Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 1, Episode 15 of ABC's "Once Upon a Time," entitled "Red Handed."
One of these days, I'm sure I'll start taking the "Once Upon a Time" writers' creativity for granted, but thankfully, the show is still fresh enough that every new twist seems to come out of left field. Though the series has already tackled a number of iconic characters in unique ways, the way Jane Espenson turned Red Riding Hood's tale on its head was perhaps the biggest surprise yet in terms of characterization; a welcome surprise, considering how many shows often telegraph their shocks and talk down to their audience.
I spent most of the episode predicting that Granny would be the murderous wolf plaguing the village, especially after we found out that she had been bitten as a child; but I was thrilled that the show chose to avoid the obvious outcome and add a layer of tragedy to Red's story. And while I'm sad that Ruby won't have a Storybrooke version of Peter (did I mention how much I love the "Peter and the Wolf" allusions?), that loss certainly adds more depth to the character, and explains why Red was so supportive of Snow finding her happily ever after with Charming. It was fabulous to see Snow and Red's first meeting, and all the ways in which Red helped train Snow to track so that she would be able to survive on her own while hiding from The Evil Queen. Snow's hesitation over whether to use Margaret or Mary as her alias was also a nice touch.
While last week's dialogue felt a little heavy-handed, "Red Handed" seemed to flow much better, both in terms of characterization and in the well-timed editing between Storybrooke and Fairytale Land. It was also an excellent showcase for Meghan Ory's talent, since Ruby has been underutilized for most of the season. Her progression was compelling, as we watched her grow out of that rebellious teenage attitude (which I guess she's been stuck in for 28 years) into a more mature and confident woman -- one who is finally capable of wearing plaid and jeans instead of miniskirts and punky makeup. Once again, Emma (and now August, in his own way) is affecting change in ways Regina never could've predicted.
Sadly, as Red was discovering herself in Fairytale Land, David and Mary Margaret found themselves mired even deeper in Regina's curse in Storybrooke: first with David's amnesia calling his honesty into question, and then with the discovery of a heart -- most likely Kathryn's -- in a box covered in Mary Margaret's fingerprints. Sadly, no-one in Storybrooke is aware of Regina's penchant for collecting hearts (and doctoring evidence), so it seems as though Mary Margaret will be on the hook for the unlikely crime, at least, until Emma can uncover the truth and exonerate her mother.
This seems like a relatively svelte review, but there's honestly so little to criticize that more words seem unnecessary. While the mythology only crept forward a little, the hour seemed so strong, with such engaging twists that it's nice to simply sit back and enjoy it on its own merits. It still counted as mostly filler, but episodes like "Red Handed" are proof that consistent characterization and a sharp script can make standalone stories every bit as enjoyable as serialized arcs.
What did you think of the Red Riding Hood twist -- did you believe that Granny was the wolf or did you predict it was Red? How do you think Mary Margaret will prove her innocence next week? Share your reactions and theories below!
'Once Upon a Time' airs Sundays at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.