Once Upon A Time: Fall Review

Tonight's episode of Once Upon A Time brings its Frozen storyline to a head, yet it still is struggling to find its magic.

Once Upon a Time has some significant strengths. Unfortunately, it also has some significant weaknesses. Both have been heavily on display thus far this season. But sadly, tonight’s episode was a case of weakness winning out.

Don’t get me wrong; I am staunchly in favor of building suspense. To that end, I’ve dug being vaguely worried about the Snow Queen’s evil spell since she and it were first introduced. But every episode since where the curse has not landed has felt like filler. When you present your viewer with such a potentially catastrophic storm, and then you give us a two-hour episode, we expect the devastation to strike. When it didn’t, I was sure that tonight’s episode would see havoc loosed on Storybrooke. Instead, what we got was a lame wrap-up of the Frozen storyline that even Mr. Magoo would have clearly seen coming. The joke there is that Mr. Magoo is blind, in case I’ve just dated myself horribly in the process of making my point.

When I got in from a dinner date tonight (calm down, it was with my best friend, we had burgers and discussed farts, infinitely unsexy things both) and asked her if I was going to enjoy tonight’s episode, she shrugged. “That last 20 minutes are worth watching,” and skulked away. Probably because she didn’t want to witness my gall at the level of filler they have insisted on stuffing their perfectly acceptable little series with this season. She was right: the final twenty minutes of the show were the only bits were watching. If you fast-forwarded through the whole hour (something I did not do because I respect you too much to be so lazy) you would have come away with everything this episode had to offer: Elsa rescued Anna, the spell was going to mess everyone up, and Gold has become the flat, uninteresting villain we never asked for.

To be fair to all parties involved, the spell of shattered sight (as it slowly made its way to Storybrooke, like a Glam-Rock version of something you might have witnessed during the Dust Bowl) was visually stunning. Still, its deadly beauty wasn’t enough to sustain my interest as various characters wept about how bad this spell was going to be.

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If you tease me with Snow and Regina fighting with swords, as they do in the preview, then I must have those things! Still at this point, it’s like no matter how fabulous Regina’s ensemble next week is going to be (and it will be incredibly fabulous), I’m nevertheless too bored to care. It’s frustrating when a show can be self-aware enough to have Anna make jokes about “singing” with a guy, and so clueless all at the same time. It’s as though the show is not that different from the denizens of the tiny enchanted town itself — they can’t see the forest for all the trees.

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2 out of 5