Tonight, I had the good pleasure of watching the season four premiere of Once Upon a Time with a die-hard fan as well as someone who had never seen the show before, let alone seen Disney’s Frozen. The startling thing about their response to the premiere episode and the introduction of Elsa and Anna was just how similar they were. In fact, I’d go so far as to say their reactions were identical: They were equally tickled and in a radical state of disbelief.
I love Once Upon a Time, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s a perfect show. No show that quietly has you concerned that someone has slipped you LSD can be without flaw. Creators Kitsis and Horowitz are great at having big, sprawling, breath-stopping ideas. Their passion for the characters in this world is the heart and soul of the show. Unfortunately, passion doesn’t always lead to sense or quality.
Kitsis and Horowitz know how to get a story rolling. But once its started whirring down the hill, they have no control. They expect us to care deeply about characters (like Robin) who they have yet to fully develop, while leaving characters we have come to love over the seasons (hi Regina, how are you?) ricocheting between the same two tired crises of character.
It can be really frustrating, because when the show gets it right (Emma and Hook’s moment together post snow-monster slaying) it gets it really right. But when it gets it wrong (the fact the entire Elsa and Anna storyline is playing out like elaborate and hilarious fanfic) it’s practically deadly. When the series started four years ago, it wasn’t set up to bait fans of the latest Disney animated feature. It played on something much more fundamentally appealing: Our universal and childlike wish that fairy tales contain within them a kernel of truth.
You know what did this better? NBC’s mini-series The 10th Kingdom – BUT I DIGRESS. It may be too soon to tell, but the Frozen storyline tonight’s episode introduced felt more like pandering than it did anything else.
Don’t get it twisted. I’m not humbugging the crux of what the show does. I understand that reinventing the stable of Disney heroes and heroines is essential, and that’s something I appreciate. It’s an insanely unique conceit to see on network television today, and I applaud it when it works. Rumple’s duality as the Beast, Sydney being both the Magic Mirror and a powerful Genie, these were risky moves that paid-off. Maybe that will be the case with Elsa and Anna and Sven the reindeer…but right now it realllllllly doesn’t feel that way.
Additionally, Emma Swan needs to cut her hair. I’m just saying. It’s becoming problematically long. Also, while we’re talking of styling choices, I would pay all the dollars I have (seven of them) to see Regina burn all of her Spanx and sheath dresses in a small fire and swear allegiances to the dark arts of sweatpants.