Smash the Mirror Review | Once Upon a Time Season 4, Episode 8

You always think that pulling away from people will fix your problems but it never does!


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

Season 4
Episode 8: Smash the Mirror

I still have absolutely no idea whether or not “Smash the Mirror” was united as one part for scheduling reasons or for creative purposes. I’d assume probably the former, aided by how well they work as a unit. To be honest, I feel like if these episodes had been separated and aired on different weeks I’d be wholly unsatisfied. The episode really picked up in the latter half and even then not too much of climactic import happened. So, to put the two parts together into a feature-length outing was definitely a good call.

There was a massive amount of forward trajectory in this episode on the Snow Queen front. At long last we understand the events that led her into our world, as well as what went down in Arendelle to capture Elsa and to eliminate Anna. Hopefully Ingrid’s icy attack on Arendelle isn’t fatal, and Anna and Elsa are reunited before too long. Her plan is finally coming together, and is at last enacted at the close of the episode, leaving the citizens of Storybrooke in massive danger.

Anna and Elsa’s story subverted expectations as well. Even when the odds were against the sisters and they were being fed lies and manipulated against each other, this instalment really highlighted the incredible faith and belief that Elsa has in Anna. When Ingrid tells Elsa that Anna was planning on taking away her powers using the Sorcerer’s Hat, Elsa instantly does not believe it and sides with Anna over Ingrid. Even when Anna is staring Elsa down and telling her her deepest truths, Elsa still refuses to fight or harm her, instead giving up her own freedom. It’s a real testament to their bond, and you can see why this sends Ingrid over the edge. She wants the kind of love that these two demonstrate for each other, and I suppose that she’s jealous in another way that Anna and Elsa have that bond despite Elsa’s powers while Gerda trapped Ingrid away out of fear.

Besides all that, I really loved watching the sisterly dynamic between Elsa and Anna. Georgina Haig has really grown as Elsa throughout this season, and her attitude towards Anna is so much warmer than towards anybody else. Additionally, Elizabeth Lail continues to be an absolute gem as the giddy, excitable and downright hilarious Anna. The way that she endlessly rambles on and makes silly jokes at all times is incredibly endearing and I cannot get enough of the scenes she’s in.

The main through line of this two-parter was Emma’s powers going haywire and spiralling out of control. While this sets up small moments of jeopardy like Henry being blasted across the forest, ultimately it sets Emma up to be Rumple’s unwitting victim. Though that element was stressful, seeing Emma isolate herself and try to take away her powers just wasn’t as captivating as the writers doubtless thought it would be. Ignoring the fact that Emma’s bizarre power uplevelling seems to have emerged out of thin air, it just isn’t portrayed well. Normally, I am Jennifer Morrison’s biggest fan, but Emma slouching around the entire episode looking as if she was sick or dying or just horrendously tired made the entire affair feel quite lethargic and drab.

The highlight of this storyline was seeing Elsa connect to Emma. Using her relationship with Anna to help Emma see how she could harness her own power was a lovely moment, and it was a brilliant “fist to the air” climax when Emma embraced her own magical abilities and then demonstrated that she could control them once more. It seemed overly convenient that this is all that it took, but it was a nice development and an unpleasant storyline over with.

Elsewhere, I am so frustrated with Rumple. Sure, he’s never openly stated that he wanted to reform himself, and never pretended that he would be able to, but he has given up all pretence at this point. Quite what Rumple imagined would happen when Emma mysteriously disappeared is anybody’s guess. I cannot conceive of what exactly he hopes to achieve in a long game. Ingrid has promised him the rest of the world if he leaves her Storybrooke, but he cannot honestly imagine that he and Belle can stay together if he’s trying to amass enough power to conquer the entire planet. Think it through, Rumple.

What makes the Belle of it all even worse is the fact that Belle isn’t even in this two-parter. She’s briefly explained as being babysitting Neal again, meaning that we once again miss out on the fact that she has no idea that her husband is off committing these heinous acts and, what’s more, the only person who could have revealed something about it, is now Rumple’s puppet. The only thing that I can hope for when they discover Rumple’s latest transgression is that he is rightly shunned and rendered powerless. It’s the ending that he deserves at this point.

Regina’s storyline continues to be a massive positive and is hugely satisfying for long-term fans to watch. Seeing her blissfully in love is a brilliant step, and it’s also quite refreshing for it to be Regina trying to keep Robin at a distance and saying that they cannot give into their feelings because of Marian. It’s unlike Regina to be so selfless, but pleasant to witness nonetheless. The only downside of the focus upon Regina and Robin’s relationship is that it’s really removed Regina from the conflict against the Snow Queen. Much as I like in-love Regina, I’d also like to see badass, magic Regina as well, and she’d definitely be able to speedily resolve the Snow Queen storyline if she were more heavily involved.

The effects for the Snow Queen’s Spell of Shattered Sight are truly breathtaking. They’re unlike anything that the show has done before. Instead of just the classic billowing smoke, the gently tumbling shards of mirror that spin and twinkle as they travel is genuinely captivating to see. The aesthetics of the entire Snow Queen arc has actually been so spot on. I can’t quite get over how gorgeous her hideout is either.

On the subject of the Snow Queen, she continues to be really well performed by Elizabeth Mitchell. She plays her with such a sense of calm and poise. Her motivations have been brilliantly fleshed out and you never get the sense of her losing her dignity. She seems to serene and in control. Even when Rumple traps her in her hideout, she doesn’t scream or pound against the barrier. The only betrayal towards her emotions is the slightly more clipped way that she communicates. I was particularly fond of her supremely threatening, “I can probably even defeat you and decorate this place with your bones. Should I try?”. A genuinely chilling villain.

This episode gave us our best understanding of the Snow Queen yet. We finally have an idea of what happened to Elsa and Anna in Arendelle before winding up in Storybrooke, as well as how the Snow Queen ended up on Earth in search of Emma. With Rumple also on a villainous rampage with the Sorcerer’s Hat, there’s a lot for our heroes to resolve in just two more episodes before the mid season break.

Once Upon an Additional Brainthought

  • How long do you think it took until the costume department cursed the fact that they had given both Elsa and the Snow Queen’s outfits a train? With so much trudging through woods, they must get so dirty and covered in leaves and all sorts. On that topic, poor Elizabeth Mitchell’s feet must be so cold from being barefoot all the time. Also, why do some characters just seem to wear one thing? Elsa and the Snow Queen have just been wearing one dress since they’ve been in Storybrooke. They must smell really bad.
  • I seem to recall a storyline in Season 2 where Snow was anxious about all of them sharing the apartment because it was too small. Now it seems that Snow, Charming, Emma, Elsa and Henry are all living in an objectively two-bedroom apartment with no problems whatsoever. Address it, people.
  • Regina’s sass was on brilliant form this episode. “You hired the Wicked Witch as a nanny.” It was also great to see Regina telling Snow and Charming off for a bad decision. Wonderful role reversal there.
  • Much as Snow sits there and tells Regina that there are grey areas between evil and good, that’s still at odds with what the show wants to demonstrate to us. Sure, Rumple has had heroic moments and “good” moments, but he would still be classified ultimately as being evil. Meanwhile, the show has gone to extreme lengths to justify Regina as a hero by removing any of the moral greyness from her decisions. We never see our heroes doing anything bad anymore, so for Snow to say that it’s more complicated is really strange considering the ongoing narratives that the show presents.

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 agree with your complaints about Gold. As you have said previously, Rumplestiltskin is enjoyable as the fascinating trickster in the Enchanted Forest, plus he had a humanizing purpose (finding his son) that gave his actions layers and context. But Gold has no real purpose in Storybrooke anymore. “Amassing more power” is hardly a compelling motivation for a main character. I wish the writers would give Gold a rest until they figure out how to refocus his storyline. This circling the drain is tiresome, and the actor could still be featured in the flashbacks.

    In the meantime, they could have Belle develop a course of magic study (reading all those spell books in the library has to pay off somehow) so she and Emma can practice together. Emma solely relying on instinct to control her magic has not worked out very well, so she could really use some training.

    The writers are also constantly dropping the ball with the Hook and Emma storyline. Emma continues to be the most oblivious girlfriend ever, and Hook acts like a complete idiot again. Does Hook not have a “Charming family” button on his phone? Because after leaving that heartfelt message for Emma, it sure would have been important to call the Charmings to warn them about Gold before charging in to confront the enemy alone. I guess this was the only way to isolate Hook so Gold could rip out his heart without anyone else knowing? Plot convenience is never as compelling as character-driven action.

    The confrontation between Gold and Hook was quite suspenseful, though. Gold got especially nasty while taunting Hook about murdering his new love as well:
    “Don’t worry. You’ll get over [Emma], just like you got over Milah. How many centuries did that take?”

    I did notice that Hook’s heart seemed to be bright red — Snow’s heart showed an obvious black spot after the one time she killed someone in pre-emptive defence (Cora). I assumed that centuries of being a vengeful pirate would turn Hook’s heart much darker. Or it could just be a continuity error.

    I am still grinning at the thought of the Charming family having to sleep in shifts to accommodate 5 people in a 2-bedroom apartment. And did the showrunners think that the audience would not be able to recognize the new characters if they changed their outfits? Maybe it wasn’t in the budget…


    1. Mark Goodwin says:

      I love that idea about Belle and Emma; slightly sad that never happened! My blood boiled in the way that Rumple taunted Hook over Emma’s life as if she was nothing. It’s truly awful.


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