White Out Review | Once Upon a Time Season 4, Episode 2

You can give up on yourself, but I’m not going to give up on you.


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

Season 4
Episode 2: White Out

It’s somewhat rare for Once to include an episode like this so early into the run, and it definitely serves to dissuade quite a few viewers from carrying on with season 4’s journey, if they were so inclined. Not too much of intrigue actually happens in this episode, and what does transpire in both the fairytale flashbacks and the present day is pretty silly. It’s a fun outing, but not as dramatic as it could have been. Still, it’s nice to have Once try more of a “problem of the week” idea, instead of small steps in a much larger story arc.

The silliest idea of this episode (other than David’s hideous fairytale wig) was the retooling of Bo Peep as some sort of warlord. She terrorises the villages around where David lives with his mother, forcing them to give her money lest they be enslaved. The flashback mainly serves to further Anna’s story once she arrived in the Enchanted Forest by entwining it with our core cast of characters. It’s a savvy move, as it helps us to spend time with the new characters whilst also having a familiar face. It was also quite nice to see that David wasn’t always courageous, but rather it was a journey. A journey that Anna, apparently, was quite pivotal in. I still don’t find Charming especially interesting as a result of this episode, but it was pleasurable enough nevertheless.

Even more inconceivably, it turns out that the villainous Bo Peep is still existent in Storybrooke, and is a butcher who has been very quiet for quite some years. Quite why David and her paths haven’t crossed before now, and he only needs call upon her to steal her shepherd’s crook is a touch bizarre, and I doubt that we’ll ever see her, her ridiculous hair, dress or accent ever again. Though if they wanted to touch upon her tragic upbringing where she was some sort of slave and vowed never to be in anybody’s control again, then sure thing! Honestly, I would not be surprised if that did happen.

The benefit of this season’s flashbacks is, even if they haven’t been especially captivating yet, is that they are serving a definite purpose. In the first two seasons, lots of fairytale stories were throwaway “look at this moral/symmetrical situation that these characters faced years ago”, so it’s been a great move on the part of the creatives to make them relevant. Last season’s was to help patch up the “missing year” in the life of Storybrooke’s citizens as a result of Snow’s curse, but the “What happened to Anna?” is a nice way to keep them relevant and interesting. I mean, I say interesting. It’s not quite so interesting yet, but I’m confident that it will be. Anna is a delightful inclusion to the programme. She’s full of energy and optimism and just plain likeable and relatable and, strangely, not irritating, which is no doubt a testament to Elizabeth Lail’s portrayal. As a result, I shan’t mind following her fairytale exploits that much longer.

The present storyline was focussed quite heavily upon Elsa, as she threatens to freeze the entire of Storybrooke unless Anna is returned to her. I’ve thought of more pleasant ways to ask for something that I want, but Elsa’s parents were fairly terrible role models and likely never taught her the value of “please”. Emma and Elsa have plenty of time to do bonding. Out of our main cast, Emma is probably the one who can relate to Elsa the most. They both have a habit of shutting the people they love the most out of their lives, as well as their similar struggles with their magical powers. While we haven’t seen Emma’s powers escalate to the lengths that Elsa’s have, it’s a nice hint at what could lie in the future for Emma if she doesn’t get a handle on how to use them properly. It was refreshing that the pair bonded so quickly too and there wasn’t a long spell of treating Elsa like a villain. Emma seemed to understand that she was just frightened and wanted her sister, instead of actually attempting to hurt any of them.

The drawback to this plot was the execution. I’m not entirely sure whether anybody in the creative team of Once Upon a Time has ever witnessed ice, which seems strange considering they shoot in Canada, but the fake icicles and snow cave looked suspiciously like polystyrene. It looked very Old Doctor Who. Back when they had the wobbly sets, and ever so often a wandering boom mic. Ironically, I think that it might actually have worked much better with a CGI ice cave because at least that could have sparkled and shone in a way that these painted pieces of whatever they were could not. That was definitely an aspect that took me out of the action, and I’m also confused why Elsa cannot control her powers when I thought the effects of true love from her bond with Anna helped her get a grip upon them.

A brilliant addition to this episode was Snow’s sideplot as Happy, Leroy and Granny came to Snow to complain about the power outage, and demanded that she personally fix it, as she was responsible for the curse and is now their mayor. It’s nice to see Snow a little bit out of her depth and given something fun to do, and seeing her shout at the group when they’re complaining at her was simply hilarious and, honestly, Granny and Leroy have had it coming. All they seem to do is stick their nose in other people’s business and complain. I am especially surprised at Leroy, as he’s meant to be Snow’s friend, but whatever. I include the entire speech here for sheer epicness:

Look, I am not magic. I have had eight hours of sleep in the last week, I am breastfeeding, and I am exhausted! I don’t need this! I may have cast a little curse, but I did not ask to maintain a metropolitan electrical grid. Oh, and get this: I’m starting to get why Regina was evil. It wasn’t her! It was you! You have survived your entire lives without light bulbs! Buy a flashlight!


Speaking of which, surely there should’ve been night staff or something at this electrical plant? Surely power goes out all the time and needs somebody to help fix it in a warehouse? I’d like to think that’s what somebody does in London as opposed to making the mayor go all the way out to deal with it personally? Sure, I get that it’s a small town in Maine (as if we could forget), but there must be people specifically hired and well versed in these concepts? This cannot be the first power outage in Storybrooke’s 30-year-odd history?

There’s also an intriguing sting at the end of the episode, as we see a hint about the lady who runs the ice cream parlour. Yes, there’s an ice cream parlour in Storybrooke now…why have we never been there? Plot convenience. Well, anyway, it turns out that she’s magic. Or she appears magic. She manages to freeze her ice cream and then, entirely unsubtly and some might say recklessly, leans against her freezer and freezes the entire wall. We have no idea whether or not she is a hero or a villain, but she doesn’t appear to care who notices she has powers considering the flippant way that she leaned against the wall and turned it all into ice. I’d assume, if I had to, and also because of Once Upon a Time‘s habit of advertising exactly which characters they’re going to introduce so that people can tune in, that she’s the original Snow Queen – the one that Frozen is loosely based upon. Whatever happens next is anybody’s guess!

The season so far is definitely quite Frozen-heavy, but I must say that I’m not minding it too much. I’m all for bringing fresh energy to the programme and the rotating cast of characters is quite nice (even if Belle rarely rotates in and remains on the sidelines for most of the season). Anna continues to be a delight, but I’m still getting to grips with Elsa. So far she’s come across as a bit abrasive and needy, but hopefully I shall learn to appreciate her the more that we get to know her. If she freezes Bo Peep to death that would be great too.

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.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Serena says:

    I too enjoyed the lighter aspects of this episode, which was injected with some humour, both intentional (Hook’s ice bucket line, Snow’s meltdown) and unintentional (David’s flashback wig!?!). But I agree that the “snow” and “ice” were poorly done. I have no idea how the production decides to allocate its funds, but effects and sets have been very uneven in quality almost from the beginning of the series.

    I have decided to give a lot of leeway to how unrealistic the functioning of Storybrooke is because it was created by a magical curse and was never a “real” town — the power plant with zero employees being a prime example. But as an excuse to give Snow something interesting to do for once, I’m all for it! Since everything was frozen in time for 28 years during the curse, I doubt there was need for maintenance or repair. Things should be changing now that time is progressing normally again, but I’m sure that will only become an issue whenever the plot requires it.

    I have not seen the movie, so I am learning about the Frozen characters as I go. But if you say that Elsa learned to control her powers because of Anna’s love, then perhaps her sister needs to be near by? It would explain Elsa’s desperation to find Anna, but not her initial threats. Threatening to freeze the whole town is not a good way to recruit allies!

    What I do like is that this episode has some excellent character interactions embedded into the progression of the plot. For example, just investigating the cause of the blackout had great dialogue between Emma and David on parenting, Emma and Hook on their (lack of) dating life, and David and Hook regarding Hook’s intentions towards Emma. These few lines of dialogue go a long way towards maintaining momentum in terms of character development and relationships, and prove that plot and characterization are not mutually exclusive. Which cannot be said for a lot of episodes, which are often hugely imbalanced in one direction or the other.

    Just a random thought, but if Emma keeps calling Hook for help with her Sheriff duties, doesn’t that mean he should be deputized? I’m guessing the loot from his pirate days should be running out soon (and the exchange rate on dubloons must be awful), so he could probably use a paycheque…

    Liked by 1 person

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