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TV Review: Once Upon a Time – “Child of the Moon”

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The first post-curse full moon is a cause of concern for Ruby (Meghan Ory), who doubles as both Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf in this week’s Once Upon a Time episode “Child of the Moon.” When a Storybrooke resident is brutally murdered, child of the (full) moon Ruby is prime suspect, and not even she believes she’s innocent.

David (Josh Dallas) and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) believe in her, trying to help her see the humanity lying within her. And, as Belle points out, she has a bit of experience in seeing beneath the monster to the human.

We learn Ruby/Red’s tragic back story, and in the process are introduced to a new evil in town, much more sinister than Mr. Gold, and perhaps even more than Her Royal Evil Highness (Lana Parrilla). King George has made himself known, vowing to get even with Charming (David) for usurping his authority back in Fairytale Land.

Threatening to expose the sheriff for the simple shepherd he is, Spencer (AKA King George, played by Alan Dale) tries to undermine David’s authority, murdering a mouse of a mechanic and blaming it on David’s good friend Ruby–all to prove that David hasn’t got the leadership skills necessary to be sheriff. He also destroys David’s only real hope of opening a portal with Fairytale Land by casting Jefferson’s hat into a bonfire. And with Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) still trapped there, they must find another way.

“Child of the Moon” is an excellent installment, deepening our knowledge of Red, and at the same time, moving forward the overall narrative through Henry’s (Jared Gilmore) all-too-real and firey dreams, one of which quite literally burns him.

Henry’s dream, explains Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) is less a dream than a limbo state halfway between life and death, the lingering side effect of the sleep curse under which he’d been accidentally put at the end of last season. Those, it seems, who’ve fallen under such a curse may find themselves in the flame-filled horror of this netherworld, itself a portal of some sort.

Gold gives to Henry a substance placed within amulet to be worn while asleep. This potion will help Henry be at peace during these nighttime episodes and help him control the journey within this frightening word between worlds. Notably, Gold gives this to Henry with no strings attached–“on the house,” as he says.

Although Gold seems to be using magic (or is he?), he is using it to help calm a young boy’s fears and let him control his journey through them. I wonder if there’s anything in that pendant, however, other than Gold’s assurances that the potion will work. Is it a placebo, allowing Henry, himself, to control the dream and his place in it? There is a nice parallel between Gold’s actions and encouragement given by Ruby’s mother (Annabelle Gish) to control her own fate when the moon changes her into a wolf. There is no magic here, only belief and calm self-assurance that power over fear lies in one’s own understanding and self-confidence.

By using Gold’s potion (or by Henry’s belief that it’s a magic potion), Henry is able to see Aurora, who’s been having the same dream (which makes sense since she had also been through a sleeping spell). This may finally point the way for Emma, Snow and whomever else is trapped in Fairytale  Land to come through to Storybrooke. Of course, there’s still Cora and Hook to deal with, and we know they’re going to be nothing but trouble if they, too come through whatever portal and into town.

I really liked this week’s episode. It captured the tragedy of Red’s life as a she-wolf, living in constant fear that her worst instincts would take over at the full moon. I also liked the parallel drawn between Ruby and Rumple, both of these are tragic figures, seeing themselves as monsters and inherently irreemable. Yet the love they are shown (epsecially by the redemptive character Belle) may in the end help them see themselves in a new and less harsh light, understanding their own humanity through the prism of another’s love.

I also liked how the writers used it to bring King George’s particularly vengeful nastiness into the show’s narrative. It was quite an effective and moving use of Red’s story at this junction.

I’ve also wondered where they were going with the interconnected nightmares and how that would play into bringing the two worlds together. And making Henry the connection between the two worlds is a lovely move. I wonder what Mr. Gold’s real agenda is here? Is he just being kind to Henry, helping a scared young boy cope with his nightmares (that would make sense if Henry was his grandson, and Gold instinctively feels that connection to him). Or is Henry a conduit to breaking Gold’s own curse somehow?

I guess we’ll have to wait to find out. There is no new Once Upon a Time next week. The series is premepted for an awards show. The next new episode airs November 25.

We’ll be talking about tonight’s Once Upon a Time tomorrow night on Let’s Talk TV LIVE, where you can also listen to last week’s broadcast with special guest, Once Upon a Time writer/consulting producer Jane Espenson. And I will be interviewing on Friday the director of Robert Carlyle’s new film California Solo (which I have seen and can heartily recommend). It opens later this month in limited release before a wider release later this year. 

Once Upon a Time airs Sunday nights at 8:00 p.m. on ABC. 

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called "Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton," The Apothecary's Curse The Apothecary's Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books. Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA's HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as "The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture," "The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes," "The Hidden History of Science Fiction," and "Our Passion for Disaster (Movies)."
  • Action Kate

    Yeah, I also think Anita was not Red’s mother, despite the strong jaws both women had. Also, I knew there was a reason the actress bored me: She was Agent Granola Flake from the X-Files, in the disastrous seasons when they tried to cope without GA or DD. She was the reason I stopped watching despite how much I liked Robert Patrick.

    King George annoys me because he’s a one-dimensional, hissable villain. Even Cora and Hook are motivated by love in a twisted way. Spenser/George only wants power, and revenge.

  • WML

    If you look at Belle carefully as Ruby darts off towards the town, you can see the love and concern that she has for her friend. If you contrast that to the way Belle looks at Mr. Gold, you can see how deeply she cares for Rumple. And now if you look at Mr. Gold’s treatment of Henry, you can see a gentleness that was hitherto reserved for Bae (and Belle). Dare we think that the writers are giving us yet a subtle hint of who Henry and Neal really are? Even Charming and Mr. Gold get along fairly well. As the EQ loves to say, we shall see.

  • I thought it was a very good episode too and brought new things to light. I love the creativity that brings all these old fairy tales and the story together.

  • WML

    I have to add. Pre empt OUAT with an Award’s show? Please….

  • WML

    I really like this episode. Meghan Ory’s Red is a fascinating study of self discovery, of finding the beast within and finding the strength to tame the demons that afflict her. Her story is a further exploration of the central theme of OUAT – that loyalty and love can conquer all.

    Now, why is Mr. Gold so kind to Henry? Is this a foreshadowing of discoveries to come?

    And for this week, no Hook! No Mulan! Celebration warranted.

    I’m really glad that Meghan Ory and Emilie de Ravin are full time cast members. This season is turning out to be more interesting that season 1 (with the exception of the Hook character, which I still can’t warm up to). I hope they bring back Anita for more shows. I am still not certain she is really Red’s mother. I’d like to see what happened between Granny and her supposed daughter.

  • Betsy

    Hi Barbara

    I loved tonight’s episode.

    Ruby’s backstory is so sad, but actually wolves are NOT bad animals and I’d like to see her wolf-ishness used to good effect. Wolves get a bad rap, like many carnivores, but they only kill to for survival. I hope we’ll see more good wolf…….

    I really enjoyed the female friendship scenes .

    I LOVE LOVED that Belle interacted with Charming and Granny (loved how Charming touched her arm before he left; he knows already she can be trusted).

    Poor, poor Billy – what a nice, sweet guy who didn’t deserve that fate.

    Red’s mother didn’t want her to control the wolf, she wanted to control Red. Lord, Mommy Dearest would fit right in on this show.

    Gold’s scene was so sweet. I’m glad he’s not so nice to Regina, lol – but he was so gentle and kind to Henry. I’m LOVING this side of him. Pre-curse Rumple was timid and meek, but he was also innately gentle. That part of him has not disappeared…..it’s still there. The curse, despite it’s best/worst efforts, did not fully destroy that humanity, that core goodness. If it had, nothing Belle or anyone could do would help. He keeps calling himself a monster, but I keep asking: What kind of monster would think he’s a monster? What kind of monster would value bravery, kindness, compassion, intelligence and other of Belle’s qualities? None that I know of.

    I think with Gold, there are no little steps – every step he takes is the most important one he takes. I just think that this is a softer Gold (not to Regina, understandably). I think he would have helped Ruby and David as well because they were there for him and helped him when he needed. Slowly, the real Gold is beginning to emerge

    Also, watch the library scene from Croc again – when he says the curse brought him to “this little town”, it’s with real affection. I think he loves SB because in a way the town gave him a new start. Sure he doesn’t have social relationships with anyone, but until Emma came, he didn’t remember anything – and that might have been a blessing. When he did remember, he was still just Gold the businessman; I believe he has terrible guilt feelings about his bad deeds in FTL and I think that in a way he was glad that being in SB prevented him from being that beastly monster he saw and sees himself as. Also, maybe he likes hamburgers and ice cream, lol. I can see that, at the end of the series, he’d much prefer to stay in the modern world. He and Belle can travel the world, like she’s always wanted to do. I don’t think he’d want to go back to the medievalism; there is magic in modern day life – for instance, tvs, fax machines, phones, movies, cars, etc.. I imagine there is a part of Gold that is still in awe of modernization.

    Magic does not have to be bad – we’ve already seen it used for good causes 3 times. I know Gold thinks he needs it as a crutch, and he should be weaned off of it as a regular habit, but there’s no need to get rid of it. I personally think this world, reality as it were, NEEDS a little magic. I don’t mean just the tricks and such, I mean the word “magic” as a general term. Reality can suck most times and if magic can bring some joy to the world, why not?

    Loved Belle’s “rehabilitation” comment -reference to Rumple.