Red's the problem in "Child of the Moon." All of the other problems in the episode are because of the poor development of her character. The Once Upon A Time writers have so many pieces to juggle and stories to tell that some of the pieces and stories get lost along the way. Dr. Whale's big episode happened, and he hasn't been seen in two weeks. Red had one episode last season that fleshed her out. Before, she wore tight clothing, her hair high and bright red lipstick. She was nothing more than her look. After her episode, she's barely seen. The next chapter of her story aims for sympathy in showing how the wolf hurt the person, and people she cared about in the fairy tale land. Absolutely nothing in either story worked. The beats were forced. The acting was atrocious.
Billy the Mouse, from the teaser, is an example what's wrong with Red's story every step of the way. His introduction is supposed to get the audience to like him. It's easy to like him, or anyone, who's sweet and nice when asking a girl out. The situation is familiar, for good or ill; someone with the guts to do that is worth rooting for because the audience wants him to say yes. In television, it's a cheap trick to use instead of using time develop the character and his history with the woman he's asking out. Billy's introduced that way to make his eventual death sting. Red then feels even worse because she thinks she killed a man who wanted to date her. TV writing books preach about the importance of character, and they instruct aspiring writers on how to create meaningful one-off characters by tying them to a main character's case in a meaningful way. Billy's tied to Red through attempted courtship, and it absolutely sucks.
The fairy back revolves around Red meeting her mother, finding a pack, and learning how to embrace the wolf. Red initially meets a man-wolf named Quinn, who leads her to his pack and her mother. The fairy back begins miserably with Quinn stealing her red cape and running off through the woods with it. There has to be a better way for tertiary characters to be introduced in Once Upon A Time besides running through the woods until a principal character tackles him where then the tertiary character is happy to talk all damn day about what he did and why he did. Quinn steals the hood and runs through the wood just so the audience wonders why, which is fine sometimes, but is mostly cheap in this instance.
Red's mother exhibits zero personality in her scenes with Red. The lack of personality, though, is an example of someone who's given into the wolf in exchange for their humanity. The werewolves live in their dwelling every day, only leaving to run through the woods at night. Red's been hindered in her nature by her Grammy's lies. An entire episode could've been produced about Red learning about the wolf and meeting her mother, but it's thrown away in a B story where there's little time for any scene to grow, let alone breathe. The history of the wolf, and the ways of the wolf, are explained in a short narrative montage. The montage is supposed to show the bond created between Red and her pack, making her eventual choice to save Snow's life over her own mother's more dramatic. The montage feels lazy. It's an expediation of her narrative so it parallels her drama in Storybrooke.
Red identifies herself as a killer and worthy of death. The murder of Billy causes the town to gather in an angry mob, complete with pitch forks and torches. Storybrooke loves a good ol' town mob (the premiere featured a town mob). King George is in the middle of the conflict. He threatened Charming for the nonsense that happened between them in the fairy tale land, vowing to take away everything and everyone he cares about, promising to reveal him for the shepherd he truly is, not for the prince he plays the part of or the role of sheriff he doesn't deserve. Spencer/King George framed Red for murder and tried to kill her through the mob, hoping the town mob would remove Charming from power. The plan fails. Charming saves Red's life before she allows herself to die for she believes her past sins warrant a bloody death via the people she'd kill if they didn't kill her, as the wolf of course. Red cannot reconcile her humanity with her wolf. Charming helps her in Storybrooke; Snow helped her in the fairy back: both emphasized Red's duality; that, specifically, she is both human and wolf and that it is okay to be both.
There are many forced beats, forced scenes, and bad acting to get to Red's catharsis and eventual peace. The forced scenes and bad acting reduces to the episode to a pile of crap, unfortunately. Stuff happens. Red overreacts to it to show she feels, but she's too overwrought and it all feels superfluous. The writers don't bother with Red for more than 55 pages once a season. The characters weren't themselves last season, so an episode like "Child of the Moon" is as much about the audience discovering more about Red as it is about Red discovering more about herself. Once Upon A Time tends to pack in too much story, which hurts an episode because there's too much to tell and resolve in a meaningful or satisfactory way.
That's the case in "Child of the Moon." Too much story, little time to make any of them matter, and then it ends.
-Henry's and Aurora's nightmare is actually seen, but it's not a nightmare. Gold explains Henry's suffering as cause of a sleep curse. The curse transports one to a world between life and death. Henry's able to fight the torment with a magic chain. The episode in two weeks will shed more light on why Henry's under a curse. Could it be the apple turnover of DOOM Henry ate from the season 1 finale?
-Belle was chained in her library. Yes.
-King George burned the Mad Hatter's Hat, which absolutely redeemed the character for me. I hate the hat and every stupid thing associated with it. Knowing this show, though, another magic hat will be made by Gepetto.
-Ian Goldberg & Andrew Chambliss wrote the episode. Anthony Hemingway directed it.
-Mark J. Goldman edits the show. Goldman edited episodes of my favorite shows like Buffy, ANGEL and LOST.
-Once Upon A Time will return in 2 weeks with an all-new episode.
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