The Battle of the Network Fairy Tale Shows has delivered two brilliant episodes of television this week, both dealing with how competent one can be when someone forces him/her to step up to the plate. On Once Upon a Time, Ruby learns what she’s capable of after a stint working for Emma. On Grimm, Nick is forced to step up as his most heroic self to rescue Juliette.
Once Upon a Time Ep. 15, “Red-Handed”
Ruby (Meghan Ory) is sick of Granny (Beverley Elliott) trying to hold her back and make her old before her time, so she quits her waitress job and ends up working with Emma (Jennifer Morrison) at the police station. However, when Ruby takes Emma’s investigation of Kathryn’s disappearance away from David (Josh Dallas) and toward Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin), she realizes that perhaps the diner wasn’t such a bad place to be after all. We also learn Red Riding Hood’s back story: her first meeting with Snow White, her great love, her sheltered life, and the real reason for Granny’s overprotectiveness.
Script (2): In “Red-Handed,” Jane Espenson has given us an exciting, suspenseful, and ultimately heartwarming episode of Once Upon a Time that moves both plot and characters forward like a speeding train. Sure, what she did with Archie in “That Still Small Voice” was great, but Ruby is so. Much. Better. One can never look at the character the same way again after this episode, and her journey from dissatisfied waitress to discovering just how competent she is was fascinating to watch. Likewise, Red Riding Hood’s story. She is the Big Bad Wolf, and that’s when I fell in love with the character. The episode seemed to be all about the fact that we are our own worst enemies, our own harshest critics, and very often the only real obstacle keeping us from doing what we want and need to do with our lives.
Having Ruby be involved in the investigation of Kathryn’s disappearance breathed life into a storyline that was on the verge of becoming stale, and left us with a cliffhanger that is going to DRIVE ME CRAZY until Sunday. And there’s the introduction of a strange condition. David walking around like a zombie in the woods, then waking up elsewhere and not remembering a large chunk of time was strikingly similar to Red’s wolf condition (I’m not calling her a werewolf), and I have to wonder if they’re connected and how. Is everyone in Storybrooke capable of committing atrocities they can’t remember later? Does any of this have to do with what August did with Henry’s book? Is Regina behind it all? This episode ups the ante for the show in so many wonderful ways.
Performances (2): It is because of the brilliant and beautiful performances of Meghan Ory and Beverley Elliott that this was the first episode of Once Upon a Time to make me cry. Ory was charming and heartbreaking as both Ruby and Red Riding Hood, and her reaction to having killed Peter was devastating. In playing the unconventional Granny, Elliott achieves a wonderful balance between emotion and practicality. She is a hard woman, but she is hard because she loves so much. Ory and Elliott’s scenes together, particularly toward the end of the episode, were beautiful to watch as the two women have amazing chemistry. I caught those two stealing every scene they were in….red-handed. (Oh, I HAD to!)
Production (2): Ruby’s wardrobe. All of it. Seriously, the costume department at Once Upon a Time knows how to dress her. Likewise, Red Riding Hood and Mary Margaret, who managed to look beautiful even after taking on the responsibility of killing a wolf creature. The fairy tale scenes in this episode were all beautifully designed, from the costumes, to the crossbow, to Granny and Red’s cozy cottage. And all that wolf carnage.
Representation (2): This show has given us women as best friends and women as adversaries, but this week it gave us something even more important if only because it is so rare. In both Granny and Ruby as well as Emma and Ruby, it gave us female mentor/mentee relationships. So often in film and television, young women are guided by older men in order to fulfill their destinies or acquire skills. Buffy/Giles, The Bride/Bill, Sweet Pea/Wise Man, Camille/James Bond. Here, we get to see a grandmother prepare to pass a business down to a granddaughter. We get to see a woman in a position of power training and encouraging a female employee. These things shouldn’t be such a novelty, and yet they are.
Audience Engagement (2): “Red-Handed” was a beautiful story that can appeal to the insecure, but secretly powerful person inside all of us.
TOTAL SCORE FOR Once Upon a Time: 10 (out of 10)
Grimm Ep. 14: “Plumed Serpent”
A strange murder and arson case forces Nick (David Giuntoli) to cross paths with Ariel Eberhart (Danielle Panabaker), a firedancer who also happens to be a demon fuhrer, dragon-like wesen who can burn their own fat and shoot the flames at people (aka fire-breathing dragons). She seems really (really) into Nick, much to Juliette’s (Bitsie Tulloch) chagrin. However, her interest in Nick is less about his male prowess and more about allowing her sick father to die with dignity. She kidnaps Juliette in order to lure Nick to rescue her, which he does with Monroe’s (Silas Weir Mitchell) help. But what does all this danger and wesen-flirtation mean for Nick and Juliette’s relationship?
Script (2): I just want to give Alan DiFiore and Dan E. Fesman huge hugs, high fives, or whatever other congratulatory gestures they’d accept for their wonderful writing of Nick and Juliette’s relationship in this episode. All along, we’ve been getting bits and pieces the humor and the personality quirks that make them special, but this episode really showed us a fully-functioning (then dysfunctioning) couple. The scene where Nick has to defend himself against an accusing Juliette without telling her about his being a grimm is amazing in its total awkwardness and absurdity, and later, when Nick knows he’s going to have to go to Ariel’s home again, he makes sure to call Juliette and tell her in advance while also telling her that he’s going to take Hank with him. Rather than do the standard Male Character On TV Thing leading to more hackneyed misunderstandings later, he’s up front and prepares himself…like a real person would.
The story of Nick meeting his first demon fuhrer, Ariel meeting her first grimm, and Nick needing to save his “princess” in order to help an elder demon fuhrer die with dignity was epic and had the feel of a grand fantasy film, and provided Grimm with yet another intriguing female wesen character that could possibly return. “Plumed Serpent” was a strong success, because it was firmly rooted in Nick’s world, character development, and overall story arc.
Performances (2): The wonderful material in the script was brought beautifully to life by the core trio of David Giuntoli, Bitsie Tulloch, and Silas Weir Mitchell. Giuntoli brought swag this week – perhaps having a beautiful woman jump you and rip your shirt off just before you have to save your beautiful girlfriend will do that to you – infusing Nick with confidence, complete competence as a grimm, and humor. Nick feels completely lived-in now, and watching Giuntoli explore this character and his ever-expanding responsibilities is a pleasure. Bitsie Tulloch, Bitsie Tulloch, Bitsie Tulloch. She was amazing this week, and finally had the opportunity to fully engage with Juliette in a way that she’s done in bits and pieces in previous episodes. Tulloch was able to show us the full range of Juliette’s inner-life, from loving girlfriend, to threatened girlfriend, to fierce fighter when backed into a corner, to a woman weighing the love of her boyfriend against her own life and safety. Juliette went through a lot in this episode, and Tulloch gave us a multifaceted Juliette, making her very real. And then there was the ever-awesome Silas Weir Mitchell, who basically played Monroe this week as Nick’s other girlfriend, and his desire to be introduced to Juliette was a bit like wanting to meet the parents. Mitchell gives Monroe a quiet heroism that is as touching as it is funny.
Lastly, we have another wonderful guest star in Danielle Panabaker, whose fiercely sexual, stalkerish Ariel was a compelling foil for both Nick and Juliette. Since she wasn’t dead at the end of the episode, I’m hoping this means that they can and will bring her back.
Oh and by the way, yes that was a Baldwin you spied in the episode. Daniel, to be precise.
Production (2): This episode of Grimm felt like it could be part of a Hollywood fantasy film, and that was due in no small part to the visual effects and the production design. Everything from the dragon morphing effects to the work with fire to the design of the hand car used to transport Juliette felt epic and contributed to the grand story being told in the script.
And of course, there was Ariel’s fire dancing costume, or The Costume That Launched a Thousand Cosplays.
Representation (2): This was a difficult score upon which to decide, because I’m still not happy with what they’re doing with Sargent Wu. Yes, he had a great scene in the episode, but he was his usual, snarky self. He is the only series regular who hasn’t yet had any real character development, and that’s a disappointment, mostly because Reggie Lee does so much with what little he’s given that it’s a shame to see his talent being wasted. Normally, I would’ve given Grimm a 1.5 on representation just for this.
However, it gets a 2 this week, not only because Juliette was so well written and got to punch the antagonist in the face, AND is coming close to making Nick’s decision about their relationship for him, but because we got such an interesting, nuanced character in Ariel. I found her fascinating, and was particularly intrigued by her relationship with her father.
Audience Engagement (2): This episode literally had me on the edge of my seat. I was talking to my television so much that my roommates looked at me as if I were crazy. “Plumed Serpent” was a solid police procedural story made better by focusing in on the personal life of the titular Grimm.
TOTAL SCORE FOR Grimm: 10 (out of 10)
Cumulative Scores So Far:
Once Upon a Time: 110
That’s all for this week! Don’t forget to watch Grimm on Fridays at 9PM ET on NBC and Once Upon a Time on Sundays at 8PM ET on ABC.
Teresa Jusino wants to be Ruby’s BFF. She can be heard on the popular Doctor Who podcast, 2 Minute Time Lord, participating in a roundtable on Series 6.1, and at the end of last year she was selected as one of the Top 11 Geek Girls of 2011 at the Geek To Me blog at Chicago Redeye. Her “feminist brown person” take on pop culture has been featured on websites like ChinaShopMag.com, PinkRaygun.com, Newsarama, and PopMatters.com. Her fiction has appeared in the sci-fi literary magazine, Crossed Genres; she is the editor of Beginning of Line, the Caprica fan fiction site; and her essay “Why Joss is More Important Than His ‘Verse” is included in Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon By the Women Who Love Them, which is on sale now wherever books are sold! 2012 will see Teresa’s work in an upcoming non-fiction sci-fi anthology. Get Twitterpated with Teresa, “like” her on Facebook, or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.