Season 4, Episode 3: Rocky Road
The first thing I want to get off my chest is that they've finally done some real work towards not making a lot of the show look bad. The special effects have been bad since the first season, and I expected that to be a first season problem, not something that lasted for three seasons. They're finally building sets for the flashbacks and have figured out how to make the CGI actually feel right. The one exception to that in this episode was when Elsa was fighting Hans and his brothers. For some reason, the ice she was firing towards them just looked terrible - I don't know why, as I'm not skilled enough with special effects terminology or understanding, but it took me out of things a bit.
I haven't yet read any other reviews or recaps of this episode or the season so far, but I get the feeling that there are going to be a number of people who don't like the focus on Elsa, especially given the fact that quite a backlash against Frozen has developed recently. I'm sure there are people who want the focus to be back on the characters who have been here in the show since the beginning, but there's a slight problem with that: most of them are kind of boring at this point. Snow White is really forgettable right now (I like pretending that the baby is actually Ginnifer Goodwin's son, which I doubt but makes a weird amount of sense, and is the only thing that makes that even somewhat interesting), Prince Charming doesn't have anything to do except try to be a father to Emma (I cannot get used to the fact that she is the same age as her parents - in any other TV series, they'd be a couple), and Emma is getting full of herself in a really annoying way, but is kind of funny because she keeps calling herself a savior/chosen one, but that was all wrapped up at the end of the first season when she broke the curse.
Then we have Gold (because I hate typing out Rumpelstiltskin all the time) and Regina, who have been here since the beginning and actually have some interesting storylines. I think that they currently work well next to a main story rather than being the center of the story at the moment, but they'll be more central stories in some episodes soon enough. I won't say too much about them right now, other than liking the fact that they're making redemption really difficult and interesting, even when the story is a little ridiculous (Regina's is ridiculous in concept, but going well in execution). Also, there's Henry, who is in there less and less, but I'll just say this at the moment: he's the rare character made better by being made a whiny teenager.
I mentioned that I was trying to jump in after only somewhat following the previous few seasons. I guess I was a little on the optimistic side when I was thinking they would use this as an opportunity for that, but it makes the most sense for tying the promotion in to a movie that made a billion dollars, which is way more than watched the show also. It's not terrible about it, but I've asked questions a little more often than I would have liked.
The storytelling style for the show in general doesn't really help with that problem. Maybe it's something personal, but I'm missing the idea of A/B storytelling in this series. Instead of there being a distinct story each episode that stands on its own, in addition to advancing the overall story either in the background or as a part of the main story, the episodes tend to be a series of incrementally moving forward a half dozen stories in little pieces, then they just end. Yes, there is a structure to the way that each episode progresses and how they end, it just leads to each episode feeling anticlimactic because the story is just left hanging. Maybe I end up being wrong, since this show will have more people watching it later on being able to skip the week between episodes, but it makes watching it week to week a little disappointing sometimes. This is far from the only show guilty of this, but this show basically flaunts its structure.
From the time I saw the end of Season 3 (which I saw on YouTube the next day rather than actually watching the episode), I was both excited and apprehensive about them adding in the Frozen characters. While I'm much less apprehensive now, it's been replaced by a weirdness that I have trouble shaking. For now, I'm just going to focus on talking about Elsa, since Anna wasn't in this episode and the other characters aren't that prominent so far (though I think the Snow Queen killed Hans, which surprised me, that they'd do it so quickly, but good riddance).
Of the issues I've had with Elsa, none of them are Georgina Haig. Even without accounting for ability to sing, trying to get someone to jump in and play that character was always going to be an uphill battle (if you took singing into account, I'd call it damn near impossible), but she was obviously not just willing, but able to take the character and not just try to be exactly the same as she was in the movie. Reinvention has been what this show has made its main hook, and while I still think it's a little too soon to go for reinvention, she has done a great job with it so far.
I was starting to really like the interactions between Elsa and the Snow Queen taking place in the past. They were taking this in a different direction than I expected - I didn't expect them to even know of each other in the past, but the fact that they're also friends is not at all what I expected. Then they fell into something that has made me want to put my head through a wall this entire series: everyone is related. The Snow Queen is Elsa's aunt - of course she is. Everyone is related to everyone else in some way, which feels like it's way too much. They also implied that Emma might be related to The Snow Queen (maybe, but I won't put it past them), which just links everyone else yet again. It's a pet peeve of mine, and honestly, I find it lazy. It doesn't need to be there. Frozen was all about family, and I think it's one of the reasons why it really worked well (not the only, but very important), but adding more family here feels like just trying to do what worked, but again.
Unfortunately, they seem to be taking that as their mantra for how to write these episodes. At the rate they're going, within another 3 episodes they will have referenced every single plot point from the movie. This episode mostly consisted of everyone thinking that Elsa must stopped because she's an evil witch. Now, let's hold on a moment and realize how many evil witches there are around here, including one who's been here from the beginning (but reforming), and it seems like they're just repeating for the sake of doing something like what was in the movie, because then people will like it. They can't avoid everything that was in there, especially since you're using a lot of the same characters, but they also need to do something new with the same characters. Then again, at the rate they're going, they'll have to come up with something new pretty soon, since they'll run out of plot from the movie.
On a side note, if they want to reference absolutely everything, can they get Alan Tudyk to show up and be the Duke of Weselton? Completely unnecessary, but I'd love it (yes, personal bias, but I'd love to see it, and I'm sure other people would, too).
Since this didn't come up on its own before this, I need to bring up what was my favorite moment in the episode, and what I'm sure is many people's. Hook and Elsa are off in the woods, looking for the Snow Queen, and Hook pulls out a cell phone, trying to contact Emma. Elsa asks what it is, and Hook doesn't know, but knows well enough to know that it never works. It's not quite as funny out of context, mostly because the show was in a much more serious moment when that happened, and that was about the last thing I expected to come up in conversation. I'm a sucker for a good fish out of water joke, but only if done well.
I have forgotten everything that was in the preview for the next episode except for the fact that we're going to have Anna meeting Rumpelstiltskin because that is all that matters. We need more of him, especially that version of him, so the more we see of him, the better. I ws disappointed that it didn't happen in this episode, but we can't have everything.
Also, since we're going to be with Elsa for a while, I need to mention that the dress bugs me a bit. Not that I don't like it, but it's been established that it was created by her magic. So, is it something else she can create with magic? Is she like Bayonetta or Mystique, and she doesn't need clothes because they're just a part of her and can be created or changed at will? If so, she could use something a lot more practical in a lot of situations. I know it's iconic for her, but she doesn't need to wear it constantly - Belle's yellow dress is iconic, and she basically never wears it. I just want to see this explored a little more, as there is a lot you can do with that implied ability.
Until next time...
1 I've watched the show here and there through the first three seasons - nothing consistent, but I have a general grasp of everything that's going on with all the characters - what I haven't seen, I've been filled in on by someone who watched it much more attentively than I had. I jumped in this season because I thought that they'd treat adding the Frozen characters as a jumping on point for new viewers.↩
2 I won't do scene by scene recaps. I don't enjoy it, and you're better off actually watching the episode. I'll touch on the important events, so this will jog your memory of the episode. The important part? I want to look at how the episode worked as a whole, how the individual storylines and aspects work, and my opinions in general on the episode. These are all opinions, very subjective, and all I can do is promise to be honest about what I think, not to provide objective truths. (There are no objective truths in entertainment, so don't even try.) Also, apologies for the roughness of the format - this is something new that I need to play around with a bit to really figure out.↩