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Once Upon a Time - Family Business - Review

Well, things in Once Upon a Time land just got significantly more creepy and confusing, a combination I absolutely love. The more we learn about the Snow Queen, the more unsettled I am. She seems absolutely unhinged, driven by a single thought and goal, and her methods of achieving this are disturbing. Also, this time out we get some much needed screen time and back story for Belle. I found her scene in the Snow Queen’s lair to be one of the highlights of the episode, but I am disappointed we only got a glimpse of Belle’s relationship with her mother. As this episode played out I found myself incredibly intrigued by Belle’s role in Anna’s story and what the librarian was hiding. With each twist and turn of the Snow Queen’s plan becoming clearer, my need to get inside her head and learn what makes her tick grows. I thoroughly enjoyed this episode as it gave us answers as well as left implications hanging in the air. The mystery continues to unfold in Storybrooke.

Tonight’s episode opens in a flashback to the Enchanted Forest. We see a woman, Belle’s mother Collette, collecting books from her shelves as the castle guards urge her to leave for safety. Clearly this is where Belle’s love of literature comes from, as we see the librarian enter the room, clutching her most prized possession, a book she and her mother read together. Before they can flee to safety, ogres crash in to the library. Belle and her mother hide, staying as quiet as possible since we all know ogres hunt by sound. Collette comforts Belle, urging her to stay silent, but it is all for nothing as the intruding beast uncovers their hiding spot.

Suddenly, Belle starts awake in bed. The beginning of this flashback is actually a nightmare Belle is having in the Enchanted Forest. The librarian quickly seeks out her father, who is among a crowd gathered in the castle. Ignoring his concern that she should be in bed, Belle questions Maurice as to where her mother is and we soon find out the gruesome truth when the crowd parts, revealing a coffin. Belle’s mother did not survive the encounter with the ogres. Sadly, this flashback is the only time we see Collette and Belle interact and that is a bit disappointing. Considering a well-known actress is playing Belle’s mother, I have no doubts we will be seeing her again, but I would have liked to have seen more of their relationship then just these brief moments.

Cut to present day Storybrooke, where Rumpelstilskin is in his shop, checking on things in his safe, most notably the hat box and the true dagger. Belle arrives and almost catches the imp. Close one. She is quite a hurry, telling her husband that Emma just rang wishing to see them both. Over at the sheriff’s station, Emma and the rest of our heroes have gathered around the savior as she reveals the video of her past featuring the Snow Queen. Most are flabbergasted at the fact that the Snow Queen and Emma knew each other before their forgotten encounter in Storybrooke, though the savior seems more concerned that memories of her childhood with the Snow Queen are missing as well. And all our heroes want to know how the Snow Queen came to this world if it wasn’t via curse. I too am intrigued by the how and why that brought the Snow Queen to the real world and more importantly, why did she choose to retire to Storybrooke even after she had made contact with Emma? What is this woman hiding in all these missing memories? Little can be gathered of the Snow Queen’s plan since the dairy queen had successfully cleared out her shop and home before retreating to the Northern Woods. Henry brightly suggests they find her ice cream truck and the hunt for the Snow Queen is renewed.

Our team of protagonists opt to split up in their search, with Rumpelstilskin reminding everyone of his fondness for working alone. True as that is, we will soon see the Master of Hidden Agendas has business with the Snow Queen. Belle also wishes to work by herself, offering to do more research in the library. Elsa jumps at the opportunity to join her, hoping that the Storybrooke Library will shed any light on the missing Anna, though Belle seems visibly uncomfortable with this idea. Already things are not what they seem; the librarian is hiding something.

Flashback to the Enchanted Forest, we see Belle up late reading when Maurice comes in. Belle is extremely upset that she is unable to remember the last moments with her mother and Maurice advises her that the answers she seeks won’t be found in her books. First off, this is the exact opposite of what you’d want to say to Belle, and also why does Maurice always believe that omission is the best way to protect his daughter? Proving her father wrong, Belle reveals that her research has uncovered tales of creatures who have the ability to restore and unlock memories. She is keen on journeying to find them, but Maurice vetos this since magic always comes with a price. He can’t stand the idea of losing his daughter to whatever price the magic may require. I’ll give him that one, not many denizens of the fairy tale world heed that warning. Maurice forbids Belle from leaving, essentially grounding her, though our tenacious librarian will have none of that and pulls out a map of Arendelle.

Back at the Storybrooke Library, Belle and Elsa have come up with nothing on Arendelle or Anna, though part of the reason for that is because Belle has hidden the map she has of Arendelle. Like husband, like wife it seems. The idea of Belle harboring secrets and lying to protect them is an interesting concept. She is always portrayed as very pure, but getting hints that the librarian may have her own agenda and hidden shames kept me guessing the entire episode. I was never quite sure just what Belle was hiding.

Jumping back to the past, where Anna is finally reuniting with Elsa. For now, at least. The sisters are so excited to see each other, and Anna notices that despite talk of their parents a stressful topic, her sister has appeared to have gotten a handle on her icy brand of magic. Elsa contributes this to the help of their aunt, and the Snow Queen steps forward to introduce herself. For a woman in a blinding white dress, she sure is good at lurking in the shadows. Elsa has been learning from the Snow Queen, who says her name is Ingrid and tells the newly arrived Anna of their relation. The Snow Queen remarks on how much Anna looks like her sister, their mother. This seemingly offhand remark will become chillingly relevant later in the episode.

Anna is naturally shocked to learn she has an aunt as the Snow Queen tells her tale of being imprisoned in the magical urn, reiterating through her omission of the details that something terrible must have happened to land her in there. Anna of Arendelle continues to be suspicious of this cold woman, as we see later on when she chatters on to Kristoff about how there are no records or portraits of her supposed aunt. I love that Anna has the wherewithal not to blindly trust this stranger, it actually makes me enjoy her character more since I honestly find Anna’s bubbly nature a bit wearying in large doses. Anna asks Kristoff to cover for her while she goes to consult the rock trolls, seeing as they are the experts on Arendelle family secrets. Kristoff is extremely supportive of his fiancĂ©e’s plans and decisions and this does cause me to wonder, where is he during all the drama taking place in the present day? Is he alone in Arendelle, waiting for news of either sister or did something unsavory befall him? As Anna leaves to consult the trolls, we find that the Snow Queen is again in full on lurk mode, eavesdropping on this entire exchange.

And it seems that old habits die hard, for in the present day, Her Royal Iciness is just within earshot of our heroes as they uncover her hidden ice cream truck, found abandoned at the edge of the Merry Men’s camp. Quick question; why are the Merry Men still hanging out in the woods? Are then border patrol or does the plot of the season simply require them to remain camping? Our heroes discover the truck to be empty, with the exception of a padlocked freezer. Once opened, a file is recovered that has among its contents the newspaper clipping detailing Emma and August’s mysterious arrival into the real world 28 years ago. Here is where my mind when into overdrive. We saw the Snow Queen lurking, so did she plant this file for them to find? What is her larger plan if it requires leaving a breadcrumb trail of clues for Emma to find, and wouldn’t that negate stealing the savior’s memories in the first place? Also, how in all the realms did she know Emma would be arriving in this world? Did she learn of the savior’s arrival after the fact or has she been tracking her for much longer than anyone on Once Upon a Time realizes? Again, I had so many questions swirling in my brain, which I believe is why I enjoyed this episode so much. Teasing out the snarls in this mystery has entertained me greatly.

Over at the library, Elsa’s anxiety flurries have returned as she and Belle pour over more and more books. Belle reassures the ice queen that Anna is out there, they did hear her heartbeat in Bo Peep’s staff. Elsa, however, is skeptical, still worrying that the Snow Queen was telling the truth, that Anna was the one who trapped Elsa in the urn. Again, the librarian tries to comfort Elsa and speaks as if she knows the girl from Arendelle. Clearly Belle knows way more about all this than she has let on and demonstrates as much by leaving Elsa so as to “take care of something”. When next we see her, Belle is tearing through the pawn shop, gathering supplies.

Back at the ice cream truck, Robin has been trying to talk with Regina. He believes she is upset since the thief admitted he was still in love with her, that Regina is avoiding him because even after admitting his love he asked her to help save his frozen wife. Regina firmly assures Robin that this is not the case, that she has distanced herself because no matter what she tries, she can’t break the Snow Queen’s spell and despite the faith Robin seems to have in her, the best course of action is for the Prince of Thieves to forget the Evil Queen and learn to love his wife again. I feel as if these two are drawing to a standstill. We really didn’t received anything new from their confrontation, however I do like the fact that Regina seems to echo her lost Daniel’s words, urging Robin to “love again”.

Elsewhere in the forest, I’m getting flashbacks of Neverland as Rumpelstilskin calls the Snow Queen out of hiding. He has sought her out to deliver a warning; Emma is on to her and now knows their shared history began long before Storybrooke. This doesn’t faze the Snow Queen, who is smug as ever assuring Rumple that what Emma knows and what she doesn’t is all part of her grand scheme. So the dairy queen is leaking information.

The Snow Queen knows Rumpelstilksin didn’t come into the woods to warn her out of the goodness of his dark heart, he’s too smart for that. Rumple is actually there to learn what the Snow Queen has up her icy sleeve and the imp tempts the queen with the offer of a deal. He assures the Snow Queen she would be foolish to decline such an offer, though interestingly the queen is able to call the Dark One out. He needs something from her, she sees that he has no leverage, and evenly warns Rumpelstilskin to stay out of her way. Now, Rumple is usually the chess master in his encounters, though we’ve seen him trip up with Zelena and Pan, both because of the prior relationships these two hold with him. So, what is the connection between the Snow Queen and the Dark One, what is their common past? And now that Rumple can control the sorcerer’s hat, a seriously powerful item, what could he possibly need besides that?

Back in the Arendelle of old, Belle has unsuccessfully tried to get directions from Oaken, the “Hoo hoo!” guy from Frozen. Oaken really does not add much to this scene or the episode, he is unfortunately here simply as a nod to the Frozen movie franchise. Lucky for the librarian, Anna had also stopped at Oaken’s for supplies and offers to show Belle the way to the rock trolls. They stroll down the path, bonding over the fact that they both lost their mothers. Belle explains her desire for the trolls to restore her memory so she can finally be at peace with the loss of her mother, but Anna warns her that sometimes the answer you get isn’t the one you want. The weight of her parents’ actions against Elsa still are weighing heavily on the girl’s mind. Our adventuring pair come to a cliff and we see that Anna has learned very little about climbing from her fiancĂ© as she falls down with in a matter of minutes. As Anna dusts herself off, Belle spots the hat box that fell out of her pack. Anna is very wary of the item and explains its powers to Belle, also mentioning the dark imp she stole it from and how the librarian would want to steer clear of him, despite Belle wanting to know more. Oh you’ll get to know more Belle, no worries there.

Back in Storybrooke, Rumple arrives in the pawnshop, just in time to see Belle geared up and ready to go confront the Snow Queen. Belle is insistent that she must fix a mistake she made long ago, though she isn’t willing to tell her husband what she did that was so terrible. The librarian understands the danger, that the Snow Queen is extremely powerful, so she asks Rumpelstilskin to escort her. Unfortunately, when Rumple says this is out of the question, Belle pulls the fake Dark One dagger out. Rumpelstilskin has the gall to act hurt, reminding his wife that he gave her the dagger because he trusted Belle not to use it on him. Belle is truly upset, but believes she has no other choice but to seek out the Snow Queen. She raises the dagger in front of her and commands her husband to do her bidding. I am not sure how I feel about this scene, particularly Belle actually using the dagger on Rumpelstilskin and of her own volition. We’ve seen her hesitate and show disgust at the idea of controlling her husband in past episodes, so her guilt must be eating her alive if she’s willing to go this far. I hate to say that Rumple might have been right in keeping the dagger for himself, though I really don’t care for the fact that he makes it a point to remind Belle that he gave her the “dagger” because he trusted her when in truth he did no such thing and is a lying liar who lies.

We get a brief scene of Emma still puzzling over the file the Snow Queen allowed her to find. The savior and the queen were together for six months, the longest time Emma can remember being in one foster home. This file is an odd thing, full of really sentimental items such as drawing Emma did, essays she wrote, prizes she won. Emma remarks that she has a similar folder for Henry and all of his keepsakes and truth be told I’m a grown woman and my mother still has one for me. So based on this evidence a very deep and loving bond formed between the Snow Queen and the savior, though Emma asks the most important question; if this is the case, why are her memories gone? And what does the mysterious scroll covered in runes found tucked in the file mean? For the latter, I’ll direct you to one of many sites that translated the runes before the episode aired. As for the former question, that is the mystery, isn’t it? I personally doubt the veracity of all the items left in the file. I know it’s cruel to think that the Snow Queen would go to all these lengths and create such an abundance of false evidence just to fool Emma into believing they were a happy family once. We know at least the newspaper clipping is real since there was mention of it all the way back in season one. And going back to a though I had in my Breaking Glass review, I wonder what Snow White would think about all the things the Snow Queen “kept” of Emma’s.

Flashback to Anna and Belle’s adventures with the rock trolls. I’ll maintain my stance that though the trolls are faithful to the Frozen movie, I’m not a fan of their design, though I can see how diehard fans of the movie would move to have them on screen. Grand Pabby the rock troll already knows why Belle as traveled so far and instantly pulls the blocked memories from her brain, forming them into a stone that she can use in a ritual to restore what was lost. Then it’s Anna’s turn as she asks about her mother’s sister. Well, it turns out that the former Queen of Arendelle has not one, but TWO sisters, a game changer if I ever saw one. The rock trolls were sworn to secrecy on the whole affair. Anna and Elsa’s mother, Gerda, was the youngest, followed by the mysterious Helga, and then finally our very own Snow Queen, Ingrid. These three were extremely close until a tragedy struck and both Helga and Ingrid were never seen or heard from again. That is when the royal family of Arendelle tried to forget what had happened, going so far as to strike the sisters from the royal records and have the trolls erase the memories of all in Arendelle. That is… extreme, to say the least. I wonder if the great tragedy is that the Snow Queen, as a child, accidentally killed her younger sister Helga with her ice powers, resulting in their parents entombing their oldest daughter in at urn. Anna realizes that the Snow Queen never once mentioned the other sister and could quite possibly be hiding more than just that, so she rushes off the warn Elsa of their dangerous aunt.

However, Belle and Anna don’t get very far down the cliff before the wind picks up and a storm approaches. The icewoman cometh. Belle is worried that the Snow Queen will use her magic to hinder Anna returning to the castle, but the girl from Arendelle isn’t afraid since she still possesses the hat box and knows she can use it to save herself by stripping the Snow Queen of her powers. A particularly close clap of thunder throws both women down and Anna goes tumbling over the edge of the cliff, hanging on by her fingertips. She calls for Belle’s aid, but the librarian has lost grip of the memory stone and it has precariously perched itself just out of reach. After a moment’s hesitation, Belle choses to save the stone containing the memories of her mother, but it slips loose and falls to the ground, shattering into dust. After this loss, Belle turns her attention to Anna, who is barely hanging on and normally this is the moment where the hero saves the person in distress and they laugh it off, but nope, not on Once Upon a Time. Anna finally loses hold and falls to the bottom of the cliff. I legitimately thought at this moment that Belle’s guilt was over the fact that Anna had died from the fall. But Anna isn’t dead, not with the Snow Queen still around. The queen slinks out of the cover of the forest and plucks the box containing the sorcerer’s hat from Anna’s crumpled body, then with that nifty bit of snowy CGI, poofs them both away.

In the present day, husband and wife arrive at the entrance to the Snow Queen’s lair. Belle uses the dagger on Rumpelstilskin, commanding him to stand watch which I’m sure pretending to do so is in no way doing to bite Rumple in his sparkly rear later. Belle finally reveals what she is after in the Snow Queen’s Fortress of Solitude; it’s the sorcerer’s hat. She wants to use it to strip the queen of her dangerous magic while Rumple plays dumb and simply tries to dissuade Belle from this endeavor. However, the librarian is firm and creeps into the cavern by herself.

This has to be one of my favorite sequences from the episode. As Belle slowly enters the main chamber, a voice can be heard softly calling her name. It has a quite playful and unsettling tone and soon Belle realizes that the call is coming from inside the house… ahem, I mean the voice is coming from the Snow Queen’s mirror! Belle’s own reflection begins speaking with her, which is uncanny to say the least and the moment that things get very real in the episode. Mirror Belle begins sending her real counterpart on a guilt trip, telling the librarian that she selfishly never cared about saving Anna, that she chose her own happiness over the girl from Arendelle. The mirror really lays it on thick, hammering home the idea that Belle isn’t the hero she fancies herself to be, not when she ruined someone else’s life. Belle is at this point begging the mirror to shut up, but even then it taunts her, calling her weak and pathetic. A coward that the Dark One married simply because he needed someone he could control. Mirror Belle even goes so far as the call in question the dagger Belle possesses, trying to convince her that it’s not even real. Ah ha, there it is. We know this mirror is imbued with dark magic, but what if it’s the same mirror from the original Snow Queen tale, the one that shattered and splintered into everyone’s eyes, forcing them to only see the terrible wickedness in people? Could the version of Belle in the mirror be a part of her subconscious, a manifestation of her doubts and worries come to life to aggressively convince her that they are true?

Rumple must have sensed something was wrong, for he rushes in the Snow Queen’s lair and finds Belle mesmerized by the mirror. He tries to pry his wife away from its thrall and earns a slash across the neck with his own dagger for the trouble. Poofing them away to the pawn shop, Rumple manages to calm the deeply upset Belle down, hand waving his disobeying her orders with semantics. The Dark One assures Belle that everything the mirror was saying was false, that it was just dark magic at play, though since it was right about the dagger Belle holds, I wonder how true Rumpelstilskin’s statement is. Belle finally admits her dark secret; she is the reason Anna is missing. In retrospect, it kind of makes sense as to why Belle has been so scarce lately. She was avoiding her past mistakes and didn’t want to admit to Elsa what happened until she made it right. And as if everything that has happened isn’t emotionally draining enough, Belle is upset she abused the dagger and took advantage of Rumple. She begs his forgiveness, which he readily gives. Belle deeply regrets keeping her secret from her husband and twists the dagger, so to speak, when she says she knows Rumple would never do that to her. Oh honey... This business with the dagger could potentially be the end of this couple. I certainly wouldn’t want that to be the case, happy endings for all, but taking this last exchange into consideration, Belle is going to feel deeply betrayed when the truth about the dagger comes out, regardless of whether or not she knew what she was getting herself into by marrying the Dark One.

In a flashback to Belle’s home, we see her finally returning from her journey, her father Maurice waiting. It comes to light that Belle’s father has a secret of his own; he knows exactly what happened to Collette the night of the ogre attack, but wanted to spare his daughter the grief. Maurice tells of how Belle’s mother stood her ground against the ogres and gave Belle enough time to escape, sacrificing herself for her daughter. Belle also learns that the war with the ogres hasn’t been going well and decides that they need to call upon the help of the wizard she learned about on her journey. Belle understands that magic comes with a price, but her mother’s death showed her that a hero does whatever they can for those they love, even if it’s a huge sacrifice. Belle just wants to be a hero like her mother. Having just caused Anna’s capture and potential death, then realizing her mother was in the same situation and managed to save the person they were with, this may be the ultimate motivator for Belle, the idea of a hero as seen through her mother’s actions.

In present day Storybrooke, the episode is drawing to a close and this is the point here I realized the Snow Queen was actually quite frightening. Rumpelstilskin arrives in her lair to deliver another warning. He doesn’t know when she will “use” the mirror (more on that later), but the imp with the limp will not let the Snow Queen hurt those he cares about. I find it very subtle and extremely interesting that this line is spoken with the shot focused on Rumple’s refection in the evil mirror. Take a look at his body, he is facing the mirror head on, but the refection is angled to address the Snow Queen. If this mirror is a window to the subconscious, could this be the part of Rumpelstilskin that he wishes to hide, the part that unconditionally loves Belle, the part that is his ultimate weakness? The Dark One’s threats do little to phase the Snow Queen, so Rumple plays his trump card and produces the sparkly sorcerer’s hat, his leverage. For once, the Snow Queen actually looks disarmed and unsure. Now that he knows what she’s up to, Rumple suggests that the Snow Queen reconsider her plans or into the hat she goes. So, this mirror is more than just a fixture, it has to be a weapon. But how does the hat fit in with the mirror and since we know from the flashback that the Snow Queen had her frosty mitts on the sorcerer’s hat, how did she loose it?

Well, let’s dive deeper into the Snow Queen plan with a final flashback to Arendelle. Here is where the Snow Queen ramps up the creep factor. She is paranoid and accuses a captive Anna of planning to use the hat to strip Elsa of her powers. Anna calls the queen out on having a second sister, but the Snow Queen refuses to make more than a passing mention of it. And here is where I knew that the Snow Queen was just plan disturbed. She leans in close to Anna and laments that the pair of them and Elsa could have been a happy family, that all she ever wanted was a family who embraced her for who she was. Well, now that Anna is the odd one out, the Snow Queen says she’ll simply have to find someone to replace her.

The implications continue to send a shiver down my spine, one that has nothing to do with the temperature, as we jump the present day one final time. Elsa has finally unearthed a heraldry book and explains to Emma the business of her two surprise aunts. The most shocking thing is that the one sister, Helga, is the spitting image of Emma. It’s here that Elsa notices the scroll Emma retrieved from the ice cream truck and if you hadn’t cheated and clicked the link to the translation, you’d learn here that the scroll contains a prophecy. Elsa explains that it names Emma as the savior and that she “will be the sister”. The Snow Queen is looking to replace her fallen family, which makes her remark to Anna about the mother/daughter resemblance all the more eerie. Belle rushes in and admits to Elsa that she knew her sister and was the reason Anna was captured by the Snow Queen. But the librarian also came with worse news. That mirror that the Snow Queen so lovingly reassembled, is indeed full of terrible magic and part of a powerful enchantment known as The Spell of the Shattered Sight. Its magic will make everyone in Storybrooke turn on each other and destroy the town, leaving only Elsa, Emma, and the Snow Queen as the perfect family, forever and ever.

Jeez, what a creeper. Did the Snow Queen give you a chill? Leave a comment below and tell us about it!

I have so many questions floating about in my head after this episode. I often found myself having an idea of what Belle was hiding, or what the Snow Queen was scheming, but until elements of the plot were finally revealed, I was in the dark speculating and trying to get one step ahead of the story. And I liked it. The story unfolding is familiar but not terribly predictable. Every time I think I’ve tacked down exactly what is happening, new information will crop up and cause me the change my theories. I wonder if The Spell of Shattered Sight has to do with the elements of the original tale that I mentioned above. What will the mirror show for everyone? Also, just putting it out there, I’m not the biggest fan of another town-wide curse, but I’m willing to give the writers the benefit of the doubt that there’s going to be a twist with this one.

I was nervous about Anna’s inclusion in Belle’s back story. I’m not fond of the idea that Anna was present in so many of our usual Once Upon a Time players’ pasts, but I feel that her presence in Belle’s really worked. Belle has been an established adventurer and having her not only bear the burden of secret like almost killing a girl and putting her own desire before Anna’s safety, but also showing the librarian as the force behind bring the Dark One into play for the events of season one has made Belle a less passive character than she has been this season. Though to be fair, whenever we get a Belle-centric episode, we often see the librarian as a tenacious problem solver and my only wish is that this would carry through more to episodes that aren’t focused on her.

The Snow Queen’s “happy family” obsession has crossed the line from creepy into downright frightening. I firmly believe the Snow Queen isn’t right in the head, especially if she has no qualms about replacing people or forcing them to be her puppets just so she can have a happy family. The idea that the Snow Queen has been obsessing over Emma and is going to make her take on the role of sister just… it bothers me. And why would the queen mess with both Elsa’s and Emma’s memories if she at one point or another had them both right where she wanted them? I am genuinely unsettled by her now. That frosty exterior is starting to melt and it’s almost as if a serial killer, one who abducts people to make their fantasies come true, is hiding underneath. And it is fantastic! She feels very threatening, a real villain not just an antagonist and I can’t wait to see more.

Tune in next week and find out what happened to the Sisters of Arendelle in “The Snow Queen”

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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