I’m trying something different this week. I’m writing a “quick cap” right after watching the episode. I’ll also post a “slow cap” by the end of the week, after I’ve had a chance to rewatch the episode, think about it a bit, and get more screenshots. (Editing to add 1/17: On second thought, one recap is more than enough, but I may have some thoughts on various aspects of the episode that I will post later.)
Hansel and Gretel are homeless in both worlds, Emma lies to Henry about his father, and a mysterious stranger comes to town in this episode — which was probably the weakest episode yet.
The episode is about fatherless children — Hansel, Gretel, and Henry.
In Fairytale land, Hansel and Gretel lose their father because the Evil Queen whisks him away — just so she can enlist the children in her scheme to retrieve her magical apple from the gingerbread house of the blind, cannibalistic witch.
The children get in trouble when Hansel can’t resist a tempting cupcake (I know how that feels) but save themselves by pushing the witch into the oven. That is part of the Grimm version of the story, but felt a bit gory for OUAT.
The EQ showed she was into adoption even before she became Regina and adopted Henry. She tried to adopt H & G, but G wisely refused, even though H, with his weaker willpower, was tempted, at least for a moment.
In Storybrooke, H & G have also lost their father, but in this case, they never knew him, and he never knew they even existed.
Emma gets to do the thing she loves most — reuniting children with their biological parents — and in the end, with a nudge from Emma, the father decides to do the right thing and take his kids in, so they won’t be split up in foster homes in Boston.
Meanwhile, Emma lied to Henry about his father, saying Henry’s father was dead and a hero, when he was neither of those things. Emma also has a wistful moment wondering if she will ever meet her own parents, and Mary Margaret looks like she almost remembered her past when she holds Emma’s baby blanket up to her nose.
Before Emma took H & G out of town, Henry warned her that bad things would happen if they left. At the episode’s end a stranger rides in, on a motorcycle — at first, I thought it was going to be Graham, resurrected, and then I thought it was going to be Henry’s father, but it turned out to really be a stranger. From the stranger’s demeanor and unwillingness to give his name, it seems as if his arrival is the bad thing that Henry warned of.
“Families always find one another.”
I always look forward to Robert Carlyle’s appearances, but he didn’t have much to do in this episode. I was getting worried that he might not be in it at all, and Rumpelstiltskin wasn’t, but Mr. Gold did have a very brief scene. It was an important scene, though, because we learned that Rumpel/Mr. G was once again the conduit of objects between the two worlds, and it was through his shop that the Fairytale compass made its startling appearance in Storybrooke.
The episode felt like filler. Unless Hansel and Gretel turn out to be major characters, which I doubt, I’m not sure why we needed a full episode to learn their story. Maybe I’m just peeved because we didn’t see Rumpelstiltskin — I think he is the focal point of the whole show.
I didn’t really buy the story of H & G’s Storybrooke father instantly changing his mind, and I didn’t find the reunion particularly moving — perhaps because the father was as much a stranger to us, the viewers, as he was to his children.
I’m also getting tired of Emma’s crusade to keep biological families together at all costs. I understand she was scarred by her experiences in the foster system, but she seems to be ignoring all other possibilities. And by pretending to Henry that his father is dead, she’s not even following her own advice. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe this is all supposed to be ironic, showing how Emma gets really upset when other people do the things that she herself is doing in her own life, and that she finds it easier to give urgent advice to others, rather than look inside herself. I keep on thinking, though, that what Emma needs most, in order to move on, is to forgive her younger self for having given Henry away.
Differences from Grimm
In the Grimm version, the father did abandon his children (albeit reluctantly, and at the urging of his wife, the children’s stepmother — and as we know stepmothers are never up to any good in the old fairytales), because he could not afford to feed them. Deliberately leaving them alone in the woods was pretty horrific, the equivalent of attempted murder, because he expected they would be eaten by wild animals. By changing the story to have the EQ kidnap the father, rather than the father deliberately leaving the kids out in the forest to die, OUAT made the father more sympathetic. Someone who literally threw his children to the wolves wouldn’t be a good fit for what was meant to be a heart-warming story of family reunion.
The Queen’s powers
In Fairytale land, the Queen had some awesome magic powers this week — teleporting herself from the road to the woods to block the kids’ escape, commanding tree roots to do her bidding, and incinerating the blind witch at a distance, through her mirror.
I still don’t understand how someone with these kinds of powers is unable to rig an election or drive an enemy out of town — actions that mere mortals pull off all of the time.
I was very glad that Emma’s “superpower” — being able to tell when people are lying — was mentioned again. That idea had been set up in the pilot, and I thought was going to be a recurring refrain, but until this episode, it seemed to have been forgotten.
LOST Shout Outs
The Apollo candy bar and the Wolverine comic (written by J.J. Abrams) both make a reappearance in the episode’s first scene. The compass might also be a shout-out, as Locke’s compass played a significant role in LOST’s Season 5.
Who is the mysterious stranger, and how was he able to get into Storybrooke, when until now, Emma was the only outsider who ever got in?
Will Emma regret lying to Henry? (I suspect the answer is yes.)