In Storybrooke, Ruby battles her wolf-side for the first time since the curse was broken, while Henry battles his ongoing nightmares. Little Red is introduced to a pack and must choose between family and friends. Here is a recap and review of "Child of the Moon."
Snow and Red run from the Queen's knights through the Enchanted Forest. They split up and agree to meet in the morning. When Red wakes, a man named Quinn snatches her hood and calls her a "child of the moon" just like him. He takes her to an elaborate cellar where his pack congregates, including Red's mother, Anita, whom Granny said was dead. Anita tells Red to embrace the wolf, which will prevent her from blacking out. Snow tracks Red to the den, followed by several of the Queen's men, one of which kills Quinn. Enraged, Anita blames Snow, and when Ruby refuses to kill her, jumps at Snow in wolf form. Ruby stops Anita and a rod is driven through Anita's chest, killing her.
With "wolf's time" being upon them in Storybrooke, Granny creates a cage for Ruby, who does not have her red hood nor the confidence to control the wolf anymore. The next morning, Ruby is found in the forest and blames herself for killing the man whom she turned down a date with last night. To punish herself, Ruby runs into the streets as a wolf so the town can kill her. While tracking her, Granny and David find her cloak and a bloody hatchet in the truck of Spencer's (King George) car. They meet up with the town crowd, which has backed Ruby into a corner after Spencer rallied them against her and David. David defends Ruby and successfully talks her down. Spencer flees; David and Ruby find him by a campfire, into which he throws Jefferson's hat.
Meanwhile, Henry's nightmares continue, so Regina calls Mr. Gold. He tells Regina it is a side effect of her sleeping curse that transports someone to a world in between life and death. Gold gives Henry a necklace so that he can control the journey. The next time Aurora has a nightmare, Henry is there to calm her down and she wakes to tell Mary Margaret and Emma about him.
Just like "Red-Handed" from season one, "Child of the Moon" provided more information on the always intriguing Little Red Riding Hood. This episode stands as one of the better in this season for its perfect intermingling of drama and heart. It also reverted back to the standard season one format of comparing a character's struggles in the Enchanted Forest with the same in Storybrooke and was perhaps the best example of the relevance of flashbacks.
Ruby/Little Red is one of the sweetest characters on the show and one that the audience cannot help but root for. Her edginess in dress or occasional sass towards Granny does not disqualify her genuine attempt to be an honorable person. It was plausible that Ruby did kill Billy/Gus because she has unintentionally murdered someone while unable to control the wolf before; however, there has been so much time spent garnering sympathy for her that her being guilty would have been counterintuitive. The scene towards the end, when Ruby finally embraces the wolf in Storybrooke and goes out to run free, was the most beautiful epitome of self-acceptance. Her struggle on a metaphoric level easily resonates with viewers and solidifies her belonging on the show. It can't be said enough that Meghan Ory deserves more screen time.
The presence of a wolf pack (which is reminiscent of The Vampire Diaries) produces an interesting conundrum. On the one hand, it allows Red to have the opportunity to decrease her feeling of isolation and to connect with others who have encountered the same struggles. But on the other hand, a pack takes away from her uniqueness. Having Little Red be "the wolf" was a huge creative decision that now seems to have been lessened. Regardless, introducing Red's mother as the one to teach her control was a wise move. This episode would have been far less effective if someone else, someone with a weaker bond to Red, was assuming that role and also if Anita had survived, which would have changed Red's morality.
There is usually not much to say about the visual style of Once Upon A Time, other than special effects, but director Anthony Hemingway mastered a unique view in this episode. The scene in which Anita coaches Little Red while she sleeps jumps out as the best example. The voice over speech (the sound of maternal guidance) combined with the occasional cuts to a black screen (paralleling the idea of blackouts) was beautifully done and truly entered into the mind of Little Red.
Jefferson's hat being destroyed was almost a false dramatic moment because, although unknown to the residents of Storybrooke, the women are also working to transport themselves back. The new method of communication between the two worlds via dreams seems promising to finally unite the storylines and give the show a stable coherence that it has been lacking this season. Additionally, it holds the potential to return the show to adventures through two worlds instead of three, thus simplifying it. Although, the fact that it forces two characters to endure a fiery nightmare that can come with physical burns is gloomy.
While Spencer was seen briefly in Storybrooke in the season premier, his strong presence in this episode came off as jarring. It has been so long since the initial acts that caused King George to hate Charming were focused on that his motivations and anger towards David was not as strong in influencing the audience as it could have been. However, his contributions to Ruby's storyline could not have been done by another character. The next best person to frame someone for murder is Regina, but she has been on her slow road to redemption this season that it would have been unfitting for her to do so.
Speaking of Regina, her small appearance reminded viewers that she is still an isolated character in Storybrooke and has yet to fit back in or find power within the town. Her concern about the negative influence of her magic on Henry demonstrates that she hasn't made any progress. The fact that Mr. Gold was the person she called upon to help with the situation provides a dim chance of hope for moving beyond her past ways. One character who is not being held down by the past but stepping right back into his fairytale counterpart is David. His role in this episode easily makes up for any this season that lacked the influence of his strength. To see him give Ruby the motivational speech towards the end, which was easily the highlight of the episode, cemented his role as a leader and a hero.
The season one finale was a while ago, but did Emma giving Henry true love's kiss work double duty in breaking the sleeping curse and the town's curse? It would seem so. The interesting thing about Once Upon A Time is that it revolves so much around "true love" in most episodes ("Child of the Moon" was an exception) that the stakes may seem overly idealistic, but in truth, they are rightly so. If the stakes were always life and death, that would provide for a more dramatic show, but less heartwarming, and the tone is what makes Once such a unique pleasure to watch.