Recap and review of Once Upon A Time – Season 2 Episode 7 – Child of the Moon
Once Upon A Time delves into the origin of the criminally underused Ruby/Red Riding Hood (Meghan Ory) with tonight’s “Child of the Moon”. I say “criminally underused” because Meghan Ory is one of the more underappreciated actors on the series. She has a very deft handle on her character, carefully navigating the divide between easy believability and outright camp. Where it’s occasionally hard to take some of these performances seriously, given the nature of the show and its subject matter, Ory has shown a remarkable capability to make both sides of her disparate character make sense: she plays Ruby with a sly, knowing wink, sort of like the version of herself that Red Riding Hood wished she could be in Fairy Tale Land; meanwhile, Ory plays Red Riding Hood more as the girl we recognize from the stories, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood, braving the dark forest of her own uncertainty. While “Child of the Moon” doesn’t really give us much of an indication of Ruby’s value to the larger narrative of the season, the episode does help further illustrate some of the broader themes at play this season, from reconciling your two halves, to negotiating the impossible.
This week, our Fairy Tale Land flashback shows us how Red Riding Hood learned to control her “wolf.” While on the run from the Queen’s men, Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Red decide to split up, which results in Red being discovered by a man named Quinn, who deduces that she, like himself, is a wolf. He takes her to the den of his pack, the leader of which, a woman named Anita (Annabeth Gish), reveals herself to be Red’s mother, long thought dead. Red is hardly afforded the chance for the revelation to sink in before Anita proposes Red join the pack, and learn to control the wolf within. As it turns out, controlling the wolf involves little more than giving into the wolf. As Anita explains, resistance is what causes problems in children “of the moon,” but if Red were to stop resisting, and if she were to actively embrace her animalistic instincts, she’d soon discover that she is in complete control of her transformation. And this is exactly what happens, with a pack of better-than-average CG wolves traipsing around the woods and howling at the moon. When Red awakens, she remembers everything, and is relieved to finally be free of the burden of the terror that accompanied not being able to control her wolf side.
But because this is a story that involves Snow White in some form or fashion, it has to lead to a bunch of people getting killed. Snow White happens upon the den while tracking Ruby’s wolf prints, and the Queen’s men are right behind. This leads to Quinn taking an arrow to the chest, Anita blaming Snow for bringing the men here, and Red being forced to choose between her mother and her best friend. Red, illustrating the theme of maturation that plays across most iterations of the Little Red Riding Hood story, instead chooses herself, recognizing that she isn’t much use to anyone if she continues to simply be subject to others’ ideas about who/what she should be (from Granny withholding the truth from her, to Anita forcing Red to choose between embracing her wolfhood and her humanity). Unfortunately, Red’s choice results in a tussle that ends in Red accidentally impaling her mother. Snow apologizes after Red buries her mother, claiming that she knows what it’s like to lose one’s only family, though Red embraces Snow and asserts that she didn’t lose her family, she protected it.
However, these lessons didn’t seem to transfer over to Storybrooke. Ruby feels that 28 years out of the wolfing habit means that she’ll likely be unstable when the full moon hits. And so we pursue the inverse narrative thread of the episode: here, it isn’t about discovering who you are, it’s about remembering what you already know about yourself. Okay, maybe it’s not the inverse, and maybe those themes really aren’t all that different. But the Storybrooke side of things allows for meaningful development of David/Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) as a leader. Prince Charming was the kind of man, in Fairy Tale Land, who seemed born to lead. Or at least to govern, proving himself to be a worthier king than his “father” King Charles (Alan Dale). But David is a man often given to variances in his level of confidence in his own abilities, even if his determination remains as sturdy as ever.
It’s a solid story charting David’s development by placing it in context of his attempts to convince Ruby that she isn’t guilty of the murder of a local mechanic. David recalls that Mary Margaret was once accused of murder, and he failed to stand by her, and so won’t allow Ruby to give up so easily. However, he faces opposition from other forces than Ruby. Spencer/King George has organized a mob to capture and kill Ruby. David must contend with this faction, and also with Ruby, who’s willing to give up, shackling Belle (Emilie De Ravin) in the library to keep her from interfering when Ruby shifts into wolf form to face her punishment. David is able to dissuade the mob by revealing the results of his investigation, that Spencer framed Ruby in order to inspire doubt in David’s leadership skills. He confronts Ruby directly, and gives us our Aesop about knowing, and believing in, ourselves. Which is great and all, but the moment allows Spencer to escape. This turns out to have the disastrous consequence of Spencer getting hold of Jefferson’s hat and tossing it into a fire. Josh Dallas gets one of his best scenes in the series, as he sells the devastation of losing his only possible route to getting his wife and his daughter back. And the moment is pretty tense as he advances on Spencer with gun in hand. We know he’s not going to pull the trigger, except…well, Dallas does kind of a good job at selling that he might.
But that’s not the kind of show this is (which is 100% fine by me), and so he lets Spencer go and resolves, after encouragement from Ruby, to find another way. It stands to reason that there would be. The dwarfs have found a diamond that can be ground into fairy dust, so it’s only a matter of time before proper magic can be reintroduced to Storybrooke. If nothing else, some vaguely magical stuff is already happening in the shared nightmare between Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) and Princess Aurora (Sarah Bolger). This week, we actually see the nightmare, precisely as described last week: a red room with blood-red curtains, engulfed in flame. Henry and Aurora are both in the room, though separated by a wall of fire. Henry calls out to her, and as he does, Aurora is woken by Snow. Aurora reveals to the rest of the group that she had the nightmare again, but that a little boy was in the room, and he gave his name as “Henry.” Could the nightmare indicate some kind of unseen bridge between worlds? The plot thickens.
We’re not appreciably deeper into the overall narrative of the season thus far (getting Snow/Emma back home) after “Child of the Moon”, but the episode is far from pointless. Once Upon A Time occasionally has suffered from a lack of worldbuilding elements, as the ensemble never feels as developed as it could be. Thus, any episode that gives us a deeper insight into these characters is worth the airtime, even if it doesn’t really advance the story being told, as a more rounded cast heightens our attachment, and raises the stakes with the viewer. This season has actually been really good in expanding the worlds of Storybrooke and the Fairy Tale Land. Hopefully, when Once Upon A Time returns in two weeks, the pieces will be in place for a more direct advancement of the story, as a whole.