Ok, folks. I finally got around to watching the newest episode of Once Upon a Time, "Red-Handed," and BOY was I impressed. (Gloat all you want, OUAT believers!). There was none of this jelly-fish dress fairies and dwarves hatching from eggs. There was not one Disney reference in the entire episode! It was dark, and the plot was twisting, and it had parallels without hitting you over the head with it, and the acting was stellar!
The trailer is not really promising, but you shall see anon how actually it was a really awesome episode!
BEWARE: SPOILERS AHEAD!
This week we got the story of Little Red/ Ruby and her crossbow-toting grandmother. And hey. They can act. Who knew? Their parts have been so dinky so far that I wrote them off, but they pack a wallop this episode. In fairy tale land, a large wolf is killing folks under the wolf moon. Granny's fortress of a house would make Buffy proud; she barricades herself and Red in every night, even going so far as to portcullis the fireplace (wolves have used that before, as the Three Little Pigs know well). Red meets Snow White, and we have a lovely little "Oh, they are Snow White and Rose Red!" moment, thought I am not certain that is what the writers were thinking. It was Jane Espenson, though and she is fucking clever.
Meanwhile, in the real world, Red has a fight with Granny, who is trying to give Red more responsibility at the diner, and so Red quits. She plans to leave town, and good ol' Jane dangles the possibly of Dr. Whale as the wolf as he harasses her at the bus stop (to which no bus ever comes in Storybrooke). I squealed with glee at this, as I had alas been spoiled on the ending, and knew who the wolf was, so it was a delight to watch the writers toy with the viewers. It got me thinking that maybe that is what they have been doing this whole time; they have been having so much fun playing the long game (leaving clues and red herrings, giggling to themselves and saying "Wait til they get to THIS part") that they forget to make individual episodes make sense in the world, or at least make them interesting in a short-term entertainment sense. My girl Jane, however, gets the balance exactly right.
Anyhoo, Snow invites Red to stay with her and Emma for a bit, in their fairy tale girl commune, until she figures things out, and Emma offers her a job as Sheriff's Assistant. Red learns she is capable of more than she thinks she is, learns a lesson, and oh by the way finds a human heart in a box by the Troll Bridge! WHAT? And with David walking around and acting weird and not remembering it, he is suspect #1, and actually really pulls off some stellar guilt and grief acting when he is told he could have unknowingly killed his wife, cut out her heart and put it in a box. But wait, there's more!
In an equally twisty plot, Snow and Red think that Red's boyfriend is the wolf, and he volunteers to be tied up. Red, in an act of love, vows to stay with him all night. So sweet. What is heart-breaking is that Red is the wolf, and boyfriend becomes puppychow. Very gruesome puppy chow. I definitely saw a detached foot in there. When Granny shoots her with a silver tipped arrow (hehe), and puts the protective red cape on her (yes, there actually is precedent for red being a protective color against the supernatural), does she turn back to herself, see what she had done, and understandably flip the fuck out. Again some fantastic acting from Red as she is at sea with incomprehension, wooziness, grief, terror and guilt. This sweet, innocent girl now has some serious baggage to lug around.
The final twist is in the real world, when we discover...dun dun dun....the fingerprints on the inside of the heart box were Mary Margaret's! Who saw that coming? Me, because I saw pics from next episode, which looks like it is going to be just as dark and tasty.
All in all a great episode! Just how I like my fairy tales: dark, bloody, women coming into their own, symbolic parallels, plot twists, and great writing. Lemurs. Watch it and you'll know what I'm talking about.
Review from Io9: The Twisted Tale of Once Upon a Time's Big Bad Wolf (even she found little to wittily shred!)
Review from Tor.com: Show Me What You've Got
Next time on Once Upon a Time, "Heart of Darkness", or Snow White gets Dark!: