Ever have one of those mornings where you just can't remember if you savagely murdered someone the previous night? Red Riding Hood feels you, man.

By Hillary Busis
April 30, 2015 at 08:51 PM EDT
Jack Rowand/ABC

A moment of silence, please, in honor of cute werewolf Quinn, Gus-Gus — can you believe that Storybrooke hottie Billy once looked like this? — and Anita, Red Riding Hood’s bloodthirsty, feather-loving mama wolf. (Age-inappropriate casting alert! Annabeth Gish, who played Anita, is only 11 years older than Meghan Ory, who portrays her onscreen daughter.)

Between those three and all the knights who got their necks snapped in the Wolf Pack’s secret furry lair, tonight’s Once had a bigger body count than usual. No matter what she does, death seems to follow Red like the train of her signature cloak — trauma, trauma on the wall, is her back story the most tragic of them all?

We’ll discuss that later. For now, the citizens of Storybrooke are feeling pretty merry: Grumpy  has inadvertently discovered that there are magic diamonds growing deep within the town’s mines. Once ground, those diamonds will become fairy dust. So Charming will soon be able to get Jefferson’s busted old hat working again — and if Once‘s writers answer my prayers, we’ll also see more dwarfs hatching from kooky giant eggs. Yeah, that happened once.

After making their priceless discovery, the miners and a few close pals head to Granny’s for a celebratory pint or four. But not everyone at the restaurant is in a good mood. Little Henry is chugging coffee like the kids in Airplane, worried that his recurring nightmare will strike as soon as he falls asleep. Charming is blindsided by wicked King Charles Widmore (real name: George), who swoops in out of nowhere — seriously, guy, what have you been waiting for all season? — to deliver a retro-Regina-style threatdown.

And then there’s Red, who’s so worried about the coming full moon that she can’t even enjoy a beverage with Billy — the strapping tow truck operator whose Fairy Land self was Cinderella’s roly-poly mouse pal. Hey, remember how Cinderella’s a character on this show? Me neither.

Back home, Red eventually learned how to control her wolf self — but after 28 years of curse-induced stasis, she’s worried that she might maul someone when she transforms that night. Luckily, her ever-handy Granny has used her heretofore unseen metalworking skills to transform a walk-in freezer into a cozy cage for Red. Bet she’ll be thankful for all that fur tonight, right?

The full moon has also risen over the Fairy Land of tonight’s fairyback, which immediately follows the events of “Red-Handed.” (That’s straight from the she-wolf’s mouth.) Upon noticing a tear in her magic cloak, Red urges her pal Snow to spend the night somewhere else, just in case Red transforms; they’ll meet up again the following morning. What Red doesn’t know is that there’s a yellow-eyed stranger listening in on her conversation — a stranger who appears again the next morning and snatches Red’s cloak away the moment her back is turned. There’s some Simba-Nala-esque wrestling. Finally, the new guy reveals that his name is Quinn — and he, like Red, is a werewolf. Oh, except the P.C. term is apparently “Child of the Moon.” And hillbillies prefer to be called “sons of the soil,” but it ain’t gonna happen.

NEXT: Whoa, mama!

Quinn tells Red that he knows she’s a wolf as well — one who can’t control herself in her lupine state. But he can teach her a new way, as long as she doesn’t mind following a perfect stranger to a secret underground lair. In the future, Red, maybe you should consider doing more than feebly asking, “Is this some kind of trick?” before you ditch Snow for a guy you barely know.

Thankfully, Quinn’s intentions are pure. He takes Red into a gigantic hidden burrow that used to be “the grand hall of the castle, until it sank underground” — wait, there’s a story we need to hear — and leads her to his pack’s leader: a wild-looking lady named Anita. 101 Dalmatians reference! What, they thought Perdita would sound dumb? But Anita’s more than just the wolf queen — she’s also Red’s long-lost mother. I wonder how she is with a crossbow.

Storybrooke: The next morning, Granny discovers that Red has clawed right through her freezer cage. Guess the old lady’s welding isn’t quite as sharp as her shooting. The innkeeper grabs Charming, and the two track Red down. She’s curled up in the woods, looking decidedly un-murderous — but Billy’s body, which is in pieces by the harbor, tells a different story. (Yes, initially I thought that the torso by the truck and the legs sticking out of the dumpster meant that two people had been murdered. Unexpectedly gruesome, Once!)

Red’s living a nightmare, and, once more, Henry is trapped in his own. We get a glimpse inside of Henry’s very bad dream, where he’s stuck in a room that looks just like Sim house after it’s been set on fire. His comfort levels are dropping, people! When Henry wakes up, his hand is burned — indicating that this is no normal nightmare.

Rumpelstiltskin confirms as much, telling Henry and Regina that victims of the Sleeping Curse are sent to a “netherworld” — cue Beetlejuice theme song — until they are awoken. Even after the curse is broken, its victims can be brought back to that horrible place when they sleep. Rump can’t keep Henry from crossing over, but he can help the boy control what happens when he slumbers. He gives Emma’s son a pendant filled with potion; while Henry wears it, he won’t have to fear the Netherworld anymore. What’s more, Rump doesn’t demand a single hair in return. There’s got to be a catch down the line.

Speaking of commanding the unknown: Kitsis and Horowitz must be Janet Jackson fans, because Red’s storyline is also about learning control. Anita tells her that the moment a Child accepts the wolf as part of him or herself, that Child will retain control even when the moon is full. Though she’s hesitant, Red trusts her mother and hands over her cloak. That night, she transforms once more… but this time, she doesn’t black out, retaining hold of her senses even as the wolf. Next stop: Taking a trip to Forks, Wash. and convincing a certain shapeshifter that falling in love with a baby is totally creepy.

NEXT: Red and Buffy‘s Oz — two wolves in a pod

Though Charming is sure of Red’s innocence, she insists on being locked up again that night. When King George threatens the safety of the town’s actual jail cells, Charming moves Red to the Storybrooke library instead. (All the coolest wolves know the library’s the place to be when the moon is full.) Charming and Granny then set off to prove Red’s innocence by tracking down circumstantial evidence — like, say, Red’s cloak, which is being stashed in King George’s car. As they’re breaking into vehicles without a warrant, a guilty Red is sincerely thanking Belle for her friendship — before chaining up the librarian so that she can head out on the town. Red is hoping that once she turns, she’ll be killed by an angry mob and therefore pay for her crimes. Belle, you might want to reconsider your whole monster fixation.

The plot has thickened in Fairy Land as well. Using the skills Red taught her, Snow has tracked her friend to the wolves’ underground lair — only to be nearly strangled to death by Quinn. He doesn’t loosen his grip on the princess’s neck until Anita asks him to. Then Red drops a pair of bombshells — she’s reconnected with her long-lost claw mama, and she’s planning to stay with the pack instead of leaving with Snow. Though she’s sad, Snow says she understands Red’s decision; she’d do anything to be with her own mother again. All seems well… until an arrow flies through Quinn’s cute chest.

Oh no, Regina’s goons have followed Snow to the wolf hideout! Though the knights are soon defeated by a barrage of neck-breaking, the damage has been done; Quinn is dead, and Anita’s belief that all humans are merciless killing machines has been validated. Red’s mother declares that as punishment for her actions, the pack will feast on the flesh of the princess — after Red kills her. Moooooom, you are ruining my life! Leave my friends alone!! In the end, Red chooses surrogate family over blood family and wolf-shifts to save Snow, accidentally killing her old lady in the process. Well, that’s one way for an adolescent to prove her independence. Emma and Snow better watch out — as a general rule, moms don’t last so long in Fairy Land.

The townspeople of Storybrooke, led by King Charles Widmore, go from zero to mob in nine seconds flat. They’ve somehow dug up flaming torches and pitchforks — actual pitchforks; is there any hay within the city limits?– and are out for Red’s blood. Upon tracking the werewolf down, George nearly shoots her — only to find his pistol on the receiving end of one of Granny’s arrows. From now on, an episode of Once will not be complete unless it includes Granny wielding weapons.

Thank the nondenominational spirits for Charming, who talks some sense into Storybrooke’s citizens, then manage to soothe the savage Red using only his words — and that magic cloak, which quickly transforms her back into a fully-clothed Anne Hathaway lookalike. Good dog! Looks like everything’s wrapped in a neat little package… except wait, where did Charming’s rascally old stepdad go?

NEXT: Just when you thought he couldn’t get any eviler…

Uh oh — King George is posing in front of an ominous bonfire. Once Charming catches up to him, George takes out a bunch of marshmallows and starts strumming “The Circle Game’ on an acoustic Fender. Just kidding! He tosses the remains of Jefferson’s busted hat onto the flames, thereby insuring that Charming will never, ever see his wife or daughter again. Moral of the story: If somebody tells you that you should have killed them when you had the chance, believe them.

Ah, but wait: It appears that Charming is actually closer to Emma and Snow than he knows. When Henry falls asleep wearing that magic pendant, he’s finally able to communicate with the other resident of the burning Netherworld Sim house: Aurora, who is finally useful for something. Let’s all go to Granny’s; I’ll drink to that!

Breadcrumbs

– I know I’m the only person who’s thought about Shakira’s “She Wolf” since circa 2009, but can we please discuss that song’s crazy/beautiful lyrics? I can’t decide which I like better: “I’m starting to feel just a little abused like a coffee machine in an office,” or “Nocturnal creatures are not so prudent/The moon’s my teacher, and I’m her student.”

– Timeline question: Tonight’s episode takes place during the first full moon since the curse was broken. That means four weeks max have passed since Snow and Emma were sucked into Fairy Land. Do we know how long Emma was in Storybrooke before she broke the curse? If she was there for seven months – the length of time over which Season 1 aired – then it’s currently around June of 2012 on the show right now, depending on when Storybrooke saw its last full moon.

– My notes accidentally include more than one mention of Prince Charmin, which makes me wonder how the story would change if Charming were actually heir to a kingdom made entirely of toilet paper.

– Hilarious out-of-context line of the night: “Charming asked us to mine for dust. Fairy dust.”

– Was Red’s cloak in the pawn shop before King George snatched it up?

– Snow wants to find a cozy spot where she and Red can hide, “maybe a nice cabin in the woods.” Er, Snow — you might want to rethink that one.

– Seriously, though, what’s the deal with that underground castle? Think they’ll bother explaining it at some point, or should we just accept that it exists and move on?

– Don’t you just love when George calls Charming “shepherd”? Although it does drive home the fact that we still don’t know the guy’s real name.

– Note to Belle: Perhaps you shouldn’t call yourself an “expert when it comes to rehabilitation” until you, you know, successfully rehabilitate someone. I am, however, happy that someone remembered to unchain you. Imagine being held just too far from the wall to read a single book — true torture for a bibliophile.

– My favorite exchange tonight was between Charming and George: “You killed an innocent man.” “He was a mouse.”

Once is off next week because of the American Music Awards — so I expect to see an extra-large amount of discussion in the comments. Until then, my pets, may you always run free beneath the wind’s pale light — and watch out for rogue fire pokers.

Hillary on Twitter

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