Caution: This review contains spoilers.
Disney is looking to capitalize on the popularity of “Frozen”; “Once Upon a Time” is no exception. Last night’s premiere for season 4 opened quite well, picking up right where the third season left off. In Storybrooke, Regina (Lana Parrilla) is devastated about the return of Robin Hood’s (Sean McGuire) wife, Maid Marian (Christie Laing). In addition, the encounter brings us back full circle to tension between Regina and Emma (Jennifer Morrison).
Unbeknownst to Storybrooke residents, Elsa (Georgina Haig) was also brought through the portal. Flashbacks to Fairy Tale Land (FTL) show us the relationship between Elsa and her sister, Anna (Elizabeth Lail). Anna is due to be betrothed to Kristoff (Scott Michael Foster) but she is also determined to venture to Mist Haven to prove that Elsa is not responsible for the death of their parents. We later learn that Mist Haven is another name for the Enchanted Forest. Elsa is confused and lost in Storybrooke, bent on getting to Rumple’s (Robert Carlyle) pawn shop for Anna’s necklace.
It’s actually rather impressive the great extent to which they were able to incorporate elements of “Frozen,” down to the “evil snowman” that was wreaking havoc in the town. Elsa is on a mission to find Anna, but whether she is a villain or simply misunderstood remains to be seen. Given that she spent some time in Rumple’s room of unpredictable magic, she may take the fight to Rumple.
Speaking of the Dark One, he stops by Baelfire’s grave, vowing to be a better man. It’s clear that his lie to Belle already weighs heavily on his conscience, but as we know, Rumple is used to having power. For their honeymoon, he and Belle take over an empty house and even do the iconic “Beauty and the Beast” dance. He invokes the power of his dagger over an odd cylinder, revealing the iconic sorcerer’s hat. Is Rumple also the Sorcerer? Who then is the Sorcerer’s Apprentice?
Another big question of the evening concerns Regina: will we see the return of the Evil Queen, as Henry and Snow fear? Regina seems to be heading in that direction, having brought back Sidney Glass (Giancarlo Esposito) as her Magic Mirror. Killing Marian doesn’t seem to be the best solution, she realizes. Instead, we get to revisit a lingering question through her new objective: find the author of Henry’s book and force him or her to set down happy endings for the villains!
The premiere teased a lot of questions without losing focus. The show revolves around the quest for happy endings; once the true happy endings are reached, the show would probably end. As much as one hopes for happy endings, the dark tendencies of villains (or perhaps anti-heroes, as some would argue) like Rumple and Regina are what really drive the program. Another delightful aspect was to have so many iconic Disney moments weaved in so effortlessly: the “Mirror Mirror” speech, the dance, and the Sorcerer’s hat. Not only are these all elements that Disney fans of all ages can appreciate, but they make for a fun game as we all gather around and take in a great hour of television every week.
“Once Upon a Time” airs every Sunday on ABC at 8|7c.