Ruby struggles to control her wolfish nature during the full moon, and a brutal murder sets Storybrooke on edge.
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Rabin, Jared S. Gilmore, Meghan Ory, and Robert Carlyle.
So I am back to do another review/recap of Once Upon a Time but I am trying the dictation function on my iPad so let’s see how many strange ways my sentences elephant. Anyway pressing on with the main meat of the article. This week on Once was a Ruby-centric episode which I always enjoy because Meghan Ory is simply delightful.
In the past Snow White and Red Riding Hood managed to fight off the evil queen is men and escape. However in the battle Red’s cloak develops a tear and she is concerned that it will not prevent her from turning during the full moon. They agree to separate for the night and meet up the following morning. As Red leaves Snow, she is being watched by a mysterious man in the shadows whose eyes glow a mystical yellow colour. The next morning the man appears and steals red cloak from her. She gives chase to the man and after a brief tussle he reveals himself to be called Quinn and that he is a werewolf as well. Quinn recognises that Red is an inexperienced werewolf and he promises her that he is able to teach her about her craft so she can control herself when she shifts. He leads her to a subterranean community of werewolves and Red discovers that her own mother, who she previously thought to be dead, is their leader, Anita. Anita explains to Red that Granny lied to her her entire life and that she kidnapped Red as a baby to prevent her from learning about her true identity and heritage. Anita reassures Red that she is able to control her werewolf side through a level of acceptance that the wolf is a part of her. With this she manages to persuade Red to remove her cloak.
That night Anita explains to Red that the reason why she can never remember what she has done as a wolf is because she does not recognise the wolf as a part of her own identity. If she managed to reconcile her wolf side and human side, then she would be able to retain control when she makes the shift. The following morning, Red is able to remember her experience as a wolf and no longer feels afraid of that part of her. Then Snow arrives, having been concerned about Red’s whereabouts when she disappeared. Initially, the werewolf pack want to kill Snow. However, Red manages to explain that Snow is, in fact, a friend. Just as Red has finished explaining to Snow that she is going to remain with the pack so that she can learn more about being a wolf, the Queen’s men arrive and they immediately kill Quinn. Even though the werewolves successfully managed to kill the Queen’s men before they do any other damage, Anita still blames Snow for bringing the men there and she instructs Red to kill her. Red refuses so Anita turns into a wolf to do it herself, forcing Red to transform to protect her friend. She accidentally kills Anita by knocking her backwards into a skewer and she holds her mother in her arms as she dies. Anita accuses Red of turning her back on her family and choosing Snow but Red affirms that she can choose herself because she is not a murderer. Red and Snow bury Anita and Red tells Snow that she didn’t lose her family or turn her back on it, but rather that Snow is the only person who has accepted both sides of her and therefore is her family.
The episode begins with the dramatic revelation that the dwarves have finally found the diamonds necessary to create fairy dust. The Mother Superior immediately instruct David to keep Jefferson’s damaged hat safe so they can bring Snow and Emma back to Storybrooke. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that something is going to happen to that hat.
Ruby is acting oddly. She turns down a date with Billy the tow truck driver because she is concerned about the effect of the full moon on her, especially as she cannot find her cloak. After 28 years of not turning into a wolf Ruby is worried that she will be unable to control herself, so Granny creates a cage for Ruby and locks her inside. The following morning, Granny discovers that the cage has been destroyed and she and David find Ruby in the woods with zero recollection of what happened the night before. David is called away to an abandoned vehicle in town and when they investigate they discover that Billy has been torn into two pieces. Ruby is bereft and instructs David to arrest her. However David refuses believing her to be innocent and refusing to make the same mistakes that he had made when Mary Margaret was accused of murdering Kathryn.
Albert Spencer, who is King George’s Storybrooke counterpart and previously threatened David, comes to the police station and accuses Ruby of being the one responsible for killing Billy. David refuses to hand Ruby over to Spencer, and an angry mob breaks into the station. Fortunately Ruby and David have escaped to the library where Bell agrees to chain Ruby up and watch over her through the night. However Ruby decides that she deserves death sushi instead trap spell and she goes to face the mob. Meanwhile, Granny’s tracking skills lead her and David to Ruby’s cloak and a murder weapon in the form of an axe in a car registered to Spencer. The mob, led by Spencer, manage to corner Ruby, who is in her wolf form and Spencer tries to kill her with a gun but Granny disarms him using a crossbow. David reveals Spencer as the murderer in front of the angry mob, causing him to flee. Ruby and David manage to catch up to him, but not before he destroys Jefferson’s hat in a fire. David ultimately decides not to kill Spencer. Back at Snow’s flat, Ruby assures David that they will find another way to bring Snow and Emma back, before she leaves her cloak with him and runs free as a wolf.
Elsewhere, Henry continues to be haunted by his disturbing dreams. After one, Regina awakes him to discover an actual burn on his hand, so summons Mr Gold to look at him. Gold explains that the dreams are a side effect of the sleeping curse. During a sleeping curse, the souls of the victim travels to a netherworld (a world between life and death) for the duration of the curse. When sleeping again, the victims may find themselves again in this realm. Gold cannot prevent Henry from travelling there, but he does give Henry an amulet that allows Henry to control his actions in the other world. When asked what the catch is by Regina, Gold reveals that this one, for Henry, is free. The next time Henry sleeps, he successfully manages to calm the flames and reassure the other inhabitant of the netherworld: Princess Aurora.
The Enchanted Forest
Aurora continues to dream of the fiery room. Henry arrives and manages to put out the fires and reassure Aurora from her panic. At this moment, Aurora wakes up and tells Snow and Emma that there was a boy in her dream, who said “his name was Henry”.
- In the past, Red learns to control her wolf side with the help of a wolf pack led by her mother.
- Red accidentally kills her mother when she turns on Snow.
- Ruby worries that the first full moon since the curse has broken will cause her to lose control again.
- Albert Spencer (King George) murders Billy to frame Ruby and discredit David.
- David and Granny uncover Spencer’s deception, but he manages to destroy Jefferson’s hat, eliminating the method for bringing Snow and Emma back to Storybrooke.
- Aurora and Henry meet in the netherworld.
Once was clearly feeling quite bloodthirsty this week. Before I get properly into the meat of the episode, let’s spare a thought for poor Billy – the adorable Storybrooke iteration of Gus (the cute mouse in Cinderella) – who was played by the smoking Jarod Joseph (fortunately he’s in You Me Her; another show that you should check out BTW). Not only is the loss of such a beautiful face on our screens a tragedy in itself, but the way he was killed off was absolutely brutal. He was cut in half with an axe by another human character. That’s horrendous! That’s horror-level plot lines, and it’s never properly addressed within the episode that King George/Albert Spencer is just a straight-up psychopath who chopped a living person in half with an axe?! That’s dark. Not only this, but there was Anita, Red’s slightly vicious werewolf mother, who was savagely impaled upon a spike; Quinn, a slightly nondescript member of the pack, who was shot with an arrow and then multiple members of the queen’s guards whose necks were snapped. I don’t mind the show getting a little bit edgier, but that was perhaps too much? I really do draw the line at aggressively chopping somebody in half with an axe while they are alive.
Episodes about Ruby are absolutely great. Meghan Ory plays the part with such delightful sincerity, and you can tell a real difference between the innocence of her Enchanted Forest counterpart compared to the more assured and confident nature of her present state. There was an interesting exploration of her further backstory here, but I cannot help but feel that this is an awful amount of trauma for one character to go through. Not only did she rip apart her first boyfriend personally when she changed into a wolf, but now she is also responsible for the death of her mother too? That’s a whole lot of baggage for one character to carry, and I don’t mind that, but only if it is followed through appropriately, and considering that this is the first episode to significantly featured Red Riding Hood since I think about episode 16 of last series that doesn’t inspire me with confidence that this will ever be referenced again. Another thing that bothered me was the assertion of Red’s that Snow is her family. That’s lovely, and a brilliant development, and I’m glad of that. However, that just isn’t reflected elsewhere in the show. Snow and Red barely communicated in the one episode that they have been free of the curse, and Mary Margaret and Ruby scarcely interacted throughout Season 1. This is not the same impact as when Emma and Mary Margaret actively built their relationship throughout Season 1 until Emma declared Mary Margaret to be her family (not least because she literally was). That is character development done right. But you cannot retroactively make this friendship more important than it actually is, because it just hasn’t been reflected anywhere else. Fingers crossed that if this is the narrative route that the writers are going down that they show this magically enhanced relationship between Snow and Red in the past.
This episode, despite the winning performance by Meghan Ory, seemed like a step backwards narratively from what we have been enjoying in Season 2. The trappings of Season 1 were that it fell into a “story of the week” format with which fairy tale are we going to see retold this time? This very much felt like that. Where the flashbacks work is either to project the plot forwards, which I felt was effective in the last episode. Knowledge of Emma’s past, and the identity of the mysterious stranger from the premiere, does propel the plot forward, and it helps us to understand one of our central characters. I am not sure whether this flashback serves the same narrative function. It’s diverting, and it helps us understand Red’s character more, but ultimately it is just filler. Red’s character is not as significant as the other ones – which is very unfortunate considering how much I like her. She does not impact the storyline in the same way that Gold, Regina, David, Snow and Emma do. This is also true of Belle, who only seems to be important when she is impacting upon Gold’s story, or intervening in the other character’s storylines. At the moment the “big” storyline is getting Snow and Emma back from the Enchanted Forest, and this episode did very little to expand that particular plot line. While we had the revelation of the discovery of the diamonds in the mines (apparently fairy dust comes from diamonds?), and Spencer destroyed the hat, which is an irritating setback, very little else helped to enhance this narrative trajectory. It is disappointing to have to cast somebody’s tragic backstory off as “irrelevant”, but it sadly is. Ultimately, in the grand story of Once Upon a Time, this was just a filler episode. Hopefully, the show soon goes back to balancing more storylines within one episode, as I really enjoyed and was captivated by the greater sense of pace when we had a meaningful glimpse into the flashbacks, Storybrooke and the Enchanted Forest all at once.
I felt that some of the writing this week wasn’t as strong as usual as well, especially within the Enchanted Forest storyline. Some of the dialogue was laughable. The explanation that the werewolves’ hideout was some sort of building that had “sunk into the ground” was genuinely laughable. Like, I actually full on laughed watching it. That’s not how buildings work. Especially not buildings which are entirely well maintained. If that room had actually sunk into the earth, then that state of disrepair would have been reflected in the state of the building. The cliched speech that the werewolves did when one of them died was also too much, it was impossible to take seriously. The whole “walk into the pale light of the moon”, I mean really? No thank you.
- It’s nice to see the explanation behind Henry’s and Aurora’s shared dream. I imagined it would be due to both of them having been under the sleeping curse. It then occurs to me that it was slightly stupid of Snow to not realise the link sooner. This is obviously going to play into the plot to free Emma and Snow from the Enchanted Forest in some way, I just wonder how that is going to be achieved.
- It was nice to see Belle featured in this week’s episode, and her friendship with Ruby being explored more. I like their friendship and them as a pairing, and it’s nice for Belle to be building her identity away from her relationship with Gold.
- Have we known before the diamonds make fairy dust? Are they fairy diamonds? Completely baffled by that, personally.
- Much better use of CGI in this episode compared to the last one. The existence of physical sets definitely made the wolves work much better than the last episode, which also relied upon large CGI scapes. The show in general works much better when it uses real locations and sets, in comparison to green screen. It’s just too much work on a network television budget.
A dark and thrilling mystery centring around the underused character of Red Riding Hood. A diverting hour, but the show needs to pick up the pace on the main storyline fast, before it begins to stagnate.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.