“Frozen” might not be able to glide through all the mazes that have taken “Once Upon A Time” from boundless promise to convolution, but incorporating characters from Disney’s animated smash has made the ABC series feel a whole lot cooler. The season premiere is heavily driven by the arrival of Elsa, the movie’s ice queen, in a continuing plot that will have her searching for her sister Anna. Frankly, it’s still surprising the studio would risk such a formidable asset in this manner, but the stunt should help rekindle interest in a program whose happiest days appeared well behind it.
If that’s the good news in ABC’s Sunday lineup, the bad would be “Resurrection,” one of the more intriguing pilot concepts in recent memory, which gradually spiraled out of control and now returns (pardon the expression) seemingly desperate to hit the reset button. Yet the latest contortions don’t work, suggesting this is one of those concepts tailor-made to a limited series – one in which the trip to the Great Beyond should rightfully be a one-way affair.
Without spoiling either episode, “Once Upon a Time’s” “Frozen” detour involves the sisters delving into details surrounding their parents’ death, which results in Anna (Elizabeth Lail) embarking on a quest while bringing a concerned Elsa (Georgina Haig) to Storybrooke.
ABC will wisely precede the premiere with a one-hour special seeking to catch viewers up on the series, which has cross-pollinated so many different fairy tales at this point as to have become almost dizzying. While that process felt refreshing at first, it gradually began to dilute the franchise, which was spinning plates, yes, but hardly conjuring much magic.
The larger mystery, given what a goldmine “Frozen” has been, is why Disney would grant the producers access to the characters. Because while the integration keeps “Frozen” alive Disney labors to exploit the property in every conceivable way – a film short, theme-park attractions, a Broadway version and the inevitable sequel – it stands to benefit the show more than the movie, and thrusts the duo into a world that has delighted in subverting long-held notions about fairy-tale heroes and villains.
Still, the “Frozen” crossover is indeed a bit of a blast, and the visual effects are especially good. Although the show’s darkness might not be appropriate for five-year-old girls who can belt out all the lyrics to “Let It Go,” the visitation from Arendelle should be an enticement to many of their parents who, willingly or otherwise, also have that song drummed into their heads.
“Resurrection,” by contrast, wrote itself into a corner at the end of last season – which saw the army descending on the town like an occupying force and interning “The Returned,” or those who had risen from the dead – and this early attempt to regain a sense of equilibrium feels wholly unsatisfying.
Admittedly, there are still things to like about the show – mostly having to do with the casting. Two more fine actresses, Donna Murphy and “Game of Thrones’” Michele Fairley, pop up in the season opener, the latter as the late mother of Kurtwood Smith’s character. (At times, “Resurrection” appears to be reenacting the old novelty song “I’m My Own Grandpa.”)
Unfortunately, the series hasn’t figured out how to bring any sense of order to the ranks of those who come back, and feels as if it builds much of the first hour around a twist that’s telegraphed far in advance.
Then again, “Resurrection” has consistently veered away from both the existential and messy details associated with the implications of the dead returning – especially in numbers – to pursue limp soap-opera and family-drama subplots, like what happens when a pregnant girlfriend comes back and you’re married to someone else.
If the French drama “Les Revenants,” a.k.a. “The Returned,” which played on Sundance Channel, elicited chills from such scenarios, “Resurrection” seems content to be the zombie version of “Brothers & Sisters.”
Nothing is more mysterious than the prospect of an afterlife, but the producers here look indifferent to the answers – or even posing the right questions. And while it’s possible the series could find its way back toward being a worthy addition to one’s DVR menu, with Elsa now leading into it, there’s probably a better chance of Hell freezing over.