Family matters. It represents a unit full of love unconditional. It's something many of us strive for. However, not all of us find it. For Emma, it's been the very thing that's made her who she is. She's run from it and towards it her entire life. And while she may have built up walls to protect herself from love of any kind in case it might be ripped from her, the walls are thin; she just can't let go of finding her family someday. And when Henry shows up, the walls begin to break. He's given her hope. Another chance at having a family. A whole family. With her father, mother, and son.
And family is the very cause for the curse. Of course, at this point in the show we don't have all the facts. That will come later. But what we do know is that the Evil Queen has no concept of what a family really is. She's confused when confronted with the idea of unconditional love for another person. Could that be why she is so bitter? The reason why she hates Snow White? Enough reason to enact a curse and break up all hope for everyone and send them to a place where they can live miserable lives just like she? It's possible.
Which leads us to this episode, filled with more broken families, but leaves us with hope for a happy ending...
Hansel and Gretel, a classic fairy tale of two children who run into some trouble with an old witch in a sweet house. They're abandoned by their parents for financial reasons and left to survive in the woods. However, these children are smart and find multiple ways, one being the infamous bread crumbs, to get back home. Nevertheless, in traditional Once Upon a Time fashion, this version has a few changes, which, in my opinion, endears me to the show even more.
Hansel and Gretel live with their father, a woodcutter. On one trip to the woods, he sends his twin children out to gather dry kindling. Their storing up for a cold winter. However, the Evil Queen interrupts their simple day. She kidnaps the father and bargains for his return by sending Hansel and Gretel into the house of the blind witch to fetch a certain something. It's in a black satchel, she says. All they have to do is retrieve it without eating anything.
The blind witch, now aware of their presence, awakes from her snoring. She's hungry. And who just walked into her parlor? Dinner!
Locking the children up, she prepares the oven and gathers a few extra tasty ingredients, butter and gravy. However, true to the original story, Hansel and Gretel are two smart children. With a few smooth moves, they trick the witch and shove her into the oven, escaping with the precious package and their lives.
The Evil Queen is pleased. Finally, she has the perfect weapon to take down Snow White. It's red and delicious, good for making cider on a cold day, with just a touch of sleeping poison. And to make good on her promise to the children, she counters with a better offer. They can come live with her. They'll have all that they want and more. They won't even miss their father.
But Gretel and Hansel don't want just anything. They want their father. And they'll do whatever it takes to find him.
This does not make the Evil Queen happy. So, she does what she does best and magically poofs them away to the middle of the Enchanted Forest with nothing more than a simple compass to lead the way. Oh, they can be a family again, just as soon as they find one another...
(The only thing missing here was an evil laugh.)
When Emma has to deal with their shoplifting, she discovers their current family state. They're all they have and Emma is determined to find their missing father. She knows what it's like to live without knowing her family. And there is no way she's sending them into the foster care system. Not if she can help it. These kids, whoever they are, need their father.
Henry, of course, knows exactly who they are. Hansel and Gretel. All alone, abandoned by their parents... It's obvious, right? This prompts Henry to ask about his father. Emma tells a sweet tale of a young man who was training to become a firefighter. They hung out. He meet success, she continued down a road of failure. By the time she was in jail (for what?) and knew she was pregnant, she learned that Henry's father had died saving a family. She doesn't have anything to show Henry about his father....
...but maybe Ava and Nicholas do.
Just their cracked compass.
Such a lovely crafted piece of work could only have come from one place in town...Mr. Gold's Pawn Shop. Mr. Gold is happy to help. Of course, with a small price. Forgiveness. Emma's not ready for that and offers only tolerance.
Mr. Gold accepts and gives her a name off of a blank index card. The name is all she'll need to find who she's looking for. And find him she does. At the local auto shop. He denies having kids even after seeing the compass they've carried around. It's his, but he wants nothing to do with them. He's not father material.
But Emma won't give up so easily. When Regina arranges for Emma to take the kids to Boston (the only other city on the show), she heads out of town and towards the city limits. Bad things happen when any fairy tale character tries to leave and this time is no exception. Emma's car rattles and shakes to a stop. Who to call when you have car problems in Storybrooke...why, the auto mechanic, aka, Ava and Nicholas' father, of course.
Such a happy ending initiates a conversation with Mary Margaret. Emma thinks it's time to give up searching for her parents. If they wanted to be found, they would be. Besides, they better have a good reason for not wanting her, and definitely not because they tried to save her from a curse by sticking her in a wardrobe.
Mary Margaret laughs. But when Emma tells her Henry thinks Mary Margaret is her mom, Mary Margaret laughs it off but takes a moment to consider it. But that's not possible. She would remember if she had a kid, wouldn't she?
And as Emma leaves to take a walk, audiences everywhere held their breath when Mary Margaret spots Emma's baby blanket, holds it to her nose, and breaths in. For a second, we're hopeful she's had some realization. But just as fast, she shakes her head and sets the blanket down.
Outside in her sheriff's car, Emma reviews her old file. A few newspaper clippings stating she'd been found by a 7 year-old boy on the side of the road. She's just about to read more when Henry shows up. He brought her a slice of pumpkin pie, his father's favorite according to Emma. His innocent face almost makes Emma confess to Henry that the entire story she told him was false. But she can't do that. That'd break his heart. So, she accepts the pie and takes a bite just as the roar of a motorcycle engine revs up the street.
A stranger, in Storybrooke? Impossible. But he's looking for a room. He's planning on staying for a while. Emma gives him directions. And as the mysterious stranger rides off, Henry confirms the impossible. Strangers don't come to Storybrooke.
So who is he?
1) Who's Henry's father and why doesn't Emma want him to know?
2) Why send the kids all the way to Boston? Surely there are closer foster care systems.
3) Did Emma's car really break down? If so, can Emma leave Storybrooke?