By Zach Van Norman
During the season three finale on Once Upon A Time, we were treated to the surprise reveal that Queen Elsa of Arendelle had arrived in Storybrooke. As the summer progressed we were treated to casting news for not only Elsa, but other Frozen favorites like Anna, Kristoff, Hans, and even Sven the reindeer. (Olaf, sadly, will not be appearing.) The popularity of Frozen created a sense of tunnel vision among the fans, even myself, with little question of where the storyline would go after this new story wrapped up. But with the recent announcement that Kristin Bauer van Straten is returning to Once for what is being termed a “major arc,” the second half of the season has suddenly become clear. Despite the chilly beginning, season four's plot will quickly heat up as it progresses. Here are my predictions for what will happen this year on Once Upon A Time:
1. Elsa and Emma
Elsa’s Frozen struggle is to understand that love is the key to controlling her magic, which seems to be a parallel to Emma’s journey in letting things go and using her magic, and a reason why the two characters will interact. Jennifer Morrison confirmed as much in my interview with her at San Diego Comic-Con 2014, stating that “Emma finally has someone who understands her that isn’t family. This is her first friend.” This is also Emma’s first chance at learning magic and understanding herself from someone on the same path. Look for Elsa to play a pivotal role in Emma’s journey of self-discovery, both magical and not.
2. Elsa and Regina
Emma isn’t the only character who shares a parallel to Elsa’s struggle. Regina, long burdened with a struggle against evil, finally embraced her good side when she used light magic to defeat Zelena. Lana Parrilla was coy about the subject at Comic-Con, saying “Elsa can’t really control her magic yet, but Regina can...you’ll see, there’s some sort of parallel.” Regina’s road to redemption is far from over, as Marian’s return from Emma’s interference has planted a new seed of evil in her heart. As she fights for true love against her evil tendencies, Elsa’s experience with love will be the key to Regina’s understanding of light magic and realizing that acts of true love melt frozen hearts. ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼
Additionally, Elsa is the Queen of her kingdom, which could conflict with Regina’s control issues and lead to a confrontation between them. Regina may even goad Elsa into using her magic in a harmful way, perhaps freezing Storybrooke, although that may be the result of another character.
3. The Snow Queen
Many fans are of the opinion that Elizabeth Mitchell’s as-yet-unrevealed character will turn out to be the Snow Queen of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale by the same name, in part because Eddy Kitsis confirmed that “it’s one of two things” mentioned when Entertainment Weekly asked if she was playing the Snow Queen or Anna and Elsa’s mother. While Frozen is a loose adaptation of The Snow Queen, the differences between the two stories allow for Elizabeth Mitchell’s character to be a completely independent Snow Queen from Elsa.
We also learned from Adam Horowitz that we’ll “find Elizabeth Mitchell’s character is connected both to the world of Arendelle and the world of Storybrooke.” It is likely that Elizabeth Mitchell’s character will be the one who cursed Elsa with her icy powers, setting the stage for a showdown between them; it is also possible that the Snow Queen is the one who will lay ice and snow upon Storybrooke, but the blame will be placed on Elsa. Expect to see fireworks (or would that be icy-works?) between these two as Storybrooke goes into a deep freeze. (As far as the Snow Queen’s connection to Storybrooke, Michael Socha’s Will Scarlett had a sister named Penelope who died after falling into a frozen lake, so the connection may be established there.)
4. Unfreezing Storybrooke
The impending ice storm in our favorite Maine burg will create a multitude of problems for our characters. The problem will not only be the ice itself, but also how to get rid of it, particularly if the Snow Queen is the one who creates it. Regina and Emma have worked together to save Storybrooke in the past, and with Elsa added to the mix, we can expect to see these three working together to defeat the Snow Queen as they realize that love will thaw their little town. Of course, the Snow Queen won’t be the only adversary they face as the first half of the season draws to a close. ￼￼￼￼￼
5. Maleficent and Regina
Maleficent’s return to Storybrooke will mean a whole new world of trouble for our fairy tale family, particularly the Evil Queen. Regina’s Dark Curse trapped Maleficent in an underground cavern as a dragon for 28 years, and she will no doubt want revenge. The weapons will fly as Maleficent moves to destroy Regina and the rest of Storybrooke, and this time there may not be a unicorn to pull at Maleficent’s heartstrings. In addition to the magical fights between them, we will likely see flashbacks to their relationship, particularly the moment when Regina traded the Dark Curse for the Sleeping Curse that felled Snow White. But Regina isn’t the only one who will face Maleficent’s vengeance.
6. Maleficent and Emma
One of the highlights of the season one finale was the battle between dragonized-Maleficent and our favorite sheriff, Emma. As we all know, Emma was victorious, launching her father’s sword at the mistress of all evil with a heroic gusto that honored her family history and brought an end to the dragon. But defeat is never easy to accept, particularly when it comes with a sword stabbing you in the gut; we can expect to see Maleficent setting her beastly eyes on Emma as she brings the town to its knees. Everyone, including the sheriff, will be praying for mercy while her story unfolds.
7. Maleficent and the Fairies
If anyone in Storybrooke knows about praying, it’s Mother Blueperior and her fellow nun-fairies at the convent, and they will also fall in the path of her wrath. Season three introduced the unseen Black Fairy, which many assume to be Maleficent. We know very little about this character, but Maleficent holds the position of evil fairy in Disney lore and this makes her the most likely candidate. Keep an eye out for flashbacks of Maleficent’s history with the fairies and ￼￼￼￼￼￼her expulsion from their paradise before she succumbs to a second slaying, likely with Emma and Regina’s involvement.
8. Emma and Regina
Emma and Regina’s relationship has gone from intense dislike to graveyard brawls to cooperation and everything in between. After finally finding a way to co-parent Henry in season three, Emma threw a poisoned apple on Regina’s road to true love by returning from the Enchanted Forest of the past with Robin Hood’s wife Marian. As season four progresses, Regina will undoubtedly want to take revenge on Emma, and the two will resume their antagonistic fighting. Jennifer Morrison stated at the SDCC 2014 panel that “Emma is going to be determined to keep her in a good place in her life and keep something positive in her life.” Despite Emma’s intentions, they will be put at odds as the Frozen storyline plays out, as further noted by Jennifer Morrison to TVLine: “It makes sense that we’re going back to a place where these two women are going to be adversaries.” Adversaries, yes...until Maleficent’s return forces them to work together. Count on Emma and Regina’s “frenemy” relationship to be reflected in Maleficent and Regina’s flashbacks.
9. Regina, Robin and Marian
As noted above, Regina wouldn’t want revenge if Emma hadn’t brought Marian back in the first place. Regina has always been her own worst enemy, and her determination to keep her man combined with her evil ways means that she will do what she can to disrupt Robin and Marian’s relationship, but her actions will undoubtedly push Robin away rather than bring him closer to her. The problem isn’t Marian’s presence; after all, Robin is Regina’s true love, and there is no doubt that they will end up together.
The real issue is what will happen to Marian now that we know that she is not meant to be with Robin, and how Regina’s actions will affect her relationship with Robin. But if Robin Hood is Regina’s true love, that means he is not Marian’s. It is therefore logical to assume that Marian’s true love is waiting to be found in Storybrooke and that she will find that person, ending her relationship with Robin and allowing him to be with Regina, bringing Emma’s goal of keeping something positive in Regina’s life to fruition.
9. Emma and Hook
Regina won’t be the only new relationship for Emma this season. The CaptainSwan ship will have its flag flying high as Emma and Hook finally figure out their feelings for each other. The extended season four synopsis asks the question, “Can Emma and Hook commit to one another, and can these two damaged people take their love to the next level?” Colin O’Donoghue gave further information at SDCC 2014, saying “It’s a complicated relationship.. it’s not going to be easy.” Easy has never been part of the road to true love, and there will be added complications with Elsa and the Snow Queen causing problems and Emma learning how to use her magic, but have faith that they will find their way to each other by season’s end.
10. Snow and Charming
Another couple who will be finding their way in the new season are Snow and Charming. As noted by the season 4 synopsis, they will be sorting through feelings of guilt at not raising their first child while bringing up their second. In addition to sharing parenting responsibilities, they will also share a heart, a situation which will have a profound effect on their relationship. The odds are good that Charming received the half with the dark spot; watch for our Prince to develop an icy, dark edge from which only his family (and possibly Elsa) can save him.
11. Rumple and Belle
If anyone has a darker edge to their personality it’s Rumplestiltskin, whose marriage to Belle will take an immediate bad turn as his lie about the dagger is revealed. Their relationship has never ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼been easy and this obstacle will keep them on a rocky course. though Belle’s love for her husband will shine through like always and salvage their bond. Rumple will also have to face the music on why he made Elsa be his guest inside that bottle in his vault, something Belle will likely find positively primeval. And according to the panel from SDCC 2014, Rumple will also take on the role of mentor to Henry as he works in the pawn shop doing inventory for his sorcerer grandfather.
Henry’s apprenticeship in season 4 will lead him to a defining moment of his character and force him to choose a side. The extended synopsis reveals that “Henry is very happy to have both of his mothers back in Storybrooke. But with biological mom Emma and paternal grandfather Rumplestiltskin's blood running through his veins, he will be tested by both the light and the darkness.” This test will begin in the pawn shop as he learns from Rumple.
An interesting note: Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz revealed to D23 that we will be seeing “something very iconic that will launch a new story and a new area of Disney that we have yet to explore...It’s a shout-out and an explanation of some Disney lore.” This icon will be none other than the magical hat from Fantasia’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, last seen in the season one episode “Skin Deep.” As noted in my two-part theory (here and here), it is likely that Yensid the Sorcerer is the author of Henry’s storybook, but this new piece of information from the show creators add more plausibility to the idea. Watch for the hat in the fourth episode, appropriately titled “The Apprentice.”
13. BONUS: Will Scarlett
As previously noted, Will Scarlett’s sister Penelope died after falling into a frozen lake, establishing a possible connection between Will and the Snow Queen. There is, however, another connection between Will and the people of Storybrooke: not only was Will once a part of Robin Hood’s Merry Men (setting the stage for their confrontation), but he was expelled from their ranks after stealing a Looking Glass from Maleficent’s castle. We can look forward to the consequences of this action when Maleficent returns to Storybrooke in the second half of the season.
Zach Van Norman is a writer, reporter, and podcast host for Once Upon A Fan. He is also a film student with an interest in editing and directing who enjoys symbolic analysis and studying the use of color and light in movies and television.