When Once Upon A Time announced their Fourth Season would feature Disney’s Frozen, many took this as a sell out. It’s true that adapting the Disney film a few months after it had been released absolutely sounded like a way to capitalize on the film’s popularity; but I still decided to give the premier of Season 4 a chance. Even when I started hearing about the different upcoming plot lines were basically the same plotlines we’ve grown accustomed to over the past 3 seasons – Emma running from love, Regina being evil, Belle & Rumple having relationship troubles, etc – I still decided to give them a chance. Spoiler Alert, I was wrong.
If you’re one of the people who enjoyed the premier, then leave now. Though if you’re someone who prefers story, continuity and quality to frivolous Disney references, then stick around. So just how much was wrong with the premier? Well, “why don’t you just ruminate, while I illuminate the possibilities!”
- Continuity Errors:
Continuity errors; but how? The season literally just started so how could there be a continuity error? Simple, but sadly it happened with the return of one of our favorite minor characters: Sidney Glass aka The Magic Mirror. When we find Sidney in this episode, we find him locked up in the “Critical Care” wing of the hospital – much like what Regina did to Belle Season 1. HOW?!?!?!?!
According to Sidney, Regina has kept him locked up like this for years. There’s just one problem with that though. It’s complete bullshit! How do I know? Well, there are two reasons that stand out above the rest. For starters, Sidney couldn’t have been locked up for years since he was around last Season – alive and kicking. Further more, the town wasn’t even in Storybrooke for a few years during that time. They were relocated back to the Enchanted Forest and then woke up back in Storybrooke again a year later after the Wicked Witch recast the curse.
This would all mean that Sidney was free before the Wicked Witche’s curse and a would have still been free a year later when he returned to Storybrooke. Additionally, since Season 4 takes place immediately after the end of Season 3 there is no way remotely possible Sidney would have been locked up in Regina’s prison. Heck, even if we count back from Season 1 time lapse, that’s not even a few years time. There’s another continuity error in this episode concerning ‘time travel’; but you’ll see more about that in Item #3.
- Emma Still Can’t Be
One of the truly most fulfilling moments in Once’s Season 3 finale was how after 3 seasons of running from family, running from love, running from who she is, etc, Emma FINALLY stops running, calls Storybrooke home and finds love with Hook. So you can imagine how frustrating it is to see Emma right back to her old ways barely even 24 hours after the finale.
Hook is forever my spirit animal; and in a very apt manner, you can actually see his frustration with Emma too. Emma says its to make it up to Regina; but Hook knows its more. We know it’s more. She originally said Henry was the reason she was avoiding Hook; but we’ve seen that flimsy excuse before. Truth be told, Henry would be fine with Emma dating Hook since he remembers how they bonded during his ‘missing year’. It’s just frustrating to see all that character development go literally nowhere; and Emma return to not knowing how to ‘enjoy a moment’.
- Regina’s Bird Brain Schemes – Change the Past/ Find the Writer:
Speaking of character development going nowhere, Regina. We finally see Regina find love and accept the Light side of magic; and a few minutes later she’s back to her dark ways. Now the reasons behind this aren’t really a character flaw; but more of a writing flaw. Seriously, do the writers just want to make sure Regina stays unhappy because Emma could have met anyone back in time – not just Marian? Though it’s not Regina’s return to evil that annoys us; but rather the evil plans themselves.
Her first plan involves going back in time and changing it so that she killed Marian immediately rather than waiting around for Emma to save her. The one small problem with this is that it’s impossible! As we learned last Season with the “Wicked” arc, in order to time travel you need quite a lot of magic as well as magic totems like Zelina had. The only way to go back in time had a one-way pass and Emma and Hook already used it up. So Regina thinking this was a doable option is laughable at best and just poor writing at worst.
Despite her first plan disappearing and not being referenced at all for the second half of the episode as if it never happened, it’s Regina’s second plan that is a real winner – and by that I mean loser. Regina’s new plan for this season seems to be to find out who ‘writes’ the book and make them change it so that villains can get happy endings. This isn’t the first time we wondered about the author of the book. Back in Season 1, we thought it was August for a little while. Though despite the book’s author being brought up once or twice before; his/her being a ‘god among writers’ was NEVER.
Regina feels that what happens in the book dictates her life and history so she cannot change unless she chaneges the book. The problem with this idea is obvious; but I’ll say it anyway. The book DOES NOT cause the stories and life events to unfold in some weird deterministic-like way. The book merely recounts what has already happened. This can be seen numerous times throughout the series and has never revealed anything before it had already happened. For example, when Emma went back in time the book was blank because history was changed. New stories didn’t appear; nor did events happen the same because they were in the book.
Regina’s quest for the ‘author’ is a fruitless dead end at best or horribly idiotic and nonsensical at worst if it does succeed. The writer of the book doesn’t determine Regina’s history, he or she merely records it. Though to be honest, if Regina’s quest to find the writer(s) ends in her slapping Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitis in the face, I’d be okay with that. Though that level of self awareness can work in a Deadpool film; not Once Upon A Time.
- Forcing Frozen – Too Soon:
I’m sure no one is surprised by this one. Yes, Frozen was a great Disney movie – visually, vocally, and even story wise. Though the amount of saturation the market has with ‘Frozen’ produts has gone completely overboard. Actually, I take that back, because it’s already been overboard. This season of Once isn’t the straw that broke the camels back; but it is another blatant attempt to capitalize on the fandom. Now sure Frozen does fit with the theme of that gray area between hero and villain; and would honestly be a great story element for Once to tackle – though NOT NOW!
Everything else from Once’s catologue of available subject matter is at least a decade or older – yes Rapunzel was in there; but it didn’t really follow Tangled. Frozen could have been something to be tackled a few years down the line if it ever came to it; but not something that they had to get in if they felt they needed a boost. Whether you change the story or leave it as it, there are problems with both right now – which is exactly the kind of trap Once’s portrayal falls into.
Once’s graphics are usually pretty decent; but the ice graphics here are just pathetic. I saw better ice effect in Batman & Robin – and that movie had ices bending like the poorly constructed rubber it was. Additionally, the look of Marshmellow (snow giant), the rock trolls and even Anna and Elsa’s wardrobe is so spot on that it actually looks fake. It looks like a poorly illustrated attemot at a straight to DVD live action Frozen, which Once never did with any of its other material.
Once always took a unique approach to its subject matter and found interconnecting stories. Rather than doing that, it is presenting Frozen basically as is and is inserting connections ‘after the story we know’. It’s too much of a stretch to be anything but an attempt to a ratings grab. Worse of all, the stuff they do take liberties with just don’t feel right. They went through so much to present everything true to Frozen; but then add details into their parents death and once again make Elsa lose control of her powers again? In a situation like this, you either change too much or not enough; and somehow Once is doing both – and all with the wring focus.
1: Disney Overkill:
Whenever I used to recommend Once to people, the number 1 reason people initially didn’t watch was because: “it seems too corny”; but after I explained the complexities and how this wasn’t just a Disney free-for-all, they gave it a shot and loved it. Sadly, if this season premier is any indication of the season to come: then Once has become exactly what everyone feared it would be.
As if the Frozen theme wasn’t enough, this season had to lay on the Disney extra thick. It seems as though Disney is no longer the source material Once can weave its own story from. Now they must take things directly from Disney for the sake of Disney. The prime example of this is currently revolving around Belle and Rumple.
As if the whole rehashing of Rumple lying to Belle wasn’t infuriating enough – seriously, what happened to all the self sacrifice and character growth – now they have to take a page DIRECTLY from Beauty & the Beast. It was always charming and ingenious that they wove so many different characters into Rumple; but by making him and Belle dress exactly like their Beauty & The Beast counterparts, Once went a little too far. I mean seriously, even the theme song to Beauty & the Beast played in the background. An iconic scene for sure; but once again comes across as nothing more than fan service.
Though the real shocker came when Rumple discovered that cosmic hat, which was a reference many wouldn’t understand. That is the Sorcerer’s Hat from Mickey Mouse’s Fantasia. That’s right! So seriously, if you want to know why I’m not watching this show anymore, it’s because I want to jump ship before a mouse in gloves appears next season.
Seriously though, what’s next? The episode did start with “A long time ago”. Does this mean #StarWars – another recent Disney property – is coming next Season? *le sigh*
The Chuck Scenario:
Sure, maybe all of these things can be overcome, and there might even be some good moments this season. Though this doesn’t change the fact that if Once is proceeding down this path, it should have ended with Season 3. It’s basically Chuck Season 5 all over again. The Season 4 finale answered all questions and gave everyone their happy endings; but in the last 2 minutes something happened to call for a Fifth Season. And yes, Season 5 did have some good moments; but in the end it was a much less happier and fulfilling ending than Season 4 had given.
This is probably the last article that I’ll write for Once. I much rather remember the brilliance of its early seasons and how it all wrapped up nicely in Season 3. Sure there was a rocky road here or there; but it always was its own thing. This episode – and season – seems to be focusing too much on the quantity of people it can get; and not the quality of writing. The sad ironic truth is, good writing will always outweigh fan service – while fan service actually alienates more than it serves.
“Once upon a time, there was a brilliant show that took your favorite childhood stories and completely re-imagined them in new and exciting ways. ~ The end”