The Snow Queen does sinister snow magic involving creating a head out of ice.
While Emma and Elsa (who has been wearing that dress a while now) continue to burrow through the town’s extensive records to find Anna; and Emma is sure that the Snow Queen has messed with their memories since she clearly knows them both (and Emma has an awesome memory). Among the files Emma finds Regina’s old stalker photos of her –including her talking to the Snow Queen (Will is still in prison and still immense fun). So it’s off to see Regina and Emma is all worried that their tentative relationship – even budding friendship – is now irreparably broken.
Emma has a brief statement on how when you screw someone over it’s hard to go back and we plunge into a flashback. Not to fairyland, but 1998 in Minnesota when young Emma was shoplifting and meets Lilly, a similarly young girl who covers for her and joins in some theft by stolen credit card instead. They rapidly become firm friends, surviving together (Lily also has a star mark on her wrist which will probably be relevant).
It all falls apart when Lilly’s father shows up and it turns out everything she said about being like Emma was a lie. Lilly tries to talk to Emma – that she does want to leave home, that she’s adopted, that she feels invisible and is like Emma but Emma refuses to listen
To the present. Regina, meanwhile is being snarked by Sidney the magic mirror (“it’s so hard to keep track of her majesty’s nemesis”) – she’s setting the mirror to find the Snow Queen to unfreeze Marion. Emma goes to see her about the pictures and Regina denies all knowledge of both what Emma and the Snow Queen were arguing about in them – or where Sidney is. She’s snarky and clearly Not Happy with Emma. Emma extends an olive branch offering to have Regina’s back – Regina hits back that Emma has never ever had her back. When Emma leaves Sidney reports he’s found the Snow Queen (he tries to barter the information – but Regina holds all the aces)
While Emma is arguing with Regina, Elsa is lured away from the car by a shadowy figure she thinks is Anna – she continues chasing after Anna calling for help in the distance, making a huge ice bridge to cross a cavern. She eventually finds Anna with the Snow Queen – and, of course, Anna is just an icy illusion.
The Snow Queen imprisons Elsa in chains of ice, makes some cryptic comments about the past she can’t remember and tells Elsa she needs her both out of the way and all worried and afraid.
Regina follows Sidney’s directions to where the Snow Queen is and runs into Emma, looking for the vanished Elsa. Regina snarls and Emma asks to follow her to find Elsa and the Snow Queen. Emma keeps trying to ingratiate herself with Regina and Regina lashes back until Emma finally demands why Regina’s being so mean – Regina isn’t impressed, Emma’s “being nice” is a blatant attempt to get Regina on side because Emma is feeling guilty. Regina isn’t there to help absolve Emma’s guilt – nor, for that matter, does Regina care what Emma’s intent was; she hurt Regina and feels guilty and Emma has to live with that just as Regina lives with her own guilt.
As they cross Elsa’s ice bridge, the weather acts up and Regina realises Sidney has led them into a trap – she accuses him of being a traitor (while Emma is angry that Regina lied about knowing where Sidney is) though he is rightly unconvinced with the idea he owes loyalty to the woman who imprisoned him.
They cross the shattered bridge to find a giant, well armed ice man the Snow Queen has created. Both of them throw magic at it and damage it – but it regrows the ice that they blast away. Until they act together and destroy it with their combined magic.
The Snow Queen arrives and steals the mirror with decidedly-non-icy magic then chokes both Regina and Emma (also non-icy magic) until she is thrown several feet by a blast from Elsa (which… is also kind of un-icy) who has freed herself from her chains by controlling her fear. The Snow Queen vanishes, super happy that Elsa controlled her fear of being trapped by an element that is completely under her command.
Regina and Emma go back to arguing (Emma angry about Regina’s lie about Sidney, Regina reminding Emma, yet again, that they’re not actually partners). Elsa urges them to make up for the good of the town but Regina is clear – she doesn’t want to. And vanishes. Elsa encourages Emma not to give up
And Emma goes to Regina’s lair much to Regina’s exasperation. Emma makes another appeal for friendship with Regina – because they both know what it is to be an outsider and misunderstood and how they have more in common than she does with her parents or son. She was just pursuing friendship – and wants to continue to do so. She turns to leave and Regina calls her back – saying she doesn’t want to kill her. Baby steps.
In the Snow Queen’s lair, Sidney is freed by the Snow Queen and quickly declares his loyalty – but she was actually after the magic mirror more than Sidney himself. With him gone, the Snow Queen puts her mirror together and reveals what she’s after – a family that loves her.
These are interesting and exciting storylines – so let’s change all that and drop in on the Charmings and Mary Margaret’s baby issues. She’s unable to leave the baby for more than 10 seconds and while looking for a radio to stay in touch with baby sitter Belle, they discover that Will has escaped. So David decides it will be awesome for him and Mary Margaret to go play at hunting the fugitive.
When they split up, Mary Margaret finds Will digging many holes trying to find his travelling sack (he made a map to the sack and put it in the sack. Because Will). Mary Margaret realises Will didn’t even escape, but David released him so she could track him down and feel all special awwwww. Such an adorable flagrant abuse of his position as sheriff (which he has, apparently, just assumed). Mary Margaret, as mayor, promises to pardon Will if he admits that it was all a set up by David. Will, naturally, admits it (is it true? Like that matters!)
Mary Margaret goes home and is all soppy with David (even though David makes it clear that, no, he didn’t release Will)
Emma goes on a trip down memory lane with Killian, pulling out a video camera on which she recorded some time with Lilly. As she gets sad it cuts to another scene, of young Emma apparently in a different foster home – and the Snow Queen as her foster mother.
Regina’s reaction to Emma is interesting for a few reasons. While I don’t think the concept is entirely supported by the context (I don’t think we can, reasonably, blame Emma for saving a strange woman who just happened to be Robin Hood’s wife – that’s the writers’ fault), it is a good point to shoot down the idea that just because someone is nice and friendly you are required to be nice and friendly back. That niceness and friendliness can have an ulterior motive – sometimes a blatant one – and it’s no-one’s job or responsibility to help someone who wronged them feel good or less guilty about what they did (again, I repeat, I do not think it follows through well in the context because Emma isn’t really culpable here, but the concept is a good one). Even without the guilt context, just because someone WANTS to be your friend doesn’t mean you’re obliged to be their friend.
Similarly, she also makes a good point by throwing down the idea of intent – the fact that Emma hurt Regina remains no matter what else Emma intended to do or how much she intended it. Emma’s intent doesn’t lessen Regina’s pain. Again, context is a bit shaky because while Emma’s intent is, indeed, irrelevant, she did rescue a someone from death – one of Regina’s victim’s no less. It has unfortunate collateral damage, but what do you do? Say “Emma should have left Marion to die?” Still, the message is good.
And lastly, there’s an excellent point that sometimes you’ve done a bad thing and hurt someone, you have to live with it. No-one owes you forgiveness or helping you feel better or pretending they’re not hurt or anything – this is what Regina has had to live with.
Interesting twist with the Snow Queen. And I really like that Sidney is free and managed to overcome his fawning obedience after so much abuse – but he then tried to transfer that to a new master. What will Sidney be like without someone commanding him?
Can we take a moment to say how awful David and Mary Margaret are? David is willing to take Mary Margaret on a little hunting down a fugitive because she’s too clingy with the new baby, Mary Margaret is happy to use the mayor’s office to pardon people because David was so lovely and is actually willing to believe David would use his position – and a random person under his power – because Mary Margaret needs a fun hunt? It’s almost laughable how self-absorbed these two are.