Once Upon A Time 4×01 “A Tale of Two Sisters” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

At some point audiences may get tired of hearing things like “Storybrooke has frozen over,” but enormous Disney nerds like us will doubtlessly get chills from excitement every time. With such a strong premiere, the rest of the season will change things like no other. Yes, it’s only been an episode, but with our expectations being exceeded so far, we’re not too sure how much more perfection we can handle as the rest of the season progresses.

Arendelle Flashbacks: Before the King and Queen of Arendelle die due to their ship sinking on their voyage to the Enchanted Forest, they leave behind a message in a bottle for someone to find pertaining to Elsa’s powers. The day before Princess Anna (Elizabeth Lail) and Kristoff (Scott Michael Foster) are to wed, Elsa (Georgina Haig) discovers that the real reason her parents left was that they were frightened of her powers and needed to figure out what was going on with them. Elsa immediately blames herself, but Anna not wanting her sister to feel as though she’s a monster and being as charismatically compassionate as she is goes to the Enchanted Forest on her own in order to find out what their parents were looking for.

Present-Day Storybrooke: We pick up right where we left off at baby Charming’s party with Regina storming off after the realization that Robin’s wife is no longer dead. As a confused Elsa walks out of the barn, she freezes the car Grumpy and Sleepy are in, then later afraid and in defense of being exposed creates Marshmallow, the Snow Monster — but let’s stick with Marshmallow since that’s what Olaf calls him in the animated film. The honeymooners find an abandoned mansion and share an iconic dance. Regina plots to get rid of Marian, but in the end, she saves her from Marshmallow and comes to the decision that she and Sydney must find out who wrote the book in order to give the villains a happy ending. After finding a newspaper with the picture of the necklace she gave Anna, Elsa goes to Mr. Gold’s shop and vows to herself that she’d do whatever it takes to find her sister.

Rumplestilskin and Belle aren’t your typical Beauty and the Beast, and Once Upon A Time does such an excellent job with its twist and turns that we don’t exactly mind not having too many noted scenes from the animated films being brought to life. As enormous fans of Beauty and the Beast, and the breathtaking first dance at the ballroom, we found ourselves in tears after Rumple and Belle’s first dance.

This won’t be the first or last time we commend Eduardo Castro on his immaculate designs, thus the recreation of the original outfits ultimately requires no words. And though the mansion’s ballroom wasn’t as glorious as the original, “Tale as Old as Time” playing in the background was plainly, simply, the perfect touch. The dance was quick and contained no dialogue, but the amount of talking done merely through the way they looked at one another was enough. Ultimately, they symbolized the lyrics themselves –just a little change, small to say the least, both a little scared, neither one prepared; bittersweet and strange, finding you can change, learning you were wrong. If you read our finale review then you’d recall our frustration with the duo because of Rumple’s lies, and though some still remain buried, we’re thoroughly pleased with the fact that he’s decided to switch the daggers, leaving Belle with the real one. Prior to their honeymoon officially beginning, they visit Baelfire’s grave where Rumple confesses to having switched the daggers only to avenge his death. With the utmost sincerity, he then vows that he’ll be the heroic man Baelfire always wanted him to be. Robert Carlyle played the moment with such grace that even though we are upset with Rumple for choosing to murder Zelena, we understood him. We felt for him. And we’re at a point where we’re almost confident that this time, Rumple’s really going to try – he’s learned that he was wrong and knows he could change. And he’s finally on the road to becoming the man worthy of Belle’s endless love. Lastly, Rumple finds what looks like the noted sorcerer’s hat and we’re excited to see how much further this develops.

Our only disappointment with this episode was that the stroll with the Charming Family wasn’t long enough. One of the things we’ve always wanted is for that family to have their time to be a family and little things like walking together are pretty much everything. Charming states that maybe they should’ve named the baby Baelfire instead of Neal, which we’d be lying about if we said we agreed to it because we’re still a bit heartbroken the baby’s name isn’t Graham. Henry continues to express his concerns about not wanting Regina to resort to her evil ways again, and when phone calls from Emma go unanswered, he decides to give it a try as well. Momma Snow states how she’s proud of the way Henry’s handling the situation given everything he’s gone through in the past then they’re interrupted by Emma’s “new man” as Snow put it. Due to Ginnifer Goodwin’s pregnancy last season, we didn’t get enough badass bandit Snow scenes, and we’re hoping for some this season because Goodwin’s skills as an actress, and Snow White’s character are one of our all-time favorites.

Hook thinks Emma’s avoiding him and she then replies that it’s only because they have a crisis to deal with, but irritated beyond measure, Hook professes that there will always be a crisis and she needs to live in them. This isn’t the first time someone’s reminded Emma Swan to live her life, back in “A New Neverland” Charming too told his daughter that in the midst of all the bad moments, she needed to look for the good ones as well. Charming’s delivery of the statement had a gentler, fatherly stance, but Hook’s is delivered with a much sturdier tone — he’s always there to remind Emma of the things she lets savior duties keep from her, a life.

The two are later interrupted by Grumpy stirring the town up as per usual, and unsurprisingly, they now mirror Snow and Charming with everyone always turning to them as soon as their lives are somehow threatened. They may not have sealed the deal as an official pair yet, but their excellent partnership can be spotted from miles away — the town’s sheriff and the captain who’s taking commands like a gentleman sounds like a superlative duo to us. Captain Swan, with the addition of Charming, Robin Hood, Little John, and Marian confront Marshmallow in the forest when Hook and Charming once again showcase the amount of faith they have in Emma’s abilities. But what stood out most in that scene was the felicitated, exquisite smile Hook wore the moment Emma struck Marshmallow. Hook’s always shown such pride when it comes to what Emma’s capable of thus continuously exemplifying that he’s the most suited to stand side by side with such a courageous and outstanding woman.

Just as Charming’s always been the one to uplift and remind Snow of her strengths in times of chaos, Killian’s the one who embodies Emma’s compass. When “Crisis I” is taken care of, Hook flamboyantly approaches Emma stating the obvious, and she mentions that they should go home and watch Netflix. We’re still laughing at the childlike elation with which Hook responded — that man would literally do anything to spend time with Emma Swan and if that’s not adorable then we don’t know what is.

Moments later when Hook expresses his concerns with the fact that Emma is in fact avoiding him, she declares that she feels too guilty at the moment over what’s happened with Regina. But when Hook states that he’s certain there’s more to it than just Regina, in a quicker, softer way than before Emma kisses him before telling him to be patient. The entity that fortifies what Killian and Emma have is the profound understanding that goes beyond words they’ve spoken – while it’s normal for people to lose patience, Killian’s the man who’d never. His feelings for Emma are stemmed from a genuine place and though she feels strongly for him as well, walls don’t come down overnight.

They’re at a place where they both want to be together, and they’re ready to, but because of their pasts, the obstacles within them must be fought through first. And with Emma especially, because she comes from a place where she hasn’t known genuine love for too long, it’s more difficult for her to open up to what’s great but still frightening. Morrison played the brief moment in the forest with such depth, it’s not always easy for Emma to smile, but at the moment it’s effortless with Killian, and even though she’s not ready to hop into a relationship this instant, the smile is what indicates just how open she is. She knows she’s pushed Killian away too much, but Morrison’s playing Emma with more serenity now — the smiles that once held undertones of immense fears have become softer, her heart is more open than ever, and the expressiveness along with the kiss is her way of telling him that he’s valued, that patience will be worth it. And hopefully one of these days, we actually do see them watch Netflix together.

Emma later visits Regina and states that she’ll do everything she can to bring back happy endings for everyone. Although Emma shouldn’t in any way feel guilty for saving an innocent woman’s life, seeing as she’s someone with an incredibly enormous heart, it’s normal for her to. All throughout the first season, Emma’s fought against being the savior because she didn’t feel she was meant to do everything Henry and August were persuading her; however, now that she’s accepted the fact that she’s the savior, she feels it’s her duty to make sure everyone’s happy. Again, for someone with a heart like Emma’s, this is completely normal and luckily, she has someone like Killian who could remind her that no matter how much saving she’s doing, she needs to make time for the things that make her happy as well. She needs to focus on herself as well because there’s only so much responsibility one person can take on.

Regina’s complexity has been an interesting one this week. Yes, it’s heartbreaking that she finally found love again only to have it swept away from her, but the road to true love is far from easy. And what we’re hoping for in terms of Regina’s character development is that the woman she chose to be at the very end of the episode, the one who saved Marian, fights to remain that way. As any normal person, she needs time to grieve the kind of heartbreak she’s faced, but the people she’s surrounded by wouldn’t want her to resort back to the Evil Queen.

Furthermore, the conversation between her and Robin broke us. Sean Maguire delivered the scene with such heart that even though we’re rooting for Robin and Regina, our respect for Robin’s character is through the roof. Also, his past is something we’re also very curious to know about now that he’s confessed to understanding Regina as deeply as he does because he’s not proud of who he used to be. While we’re fans of Regina’s character growth, there are still things that we’re hoping for when it comes to where her character goes. And one of them is the fact that she shouldn’t blame anyone for what’s occurred in her life. Although altering the past is dangerous and shouldn’t be messed with in the world of Once Upon A Time, saving a life isn’t something Emma should have to feel bad for. And after she takes her time to grieve, Regina should do as Emma said, to fight. At some point in our lives, we must fight for what we want with honor. Plenty of things have come easy to Regina after she became the Evil Queen, but just as everyone goes through life’s tragedies with difficulties in their path, Regina must walk that path the hard way.

One of the lessons Once Upon A Time has taught is that selfishness gets us nowhere. Life forces people to endure pain, and when doing so, they must always remember that there are other people they’re fighting for. People must want to change to better themselves, but also to be worthy of those in their life. All of season three Regina’s tried to prove that she’s deserving of Henry’s love, and now she must prove to herself and everyone in town, that she truly has changed for the greater good, not just one person. She’s changed because it’s best to be good – a loving and honest heart is the greatest kind to have.

We can’t predict how Robin and Regina will find their way to each other, but soul mates always end up with one another in the end. As long as Regina chooses to fight with honor, she’ll attain the kind of happy ending she deserves. At the end of the episode, she comes to a conclusion we’re not too sure about at the moment, but she believes that the book must be changed in order for the villains to get a happy ending. Perhaps there’s some truth in that idea, a curse of some sort, but what we’re looking forward to most is essentially finding out who wrote the book in the first place.

Lastly, we’ll be covering the Frozen arc (and what a perfect arc it is, if we may add) — or gushing whatever you’d like to call it. Georgina Haig, Elizabeth Lail, Scott Michael Foster, and “Sven” have already won us over with their incredible performances.

There’s a lot of pressure with bringing such characters to life when the phenomena have become renowned worldwide, and while the Once Upon A Time casting department has always been on point with their choices, these groups of individuals have floored us like no other. There are a few unanswered questions in terms of their stories which we’re bound to find out as the season progresses — who locked Elsa away in the first place and why? Did Anna ever make it back home? How did Rumple attain the necklace? Did the wedding ever happen? Where is Hans and how will he play a role in their lives now?

While we love the twists the show’s taken on characters such as Peter Pan and Captain Hook, we’re thrilled that they’re keeping the Frozen characters as they are. Elsa’s journey with herself and her sister is one of the greatest stories of our generation. There’s not enough praise for families and the story’s done an excellent job of heartening inspiration on the matter. Now that Elsa’s in Storybrooke and spoilers tell us she and Emma will become friends, we’re the happiest we’ve ever been. Emma’s in dire need of a good friend, and someone like Elsa who understands the miseries of feeling as though they don’t belong anywhere. Also, it seems Elsa doesn’t have as much control over her powers as the Disney Queen does, hence, that’ll be another great story to explore as both women fight to figure out how to work with the powers destiny’s given them.

And once again, let’s continue talking about the excellent performances brought to us by Haig, Lail, and Foster. The level at which they’ve grasped those characters is astounding, and it’s legitimately as though the cartoon versions of themselves have become human — that’s how realistic and simply flawless their performances are. We presume the question we’re all now asking (us for sure) is can we keep them!? Lail touches Anna’s immensely loving spirit with such grace and beauty, and Haig is bringing Elsa’s fears to life with harrowing greatness — not to mention the chemistry between the actresses feels so organic, it shines perfectly on screen.

Every scene they shared together had such warmth, but if we have to choose a favorite, it was probably their talk outdoors. When Elsa says she wants to be alone, Anna replies, “you have a sister, you’re never gonna be alone other than when I’m not around, and even then I’ll be there in spirit. But that doesn’t matter because I’m here now, and you’re not alone and you know what I mean it’s a nice thing.” As stated above, it feels as though nowadays sibling love isn’t glorified as much and we’re completely obsessed with the way the story brings it to life. They’re bringing such a gorgeous bond to life. Anna is the hope Elsa’s been missing her entire life — she’s the strength, the backbone, and the heart of their relationship. Elsa’s everything to Anna that Anna is to Elsa – it doesn’t matter who she is and what she’s done, her love is stemmed so deep that her sister’s happiness means the world to her. She knows what Elsa is even when Elsa forgets because her sister is her hero. Their bond as sisters serves as a symbol of one of the healthiest, most beautiful familial relationships that exist. And we can’t wait to see what happens when the two are reunited in the future.

What were your favorite parts of the episode? What are you looking forward to most this season?

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