ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN The Huntington News, May 12, 2014

By Sara Tucker, News Staff

As the third season of “Once Upon a Time” comes to a close with a special 90-minute finale, viewers are left wondering what’s going to happen next:  is Regina destined to a life of unhappiness, and what is Elsa of “Frozen” going to bring to the table?

The episodes leading up to this season’s finale included a good bit of haggling between sisters Regina and Zelena (the Evil Queen and the Wicked Witch of the West). Zelena revealed her true identity in the hopes of scaring off Regina and forcing the townspeople to give into her will to take them all back in time. Emma saves Hook from drowning, simultaneously giving up her magic, leaving Regina to take care of Zelena. Although intimidated, this allows her to finally use “light magic,” Zelena’s weakness, and pushing her further towards the good person Henry knows she can be.

Regina becomes a betterperson with the help of the dashing Robin Hood, who has lost his wife and is in Storybrooke with his son. The not-so-Evil Queen offers him her heart to protect from Zelena (who needs it to carry out her spell), and she even manages not to fry him to a crisp when he gives it up to Rumplestiltskin in order to save his son’s life. After a chat with Mary Margaret and a visit from the ghost of her mother, Cora, Regina realizes that sometimes you have to take a leap of faith, and runs off into the woods to lay one on Robin Hood, who eagerly returns her affections.

The finale is where things really get hairy. Rumplestiltskin killed Zelena in the episode leading up to last night’s finale, but he accidentally releases her magic in doing so, which triggers the opening of her time travel portal. Emma and Hook miss the message to keep away, and head over to investigate. Emma accidentally slides down the hole when the barn doors fly open. Instead of saving himself, Hook elects to follow her, with the last words, “One of these days I’m going to stop chasing this woman.” Even Emma eventually can’t resist his “devilishly handsome” looks and his guy-liner.

When they get back to the past, however, things start to go sour when Emma inadvertently changes the future by interrupting what should have been her parents’ first meeting. They go on to fix the mistake, but Emma is thrown in the Evil Queen’s jail as a result, which leads to her meet a mysterious but kind woman who informs her that they are to be executed the next day. Emma uses lock picking skills passed on to her by Neal to free herself, but of course she can’t leave the kind stranger behind, so she frees her as well.

Rumple warned them not to change the past, so Emma decides the best option is for her and Hook to take the stranger back to the present with them when Rumple opens up a portal for them to travel back.

They’re taken back, and everything is as it was the moment when they slipped into the portal, or so it appears. Emma rushes back to Granny’s to see her parents and Henry, and informs everyone that she and Henry will be staying in Storybrooke rather than returning to New York like she planned. Mary Margaret and David also reveal the name of their newborn son:  Neal.

The finale slips toward what appears to be a happy ending with Belle and Rumpelstiltskin’s wedding in the forest. They exchange teary vows as an overlay to images of happy couples:  Hook and Emma, Mary Margaret and David with Baby Neal and Regina and Robin with his son Roland. But don’t be fooled, there are still three minutes left, and anything could happen.

Regina and Robin kiss outside of Granny’s before going in for a happy reunion with Emma and Hook. The stranger that the two brought back from the past catches a glimpse of the Evil Queen that was holding her prisoner just a few days before and she freaks, catching the attention of Emma, who assures her that Regina has changed. Emma approaches Regina to introduce the stranger, but Robin sees her and his jaw drops. “Marian?” he asks. Queue the teary reunion between husband, wife and son, with confessions of “I though I’d never see you again” and “I thought you were dead.” Regina stands by, tears in her eyes as she throws angry words at Emma, who effectively ruined her happy relationship with Robin by saving his wife from execution and bringing her to the present.

Just when viewers thought Regina might get her moment of happiness too, it’s interrupted by something she can’t replace:  the wife. Perhaps the Evil Queen’s evil doing landed her in a life of unhappiness, or perhaps there’s something bigger coming for her next season. Just as Snow interrupted her love years before, Snow’s daughter has done it now, leaving viewers to wonder if Regina will ever love anyone but Henry.

But the episode isn’t over yet. The picture cuts back to Zelena’s barn and a shot of the vase/urn that Hook and Emma brought back from the past. It opens and a glistening blue liquid spills out, filling the ridges of the floor just as Zelena’s potion did the day before. A figure emerges from the liquid, a blonde woman in a blue dress with a long train. She removes one of her white gloves and ice shoots from her palm as she freezes the urn she emerged from. She struts out of the barn, with a purpose viewers aren’t sure of yet, and the episode finally comes to a close.

What’s on the agenda for next season is up in the air, but the characters from “Frozen” are sure to spice things up in Storybrooke. Let’s just hope Olaf is as cute in person as he is animated.

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