Werewolves and periods. This isn't your mother's fairy tale show.
**Warning: As always, there are spoilers ahead folks.**
This week on Once Upon A Time, we get to the woman behind the mini-skirt. That's right, "Red-Handed" not only deals with the ongoing investigation into Kathryn's disappearance, but also with Little Red Riding Hood's own backstory. And, I'm not gonna lie, it was pretty good. Let's dive in!
**This episode is rated L for "lack of R-stilts"**
In the fairy tale world, a young blacksmith named Peter is at the window of Red Riding Hood (Meghan Ory). They're in love and plan to run away together, but can't do so while an evil wolf is on the prowl killing people. Red is called away from the window by Granny, who wants her to help make the house into a fortress. Before they can completely shut themselves in for the night, a hunting party appears at the door. Men from the village (in addition to checking out Red) have stopped by to let Granny know they're going wolf hunting. Red notices they aren't wearing red, which of course is what you wear to protect yourself from the wolf. Granny says this is because they are "damn fools", which I can't really argue with. If you already believe in a supernatural wolf, you might as well go whole hog and believe all the protection stories too.
Granny is the final line of defense in the house, sitting down with her crossbow facing the door. I have to mention this because it is the single most badass thing to happen in this Archie-less second half of the season. If ever a show needed a strong female character, it is Once Upon a Time; and it has found that strong central figure in Granny. My problem is that she is old, already beyond the reaches of sexualization which still clutches the rest of the female cast, and I wonder if that's why she's allowed to be strong. I know many of you don't read this review for my gender theory ideas, but I just think it's something to consider. I wish all the women could be as badass as Granny – Kathryn took some steps in that direction before she disappeared and Red has some fight in her. Mostly I just wish Mary Margaret would nut up. More on that later.
In Storybrooke, we see our own familiar Ruby. She's chatting with August W. Booth, the writer whose name must be written out, about all the douchebag things he's done abroad. Small-town life isn't doing it for her, but I doubt she has enough money for a trip to Tibet to see the lemurs. Maybe go to Madagascar? It's closer and that's where lemurs usually come from due to the lack of natural predators. Ruby's desire for freedom leads her to fight with Granny and quit her job at the diner. Boyfriends everywhere are devastated by the loss of her miniskirt.
Meanwhile, Emma is interviewing David at the station. He still doesn't know how the phone records show that he called Kathryn and thanks to her spidey-sense Emma knows he isn't lying. Neither of them know how devious Regina has been in fixing those records. After David leaves, Mary Margaret and Emma walk home and discuss the case. Emma reminds Mary Margaret that she's no longer the town hero due to her affair and Kathryn's disappearance. Speaking of scarlet women, Dr. Whale is hitting on Ruby on a street corner. Ruby tells Mary Margaret and Emma about her plans to leave town (not well-formed plans, it should be noted) and Mary Margaret offers her a place to stay. I'm hoping for a spin-off: Mary Margaret's Home for Fairy Tale Women. They just need Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty to join them.
Speaking of Mary Margaret, did you ever wonder how she got that ridiculously long name? I do everytime I type it out. In the fairy tale world, we're about to find out. The next morning, Red goes out to the chicken coop and finds Snow hiding in there. Snow obviously cannot give Red her real name (remember, she's a fugitive now) so she says her name is Mary Margaret. She takes pity on her and offers her a home until she figures out where she's going (oh how the tables have been reversed in Storybrooke). Later at the well, they discover that the water is soaked with the blood of the hunting party, who lay dead nearby.
The death of the hunting party prompts a call to arms by the remaining townsfolk. Snow joins Red and Granny at the town meeting. The men seem to think the wolf can just be killed, which prompts Granny to tell the story of how the wolf killed all the men in her family before marking her with a hideous scar. My suspicions at this point lead me to believe that Granny is the werewolf, which is exactly what the writers want you to think. Spoiler: she isn't, but how badass would that have been?
Granny's act of badassery proves to be genetic. Back at the cottage, Red and Snow are discussing Red's plans to run off with Peter. Snow urges her to follow her heart, and Red's heart leads directly to killing the wolf. Her reasoning is that if the wolf is gone she will be free to leave with Peter and pursue a life together. I'm sure two women will have no trouble killing a wolf that cunningly murdered all of Red's great-uncles and most of the men of the town.
Snow and Red go for a walk in the woods and find bloody wolf prints. It should be noted that I'm surprised by Red's capability for tracking, as well as her single-mindedness. The problem is the wolf prints change to bootprints near the cottage, right up to Red's window. They assume Peter is the wolf, riffing on the old tale of Peter and the Wolf (where Peter captures the wolf and parades it in front of the town). I'm not convinced though, since he's the second character indicated to be the wolf and we're only halfway through the episode.
Red is understandably concerned for Peter since the men of the town are hunting for him tonight. Snow urges her to tell Peter that he is the wolf. Red goes to Peter without her distinctive cloak to tell him of his curse. She says they can go away now and they can tie him up during his transformations (yeah, I bet he wants you to tie him up, Red). Thankfully, he brought chains! I don't know why, maybe he just finished forging them? Red promises to stay with him through the night and it's kind of sweet and foreboding.
Red's plan unfolds when Granny discovers Snow wearing Red's signature hood. Snow tells her that Red is in no danger because they figured out that Peter was the wolf and he'll be chained up by now. Granny immediately leaves the room, and we cut to Peter being attacked by a wolf. Oh shit, you guys! Red is the wolf! And lycanthropy is a metaphor for getting your period. Follow me on this: Granny used to be a werewolf, too, but her wolf senses are now faded because she went through menopause. In all seriousness, this is the cleverest plotline yet. I legitimately did not guess it was Red, or even that this instance of lycanthropy was genetic, until this moment in the episode. Kudos, writers, you are forgiven all your sins... for now.
Granny explains that Red started transforming when she was 13, like her mother before her, and that she bought the cloak from a wizard to keep Red from transforming. Granny and Snow find a transformed Red devouring Peter's body. They throw the cloak on her and she changes back. This is the harshest way anyone could discover that they are a monster and I thought Meghan Ory did a good job portraying Red's pain. Up to this point she has been little more than eye candy and she handled the heavy lifting of this episode with passion and humor.
In Storybrooke, Mary Margaret drives out into the woods to search for Kathryn, probably because she feels responsible for this whole mess, and she runs into David. His eyes are red and he seems disoriented – all he can say is "I'm looking" and he doesn't seem to see Mary Margaret at all. This is kind of a twist on the werewolf motif, I'm confused because this seems to imply he's the "wolf" in some sense in this world. But that makes zero sense to me so I nip that theory right in the bud.
The focus shifts back to Ruby as she tries to figure out what her next job will be. Wave to Henry, who magically appears in this episode! (I can only hope it's because he's been filming episodes of Mad Men.) He is searching the internet for local jobs in Storybrooke's booming economy, but keeps recommending that she deliver stuff – usually with a little basket. Get it? Because she's Little Red Riding Hood? However, when she proves to be good at answering the phone, Emma makes her the police station secretary. As Ruby leaves to buy lunch, Mary Margaret arrives and voices her concern about David's odd behavior.
Henry leaves after locking the book of fairy tales up in a desk in the sheriff's office and telling Emma that Ruby is Little Red Riding Hood. Ruby shows up dejected, thanks to Granny's patronizing yet true comments at the diner. Emma asks her to ride along as she continues to search for any sign of Kathryn. In the woods, Ruby doubts their ability to find David until she magically finds that she can hear them. They find David asleep on the ground with no memory of anything since leaving Emma's office the previous night, which means he has the worst case of somnambulism ever. Ruby's sudden emergence of talent is more believable when you remember that Emma is supposed to undo the curse, which means that any latent abilities Ruby might have had in the fairy tale world would emerge here. Remember how good she is at tracking, guys?
Emma takes him to the hospital where he is examined by Dr. Whale, who thinks that David is suffering from the same types of blackouts that caused his memory loss after he woke up from the coma. If you were paying attention, you know that the blackouts came from David (James) fighting Regina's curse. Why would that fighting spirit come into play now? What was James looking for here in Storybrooke, a way back home?
David's guilt complex comes into play when Dr. Whale states that he could be pretty functional in his sleep-state – he immediately concludes that he could have hurt Kathryn. Emma protests that no one is thinking that (hint: we all totally are, except we know what happens when people try to leave Storybrooke) when Regina swoops in to rain her bitchiness on all assembled. You see, she's still David's emergency contact (how convenient). Regina essentially tells Emma to get back to searching for Kathryn and stop trying to pin this on David. She's really good at pretending to be on different sides. Side note: why does everyone let Regina be a bitch? All the men just smile unpleasantly. On the one hand it is super realistic; on the other, it is super unsatisfying.
Emma calls Ruby and tells her to go to the t(r)oll bridge to see if what David was looking for is there. Ruby protests, but Emma gets all girl-power and tells her she can do it. Ruby arrives at the bridge and follows her wolf-sense to a box buried in the river mud. I can't remember that box belonging to Kathryn, but Ruby is terrified when she opens it. I'm going to assume it's a heart, but whose heart? Not Kathryn's – maybe the evil Queen's? Ruby's brush with the macabre sends her running back to Granny's loving arms, even though this whole adventure has made her into a stronger character than ever before. She realizes she isn't cut out for the big bad world, but she might be okay running Granny's diner one day.
Meanwhile, Mary Margaret stops by the pet shelter to see David and talk about his somnambulism. Emma shows up to tell them about the box, which did indeed contain a human heart, and her suspicion that it belongs to Kathryn. There were fingerprints inside the box but they don't match David – they were Mary Margaret's. Oh shit, you guys, that's definitely the Queen's heart in there. Or maybe Snow White's? My theories have sub-theories at this point.
Next week: Mary Margaret is targeted for the investigation into Kathryn's murder and Snow White becomes an evil badass thanks to R-stilts! Yay! R-stilts!
Written or Contributed by: Tricia Long