Once Upon A Time is an immensely frustrating TV show. After the first few episodes of this season proved to be a nice change of pace, the show’s new status quo introduced a set of challenges that the writers haven’t fully met (see last week’s abysmal installment), and this week’s chapter is a Storybrooke-centric story that suffers from many of the problems of last season. It begins with a misleading opening sequence where the dwarves find magical diamonds under Storybrooke that can be ground into fairy dust and put in the Magic Hat to bring back Emma and Snow. But this episode is minimally concerned with bringing back the exiled women, instead focusing on Ruby to tell a half-assed mystery/horror plot.
Having Little Red Riding Hood as a werewolf is a fun twist on the fairy tale, but this week’s plot is one that we’ve seen done many times before on supernatural shows like The Vampire Diaries and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. After 28 years of not transforming into a wolf, Ruby is getting ready for her first full moon since the breaking of the curse, and has Granny create a cage for her in the walk-in cooler. When she transforms, she seemingly escapes and viciously murders Billy the tow truck driver (who was Cinderella’s helper mouse Gus in the fairy tale world), sending her on spiral of guilt. Ruby freaks out and gets locked up a lot while King George fires up an angry mob because this show needs a completely one-dimensional villain to offset any character development Rumpelstiltskin and Regina may be experiencing.
It would be a lot easier to accept how ridiculous this show is if it was able to have consistent moments of actual human emotion, but the writers are always so eager to move the plot forward that it prevents character moments from being fully realized. As Ruby is dealing with King George’s bullshit, the fairyback reveals how she first learned how to control her wolf transformation with the help of her mother and a sexy werewolf. They both end up dead by the end of the episode, because death is a really easy way of getting an emotional reaction out of the character, even if the audience has only known the characters for 10 minutes each.
Mystic Pizza’s Annabeth Gish as Ruby’s mother is inspired casting, and it feels like a missed opportunity for the future to get rid of her character so early. Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss wrote this episode, and Quinn and Anita are character archetypes Chambliss previously used in Vampire Diaries: werewolves who help a character control their animal nature while pursuing their own ulterior motives. In this case, the ulterior motive is getting Ruby to fully commit to the wolves, which after Quinn’s death means having Snow White killed for bringing the queen’s men to the wolf den. Ruby won’t do it. She ends up killing her mother in the process, but she doesn’t care all that much because Snow is her real family. Aww.
As Ruby is being hunted in Storybrooke, Henry is still having those bad dreams, which it turns out are a deus ex machina way of getting him to communicate with the fairy tale world. When he dreams, he goes to the flaming world between life and death that victims of the sleeping curse are sent to, and Aurora is being burnt there too. The most interesting thing about this story is Regina (whaaaa?), who continues down her path to redemption as she consoles Henry about his nightmares. It’s amazing how much more interesting a character she becomes when the writers actually commit to her desire to change as a parent. It seems like she’s really trying to be a better mother, so when Henry suffers from a curse that Regina’s deeply familiar with, it seems to legitimately worry her.
Ruby is destroyed by her guilt and eager to give herself up to the angry mob, but Charming won’t let her, especially because he knows George is behind it all. Before George is able to kill wolf Ruby, Charming finds her and helps her control her animal side, giving George the opportunity to run and steal the Mad Hatter’s hat. He throws it in a fire at the end of the episode, destroying Charming’s hope of getting his family back and making that opening sequence even more pointless. So King George cuts a man in half with an axe, frames an innocent woman, and then gets away with it? Does Storybrooke still operate under American law? Can’t Charming pull him in jail for killing a man? Does the town now operate on some kind of fairy tale-based justice system? Whatever the case, Prince Charming is really sucking at his job as sheriff.
- So if Gus and Jiminy Cricket were turned into humans because of the curse, how many of the other Storybrooke humans used to be animals in the fairytale world? How are they reacting to having their species changed?
- Ruby’s look has softened a lot since last season, and Meghan Ory looks all the better for it. Although she’s looking a little Debra Messing in Smash for my tastes in this week’s episode.
- Jared S. Gilmore is going to hit puberty any day now. I don’t know if that’s going to be good or bad for this show.
- In two weeks: a Henry-centric episode with zombies. That can’t be good.
- “I know, nobody would believe it if you told them my lasagna was frozen.” Beverley Elliott is one of this show’s best bit players.