The Snow Queen Review | Once Upon a Time Season 4, Episode 7

How often have you felt more like a saviour than their daughter?


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 7: The Snow Queen

“The Snow Queen” really succeeded in humanising Ingrid as this arc’s villain, with a brilliant flashback that helped to flesh out the world of Arendelle beyond the constraints of the Frozen film. It also suggested an interesting new direction for Emma.

Ingrid’s backstory was certainly emotional, and Elizabeth Mitchell’s performance was strong throughout. I said in previous episodes that it really seemed like The Snow Queen believed in the words that she was saying, instead of trying to manipulate Elsa. In this episode we see the brilliant relationship that Ingrid had with her sisters. The way that Helga immediately sides with her sister over the Duke of Weselton clearly demonstrates their bond. It makes the moment where Ingrid accidentally kills Helga all the more heartbreaking, and then to be betrayed by Gerda as well is soul destroying.

It’s small wonder that Ingrid has been so affected, and it really helps to contextualise her motivations. She wants and yearns for the relationship that she had with her sisters, but instead of mourning that loss, she is striving to replace it instead and attributes the failure of that relationship to her magic. It makes huge sense as a motivation and is much stronger than Zelena’s jealousy that was difficult to sympathise with. You can really understand why the Snow Queen thinks that mortals will never understand magical people and instead fear them.

It was really nice to see the world of Arendelle being expanded upon away from the Elsa storyline. It really helps the audience to understand the world and the context that Elsa then grew up in, as well as why Gerda might have been motivated to get rid of Elsa’s powers. It validates her fears, in a way that is understandable. It’s not that she fears Elsa specifically, but rather the potential of her power. While in the past she was idealistic and thought that the power of the love between the sisters was enough to help Ingrid control herself, it ultimately didn’t work out.

Aside from the link between Elsa and Ingrid, we can see Ingrid’s story playing out in a similar way with Emma in the present. Just as Ingrid promised, those around her start to fear her. It’s a little out of left field. As Emma notes, her family haven’t actually treated her differently as a result of her powers, so their reactions in this episode are incredibly surprising. Up until now, Emma’s powers haven’t really been discussed with her family at all, and it certainly hasn’t resulted in any different treatment.

While Snow’s clutching of Neal closer to her can be quite contextualised through Snow’s reluctance to be separated from Neal as a first-time mother and the other struggles that she has had this season, her condemnation and anger towards Emma for bringing down the lamppost was a step too far. Snow has usually been very good at being onside and calm, throughout her story. If she’s able to calm down Red, the werewolf, then I’m a bit more shocked that she is so rattled by Emma’s magic.

As for Emma’s magic specifically, so far it has been fairly nondescript. She’s been able to do small amounts, somewhat inconsistently. It’s definitely a leap for her to start blowing up walls and bringing lampposts crashing down. While we, as the audience, know that the Snow Queen did something to the water glass that may have resulted in this power expansion and Emma being out of control, I’m surprised that there’s not more of that sentiment within the show.

The Snow Queen needling and goading Emma was certainly massively satisfying from an emotional point of view, especially because of the massive contrast between Ingrid’s icy, calculating demeanour and Emma’s more emotional abrasiveness. Snow and Charming’s attitudes towards Neal must be incredibly hard for Emma to take, regardless of how close they are now, and it’s nice to see some of that anger come forth from her. Seeing Snow properly immersing herself and committing herself to raising Neal must be incredibly painful as a reminder of the life that she could have had. Ingrid’s goading about the baby being “normal” is slightly out on a limb here, as that’s never been a trigger for Emma or even a vocalised concern of the Charmings. I don’t think that that is something that Emma does worry about, as she’s never expressed discomfort at her magic before. She was the one who sought to learn it and to hone that skill, it’s not something that just randomly bursts forth from her by accident – she’s had to work at that skill intentionally. It was in keeping that there was a lot of unspoken resentment and hurt at that situation, however, that did make her blasting the wall out a satisfying moment.

Having said that, her powers then continuing to go haywire after that was a little bit of a step too far. Emma’s been in multiple emotional, high stakes situations since learning magic and never before has she lost control in this way. I don’t believe that the words that the Snow Queen said to her were so devastating as to break Emma completely. So, it really does beg the question as to whether this loss of control was genuine (if it was then it was a massive gamble from the Snow Queen) or whether the spell that the Snow Queen performed on the glass of water caused the outburst.

The reactions of Emma’s loved ones were certainly a surprise. I’ve already spoken about Snow’s, but it’s not surprising that Emma runs away from them after they see her performing magic. It’s frustrating because Snow’s leaping to shout at her seemed like a step too far, and ultimately it just serves to push Emma towards the Snow Queen. It’s a frustrating moment, for sure, but one that pushes Emma in an interesting direction emotionally and with her powers. Hopefully Elsa will be the perfect person to aid Emma at this point and help her realise that her family is her strength before she does anything rash.

Elsewhere, Robin and Regina finally gave in to temptation. It’s a pleasing turn in the tale, and hugely realistic, but does call into question what’s going to happen ultimately with Marian. Robin surely cannot go back to her now, knowing that he has chosen Regina, but it’s only a matter of time before she wakes up.

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.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Serena says:

    I agree that Emma’s family is acting completely out of character. The writers are being lazy again in forcing a certain plot (“Emma’s family shows fear of her magic”) that has not been supported by previous characterization or continuity. Your points about Emma’s magic are completely valid — and if the writers wanted the glass of water to be the cause of Emma’s sudden loss of control, they needed to better communicate that to the audience.

    About Ingrid claiming baby Neal is “normal” — he isn’t. Emma canonically possesses powerful light magic because she is the product of true love. Baby Neal is also the product of true love, and will therefore develop light magic in time.

    It seems a lot of the plot in this episode depended on our main characters acting out of character, so I had a difficult time investing in this development. I also find it strange that, in all the realms of magic, Rumple is the only source of magical training. Surely there are other teachers out there?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mark Goodwin says:

      Clearly Rumple hunted down and eliminated all other magic teachers in the Enchanted Forest: it’s the only reasonable explanation! The worst part is, he never learned to use magic himself, he just became the Dark One.


      1. Serena says:

        I like your hypothesis of Rumple eliminating the competition! I think it needs to be made more explicit, though, that Rumple’s path is not the only route to powerful magic. The fairies are pretty useless, but it seems that light magic, such as Emma’s, derives its strength from love and a desire to protect others. Rumple manipulated Regina (and Cora and Zelena) into cultivating anger and hatred, since that was the only way he knew how to be powerful.

        But I guess I will never get a good explanation as to how magic works in this world. It just makes it more difficult to believe in plot jeopardy if the rules of magic are so arbitrary that anything goes.


      2. Mark Goodwin says:

        It’s true – they never adequately establish how somebody is magical in the first place. They imply that Regina and Zelena are just innately magical, but how did Cora learn? Was that explained? Is anybody capable of learning? Is it a skill or something that you innately possess?


  2. Serena says:

    I think there is enough evidence to imply that magic is innate. Regina has mentioned that Emma can do things she can’t because Emma has more raw power (like the mirror spell between realms). I have to assume that studying magic makes the more complicated spells possible — Emma just mostly pushes energy at things, while Regina can accomplish a variety of tasks because she had studied. Emma’s light magic is explicitly stated that it comes from being the product of true love. But perhaps magic just randomly appears in the gene pool, like with Cora? The only other route to acquiring magical ability seems to be Rumple’s, involving taking on the Dark One dagger.
    If I were Emma, I would stop being lazy and learn how to teleport/poof between locations!

    Liked by 1 person

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