Themes about family continue to fill out ABC's "Once Upon a Time." Like last week's Rumpelstiltskin tale, this week's episode centers on a father and his family.
In the fairytale realm, Hansel and Gretel's happy family life is disrupted when their father (Nicholas Lea) mysteriously vanishes in the woods. The Evil Queen (Lana Parilla), more than happy to endanger children to fulfill her plans, quickly conscripts them to steal a package for her from a blind witch. A blind witch who just happens to live in a magic cottage made of candy.
The children accidentally waken the blind witch, and she decides they will make a tasty meal for her. But they escape, stuffing her in her own oven on their way out. Watching through her magic mirror, the Evil Queen finishes off the witch herself.
Hansel and Gretel give the Evil Queen her package, which turns out to be a perfect red apple –- a weapon against her enemy. Impressed by the children, she offers them a place in her palace, but they reject the offer. They declare they will search for their missing father instead.
The Queen becomes angry and banishes them both into the midst of the dense forest. Their father, her prisoner, is freed to the impossible task of finding his family lost somewhere in the kingdom.
Meanwhile, in Storybrooke, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) discovers two orphan children living on their own. She sets out to find their only living parent, an unidentified father. But when she does so, he refuses to take in the children, despite her passionate arguments based on her own childhood as an orphan.
Regina insists that Sheriff Emma put the kids into the foster system. But just before they leave town, Emma brings the father and his children together. Seeing his kids, he finally changes his mind.
And then, a mysterious stranger suddenly rides into Storybrooke ...
There was a nice allusion to a modern version of fairytales when Henry reads from some (Disney-owned) Marvel comics. Jennifer Morrison really sank her teeth into Emma's fierce determination to get Mr. Tillman to accept his responsibility. The blind witch was deliciously cool and creepy, and deserves to be explored again.
Intriguing questions arose again around Mr. Gold's (Robert Carlyle) ability and intentions. Also interesting is how determined Regina is to send the children out of town. It begs the question -– is that despite or because of Henry's warning that "something bad" will happen if they leave?
Hopefully it's a thread that will not be forgotten.
WHAT DIDN'T WORK
The Evil Queen's ridiculously "witchy" riding outfit was hard to take seriously. Hansel and Gretel's escape from the witch's clutches was too easy, based on the pile of bones of all her previous, unluckier victims.
For that matter, if the Evil Queen could send fire into the cottage through her magic mirror, why didn't she just do so in the first place?
And why is there a Bed and Breakfast in Storybrooke if no one ever comes to visit?
GIVING CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
"True North" was written by David H. Goodman and Liz Tigelaar, and directed by Dean White. "Once Upon a Time" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
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