Caution: This review contains spoilers on the episode “White Out.”
Who would have guessed that Little Bo Peep (Robin Weigert) would turn out to be a warlord in Fairy Tale Land (FTL)? Or on the freakier side of things, would you link her Storybrooke identity with a butcher at the Chop Shop? Yes, complete with the exquisitely sharpened cleaver and apron! In “Once Upon a Time,” she’s a nasty villain that extorts tribute from residents in her area, turning them into sheep when they can’t pay up! It makes her a tremendous adversary for shepherd David (Josh Dallas) to overcome with the help of fearless Anna of Arendelle (Elizabeth Lail).
That’s not the only surprise from last night’s episode, “White Out.” Elsa (Georgina Haig) vows that no one will leave Storybrooke until she finds Anna. She puts up an ice wall, causing a black out in the town. Emma (Jennifer Morrison), David, and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) investigate, which results in Emma getting trapped in the wall with Anna. Through Emma’s walkie talkie, Elsa demands that David find Anna.
Meanwhile, Granny and the dwarfs harass Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) about restoring the power. “It’s your curse, your town,” they tell her, because Regina (Lana Parrilla) doesn’t want any part in it either. Snow White is the new mayor of Storybrooke, her new kingdom. The dilemma is funny, highlighting how dependent the fairy tale characters have become on modern conveniences like refrigeration, computers, and the Internet.
It begs the question: Would the Storybrooke residents truly want to return to the Enchanted Forest forever, or is Storybrooke their real home now? Emma certainly admitted that Storybrooke, not New York nor Boston, is her home. We also get a bonding moment between Snow and Baby Neal, who inspires her on how to fuel the power plant.
Emma, who is freezing to death, manages to bond with Elsa when she finds out both of them cannot control their magic. It’s a predictable but welcome friendship to see, taking on aspects of a sisterly relationship. This dynamic is balanced in FTL by David’s new friendship with Anna, who teaches him how to swordfight. It’s a nice point to draw in that despite their magic powers, both Emma and Elsa feel powerless (unless they believe in themselves). In contrast, both Anna and (Storybrooke) David have power through their optimism and persistence.
David takes the Shepherd’s Crook from Peep at the Chop Shop. Relieved to find that David knew Anna, Elsa has enough confidence in herself to open up the wall. Where is Anna? Rumplestiltskin has a dark look on his face when he finds out that Anna’s necklace is gone. Anna went in search of him following her adventure with David.
The other clue is the mysterious woman (Elizabeth Mitchell from “Lost”) at the store Any Given Sundae (what a fantastic name!). She has powers like Elsa’s and it’s implied that she’s keeping the ice wall up around Storybrooke. If she is a new villain, one would hope for a showdown with Regina, whose weapon of choice is fire, of course.
Overall, “Once Upon a Time” has so much to offer this season. Today’s episode revolved about the concept of feeling stuck, physically and mentally, and being able to fight to set yourself free. The title “White Out” could be a play on “black out,” considering that Elsa’s white walls of ice turned off the power. Perhaps it’s a bit of a stretch, but in the operative (and modern) sense of the word, you can go back and “white out” or correct your mistakes. Elsa feels like she’s at fault but she works hard to undo the mess that she caused. That fits with the recent push by characters to seek redemption, but seems to clash with the principle that “all magic comes with a price.”
There’s a lot coming in from “Frozen” but the new twists are fresh and help to maintain a great pace on the plot. For instance, it was clever to make Anna proficient at handling a sword, showing how David had to work to become the Prince Charming we admire. It also fits the OUAT angle of having strong female characters. The jokes are top notch, particularly from the dwarves and side characters, who are such a source of humor in the old Disney films. The villains with top billing have retreated to the background for the moment, but we’re waiting to see what new projects Rumple and Regina will unveil from their respective lairs.
“Once Upon a Time” airs Sunday evenings on ABC at 8|7c.