“Once Upon a Time” – Child of the Moon episode review 1

Charming (Josh Dallas) tries to convince Ruby (Meghan Ory) that she is not to blame for the death of two men.

★★★½☆

Ruby! Red! Meghan Ory! Finally showrunners Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis have taken one of their more interesting characters with screen presence to spare and have given her another spotlight episode. However, they almost ruined it, completely, bogging the episode down with absolutely cornball dialogue. The squandered potential is infuriating. Here’s a great character, a character who’s a fan favorite, and they go ahead and decide the most interesting storyline that she could possibly have is one where she finds her long lost mother, becomes a part of a wolf cult for what seems to be a day, and then discovers the true meaning of family.

I mean, seriously?

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On top of that, her flashback centers on King George trying to sabotage Charming and Red by framing her for the murder of innocent townsfolk. One of whom is named Gus, yes, Gus as in the plump mouse who helped Cinderella. That’s possibly the most depressing thing this show has done.

Henry is still having his dreams that are linked with Aurora’s in the fairytale world and while in them he begins to feel the effects of the terrors in the nightmares. He’s in an inferno-styled room and he wakes up with a burn on his hand. By the end of the episode he conquers his fear and controls his mind enough so that he can talk to Aurora and tell her his name, which she passes along to Emma and Snow.

Grumpy has dug his way to break in the tunnel where they find diamonds containing fairy dust, all the while King George burns the remains of the Mad Hatter’s hat, destroying Charming’s way back to finding Emma and Snow.

All of these plot points in theory work and promise a well thought-out episode, minus the satanic wolf pack. All of the storylines promise character growth, forward movement with the character and possibly a way to reunite the Charming/Snow family again. However the way in which Horrowitz and Kitsis told the story was messy, lacked good pacing, and was again, weighed down by many of the poignant “this is the message of the episode” type of moments. The good and the bad sections of the episode were fighting for majority of the hour trying to determine what the outcome would be. As many negatives as there were there were also some surprising positives.

Positive: Ruby getting the spotlight.

Ruby’s one episode that focused on her plight last season was one of the highlights of the series. It was dark, purposeful, and didn’t quickly wrap up her storyline in a neat package. She still killed her lover, and was a danger to herself and others without her cloak on. We’d seen in a brief glimpse of Ruby later on working with Snow and Charming to seemingly control her transitions, but in her dedicated episode we were left with a character very much in limbo. She had accepted her fate but wasn’t so much by choice, but because she simply had to. This was her card deal and she’d put the brave face on and charge into life head on. Past Ruby is meeker, shy, tentative in asking favors of anyone now that she knows the possible harm she could inflict on those who are close to her.

She was a fascinating character.

It doesn’t hurt that Meghan Ory isn’t just beautiful to watch in a purely aesthetic sense, but it also very captivating of an actress. Even when her character is drowning in insecurity Ory’s own confidence allows the character’s presence to never drop, just allows some extra depth.

Negative: Wolf den flashback

I’ve harped on the CGI in this show enough at the point, but this episode was just asking for some complaints. When the commercial break ended and there was the bizarre, monotone narrative about being children of the moon and controlling your body in order to truly feel the power and grace of the wolf, I thought it was still just another oddly placed commercial ad. I was very wrong.

Needless to say the wolves were ridiculous. The cult-like den of them was also just plain silly. It was pure camp and as the den leader spoke of the wrong doings of humans and their need to kill on their own terms I felt like I was watching an entirely different television show. A show on the SyFy network perhaps?

It was a waste of a well thought-out character. Ruby should have been allowed to come to terms with her power and her control over her own body and transformations on her own without the aid of characters viewers got to meet for one episode and had zero emotional stakes involved. While it was satisfying to see Ruby once she rediscovered herself in the present day world and see how her fears about herself were almost debilitating until that self-realization, one could only have wished that the discovery in the first place could have been more rewarding.

Negative: Henry’s Nightmare

It was ridiculous. Him screaming for Aurora, the fiery flames of doom, the fact that the audience is going to have to suffer through Henry being the hero and requiring more lines, it’s a potential mess and here was our snippet of it. Jared Gilmore is simply not a natural child actor. Rather than breathing life into his character he is quickly and sufficiently eliminating any type of interest or potential the character could have. It could also be due to the shoddy writing but a good actor can turn bad lines into something decent. Gilmore isn’t charming enough of a screen presence to overtake the bad writing. Gilmore’s performance wouldn’t be so much of a problem if it weren’t for the fact that the showrunners seem determined to give him storylines where he’s the focal point, the emotionally compromised character, and also the precocious child turned hero.

Positive: Regina and Rumpelstiltskin’s reactions to Henry’s dream

Regina is the one who wakes Henry from his dream and first notices the burn on his hand. She is genuinely concerned for him and doesn’t wish to manipulate him or control him for her own personal good. She calls Rumpelstiltskin despite their shared animosity and asks for him help, knowing that he will have the best answers for why Henry’s dreams are now causing him physical pain as well.

Every time that Regina gets an expository moment for her character I cross my fingers that this time it will last. The idea that her vulnerabilities are real and her evil past grievances are over and now she has grown, has recognized the reasons for her actions and is taking on a new way of life where she attempts to be good. While the scene she had in this week’s episode was entirely too brief and could have used more development it was poignant none the less.

As well as showing character growth in Regina, it also showed character depth in Rumple. As Regina points out as he gives Henry the necklace that will help him with his dreams, he never performs favors, and everything comes with a price. This time it doesn’t though he insists, although if it had been for her she would have been correct. For Henry, his help is on the house and just wants him to be better.

Many could argue that this could very well be just another ploy for Rumple and a way for him to gain more power. However, it is more a call back to the son he lost. He’s oddly protective over Henry here and maybe it’s because of his cowardice in regards to his own son and the betrayal he performed on him. This also may be me giving the writers far too much credit. Rumple and Regina are either used well or given enough character exposition without going over the top, or they’re written as clichés. This week’s episode was an example of the former technique and it worked so well amid the mess of the plotlines going on around them that it was easy to lament the fact that their portion of the show was brushed by and swept away so quick.

Negative: The random assortment of townspeople

Where did that angry mob come from? As King George marches his mob of townsfolk with pitchforks and torches to kill Ruby, who the hell are those people? I understand the need for extras, I understand that just the characters we’ve met wouldn’t populate an entire town, however, shouldn’t the showrunners at least have had one recognizable face? It’s a cheap trick to use random people to direct the attack against Ruby with because audiences won’t care since they’ll all know that since Ruby is the known face she’ll be the one winning in the end.

No one care about the extras that have never been seen before. They were used as props rather than as characters and it was a waste. There were no personal or emotional stakes, no possible consequences. The motley crew that made up the mob would quickly disperse and that’s the last we’d see of them.

Positive: Meghan Ory and Josh Dallas’s chemistry

No, I’m not talking about romantic, sexual tension type of chemistry. The two actors work very well together and the scenes they share are touching and infused with energy that Dallas only typically exudes when sharing a scene with Ginnifer Goodwin. It’s typical for shows to pair characters up and simply stick with the boring and basic so when a show mixes things up, throws characters that wouldn’t seem to fit together for particular storylines, it’s fun to watch because it’s new and surprising how well it works.

It wasn’t a terrible episode but it was yet again an episode that would have been greatly improved with some forethought, editing, and cleaner dialogue. Next episode seems to involve zombies so it seems that two improved episodes in a row is all we’re going to get.