Rocky Road Review | Once Upon a Time Season 4, Episode 3

Eventually, everyone turns on people like us.

The Snow Queen

Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Michael Socha, and Robert Carlyle.

Season 4
Episode 3: Rocky Road

I am still not sure how much of benefit it is to Once Upon a Time to be pursuing longer story arcs instead of a more episodic approach, but so far the Frozen-arc seems to be working well. The flashbacks have a new sense of purpose, and “Rocky Road” did a brilliant job of advancing the action without getting too heavy too early. It’s a little frustrating in parts, but there’s enough to persuade the viewer to tune in next week.

The flashback this week was wonderful, and defied expectation. While it initially seemed as if we had already happened upon the answer to Elsa’s entrapment in the urn, it revealed that the Snow Queen had previously been captured in this way. On top of that twist, it then transpired that the Snow Queen is Elsa’s aunt – which isn’t entirely surprising, since everybody in the Enchanted Forest seems to be related to each other in some way.

The Snow Queen (Elizabeth Mitchell) is a captivating villain so far. In comparison to the Wicked Witch and Peter Pan, she is much less overtly malicious. In fact, she’s quite quiet, composed and unassuming. If it weren’t for her attempting to kill Hook, and freezing Marian, she could almost pass as being inoffensive. Already, the way that she phrases her argument to Elsa makes it appear as if she actually believes her words. When she tells Elsa that eventually everybody turns on people like them, it doesn’t feel like a seduction, but rather that she’s pleading with Elsa to see the truth. It seems as if the writers have a backstory already in mind for her character already, which I’m thoroughly excited about, especially as she appears to have a connection with Emma, which is highly unexpected. It was slightly surprising that the Snow Queen was revealed as the actual villain so speedily, as her acting in secret could have lasted for several episodes.

A frustrating element of this episode was the transition of the Storybrooke’s citizens into generic fearmongerers. They essentially settled into the role of angry mob, which isn’t entirely surprising from the likes of Leroy, as he seems to have a loud opinion about everything that goes on, but is more unexpected from Archie, considering he’s meant to be Jiminy Cricket. Ultimately, it seems as if this is being cooked up ultimately so that Elsa comes to realise what the Snow Queen told her, and that people will always fear her because of her powers. It’s just frustrating to see these ideas surge up out of nowhere.

Rumple plays an important part in this episode. We already know from “White Out” that he was involved in Anna and Elsa’s backstory, but in Storybrooke he ardently denies knowing them in the past, even getting Belle to use her (fake) dagger on him to compel him to tell the truth. It’s uncertain what exactly Rumple stands to gain from lying to everybody, but with Hook learning the truth of the fake dagger, I’m eager for Hook to pull the rug on that storyline. Rumple is evidently not committed to changing his villainous ways, and since part of that results in him repeatedly lying to Belle, I’m excited for that relationship to implode.

Jennifer Morrison puts in a spectacular performance this week. Emma’s development is a natural next step and it was nice for her to show that sign of weakness that comes with committing yourself to a relationship. It was a mite strange having Elsa dole out relationship advice to Hook, however, seeing as she’s only known Emma for an incredibly brief time, but turns out that her reflections were spot on, and Emma was feeling the strain of being the Saviour and having everybody depend on her, as well as her anxieties about losing Hook, since she has lost everybody else. Colin O’Donoghue was also charming throughout the episode, and Hook’s explanation of a telephone was disarmingly amusing. It was nice to have a reminder of Emma’s powers and getting to see her use them a lot more. Considering the similarities drawn between her and Elsa, I’m curious to see whether they go down the route of Emma’s powers becoming too much to control and spiralling.

There was a nice development in the Marian/Regina/Robin triangle. I’m slightly uncertain as to why Marian and Robin are camping out in the forest when I’m sure there are plenty of houses that will do just fine. I mean to each their own, but Marian hasn’t actually changed clothes since she got back to the Enchanted Forest, and if I were Robin I would have picked the woman with decent personal hygiene, regardless if she was the mother of my child. It was nice for Robin to admit his lingering feelings for Regina, despite the pair of them agreeing that he needed to stay with his wife. I think it’s also important for Regina to hear, and helps prevent her from being vengeful. On the Regina front, it was also refreshing for her to include Henry in her plan to find the author to the storybook so that she can give herself a happy ending. It demonstrates how far she’s come, and it’s nice that she’s got Henry in on it because he’ll help her cross any villainous boundaries in her quest.

This episode also introduced Michael Socha as the Knave/Will Scarlet, having been a regular on Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. I haven’t watched that series in a particularly long time, and he didn’t do especially much of note while in that spinoff to earn his series regular status here – at least nothing significantly more than any of the other cast members. He didn’t contribute too much to this episode, but it was nice for his inclusion not to steal anything away from the rest of the episode. He has a pleasant energy and a decent performance in his scenes, but I remain to be convinced if he’s actually a necessary inclusion and whether the executives have a plan for him, or rather just like the actor. When we have cast members like Emilie de Ravin who has been starved of good material for the past two seasons, it seems irritating to add fresh meat when the current cast aren’t all getting the attention they deserve.

“Rocky Road” is a marked step up from the slightly disappointing “White Out” and demonstrates the sheer promise of this Frozen arc. It’s nice to see that, though the flashbacks are focussing upon new characters, each of our main cast are still getting meaningful development in Storybrooke. There is plenty of intrigue for the audience to still puzzle over, as we are left to wonder how exactly the Snow Queen and Emma have crossed paths before, as well as whether or not Anna is truly responsible for having trapped Elsa in the urn like the Snow Queen says.

You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Serena says:

    I too like this episode more than the last. We are getting more balance integrating the Elsa/Frozen storyline with the regular cast not being shortchanged of material. Even small scenes such as Snow refusing to let go of baby Neal go a long way to showing the lasting effect of having both of her infants ripped away from her at birth by evil witches. I am glad that this repeated trauma hasn’t been completely ignored.

    I also enjoyed Hook’s little rebellion in this episode. Really, Emma, you chose the guy because he has proven to have the courage and loyalty to follow you into danger no matter what, and then you tell him to stay safe? Not likely. The dialogue between Hook and Elsa was also fun — they sounded very much like siblings. I do hope the “Hook versus technology” theme continues (Netflix, power cables, cell phones) because it is hilarious. He is the only regular inhabitant of Storybrooke who never received any cursed memories to help him understand the modern world, so it makes sense that he would only learn how to use these things in relation to Emma (“I push the Emma button and she answers usually!”) I do hope Hook knows what he’s doing by antagonizing Gold however.

    I’m not happy with how Emma is being undermined by the writers, though. Every time she mentions that she can tell if someone is lying, I cringe because I know she will be proven wrong (as Gold just did in this episode). Either let her “superpower” actually work consistently, or drop it already. Then when Hook finds the Snow Queen much faster than she does, she gets mad at him instead of acknowledging that maybe she should have checked her phone messages. Plus I have always found Morrison’s acting quite wooden, and it doesn’t help that her dialogue is often contradictory, such as in her final confrontation with Hook. She first tells him off when he invites her to drink with him, then later says “Of course I trust you!” How exactly is Hook supposed to know that “of course” Emma trusts him when she has never said anything to that effect before, and has certainly not been demonstrating any trust either. I am quite tired of writers confusing “strong” with “bitchy and mean”. A female character can be strong and independent without being unfair and dismissive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mark Goodwin says:

      The whole “detecting lying is my superhero” really should have been abandoned. It’s remarkable that Emma has such little introspection that she still holds this to be the case. I think with lots of Emma blowing up is sort of leading towards a parallel between Emma and Elsa. In the Frozen film, Elsa finds herself isolated from the entire community and the object of fear, and I believe this is where Emma’s story is headed too, and this is all just sewing the seeds of that until Emma manages to “accept” the love of those around her, like Hook and her parents. I agree that a female character can be strong and independent without having outbursts like these ones.


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