Once Upon A Time: Red-Handed

In this week’s episode, “Red-Handed”, it was finally Ruby’s time to shine as Once Upon A Time explored her past as Red Riding Hood. Ruby hasn’t made much of an impression on me so far, but I’ve been eagerly awaiting her backstory. I was curious to see how the writers would twist the tale. They’ve already taken creative liberties by changing Red Riding Hood from a little girl into a fully-grown vixen!

In this version of the tale, Red Riding Hood lives with her grandmother in a modest cottage in the woods. She’s fallen head over heels for local hunter Peter (of ‘and the wolf’ fame?) but overprotective and obsessive Granny constantly thwarts the two lovebirds. Romance is a silly and trivial distraction in a world where a where a vicious wolf is on the loose!!! Every month during ‘wolfs time’ a beast prowls the woods at night, chomping down on livestock and any villagers who cross his path. Everyone fears the wolf, but nobody is more neurotic than Granny. She keeps her frustrated granddaughter locked in the cottage, while guarding the front door with a rifle.

One morning, while collecting eggs, Red finds Snow White huddled in the chicken coop, taking refuge from the cold. She invites her to stay at the cottage and opens up about her sheltered life.

I never realized what a knockout Ruby is because she looks so trashy with her caked on makeup and that ridiculous red streak in her hair. But she is so classically beautiful in her fairytale get-up. With her standing next to Snow White, I’d be tempted to issue a challenge on who’s really the ‘fairest in the land’!

Snow White encourages Ruby to pursue her relationship with Peter and not let her grandmother’s paranoia become her own. But somehow Ruby listens to that practical advice and hears ‘I should track down an insanely powerful, vicious creature and attempt to kill it on my own!’. No … just no, no, no, no, no! Ruby is convinced that if the wolf is finally slain, she’ll be free to life her own life.

Snow White reluctantly followed her on the insane mission. And I can’t stress this enough: it is a stupid, stupid idea! These silly girls are trudging around the forest in full corsets! Thankfully they don’t manage to find the wolf, but they do make a horrifying discovery. They follow a set of wolf tracks, which transform into human footprints … and form a path right back to Granny’s cottage and straight up to the window.

This is obviously no ordinary wolf. It’s obviously of the ‘were’ variety, although no one actually uses the word werewolf. But who is it? It has to be someone who was at the cottage recently. Red and Snow decide its Peter, but that the poor boy must not realize he’s a killer. They devise a plan for Red to reveal the ugly truth and get him safely chained up so he can’t hurt anyone.

I was sure the wolf was actually Granny. She is SO insistent that no one should ever face the wolf. She rants and raves to the townspeople that it’s futile to hunt the beast and they should all just hide until ‘wolf’s time’ is finished. Maybe her real reason for scaring everyone away was to save her own skin … er … fur! Plus, wouldn’t that be a really cool twist on the fairytale if the Big Bad Wolf and the helpless old Granny are the same person? It would be the Enchanted Forest’s very own Fight Club.

But I was wrong and delightfully surprised by the reveal! Granny catches Snow sleeping in Red’s bed and wrangles the truth out of her. Red has gone to confront Peter about his wolfy ways. Granny is horrified and rushes off to avert a tragedy. But it’s not her intrepid granddaughter she’s worried about – it’s the boy she’s just tied to a tree. Because Red has just transformed into a snarling four-legged creature … and it’s dinnertime.

Granny and Snow arrive too late. Peter is in pieces and the wolf is gleefully snacking on him. Wow, that is some dark stuff, Once Upon a Time! You just made a girl eat her own boyfriend! And not just drain his blood vampire style, which is tragic and romantic in a Victorian sort of way – and all the rage these days anyway. She tore him up into bite-sized pieces and devoured him cannibal style. Man would I love to see THAT therapy session!

Poor Red is a victim of a generational curse – one that Granny herself suffered from years ago. Once a month she transforms into a beast, with no memory of her horrific night prowling. Granny couldn’t bring herself to tell poor clueless Red about her true nature. But this whole bloodbath could have been avoided if Red had listened to her Granny’s constant nagging and worn her red hood at all times, because it turns out that her cute little cloak is more than just a demure fashion statement. It’s a bewitched object that keeps her from changing. Red never heeded Granny’s advice and took the cloak off too often. She would somehow escape from the cottage, become the wolf, and terrorize the village. Gee … maybe if Granny had given her an actual reason to wear the hood, like say, ’Wear this hood or you will start eating people,’ Red might have taken it more seriously! Or if Granny insisted on perpetrating the ruse, the least she could have done was stapled the damn hood to her head or something.

There are several interesting things about this icky and intriguing story that I feel the need to point out:

  1. I am far too dense to have picked this up, but I’ve read several viewer comments about the parallels between female menstruation and ‘wolf’s time’. One time a month where an otherwise normal female turns all rage-y and attacks everyone she sees? Sounds like PMS to me! Also Granny mentioned that she ‘outgrew’ the curse and no longer becomes a wolf. Did menopause wipe the wolfy right out of her?
  1. Happily ever after my ASS! Isn’t the premise of this show that fairly tale characters were stripped of their happy endings and banished to a bleak world where such things don’t exist? In what universe does chomping down on your honey and living with the knowledge that you’re a killer canine qualify as a happy ending?!? Why would anyone want to go back to that? I’m sure there’s more to the story but that’s pretty hard to come back from. Don’t get me wrong, I actually LOVE the fact that the writers are messing with fairytales and creating these twisted, complex stories for our favourite characters … but it’s starting to feel like most of these people are FAR better off in Storybrooke than they ever were in the Enchanted Forest. In fact, the only people legitimately screwed over by the curse are Snow White and Prince Charming.

In this week’s Storybrooke storyline, Ruby gets super pissed at her Granny’s meddling ways and quits the diner/inn. She toys with leaving town but Emma takes pity on her and gives her a job working at the Sheriff’s station. At first she’s just working the phones and fetching lunches, but Henry convinces Emma to give Ruby a real shot in the field. Together they track down David, who has been reportedly wandering around the forest in a daze. Ruby uses her dormant wolf senses to sniff him out from a distance that stuns Emma. They find him lying unconscious and a hospital exam reveals that he’s been losing time and sleepwalking.

David can’t explain the phone call that he supposedly made to Katherine on the night she disappeared and he’s terrified that he might actually have done something to her while he was completely out of it. The very first time David took a dazed nighttime walk was when he first emerged from his coma. Emma sends Ruby on an urgent drive to the bridge where he was found that night. She wants to know if there is any evidence that he’s been there recently; anything that might clear him OR lead them to Katherine.

Poor Ruby has a deeply ingrained inferiority complex and she keeps downplaying her own abilities, swearing over and over that she’s just going to screw things up. But when she arrives, she finds a wooden board on the sand that is covering something freshly buried. She starts digging uncovers a beautifully carved wooden box. But what she finds inside is not so pretty. A human heart!

Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest a certain red lipstick lovin’ mayor might be involved. I can’t think of anyone else in town with an affinity for human organs. But Regina’s nasty collection is a well-kept secret, which leaves Emma reeling from the discovery and horrified about what the box might reveal. She finds fingerprints inside the lid and runs them through the system. She glumly visits David and Mary Margaret (who is being very supportive and protective of him as he falls under suspicion) to tell them some very disturbing news. Emma tells them about finding the human heart and surmises that since there aren’t any other missing people, it’s most likely Katherine’s. And then she delivers the sucker punch about finding a finger print match. I fully expected to see a grieving David hauled off in cuffs, but I have to give Once Upon A Time well deserved props throwing me a curve ball I should have seen coming. The fingerprints belonged to Mary Margaret! Oh. My. God. The Evil Queen is seriously the biggest bitch in the universe.

What really cracked me up though was that I was watching the episode with my mother, who naturally was completely shocked … and then got all huffy. “Mary Margaret would never do a thing like that!!!” Well of course not, but … he he he.

This was such a great episode and for once the Fairytale story and the Storybrooke story were equally strong. Red Riding Hood’s tale, although gruesome, was such a clever exciting twist on a classic. And instead of solely focusing on Ruby and her self-esteem issues in Storybrooke, the writers gave us some low-key character development while keeping us enthralled with a thrilling mystery than ended with a huge bang.

It’s definitely a game-changer for the show and I’d say it’s about time! I really hope they follow through with this and drag Mary Margaret’s struggle out a bit. I’d hate to see it resolved in one episode with an ‘oh it turns out she didn’t do it’ plotline. We know she didn’t do it. Now let’s keep her dangling on the hook and watch her flail around for a while. That makes for good TV!

Photo Courtesy of ABC

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