’s name from a slip of parchment Ruth gave her. What is most interesting is that as soon as Anna utters his name, the imp with the limp seems to be spying on her via a crystal ball, giggling that trademark giggle. So we now have confirmation that speaking Rumpelstilskin’s name is what grabs his attention. A nice shout out to the original tale that relied so heavily on guessing the imp's name and it causes me to wonder if this peculiarity is somehow tied to the fact that the Dark One’s name is inscribed on his dagger.

Back in Storybrooke, it’s the next day and Henry has seen fit to take matters into his own hands and break down even more barriers. He marches over to Regina’s house, determined not to give up on her. His shouting through the door, finally brings Regina to the entrance and barely a word is spoken when mother and son embrace. Henry is not leaving his mother alone. The simplicity of this scene is beautiful and I love how the wider shot were framed.

Across town at the ice wall, we are privy to the Emma Swan pun parade. However, there’s a hitch. Elsa can’t take the barrier down. As far as she knows, she is the only person to ever manifest ice powers, so Elsa and Emma are stumped as to why the frozen wall still stands. Well, it seems that Elsa isn’t as alone as she believed, for back in town we see a mysterious woman managing an ice cream shop. We quickly find out why none of her sweet merchandise was affected by her freezers going out as she waves her hand and instantly chills a tub of melted ice cream. Leaning against a drink cooler, this woman effortlessly frosts over the entire wall. Clearly she is powerful, but why is she keeping the town on an ice lock down? We’ll have to wait next week to find out!

What did you think of “White Out” dear readers? Leave a comment or theory below!

I found tonight’s episode to be extremely enjoyable. There was a fair amount of set up for future plot lines, and yet I didn’t feel as if I was beaten over the head with information. I enjoyed Bo Peep and actually want to see more of her because she is just a right psychopath and is fun to watch. I have no major complaints with this episode and felt it to be a stronger offering than the premiere, focusing more on relationships than action scenes. To me, this episode was enjoyable because, while there was danger about, events were not going at a break neck, “end of everything we know it” speed or seriousness. There was time to breathe and get those great character moments. Hopefully this episode is only the start of wonderful things to come this season.

“White Out” was all about the walls we build to protect ourselves, whether it be from our past, our present, or our future. It really showcased how characters like Charming and Regina, both vastly different, still rely on the same methods of closing themselves off as a way of protecting themselves from what has happened or what they think will happen. The same goes for Emma and Hook’s relationship. These are two people not used to being cared for or allowing themselves to care. Sometimes I think they are both very afraid of what might happen, so they struggle with just experiencing their bond.

I do find it interesting that Elsa gave Emma the choice of “curse or birth” when discussing her gifts, as if her view on magic is something you can’t escape, a yoke around one’s neck. Hopefully bonding with Emma will teach the ice queen that there is a third option, learning magic. I want Elsa to realize that magic can be cultivated and can be so much more than just a burden.

Tune in next week was our mysterious ice cream mistress reveals herself in “Rocky Road”!

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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