Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Once Upon a Time, Season 1, Episode 9: True North

This week we have the story of Hansel and Gretel and in a twist in the tale they are lost in the woods and separated from their father and they quickly fall into the snare of the Wicked Witch (Regina)., breakling the compass that’s supposed to find their father in the process. Regina plans to use them to steal something from a blind witch since children are immune to her magic.

Unfortunately, Hansel is tempted by the sweets and cakes and eats something in her house – revealing them to the Blind Witch who intends to eat them. But, really blind Witch, gravy or butter? Children should always be wrapped in bacon! Of course the Blind Witch is roasted and we learn that the Wicked Witch is gravy fan.

The kids recover the magical apple for the Wicked Witch and the Wicked Witch decides to reward them by letting them live with her in a castle with all their whims catered for. But Gretel wants her family – not the wealth and luxury that the Queen can give. The queen cannot understand why they could refuse her for him – not knowing the power of family.

We begin with poor Henry being tricked by Josef and Ara (Hansel and Gretel) so it looks like he has stolen from the local shop (and we also have that wonderful parts of this show of trying to guess the identity of the townsfolk. Is the sneezing shop keeper Sneezy of the 7 dwarfs perhaps?). But when Emma arrives it’s clear they’re not just kids stealing sweets – but kids trying to help their impoverished family. Emma believes this and takes them home with their supplies.

Except they have no parents and live in an abandoned house – and Emma is very very good at spotting people who lie to her – she brings them home and consults Mary Magdalen (the school teacher who I’d have thought may have noticed? But then the effects of the curse have many consequences). Mary mentions social services, but Emma lived through being in care and knows it is far from an ideal situation for children – and is determined to find their father rather than see them separated or bounced from home to home.

Of course, Regina has to be involved, takes their birth certificates and is determined to put them into the foster system where they will split up into 2 homes in Boston. 

Naturally Henry recognises them as Hansel and Gretel – and of course he must be in Storybrook because no-one ever leaves. Aaaand he wants to know about his dad (it’s also, I think, the first time he acknowledges Mary Margaret as Emma’s mother).  Emma hopes that Gretel’s keepsake (the compass) will help her find their father, leading her to ask information from Mr. Gold.

I have to say I do love how Emma deals with Gold. She won’t give forgiveness, she will give tolerance. I do like Emma, yes yes I do.

She tracks down the father who is less than thrilled about taking in twin children, but Emma has a very painful speech about the children – which doesn’t work. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing though as I think it’s a very simplistic decision considering what goes into parenthood.

She has to take them to Boston – but of course leaving Storybrook isn’t easy – and her car stalls out. Who would she call but a mechanic – and who is the mechanic? Why, their father of course, his heart melts, happily ever after time.

We also have some quite fun and developing bonds between Emma and Mary Margaret as well – the plot thickens. And then a mysterious stranger comes to Storybrook – a town that never gets strangers visiting.

I do like Emma’s insight onto the foster system – there’s a lot of very well acted pain and emotion there. It’s very powerful, very real and very true. At the same time I think there’s an element there of shaming parents who do give their kids up for adoption or don’t feel able to raise kids. Though her view does make sense from her context and she has been on both ends of the scale. And I can’t help but feel this is an ongoing theme – after all Gretel turns down the luxury of the Queen’s offer to be with her father – perhaps a suggestion of parents in poverty who give up their children to be adopted so they can have “every advantage”?

I probably wouldn’t have found the adoption storylines as unsettling if it weren’t for the ongoing denial of Regina as a real mother to Henry; it seems to add to an established theme and not have any counter to that.