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Once Upon a Time – Midseason Review – “The Good, The Bad, and What Comes Next”

Ah, now that we are all rested from the holidays, it’s time for a look back at season 4A of Once Upon a Time and to take stock of how this season is shaping up so far, as well as what we can expect for the spring. I will say this; I was extremely pleased with season 4A and am excited to see the darkness creeping into Storybrooke for season 4B.

The Good

The Snow Queen – I always love the villains of Once Upon a Time, I find them to be some of the most fascinating characters on the show. The Snow Queen is no exception. I found her cold fury refreshing and the fact that she was completely off her rocker entertained me to no end. But my favorite part had to be how her story was entwined with Emma’s back story and how well the writers wove this new information into the existing Once Upon a Time story, going all the way back to events taking place in season one. This brings us to my next highlight of the season.

Emma’s storyline – We’ve seen the savior struggle with her role before, but never on this level. It was always Emma coming to grips with her job as a savior, not really what that meant for her as a person. It’s one thing to say you understand that you are different; it’s another to get a stark reality check from those you love. If season three was about Emma embracing her magic, season 4A has been about her understanding it and understanding herself. Being the one responsible for everyone's happy ending is something that needs to be fleshed out and mulled over and I believe this half of the season did a great job of that through Emma's struggles.

Frozen – First off, I thought the casting for our Frozen characters was remarkable. Never has there been a more accurate Anna than Elizabeth Lail’s and Georgina Haig’s Elsa brought a lot of warmth to the story, despite the character’s chilly powers. I was ready to hate the show going in this direction, but instead I really enjoyed myself. I liked seeing the platonic bonds, such as Anna and Elsa’s and especially Elsa and Emma’s on screen. I enjoyed Emma having a peer for once and hope that Elsa makes a return, maybe with a new wardrobe, to Storybrooke in the future. Also, I found it noteworthy that for the first time on Once Upon a Time we got to see the juxtaposition between the traditional take on a fairy tale and the Disney take, something I didn’t know I wanted until it happened.

The relationships – This half of the season was a roller coaster for relationships on OUaT, both new and well-established. Highlights for me were Emma admitting to Hook her fear of losing him, given her track record. I appreciate the writers acknowledging the past as much as they have this season and this is one of my favorite references because it’s true and it’s painful, but as we see, Emma can put it behind her without completely forgetting. Robin Hood and Regina faltered a bit for me, it seemed to take them a long time to finally give into their feelings, but the hesitation is appreciated when you think about how long it took Snow and Charming, who were in a similar situation, to get together. It made their union so satisfying and their good bye so bittersweet. And speaking of good –byes, good golly I still cannot get over the bombastic end Rumpelstilskin and Belle had. I liked this outcome for a few reasons. First off, Rumple was being a, for lack of a more descriptive term, scumbag this season, so it was satisfying to see him getting called out on that and to see Belle no blindly follow him. Also, it helped display consequences for our characters and their actions without killing off a main character in an unsatisfying way. Also, we’ll get to see both Rumple and Belle develop more as characters outside of their relationship, which is always nice to see.

The Bad

The Knave of Hearts – I shouldn’t use the term “bad” when what I really mean is “disappointed”. After all the hype for the Knave of Hearts being a series regular, we haven’t seen much out of him this half of the season. To me, he came off as a bit more comic relief than anything else, and yes in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland he was funny and sharp witted, but there was also a gravity to his character. This was a person experienced emotions so deeply, he had to remove his heart to survive and reclaim it to get his happy ending. A happy ending that the writers of Once Upon a Time seem to be hinting was not all it was cracked up to be, which is a shame because I thought Wonderland ended on just the right note. The writers have stated that there will be more in store for the Knave in season 4B, but as of right now I found his involvement in Once Upon a Time underwhelming.

Marian – The conflict with Maid Marian seemed to be cleared up rather quickly, with Marian stepping aside allowing her husband to be with Regina. I feel as if the entire Marian conflict introduced at the end of season 3 was put on hold for the more frosty parts of season 4A, aside from creating conflict between Emma and Regina (which admittedly was fun). I would have liked to see Marian and Regina interact more, to have Maid Marian understand how far Regina has come and have her decision to step aside grow more slowly and organically than her just noticing how Robin and Regina looked at each other. On the same vein, I would have liked to see Henry interact with Marian as well, or for Robin Hood and Henry to have a few scenes. There’s still hope that we will get these things in season 4B, but for right now I am a little disappointed with how Marian has been used so far.

Frozen – I know I had Frozen under the “good” section, but there were a few things about its inclusion this season that bothered me. While I found Frozen to be not as intrusive as I previously worried it would, the shout out’s to the animated film seemed a bit heavy and stood out to me more than ones for previous storylines. Yes, we have seen whole half seasons devoted to stories like Peter Pan or The Wizard of Oz, but neither tale was a new as Frozen is. Frozen’s inclusion worked this season, make no mistake, but I feel that public perception from other viewers may have turned them off this season as I was initially. And to be frank, I think that timing is what made its inclusion a bit over bearing. Everything is Frozen; we consumers are all a little Frozen-ed out. Also, very few liberties were taken with the source material. One of the things I love about Once Upon a Time, a thing that the show does really well, is showing us a new take on an old tale, both within the story and visually through the costuming. Frozen didn’t really achieve either of these. The costumes were not as imaginative as one’s we’ve seen for Ursula, Peter Pan, or Zelena the Wicked Witch. And the same goes with the story. Constant references to events and dialogue from the animated movie reminded viewers that, yes this is Frozen, but didn’t add much to the episodes. To me, I’m just ready to move on from Frozen.

What’s Next?

As of this article’s writing, we know several of the upcoming Once Upon a Time episode titles. They are: “Darkness on the Edge of Town”, “Unforgiven”, “Enter the Dragon”, and “Poor Unfortunate Soul”. To me, these titles speak of a season heavy in villain back story, which is always fun on this show. Having as many baddies running around Storybrooke as we soon will have will certainly prove to be an interesting dynamic and tip the scales in the villains’ favor more than they ever have. It’s always been one villain against the town, so what happens when the villains team up?

To me the most exciting news is the casting news. Once Upon a Time always succeeds in picking the perfect actor or actress for a part, everyone always excels in their roles. We now know that both Ariel and August W. Booth aka Pinocchio will be returning to Once Upon a Time, though I think both will be in a flashback capacity. The one thing I like about having a large cast of fun characters is that they can weave in and out of the stories and seasons. There’s always potential for someone to come back! And some newcomers have been announced, strengthening the idea that we will be seeing a lot of back story. The roles of Poseidon (NOT King Triton, surprisingly) and King Stefan from Sleeping Beauty have been cast. I’m interested to see how these new additions fit into the world of Once Upon a Time.

I can’t really say that I know for sure what’s waiting for us with season 4B. Speculation and hints are already starting to come out, but I can say with confidence that we will be looking at a darker second half, one with many interesting twists and turns, like the Once Upon a Time take on Cruella De Vil which I’m exceptionally interested in seeing. I’m thinking something to do with werewolves, which would be lovely as it could mean the return of Ruby.

And with the mystery of The Book's author looming over all of this I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for this hiatus to end!

What do you think dear readers? How do you like the season so far?

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.
Recent Reviews by Ashley B (All Reviews)


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