Once Upon A Time season 3 finale review: Snow Drifts & There's No Place Like Home

Review Kylie Peters 12 May 2014 - 08:11

Once Upon A Time's third season ends with a lengthy character study instead of a grand climax. Here's Kylie's review...

This review contains spoilers.

3.21 Snow Drifts & 3.22 There's No Place Like Home

The two-hour season finale of Once Upon A Time is more of a character study than a conclusion to the events of the past season. That’s not necessarily a bad thing—characters are this show’s strong suit—but it is a bit jarring after a fast-paced few episodes and a grand climax last week. It’s not a typical season structure, so you have to change your expectations in order to enjoy it. Snow Drifts does revert to season-finale mode at the end, though, with a few surprises to brood over until autumn.

Still, given its position at the conclusion of the season, the episode could have stood to be shorter. An hour and a half tops, though if they’d squeezed it into an hour they would have had to really trim the fat and would have gotten a nice, tight story. As it is, the episode had its boring moments: a few unnecessary heart-to-hearts, a slightly overlong series of misadventures. The plot isn’t at all original, either (Emma pretty much points out that it’s lifted from Back To The Future, and that’s only one of many make-sure-your-parents-meet-so-you-can-be-born time travel stories I could name).

At the heart though, this episode is about relationships and the holes they leave in their absence. That’s pretty powerful stuff. Emma gets to witness her parents falling in love, and watching her watch them at this pivotal moment is touching. But before that can happen, she comes dangerously close to losing them—and her own life. Through that, she discovers that her home is not a place, but the people she loves. It’s a simple message, almost common sense, but it’s a deep-seated sentiment we can all share.

To cut a (two hour) long story short, the episode is about Emma and Hook trying to make sure Charming and Snow fall in love after the two of them travel back in time and accidentally screw up the moment of the couple’s meeting. Their exploits involve lots of fan-pleasing scenes like Emma waltzing with Hook in a princess dress, Snow and Charming making romantic banter, and Regina back to her old evil self. There’s also a humorously disconcerting scene in which present Hook watches while Emma pretends she’s going to bed with past Hook. Basically, it’s a series of amusing but inconsequential adventures.

Ultimately, Emma and Hook set Snow and Charming back on track for a long gooey true-love ever after. But in the process, Emma saves a mysterious young lady from being killed by the Evil Queen, and in order to prevent messing up the past they take her with them to Storybrooke.

Things really pick up in Storybrooke during the episode’s last ten minutes. Snow and Charming announce that they’ve named their son Neal, which draws a heartfelt reaction from both Emma and Rumple. Outside Granny’s after that, Emma and Hook kiss, and it looks like the relationship might stick this time.

Rumple and Belle get married, and despite their elaborate speeches about their love for one another, Rumple doesn’t mention that he lied to her and the Dark One dagger she has is a fake. I have a hard time predicting how shippers will feel about things, but it seems that anyone invested in this relationship should feel cheated by the fact that there is a huge lie looming over what should be the couple’s greatest romantic moment.

At Granny’s, the mysterious young woman Emma brought back from the Enchanted Forest has an emotional reunion with Robin and his son Roland. It turns out, she is Maid Marian. Regina sees immediately that her chance for happiness with Robin is ruined. She tells Emma, “You better hope to hell you didn’t bring anything else back.” By that she means sassy evil Regina, right? This is a real catch-22. Evil Regina is awesome and Regina/Robin was never a great couple, but it hurts to see Regina’s happiness crushed again. That poor woman can’t catch a break. 

In the final scene, a shiny blue liquid pours into Zelena’s spell circle and a blonde woman in a blue dress appears and shows off her icy powers. Yep, that’s definitely Elsa. Though it’s a bit tacky to get Frozen into the mix so quickly, it’s certainly smart from a marketing perspective since Elsa is so popular. The ominous music suggests that she’ll be a villain, but I think she’ll have to be quickly redeemed for this to go over well with Disney fans.

Once Upon A Time was officially renewed for a fourth season last week, so there’s more magic and fairy tale-infused angst to be had next fall. Until then! 

Read Kaci's review of the previous episode, Kansas, here.

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I liked the episode. Yes, it was a bit sentimental but it brought back some characters who haven't featured much in season 3 such as Riding Hood and Grumpy. If I had a wish it would be more screen time recurring guest stars as I feel there's been too much of a focus on the main cast and I didn't like the split season. I think one main villain is enough for a season and then we can get more stand alone episodes, which is what made Once upon a Time so enjoyable for me in the beginning.
I'm hoping Regina doesn't go completely back to the bad queen but I do understand, why the writers felt the need to bring back Robin's wife. Regina is so much more enjoyable when she's being tormented as a character, but at the same time I really want her to remain as an anti-hero rather than a villain.
I'm interested to see what they do with the Snow Queen. I'm a big fan of the original fairytale but I've been told they might base her from the movie Frozen, which I haven't seen but from what I understand the Snow Queen isn't evil in it. There are interesting elements from the original fairytale that they could use such as the evil mirror that shatters into a million pieces and goes into people's eyes, which distorts their vision so they only see bad and ugly things. The snow bees could also be interesting visually.

I agree with the earlier comment, I think having Elsa be a straight copy of Elsa from the movie would be unbelievably tacky and boring. It'd be much better if they use the Elsa character but with a lot more of the original Snow Queen elements. Though I feel like her storyline will be pretty predictable - she will eventually be redeemed, they aren't going to risk keeping her as a villain til the end. With so many other fairytales (and princesses) to explore, it is slightly annoying that they went with someone so easy and new.

Regarding Rumbelle, I don't even ship them after that. It was a terrible lie.
Maybe Robin/Regina will finally get interesting now, which it hasn't been with such a frenetic pace.

Did they really have to destroy Regina's life again. She's like the Tara of the show. I'm not a big fan of Emma or Hook so most of their moments I tuned out of, but I really did enjoy the wedding ceremony between Rumpel and Belle. Additionally, I thought Charming and Snow naming their child after Neal was nice (more for the sake of Rumpel rather than Emma).

So yeah, for me the finale had its great moments, but it was far from fantastic.

Well now I want to read the original! Mirror shards in your eyes? Creepy.

I think Once will stick close to the Frozen adaptation, though. It's the highest-grossing animated film of all time, so obviously they did something people like in that movie. They won't risk the ire of fans by trying something different.

I totally agree with you. The orginal HCA fairtytale is so creepy and that Snow Queen would make a fantastic villian! One a side note, Im gutted that Regina and Sean McGuire wont be together. She was a fantastic anti-hero ( miles more watchable than Emma) Maid Marrion was also quite annoying in that episode. Ugh I just realised Im a shipper of sorts.

The original fairytale is really awesome. I haven't seen Frozen but want to. It does seem like Once is sticking to more adapting popular stories from the Disney archives rather than take some risks with material that hasn't been made into a Disney film. There's a number of great Brother Grimm stories, for example, that aren't well known that could become a part of the Once canon such as Tom Thumb, Bearskin or Faithful John. These stories have the advantage that because they're not well known there's not so much expectation on them. I feel also that the Devil that makes deals for people's souls in Bearskin could be a great Once villain.

Yeah, it's really Disney adaptations we're dealing with, not fairy tale adaptations.

Not a Grimm tale, but I want to see Mr. Fox! It's one of my favorite folk/fairy tales (though it would have to be bloody to do it right). I also love Tam Lin. I could see Disney making a movie of that one, minus the hook-up part.

It's amazing. You gush over Regina as the Evil Queen, yet put down her relationship with Robin Hood. Yet, at the same time, you don't seemed to mind Rumpel being married to Belle, and at the same time, seem wary over the lie he told her. You're even hoping that Elsa will quickly redeem.
Apparently, in your eyes, only Regina is fit to be one-dimensionally evil. Why?

To be fair, she did slaughter an entire village of innocent people in her ruthless quest to kill snow white, murder her own father to cast the curse, and even in storybrooke went on a killing spree with her mother. In neverland, that tree of regret or whatever it was called couldn't hang on to her because she didn't regret any of her heinous actions even once her character was supposed to be redeemed. I think her redemption was much too easy considering the sociopathic mass-murdering, torturing, burning alive nature of her crimes. Even as recently as throwing snow's dear and innocent friend out of the storybrooke clock tower to her spattering death on the pavement below. For the close relationship they had, snow doesn't seem to miss her now or even be upset with regina about it. I never felt like she was genuinely redeemed or truly earned it. She may have the evil streak in the cage right now, but I think it is highly likely she won't always be able to contain it. I think we may see regina often torn between good and evil, and at times walking the line.

Personally, I find Snow and Charming naming Emma's new brother after the guy who got her pregnant a bit creepy.

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