We're back with a more traditional tale, in this week's exploration of Hansel (Quinn Lord), Gretel (Karley Scott Collins) and their Storybrooke identities, Nicholas and Ava Zimmer. But while the Enchanted Forest backstory is full of whimsical high camp, it is in Storybrooke, where this episode's strength lies.
Enchanted Forest: As in the traditional version, Hansel and Gretel are the Woodcutter's children, but there's no miserly mother trying to push them out of the picture, and their father both has a backbone and adores them. One day, while he's chopping down a tree, he sends the children to search for kindling. Before they head off, the Woodcutter gives Gretel his compass, so that she and Hansel will be able to find their way back to him.
The children soon encounter the Evil Queen and her goons (and Queenie is deliciously evil this week). She captures the kids, but promises she will find their father for them, after they do her bidding. She leads them to the house of the Blind Witch (Emma Caulfield) and tells them to sneak in, after dark, find a leather satchel, and bring it to her. She warns them that they must not eat anything while they're inside.
As they are breaking into the Blind Witch's gingerbread house, Hansel grabs a finger full of frosting, but Gretel, remembering Queenie's warning, smacks his wrist and tells him not to eat. The cottage is so filled with treats, I think I gained five pounds watching this scene. Gretel is focused. She goes right to the hearth and swipes the satchel. Hansel, being too dumb to live, swipes a cupcake. The moment he takes a bite, the witch awakens. Taking a deep breath, she rises. Between her and her fireplace are a pile of bones and skulls. Hansel and Gretel try to run out, but the door and windows magically lock. The witch sighs with delight. "I smell dinner."
Once she has the children locked in a cage, the witch prepares her oven. Gretel tells Hansel that when the witch takes him out of the cage, he should steal the cage key and toss it to her. Hansel wimps out, so since the witch is blind, Gretel takes his place. When she's out of the cage and on the way to the oven, she tosses Hansel the key. He lets himself out, and runs up the stairs to grab a staff off the landing, but trips on his way back down. The witch turns to him. "Gravy or butter? Gravy or BUTTER?" She throws Gretel to the floor near Hansel. "How shall I baste you?" Chilling -- at least until I start thinking, "Who bastes with gravy?"
Hansel gets to his feet and swings the staff at the witch, but she magics it out of his hand and back to its spot on the landing. The witch grabs Hansel and settles on butter. (Good, because again, who bastes with gravy?) Gretel follows them. The children manage to grab the witch, throw her into the oven, lock it, and run out of the house. They have no trouble unlocking the door, so it seems weird they didn't try to unlock it the first time. And hey, wait. The witch was able to magically lock her doors and windows, and magically take the staff from Hansel's hand and send it flying back up the stairs, but she can't magically open her oven lock? That makes little sense. She can either use her power on locks, or she can't. If you need her to be locked in an oven, then she can't use her power on locks and you need to come up with another way to trap the children in the house. If she can use her power on locks, then Queenie should have done what comes next, as soon as Hansel and Gretel shut in the witch. (I mean, the witch is blind, I can accept it might take her a moment to get out of the oven.)
Back in her castle, Queenie watches all this through a magic mirror. She throws a fireball at the mirror, it travels through it, into a mirror in the witch's house, and straight into the oven. The witch screams. Queenie smiles. "I would have gone with gravy." Great line delivery, but you make the gravy after the meat is cooked. Ugh. Okay. I'll let this go. (What? They couldn't have written drippings?)
The children bring the satchel to Queenie, at her castle. It contains a perfectly red apple. Hansel can't believe they went through all that for an apple. Queenie says, "This is not just an apple. It's a weapon -- a weapon for a very particular and devious enemy." She then tells them their father abandoned them, and invites them to live in the castle with her. Hansel, still too dumb to live, looks mighty tempted, but when Gretel tells the queen she knows their father wouldn't leave them and says they'd never want to live with someone as horrible as Queenie, even if he did, Hansel agrees with his sister. Queenie is outraged. She casts a spell that strands the children in the forest.
The Queen's men bring the Woodcutter to her. He wants his children. She wants answers. "I offered your children everything -- whatever their hearts desired, and they still chose uncertainty, because of their blind faith in you. Tell me why? Why would your children refuse me?" Her eyes are full of tears. The Woodcutter says, "Because we're a family and family always finds one another." She orders her guards to release him. The Woodcutter is surprised. Queenie's tears have been replaced with a sneer. "You can all be together -- as a family -- as soon as you can find one other." From the looks of it, as the camera zooms out, above the wandering children, that won't be any time too soon.
Storybrooke: Henry meets Ava and Nicholas Zimmer at the pharmacy. They are shoplifting and stash their goods in Henry's backpack (without his knowledge). Ava asks Henry if he wants to hang out with them. He's a bit taken with her and quickly agrees. Mr. Clarke (Sneezy) catches the trio on their way out the door, searches Henry's backpack, finds the stolen items (among them is an Apollo bar, Lost fans) and calls the Mayor and the Sheriff.
Regina believes Henry when he explains he is innocent. She leaves Emma to deal with Ava and Nicholas. It isn't long before Emma figures out that the children are stealing in order to survive. Their mother died a few years ago. They never knew their father. Anyhow, Regina contacts Social Services. The Maine group homes are all full, so she tells Emma to transport them to Boston. Having been "in the system" herself, this pushes all of Emma's buttons, and she promises the children they won't be separated.
Emma tracks down Ava and Nick's biological father, with a little help from Mr. Gold (who may not know everything, but certainly knows more than he should). The dad, Michael Tillman (Nicholas Lea), runs a mechanic's shop, in town. He never knew the children existed, but he doesn't want them. By episode's end, Emma is putting them into her cruiser for the drive to Boston. When Henry reminds her that bad things happen when people try to leave Storybrooke, Emma says the bad thing has already happened.
Just at the town line, the car stalls (it appears to happen as a result of the curse, but later, the dialogue implies Emma fakes the stall). Emma pulls it to the side of the road and calls for help. Tillman arrives in a Franklin's Towing and Salvage truck. Once he sees the children and after listening to Emma talks about Henry, he can't turn his back on them.
At episode's end, Emma and Henry are bonding over some pumpkin pie (I'll hit the "Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater" theory in the recap) when a mysterious stranger rides into town -- even though strangers never come to Storybrooke. Ever.
Low points: Aside from inconsistent use of the witch's powers, Hansel is the low point. I don't think it's the actor's fault. He handled what little he was given. The character was written to be nearly useless. I would have liked to see a blond actor in the role, too. Shouldn't Hansel and Gretel should look like Hummels? This Hansel looked like my friend, Sully (not that there's anything wrong with that, Sull).
High points: Every Enchanted Forest scene with the Evil Queen (and her wickedly wonderful wardrobe) is a delight, and Lana Parrilla is a treasure. That I can still have sympathy for Queenie/Regina, despite her evil ways (particularly what she did to the Huntsman/Graham) is all thanks to Parrilla. Ms. Caulfield acquits herself of her role quite well, too. It's not her fault that her truly creepy character's powers are poorly written. It seems unlikely, but I'm hoping there's some way we can see her on the show again. I wish she could have a Storybrooke identity, but if the Blind Witch died in that oven, probably not. There was another (I think, older) blind hag of some kind present when Regina first tried to cast the Dark Curse, and failed. Hmm, maybe there is a little hope? Anyhow, speaking of Storybrooke, the moments between Emma and Henry, and Mary Margaret and Emma (especially when Emma confesses that Henry says they're mother and daughter), make my heart ache in the best way. They're also an effective palate cleanser, between campy Enchanted Forest courses. The Storybrooke story, and Emma's consistent growth, ground the show and give it heart.
I'll be back with the full recap, ASAP. In the meantime, please grade the episode at the top of the page and then join us in the forum, but don't eat anything.
We're back with a more traditional tale, in this week's exploration of Hansel (Quinn Lord), Gretel (Karley Scott Collins) and their Storybrooke identities, Nicholas and Ava Zimmer. But while the Enchanted Forest backstory is full of whimsical high camp, it is in Storybrooke where this episode's strength lies.
We open in Storybrooke. Henry is flipping through a Wolverine vs. Hulk comic, when a pretty blonde girl approaches and asks what he's reading. He surprised she's talking to him and stumbles over his answer. Ava says she thinks she's seen him at school. Henry is all smiles until a boy walks up to them. "Come on, Ava. Let's go." When Ava introduces this interloper as her brother, Nicholas, Henry is all smiles again. Nicholas is eager to leave, but Ava invites Henry to come hang out with them. When the get to the pharmacy doors, they're stopped by the druggist, Mr. Clark (Sneezy). He demands to search Henry's bag. Henry soon realizes Ava and Nicholas were using him to smuggle their shoplifted booty out of the store. "That's why you were talking to me, so your brother could put that stuff in there." Poor baby.
Enchanted Forest. The Woodcutter (Nicholas Lee) is chopping down a tree when his daughter, Gretel (Ava) joins him. He sends her and Hansel (Nicholas) to gather some kindling. Before they leave, he places his compass around Gretel's neck. "So you don't get lost. A family always needs to find one other. I love you. Be safe." The show has made an interesting choice here, in defanging the Hansel and Gretel story. In the traditional tale, the family is too poor to feed the children. The mother persuades the father to lead the children deep into the forest and then leave them. I'm a little disappointed that Once Upon A Time chose not to go there. This show is certainly sweet enough as it is. I'd like to see it go dark, more often.
When Hansel and Gretel return to the spot where they left their father, he is not there. They hear a struggle and run toward the sound, which leads to them stumbling out onto the Evil Queen's Road, where they are stopped by the guards leading her carriage. Gretel stumbles and breaks the glass covering the compass face. The knights grab the children. Queenie exits her carriage and glares. "What are you doing in my forest?"
Storybrooke, Mr. Clark's Store: The nasal-voiced Mr. Clark tells Regina Henry was shoplifting. When Henry denies his involvement, with a wordless, nervous nod, Clark tells Regina to have a look at the evidence. On the counter are things like shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, cans of soup and some candy, including an Apollo bar (for the Lost fans). Regina tells Clark, "My son doesn't eat candy and he knows not to steal. It was obviously those two." She heads toward the door with Henry, when who should walk in, but Emma. Regina assumes that Emma is there to interfere in her mothering of Henry, but she's there in her official capacity, as sheriff. Satisfied with that answer, Regina takes Henry and leaves, ordering Emma to take care of the "miscreants."