When it comes to conventions, the advantage television has over film will always be that networks can show more footage that will immediately get fans in a frenzy. Indeed, it was downright euphoria during the Once Upon a Time panel at New York Comic-Con. How could it not be when it is kicked off with the revelation that fans would get the chance to watch the entire third episode of Once’s fourth season, “Rocky Road.”
I would not dare spoil every plot detail from the episode, but let it be said that the faithful will not be disappointed. The episode is sculpted around Elizabeth Mitchell’s introduction as the Snow Queen in earnest. While you may have seen her before, this is the week where her frosty touch is felt throughout Storybrooke, starting with Marian.
For shippers of Robin and Regina, things are looking up for the villain formally known as the Evil Queen, and it had nothing to do with her machinations. Instead, it is the “Snow Queen,” proving as antagonistic as Juliet was in her earliest episodes of Lost. Using magic powers every bit as icy as Elsa’s, Ms. Mitchell’s supposed ice cream shop owner curses Marian’s rainbow sprinkles, causing her heart to freeze faster than you can sing “Do You Want to Build a Snowman.”
I will not say what Marian’s chances are of surviving this newfound problem, but for anyone who saw Frozen or Maleficent, let’s just say Disney’s 21st century position on “True Love’s Kiss” is not budging.
But speaking of Frozen references, fans will see on Sunday a lot more of Once Upon a Time’s unofficial sequel to the animated phenomenon with flashbacks to Arendelle’s sudden new problems. And for her part, Georgina Haig slides much more comfortably into Elsa’s icy blonde locks than she seemed to in the first few episodes. Especially in these returns to her distant past (marked by the return of pre-“Let It Go” bangs), Haig displays both reluctant leadership and what Kristoff rightly diagnoses as a susceptibility to “logic and reason.”
However, the new episode also showcases the introduction of a returning Frozen character, Prince Hans. Played with appropriate antipathy by Tyler Jacob Moore, it is easy to say that “sympathetic villain” syndrome is not spreading to Frozen’s mythology. Indeed, we see a half dozen of Hans’ older brothers, and it turns out that they didn’t punish him since they’re just as evil as the youngest son. And by-the-by, it should be said that Hans’ uniform has transferred to live-action with much more success than Elsa or Kristoff’s.
It is Hans that gets the story in motion when he and his brothers amass an army from the south to invade Arendelle. Against Elsa’s wishes, Kristoff spies on Hans and learns that he has a map to a magical artifact intended to trap Elsa. So of course, instead of using her military force, Elsa decides to go on a quest with Kristoff to obtain it. Prepare for words and steel to clash.
Meanwhile, back in the present, Hook and Elsa will get the chance to know each other better since they will likewise go on a quest to find Anna, especially since Hook realizes that Rumple knows more than he is saying about the magical antiques in his shop. And with the return of Will Scarlet to Once Upon a Time, Emma and Prince Charming are likewise on the trail, with all roads leading back to the Snow Queen. Little does Emma or Elsa realize, but this might be a reunion.
After the episode ended, the panel began in earnest with series creators and executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz appearing, along with Once star Jennifer Morrison.
Right off the bat, the subject du jour was of course Frozen. For example, Morrison spoke of her scene last week where Emma found Elsa in an ice cave. While deceptively freezing onscreen, Morrison and her producers insisted that it was 110 degrees in there, defeating Horowitz’s original idea, which was to shoot the sequence in a meat locker.
However while Horowitz conceded that they were very much playing in Frozen’s parameters, explaining that it is so recent and modern that it did not need any twisting or updating, Kitsis also made apparent the show is going to take a left turn from the film.
“You’re going to see the story develop in its Once Upon a Time way, and not be what [Walt Disney Animation Studio’s] sequel might have been.” And once you see how the show goes with Hans, you realize they’re not just whistling “Let It Go.”
They also left hanging the intriguing information that the Regina storyline, involving her wanting a happy ending by finding the author of Storybrooke, would not be settled during the first half of this season. While the Frozen arc may be done in time for Fall Sweeps, Kitsis said that he envisions that Regina’s subplot will last the whole fourth season.
But as for the immediacy, not only did Comic-Con revelers get treated to a new episode, but they were also given some hints about what to expect from the fourth episode that will air on Oct. 19th.
Both Kitsis and Horowitz reiterated that Rumple and Hook’s storied past will be delved into deeply during next-next Sunday’s “The Apprentice.” Also, in Hook’s favor, he and Emma will have their first official date in that episode.
Kitsis said, “I think in [that] episode, we’ll see why Rumple’s doing what he’s doing.” He then added after a pause, “It’s going to be self-interest.”