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Once Upon a Time - Fall - Review

Another strong entry in this season of Once Upon a Time, despite the fact that most of the action was just set up for the real main event next episode. I found “Fall” to be a lot of fun, even though there was an impending doom once more hovering over Storybrooke. There were many great lines, both humorous and serious, and the entire episode was shot in such a gorgeous manner. The emotional moments towards the end were also enjoyable and really struck chord with me. I do have a few issues with plot points surrounding Anna’s necklace that only had an impact this episode, but on the whole this was a great story to come back to after the break. Being so close to the end of this half of the season, I like that many loose ends are finally being tied up and despite what I said earlier regarding this episode being set up for the end of the season 4A, I’m grateful that the writers chose this path so they can devote the entire next episode to the effects of such a nasty curse.

“Fall” opens with the newest curse to threaten Storybrooke, looming overhead, slowly approaching the town’s borders. The Snow Queen is alone in the woods, watching her handiwork draw near, when Rumpelstilskin saunters up, congratulating the Snow Queen on a curse well done. But that’s not all the imp wants, for Rumple also sought her Royal Iciness out to strike a deal. When the cruse hits at sundown, the entire town will go mad and tear each other and themselves apart and well, the Dark One wants to spare his wife and grandson that fate. Rumple assures the Snow Queen that he will spend the rest of his days hunting her down if she doesn’t comply, but the Snow Queen sees nothing wrong with leaving Rumple to his devices if he will leave her to her own, and agrees.

Meanwhile, our heroes are crowded in the top of the clock tower, watching the curse approach through a nifty window that must have gotten added since the clock was repaired due to the last defenestration. I have to say I love the look of the spell. It has the traditional curse-y cloud thing going on, rolling over the horizon like a tidal wave, but with this spell the bits of glass from the mirror are tinkling and twinkling throughout the cloud. It looks very pretty and dangerous at the same time.
Charming suggests that they open the mine or the vault for the townspeople to hide from the glass shards overhead, but is quickly shot down when he is reminded that this is magic and nowhere is safe. The threat of the town “tearing each other apart” is brought up once again and this repetition makes me really eager to see just what this spell can do, how these allies would turn on each other and what they will do or say when that happens.

Emma actually has a rather astute idea, suggesting that if they can’t hide from the spell in town, then they should just leave town all together. Quickly we jump to the town line where Emma first encountered Elsa. Charming gives scaling the still intact ice wall a go, but the enchantment is too strong and stubborn, conjuring more stalagmites to foil his plan of spelunking over the ice. A convenient crack in the ice reveals Anna’s necklace, the one Elsa lost under the ice when she and Emma first met. Elsa takes the necklace reemerging as a sign that she will find her sister.

The savior, however, has closer conflicts at hand to worry about, suggesting everyone separate from their loved ones so no one is harmed. She sends her parents on the task of spreading this word around town, as well as asking Hook to investigate the possibility of escaping Storybrooke by sea. Regina offers to warn Robin and his merry men since they are camped not too far off. Emma want to keep Henry in her sights since as Elsa points out, the Snow Queen’s ribbons make them immune to the curses effects. Regina has a point though when she reasons that Emma is a part of the Snow Queen’s plan and there is no knowing what could happen in that case. The Evil Queen wants to keep her son as safe as she can. On a side note, Henry has never seen Regina go 110% crazy queen before. I’m interested in seeing his reaction should their paths cross in the curse. Anyway, Emma concedes and lets Regina look after their son for the time being and I am still very proud of how far these characters have come from their attitudes in the first and second seasons of Once Upon a Time. Despite the differences and grudges currently floating about between these two women, they have not backpedaled in their acceptance of Henry and his happiness first. Again, with this nasty spell of Shattered Sight bearing down on the town, will we actually see a glimpse of Emma and Regina as they were in season one?

Speaking of the savior, she and Elsa decided that their task would be to seek help from Rumpelstilskin himself. Our heroes still trust the Dark One and at this point I cannot wait for his skullduggery to be revealed and to see everyone’s reactions to it, particularly Emma’s and Belle’s. At the pawnshop, Belle is doing what she does best, pouring over a large book researching the newest threat. The curse, unfortunately, appears to be unstoppable, though there may be a way to undo its effects once it hits. It’s possible to brew a counter spell using a strand of hair or such from a person already effected by the spell of Shattered Sight.

Elsa realizes that Anna’s uncharacteristic behavior in putting her in the urn must have been a result of this spell. The Snow Queen was indeed lying and her hope in finding Anna is renewed. Learning a thing or two from her time in Storybrooke, Elsa wants to use a locator spell on the necklace to find her missing sister once and for all. But when Belle takes a closer look at the family heirloom, she notices that mirror dust from the Snow Queen’s first foray with the curse is actually imbedded in the metal. The librarian thinks the best course of action would be to round up the Storybrooke fairies and begin finding ways to concoct the counter spell. Elsa is still very hopeful Anna can be found, even when Emma pragmatically reminds the ice queen that thirty years have gone by since they last saw each other. It’s Elsa’s determination to find her sister that proves to be a problem for the town later on.

Back in Arendelle, we see the kingdom begin to thaw. Anna and Kristoff are alone as they defrost, both the Snow Queen and the urn containing Elsa nowhere to be seen. However, Anna does find a piece of golden straw that Rumpelstilskin was playing with during his last unannounced visit and realizes the imp came to the kingdom seeking what was taken from him, namely the urn. I would think the hat would have been a more obvious choice, but the girl from Arendelle is certain that the Dark One is their best change at retrieving Elsa. Unfortunate for our heroes, they aren’t the only ones who have thawed as Hans and his band of brothers burst into the dining hall. Hans claims to have heard Anna and Kristoff discuss the recent events of overpowering and trapping the reigning queen and wants to frame the pair for treason and take over Arendelle. Anna protests, throwing venom into the line, “And I sang with you” and while this is another cute shout out to Frozen, my appreciation of the sly nods to the movie is waning a bit. There is a scuffle between Anna and Kristoff and the band of brothers with Hans and company being bested and Anna and Kristoff escaping into the night.

In Storybrooke, Hook is completing his task of checking whether the town can escape their fate via the sea. The Snow Queen has thought of everything and we see more icy stalagmites rise in the harbor, cutting off the town entirely. Rumpelstilskin appears at the pirate’s side, with Hook’s heart safely in tow in the Dark One’s satchel. Quite the accessory. Rumple conjures up the Sorcerer’s hat and reveals his new plan to power it up. Granny’s diner is currently being overrun by fairies working hard at brewing a counter curse and the Dark One wants his pet pirate to take the hat and trap all the fairies inside, powering it up to its full potential so that he may finally be free of the dagger’s influence. I question why Rumpelstilskin didn’t just do this before. Was it that hard to ensure the fairies would all be in one place at one time?

Rumple has problem though. His wife, Belle, is with the fairies in the diner and will be caught in the crossfire. Hook is to standby until the Dark One has successfully gotten the librarian out of the way. It is here that Hook realizes his master cares nothing for the fact that the fairies are trying to stop the oncoming spell, condemning the town to tearing itself apart in hatred. Rumpelstilskin assures the pirate that he doesn’t care about this unfortunate outcome, that his own interests and survival supersede those of others every time. Some things never change with the Dark One, he is still willing, as he was with his search of Nealfire, to do whatever it takes to get what he wants which is his happy ending.

Over in the woods outside of town, Regina and Henry enter Robin Hood’s camp and warns the Prince of Thieves to scatter his men. With that many weapons lying around, the Merry Men will prove to be not so merry and destroy each other. Henry goes off to help break camp and Regina has a moment with her lover, wishing to memorize Robin’s face as it is now, with love in his eyes, before the curse hits. This is especially poignant considering Regina has always felt as if she wasn’t care about or loved, she’s experienced nothing but anger and fear from others for so long so the evil queen wants to savor her last moments with someone she believes care for her unconditionally one last time. Regina goes on to say that the only people in Storybrooke who believe in her are Henry and Robin and while this may not be true since we’ve recently seen both Emma and Snow White show support and belief in Regina, at this point the evil queen is still getting used to the idea of being “one of the good guys”. It’s her personal perception that only her son and her boyfriend care about her with no strings attached and since her bonds with Emma and Snow are fresh and have been tenuous at best (think about how excited we viewers get when Regina and Snow have a heart to heart), I can understand how Regina is able to feel this way.

Back in town, Elsa and Emma are leave the pawn shop, on the hunt for the missing sister once more. They have used a locator spell on the necklace and follow the glow it emits to the Storybrooke Library. Elsa is a bit confused since she’s been in the library and seen no sign of Anna, but Emma explains that this particular building is unique, sitting atop many secret tunnels and mines. The savior makes mention of these secret passages concealing a dragon for 28 years, which I think is a sly set up to Maleficent’s return in the latter half of season four. Soon Emma and Elsa are beneath Storybrooke, searching through the mines, when the necklace leads them to a dead end, caved in by the recent ice wall activity. Elsa goes to blast way the rubble with her ice powers, but Emma is more concerned with cave-ins and asks her friends to wait.

Back in Arendelle, Kristoff and Anna are running through the darkened woods, having thwarted Hans and his brothers’ pursuit. They plan to get the urn containing Elsa back, this Anna admitting she read her mother’s diary in one of the closed off rooms. The king and queen of Arendelle had been searching for something called the Wishing Star to potential remove Elsa’s problematic powers, though Kristoff observes that they didn’t succeed in finding it since the queen of Arendelle still has her ice magic. Anna also learned that her parent drew charter with a pirate known as Blackbeard in order to find the mysterious object, so she suggest they try asking the pirate about the Wishing Star.
Anna reasons that making a deal with a pirate is safer than tangling with a wizard like Rumpelstilskin since pirates can be bought off with money as opposed to one’s first born. My one problem with this episode is that the Wishing Star turns out to be a very important and pivotal object, yet this is the first time we’ve heard about it. When I first hear it mentioned, I assumed they were referring to the Blue Fairy (though that may be because I am eternally suspicious of Mother Blueperior). I do wish, pun intended, that this Wishing Star had come up sooner in the season so it didn’t seem like such a deus ex machina. So, Anna and Kristoff make their way to the docks, intent on finding Blackbeard, only the pirate easily finds them first. Anna explains their desire for the Wishing Star and Blackbeard strikes a quick deal with them, only for Hans and his brothers to show up. In the movie Frozen I appreciated Hans as a villain, but in this episode I was not pleased to see him continuing to pop up and derail our heroes’ plans.

In Storybrooke, Grumpy is consulted in the matter of breaking through the rubble in the caves. Regina gets a jab in at Snow’s mayorship since she, the evil queen, certainly wouldn’t let things fall into such disrepair and we get a fun bit of dialog from Snow where she reminds Regina that when the mayor only has to worry about one villain, herself, she has more time for “infrastructure”. Snow White does have a point. Clearing the cave will take hours, time the town does not have as the curse has been drawing closer and closer. And it looks like time is just about out for our heroes when Charming reports that he just got off the phone with Belle. The fairies want to try extracting the mirror dust from Anna’s necklace to use in their counter spell, only this act will destroy the necklace for good. So our heroes have a choice; save the sister or save the town.

Speaking of Belle, Hook and Rumpelstilskin arrive at the diner to enact their own dastardly plan. Hook is commanded to go around the back with the hat and wait until the librarian is safe. Unfortunately for Rumple, his attempts to get Belle to leave the diner fall on deaf ears as the librarian is determined to stay and help the fairies in their hoodoo. So, the Dark One declares he will stay as well. This doesn’t sit right with Mother Blueperior, who reminds the imp with the limp that what they are attempting is light magic and his dark brand of spells have no place in their efforts. Again, I am always suspicious of what the Blue Fairy is up to and I wonder why she doesn’t take Rumple up on what she may perceive as a genuine offer of help.

Back at the library, our remaining heroes discuss their options, facing the difficult task of having to choose one woman’s life over the entire town. Emma wants to create a third option and save both, which makes her mother proud as Snow White comments that the savior is acting like a true hero. Regina, however, plays the devil’s advocate and gets my favorite line of the night, claiming that right now the group needs to think like leaders, not heroes, and make the tough call. And what makes this my favorite is that the Charming’s see the logic the evil queen presents and agree with her. They all have to give Storybrooke its best chance.

Emma breaks the news to Elsa, who gives over the bag containing the family heirloom… only the necklace is not inside. Elsa has kept it for herself and descends down into the bowels of the library, still intent on finding Anna. This is an incredibly selfish choice on Elsa’s part, but given her single-mindedness in finding her sister, it does make sense. Despite the ice queen’s bonds with the people of Storybrooke, Anna has always been Elsa’s rock, the most important person in her life, making her actions justifiable in her own mind. Emma quickly realizes what Elsa has done when the group attempts to deliver the necklace to the fairies and Belle. They are out of time and even Snow White knows it, forgoing her usual speeches about hope to lament that Elsa’s blind faith in finding her sister effectively screwed them all over. I like that even Snow is teetering on the edge of hopelessness, it goes well with the idea stated all the way back in season two that the residents of Storybrooke “are both”. While Snow White may be the paradigm of faith, she has learned through her experiences in the real world that not everything is a fairy tale.

However, the savior is not so quick to give up just yet, and rushes off to the mines to help Elsa. Emma finds her in the mines, blasting through the caved in portion of the wall, only to find the beach on the other side. Anna is nowhere in sight and Emma once again reminds the ice queen that thirty years is a very long time and despite Elsa’s faith, they need to deal with the impending threat.

Back in Arendelle, it turns out that Hans is actually in cahoots with Blackbeard to trap Anna and Kristoff once and for all. The pirate casually mentions that he knew Anna’s parents and succeeded in selling them the Wishing Star. The girl from Arendelle wonders why the king and queen didn’t use the Star when they had the chance and it turns out that like most light magic, the Wishing Star can only be used if one is pure of heart. I suppose trying to change who your daughter fundamentally is would fall under the category of less than pure intentions. Hans has the pirates sail out to the spot where the ship transporting Anna’s parents sank, feeling it is a fitting place to bury Kristoff and his fiancĂ©. Blackbeard puts our two heroes in a trunk before throwing them overboard to drown so there is no chance of escape or “fin-terference” from benevolent mermaids. Tenacious to the last, Anna vows that Elsa will get out of the urn and take back the kingdom from Hans, though the villain doesn’t think much of this. He reminds Anna and Kristoff that he controls the kingdom and its assets, right down to the ship they are on, the Jolly Roger. Hmmm…

Hans goes on to state that if Elsa had found a way to escape her urn in the last thirty years, she would have done so by now. Well, that’s a revelation I wasn’t expecting. Anna is horrified to learn that they had been frozen for that long. The guilt and implications of leaving Anna leaving her beloved sister trapped for so long are compelling, though they take a backseat to the more pressing reveal that the events of this episode’s “flashbacks” are concurrent to the action in Storybrooke. The Snow Queen’s magic thawed Arendelle at that moment because her Royal Iciness had bigger things cooking in that town in Maine. This explains why only Anna’s heartbeat could be heard via Bo Peep’s staff; Anna was an ice cube when they tried. This also gives us an explanation as too how Hook got back to the land without magic in season three, he traded the Jolly Roger to Blackbeard for some sort of passage or portal. This caught me quite off guard and I enjoy how well it all fits together.

No time to digest this shocking revelation though, as the trunk is sealed and thrown overboard. Kristoff is frantic in trying to escape the trunk as water gushes in, threatening to drown the pair, but Anna seems to be overcome with her guilt and belief that Elsa is lost forever and barely moves, resigned to her fate. There is an extraordinarily emotional moment when Anna does finally speak, turning to her fiancé and begins to recite their wedding vows. She truly believes this is the end and they are about to die and her only wish is to for someone to know that she unconditionally loves them. Kristoff is having none of this and swears that they will marry when they both get out of their trap alive.

Back on the Storybrooke beach, while all this is happening, Elsa is in her own version of despair. She tells Emma about how the necklace was a gift to Anna that used to belong to their mother. Out of options, the only thing Elsa can do is clutch the last thing she has of Anna, that necklace, and earnestly wish that her lost sister was with her now. Well, it seems that this necklace was more than just a family heirloom, it was the Wishing Star all along. When Elsa held it while speaking her last regrets out loud, the magic of the necklace plucked Anna and Kristoff from the bottom of the ocean and deposited them at the Storybrooke beach in the nick of time. Along for the ride is the message in the bottle from the royal Arendelle ship wreck, last seen in episode one of this season. Whatever the queen of Arendelle felt her daughters should know must be terribly important for it to have resurfaced, figuratively and literally, after so long. I truly wonder what it says.

Elsa and Anna finally have their tearful reunion and there is still time to save the town from the curse and reverse the spell, all they need to do is get Anna to the fairies. This was one thing I was very unclear on in my initial viewing of “Fall”. I had assumed that when Belle was explaining that a hair or some artifact from a person under the spell could be used to create a counter spell, the hair would have had to come from the specific person the spell was being performed on, not any person the spell had ever been performed on. Before I had really thought about what the fairies were trying to do, I wondered why not use a hair from one of the townsfolk who were about to be cursed. But, as we will see, no one is going to be in the mood to cook up counter curses once this storm finally arrives.

Rushing back into town, Emma brings Kristoff and Anna up to speed, explaining that Anna is apparently immune to the Spell of Shattered Sight since she had already fallen under it once before. Is this why she is so important in brewing the counter curse? Though, it appears our heroes are too late because when they show up to the diner, the fairies are all missing. Despite believing that the Snow Queen was responsible, what really happened was that Rumpelstilskin succeeded in getting Belle out of harm’s way, allowing Hook to go ahead and suck all the fairies into the hat. When this happens, general chaos ensues and for a moment it looks like Mother Blueperior will be spared, but no Hook finds her and apologizes before trapping the Blue Fairy as well. It’s going to be interesting when Blue gets out of that hat and accuses Hook in front of Emma and the rest.

Emma and company show up at the sheriff’s station, ready to prepare for the worst. Snow White, Charming, and Bouncing Baby Neal are waiting for them, with a plan. Emma is to lock Charming and Snow in jail cells to protect them from the town and vice versa. The savior struggles with this decision, becoming very emotional since she has no clue if or when her parents will be safe, but Snow assures her daughter that she trust and believes in her, making up for the behavior displayed earlier in the season. And as a sign of trust, they give Emma her baby brother to keep safe, insisting to the savior that they don’t fear her magic. Emma is going to use that magic, that thing that makes her special, to save everyone. Hook arrives and wants a word. He needed to see Emma before he chains himself to the dock for protection. Perhaps he, like Regina, wanted to see Emma look at him with love in her eyes one last time before the savior discovers his hand in dooming the town. Emma initially balks at the idea of a tearful good bye, but quickly gives in and kisses her lover before he leaves.

Elsewhere in town, others are preparing for the worst as well. Rumple is confident that his Dark One powers will protect him, but he seals Belle into the pawn shop to spare her. Regina brings Henry to the mayoral office, apologizing profusely that she should have been focusing on Operation Mongoose and not Operation Robin Hood. Henry assures her that it’s ok, that they will all be ok, and Regina wipes away tears as she places a barrier spell on the office to keep her son safe. Robin Hood finds Regina just as she finishes her spell, assuring her that Roland and Marian (where has Marian been all this time) are safe. Regina insists that he leave as she is going to seal herself in her vault, no for protection, but to spare the town from her. Even though Robin Hood isn’t afraid of her, Regina insists that he should be.

The ending of this episode is my favorite part, it looks gorgeous as the glittering curse finally descends on Storybrooke, and we get a montage of all our favorite characters, each by themselves, warily waiting for the curse to take hold. The most moving part of when the Spell of Shattered Sight hits is seeing Snow White and Charming, who have been clasping hands this entire time, are overcome by the spell. They slowly let go of each other as their expressions harden. There is no longer any love in their eyes. There’s no dialogue and even the music drops out and all we are left with is this silent and swift change in mood as the episode ends.

And that was “Fall”. How did you like it? Be sure to leave a comment below!

I liked this episode, though I had issues with the deus ex machine nature of Anna’s necklace. Even though it has been featured prominently throughout the season, I would have liked to have gotten hints about this Wishing Star sooner. I did, however, enjoy the little twist that the events happening in Arendelle were occurring at the same time as the events in Storybrooke and how it made sense to finally bring Elsa and Anna together. Though I have to questions Rumpelstilskin’s skills since we’ve now discovered another way to travel between realms that he missed. Granted, being the Dark One would definitely disqualify him from using a magical object powered by the pureness of one’s heart.

I know many people have been saying that they are tired of the town being hit with curse after curse and I can understand why they feel that way. However, the interesting thing here, the unique thing about this latest curse, is that the heroes of Storybrooke didn't succeed, they actually lost for once. Storybrooke failed to stop an impending threat and now they have to deal with the consequences. I personally cannot wait to see all of the dirty laundry aired. It’s just going to be fun seeing everyone at their worst, though I do wonder what lasting effects the Spell of Shattered Sight will have on our heroes.

Get ready for next week when things get nasty in “Shattered Sight”!

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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