Cinderella’s Royal Table – Lunch Review

Recommended:   NO!

Yes, you too can spend a criminal amount of money to eat inside of the castle at Magic Kingdom.  While your personal mileage may vary, expect to be extremely disappointed overall.

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Disney spared no expense in terms of the details in Cinderella’s Royal Table. The entrance hall alone was spectacular.

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Then the dining area was incredibly decorated as well.

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I wanted to go through the areas slowly and get pictures for my daughter’s cosplay page (as she was perfectly dressed as Cinderella), but it was so busy there was nothing but a rush from cast members to keep moving along.

Alas, even though the details were magnificent, Disney skimped a LOT on everything else.  Considering that I had to pre-pay $204 (for our party of four) six months in advance, they shouldn’t have many excuses to not be a top experience in Disney World.  After all, if your guests have to pay in full upfront, it’s not like you’re hurting for revenue to keep the wheels greased at a place like this.  By the by, if you’re on the dining plan, this meal eats up two of your sit-down dining credits.

To try to go through the rest of the venue in order, first, you check in for your reservation (this restaurant is reservation only 99% of the time, and it’s booked up to six months in advance).

Then, you get to pose with Cinderella herself.

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After that, you guide yourself upstairs and are seated at a pre-determined spot, and you get a menu.  Since you pre-pay for this meal, you can pick whatever you want as an entree and dessert, with a pre-selected appetizer.  You drink is also included in the meal.

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Now, our server wasn’t mean, she wasn’t awful at her job, but she came off as very grumpy throughout our time at her table.  This was during Spring Break, so maybe she was overloaded and exhausted, but she definitely had an attitude that we needed to hurry up and get out so that they could flip the table for another party.  Considering that her tip was included in my pre-payment of the meal (and it was something to the tune of $30-40 without me being able to alter or have input on that amount!) I felt like she had a really, really unacceptable attitude.

Part of the children’s meal included a plastic Wishing Star and either a Wand (for girls) or a Sword (for boys).

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Our server smacked them on the table while walking through to get elsewhere.  She gruffly said “these are gifts from Cinderella” and kept marching on without ever stopping.  Again, maybe she was overloaded, but it was an abrasive action that I didn’t appreciate.

The appetizer came out quicker than expected.  I don’t know how they managed to make cheese and crackers taste terrible, but they did it.  They also had an over-seasoned salad with some type of pear (?) in it.  The crackers, I believe, were the same gluten free crackers from the Perfectly Princess Tea Party, and they were still like eating plastic.  I know that gluten free is a growing diet trend, but maybe you should ask your guest if they want that trend forced upon them.  There is nothing about the appetizer that was appetizing in my opinion.

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We had been sitting for maybe five minutes at this point, and the waitress had pressed us to order four times already.  I was having trouble deciding on an entree, and trying to help my kids decide on their own, but I felt like I wasn’t moving to the server’s pace, and that she was getting put out over it.  Maybe I’m wrong, but for $204 for a family of four to eat somewhere, I should get to relax, think about exactly what I want, and enjoy my time in the facility too!

Four additional princesses do come to the table at this restaurant, and, just due to our luck of timing, they showed up before our food.  Let me touch on them and then I’ll get back to the food.

We met Snow White:
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Ariel (still inexplicably wearing green):
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and Aurora:
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Back to the food, I settled on the ribs, my husband went after the pork, and we decided we would split those two entrees so that we could try both.  I am not joking at all when I tell you that the entree was two bites. The photos below are not of super-sized plates.

The pork was two small coins of meat on a bed of rice, just a little larger than two hot dog slices,

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and the ribs were two small cubes of meat on mashed potatoes.

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I couldn’t believe these miniscule portion sizes!  I wish I had thought to put a quarter on the plate for an accurate comparison.  Disappointed didn’t even begin to cover it.  For half the price of this meal I could have gone to one of a half-dozen other character meals that included a full buffet!

I will admit, the ribs were absolutely delicious, though.  I don’t like mashed potatoes, but these were actually very scrumptious.  The pork, on the other hand, was bland and dry, and that flavor extended to the rice as well.  Overall, had the waitress not been so grumpy, I think we would have asked for a refill on our food (sort of as a joke, sort of hoping that a second helping was possible).  So, 0 for 2 on the meal courses.

On the children’s side of things they were given grapes and cheese cubes as an entree.

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My daughter had the chicken leg with rice.  She wouldn’t touch her greens, but for the price of the meal, they became an “offering” to my husband.

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My son had, I believe, a beef tip kids meal and said that he enjoyed it.

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Then the desserts arrived seconds after our entrees were finished (adding all the more to the super-rushed atmosphere).

My husband and I both had The Clock Strikes Twelve.  It was beautifully crafted and delicious.  I believe it was vanilla ice cream in a chocolate shell with a white chocolate ring on the top and a graham cracker hand.  A chocolate sauce making roman numeral numbers was a gorgeous touch, and a small pool of custard was on the side.  My only complaint is that the dessert was bigger than the entire entree portion size.
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My son had the smores dessert choice, which looked fantastic and had a chocolate Maleficent dragon “painted” on the plate.
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My daughter, however, got the raw end of the deal.  She picked the yogurt with blueberries.  It sounded great, but nowhere did they disclose that it was GREEK yogurt.  If you don’t know the difference, it’s a harsh taste and not at all like the typical yogurt you’d find in the US (which is essentially flabby ice cream).  If you aren’t used to the stuff, it can take a while to get used to, and they should have warned her as it was a dessert option on the kids menu.
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Side note, in front of the yogurt is the plastic Wishing Star that they give the kids.  I apparently didn’t get a better photo of them.

Most character meals have a get-up-and-do-stuff moment.  Some places have a parade for the little ones, others have a mini-dance party, it just depends on the venue.  At Cinderella’s Royal Table, the barely audible loud speaker starts saying something about making a wish with your star and wand.  As people quiet down you can hear better, but it’s still not very loud.  On the magic cue, some lights flicker towards the ceiling, then all the princesses walk away.

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My kids always participate in these moments, but the fact that the staff didn’t even call attention to it, and that you could barely hear it happening, well, that was just another disappointment of this venue.  I was kind of irritated that, for so much more money, the little girls couldn’t even walk around with the princesses on parade or do a dance or song or SOMETHING!

Now, if you noticed earlier, I only described 3 princesses coming to the table.  That’s because we got skipped by Jasmine.  None of the characters had handlers, which was odd enough, but there were also no staff members coming around and checking that each character had visited us, something that has always happened at every other character meal we’ve had.  In fact, I think this was our first time at a Disney sit-down restaurant that a manager didn’t pop by the table to check in.

So, my husband flagged down our waitress as we saw all the princesses leaving.  He asked if they were coming back out and the server gets and attitude and says, “what, are you going to tell me that they didn’t stop by your table?”  Really?  This is why I NEVER tip in advance.  If you have a guaranteed $30 in your pocket, you can be a complete jerk and you still get a huge tip for a bad job!

My husband said that it was just Jasmine that missed us.  The waitress sighed and started walking away.  She also stopped by a neighboring table and said “you know, you already paid in advance, so you can leave any time.”  In a nice tone, that wouldn’t be anything off putting to say, but it was not a friendly tone.

Jasmine reappeared and chatted my daughter up for a few minutes before disappearing to the back again.  Then we were made to feel like we needed to rush out as fast as possible, because our desserts had been finished for a whole five minutes.
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Also, when I booked the restaurant in October of 2014, I was required to pay for the entire meal upfront.  I already mentioned that, but part of the “package” I paid for as a diner included a free set of photos with Cinderella.  I felt so rushed and irritated while at Cinderella’s Royal Table that I didn’t realize until I returned home that the waitress never brought those photos to us, and there was no desk or location to get them from in the castle.

I emailed Disney’s customer service and they thanked for my interest in their complimentary photos, but said that they discontinued giving them out in January.  Wait wait wait – what?!  One of the main draws of choosing this restaurant over another character meal was the free photo set, because we didn’t buy Memory Maker, and the photos cost around $40 a piece after taxes.  That was basically the freebie that almost balanced out the insane amount of money they charged us to eat there.

I responded asking for a manger, because it wasn’t right to charge me six months in advance, then change what I signed up for without notifying me.  Disney World makes hundreds of announcements a month, it’s unrealistic for me to go through them all hoping that one applies to my vacation – especially for something I pre-paid to get!  Since all the money I paid didn’t go to food, couldn’t it have gone to at least a courtesy email about changes to my package and given me an opportunity to cancel my reservation?  Ultimately, this conversation went nowhere and, since this was our last Disney World visit, it certainly left me with a bad impression.

My overall thoughts on Cinderella’s Royal Table:

  • The portion sizes were pathetically small to where the kids’ meals had more food than the adults.
  • The prices were double every other sit down restaurant in the park.
  • The staff was not very nice and made us feel rushed every minute we were there.
  • It’s nice to have the princesses come to you, but they’ll only spend 1-2 minute per table, so any experience is minimal.
  • Considering the ungodly expense, the princess line up should be better.  I understand that Cinderella needs to be at Cinderella’s Royal Table, but I personally feel that the rest of the characters should be updated to the more difficult-to-meet princesses that have longer wait times (make skipping those big lines more worthwhile!).  Elsa, Anna, Merida (who is only available at limited times, weather permitting), and Rapunzel make the most sense to have in the restaurant, as their lines are always long, they are newer (and thus more relevant/recognizable for the children meeting them), and then it keeps the characters between here and Akershus completely different (meaning I can justify going to both places and spending more money!).
  • I felt very burnt over the “free” photo set getting ripped out of our hands without advance warning.

Truly, I was not over-the-moon for Akershus (the princess character meal in EPCOT’s Norway), but it was roughly half the price of Cinderella’s Royal Table, the entrees were twice the size, and it included a salad bar.  The princess line up is also very similar, except you get to meet Belle instead of Jasmine.  And, at least during our visit, the staff at Akershus was very good.  Overall, if you’re making a choice for a princess meal, Akershus is a much better deal, even though the adult entrees are a little strange (being Norwegian-themed food an all).  Alternatively, I would also recommend 1900 Park Fare for dinner as it has really good food, and features the Cinderella cast (Cinderella, Lady Tremaine, Anastasia, Drizella, and Prince Charming).  We did their breakfast buffet and left very impressed and happy with everything food-wise, although the morning characters are English themed.

Akershus Lunch Review

Recommended:  No for the food.  Yes to see the Princesses in one swoop.

Located in Norway, but surprisingly void of Anna and Elsa, I’m torn on whether or not to recommend Akershus, which is the only character meal available in the EPCOT World Showcase.

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If you are looking to collect a lot of princess autographs quickly, this would be the way to go.  A number of princesses, like Snow White and Belle, are not available for very hospitable hours.  Usually, you have to already know where they’ll be and line up a half an hour before they arrive to get your photo and autograph.  Typically, once the princess arrives to her outdoor station, the line to meet her has already been cut off.  Then, if it rains, the character doesn’t come out at all.  So, when thinking of Arkerhus in those terms, it is an easy way to meet five princesses in one shot.

They say the line up can change any time, but these are the princesses that we saw:

Belle meets you as you enter the restaurant.
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Then you’ll see Cinderella,
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Followed closely by Aurora,
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next is Ariel (in a green dress that she NEVER wears in any of the films – my daughter thought she was Merida because of that),
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and last is Snow White.
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Snow White only hangs around in EPCOT these days, and she is one of those weather-permitting princesses.  We’ve had trouble getting to her in the past, which is what brought us to Akershus in the first place.

However, be warned that there are NO Photo Pass photographers once you get to your table, so you will be on your own there.  There are also a lot of tables crammed into a little bit of building (Akershus was clearly built before Disney World saw the volume of tourist that is does today), so getting great pictures that show off the princesses beautiful dresses will not be a likely possibility.

We also felt very rushed with the time the princesses gave our table.  Much like Chef Mickey’s, we got about 2 minutes per princess in.  It was, hello, hugs, autograph, pose for photos, and goodbye.  They keep these characters on too tight of a schedule, it would be nice if the kids could have a few more sentences with each one and create a stronger memory of the event (like my daughter training squirrels with Rapunzel or teaching yoga to Merida).

The princesses also do a gathering/parade for all the little ones who want to join in.  That seems to happen at every character meal, and it’s always a cute touch.
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The Akershus building is magnificently beautiful.  It feels like an Old World castle that has been refurbished by a modern owner.  As you can see in the photograph above, the walls are stone, and put together in an uneven, ancient architecture type of style (something like Merida’s castle, I suppose).

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The artwork on the walls ranged from tapestry and flags to very somber paintings.

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And even the roof was magnificent.  My daughter said it looked like Elsa’s snowflake.  While the waiter denied any resemblance, I’d be surprised if the designers of Frozen didn’t find some inspiration in this building.
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The food is where the experience gets iffy for me.  Norwegian food is weird, if not gross.  At Akershus, there is a set price, and that include the salad bar, an entree, and a plate of three Norwegian desserts for the table.  Here’s a not-too-great picture of the Oven Roasted Chicken Breast.

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It came with potato dumpling and Brussels sprouts, but they had been cooked (boiled?) until they tasted the same with the same bland texture.  Definitely not my favorite meal from Disney, although my father highly recommended the meatballs.

The dessert portion of the meal was interesting.  They brought out two sets of the desserts, which included a piece of Apple Cake (not my cup of tea, personally), Chocolate Mousse (amazing, actually), and Rice Cream (no, not Ice Cream, a tapioca kind of warm, solid, goop – not a fan!).  Having two sets of desserts for five people, and only one of those desserts being any good, essentially leads to a fight over the Chocolate Mousse.  That is worth the fight, fork your children if you have to so that you can try a piece!  haha.  But, really, it would have been nice if everyone has a smaller sized sampler plate than making everyone share.  I actually missed out on the photo opp here, but I found a picture from DisneyFoodBlog.com to share.

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I also didn’t appreciate that we were a party of 5, we had made reservations months in advance, and we were crammed into a table for four.  There was not enough room for plates, the kids had to climb over people to get to the princesses, and the room we were in (the rounded room in the castle tower portion) was already a tight enough space without putting someone on the end like a baby in a high chair.  That was very poor dining management from whomever decided to seat us there…

So, if you’re looking for a good place to eat, skip Akerhus, there is much better places in the World Showcase.  If you’re looking for a guaranteed slew of princesses, this is your best bet in EPCOT.  It just depends on what you’re looking for.

Disney Park Pack Pins

My son has been into things like Loot Crate and Geek Fuel lately, so when I heard that Disney was doing a similar type of pin box, I knew I had to try and sign up.

Unfortunately, I’m not the best with dates.  BUT, I do have insomnia, so while browsing Facebook on my phone at 6 am, I saw someone post about this appearing on the Disney Store website.

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It said Backorder, so I wasn’t sure if I’d actually get the item, since the main pin is limited edition, but I gave it a try.  I really didn’t see or hear anything again until I got the shipping notification yesterday.

The box arrived today, so, without further ado, lets take a peek!

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The pins are a Minnie Bow with an American Flag Pattern (open edition, but not yet released), Frozen with an exclusive Park Pack cardboard (limited edition of 500), and Dopey holding gems to his eyes (open edition, but not yet released).

Here’s a close up of the Frozen pin:

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Now, before anyone goes nuts – I’m sure Disney did a limited Frozen pin this time to encourage jealous among collectors (since everything Frozen still has a lot of popularity around it).  I’ve also heard rumor that there are four different colors of boarders for the Frozen pin, meaning there were 2,000 total made (just 500 of each color).  There is little to no chance that the next box, or really any other box for a year or more, will have a Frozen pin in it again.  If that is your only interest, and you are not a pin collector, I’d save the cash, personally.

The other two pins are open editions, as the online description foretold.  They are not yet released in the parks, though, so that is a fun bonus.  The back of the Dopey cardboard is labeled for the Silver level, the Minnie pin is not labeled at all, but I assume it’s in the same price bracket since there’s no elaborate or moving parts.

For those of you who haven’t gone pin shopping at a Disney park/resort – they list the pins by colors.  So, when you look at the price, it will say Blue, Red/Silver, Green, Yellow, or Pink on the back.  That way, when Disney raises prices, they only have to change out the price key instead of remarking all of the pins.  So, Silver would be the second-to-cheapest pins they offer, and, if memory serves, that would be the $9 color.  I’d also guesstimate that the Frozen pin, being limited, heavy, and having two layers (the pin image and the metal pin framing) that it would be about $16 for initial retail.  So, $9 + $9 + $16 = $34, but, I imagine the value of the Frozen pin is going to greatly increase soon.  So, even though, retail wise, the box comes up a bit short, the collectible value more than compensates for that.

But, side note – I’m not a scalper!  I do not buy things that I don’t want just to resell them for a profit.  It’s nice to have things appreciate in value in case you ever get in a pinch for money or are working on a fair trade for another item, but I personally detest the people who purposefully clear the shelves so that other people who actually want these items can’t get them for a fair price when they’re released.

My daughter also found where I put the box all back together and asked to do an unboxing video – so here’s that:

The Princess Crawl

Have you ever heard of a Pub Crawl, where people mill around from one bar to the next to accomplish a goal of going to each one?  Well, my daughter and I attempted to do this with Disney Princess characters, and since the lines move so slowly, and there are so many places to visit, we dubbed it “The Princess Crawl” (a non-alcoholic venture, of course). Day 1, we began at EPCOT.  We expected to hit Alice, Mary Poppins, Belle, Aurora, Jasmine, Snow White, Mulan, Winnie the Pooh, and Duffy the Bear.  Not all princesses, I know, but it was essentially hitting every character that is around the world in EPCOT’s World Showcase. Unfortunately, the rainy season of Florida was not letting up, and the only character experience stations that were open were the indoor ones (Jasmine in Morocco and Pooh and Tigger in the UK).
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So, day 1 of the Princess crawl was a pretty big mission fail.  And, while Pooh rarely seems to have a big line, we waited over an hour for Princess Jasmine.  In better weather conditions, with more Princesses out and about, I assume the wait wouldn’t be as bad, but Jasmine seems to have very limited hours of availability compared to the others.

 

Day 2 was much more fruitful in the Magic Kingdom, where almost every character is found indoors.  Our goal was to hit every princess, and just to sweeten the experience (since it was just my daughter and I that day), I lugged around a bag with every costume we brought with us. First, we had a FastPass+ for the left side of the Princess Fairytale Hall:
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Next, we waited in long lines for Ariel’s Grotto and Fairytale Garden for Merida (which Kairi got to do yoga):
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Then, we had a FastPass+ for the right side of the Princess Fairytale Hall: princesscrawl5princesscrawl7

And, finally, we wrapped up the day with a FastPass+ to Tinkerbell, whom Kairi told that she was Elsa’s half sister, and it was a crazy life:
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Day 2 was a success! The wait time for Anna & Elsa was still tragically long at over 90 minutes, but we lucked into getting Fast Passes right after Disney World extended their hours and added more passes to the My Disney Experience website.  We also missed out on Tiana, because she is outside for a very limited amount of time, and her line filled up well before she even came out to meet people.

It also rained a lot again, so Tiana and Merida were by far the hardest Princesses to get to.  We had to get in line twice for Merida and wait over two hours combined due to rain outs. You can also find various characters around Magic Kingdom, like Peter Pan, Aladdin, Alice, and a slew of others, but they are not Fast Pass-able, and are subject to weather being decent. Definitely use FastPass+ to your advantage at Magic Kingdom!  For the most part, Fast Passers get to skip all lines, and they make the standby lines take a lot longer than they should.

 

Oh, and just for good measure, Kairi asks that I throw in her Tiana costume.  We were ready to go but they close down her line very quickly, as Tiana has very limited appearance hours.  Naveen and Tiana did walk by us though and had a little “hello, look at you!” moment, which was precious – but my camera and I weren’t fast enough to capture it!
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Once Upon A Time – Now with Frozen

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Once Upon A Time - Now with Frozen

This post may contain spoilers if you haven’t finished the last episode in season 3 of Once Upon A Time (which aired 05/11/14).  By the way, this is a fan-made poster from the Internets, not an official ABC image.

All things that are hot and popular will eventually burn out and turn cold. And just as Frozen merchandise is starting to become more readily available, and parents are chucking Frozen CDs out of their car windows on the highway, Once Upon A Time throws us a curve ball in the hopes to synergize.

Without any explanation, or sense really, a person, heavily resembling Elsa from Frozen appeared on the screen with ominous music. Oddly, she appeared in the Wicked Witch Zelena’s time travel alchemy symbol, coming out of a small… uh… urn..? Genie bottle? Container of magical, blue goo? What the heck was that exactly? It didn’t seem like a portal to another realm to me, which implies Elsa was imprisoned in that container at some point. But, how did that container get there? Zelena’s time travel spell included Prince Chamring’s sword (courage), Rumpelstiltskin’s brain, Queen Regina’s heart, and Snow White’s baby for innocence. Nope, no urn-like containers on that list that I noticed. Nor did I notice Emma take/drop anything on her way back through the time portal she opened. My guess – Rumple has Elsa in his vault of scary magical items, and he secretly threw Elsa’s container into the portal for some reason.

The addition of Queen Elsa is puzzling, and with the overtone of her arrival to Storybrooke, I just hope they don’t make her into a villain. The show has gone up, down, left, and right since season 2 started and the writers seemed to have lost their way on how to keep the core of the story going. That is, how do they play on flashbacks and people who don’t remember their pasts now that all memories are returned and magic is returned to Storybrooke? The gratifying conclusion of season 1 has thrown the central idea of the show into ever-changing chaos.

If I may, do you know why I stopped watching Desperate Housewives? Because when season 3 hit there was a bad formula of: here’s a new conflict/character, the problem will unfold, tension will begin to rise, then the problem will be irrationally erased from the storyline mere episodes later (remember Gabi’s mayoral husband who suddenly got impaled? Or Kayla’s mom getting shot in the grocery robbery? How about the lady who was stirring up trouble and literally walked out into a tornado?). I got frustrated, I tapped out, and I was over Desperate Housewives. And I fear Once Upon A Time is going down the same path with their quick plot changes.

Since season 2 began, Once Upon A Time has been doing story lines in half-season format, so from, say, September to December you get a new plot line open and close, then another new story from January-ish to May. And there are some awkward filler episodes that introduce characters for fan-service purposes without seeming to have any intention on keeping them in the story line (Ariel, Rapunzel, etc). Yes, yes, I know Ariel was brought in because she could swim between realms, but she hasn’t had any dire purpose in the show, and could have been replaced by a spell casting. At this point, Ariel has swum away to her happily ever after and will not return to the show in any meaningful way.

Now, I admit that I really liked the Neverland story line. I thought it was a fresh take and that the big Pan reveal was unexpected. But, it ended and wrapped up neatly because, for some reason, the writers decided to switch Pan and Henry’s bodies (which I believed to be a precursor for the rest of season 3), then re-switched their bodies and destroy Pan in one episode for the mid-season finale. What?! There was another half a season of Pan being in Henry’s body that we could have used! Instead, by the time Zelena enters, we never need to fear Pan again, despite the fact that he was this big, long time evil that existed in the background for decades before the main story line. I mean, Trap him? Sure. Banish him? Of course. But flat out destroy him? What if Batman killed every villain in Gotham? He’d have nothing to do! And that is where Once Upon A Time is building itself into a corner. They’ve already brought Rumple back from the dead, predictably, so why should we assume Peter Pan is gone for good? We do, and I’m fairly confident that’s the correct assumption to make, but why should we when the main characters come back from death so readily?  Even Prince Charming managed to last a full two minutes as a dead man just a few episodes ago.

Similarly, Zelena, the Wicked Witch, had a lot more story in there to unfold, but they killed her off in an anti-climatic way. When she turned to glass (?) and then a gas, I thought for sure she was licking her wounds and rebuilding her body/powers from inside her magic amulet, but I saw no hint in the season finale to believe that that is the direction the show is headed. But really, here’s the most powerful, dark magic using witch in all the realms, and she’s put down so effortlessly?  Yes, Rumple was more powerful, but she had no contingency plan in place?  I thought for sure there would be more story to that – chances at redemption, struggling with jealousy, becoming the family that Regina desperately needs. Zelena was layer, complicated, hurting, and completely redeemable, not to mention a clear a shoe in to fulfill the new Evil Queen role that Regina is shirking off. But no, Zelena’s cut short from the story line after only being a part of it for less than half of a season, and Regina predictably loses her 2nd love, giving her a reason to start up another vendetta.

Now we have Elsa, which could go one of three ways: she could become the newest evil presence in Storybrooke, she could be lost and returned to Arendale in an episode or two, or she could be a newly introduced regular, similar to how Belle was brought into the plot. I’m a little nervous to find out which it will be, but I highly suspect she’s another pain-soaked, misunderstood villain who will bring havoc to the show, then be removed quickly and without proper resolution.  Forgive me for comparing The Walking Dead to a Disney production, but I liked the anticipation of waiting for The Governor to return much more than I liked him being dead and finalized, and I hope Once Upon A Time can bring more anticipation and less quick plot changes in for season 4.