I was going to call this week's episode a welcome return to form, except I'm not sure that it is - it is, however, a welcome return to Regina, who has been warming the bench for the last couple of episodes. Having her front and centre was a nice change from the show's recent run of sentimentalism (and confounding plot developments) - which is not to say that it was without sentimentalism and confounding plot developments. There were just fewere of them, or they weren't as stupid.
Mostly I just liked it better than the previous couple of episodes.
The flashback plot this week centred on Emma as a... well,a fourteenish-year-old. Because of OUaT's Timelol, I have no idea how old she was actually meant to be. I tried to math it: she's 27 when the show began in 2011, making her 30/31 now, which would mean she'd have been 14 or 15 in 1998. But, honestly, we have no idea how much time has passed within the world of the show itself - somewhere between one and three hundred years - so who knows? What we do know is that we've seen Jennifer Morrison play 16/17 year-old Emma, so it stands to reason that this Emma is younger. But again, who knows? Timelol!
ANYway. Young Emma is, like, on the run from her foster home, and makes friends with a sparky young lass called Lily (short of Lilith, we learn later). They break into someone's vacation home and hang out and have fun and swear eternal friendship in that way that teenaged girls swear eternal friendship on mediocre tv shows - by holding hands and being very intense. Lily has a star-shaped birthmark on her wrist which can't possibly be a random coincidence, can it? And draws one on Emma's wrist to cement their bond. Eventually we learn that Lilith is not some orphaned runaway like she'd told Emma and, in fact, has a home and family. But they don't get her, man! Emma feels totally betrayed and breaks the vow of eternal friendship.
In the present-day, Regina orders Sidney (her mirror, remember?) to find the Dairy Queen, to make her undo the spell she cast on Marian. Emma (at Elsa's urging) goes to Regina for help, and Regina tells her off, because Regina is intense about her grudges. No one ever points out that old Evil Queen Regina actually executed Marian, and by saving Marian in the past, Emma actually has retroactively helped ease the burden of guilt present-day sassy-but-not-quite-evil-anymore Regina carries around. Anyway, Regina sasses Emma, which I love, because Lana Parilla is at her best when she's acting scornful, and Jennifer Morrison always reacts by looking like she swallowed a spider.
Anyway, Emma finds a photo of herself... talking to the Dairy Queen in her ice cream shop! She has no memory of having ever met the Dairy Queen before. She and Elsa (who encouraged Emma to make up with Regina in the first place) go wandering through the forest looking for the Dairy Queen. Regina, again rocking the casual career-mom look and using Sidney in a pocket compact, does the same. Elsa, being a total idiot, thinks she sees and hears Anna and goes high-tailing into the forest alone where she, of course, immediately almost walks off a cliff again because the Elsa of OUaT is so dumb. Dairy Queen catches her and, like, chains her to a spot of snow with white manacles (decorated with snowflakes or stars or something) and Elsa, Because Elsa is Insecure, can't use her phenomonal powers to escape until Regina and Emma find her.
Regina and Emma fight a big, badly-CG'd snow-viking-giant thing by combining their powers, and Emma's all 'look how much better we are when we work together!' and Regina, rightfully, snorts in derision. They confront the Dairy Queen, who takes Regina's enchanted mirror and disappears in a puff of smoke. Elsa escapes from her dumb chains. Regina also disappears in a puff of smoke. Emma internally promises herself to keep being nice to Regina.
Back at the sheriff's office, Emma stares moodily into the distance before deciding to go through a box of stuff from her childhood. Hook (who has been busy teaching Henry to sail all episode) reappears in time to talk about Emma's feelings with her. They share a nice moment going through the random crap Emma's hung on to: her glasses, that infernal baby blanket, a random ring, and... the video camera she and Lilith stole from that vacation home they broke into. Wait, who let Emma keep that? They watch the video and discover... that Emma was in a foster home run by the Dairy Queen. It's a properly good twist.
The episode ends with the Dairy Queen, chillaxing in her weird 1980s restaurant-themed ice palace. She frees Sidney and then uses Regina's compact to fix a cracked mirror hanging on her wall. Then, helpfully, explains to the audience that all she really wants is... a family.
Oh, lest I forget: there's a dreadful B-plot, too. Early in the episode, Will Scarlet escapes from jail. Later, Charming making Snow take a walk instead of sitting at home cooing at the baby. (Belle stays home to coo at the baby instead, in her two seconds of screen-time.) During their walk, Charming winds up running off to help Emma and Regina (and failing, I guess, since he never actually shows up) leaving Snow, who finds Will Scarlet digging holes on the beach with the world's tiniest spade. We learn two very important things from the next scenes: however dumb Will Scarlet is - and he's dumb enough to draw a map leading to the place where he's hidden his bag of holding but bury the map along with the bag - he's still smarter than Snow, who decides that Charming let Will Scarlet out of prison to give Snow something to do. Will, sensing that he's not in the presence of great genius, confirms Snow's theory. Snow, grinning the smug grin of the inescapably idiotic, thanks him for helping her get her mojo back and then pardons him. Will scampers off and Snow goes home to tell Charming how nice he is to set up such a grand plan to make her feel better about... things. Charming lets her down more or less gently.
Quote of the Episode: 'You two have to mend your differences.' Differences don't break, Elsa.
- Hot cocoa (cinnamon implied) x1
- 'my one true love' x1
Poofy Dress Watch: No poofy dresses this episode, although the costumers do stick Elsa in the most horrifically cheap-looking pink cape - I think to hide whatever the actress is kneeling on while she's chained down by the Dairy Queen.
Sledgehammer Theme: Friendship is delicate and can be broken like a mirror, but can be mended, like family. Or something. The real thematic heft of the episode comes from the race to the bottom to discover the answer to this question: who is the dumbest of them all? Elsa, who keeps almost walking off cliffs? Emma, who can't take no for an answer? Will Scarlet, who also buried the map of where he was burying his bag of tricks when he buried the bag of tricks? Or Snow, whom Will Scarlet outsmarted?
Note: Will Scarlet is played by Michael Socha, brother of Lauren, who played Kelly on Misfits. He still irritates me, though.
Edited to add: I have so many questions! Actually, just one question this week. Early on in the ep we see Regina gazing mournfully at a framed photo of herself and Robin Hood. I was suprised to learn that they were together long enough to have someone snap a picture of them, much less for Regina to then print it, frame it and lug it to her crypt for mournful gazing-upon. I mean, really; didn't they finally hook up in the two-parter at the end of S3? Which took place over... god knows how long, but it wasn't, like, months. I'm not convinced it was even weeks.