Little Red Riding Hood's tale gets delightfully twisted as the mystery of Kathryn's disappearance deepens

By Hillary Busis
Updated April 30, 2015 at 08:49 PM EDT
Jack Rowand/ABC

Once Upon a Time

S1 E15
  • TV Show
  • ABC

A few weeks ago, I suggested that in Once‘s world, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf might be one and the same. Tonight’s installment proved me right. Ruby’s fairy tale counterpart is, in fact, a werewolf — her iconic red cloak is actually a talisman that keeps her from transforming. While this twist wasn’t as surprising as Episode 11’s Genie-Mirror reveal, it was still plenty imaginative. If future episodes continue to deepen older characters rather than introducing new faces, then quickly forgetting that they ever existed (Cinderella; Hansel and Gretel; Frederick; Nova; etc.), I’ll be a happy camper.

A lupine howl welcomes us to Granny’s, where Ruby is flirting with August the Stranger. He’s regaling her with tales of zen, motorcycle maintenance, and traveling around the world. But poor Ruby is so sheltered that she doesn’t even know what a lemur is. Granny rudely awakens Ruby by yelling at her in front of everyone, then asking her to start working Saturday nights. The pair argues, and each gets off a few good digs: “You dress like a drag queen at Fleet Week,” complains Granny. “And you dress like Norman Bates when he dresses like Norman Bates’s mother!” her granddaughter shoots back. The fight ends with Ruby snarling her version of the “I Quit” song and storming out into the lemur-less Maine landscape.

In Fairy Land, a happy, cloak-wearing Red Riding Hood has a brief encounter with her paramour Peter — yes, probably named after that Peter — before being called away by her own Granny, also known as the Widow Lucas. There’s a crowd of villagers at their cottage door. The gang is planning to go after a giant wolf that’s been killing their sheep. Red eagerly asks if she can go on the hunt, but Granny is just as much of a ball buster in this reality as she is in Storybrooke. The old lady commands her charge to stay inside with her cloak on; supposedly, red repels wolves, although none of the other villagers are wearing it.

After she’s slammed the door in the mob’s faces, Granny and Red begin securing their cottage against the wolf. (They even put a grate over their fireplace; apparently, they’re familiar with the story of the Three Little Pigs.) When the task is done, Granny tells Red to go to bed with the hood on her head. Meanwhile, she’s going to sit by the heavily bolted door with a crossbow at the ready. Kick. Ass.

The next morning, un-cloaked Red asks her Granny if she got any sleep. “I’ll sleep with the trolls in the afterlife,” Granny sniffs, instantly becoming my favorite person. Red then goes to check on the chickens. She’s startled to find a princess among the poultry: Snow White. Though the timeline’s a little fuzzy, we can assume that Snow has already had her encounter with the Huntsman (RIP, Sheriff Skinny Jeans!) but hasn’t yet become the outlaw who charmed Charming.

NEXT: “So… your granny’s kinda intense.”

Snow introduces herself as Frosty, explaining to Red that she has to keep her real identity secret. After giving the matter a bit more thought, though, Snow decides that she’d love to pretend to have a normal name. So she tells Red to call her Margaret — wait, Mary — or how about Marcy May? Nope, Mary will work just fine.

Red takes her new friend to a nearby well, explaining that there’s a wolf terrorizing the village. As they discover, the creature isn’t just killing sheep anymore. The well’s water is colored a deep crimson — and there are scores of mutilated bodies scattered on the snowy ground around it. It’s a gruesome sight that happens to be one of Once‘s more artistic tableaux. It’s a shame that the scene also looks an awful lot like a shot from Catherine Hardwicke’s stylish but empty Red Riding Hood.

Back in Storybrooke, Mary Margaret asks Emma if David is okay, and if they’ve got any word from Kathryn. Emma explains there are no new developments in the case; she doesn’t tell her friend that she just dismissed David from her office after questioning him. They soon come upon Ruby, who’s fending off the slimy advances of Dr. Whale. The bad doctor quickly scurries away as the sheriff and his onetime one night stand approach.

Ruby tells the duo that she’s leaving town, although she doesn’t know exactly where she’s going. Because MM’s apartment basically functions as a home for wayward girls, she invites Ruby to stay with her until she figures things out. So in one reality, Red takes Snow in, and in the other reality, Snow takes Red in. Nice parallel, Once writers.

Town hall meetings in Fairy Land aren’t quite as fun as town hall meetings in, say, Pawnee. After some chatter about ending the wolf’s reign of terror, Granny steps out and grimly lays down some real talk. 60 years ago, she watched another wolf slaughter her entire family. It spared the widow herself, leaving her with a terrible bite scar on her arm. There’s no fighting a wolf like this, according to Granny: “You don’t kill it. You just hide.”

Cut to Snow making the understatement of the year: “So… your Granny’s kinda intense.” Red agrees; she wants nothing more than to escape her grandmother’s house, but the old lady is keeping her cooped up like one of her chickens. She wants to run away with Peter — maybe to Never Never Land? — but she’ll never be able to as long as the wolf is around. But suddenly, Red has an idea. If she and Snow go after the wolf when it’s light outside, they’ll be able to kill it as it sleeps. Cue up the woodwinds — it’s huntin’ time.

NEXT: Ruby’s feeling excited — well, excited and scared

Henry and Ruby scour The Daily Mirror‘s online job listings in Emma’s office. There’s pretty slim pickings; unless Ruby wants to be a bike messenger, a cashier, or a salesperson for a “high-end retail store” (Gold’s pawn shop, maybe?), she’s pretty much out of luck. Fortunately, because Ruby is 19, there’s at least one thing she’s good at: jabbering on the phone. Emma enters just in time to see Ruby juggle calls like a pro. She asks the girl if she’d like to be her assistant, and Ruby eagerly seizes on the idea.

Emma’s new Number Two heads out to grab lunch as a distraught Mary Margaret enters the office. She’s just had a disturbing encounter with David — he’s wandering around the woods, glassy-eyed and totally disoriented. Maybe he’s trying to find a cow as white as milk and a slipper as pure as gold?

Snow and Red head into the woods, looking out for giant eight-inch wolf prints. Red, evidently, is a natural-born tracker; she easily discovers the wolf’s path. But as the girls follow the trail, they notice something strange: The impressions in the snow eventually change from paw prints to boot prints. “Wolves don’t wear boots,” Snow notes thoughtfully. Since neither one has read Twilight, they’re stumped about what this means.

Things get curiouser and curiouser when the candy-cane-colored pair follows the trail back to Red’s cottage. The tracks go straight to Red’s window — implying that Peter, who stood at that very window just last night, is actually the Big Bad. Snow urges Red to talk to her boyfriend; one conversation could save the entire village. Red takes her new friend’s advice, leading Peter to a secluded location and telling him that he’s actually a wolfman. She explains that she has to tie him up before the moon comes out so he can’t hurt anyone. Peter shouldn’t worry, though, because Red is going to stay by his side the whole time. And while she does that, she’ll be wearing a fetching new white cape. Hoo boy.

After returning from Granny’s with lunch, Ruby is in a sour mood; since she’s still delivering food, it seems like her life hasn’t changed very much after all. Emma decides to cheer up her assistant by bringing her along on her next mission. The gals go on a quest to find David in the woods. Although Ruby’s wearing a supremely impractical pair of leather leggings, she proves much more helpful than Emma thought she’d be. Ruby hears something Emma doesn’t — my, what good ears she has! — and leads the sheriff straight to David, who’s lying unconscious beneath a tree.

When David comes to, he can’t remember anything that’s happened since the previous evening. At the hospital, Dr. Whale suggests that these episodes of forgetfulness could be linked to his coma. He notes that people in similar states have been known to do all sorts of things — cook, drive a car, even make mysterious calls to their estranged, law-school-bound wives.

This gives Emma another idea. She calls Ruby and tells her that the last time David went on a “dream walk,” he took a trip to the T[r]oll Bridge. Emma’s got a hunch they might find a clue to Kathryn’s disappearance there. So Ruby makes the trek and starts looking around for something suspicious. Her preternatural hunting instincts lead her to a box that’s been buried right below the surface. When she opens it up, she screams in horror. Oh no, Ruby’s just unleashed a host of evils upon Storybrooke!

NEXT: Peter[‘s entrails] and the Wolf

The widow enters Red’s room and finds that her granddaughter is gone. Snow, clad in Red’s cloak, assures Granny that the girl is fine — she’s just chained up Peter in the middle of the woods, no biggie. Granny grabs her crossbow and starts hauling butt into the woods, explaining the truth to Snow along the way. Red’s grandfather was the werewolf who killed Granny’s family. He also turned Granny into a werewolf, though she doesn’t transform anymore now that she’s old. Ruby began changing when she was 13. So wait — these werewolves become beasts once a month when they hit adolescence, then stop changing once they get elderly? Sounds… strangely familiar.

Old Lady Lucas sniffs out Red and takes her down with a silver-pointed arrow. Unfortunately, she’s too late to save poor Peter, who has joined the Huntsman in that big kennel in the sky. Snow and Granny throw the crimson cloak over WolfRed, and she instantly transforms again. Red barely has time to be horrified at what she’s done and who she is; Granny shoos Snow and her granddaughter off into the woods and stands alone against the approaching unruly mob of villagers. Somehow, I think this woman will manage just fine on her own.

You know what’ll instantly curb your thirst for adventure? Finding a vital organ buried in the woods. After delivering the goods (the bads?) to Emma, Ruby heads back to the diner and tells Granny that she’d like to work for her again. “What about adventure? What about lemurs?” Granny asks. “Emma was my lemur,” Ruby answers. Someone needs to print that on a t-shirt, stat. Granny reveals that she wants to leave her business to Ruby once she retires, and Ruby reveals that she was just worried about filling her grandmother’s formidable, sensible shoes. They hug, and all is right again.

Well, sort of. Emma comes to find MM and David at the animal shelter. She tells them what Ruby discovered: there was a human heart in that box, one that may or may not belong to Kathryn. What’s more, its lid was marked with fingerprints: Mary Margaret’s. I assume this means the prints were topped with tiny knit caps.


– Characters named Snow White actually appear in two different Grimm fairy tales. The second is called “Snow White and Rose Red;” it’s likely that it inspired the friendship between Once‘s Snow and Red. Read the tale here.

– Additional homework — check out this awesome article about “Little Red Riding Hood”‘s rich symbolism. The story: not that innocent!

– After a one-week hiatus, the “previouslies” returned this week in slightly altered form. They’re updated to reveal that Gold knows the truth about the spell — and they also imply that August might be able to break it.

– What’s Granny’s Storybrooke name? Does she have one?

– Emma: “There is this unexplained phone call.” David: “I can’t explain it.” Some real scintillating dialogue tonight, guys.

– I liked Red’s comeback when Peter threatened to huff and puff and blow her house down: “So you’d level my house with the power of your breath?”

– The Widow Lucas’s brothers were veterans of the 2nd Ogre’s War. Was that the same Ogre War during which Rumpel was de-humanized?

– When Ruby’s answering phones, she fields another call from the ever-complaining Miss Ginger: “No, that’s not a prowler, that’s Archie’s dog Pongo. Throw him a Vanilla Wafer and he’ll quiet down.” What, Storybrooke doesn’t stock Kanine Krunchies?

– Henry has learned from his mistakes; he’s now storing his book in a locked drawer within Emma’s office. Regina can probably still get in with her skeleton keys, though.

– Snow White and Red Riding Hood should hang out with Blue Beard; they’d be the most patriotic of all fairy tale gangs.

Were you shocked when you learned the Big Bad Wolf’s identity? How do you feel about tonight’s cliffhanger? And finally: lemurs!

Episode Recaps

Once Upon a Time

Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.

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