Breaking Glass Review | Once Upon a Time Season 4, Episode 5

I wasn’t looking for you to assuage my guilt. I was just looking for you to be my friend.


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

Season 4
Episode 5: Breaking Glass

I must confess, upon initially watching this episode I was entirely at a loss why this flashback featured a formative relationship of Emma’s. Other than setting up that big reveal at the end of the episode, what purpose did it serve? Well, “Breaking Glass” focusses upon Emma’s friendships and the similarities between the flashback and her current situation with Regina, which is actually quite touching.

Firstly, it’s nice for the series to explore an episode that’s just about the friendship between two characters – especially two characters who haven’t had the easiest of times. Regina and Emma are definitely central characters to the show and we have seen them grow closer together over the course of the series, but the revelations here as Emma tries to end their bickering over bringing back Marian is a nice touch.

The flashbacks to Emma’s childhood reveal how she once started an intense friendship with a girl called Lily who she met when she was on the streets, having run away from her foster home. She and Lily seemed incredibly similar, and Emma certainly opened up in the face of having somebody who she thought could understand her and everything that she had been through. Ultimately, it turns out that this friendship was based upon a lie and, though Lily begged Emma for her forgiveness, Emma walked away and lost out on somebody who she could have considered her best friend.

That’s where the similarity lies between Emma’s relationship with Regina, in a disarmingly earnest altercation towards the end of the episode. Emma spends this instalment trying to get closer to Regina again, with Regina repeatedly rebuffing her, angry at Emma’s attempts to make it better. Regina believes that Emma wants forgiveness so that she can live better with her own actions, but Emma explains at the close of the episode that she let one friendship get away because she couldn’t forgive somebody and she doesn’t want to make the same mistake twice. Emma believes that she and Regina have in common the fact that they have both been outcast and misunderstood, and that she just wanted a friend. It’s definitely an important moment for the two of them. For Emma, she’s rarely been seen at this level of vulnerability. She’s not a character who explains her emotions in such an earnest way, nor one who wants to be seen as weak or needing somebody else, but here she is, admitting to somebody who has spent the entire episode rejecting and pushing her away that she just wants to be friends. It’s clear that the moment means a lot to Regina as well. Even though her only words are “Emma, wait. I don’t want to kill you”, there’s a warmth and a hurt behind the words as delivered, that suggests that Regina is taken aback and touched by the gesture as well.

It’s a wonderful move by the showmakers to put these two women front and centre for an episode, and even greater to have an episode that’s just focussed upon a burgeoning friendship instead of it being a romance that gets all of the coverage. I truly hope that this friendship is cultivated and expanded upon by the writers, as the pairing for both of these vaguely emotionally repressed women is undoubtedly captivating. The entire episode also successfully showcased the incredible talents of Jennifer Morrison and Lana Parrilla, who are always consistent but really pull it out of the bag here.

Another brilliant concept in this episode is the fact that Regina, while bitter and annoyed at the return of Marian and the fact that it has scuppered her happy ending, shows no signs of going back to her evil ways here. She is committed throughout the episode to save Marian, because it is the right thing to do, and is trying to save the town from the Snow Queen. It’s a very good thing that the show isn’t seeing her slide back towards her evil ways like Rumple is.

The Snow Queen continues to be engaging and captivating as a villain. We’ve had just about everybody sort of villain in the show at this point, and the Snow Queen seems wholly different to all of them so far. She is quiet, calculating and cold. Her line delivery is cool, and somewhat emotionally vacant. That doesn’t mean that she’s badly performed – all of this is entirely intentional on Elizabeth Mitchell’s part and it’s honestly quite creepy. It makes the character quite immovable and intimating, and you’re not quite certain what she might do next.

This is also helped by her whole aesthetic. Her white-blonde hair, the sweeping white dress and the neutral makeup make her look as icy as her heart appears. Her hideout is similarly devoid of feeling: a massive, minimalist ice cave, with nothing but shimmering, clinical whites. For once, the CGI really comes through and enhances a mood, and we learn all that we need to know about the Snow Queen’s personality just from her chosen surroundings.

We also get a hint towards the Snow Queen’s motivations here, as she expresses that she wants a family who loves her. This is not entirely surprising, considering that family is a massive theme throughout Once Upon a Time but quite how she hopes to achieve this with her mirror is certainly intriguing. Her previous history with Emma, revealed at the end of the episode, is certainly puzzling as well, and sure to have massive repercussions in the story moving forwards, and goes some way to explain why the Snow Queen is so obsessed with her.

There continue to be charming subplots, which provides some levity amongst all of the heavier material. It’s making Snow and Charming’s characters more fun again, which is always appreciated, as Snow had become very whiny and clingy in the previous season and Charming acting as the voice of righteousness gets horrendously irritating. However, their subplot about finding Will after he’d broken out of prison was endearing, and Snow’s giddy excitement was highly amusing.

5 episodes into the Snow Queen arc, and I feel like we’re not nearly as far along as we were at this stage in the Wicked Witch storyline. The Wicked Witch story was certainly more epic in its scope, featuring a memory wipe curse while this seems slower and more unsettling, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but there are still some massive questions that need answering, such as: How will the Snow Queen’s mirror give her a family that loves her? Where did she get all of the other shards of the mirror from? How did she travel to Storybrooke if not through a curse? Why did she travel to Storybrooke? How does she take memories from people? And just where is Anna?

Ultimately, this episode was brilliant for the focus upon Regina and Emma, which also helped it be highly emotional. Hopefully the latest revelation about the Snow Queen will inject a bit more drive, high stakes and tension into the story arc, as I can feel it lagging a little bit. We need answers, and soon.

Once Upon A Thought

  • Sidney betraying Regina was hardly surprising, considering that she was very content to just let him live in there despite her commitment to good, but it’s also not a very solid game plan. Ultimately, the Snow Queen just lets him go, but there’s no way that he’s going to be safe from Regina now. Additionally, he should know better than anyone not to bet against Regina. If this is how she treats a loyal subject, imagine what it must be like to betray her? Think it through, Sidney.
  • I was horrendously annoyed about the Harry Potter reference that Lily makes in the past storyline. Harry Potter (the first one, I might add) was only released in the September of 1998, which is the same year the flashback is set in. The idea that his likeness would have entered popular conversation by that point is absurd. Even more absurd would it be for Emma to know what she was talking about. So, no. Not buying that. Should’ve picked a different, fictional scarred character, writers.
  • I really enjoyed Lily as a character, actually, and I’d be surprised if she didn’t crop up again considering the massive importance placed upon her here. Not to mention, it would be nice for Emma to have more people to talk to outside of her parents.

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.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Serena says:

    I also loved Snow and Charming getting their own cute adventure, and the twist that Snow thought Charming had set the jailbreak up for her benefit when in fact he hadn’t. Will is a fun character in small doses, but I’m not intrigued enough to know more. Why is he billed as a regular?

    I was so hopeful that Belle finally escaped the library and Gold’s shop — only to not get a single line as she babysat baby Neal off-screen (sigh).

    I am not thrilled with Hook not telling the truth to Emma or anyone else about what is happening with Gold. He is lucky that Will is staying quiet about their altercation, too. This is not true to what we saw of Hook in Neverland, so it is annoying that the tired “blackmail” trope is being dragged on even longer.

    But what bothered me the most is that Emma is supposed to feel bad for supposedly “screwing Regina over”. Emma prevented Regina from being responsible for another murder, and it is Regina who should be feeling guilty for ordering Marion’s execution in the first place. I don’t remember Emma ever fighting this hard for relationships that were actually worthy of effort (such as with her parents), so it is quite infuriating that she would do this much grovelling and take this much unfair blame in the name of preserving this supposed friendship with Regina. Plus Emma barely reacted to the fact that her devoted boyfriend lost his hand again — I would think Hook would deserve a little more attention than petulant Regina does right now. Maybe if Emma showed some interest in what was going on with Hook, he would be able to tell her the truth about Gold.

    Very strange writing choices in this episode.


    1. Mark Goodwin says:

      I suppose Will is billed as a regular in a similar way that Archie was a regular in Season 1. He works quite well for comic relief though, even if he doesn’t amount to terribly much. If you count the number of times Belle is referenced as looking after children off screen, it becomes quite ridiculous. I can only hope she charged them all.
      Yeah, that element I don’t especially like, with Emma being made to feel bad when she only had good intentions, but I think the Regina and Emma friendship does become a real strength moving forwards, and it makes sense as they do really carry most of the dramatic action in Storybrooke. I think Emma’s probably pushing for this a bit more because of the fact that Regina is pulling away, while she never really did that for her parents because Snow was too busy forcing herself upon Emma instead.


      1. Serena says:

        So all Snow has to do is play hard to get ;-).


      2. Mark Goodwin says:

        Haha, it makes sense to me! Emma’s not used to receiving love, and Snow was quite overwhelming in the way that she tried to force a mother-daughter relationship upon the pair of them. The parallels between Emma’s relationship with Lily and the one that she recognises with Regina shows that she’s learned to recognise when to actually fight for something, so it’s a meaningful step forward, and shows how much Emma’s developed through her relationship with her parents and with Killian. At least, that’s how I read it!


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