With Belle babysitting baby Neal, a nervous Mary Margaret and David prepare for their first date night away from their child and find themselves on a mission to track down Will Scarlet, who has escaped from the town jail, and Elsa sees Anna in the Storybook woods. Meanwhile, back in the past, young Emma finds herself a kindred spirit when she befriends a girl who, like her, is a runaway orphan.
And that someone, false life created by the Snow Queen, opens their eyes with a bright blue flash of light. Over at the local Sheriff's Station, Emma places a large cardboard box down on a desk and opens it, telling Elsa, who's nearby, that somewhere in these records there's got to be something on Anna.
We then see that dozens of like boxes litter the office, all of which presumably proved unhelpful in the blondes' search, and Elsa comments that there must be a better way of going about it, pointing out that, while they're reading files, her sister is out there somewhere; they have to confront this Snow Queen. An agitated Emma assures her new compatriot that she would if she could, but they have to find her first and also they have to be careful because this woman is tricky, seeming to know both of them whereas they don't remember anything about her, and something tells the savior that that is not an accident.
She adds that they need to find out what the hell she's up to, and as she begins going through the cardboard box she earlier set down, Hook is seen entering with yet another one, saying that they're old city records from the Mayor's office, per Emma's request. Emma rolls her eyes as Will Scarlet, locked in the cell behind her, says that he'll have the dangers and mash, but she turns to him and says that he'll have the water and Pop-Tart, proceeding to hand said foodstuffs through the bars.
From the box she's searching, Elsa discovers a brown envelop full of photographs and tells Emma to look, wondering why there are pictures of her mixed in with the city records. Taking them, Emma explains that Regina abused her power a bit as Mayor and was looking for any reason to run her out of town.
However, the next picture shocks Emma to her very core, and we see that it's one of her and the Snow Queen conversing in the latter's ice cream parlor. Tired and frustrated, she shuts the book and places it down, retiring from her task and begging her Magic Mirror to “please tell me that you've found her”.
Sidney's face then comes into view, and he asks which “her” that would be, wondering if she means Snow White, Maid Marian or maybe Emma Swan, going on to comment that it's so hard to keep track of her majesty's nemeses. Regina says that she's not in the mood for games and needs to know where the Snow Queen is hiding; if she can't unfreeze Marian herself, then she'll force her to do it.
Belle cradles and comforts baby Neal in her arms over at Mary Margaret's apartment as she and David watch. David points out that Belle's a natural and reminds his wife that she has all the emergency numbers so, if anything happens, Neal will be okay.
As Belle continues smiling down at the littlest Charming, David assures his wife that their child will be fine, adding that they need this time away, especially her. Emma explains that the pictures, which she has resealed in the brown envelope in her hand, just remind her of when she first got there and she and Regina hated each other; she then amends herself to say that they did not mix.
As she opens the car door, Elsa asks the savior what makes her say that, to which she replies, “Experience.” Envelope in hand, she gets out of the yellow bug and begins to approach the Mills family mausoleum.
The store managers ask if these two girls are on their own, but the one with the cart explains that her parents are outside in the car, having sent the two of them inside to grab a few things. The manager buys their story, walking away with a simple “okay”, and a relieved Emma thanks her new friend for preventing things from getting ugly.
The two girls begin running as it becomes apparent that a man in the car behind them is following them, calling out, “Hey!” The girl directs Emma into an alleyway where they hide, smiling as the man in the car drives past without noticing them.
Out in the graveyard, Elsa remains waiting patiently in Emma's yellow car as the night begins to draw in, along with the fog. Suddenly, however, a mysterious voice is heard calling her name from afar, and the Ice Queen appears evoked.
The voice soon gets clearer, and it becomes apparent that it belongs to Anna, which worries Elsa even more when the word “help” is added to her cries. Upon exiting Regina's family mausoleum, a very sullen-looking Emma immediately notices that Elsa, who was last seen waiting in the savior's yellow beetle car, is no longer there.
Worried, she quickly rushes over to the vehicle anyway and opens up the door, poking her head in and checking the inside just to be sure. Regina demands to know where it is, but Sidney says he believes a little quid pro quo is in order, adding that he's growing tired of his glass prison.
She replies that they shall only discuss his freedom if his information yields results, but he refuses to give up his leverage before he's received anything in return, insisting that he's not an imbecile. David and Mary Margaret enter the Sheriff's Station as the latter is telling the former that she needs one of the good walkie-talkies, as opposed to the short-range ones he lets Henry play with.
As he attaches it to his belt, he explains that he'll call Belle and tell her where to find their talkie at home, and then she'll be able to reach them wherever they are, whether they be on a drive or on a hike or having fallen through a portal to Asgard. As they go to leave, however, David notices something: Will Scarlet is absent from his cell, which means he's escaped.
She soon realizes that he wants the two of them to track the thief down, and he convinces her to do so by pointing out that it'll be just like old times: a prince and a princess on an adventure, but without the Evil Queen on their trail. Meanwhile, Regina makes her way through the town woods with her compact pocket mirror in tow, inside which is Sidney.
She tells him that she's walking due north and wonders where to go next, and so he instructs her to head past the Toll Bridge, then go east; the Snow Queen isn't far. Quickly, she snaps her compact shut and shoves it in her pocket, only to have Emma emerge from behind some bushes.
Emma wonders how she even knows where she is, but Regina exclaims that explaining her magic to a beginner is a waste of her time, adding that the Snow Queen is east of the Toll Bridge. In flashback, Emma and Lily are seen to be enjoying a junk food picnic on a grassy hill overlooking a lake, with the former rushing her sandwich into her mouth.
Lily points out that it's not going anywhere and Emma laughs before explaining that, where she comes from, if she didn't eat fast then the big kids would steal things from her plate. Lily wonders if that was around where they are, but Emma tells her that it was back in Boston ; she sneaked out overnight and hopped a bus.
Lily asks why she left and Emma explains that this little girl from her home, Cecilia, got adopted; she watched her get in the station-wagon with this perfect-looking couple (see Snow Drifts “) and realized that no one was going to look at her the way those parents looked at Cecilia... Emma's too old, and has missed her chance, and there was no point of her staying another day if she was just going to keep feeling... “Invisible,” Lily finishes for her, claiming to know what it's like to live someplace where it feels like no one cares about you, let alone understands you. Lily then smiles and points to the two luxuriant mansions across the lake, explaining that people use them in the summer, but now that it's fall, they'll be empty; she figured she'd pick the nicest one and then crash there for a while.
Elsa runs through the woods of Storybook towards Anna, hoping to catch up with her, but she eventually comes to the edge of a cliff, below which is a bunch of sharp rocks and a river. Anna is heard calling, and the Ice Queen spots her sister standing atop an even higher cliff across the river.
When Elsa finally makes it to the upper cliff, Anna suddenly falls backwards out of sight. David tells her to just give it a little longer, but Mary Margaret points out that they've been out for over an hour, which is the longest she's been away from the baby since he was born, and she thinks that's a pretty good start.
He concedes, telling his wife that she's right, and suggests that she head home (he kisses her) whilst he deals with the Will situation. Mary Margaret is happy with this arrangement and stays where she is while her husband walks away; she then turns around and begins to head home, but stops when she hears the sound of frantic digging from close by.
She turns her head and sees Will Scarlet attacking the earth with a small spade in the near distance, but tries to tell herself that it probably isn't him so that she can go home in good conscience... but she can't; with another glance, she realizes it definitely is him and begins approaching. The blonde then asks if they're using a locator spell, wondering if they should be following some sort of floating object or not, and Regina sarcastically writes her off as having become a “magic expert”.
Lily's fist is seen being slung through the window of a door before she reaches through and unlocks it, granting access for she and a young Emma. The two young ladies are next seen standing in front of the couch, surrounded by junk food, some of which has been eaten, some of which hasn't, as they play a racing game on the PlayStation, laughing as they do so.
It appears that Lily wins, and she begins cheering to herself as Emma laughs and falls back down on the couch, defeated but not caring. Emma explains that she's never lived in a place that could afford any sort of games consoles, but Lily assures her that she'll get the hang of it.
She brings it back and starts recording, allowing Lily to wave at the camera, and the two girls film themselves smiling and making funny faces. Back in the present, Elsa continues wandering through the woods in search of her endangered sister, calling out for Anna in hopes of a reply.
Will explains that he did make a map, “thank you very much”, and Mary Margaret asks if he lost it. She points out further that he's not even going to try and run, and he assures her that he isn't, throwing his spade on the ground and explaining that he's too knackered.
The blonde says she doesn't know why she even bothers and, as she ascends the stairs, Regina says that that makes “two of us”, ordering her to hurry up because she'd like to get to that Snow Queen before it's actually winter. Suddenly, the wind grows intensely strong and the two women find themselves compelled to fall on their knees; Emma exclaims through the overtly harsh weather that it's the Snow Queen and that she must have found them, and Regina utters to herself, “Sidney...” Confused, Emma asks what Sidney has to do with any of this, but Regina says nothing.
Lily stands behind the defensive blonde, who tells the man that he's not taking them anywhere, refusing to go back into the system. The man addresses Lily as “sweetheart” and asks her what kind of nonsense she's been telling Emma, who turns to her tearful best friend, confused.
Lily doesn't know what to tell her, and Emma continues in saying, “I thought you were like me...” The blonde is utterly disgusted. Regina bites back, retrieving her compact and opening it up to reveal the face of Sidney, who says that he doesn't either.
She realizes that he led them there and is working for the Snow Queen, calling him a traitor, but he points out whose talking, suggesting that maybe “your majesty” take a look in the mirror. Emma then calls Regina's name, but the former Mayor tells her to save her moral judgment.
Knowing this, Elsa closes her eyes and tries to steady her deep breathing, uttering to herself, “I'm not afraid... I'm not afraid...” With one last heavy breath, the Ice Queen pulls hard on the chains, and they disappear, creating a blue flash, accompanied by the sound of smashing, that briefly emanates upward.
Regina points out that they have a bigger problem than what they've just been through, and Emma turns to see the giant Ice Warrior (the “snowman” earlier referred to by the Snow Queen) just up ahead, blocking their path. Lily herself then repeatedly calls to Emma from within the passenger seat of her father's car, wanting to get her attention.
After much hesitation, Emma turns to face her and begins to slowly approach while she tells her not to worry about her dad, for he is just angry that she used his Visa. She then writes something down on the notepad in her hand, and tells Emma to come and find her when this blows over so that they can run away together.
Regina remains frozen to the spot whilst Emma runs round to the other side of a tree as part of some sort of battle coordination plan. The two ladies give each other a slight nod, proving this to be the case, and Regina proceeds to summon a large fireball in her hand and throw it at their adversary.
She throws a big burst of it at him, and he flies back into a tree as a result, his arm and axe smashing. Emma then runs over to Regina's side, watching as the Warrior regrows his limb, and the weapon with it, and points out that's a problem.
The Ice Warrior moves towards them in a feral manner as Regina begins to emanate a red light from her hands, and Emma, white. They then focus their respective magics in two separate beams, hitting the monster simultaneously and forcing him backwards.
He tries blocking their attack with his shield, which is now on fire, but the two ladies continue to focus their energies together and, eventually, the Ice Warrior is reduced to nothing but a large puddle of water. “I think we did it,” Emma says proudly, but said moment of pride is interrupted by the Snow Queen ; “What a welcome visit, ladies,” she tells them, much to their shock and horror.
She then thanks them for bringing her what she needed, and uses her ice magic to transport Regina's compact mirror into her own hand. Regina orders her to give her back her mirror, but the Snow Queen refuses, holding up a hand and strangling the former Mayor with magic to shut her up.
When Emma tries protesting, she too gets choked, but from behind them Elsa sends the Snow Queen hurtling back with a powerful blast of ice magic. Emma and Regina are freed while Elsa approaches her supposed aunt, goading her into a fight.
Elsa begs them to stop, saying that they need to mend their differences if Storybook is to stand a chance, but Regina laughs, telling her that they never will for one simple reason: she doesn't want to. She starts walking away, but then decides to vanish via her own purple flurry of smoke, leaving the two blondes alone in the woods.
In her icy lair, the Snow Queen is seen staring at her reflection in Regina's compact mirror as she tells Sidney, who stands behind her in human form, that he's free as promised. She then explains that Sidney's former home should do quite nicely for what she wants to do because the person that trapped him inside imbued it with much dark magic.
Intrigued, Sidney asks just what it is she's planning, and she explains that she wants to get what has been denied to her for too long; what she deserves. An awkward silence ensues and so the Snow Queen waves her hand and causes the secret entrance of her lair to open, thus signalling that it's time for Sidney to leave.
He then turns from her, beginning to leave, but as he takes a step forward she is suddenly standing right in front of him, absent from her chair. Now alone, the Snow Queen clutches Regina's mirror tightly and approaches a table-like structure made of ice.
With that, all the cracks disappear and the Snow Queen can see her own reflection clearly as she approaches the mirror and finishes her earlier sentence: “A family that loves me.” Down in her vault, Regina stares at the large wall mirror that used to contain Sidney when, through it, she notices Emma enter.
As the blonde leaves, Regina stops her by addressing her as Emma and telling her to wait, saying that she doesn't want to kill her. Mary Margaret lies in bed next to baby Neal as David reenters the apartment, greeting his wife and approaching she and the child.
He says that he loves her too, placing his jacket down on the bed and asking her how Neal is, wondering if he survived an hour with Belle. He kneels down next to the bed to be at his son's side and Mary Margaret assures him that Belle was wonderful, having taken great care of him.
She tells him that it's okay and that Will admitted the whole thing; told her about how David let him escape so that she could track him. The prince asks, confused, but Mary Margaret tells him not to be mad, for Will tried to keep his secret but, really, he's a terrible liar; not to mention, she is familiar with his tricks (see Lost Girl “).
Soon, she grabs a set of keys and uses them to open a locked cupboard, taking out a white cardboard box and placing it on the ground next to her. He sees the box beside her and wonders what it is, and, as Emma passes his flask back to him, she explains that it's what's left of her childhood.
He then spots a small photograph and picks it up, only to discover that it's of her and Neal (see Tallahassee “) and he stares at it for a while. Seeing this, Emma appears awkward, but Hook soon looks up at her and passes it off with a smile, placing the picture back into the box and watching as the blonde continues going through the larger white one.
She then looks to the small television screen elsewhere in the station and begins approaching it with the camera in tow. Hook wonders where she's going, and the blonde is next seen placing the video from the camera into the Beta max machine and playing it on the TV.
She sits on the desk next to Hook and explains that she hasn't watched this since she recorded it, but some things happened today that made her think about the past. Comforted, she uses the remote control to play the video, and we see on the screen the same recording Emma and Lily were earlier seen making together, of them smiling and laughing and pulling funny faces.
As she looks like she's about to cry, the pirate wraps and arm around her to comfort her some more, and then the video ends and begins to play new footage. Hook wonders where this is taking place, but Emma doesn't really remember, saying that it's probably just her next foster home and the child robbed the camera from her possessions without her knowing.
Suddenly, the Snow Queen appears on the tape, dressed in normal clothes and telling the boy, Kevin, to give the camera back to Emma. Hook and Emma are absolutely stunned and, in the tape, the Snow Queen tells the blonde that they respect property in this house, going to retrieve the camera from Kevin.
As she does so, Emma pauses the screen on her smile, shocked to discover that Storybook's newest villain was once her foster mother. As baby Neal's sheep mobile hangs over his crib, Belle can be seen recounting the Charming' instructions back to them, including the fact that their contact numbers are on the fridge and if anything happens she's to call Mary Margaret first, then David, then Emma, then Dr. Whale, and then emergency services.
Belle laughs as she goes to do this, as does David, who proceeds to ask the babysitter how married life is; he stops himself, wondering if they're now family, and Belle ponders this, pointing out that she is Henry's step-grandmother and baby Neal is Emma's brother so... She loses her train of thought and simply decides to reply that married life's wonderful. Neal then begins to cry, thanks to his mother, and Mary Margaret feigns distress as she lifts him out of his crib and exclaims that she thinks they're going to have to reschedule because he is impossible to settle back down when he gets like this.
David thinks that they should give Belle a shot and Mary Margaret finally concedes, handing her son over to the babysitter and allowing her to start comforting him by saying, “We are going to have such a lovely evening together. As she heads over to the bed with the baby in tow, David asks Mary Margaret if she was just trying to sabotage their date.
Maybe; I'm just nervous about leaving him,” she admits, “Between the curse and the Wicked Witch, we don't exactly have the best track record with our babies.” After much hesitation, Emma turns to face her and begins to slowly approach while she tells her not to worry about her dad, for he is just angry that she used his Visa.
She then writes something down on the notepad in her hand, and tells Emma to come and find her when this blows over so that they can run away together. The title card of this episode features the ice staircase that Elsa creates, amidst a snowstorm.
Although credited, Jared S. Gilmore (Henry Mills) and Robert Carlyle (Mr. Gold / Rumpelstiltskin) are absent from this episode. Brand features in this episode include Pop-Tarts and PlayStation ; the game that Emma and Lily can be seen playing in the latter is San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing.
This outing would be the lowest rated episode so far in the fourth season, as it posted a 2.3/6 among 18-49s with 6.61 million viewers tuning in. Breaking Glass easily could have been renamed “The Swan Queen Hour,” given how much of it was devoted to Emma and Regina teaming up and navigating the tricky waters of their relationship.
As fans of one of OUT's most venerable 'ships will be pleased to know, that journey ends with the queen and the savior in a place of mutual understanding and, perhaps, even friendship. Seat 42F had a mixed but positive take on the episode: “ONCE UPON A TIME is having a rough fall, better than last spring’s batch, but lacking the cohesiveness and the rich layers of the previous autumn’s Neverland arc.
“ Breaking Glass does much to get the show back on track, but unfortunately, in doing so, it has to stray from some established bits in recent weeks.