"Once Upon a Time" hits its winter/mid-season finale as it ends the appropriately wintery "Frozen" story line, introducing three intriguing villains and putting Belle in a tight spot with the supposed love of her life, Rumpelstiltskin. Also, operation mongoose shifts into high gear in this "Heroes and Villains" episode.
First thing's first: Down with the wall! Elsa uses her ice powers to finally break down Ingrid the Snow Queen's ice wall that has kept the denizens of Storybrooke trapped. But there are still borders -- both the magical border set up by Ingrid and the town's natural magical border that hides it from regular sight. It just means that Anna and Elsa and Kristoff will need some kind of portal to get out of Storybrooke. Why so urgent? Anna forgot to tell Elsa that Hans had taken over Arendelle in her absence.
Hook, still reporting to Rumpelstiltskin against his will, tells the Dark One about what the heroes have done and are planning in terms of finding a portal. Rumpel will use that. Hook finds out that Anna is dangerous to Rumpel since she knows who he is, though he'd taken care to tell everyone that he didn't know her. Anyway, Rumpel threatens to kill Hook if he doesn't keep Anna away from Belle.
We go back to the past in the Enchanted Forest as the servant Belle interacts with Rumpel the dark lord. Belle has to clean a magical gauntlet -- a souvenir from Camelot -- that can locate anyone's greatest weakness, which Rumpel tells her is usually the thing(s) that someone loves most. It's an ominous introduction to an object that won't pay off until the end of the episode.
Back in present-day Storybrooke, Rumpel tells Belle that he wants to take her out of Storybrooke, to a magical city called New York. Time to pack! But first, Rumpel takes a little trip with Hook to find a portal back to Arendelle. He's being helpful, but of course, it's to serve his purpose of getting Anna and Elsa out of the way.
Speaking of getting out of the way, with the Snow Queen gone, Regina is free to put Marion's heart back in and bring her back to life. She does it, then leaves the couple to talk. At Granny's, Marion catches up to her to thank her. Marion turns out to be cool. She gets that Robin may have moved on from her since they've been apart for so long. She says that she will step out of the way if Robin decides to be with the Evil Queen and tells Regina that she doesn't want Robin if it's just out of obligation. Special.
As Belle packs, in comes Henry, letting her know that the magical barrier around the town is still intact, so it may be hard for her to leave. But Belle trusts Rumpel, so maybe he's thought of something to get out. Anyway, Henry actually calls Belle Grandma! She tells him to call her Belle, instead. Looking for another suitcase for Belle, Henry finds the gauntlet. Stumbling through Mr. Gold's shop is probably never a good thing, and Belle definitely remembers the gauntlet -- though not from cleaning it.
Back in past Enchanted Forest, Belle has become bold, questioning the Dark Lord. He's not into chitchat, and teleports her outside to do laundry. Belle sees a Dalmatian puppy that runs away, leading her somewhere. Annnddd, she's snatched away! Rumpel finds her to be missing and decides to search for Belle. He doesn't have to go far before finding a mystical marker. It's a magical hologram with Belle telling Gold that she's been taken, and that her captor wants him to come get her, and to bring the gauntlet.
Hook is forced to tell Emma that he's found a portal to Arendelle. Emma is happy to help get Anna and Elsa and Kristoff home, but knows something strange is going on with Hook. Hook can't let on verbally, but he tries to clue Emma in somehow with an unusual wrist squeeze. It doesn't really work.
Robin lets Regina know that he chooses her, despite his child having his mother Marion back in his life. He has to follow his heart. And he shows her the page taken from the other Once Upon a Time book showing her happy ending with him. Awww. But, as it is with these things, it doesn't last. Marion falls ill from the Snow Queen's curse, and Regina surmises that the only way to cure her is to take her outside of city limits where the magic of the curse will cease to exist. As we know, if she goes, she'll not be able to find Storybrooke again. But she also can't go alone, just thrown out into 2014 -- Robin and little Roland should go with her. Dang it.
Rumpel and Regina have a nice chat at the city border as both contemplate the magic of the town's limits. "Villains don't get happy endings" seems to be the consensus, but Rumpel also believes that he has the power to write his own happy ending. He tells Regina that "being good doesn't mean good things will happen," but also seems to genuinely tell her that he hopes for her to have her own happiness. "As unbelievable as it sounds, I want the same for you."
At the city's border, Robin leaves with Marion and their kid. There are kisses and lingering embraces, and Regina ripping up her happy ending page as the Merry Men watch their leader leave. That's all there is to say about that.
Emma, Elsa, Snow White, Prince Charming, Kristoff and Henry find the home that Hook told them to go to, and find the portal back to Arendelle. The house, as we were told earlier by Rumpel, is the home of a powerful sorcerer. There could be lots of cool things there, but the looming door with symbols from Arendelle draws them there. They depart without incident, but a curious Anna wants to thank Mr. Gold. Charming tells her that Gold is Rumpel, and Anna tells them that she's met him -- and it wasn't a pleasant experience. Emma's spidey sense is suddenly tingling.
In the past Enchanted Forest, the Dark Lord has tracked down Belle, and it looks like it was Maleficent who took her. Big mistake. Apparently Rumpel has developed feelings for Belle, and he doesn't take kindly to someone threatening her. Overpowered one-on-one, Maleficent is not alone. Ursula the Sea Witch and Cruella de Vil (Rumpel: "Thought I caught a whiff of desperation and gin.") have joined together, all wanting the gauntlet that's in Rumpel's possession. He's about to fight them all, but as Ursula's tentacles tighten around Belle's neck, he relents and gives it to them. Belle is so grateful.
Back in present day Storybrooke, Rumpel is about to get the power to leave Storybrooke and happily kill Hook in the process. The Sorcerer's hat rises and begins to imbue him with power -- but in comes the cavalry as Emma and Snow White crash the party in the clock tower! It's not enough, and Rumpel stops them in their tracks. So, on to ultimate power and ... Rumpel is stopped again! He can't finish his spell or crush Hook's heart because Belle has intervened and forced him to stop with the power of his dagger. She doesn't waste time with sentiment, though, and orders the Dark One to take them to the city limits.
Belle used the gauntlet to find the Dark One's weakness and most treasured thing -- and it was the real dagger. She surmised that she'd been given a fake, and that Rumpel still truly loved power over loving her. She realized that he lied to her in the past -- he'd gone back to take the gauntlet from the three villainesses when it suited him -- and he'd lie to her again. Rumpel is now almost groveling as she makes him step toward the town limits. "I once saw the man behind the beast, now there's only a beast." And with that, she makes him leave the city. He can no longer see Storybrooke, though it seems like he at least got to retain his memories.
In Arendelle weeks later, it seems that Elsa and Anna have taken back the kingdom, and Anna looks to finally wed Kristoff. She's got her gown on and Elsa looks regal in her dress. There are tears and chocolate as Anna and Elsa have a moment before Elsa escorts Anna down the aisle.
Back in Storybrooke, Emma shoves Hook's heart back in. After kissing Hook for a while, Emma sits with Regina and orders some shots of alcohol! Regina wants none of the sappy talk, just booze. (An aside: A bar called Granny's Diner might be cool.) But before they can polish off a few rounds, Henry runs up. He's found something.
In the Sorcerer's house, Henry has found a hidden room with what looks to be shelves and shelves of Once Upon a Time books, but they're blank. Can this actually be the author's home, too? Operation Mongoose, the mission to give not-quite-so-Evil Queen Regina a happy ending, is in full effect, and now consists of Regina, Emma and Henry.
Cast out of Storybrooke, Mr. Gold has been hanging out in New York. He's found Ursula, working in an aquarium, and recruits her to join him in his own Operation Mongoose as he looks for a mysterious and powerful character he would call only the Author. Ursula is in, but they need to make two more pit stops.
As midseason finales go, this resolved everything and was an enticing introduction into what will happen in the second half of the season. The "Frozen" story line characterized the familiar movie princesses well, with Anna and Elsa actresses Elizabeth Lail and Gergina Haig embodying the "Let It Go" spirit of the film. It seemed both long and abruptly ending. It'll be interesting to see how these magical beings get along in the non-magical world until their inevitable return to Storybrooke.