Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 2, Episode 7 of ABC's "Once Upon a Time," titled "Child of the Moon."
Generally, episodes of "Once Upon a Time" fall into two categories: those that propel the mythology forward in big ways (such as last week's "Tallahassee") and those that tread water by focusing more on character backstory, and/or form building blocks for the next mythology episode.
This week's Ruby-centric outing, "Child of the Moon," fell into the latter category -- not much was resolved or advanced, but it was clearly pushing things into place for next week's dramatic-looking installment. That's not a value judgment; every serialized story requires certain "filler" episodes to pace the story advancement over 22 weeks, and "Child of the Moon" did a fine job of making us root for Ruby/Red as we learned more about her troubled past.
Back in the Enchanted Forest of yesteryear, we picked up where "Red-Handed" left off, with Snow and Red on the run from the queen's men and Red first getting to grips with her inner Big Bad Wolf after eating her adorable boyfriend Peter. After separating from Snow, she met up with a pack led by her long-lost mother Anita (Annabeth Gish), who wanted to teach her all about embracing her animal side instead of shying away from it.
The episode mostly served as a reminder that humans can be far more monstrous than any beast, as illustrated by the evil King George's attempts to undermine Charming's rule in Storybrooke, killing the innocent Billy (AKA Gus, Cinderella's adorable mouse buddy) in an attempt to frame Red and make it look like Charming couldn't protect the town. It's a familiar message, given some of the awful things Cora, Rumple and Regina have done over the course of the show so far, but the theme of free will is especially important this season, with Ruby proving able to fight her darker impulses and make the right choices -- something that Regina and Rumple are both struggling with this year.
My main complaint with this week's episode was how rushed everything seemed -- upon meeting Anita, Red was content to trust her mother without really questioning where she'd been and why she had never attempted to find Red after Granny separated them. Then, since Anita was so intent on eating Snow and forcing Red to abandon her humanity once and for all, it was difficult to feel anything but relief when Red killed her to protect her best friend. This show is perfectly capable of building pathos in only 42 minutes, so I wish that a bombshell like Ruby's mother being alive (what happened to her father?) had been given a little more breathing room to heighten the drama.
Likewise, why did King George wait this long to make his move and undermine his fake son? Obviously, it's because the writers had more pressing stories to tell this season, but his long absence and sudden, malicious reappearance felt a little random. His angry mob proved altogether useless and too easily talked down -- and was anyone else hoping for a chorus of "Kill The Beast" just to Disney things up a little?
Still, Meghan Ory is a compelling enough actress that Red's earnestness still kept me engaged, and considering all she's been through, I'm really rooting for a happy ending for her. Did anyone else sense the chemistry between her and Charming? I'm fairly sure the show is trying to write against that, because I can't see Red or Charming doing that to Snow, but with two such charismatic actors as Ory and Dallas, it was hard not to see a little spark in their final scene together in Mary Margaret's apartment. I don't want to see it, but did anyone else notice it?
We did get a little development on the Henry and Aurora front; Rumple imparted some helpful exposition about victims of the sleeping curse journeying to the Netherworld between life and death in dreams after they wake, and even provided a talisman to help Henry take control of the nightmare. Henry put it into practice towards the end of the episode, putting out the fire in the room and managing to communicate with Aurora, which may just prove to be the connection that Emma and Snow need to help them escape from the Enchanted Forest and return to Storybrooke. I'm glad that the show is finding new ways to integrate Henry into the mythology again, since he's spent most of this season just trailing after his grandfather so far. Here's hoping for more answers in next week's episode.
"Once Upon a Time" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
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