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Once Upon a Time: True North

Written by Tricia Long on Tuesday, January 17 2012 and posted in Reviews

Children might be tasty, but it's easier just to love them.

Alright, folks: it's the Hansel and Gretel episode. I'm not super excited, but there's been such a plethora of German and Western folklore to date that, well, I'm craving some variety. Can we get a Greek god up in here? Or maybe some Chinese folklore? You said it's all the stories we've ever known, ABC, and I know that Walt Disney was racist but this is the 21st century: diversify.

Anyway, that's my rant. We open with Henry, who is looking at Hulk comics - because if there's one thing this show needs, it's a reminder that there are other stories you could be referencing. He meets a blonde girl and I smell a pre-teen romance. She asks him to hang out with her and her brother, but it was a ruse to steal candy and toothpaste... with Henry as the patsy. While Regina is overly harsh to the "miscreants", Emma actually takes her sheriff's duties seriously. She ascertains that the kids, Ava and Nicholas, are on their own through the use of her ability to tell when people are lying. If she actually did have that power, she would know that Henry is serious about the fairy tale thing and Regina is always lying. She takes them to Mary Margaret's house for the time being.

Meanwhile, in the past/fairy tale world, Hansel and Gretel are in the woods with their father (Nicholas Lea) getting firewood. He sends them off to get kindling, but gives them the family compass so they can always find him. When it gets dark, they go back to find him in the clearing he isn't there. They hear a man's shout and run to the road, where they are accosted by Regina – who is a Victorian stylist's worst nightmare. The kids attempt to get away from her by using their Slingshot of Invulnerability (How else would it incapacitate a full-grown, fully-trained guard?) and running into the forest. She apparates and sends some CGI vines after them. This show needs a bigger budget; it's a major hit on a major network. Get some better special effects.

She tells the kids she admires them, and offers to find their father if they fetch a black satchel from the real gingerbread house and the blind witch therein. She warns them not to eat anything, which of course Hansel does as soon as he sees a big cupcake. To be fair, they probably hadn't eaten all day, but still isn't that just like a man? The witch wakes up and immediately imprisons them so she can have a tasty dinner. Ew.

In the real world, Emma learns that Ava and Nicholas' father is still alive but unknown. Their mother died a short time ago and they had no one to turn to. This requires a bigger suspension of disbelief than most storylines, but Emma clearly has left her brain on hold because she was in their situation when she was young. She knows they can't end up in the system because they won't be loved, so being the law-abiding sheriff we know her to be... she tries to get their birth records and finds that the Mayor already has them. One near-catfight later, she has hit a dead-end. Henry visits her at the police station to ask about his own father – a question I've been wondering about myself – and she feeds him some story about a fireman who died saving a bunch of people. We learn later that it's total bull, but the truth is too shameful to tell Henry. That wont' come back to bite her on the butt at all.

Anyway, she asks the kids if they have anything from their father. She kept her baby blanket, which looks incredibly soft and clean for something that went through so many foster homes, and Ava pulls out the same compass that Gretel's father gave her. Emma takes the compass to Mr. Gold, who of course recognizes it and gives her a name: Michael Turner. He plays it like he had to look it up, but the card he looked at was blank. What game is R-stilts playing? Has he grown bored of being wealthy and terrifying? Or is his rabble-rousing tendency (see: Desperate Souls) coming home to roost?

Emma finds Turner at his garage, where he denies that the kids could be his. She shows him the compass, which he does recognize, and realizes they must be his. He gets the whole speech about responsibility and how no one is ready for kids but they have to do the right thing by them. Given that this is Once Upon a Time though, he refuses the responsibility at this juncture. Emma had promised Ava and Nicholas that she would get their dad back for them, so she has to eat her words and prepare to take them to Boston to enter the foster system there.

Meanwhile, Hansel and Gretel are imprisoned in the blind witch's house. Gretel quickly devises a plan to save them and Hansel continues to be a dead weight. Long story short, they get the witch into the oven, grab the satchel and run for it. The queen, who was spying on first Snow White ("She's hanging out with dwarves? When did that happen?" Best line of this episode.) and then the children, sends a fireball to cook the blind witch. When they arrive at her castle, she offers to be their mother. They refuse, prompting her to cast a spell on them (of forgetfulness) and question the father for a reason why they would refuse riches and comfort. His answer: family. She's seriously pained by this answer, so I'm guessing the big secret of why she hates Snow is that Snow killed her kids? Or husband? Or something to do with parenting?

Things don't end happily for Hansel and Gretel, but Ava and Nicholas's story seems to end hopefully. When Emma tries to head to Boston with the kids, her car breaks down at the city limit- just as Henry predicted it would. She calls for a tow, which naturally means that Michael Turner shows up and has an epiphany: he should save his kids. I doubt his garage is making much money, so hopefully Storybrooke has a good welfare system.

Emma and Henry celebrate with a piece of pumpkin pie (Henry's made-up dad's favorite) when a strange biker dude comes to town. What's in the suitcase he's got strapped to his hog? Why are his eyes so piercingly blue? Why do the showrunners think he's an adequate substitute for Graham's masculine beauty? Most importantly, what story is he?

Tune in next week to find out how Mary Margaret and David are doing! Remember them? They're a plot line!

Written or Contributed by: Tricia Long

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