Remember that childhood saying, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”? Yeah if we went by that rule this recap would be over in a few sentences. I started to get into this issue last week by noting that Snow & Charming are kind of the glue in this show and they give us a reason to be invested in both worlds. After all, Emma has no ties to the Fairytale Realms other than her parents so finding a reason to break the curse stems more from them. And while these back stories can be interesting (though they aren’t always), I need more. The Cinderella episode was one of the better side stories the show has done because Cinderella & Thomas actually featured into Snow & Charming’s life. Rather than a related thread, they were part of the story’s tapestry. Now however, it’s become a series of different fairytales just to excuse stunt casting. I may be spoiled by other shows, hell I am spoiled, but that doesn’t do it for me. I need Once to start living up to its potential and giving me a good story. It has some of the best writers in the business. Show us.
That said, the casting of Emma Caulfield as the blind witch was inspired. I wouldn’t go so far as to say she was unrecognizable but damn if she wasn’t impressive as hell. But that inspired casting brings up another problem. Not all of the supporting characters have been as strong and I’d like to see the show change things up a bit, allowing for loopholes to keep characters around. The Vampire Diaries has actually become incredibly good at this, keeping characters that were supposed to be out after a couple episodes around for half a season. Once Upon a Time would do well to consider the concept.
Henry is reading a Hulk comic in the store when Young!Olivia, I mean Ava, comes up and says hello. She’s visiting with Henry when her brother Young!Peter, err, Nicholas, walks up. Ava & Nicholas walk away soon after, asking Henry if he wants to hang out. Henry follows them towards the exit only to be stopped by the store owner. Turns out the owner knows they were stealing and pulls candy out of Henry’s bag. SUBTLE. This is my first major issue because if the owner saw the stealing, he should know that Henry didn’t do it. Especially since he knows who Henry is. Anyway, he asks who Ava & Nicholas are and we flash to…
The kids father, who is chopping down a tree. His first lines are really important so ya’ll pay close attention. He tells us that the wood from a tree can be burned in a fireplace to keep you warm. THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION. Who knew that fucking wood worked like that? I’m so annoyed at this line that I can’t even come up with a decent joke. Ava/Gretel wants to help out and is told to get some kindling. Dad also tells Gretel to make her brother help who is running around spinning a string like he rides a shorter bus than most. Once they have 3 sticks, they use the compass to find their way home (we call that advanced breadcrumbs), who is no longer there. Hearing a struggle, Hansel & Gretel run to the road where they are stopped by the Queen’s knights. The Queen herself is in a carriage and demands to know what they are doing in her forest. I really wish the show would acknowledge that we’re smart enough to know she saw them in her mirror and already has a plan so we can stop getting treated like idiots. Is that really so much to ask?
Regina is brought in to get Henry. She notes quickly that Henry doesn’t steal or eat candy because she pays no attention to him whatsoever. Emma shows up because she was called as the sheriff. I won’t even dignify the bullshit between her and Regina anymore. The number the kids gave for their parents was disconnected & Ava!Gretel excuses it by saying their parents are poor and that they’re just trying to help out. Hansel stands next to her, a few figs short of a fruitcake. Emma believes Ava!Gretel’s story and looks sorrowfully at the kids.
Gretel!Ava is pulling a similar sob story on the queen. The Queen doesn’t buy it. Gretel!Ava tells Hansel to run, which he does after hesitating for a minute. Seriously, the lightbulbs are not all the way on. But apparently the Queen can apparate and she stops them. The kids run another way but Queenie uses magic to make tree roots crawl along the ground and take out the kids. I won’t lie, that was pretty fucking creepy. While Gretel!Ava was a badass with a slingshot, she can’t fight magic roots. Though if someone can explain to me how the CGI looked better when the roots were moving than around the kids, I would love that. Queenie sees potential (in Gretel!Ava) at least and says she’ll help them find their dad if they do something for her.
Emma pulls up in front of a simple home that Ava!Gretel directed them to. Emma informs them that her superpower is being able to tell when someone is lying and then supposedly ignores it by believing Ava!Gretel’s story about their parents being embarrassed if Emma came to the door with them. Emma drives away and the kids run around to the back of the house to go through a secret door where they live in the basement. They hear a noise and go upstairs to investigate through a trap door only to find Emma there, demanding to know where their parents are.
Emma brings the kids back to her & Mary Margaret’s apartment to feed them. Mary Margaret barely recognizes the kids from school (which seems fair if they aren’t in her class) but doesn’t know much about their story. (Dad’s missing & mom died). She asks if Emma has talked to Social Services. Awesome. So people can’t get a clue in Storybrooke but Social Services exists. It really is a cursed town. Anyway, Emma hates that idea because of her experience in the foster care system. Emma wants to find their father, thinking he may not know they exist, but that if he does, he would want to help. Mary Margaret is sympathetic but you can tell she thinks Emma is over-invested. Ava!Gretel overhears and asks to please not let them be separated. Nick!Hansel still hasn’t picked up on this since he doesn’t have an oar in the water. Emma, while looking for information, finds out that any information on the kids has been pulled by the mayor who has called social services. She found a boys home & a girls home in Boston for the kids and tells Emma to take them there tonight.
Gretel!Ava explains the purpose of her compass to the Queen as they approach the home of the Blind Witch. Hansel!Nick says that doesn’t sound good. He’s so perceptive. It would seem that the witch has something in a satchel that the Queen needs to defeat a very powerful enemy. The house’s magic keeps adults out but it allows kids in. If they get the satchel, the Queen will help them find their father. She warns them that they must not eat anything. Who wants to bet Hansel!Nick forgets that in about 3.2 seconds?
Emma is still trying to find the dad & Henry explains that in the story at least, they could be Hansel & Gretel. Henry notes that the dad is definitely around somewhere because no one leaves or comes to Storybrooke. It’s obviously part of the curse that he doesn’t remember. Henry notes that Emma is the first stranger to ever show up in Storybrooke so Emma insists that she’ll find him. Henry uses this opening to ask about his dad. Emma says she worked at a diner & that Henry’s dad worked as a fireman and always wanted pumpkin pie. They “hung out” (somebody’s getting hooked up!) and then Emma’s life went to shit. She found out she was pregnant just before going to jail & when she tried to get in touch with the dad, she found out that he died saving someone from a fire. I’m really not sure if Emma is lying to Henry at this point or if someone lied to Emma. I’m betting on the former. Henry asks if Emma has anything of his dad’s and she sort of surprisingly realizes she doesn’t but does get a clue. Too bad she can’t share it with Nick!Hansel.
The kids are eating cookies and milk when Emma comes downstairs with her baby blanket, the only thing she held onto from her parents. She asks if they held onto anything of their dad’s that might be a clue. Ava!Gretel has the compass. Emma promises she’ll find their dad.
The kids sneak into the witch’s house which is decorated more like a store than just with a lot of candy. They slip through a window and Hansel!Nick won’t stop asking questions. Gretel!Ava is like dude, shut the fuck up so we can get the job done and get out. Hansel!Nick doesn’t even take seconds to remind us that he’s a few peas short of a pot pie by eating a cupcake. This wakes up the witch who traps the kids. Emma is fucking terrifying as the blind witch. Like damn.
Emma goes to see Mr. Gold for information about the compass. Gold gushes over the compass for a minute and notes that he keeps track of who he sells or buys things from. He pulls out a card and says his price is forgiveness. Emma compromises with tolerance. Gold agrees and tells her Michael Tucker is the guy’s name. She leaves and we see that nothing was written on the card. Dun, dun dun.
Michael is a mechanic & says he and Dorie hooked up only once and it’s not possible that he has kids. Emma gets on his case about stepping up (like lay off Emma. You don’t even have a paternity test and you’re trying to change the guy’s life. Have a little grace.) and he says he can’t handle kids even if they were here. She shows him the compass which starts to convince him. He notes that its easier to stay in town, ala Emma, then take them in. Emma says she doesn’t have a choice regarding Henry, being in town is all she gets. Michael says he’s sorry but he’s not the guy she’s looking for. I bet that totally stays the same through the end of the episode. Emma has sad!face.
Mary Margaret goes outside to talk to Emma and says that while the truth can be painful, it can also be cathartic. Emma says that she lied to Henry about his dad, he’s just a scumbag that Henry doesn’t need to know. Mary Margaret tries to tell Emma that they can’t hide the kids and that maybe there isn’t an alternative. Regina shows up to make sure Emma follows through on her duties.
The witch has locked up the kids in a cage and is super happy that they are tender. She asks in a completely fucked up manner if they prefer butter or gravy and Gretel!Ava explains to Hansel!Nick that he can put up a fight and then will grab the key and toss it to Gretel!Ava to let her out. Hansel!Nick, not quite having enough twists for a full slinky, can’t handle this so Gretel!Ava holds her breath and let’s the witch grab her, thinking she’s the boy. After grabbing and tossing the key to Hansel!Nick, who can at least catch, he lets himself out and runs to find a weapon. But since he’s a couple threads short of a sweater, he trips and cries out, alerting the witch to the problem who starts yelling “gravy or butter! Gravy or butter?! How shall I baste you?” (She chooses butter by the way). They fight the witch and shove her in the oven instead. The Queen sends a bolt of fire through her mirror to finish roasting the witch and says she would’ve chosen gravy. I wish they would decide how powerful the Queen is going to be. If she can send fire through a mirror and apparate, you’d think she could beat a witch’s spell.
The queen is hanging out in yet another fierce outfit when the kids return. Gretel!Ava has major attitude with the Queen whose breasts are a thing to behold in her dress. I mean damn ya’ll. Turns out an apple was in the satchel, which tells us that our parents lied. Fruits are not good for you. The Queen admires Gretel!Ava’s attitude but says they deserve better than a father who would abandon them. She says that since they’re the first pair of kids that made it out of the house, despite the dozens she sent in, they can stay with her, promising that all their dreams can come true. Hansel!Nick is thinking it over but Gretel!Ava uses her brain and insists that they won’t stay and that they’ll find their father and prove the Queen wrong. So she uses magic to swoop them away.
Emma dejectedly loads the kids into the car and Henry insists that they can’t leave Storybrooke or something bad will happen. Don’t worry Henry, their lives are already pretty much shit.
As they drive towards the edge of Storybrooke, Emma’s car starts to shake and then stalls on the road. So she calls for help.
The Queen sees Snow in the mirror and notes that she’s made friends with dwarves. The woodcutter dad is brought before the Queen and she demands to know why the kids refused her offer for uncertainty and a mere promise of family. He says it’s because they’re family and family always finds each other. The Queen seems rather motional about this but says she’ll release him and they can be a family. If they can find each other. Gretel!Ava and Hansel!Nick wake up and after looking at the compass, go in search of their father through the forest.
Emma is waiting outside the car when the kids see the compass start to move. Emma called Michael, seeing as he had a tow truck. He’s a little more intelligent now and knows those are his kids. Emma insists that she was scared too but that Michael needed to see his kids at least once. That once she knew him, once she saw Henry, she couldn’t go back. (Does the guy who plays Michael remind anyone else of Adam Baldwin?) Michael says the kids won’t be going to Boston and goes to talk to his kids.
Back at the apartment, which I still desperately want, Emma lays on Mary Margaret’s bed as she does laundry. Mary Margaret is quite happy for the kids. Emma wonders if she should let go of her own search and Mary Margaret notes that she shouldn’t stop looking, saying maybe there’s another explanation then they just don’t want to be found. Emma insists it would have to be something crazier than Henry’s theory. Then Emma tells Mary Margaret that supposedly she (or Snow White rather) is her mother. Mary Margaret thinks she’d remember having a kid and then jokes that Emma has her chin. Emma says she needs some fresh air and heads out.
In my other favorite moment of the episode, Mary Margaret sees the baby blanket and holds it for a moment, finding a connection somehow but shaking her head like the whole thing is silly.
While going through files in her car, Henry shows up with pumpkin pie. Emma attempts to be honest but can’t quite do it. Henry comments that she is changing things and just then a stranger on a motorcycle rides into town. His license plate number is 23 so naturally I want to know if it’s Nathan Scott. It is not. Sadly. The hot stranger asks if they know where he might find a room and they direct him to Granny’s. Emma says she didn’t catch his name and he says he didn’t give it. Henry reiterates the oddness of this event since strangers don’t come to Storybrooke.
So obviously I went over most of my issues in the intro. The last 5 minutes of the episode barely redeemed it for me but I’m going to need more. Next week is supposed to be a heavy Snow/Charming episode so that should help. I was thrilled at the inclusion of two Buffy alums in tonight’s episode. The stranger, played by Eion Bailey, was the leader of The Pack in S1. We’ll see if he still has animalistic tendencies. For now, I’ll take a new dose of rough around the edges hotness. And I know I’m moving past Graham awfully quickly (I’m really not) but Emma & the Stranger had a lot more chemistry than she & Graham ever did.
Thoughts? Comments? If you don’t leave one I might have to baste you with butter and roast you in an oven. *insert evil laugh* And are you, like me, tired of the show assuming we’re all foam and no beer and don’t see what’s missing?