Monday, October 27, 2014

Once Upon A Time 4x05 "Breaking Glass" (Of Trust and Broken Mirrors)

"Breaking Glass"
Original Airdate: October 26, 2014

We all have trust issues. Even those of us who have lived very privileged lives and have been loved by a lot of people and haven't experienced tragic loss or betrayal have trust issues. People lie to us, even well-meaning people. In Once Upon A Time, everyone seems to lie to everyone else. Regina spends "Breaking Glass" lying to to Emma, pushing the woman away because she's been hurt and if Regina is good at one thing, it's isolating herself from others. In flashbacks, Emma is lied to by a friend (Lily), which seems to be the catalyst that begins her spiral into mistrust of everyone that carries itself into adulthood. Meanwhile, Charming and Snow have a small story about trust and supporting each other while they try to find their identities again apart from parenthood, and Elsa realizes that fear can be utilized as a weapon that can -- metaphorically and literally, in this case -- shackle you. Trust and fear are inseparable and the problem is that the longer we live in that fear and mistrust, the easier we find it to be calloused and cold, and to shut ourselves down emotionally. Regina, Emma, and Elsa all know what it is like to be shackled by callousness, fear, and mistrust and it's such a central theme in "Breaking Glass" that it's literally what this review will primarily focus on.

Regina/Emma (+ Elsa)

In "Breaking Glass," we get to see the fractured relationship between Regina and Emma at play and we also get to see how similar these two are at their cores. Regina and Emma's relationship has mainly been antagonistic -- with the two women being very strong, opinionated, and resilient human beings, they were bound to clash. And they spent most of their early days fighting one another. But in "Breaking Glass," we see the entire scope of their relationship and we see it through Regina's eyes, mostly. Everything that has happened to her has caused her to distrust other people. Regina has accepted that she's bound to live her life alone and unhappy -- that it seems all she's ever destined to, for the moment she acquires some little spark of happiness or joy, it's ripped away from her. And because of her personality -- because this pain has caused her to shut down and shut other people out -- no one else seems to understand what that life is like; what it is like to survive day after day with that burden. And what I found to be so interesting about this episode was that we saw things from Regina's point-of-view. We constantly see Emma trying to make amends, and we constantly see Regina rebuffing her, and we think the latter to be calloused and the former to be some sort of self-sacrificial saint.

But in the Storybrooke forest, the two have a confrontation and we realize that though Emma has seemed to mean well in her attempt to gain Regina's forgiveness... it's desperate and self-centered and Regina knows it. Emma wants Regina's forgiveness because then her guilt can be absolved. She won't have to worry about the fact that she brought Marian back to Robin Hood anymore; she can feel good about herself and her choices. Regina is so on point when she calls Emma out on that, and when she refuses to forgive the blonde because of it. What good will it do for Regina to forgive Emma, anyway? Will it undo Emma's mistake? Will it absolve the pain SHE feels knowing Robin Hood is reunited with his long-lost love? No. And so Emma isn't really even sorry, then, for the pain Regina has been caused: she's doing what so many of us actually do without consciously thinking about it. She apologizes (subconsciously) so SHE can feel better about the decision that she made. Emma Swan isn't being intentionally calloused here, let me pause to point that out. She doesn't mean for anything she does to hurt Regina and she apologizes even though she isn't aware that the reason she's apologizing is selfish. Emma genuinely tries to be Regina's friend but it's quite funny because... well, neither of them have ever been any good at having friends or being friends.

Regina and Emma both have always had something in common: they've always felt safer behind walls. Emma can be cold and can shut people out, but does so because it's the only way she knows how to navigate the world without getting burned. She has been burned so many times by so many people and Regina has as well. Here is the once-queen now falling through one pothole after another in search of a happy ending that seems so elusive it might not even exist. And Regina's defenses mount whenever she gets hurt because, as she tells Emma, the only way to deal with pain is to just live with it (aside: the heartbreaking flicker across Lana's face when she says "welcome to my world" was so poignant). And you feel for Regina in that moment, you really do, because you recognize the fact that she's TRIED -- really and truly tried -- to make herself better and her life better and instead of happiness she deserves, she is constantly greeted with another obstacle. When you get to a certain point in that journey, you just get tired of running altogether. You shut down. And that is how Regina is feeling in the forest during "Broken Glass": she is pushing Emma and everyone else away because it's easier to be alone, in her opinion. It is easier to shut down.

But this episode doesn't just illuminate Regina's trust issues (meanwhile, she spends the entire episode lying to Emma about where she's getting her information from regarding The Snow Queen's lair -- Sidney Glass -- and could have prevented them from some struggles in the episode had she confided that information) -- it also gave us the backstory for Emma's. In our flashback, we saw young Emma befriend a girl named Lily who nearly instantaneously became her best friend. The two young women bonded over their living situations, or lack thereof, and Emma truly opened up to Lily. She told her, honestly, about her fears -- about believing that she was too old now to be loved or cared about in the system, how painful it was to watch little children get adopted and believe no one could ever look at her that way. And Lily shared about her own experiences, running away from the foster care system, feeling unloved and unaccepted. When Lily and Emma break into a summer home, they make a pact: they will always remain friends, no matter what. And really, Emma is so drawn to Lily because Lily is probably the first person in a long time -- perhaps ever -- to make Emma feel special, feel valued, feel NEEDED. It's such a heartbreaking moment, then, when Lily's dad shows up at the house and demands that Lily return home to him and her mother because they're worried.

Then, Emma is horrified and hurt beyond belief because this friend -- this newly trusted person who she grew so close to so quickly -- has betrayed her. And Lily didn't just betray or lie to Emma. She made Emma question not just people in general, but people who made promises and people who said things to her like "you're special." Emma Swan clearly had a lot of trust issue before she met Lily -- she went through a lot of pain before she even met the young rebel, after all -- but I think that Emma's life can really be defined by a pre- and post- moment and this was that moment for her. As a result of Lily's betrayal, Emma just gave up on people in life. She gave up trusting others. She gave up believing in happy endings. She gave up thinking about hope and love. And she gave up on herself, as a result.

And that's the Emma Swan we meet in the pilot of Once Upon A Time: jaded and cynical and bitter and utterly lost.  But now? Now, Emma has found her happiness. She's allowed herself to love again and to lose people and to let people in, slowly, instead of shutting herself in a giant metaphorical ice palace. So Elsa, in this episode, encourages -- nay, BEGS -- Emma to not give up on Regina, to never give up. Ever. If you believe someone is worth fighting for and caring about, Elsa explains, you don't stop caring and you don't stop fighting for their happiness.

("Breaking Glass," as an aside, finds Elsa searching for Anna desperately and running into The Snow Queen as a result. It turns out that The Queen has a few things that she wants Elsa to learn, first of which is that fear can drag you down and trap you. Elsa then literally becomes shackled by The Snow Queen and escapes by telling herself that she is not afraid anymore repeatedly. It's a nice moment and I really love that Elsa ends up saving Regina and Emma, fighting back against The Queen and choosing to protect them. The Elsa story this episode wasn't as prominent, but it was still important.)

At the end of the episode, Emma confronts Regina again and this time, Emma tells Regina the wholehearted truth: she wants to be friends. She doesn't keep pursuing Regina because she feels guilt, but because she doesn't want to let another person slip away from her life because of bitterness, jaded attitudes, and constructed walls. Emma pushed Lily away even when the latter asked for forgiveness. What is so telling is that Emma not only shares this story with Regina, but recognizes the importance of it. Lily wasn't hurt by Emma pushing her away and harboring unforgiveness, not really. I've heard it said before that bitterness is the poison that we swallow, hoping the other person dies. Emma's decision to not forgive Lily didn't hurt Lily -- it hurt HER. It turned Emma into a bitter, calloused person who kept others at arm's length. And Emma cannot bear to see Regina go down the same road as she once did. It's a beautiful little moment, really, and a step in the right direction when Regina responds in a slightly positive manner. Because Regina knows what Emma means -- she knows what bitterness and anger can do and have already done to her.


The very end of the episode is extremely beautiful because we see another moment of Emma Swan's personal growth when she removes a box of childhood items from her office and shares them with Hook. This scene was so lovely and so poignant because it is Emma Swan laying her soul and heart bare -- there, in that box, is everything she has ever been, for better or for worse. There's a picture of Neal. There are glasses. There are good memories and bad ones. And if you watch Emma during the scene where she allows Hook to look through the box, you'll see the hesitancy on her face because this is Emma at her most vulnerable and scared. It is downright terrifying to let someone into your heart but it's another to let them into your past. What Emma is doing is this: she's allowing Hook pieces of her heart. When people fall in love, they sometimes fall with their whole heart wide open to another person. They fall recklessly and passionately in love. But some people -- people who have been hurt before -- hold onto pieces of their heart. They love, but they love more cautiously and hesitantly. They love with a piece of their heart clutched in the palm of their own hand to try and keep it safe in case it gets broken. And those people -- those cautious ones -- find it difficult to trust others because they've been hurt before.

But Hook opens his arms and delicately takes every part of Emma's heart that she will allow him to, whenever she is ready. He asks whether or not he can hold those trinkets from her past and it's the most wonderful and tender moment between Hook and Emma we've seen yet, as he carefully looks through these glimpses of the woman he loves and she watches him, waiting for his judgement or scorn but... none of that is present. And I think Emma relinquishes that piece of her heart to Hook in that moment and falls more in love with him because he proves that he will be gentle and be understanding and will just be with her. That, my friends, is complete and utter true love.

At the end of "Broken Glass," Once Upon A Time reminds us that we are all broken mirrors, in desperate need of others to help us heal. When we find and let those people in -- when we find the ones who see beyond our cracks and flaws and love us intensely -- we find that we are home.

Additional magical moments:
  • MVP of this episode goes to Lana Parilla for the beautifully broken portrayal of Regina. I truly understood her pain and the argument in the forest with Emma was just such a fine piece of acting from Parilla. There was honesty and vulnerability and anger and it was brilliant.
  • "Broken Glass" ended with a spectacular twist that I did not even call in regards to The Snow Queen. The Queen in the episode seeks to take a mirror from Regina and does. And finally (FINALLY) divulges her plan: she's going to get the family she deserves after this is all over. And -- shockingly enough -- when Hook and Emma play a video from her childhood, one of the videos of her foster family contains The Snow Queen. DUN DUN DUN.
  • There was a Charming/Snow/Will Scarlett sub-plot but basically all you need to know about it is that Snow and Charming probably shouldn't be running Storybrooke. They're rather terrible at it.
  • Hook took Henry sailing. THAT IS ALL.
  • "We don't exactly have the best track record with our babies."
  • Pop-Tarts were featured in this episode and now I am craving some.
  • "Do you think I'm an imbecile?" "I think I trapped you in a mirror. Twice."
  • "A boozy bookworm."
  • More than one person said "assuage" in this episode and I find that highly unrealistic.
  • I'm still swooning from all the Hook/Emma that was in this episode.
Thank you all for reading this review and I will see you back here next week. :)


Post a Comment