This week’s Once Upon a Time review is a difficult one. Usually there’s a crazy twist, an unbelievable (or unwanted) revelation, or something absurd to keep me interested. No such luck this time. This dialogue-heavy episode retreads old ground, recaps character motivation, and barely advances the plot. Bear with me, folks. This one is hard to get through.
Emma and Elsa are at the sheriff’s office looking through files and discussing what we already know. The Snow Queen has somehow taken their memories and they’re going to have to get them back. Hook tells Emma he’s taking Henry sailing as a way to excuse them both from the rest of the episode. Will Scarlet is still in jail for his drunken library escapades, and after saying something so stereotypically British it was painful, Emma gives him a Pop-Tart with a bite taken out of it. Storybrooke isn’t very kind to their prisoners. Why is Will still in jail anyway? He stole a book from a library. FROM A LIBRARY. A drunk Brit who don’t understand what borrowing means isn’t the town’s biggest problem.
Emma finds a picture that was taken by Sidney when he was spying for Regina. Emma is talking to the Snow Queen and think Regina might know what about. They head off to find Regina to get answers. Regina herself is trying to get answers from Sidney. She wants him to find the Snow Queen so she can thaw Marion. He hasn’t done it, gives her attitude, and then attempts to negotiate his freedom. It doesn’t go well and he ultimately does what Regina says (or so she thinks). Belle babysits for the Charmings’. Snow White is overprotective and worries.
Elsa and Emma arrive at Regina’s but before going in have a heart-to-heart about forgiveness and trust. If you’ve ever wanted to see storybook characters talk about their feelings and sulk about being wronged, this is the episode for you! For the rest of the episdoe, Emma and Regina talk about their history, Regina shouts about Emma’s wrong doing, and Emma tries to apologize … over and over again. If that wasn’t enough, this week’s flashback parallels their fight and shows us exactly why Emma wants to make things right, in case we couldn’t figure it out on our own.
We flashback to 1998 and it turns out we needed the Pop-Tart scene so we could identify young Emma (played by a different actress) in a grocery story. She attempts to steal said Pop-Tarts but is caught by security. Things look grim until a dark-haired girl comes to the rescue with a shopping cart and tells a believable lie. She asks Emma to shop with her to make the lie believable and has a stolen credit card to pay for the food. They go on a picnic, become best friends, and Emma opens up about her past in the foster system. The girl, Lily, says she understands and doesn’t have any family either. Lily then asks Emma to move in with her (a little quick, don’t you think?) and by move in, she means break into a rich person’s summer home and squat for awhile. They play video games, take some video on a camcorder (always record your crime spree) and promise to be friends forever. Emma even draws a star on her wrist to match Lily’s birthmark. Everything is great until Lily’s dad shows up. Emma is heartbroken that Lily lied and won’t listen to the girl’s excuses. Lily tries to give Emma her number and promises they can run away together but Emma ignores her and leaves. Now we know why present day Emma wants to be friends with Regina. Isn’t that exciting?!
Charming finally gets Snow to leave the baby and go on a hike. They go to the sheriff’s station to get a walkie-talkie so Snow can keep in contact with Belle even out in the middle of the woods. Charming says the walkie-talkie will keep them in touch even if they “fall through a portal to Asgard,” which might be a slam against Josh Dallas since Zachary Levi took over his role in the Thor movies. They have a little fun, but Snow is still worried about the baby and wants to go home. On her way, she sees Will Scarlet digging holes on the beach. She assumes Charming let him escape so she could find him and get some of her mojo back (logic?). She tells Will that if he admits the plan to her she will pardon him (again, logic?). He, of course, tells her what she wants to hear and goes on his merry way. Later, Snow thanks Charming and he tells her he didn’t do it, but letting one drunk go was worth having the adventurous Snow White back.
While Emma is talking to Regina, Elsa sees Anna and follows her to a cliff. She makes an ice bridge to cross, but Anna was just an illusion made by the Snow Queen to trap her. The Snow Queen chains Elsa with magic that will only hold if you’re afraid. Then she goes off to build a snow man…and snow man I mean Ice Viking.
Emma and Regina (who started off separately but ended up on the same trail) combine their powers to melt the Ice Viking. I wish there was more of the Ice Viking. The Snow Queen knew they were coming because Sidney betrayed Regina. She takes Regina’s mirror and force chokes her and Emma. Elsa easily breaks free of the chains and joins the fight. The Snow Queen says she has what she came for and poofs away. Regina is still angry and also poofs away.
Sidney is let out of the mirror in the Snow Queen’s lair. It isn’t him she wants, only the mirror. It contains dark magic and can give her the one thing that she always wanted, “a family who loves her.” Back at Regina’s, Emma shows up and tells Regina the Lily story. Regina admits she doesn’t want to kill Emma. What a healthy friendship.
Back at the sheriff’s station, Hook returns as Emma pulls out a box of her own things. Continuning the theme of trust, she lets him look through it. She finds the video camera and they watch the tape. It cuts to a part she doesn’t remember. She’s at a foster home, but the Snow Queen is there too. What could it all mean? Usually Emma flashbacks tie into the fairytale world in some way, so I’d assumed Lily was actually someone else. With this ending, it appears I might be wrong.
And so we end the episode back where we started, contemplating why the Snow Queen would take Emma’s memories. The stakes were so low this week, you’ll need a shovel to find them (you can borrow one from Will Scarlet). Even Giancarlo Esposito couldn’t save it. If you’ve watched the rest this series–hell, if you’ve watched the rest of this season–you aren’t going to gain much here. From beginning to end, “Breaking Glass” felt like filler.
“Breaking Glass.” Giancarlo Esposito. I smell an OUAT/Breaking Bad crossover! Tell us your mash-up ideas in the comments!