As of last night, I’m finally all caught up on Once Upon a Time. I think that I flashed through Season 4 faster than any other season of any show I’ve ever watched. My body hurts. My head hurts. My heart hurts (either from the energy drinks or the emotional distress caused by this show). Anyway, now that I’m up to speed, I can say that I’m ready for the Season 5 premiere this week. But before we get into that, let’s look back at Season 4 and discuss what I liked and what I didn’t like. (spoilers ahead!)
In the first half of the season, we watched the introduction of Frozen characters. Elsa comes to Storybrooke searching for her sister Anna, who went missing many moons ago. Elsa teams up with Emma, Henry, and the rest of the Storybrooke-ers to discover what happened and why she was imprisoned in an urn in Rumplestiltskin’s vault. We also have a new villain in the form of the Snow Queen, who also happens to be Elsa’s aunt and another manipulator of ice. I think this half of the season was mainly meant to be a tribute to the actual Disney movie Frozen. We saw almost every character from the film make an appearance with the exception of Olaf the Snowman (come on, how can you deprive us of Olaf?).
To be honest, I didn’t like this storyline that much. I was so excited at the end of Season 3 when we saw Elsa coming to Storybrooke, but as I delved into Season 4, I found myself getting slightly bored. I couldn’t stand Anna, by the way. In the film version of Frozen, she was witty and charming and quirky. In Once Upon a Time, she was just plain annoying. It’s like she was trying to be awkward and quirky. She reminded me of Jennifer Lawrence mixed with Felicity from Arrow. That shtick gets irritating way too quickly unless the actor or actress can pull it off.
I also wasn’t a fan of the Snow Queen character or her intentions. I think they tried way too hard to keep her entire story self-contained within its own fairy tale parameters, like they wanted to keep Frozen separate from all the other Disney stories. It makes sense in the context of the show since the characters of Frozen live far away from the Enchanted Forest, but I just didn’t enjoy the separation. What I loved most about the previous seasons and characters was that everyone was connected. I liked how Rumplestiltskin was responsible for Captain Hook’s missing hand. I liked how Aurora, Prince Eric, and Mulan worked together. I liked how Prince Charming (or rather, his douchebag twin brother) was romantically involved with Jack the Giant-Killer. These tie-ins were what made the show so magical, and Frozen just didn’t seem to capture that spark.
Thankfully, the show came back in stride with the second half of the season.
The second half of Season 4 was much better and much more complex. Rumplestiltskin decides that he wants the villains to have a happy ending for once, so he gathers the “evil queens”, Ursula, Maleficent, and Cruella de Vil, and leads them on a new mission. They have to find the Author, a mysterious man who created the magical Storybrooke book, and have him re-write their tales.
In addition to the Author, we’re also introduced to the Sorcerer and his apprentice (though, they’re more focused on in the earlier half of the season). Things get a bit confusing with these new aspects to the show. I lost track once or twice trying to remember which characters serve what purpose. However, I was very intrigued by the concept of the Author, and I was relieved when Pinocchio (now transformed back into August) explains the whole concept behind the character. At one point, the show even subtly hints at Walt Disney as being one of the previous Authors.
I liked the introduction of the evil queens as well, especially Cruella de Vil. The thing about Cruella is that she is one of the more “modern” characters of the Once Upon a Time-verse. We see all the previous characters living in a mystical, medieval, fantasy world, and then we have Cruella coming from a 1920s-ish era. I was curious as to how they would introduce such a character to the show when she seemed slightly out of place. According to the Author, there are different realms of fiction for him to travel to, not just fairy tale land. That explains how we were able to meet such characters as Peter Pan, the Wizard of Oz, Dr. Frankenstein, and other non-fairy tale inhabitants. Major kudos to the writers for expanding the lore!
The end of the season was a bit on the dark side… in more ways than one. It seems that Rumplestiltskin is no longer the Dark One, and that another one of our protagonists has taken on the mantle. We also learn who the Sorcerer is, and how he can help Storybrooke climb out of these dark times. I can already tell that the next season of Once Upon a Time is going to be even more intense and complex than its predecessors.
Final Grade: B +
+ I loved the introduction of the evil queens like Maleficent, Cruella de Vil, and Ursula; all of these characters were excellently portrayed.
+ The Walt Disney name-drop was clever.
+ Zelena (yeah, the Wicked Witch makes a surprise return) didn’t have a very satisfying ending to her tale; I expected more closure.
– The introduction of the Author and the Sorcerer (and his apprentice) started to add to the confusion, but it eventually fell into place.
– The flashbacks are starting to get out of hand; we’re now seeing more flashbacks within flashbacks.
– While the season was enjoyable, it wasn’t as thrilling as the previous ones.
– What happened to Red/Ruby? She disappeared from the show! Archie Hopper/Jiminy Cricket also vanished. If they come back, I hope we get an explanation as to their whereabouts.
How did you feel about Season 4 of Once Upon a Time? Tell us what you think in the comments or on Twitter!