Once Upon a Time
I know a lot of people were looking forward to this episode because of Emma Caulfield’s (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) turn as the Blind Witch but the episode was just okay for me. Yes, Once is better than 95% of all other things on TV and yes, Ms. Caulfield’s Blind Witch was awesomely demented, but I don’t feel that this episode served the mythology in any great way and the Hansel and Gretel story missed in some sense. I’ll give my biggest gripe at the end of the post.
Hansel and Gretel is another Brothers Grimm collected story and is fairly violent in its tone and execution though it does have a happy ending. Follow this link to a good telling of the story. As they have done with some other fairytales, Once Upon a Time has taken plot points from a classic tale but has then modified and morphed the story to fit the narrative which usually includes the intrusion of the Evil Queen on the action. That is no different here and I think the story presented in True North is sufficient on its own without any explicit references to the original story.
When Gretel (played by the awesome Karley Scott Collins, who had a very memorable turn as young Olivia Dunham in an episode of Fringe two seasons ago) asks to be more of a help to her woodcutting father, he sends her and her brother, Hansel, to gather kindling as he fells trees. He gives Gretel a compass so that she can find him later. Later, after collecting the wood and returning to their starting point, Woodcutter Dad is no where to be seen. When the kids run out to the road upon hearing a commotion which seems to include their father’s voice, they run smack into the Evil Queen and her henchmen. Gretel’s compass breaks. Whoops! The kids try running but the Evil Queen, who is upset that the lite kids are hanging around in her forest, poaching her wood, does her materializing out of thin air and making the tree roots chase and trap the children magic tricks. On reflection, she decides their bravery outweighs the trespass and releases them. She agrees to find their Woodcutter Dad since they’re going to do something for her. What could these kdis do for the Evil Queen you ask? Simple. Break into the Blind Witch’s beautiful Gingerbread House and steal back a valuable item which she is keeping in a leather satchel. Since the Evil Queen wants it for a weapon, I don’t think anyone was surprised that the item is the poisoned apple (though you don’t actually find this out until then end). When they ask why them, she explains that she’d do it herself but the house is protected by magic which doesn’t work on children. By the way, don’t eat anything inside, not even a lick. Fat Kid Hansel is already licking his lips at the frosted goodness!
As night falls Fat Kid Hansel goes for a lick of the house but thankfully Gretel is around to smack his hand away. Once inside, the Blind Witch is sleeping and as Gretel grabs the leather satchel, Fat Kid Hansel takes a fat kid bite of a huge blue cupcake. The Blind Witch’s blind eyes fly open at the bite and she starts smelling out the kids, magically locking each exit as they approach and being very excited for her freshly caught dinner. Well, at least Fat Kid Hansel will taste good.
As the Blind Witch is preparing her kiddie feast, Gretel plots their escape plan, which basically revolves around creeping around very quietly, taking advantage of the Blind Witch’s blindness. For her aprt, the Blind Witch only wants to know if they want to be marinated in butter or gravy. Because he sucks, Fat Kid Hansel makes a sound causing a struggle, struggle, struggle. At the end of the struggle, the kids lock the Blind Witch in an oven and steal the satchel. Just as they exit the house, the Evil Queen throws down some fire into the Blind Witch’s oven, bake at 1000 degrees for 30 minutes and serve fricassee Blind Witch!Gravy or butter, indeed.
Back the Evil Queen’s castle, the Evil Queen is so pleased with their retrieval of the poisoned apple (Hansel: We did all of that … for an apple?!? BWAHAHA), that she offers them a home with her in the castle since, she says, they deserve better than a Woodcutting Dad that would abandon them. Gretel speaks up that no, they want their Woodcutting Dad back and if he did in fact abandon them, which she strongly doubts, they’d still not want to live with someone as terrile as the Evil Queen. for his part, Hansel nods emphatically. The Evil Queen is not pleased at being rebuffed, as you can imagine, and magics them into some kinds of purple sand storm?
Sometime later, the Evil Queen summons prisoner Woodcutting Dad and asks him why his kids refused her offer of anything in lieu of being with him. He answers simply that they’re a family and family will always find each other. She releases him and says that if he can find his kids, they can be together. She leaves out the part where she sent the kids ridiculously deep into the woods, where we see them awaken and begin their loooooon journey back to anywhere.
The only two other kids in Storyb
rooke, Ava and Nicholas Zimmer, befriend Henry in a convenience store … which we learn was all a ruse so that they could load his backpack down with shoplifted goods. Oh man, Henry was just trying to enjoy a Hulk comic, maybe have a chat with the cute girl in town.
Regina comes and springs Henry from the store owner’s clutches, all the while blaming the other kids (which is true but its nasty how she does it, saying that Henry doesn’t eat candy bars so of course these other two kids are to blame … does she not remember the Apollo Bars from the Jiminy Cricket episode in the mine?). A better tack would ahve been to look at the security camera footage which would clearly reveal Henry having no part in the lifting of wares. Whatever, moving on. Emma shows up in her role as Sheriff and Regina leaves her to deal with Ava and Nicholas. They throw the puppy dog eyes at her and convince her that they’re just trying to help out their parents who are on hard times.
Emma takes them home but instead of escorting them to the door, she lets them out of the car and pulls away … because she is the worst cop ever. As soon as she is out of sight, they run around the back and break into the cellar which is clearly serving as their lair. Hearing a noise upstairs, they head out of the cellar to find Emma waiting for them. So she’s not the worst cop ever but why the dramatics? Anyway, she asks them why they lied to her? Turns out that they don’t have parents.
At Mary Margaret’s place, Emma has brought the orphans and Mary Margaret is … concerned as to Emma’s intentions. For her part, Emma brings her personal baggage into the mix (which is shocking and so out of character for Emma) and begins railing against the pitiful foster system, of which she is a product and swears that she will find their father. The Zimmer mom, Dory, died years ago not that anyone can remember her at all.
Emma goes to the town records to retrieve the kids’ birth certifcates from the town clerk, Mr. Krzyszkowski (Mr. K will do, thanks) but Mr. K finds that they were recently removed … Oh Hi Regina! Regina tells Emma that she called social services and the kids are going to be split up at a foster home in Boston. When Emma mentions her promise to Ava and Nicholas that they wouldn’t be split up, Regina rightly points out that Emma shouldn’t be making promises that
her body can’t cash (sorry, that was top Gun) she can’t keep. The file Regina shows Emma (not that I believe its the real file) shows no father listed on the birth certificate.
Henry finds Emma at the Sheriff’s Department and asks how the search is going. Henry makes the good show premise point that their dad is definitely in Storyb
rooke because no one can leave and no one ever enters … except Emma. Moving on, Henry asks Emma about his father. The long story short is that when she got out of the foster care system, she started working at roadside diner. A guy who was training to be a firefighter began coming by every day, always looking for pumpkin pie and never getting it but still coming anyway. One thing led to another and as Emma describes, life happens. When Emma found out she was pregnant, she looked for his father and found out he had died saving a family from an apartment fire and you see Henry? He was a real hero. He asks Emma if she has anything of his that Henry could hold on to and while she doesn’t, she does have a light bulb flashing above her head and she bolts … leaving Henry in the police station … by himself? OK, where can we send the Mom of the Year trophy to? Back at Mary Margaret’s, Emma asks the kids if they have anything of their father? And, of course Ava has been holding on to this very unique compass. Ava again asks Emma to promise to keep them together and she is all, yeah sure. I guess, she’s already knee deep in the lie, whats a little more?
At Mr. Gold’s shop, Emma finds the name of the person who bought the compass originally. The price for the information is forgiveness. Emma counter offers, tolerance. Deal. The dad’s name is Michael Tillman. Michael is a grease moinkey who is overtly against the idea of being the dad of 12 year old twins. When Emma reveals the compass he “lost” 12 years ago, Emma makes her final push that you can’t walk away from your kids. Using her experience with Henry as an example, she tells Michael that she doesn’t have a choice in not being Henry’s mom but Michael does. Still unmoved, Michael is all, I don’t know nothing about being no dad and by the way, if you want these kids to have a good home, I’m not your guy. Hmm, wonder what Michael is like on a first date? Mary Margaret doesn’t think Emma’s plan of hiding the kids for a little bit is such a winner. As they are discussing this outside the apartment, Regina shows up to make sure that Emma delivers the kids to Boston by nightfall. By the way, we learn that Emma totally lied to Henry about his hero father … but we don’t get anything more on that right now.
When we return, Regina and Henry look on as Emma gathers Ava and Nicholas into the police car. Henry runs up to warn Emma that something horrible will happen if she takes them out of Storyb
rooke since that is not allowed; she reminds him that something horrible is already happening. Driving along, driving along, driving along and uh oh car trouble. The car stalls out right at the town line and Emma calls for some help … which is of course Michael the mechanic, who also drives for Franklin’s towing service (same tow truck company from the mine episode). When he shows, Ava’s compass starts spinning wildly pointing towards him, which was a little too supernatural for the Storyb rooke world I thought. Upon Emma’s moving speech about how its not too late, and actually seeing the kids, Michael decides to try and be a dad. Oh, Regina is NOT going to be happy when she finds out!
Mary Margaret is very pleased that Michael changed his mind and how the whole thing worked out. This leads to a discussion of Emma’s parentage and did they ever look for her and of course, Henry’s theory that Mary Margaret is Emma’s mother … which is something that Emma has previously and intentionally not told Mary Margaret. I wonder what changed? Mary Margaret is amused by this but also kind of happy at the thought. As Emma is heading out to do whatever Emma does, Mary Margaret compliments the “Emma” baby blanket from earlier in the episode and after Emma leaves, she gives it a good (and slightly weird) remembrance smell. Afterwards, she shakes off … whatever it is she’s feeling.
Wrap Ups. Emma is in her car reviewing some old case file when Henry shows up with pumpkin pie (a nod to the dad story from earlier). She goes to tell Henry about his father’s real story and then … doesn’t. Just then, a stranger shows up on a motorcycle asking for the nearest place to stay. After Emma tells him about Granny’s B&B, he walks away never giving his name, jumps on the bike and takes off. Emma questions Henry that she thought strangers don’t come to Storyb
rooke? Henry repeats that they don’t as he looks equally worried and intrigued.
Okay, here is my gripe. Why didn’t something more cataclysmic happen when Emma reunited Michael and the two kids? When Emma agreed to stay for a week, the clock began to move signifying the start of the final war. When Emma put on the Deputy Badge, the earthquake at the old mine happened. In short, every time Emma has completed some task towards her side of the “final war” something significant has happened. Of course, now as I am writing this, it occurs to me that the reunification of the Father and son and daughter has opened up the Storybrooke entrance embargo which maybe explains why the stranger has now shown up? Because he couldn’t before? In either case, I want to know what reuniting these three people has gotten us as far moving the “final war” further along?