‘Once Upon a Time’ Recap: True North

once upon a time true northS1E9: Once Upon a Time has always gained much of its appeal from some flashy elements: attractive actors and actresses, spectacular fairy tale costumes, and modernized renditions of our most beloved fairy tales. But I’m starting to wonder if they’re taking it a little too far. Case and point: the evil queen’s forest get-up and the disturbingly young and beautiful version of Hansel and Gretel’s witchy tormentor. Superficial elements aside, I did appreciate this episode’s set up for progress in the Snow White/Mary Margaret romantic storyline and the way the story touched Emma so deeply. It brings out the fire in a character who won an election last week despite completely giving up. 

“The system is supposed to help.” –Mary Margaret 
“Says the woman who wasn’t in one for 16 years.” –Emma 
Two scruffy kids frame Henry for stealing at the local grocery store as a distractions so they can steal their own groceries. The shop owner insists Henry stole the candy, because he’s apparently immune to reason and in the once instance I’ll actually root for Regina she tells the shop owner he has no idea what he’s talking about. Henry doesn’t eat candy. Poor Henry. 
Sheriff Emma shows up to do her job and while Regina dismisses them as miscreants, Emma finds out how poor they are. Emma knows the kids are lying when she asks if everything is okay at home, but she drops them off anyway. They steal away to a basement apartment but Emma makes her way into the house, where she demands to know where their parents are, but it turns out they don’t have any. As a product of the foster system, she doesn’t want to report them because she knows what happens – shuffling from family to family and separation of siblings. Her plan is to look for the kids’ father in hopes that he’ll take them. The mayor has beat her to the punch, and it turns out there’s no record of the father. They don’t have any other way to help them, so the mayor has arranged for them to go to Boston – a boys’ home and a girls’ home. Regina insists that Emma drive them there – but what about that whole magical mechanism that keeps everyone from leaving? Apparently, everyone’s forgotten about that. 
“Nice and tender. A succulent roast you’ll make.” –The Witch 
Of course, the thieving kids are Hansel and Gretel and in the fairytale world we find the evil Queen’s henchmen coming after the twins. They try to escape, but the queen uses her magical powers to ensnare them. Giving them false compliments about being “so brave,” she says she’ll find their father if they do something for her. They must sneak into a witch’s house and take a satchel from her, but she warns them, “Don’t eat anything,” because it’s the classic gingerbread house from the old story we all know. 
At the (unnervingly pretty) witch’s house, Hansel is having a difficult time resisting all the treats and while his sister grabs the satchel, he eats a cupcake, waking the witch and reminding her that it’s dinnertime. Of course, in this grownup version of the story, we see the gruesome part most storybooks glossed over: a pile of children’s bones on her hearth. It’s an element that always bothered me – why are children reading about a cannibalistic old woman?

Jonah Hex

The kids seem to be locked away forever, but as the witch brings them out to baste them in “graveeeeee or butter?” they team up and lock her in the over so they can escape. They bring the satchel to the queen and the prized item in the bag is the famous poison apple she plans to feed to Snow White. Does this mean we’ll soon see Snow White fall asleep and be awoken by her prince’s kiss? And maybe there could be a reunion for Mary and David in the real world? Could it be? Please let it be so!

“I don’t have my kid, because I don’t have a choice. You do.” –Emma 
Emma is trying to keep the kids out of foster homes, and Henry gives her a few hints. Henry says their father is in the book, so he has to be in Storybrook. Check. This whole subject gets Henry thinking about who his father was. So we get the back story about Emma working in a diner and meeting a firefighter, their subsequent breakup and her incarceration. She says she found out Henry’s father died fighting a fire. And when Henry asks if she has something of his father’s, it gives her an idea: the orphans may have something of their father’s. They do, it’s the compass from the fairytale scene. 
Emma promises she’ll keep them together and takes the compass to Mr. Gold in hopes of finding out about its origins. He keeps records, so for a price – Emma’s forgiveness – he tells her that the man who bought the compass is the town’s mechanic. He wants nothing to do with the kids, despite Emma’s touching story about Henry, and he says it only happened once with their mother so there’s no way he has twins. His final response is that he knows nothing about being a father – yeah, neither do most first time parents, buddy.Emma wants to lie to the kids until they can find a good home for them, and it turns out she did the same thing to Henry when she told him his dad was a firefighter – his dad is actually a miscreant. Of course, the mayor is there just in time to remind Emma to get those kids on the road to Boston. 
“You would have your own rooms of course; personal carriages, valets too. All your dreams could come true.” –The Evil Queen 
The queen tells Hansel and Gretel that their father abandoned them and that they can live with her. She offers them everything and they refuse, saying they will search for their father and prove that he hasn’t really abandoned them. With many gratuitous shots of Lana Parilla’s breasts, we find that the queen is holding Hansel and Gretel’s father. She demands to know why his children chose him over her overtures. His answer: family always finds family. She releases him, because apparently she had no other reason for detaining him than to torture two helpless children and knowing full well that they’re likely to never find each other. But, things are looking up in the real world… 
“They can’t leave Storybrook. Something bad will happen.” –Henry 
“Something bad has already happened.” –Emma 
Despite knowing it’s the wrong thing to do, Emma drive towards Boston with the orphans. Henry obviously tries to stop her, knowing full well that leaving Storybrook always brings terrible accidents to the travelers in question. And wouldn’t you know it, her car breaks down. And she’s forced to call the small town’s only mechanic: the kids’ father, Michael. As Emma and the kids wait for their father, and it turns out their compass detects his presence. Let’s hope that magic compass comes back into play or that little distraction will have just been a gratuitous flourish. Emma tells Michael that she left Henry so he’d get his best chance, but she says that when she saw he didn’t get it, her worry consumed her. He sees the kids’ faces and changes his mind (this is a fairy tale, folks); he takes responsibility for his kids. While it’s a sugary sweet, predictable ending, it shows that good things are continuing to happen in Storybrook, which in turn loosens Regina’s grip. This is a good thing, because that slowly unraveling restraint on the town is what keeps us coming back. 

“You do kind of have my chin.” –Mary Margaret 
In the last two minutes, we get two big plot points dropped in our laps. Emma tells Mary Margaret about Henry’s theory that she’s Emma’s mother (because she’s supposed to be Snow White). Mary smells Emma’s baby blanket – the one she got from her birth parents – and seems to remember something, so she immediately throws it down. And here we have another signal of more Snow White story to come! More romance with swoon-worthy Josh Dallas! The second last-minute shocker is the arrival of a mysterious man on a motorcycle. He won’t give Emma his name. Emma tells Henry, “I thought you said strangers don’t come to Storybrook.” And she’s right; they don’t. Who could this person be? Emma was allowed to come to Storybrook, because she’s in the book as a baby. So if this new guy isn’t in the book, there’s got to be something sinister behind his mysterious arrival, no? 
Who do you think the new guy is? Can you wait to see Snow White and the Prince reunite? Let me know in the comments or find me on Twitter! @KelseaStahler