‘Once Upon a Time’ “A Tale of Two Sisters” Recap and Review

Once Upon a Time Season 4 Recap and Review
Elizabeth Lail and Georgina Haig in ‘Once Upon a Time’ (Photo © 2014 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved)

Fortunately, Once Upon a Time‘s fourth season will not consist entirely of storylines that have to do with Frozen. Frozen‘s Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Sven were introduced into the Once Upon a Time world with episode one of season four titled “A Tale of Two Sisters,” but the writers smartly made time to also focus on familiar Storybrooke residents including Emma, Hook, Regina, Belle, and Rumple (with a tiny bit of Charming, Snow, and Henry thrown in). All of the talk leading up to this season’s premiere had been about how the Frozen characters would interact with and affect the lives of our favorite fairy tale characters, and with the opening episode of season four we seem to have that question answered – for the most part.

“A Tale of Two Sisters” served to set up why Elsa is in Storybrooke as well as answer lingering questions from the season three finale: how would Regina react to having her heart broken, would Marian fit in in this strange land, and can Rumpelstiltskin give up the real dagger? Here’s a recap and review of what went down in episode one of season four:

Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff in Arendelle:

She’s pretty, bubbly, and optimistic, and as played by Elizabeth Lail, Anna in Once Upon a Time is a nearly perfect live-action adaptation of the animated movie’s Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell). Equally as well cast is Georgina Haig as Elsa, the Queen of Arendelle who’s worked hard at controlling her icy powers. The first time we see either on screen in Once is as they’re holding hands while visiting the graves of their parents in Arendelle. It’s five years after the death of their parents in a shipwreck – an event which is briefly seen in the opening minutes of the episode, complete with the interesting revelation that they wrote a note to their daughters and set it to sea in a bottle – and the sisters are now incredibly close. Anna’s about to marry Kristoff and Elsa tells her she has a special surprise just for her wedding: their mother’s wedding dress. Anna is overwhelmed by the gorgeous dress, but Elsa is concerned that her sister’s husband-to-be won’t be appropriately attired for the wedding. Anna assures her that Kristoff will be fine and that even Sven will be properly dressed (for a reindeer).

Unfortunately, as Elsa’s waiting for her sister to try on the dress she notices an old book tucked away on a shelf. It’s their mother’s diary and after reading a passage, Elsa thinks she’s responsible for her parents’ death. She believes her parents thought she was a monster and that’s why they left. Of course Anna tries to convince her that she’s misinterpreted what their mother wrote, but Elsa won’t budge. Anna suggests they visit her future in-laws who might know why their parents left, however Pabbie the troll (created using better-than-average CGI) doesn’t have the answer they’re seeking. He doesn’t know why they left but does know they were heading to Mist Haven when their ship went down.

Anna volunteers to go to Mist Haven, a suggestion that Elsa quickly rejects. Anna secretly decides to set sail anyway, and it’s up to Kristoff to try and keep Elsa busy so Anna can head out to sea without her sister being able to stop her. The relationship between Kristoff and Elsa is strained, but Kristoff does his best to try and calm her down once she learns her sister is gone.

The exchanges between Lail and Haig as Anna and Elsa feel genuine, and if the Frozen portion of this year’s show is not embraced by everyone it will not be due to the acting of either of these ladies. As Kristoff, Scott Michael Foster is goofy, charming, and completely sells the idea that he carries on lengthy conversations (that aren’t just one-sided) with a reindeer.

The Frozen actors have the difficult task of living up to the animated versions while also fitting into the world of Once Upon a Time, a job they handled convincingly in episode one. Lail, Haig, and Foster have great chemistry and are terrific additions to the Once cast.

Meanwhile, in Storybrooke:

Once Upon a Time Season 4 Episode 1 Recap and Review

Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison in ‘Once Upon a Time’ (Photo © 2014 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. All rights reserved)

Regina’s pissed off and rightly so, but is she evil again? Just when she thought she could get her happily ever after, Maid Marian returns (thanks to Hook and Emma). Robin has deep feelings for Regina which he confesses to her, and he even admits to Marian that he and Regina (Marian only knows her as the Evil Queen) were an item before she returned from the dead. Robin is a decent man with a strong moral code and can’t break his marriage vows now that Marian’s back, which means that Regina is the odd man out. The big question left hanging between season three and four was whether or not Marian’s return would make Regina turn to the dark side, and it initially appears that’s what’s going to happen. She pays a visit to The Mirror (Giancarlo Esposito) who’s been locked away and asks him to help her get rid of what’s keeping her from being happy.

In another part of Storybrooke, Emma and Hook are trying to figure out who or what left an icy trail through the center of town. They track it down to the warehouse where Elsa, who followed them through the time portal, is trying to hide out. Frightened and confused, Elsa creates an ice monster that chases Hook and Emma out of the warehouse and then heads out into the forest where Robin and Marian just happen to be. Hook and Emma show up and face off against the creature, with Hook suggesting Emma use her powers to take it down. That doesn’t work and only serves to piss it off more, making it lash out and knock out everyone but Marian. Suddenly Regina appears on the scene (it’s not explained why she just happens to be in that part of the forest) and just when we’re lead to believe she’ll let the creature kill Marian, she uses her powers to save Marian, Robin, Hook, and Emma, and defeat the monster. Marian admits Regina might not be evil anymore, and Regina proves she’s not after Marian after all when she tells The Mirror that she wants to find out who wrote the book and make them change it so that the villains and not just the good guys are capable of getting their happy endings.


Speaking of the good guys, season three seemed to indicate Hook and Emma’s relationship has been taken to a new level. However, Emma’s still putting Hook off, even tossing in a joke about wanting to go home and see what’s on Netflix (a reference Hook doesn’t get). Emma’s feeling guilty over ruining Regina’s life, but she gently kisses Hook and tells him to be patient. She walks away and Hook says, “I have all the time in the world unless another monster appears and kills me.”

As Emma, Regina, and Hook deal with the ice monster, Belle and Rumple are dancing the day away (in a very Beauty and the Beast-ish moment) at a house which mysteriously appeared and so far hasn’t been claimed by any Storybrooke resident. Earlier in the day Rumple had paid a visit to Neal’s grave and told him that being a father made him feel like a man, and that he was proud of the example Neal set and would try to live up to his memory. “Your heroism has showed me the way. I promise I’ll spend my life repaying you for that,” says Rumple while kneeling at Neal’s grave. He also promises to give Belle the real dagger, which he actually does at the mysterious house. However, he’s not done using its power and waves it over a gold, jeweled box which he recognized immediately but didn’t tell Belle about. In an interesting twist that will likely find another character introduced into the world of Storybrooke very soon, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice hat appears after Rumple does his little bit of dagger magic.

Back at the warehouse, Elsa finds a newspaper with a picture of Belle and Rumple on the front page. Looking closer, she notices the necklace she gave her sister is in Rumple’s shop. She breaks in and sees it sitting on the counter. How it got there isn’t explained but Elsa has to be very suspicious of this town and its residents.

The Bottom Line:

Not everyone is sold on a season featuring Frozen characters, but episode one proved they fit nicely within the world created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Elsa’s powers were brought to life with first-rate CGI and even the troll looked better than CGI normally looks in the show. The ice monster was a little cheesy, but fortunately it wasn’t alive long enough to drag the episode down.

Episode one set a lot of storylines for this season in motion, with Elsa now upset over her sister’s necklace being in Rumple’s shop and ready to get to the bottom of that mystery. The writers didn’t take the easy way out and make Regina (Lana Parrilla) full-on evil again and instead gave her a new enemy to target that shouldn’t put her directly at odds with Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue). The relationship between Hook and Emma is taking tiny baby steps forward which is a bit frustrating after everything they went through last season, but Emma’s at least indicating there’s a chance their relationship will blossom. And with the introduction of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice hat, there’s a new element of the season four story to be told that won’t be directly tied to the Frozen characters.

Overall, season four’s “A Tale of Two Sisters” accomplished what it was meant to, setting up the season while introducing just enough new elements to keep the show fresh.

GRADE: B+

-By Rebecca Murray

More Season Four Reviews: White Out / Rocky Road / The Apprentice / Family Business / Snow Queen / Smash the Mirror / Fall / Shattered Sight

Follow Us On: