‘Once Upon A Time’ S4 Ep 11 recap: So much for a happy ending

Will the Snow Queen find redemption? (Photo credit: Disney/ABC Press)

“Once Upon A Time” has brought many iconic fairytales to life. Some of them delight us with a cheery Disney twist, bringing levity to formerly dark tales. Other stories reveal rather grim outcomes for fallen characters or villains who meet the dreary fate they deserve. But most of “OUAT’s” characters have demonstrated a complexity that keeps them lingering in a gray area between being completely good and evil. The Snow Queen is another fabled royal who falls within those lines.

Throughout the first half of this season, we watched the story of Ingrid’s troubled life unfold before our eyes. We harshly judged her as a vengeful villain. Then we grew to realize she was another mistaken lost soul, longing for family and acceptance. As the Snow Queen’s saga comes to an end in “Shattered Sight,” Ingrid redeems herself and teaches us that some happy endings can actually be quite sad.

Richfield, Minnesota, 1992: “You’re gonna be just fine.”

Ingrid made a rocky landing into our world when she entered Boston in 1982. There she learned that this place is full of scam artists like Madame Faustina and she won’t be able to use magic to get what she wants. Ten years later the powerful Snow Queen has adjusted to this new world and established a life that draws young Emma into her orbit.

As we briefly saw earlier this season, young Emma filmed some of her time in Ingrid’s foster home. We are taken back to the day of that recording and see how Ingrid wins Emma over.

Emma tries sneaking out and bailing on another failed foster home when Ingrid catches her in the act. She tenderly calls Emma “sweetie” and understands why Emma would want to run away from foster siblings who terrorize her. Ingrid assures her, “You’re gonna be just fine,” but Emma doesn’t believe her. Then the Snow Queen shows Emma how she can be a trusted friend and guardian by telling her about nasty Kevin’s worst fears. He doesn’t like spiders and Ingrid has a bunch of plastic ones hidden in her drawer. For the first time, Emma feels like someone has her back, so she sticks around and begins to feel safe with Ingrid.

Ingrid takes Emma to the arcade for a day of fun and games. Emma tries to pick up a stuffed Dalmatian (nice foreshadowing) in a claw-drop game and her budding magic powers suddenly spark. Ingrid takes this as a sign and believes Emma is coming into her own.

Ingrid tells Emma that she is special and will one day surprise everyone with her gifts. The Snow Queen tears up at the thought of Emma’s full potential and the life they will share. Then Ingrid announces her plans to adopt Emma. She knows she could never truly be a mother to Emma, but she promises to be the best big sister ever. Emma is thrilled and says she loves Ingrid. Young Emma has finally found a happy home. Unfortunately, it won’t last for very long.

One day Emma says how it would be cool to magically poof to a different location like Harry Potter. Ingrid takes this as a sign and thinks Emma is finally becoming aware of her own powers. She pulls Emma into the street and they stand in front of speeding car. Ingrid says this is Emma’s moment of self-revelation, she needs to magically stop the car. Emma barely dodges the car and can’t believe that Ingrid nearly killed her. Emma calls her a nut job and runs away. Yeah, you really can’t blame her.

Ingrid may have lost Emma, but she has not given up on her plan. She follows the instructions on the prophetic scroll given to her by the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Ingrid lays low until the scroll leads her to Storybrooke in 2001. She sets up her ice cream shop, Any Given Sundae, and patiently waits for Emma’s arrival ten years later.

In November 2011 Emma walks into Ingrid’s shop to get some ice cream for Henry. The moment she sees Ingrid, the horror of her past comes flooding back. Ingrid is ready to embrace her with open arms. She believes Emma is now aware of her own magical powers as the Savior, but as we all know, Emma isn’t there just yet. She harshly says Ingrid was crazy then and she’s crazy now. Before Emma has a chance to lash out further, Ingrid magically removes her memories of their shared past.

Emma and Ingrid start over as new acquaintances. Ingrid suggests Rocky Road ice cream and says the key to making it is a lot of patience and a lot of love. Yup, “Rocky Road” is a perfect metaphor for Ingrid and Emma’s journey.

Storybrooke, present: “All I wanted was to have my sister’s love and now I have it. Now I get to join them.”

The curse of Shattered Sight has engulfed Storybrooke, making everyone his or her worst self. We begin in the Sheriff’s station with the Charmings going at each other’s throats as an infected Kristoff uncharacteristically bickers with his beloved Anna. Mary Margaret and David are unleashing centuries’ worth of resentments and annoyances, ranging from their first encounter in the woods to David’s crappy baby-wrapping skills. It is hilarious and of course a little sad given how a couple so deeply in True Love can still find such anger buried within themselves. This spell definitely is not for the faint of heart.

Happy-go-lucky Anna tries keeping the peace, assuring everyone that this is just the spell talking. She tells Elsa and Emma that she remembers how the spell was broken in the legend by killing the king who cast this curse upon his kingdom. The only way to stop this madness is to kill Ingrid, even though none of them want to. Anna is left behind to babysit, while Elsa and Emma head out to kill Ingrid. Unfortunately, this is just a fraction of Storybrooke’s trouble.

Regina awakes in her vault and thinks Emma locked her in there. She’s out for blood and transforms back into full-fledged Evil Queen-mode. She gazes at her reflection and says, “I’ve missed you.” The second she can break out of that room there will be Hell to pay. Luckily, her evilness comes in handy this time around.

Emma and Elsa confront the Snow Queen and learn the yellow ribbons have neutralized their powers. Ingrid is untouchable under these circumstances. She lords over the girls and claims, “Soon you will love me for real.” So Emma and Elsa hurry to find a way to remove their ribbons, so they can get rid of Ingrid.

Nothing can cut through the yellow ribbons because they are bound to Emma and Elsa by Ingrid’s insane and powerful love. Emma believes an equal force of the opposite emotion may be able to set them free. She knows the Evil Queens hates her, so if Emma amplifies that hatred, the yellow ribbons may just break off. In a bold, risky and desperate move, Emma magically breaks the containment spell and enters Regina’s vault.

With Elsa by her side, Emma antagonizes the Evil Queen by saying she intentionally brought Marian back to life to destroy Regina’s chance at having happiness with Robin Hood. The Evil Queen’s rage breaks the ribbons just as they hoped. Emma and Elsa rush off to finish what they started with Ingrid and let loose a totally pissed off Evil Queen who is ready to take down her next target: Snow White.

The Evil Queen bursts into the Sheriff’s office with her fireballs loaded. She is going to kill the Charmings and take their baby. She poofs Anna and Kristoff back to where they come from and she’s ready to pounce. Mary Margaret taunts the Evil Queen and essentially challenges her to duel so they can fight fairly woman-to-woman. Snow White and the Evil Queen have their very first swashbuckling showdown. This scene is somehow equally badass and hilarious. While they spar it out, Rumple forces Hook to make the next move in his plan for world domination.

Heartless Hook has not been affected by the curse, but he is still Rumple’s cursed servant. Rumple reveals his nasty scheme: he will appear to be a hero when he tells Belle and Henry that the Snow Queen destroyed Storybrooke he barely managed to sneak them out in time. Hook may be out of a heart, but he still has a conscience and this is crushing him. Nonetheless, he has no choice but to obey Rumple’s command. Belle is sweetly sleeping under a spell and all he needs now is Henry, so he sends Hook out to fetch the boy.

Henry tells the dirty pirate to back off and throws a jab at Hook for dating his mom. Hook uses the potion Rumple gave him to break Regina’s protection spell. Once the door opens, Henry bolts out of there and luckily escapes Hook’s grasp. Henry is in the wind and Hook gets held back in a tussle with Will who wants payback for the unnecessarily excessive beat-down and blackmail. Deep down, Hook probably feels a little relieved that Henry was able to get away and save himself from Rumple’s clutches. Let’s hope Hook finds a way to confide in someone and stop Rumple from hurting more people. Breaking the curse of Shattered Sight is one way of deterring Rumple’s evil plans. Luckily, Emma and Elsa seem pretty close to achieving that goal.

When Emma and Elsa return to Ingrid, she sees their ribbons are gone. The girls stand their ground and tell Ingrid they are not her sisters and they will never love her. Ingrid disagrees. She shows them two purple crystals which contain happy memories Elsa and Emma shared with her. Ingrid believes that if they loved her in the past, they will love her again. She thinks restoring their memories will make the girls love her again. Ingrid proves how well she knows the girls by saying they won’t be able to do what is necessary to break the spell. Emma and Elsa try to prove her wrong, but hesitate because she is right, they don’t have it in them to mercilessly kill Ingrid. They have now reached a stalemate of sorts. Elsewhere, we see how love still prevails even under the influence of this horrible curse.

The Charmings set aside their grievances and unite to protect their baby from the Evil Queen. We also surprisingly learn that Regina did Anna and Kristoff a favor when she poof-ed them away and sent them back to the trunk on the beach. As Kristoff continues to pick a fight with Anna, she stumbles upon her parent’s message in a bottle. Anna reads the letter and rushes to Ingrid’s lair.

In the letter Gerda says she and her husband were wrong to conceal Elsa’s powers and they should’ve told the girls about Ingrid. They should have celebrated Ingrid instead of fearing her. Gerda enclosed a crystal which contains the kingdom’s memories of Ingrid and Helga. She instructs the girls to restore these memories to all of Arendelle and release Ingrid from the urn. Gerda never stopped loving Ingrid and she is sorry for what she has done.

Anna understands where Ingrid has been coming from and says family never gives up on each other. Ingrid magically slaps Anna and takes the letter. The little purple crystal restores Ingrid’s memories and she cannot believe what she has done. There is no way to reverse the curse, the only thing Ingrid can do to stop it now is destroy herself.

In a moving monologue, Ingrid realizes that she allowed her powers to turn her into a monster. She tells Anna, Elsa and Emma that they are so special. All Ingrid ever wanted was her sister’s love and now she has it. She can finally be with her sisters again. As she begins to magically destroy herself in a flurry of mirror shards, Ingrid finally finds peace. Reuniting with her sisters, even in death, is her happy ending.

“Once Upon A Time” doesn’t play games. For a fun show about fairytales, this series has its fair share of deep and dark tragedies. The Snow Queen has the saddest happy ending ever. On the bright side, she dies a hero and saves Storybrooke.

All the townspeople have been cured. They gather together in the street and apologize for their cruel behavior while under the spell. Naturally, all is forgiven. Unfortunately, the people of Storybrooke still have more to worry about.

Hook returns to Rumple empty-handed, saying he failed to get Henry because his heart wasn’t in it. (Hehe.) Then he makes a serious request. Hook knows he is a dead man walking and he just has one dying wish: he wants Rumple to leave Emma and the rest of the people in Storybrooke be. Rumple assures Hook that they have nothing to fear, as long as nobody gets in his way. He can’t promise the same thing for the rest of the world.

Well that sounds super ominous.

Once again, “OUAT” delivered an intense and emotionally charged episode. The stakes were high for heroes and villains alike and people’s true natures were revealed. Snow White may have been sharp-tongued with Anna, David and the Evil Queen, but once Baby Neal was in jeopardy her maternal instincts took over. Even under the spell, the Charmings’ True Love for their family prevailed. As soon as the spell broke, Regina was also fully aware of her transformation. Laughing at her outfit almost makes it seem like she’s happy to put those Evil Queen days behind her. The level of darkness within each person was also evident. Kristoff really doesn’t have an evil bone in his body because he turned into a whiny brat who picked on Anna. He said some mean things, but nothing too severe. It makes you wonder what Hook would’ve done while under the spell. Would his True Love for Emma be able to conquer all? At least those who were immune to the curse were able to take care of Ingrid. Her death was bittersweet, but it doesn’t mark the end of Storybrooke’s trials.

One threat has been eliminated, but a trio of villains are coming to Storybrooke in the Winter Finale, so there is only more trouble on the horizon. What do Maleficent, Cruella, and Ursula want? Will they cast a new curse on Storybrooke? Will Regina be lured back into the dark side? Will these villains interfere with Rumple’s plans? All will be revealed in due time.

What did you think of “Shattered Sight”? Did you expect Ingrid to sacrifice herself? Were you saddened by her “happy ending”? Were you surprised by the different ways in which everyone turned on each other? Do you think there is a way Hook can get his heart back and break free from Rumple? Are you sad to see Elsa and Anna go? Would they want to return to Storybrooke after restoring Arendelle’s memories?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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

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