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

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).

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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. 

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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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