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‘Once Upon a Time’ Premiere Review: Fairytale Drama Is ‘Frozen’ in More Ways Than One

ABC series borrows from Disney’s latest hit while consistenlty going back to old tropes season after season

(Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you haven’t yet watched the Season 4 premiere of “Once Upon a Time” entitled “A Tale of Two Sisters.”)

The many, many fans of “Frozen” were probably very excited by its live action continuation on ABC’s “Once Upon a Time” Season 4 premiere on Sunday. But, longtime fans of “Once Upon a Time” could (or should) feel cheated by the show’s latest tool to mask that it plays the same storylines over and over again.

After months of teasing, “Frozen’s” Elsa (Georgina Haig) left a frosty trail of destruction though Storybrooke on the premiere episode. Afraid and in a strange land, her spells included “an evil snowman” that distracted the town long enough for her to find Mr. Gold’s (Robert Carlyle) shop. Apparently, she is on the hunt for her missing sister and a newspaper article of Gold and Belle’s (Emilie de Ravin) wedding (complete with an enlarged picture of a snowflake necklace she had given her sister Anna, played by Elizabeth Lail) gave her a place to look.

Also read: ‘True Blood’s’ Kristin Bauer to Reprise Maleficent Role on ‘Once Upon a Time’

To quickly recap: Elsa and Anna’s parents were able to write a message in a bottle for them before dying at sea. The message had not yet arrived, but Elsa did find her mother’s diary, which spoke of her powers and how much they worried her. Elsa took that to mean that her parents didn’t go on their trip for a diplomatic mission. Rather, they were headed to find a solution to her worrisome gift. That was verified by Anna’s “future in-laws,” specifically rock troll Pabbie (voiced by John Rhys-Davies), who was able to verify that their parents were actually headed to Mist Haven aka The Enchanted Forest.

Anna decided, against her sister’s wishes, to travel to The Enchanted Forest to find answers as to why their parents left in order to relieve her sister’s guilt. Apparently, she never returned. Elsa said that much when she found the snowflake necklace and said, “Don’t worry, Anna. I will find you.”

A terrific mystery indeed, but it’s just the latest in “Once Upon a Time’s” borrowed characters to act as a smoke screen for the lack of character and plot development the show gives to its ensemble cast of characters.

See photo: First Look at ‘Frozen’ Princess Anna on ‘Once Upon a Time’

Each season, the show finds a new way to reboot the series: Magic was stricken from the town, the curse has been reenacted and memories have been lost over the past three seasons. Each season, we wait to see how the characters will come back to the point they were at when the previous season ended and the latest reboot had yet to happen.

Emma (Jennifer Morrison), for instance, has to be constantly convinced that she’s the savior and she has the light magic to stop dark spells. She also must be convinced that she deserves love — over and over again. If Hook isn’t the one at this point, she really should just forget about it. And while I’m at it, let’s hope Emma has really closed the door on Storybrooke being her real home. If she mentions New York City as being “really good” again, I’ll have to turn the series pass off forever. She almost got engaged to a winged monkey in the Big Apple. How is that any safer than Storybrooke?


ABC/Eike Schroter

Then, there’s the constant worry that Regina (Lana Parilla) and Gold will return to their evil ways. Both have been said to “come so far.” Tested now by the end of her relationship to Robin (Sean Maguire) with the return of his great love Marian (Christie Laing), not once, twice but three times did characters ask, “Do you think she’ll go back to being, you know, evil again?” The answer is yes. And, by the way, the answer is yes to the question as it relates to Gold, as well.

At least this time Regina’s slide back into her evil ways includes dusting off the magic mirror (played by the talented, if underutilized on “Once,” Giancarlo Esposito, whose series “Revolution” was canceled by NBC last May).

Also read: Disney’s ‘Frozen’ Empire Is Bigger Than Ever

It’s time the show moves its main characters out of the repeated storylines they keep acting out each season. Sure, “Frozen” is a fun act of synergy between ABC and mothership Disney but it’s also a pretty accurate description of the show’s main characters season after season.

“Once Upon a Time” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.