After last week’s poorly timed side journey into yet another impossible love story, Once Upon a Time had some ground to make up. And while I would have preferred the show tackle Kathyrn’s disappearance head-on, ‘Red-Handed’ was a good character piece with a surprising take on a familiar story.
Let’s bitch it out…
After fourteen episodes of appearing in the background every time someone eats out, Meghan Ory finally gets a chance to step into the limelight as Ruby/Red. While I would have liked to see more of a story focusing on the investigation, as far as character backstories go, this ranks fairly high. My issue with some of the less solid episodes has been that the stories they tell do very little to advance the overall narrative, or the familiar stories that they tell are not altered in a meaningful way that justifies telling them again (*cough ‘True North’ cough*). ‘Red-Handed’ did a good job of avoiding these pitfalls as Red’s wolf properties in FairyTale contribute to her tracking skills in Storybrooke, while the revisionist twist that she is the wolf is a fresh approach on the familiar story of little red riding hood.
Obviously the big news is the reveal at the end of the episode that Mary Margaret’s (Ginnifer Goodwin) fingerprints are on the box full-o-heart that Ruby discovers buried in the woods near the T(r)oll bridge. I’d say that this is interesting, but it’s clearly a frame job by one of two culprits: Regina (Lana Parilla) who turns up to bitch out Emma (Jennifer Morrison) for questioning David (Josh Dallas) without his lawyer present for no reason at all. Either that or it’s Mr. Gold, the town proprietor who likely hopes to expose Regina and her heart thievery following their confrontation in ‘Skin Deep’.
The suggestion that Gold is involved may be too convoluted for the show, which traditionally doesn’t stray too far from the obvious. Let’s assume this is Regina trying to frame Mary Margaret as part of her continuing effort to drive the lovers apart (heck, she may even have Kathyrn locked up in a tower somewhere…has anyone checked that park Regina built in the middle of nowhere in ‘Desperate Souls’?). I joke only because I don’t envy Parilla for the role she’s been given these last few episodes. Early on she got to be campy, over the top and hissy, but the role was still enjoyable in a guilty pleasure kind of way.
Lately though, Regina’s role is to storm in, say something completely inappropriate that would likely get her sued for slander and then slink back into the shadows. While I still think Parilla is selling it as much as she can, when she has to continually utter ludicrous dialogue, it doesn’t make her a better villain so much as a harpy shrew beast. Take her one and only scene tonight, when she questions Emma’s skills, arguing that Emma should be respectful of David’s rights while simultaneously suggesting that he is responsible for Kathyrn’s disappearance, then accusing Emma of not being out combing the woods. It’s a muddled, confusingly awkward scene that literally comes out of nowhere and barely makes any sense. It feels as though the only reason she’s brought in as David’s emergency contact is so that there is an excuse to have her in this scene. Is it written in Parilla’s contract that she has to appear in one scene each episode, because if this is the by-product, she’s the one who needs to speak with a lawyer.
So what else happens in this episode? The FairyTale portions cover the early days of Red and Snow’s relationship, when Snow is hiding from the Evil Queen, but before she has met Faux-Charming. I like how much more naive and simple Snow is in these scenes, as her actions (and the line about likely not finding love) help to clarify the timeline. These scenes also hint that Red and Granny (Beverley Elliott) are the ones who teach Snow to hunt, track and use a crossbow. (Side Note: Even though Elliot clearly isn’t as old as her character, it’s still awesome to see Granny handle a giant crossbow and be semi-badass). Granny’s prominent role here does beg the question of what happens to her since it’s suggested in both ‘7:15 AM’ and ‘What Happened to Frederick’ that Red lives alone, but that’s a question for another day.
- Is transforming into a wolf a metaphor for menstruation? Red began changing when she turned 13 and it lasts for several days a month? I think I saw this story when its name was Ginger Snaps.
- While I enjoyed the vast majority of the episode, Ruby’s return to the diner after her experiences in the Sheriff’s department was boring and disappointing. It is clear the moment Granny suggests she wants Ruby to learn the books that she’s grooming the girl to take on more responsibility at the diner, so the reveal is redundant in the end. Having Ruby stay on with Emma would have A) given the character something more to do than sling food and chat up August (Eion Bailey) and B) would have made more sense than have Emma run an entire Sheriff’s station herself. At least we discover that the non-911 calls go to an answering machine. That kinda/sorta explains things a little bit, though it’s still laughably improbably that Emma wouldn’t have at least one other person working there.
- Speaking of laughter, I suppress giggles each time we’re reminded that Emma’s ‘superpower’ is the ability to tell when someone is lying. Note to writers: you can have characters repeat this time and time again, but until she catches Regina or Gold in one of the million lies they tell her, I’m not going to believe it.
- So nice to see Dr. Whale (David Anders) again. By which I mean, thanks for stopping by for that one scene. Should we just assume he’s spending all of this time looking after Belle (Emilie DeRavin) down in that weird psych ward?
- Henry (Jared Gilmore) hides the returned book at Emma’s office under lock and key. Is this more amusing than Emma’s annoying proclivity for still calling him ‘kid’? Does his being at the station mean that Regina has lifted her embargo against allowing Emma to spend significant amounts of time with him?
- Let’s talk about the box with the heart in it. This just reiterates how terrible an investigator Emma is: just because you find a heart in the woods and only have one missing person does not mean they are connected. It’s a big leap to suggest that Kathyrn is dead – since she clearly isn’t or else they wouldn’t have introduced the ‘gym teacher’ in ‘Whatever Happened to Frederick’. We’ve entered what I call Colombo territory where the audience knows more than the characters do. The problem is that this doesn’t exactly translate into gripping television since we know that the box is from Regina’s collection, so now we’re just waiting for Emma and the others to clue in.
- Emma indicates that they sent the heart off for testing. Does that mean mail can get out of Storybrooke, just not humans? If so, how does it get picked up? Emma herself clarifies in this very episode that there’s no bus out of town!
What did you think of ‘Red-Handed’ Oncers? Is you appetite whetted for a possible trial in which Mary Margaret has to defend her innocence in court? Do you think Regina or Gold is behind the heart in a box? And do you wish that the costume department would lay off the knit caps for the Once actresses (in this episode alone Ruby, Mary Margaret and Emma all wore one while the men wore none)? Sound off below!
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8pm EST on ABC