Fall Review | Once Upon a Time Season 4, Episode 9

By sundown, everyone in this town will start tearing each other apart.


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 9: Fall

Whoever made the decision within the Once Upon a Time world that curses were not immediate certainly had an eye for tension and drama. It is slightly frustrating that ultimately this episode ends where I thought the previous episode had, but this instalment did such a great job at hyping up the emotion and the repercussions of the new curse that I didn’t really mind it. For the most part, this episode is about the emotional journey of all of our characters.

Throughout the episode, the slow advancement of the Spell of Shattered Sight meant that the tension and stakes were at an all time high. Everybody started to realise the repercussions of the spell being enacted, shuttering themselves away from their loved ones for each other’s safety, and saying some emotional goodbyes. There were hugely powerful moments, from Snow and Charming locking themselves in the jail cell, to Regina running from Robin for his own good. Ultimately, Regina is the one I’m most afraid of. If she’s the one who has cast these protection spells, I fear she may also be able to break them if she’s so compelled while under the influence. Robin’s protestation to stay close to her was naive at best.

A hugely emotional payoff this week was the reunion between Elsa and Anna. The pair have been separated for the entire season so far, and seeing Elsa’s desperation bringing Anna hurtling through to Storybrooke was a massive relief. The two reflecting upon how strange Storybrooke was was also a wonderful touch.

Elizabeth Lail continues to delight through this episode as Anna. She’s also so full of heart that she can pull off any line, even one as outwardly ridiculous as, “And I sang with you!”. She’s endearing and amusing even when she’s being angry, and her awkward rambling at David, when talking about his hair is just joyous to watch. It’s almost impossible to watch a scene that she’s in without smiling. Though, wasn’t it handy that she held onto Kristoff when Elsa wished her to Storybrooke? That would have been a rather macabre tone if they’d been separated. I’m intrigued to see what lies inside the bottle thrown from Gerda’s ship, though. Perhaps it will be the key to stopping Ingrid.

The one downside to this episode is the Rumple of it all. I am so infuriated by his character trajectory. He’s always been obsessed with power, but I thought from all of his previous reflections due to it being the cause of losing Bae that he would have learned his lesson. It almost makes a mockery of Neal’s sacrifice, ultimately, as it appears that Rumple has entirely forgotten what Neal would have wanted for him. I get that it’s not as easy to reform as I pretend that it is, but ordering the absorption of all of the fairies so that he can leave Storybrooke with Belle and Henry is atrocious.

What’s more, I really don’t get where this sudden obsession with “cleaving” himself from the dagger is (also, do the writers not know any synonyms for cleave? The number of times it has been said in the past few episodes makes me wonder). Rumple seems to believe that separating himself from the dagger will allow him to use his magic outside Storybrooke, but when Emma has left in the past, she has been unable to use her magic and I thought it was known as the Land Without Magic, so there’s definitely a significant leap in logic on that front.

The worst part of Rumple’s plot is the fact that he genuinely believes that he can both have his power and Belle, which involves lying and deceiving her constantly. At least Hook’s lies to Emma are only borne out of the fact that Rumple literally has his heart. Rumple is actively concealing it from her, though quite how he imagines he will achieve ultimate domination over the planet without Belle cottoning on is supremely embarrassing. Does he think he’s just going to be able to bundle Belle and Henry into a car and they’re not going to wonder why Rumple wasn’t affected by the spell and was able to leave? It’s honestly a ridiculous logic.

This isn’t the only aspect of the episode that doesn’t make sense. Some characters made tremendously convenient leaps in logic, such as Elsa making the assumption that “if Anna had put me in the urn, then she must have had the spell of shattered sight cast on her”. I mean, she was right, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a really random guess. Snow and Charming locking themselves away was also powerful until you consider the fact that they’re meant to lead this community and we have no idea how the other villagers are doing. Everybody was very easily fooled by Elsa handing over an empty pouch and apparently didn’t notice her getting into a very loud lift and travelling away – it was obvious that she was going off on her own! Moreover, Regina seems to have forgotten that she can teleport, which seems remarkably remiss when she needs to get to her vault quickly. Also, is a vault full of many potentially weaponisable ingredients really the most appropriate place for the Evil Queen to hide out this spell?

In Arendelle, it was impossible not to wonder why Anna and Kristoff magically unfroze at this highly convenient plot moment (I assume it’s because of the magical exertion of casting the spell of shattered sight, but I’m surprised that Arendelle didn’t unfreeze when Ingrid left that realm entirely). I’m not entirely sure how Arendelle being frozen for 30 years didn’t somehow reach the ears of everybody in the Enchanted Forest; surely somebody must have arrived at Arendelle one day and passed that crucial piece of information on?

Hans was hugely frustrating. He wasn’t especially compelling but just really, really annoying and a bit of a douche. I hope that the sisters return and destroy him. Honestly, Elsa should have shattered him when she had the chance. The final overly convenient moment was Anna’s necklace suddenly turning out to be a wishing star. What’s a wishing star, you ask? Well, that might have been a good reveal if it hadn’t been something mentioned for the first time within this very episode. While it was a brilliant way to involve Anna and Kristoff in the Storybrooke world, it reeked of Deus ex machina.

Ultimately, I am excited for what happens next. I’m still slightly irked by the fact that I thought this episode would have more of taking on Ingrid fully, but the appeal of having Emma, Elsa and Anna the only sane ones ready and able to go against her is a brilliant hook going into the next episode.

Once Upon an Additional Brainthought

  • How on earth is Emma meant to look after Neal at the same time as also defeating the Snow Queen? That’s not a solid plan, Charmings!
  • The effects for the spell of shattered sight are so atmospheric and gorgeous, and the eyes freezing over and cracking is such a powerful image.

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:

    Not much made sense in this episode. The writers wrote themselves into a corner, so they suddenly introduced a convenient wishing star that rendered all the previous struggles in the search for Anna meaningless. Talk about lazy writing.

    I will invest in heroes who demonstrate cleverness and resourcefulness in solving a problem in a plausible, and hopefully original, way. Nothing clever about a magical dodad that will allow you to wish whatever you want to happen. So why not use the wishing star to stop the curse? Maybe that was addressed, but at this point I stopped trying to apply logic to this mess.

    I did enjoy some scenes, such as the Snow Queen facing off with Gold, as it is rare for a character to be strong enough to challenge him. In fact, I believe that one of the problems with the Gold character is that he is just too powerful, so it becomes difficult for writers to come up with storylines. But that is no excuse to ignore character development. I agree that it seems like Gold has completely forgotten about Baelfire after spending centuries regretting their separation.

    Gold continued his vicious control of Hook, but for once, I will allow that Emma had too much on her plate to figure out that Hook was not acting normally. In every other crisis, Hook has eloquently supported and encouraged Emma before she faced the enemy, but this time all he could manage around the compulsion on his heart was a despairing good-bye.

    Gold wants to break his connection to the Dark One dagger so that no one can control him the way Zelena did. But he wants to keep all the Dark One power, too. I say it shouldn’t work that way. I think he should succeed in “cleaving” himself from the dagger, but at the cost of most or all of his power. Having to face the consequences of his actions would be welcome character growth, as right now he has too much power to be held accountable for any of the harm he has caused.

    It is definitely not explained why Gold would think he could have magic outside of Storybrooke (“Manhattan” clearly showed that he didn’t). If there is enough magic in the Sorcerer’s hat to “cleave” himself from the dagger AND bring magic into the rest of the world, that should be communicated clearly to the audience. But given how lazy the writers have been, I think they just forgot.

    The only effective element was the growing sense of dread for the arrival of the curse.


    1. Mark Goodwin says:

      I do feel like this episode is quite unnecessary. I love the impending curse, and the fact that for once we know its effects. Those moments of people getting ready were hugely powerful, but it is strange how the curse takes so long to travel to Storybrooke from that little cave!


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