The Great Once Upon a Time Rewatch | Episode 9: True North

Emma confronts her own past when she helps two children track down their father before they are placed into the foster system.

Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Jared S. Gilmore, and Robert Carlyle

Season 1
Episode 9: True North

The Enchanted Forest

In the Enchanted Forest, Hansel and Gretel live with their father. He gifts Gretel a compass so that they won’t be separated, but when they return from finding kindling, he is nowhere to be found. While they search for him, they come across the Evil Queen, who captures them. She assures them that she can help them find their father, but first they must retrieve an item from the Blind Witch. They must enter the Blind Witch’s gingerbread house to get the Evil Queen’s leather satchel, but without eating anything. Though they break in without a hitch, Hansel takes a bite of a cupcake, which wakes up the Blind Witch. Unable to see, she is able to detect them by smell, and locks them up and prepares to roast them. Ultimately, the two children manage to push the witch into her own oven and flee. The Evil Queen, who is watching from her magic mirror, sends a bolt of fire through the mirror to ignite the witch’s oven, roasting her alive.

When the twins return the satchel to the Queen, the contents of the bag are revealed as a poisoned apple. The Evil Queen offers Hansel and Gretel a home, but they want to return to their father. She sends them back out to the forest, and summons her new prisoner, who is Hansel and Gretel’s father. She asks why they turned down the life of luxury that she offered them, and he responds that they are family, and that family will find each other. Determined to prevent this from happening, the Evil Queen sends the father to the dungeon.


In the Storybrooke drugstore, Henry encounters a young girl called Ava. While initially quite taken with her, it transpires that she and her brother, Nicholas, were using Henry to allow them to shoplift. Regina and Emma arrive to handle the situation, and Emma discovers that Nicholas and Ava are living without their parents and with little food, which is why they were stealing. Emma sets herself the task of finding the children’s father, to prevent them from going into the foster system. Regina phones social services, which plans to put the children in two separate homes in Boston. Even though Regina commands Emma to deliver them to Boston, Emma continues to try to find their father.

The children give her a compass that belonged to their father, which Emma presents to Mr. Gold. Through this, Emma finds Michael Tillman, the garage mechanic and tells him about his children. He expresses concern that he can barely keep running the garage, let alone the twins. Emma prepares to take the twins to Boston, even though Henry warns that nobody can leave Storybrooke. Sure enough, the car breaks down before they can leave, and Michael appears to tow them. Emma begs him to see the children, explaining that she couldn’t leave Henry after discovering how he was living. Michael accepts the children into his life when he sees them again.

Back at home, Emma shares Henry’s theory with Mary Margaret, that she is Snow White and therefore her mother. Even though Mary finds it amusing, she still has a bit of a reaction when she sees Emma’s blanket, though dismisses it as nothing. Henry also asks Emma about his father, and she tells him that he was a trainee fireman, who she was unable to tell about Henry because he died while saving a family from a burning building. She later admits to Mary Margaret that this was complete fiction, and that Henry should never know the real story of his father.

When Henry arrives with a pumpkin pie to thank Emma for telling him about his father, a stranger arrives in town on a motorcycle. He asks Emma for a place to stay.


  • Even though at first glance this seems like a really random backstory to hear in this episode, it gives us great insight into Emma’s character. She is clearly reluctant to separate the twins, and doesn’t want them to go into the foster system if it can be avoided. We can see her clear sense of abandonment and the lack of place she felt as a child as she struggles to get Ava and Nicholas’ dad to take them in. It’s reassuring, in a way, that even though time cannot be reversed to fix this hurt for Emma, she is still connecting with her mother, even though she does not know it.
  • It’s an interesting section of the backstory for the Evil Queen. We know that this happens after she has already got rid of Snow White from the castle, and is now planning to poison her, which will lead towards where we saw Snow and Charming in the very first scene of the pilot. Obviously Hansel and Gretel solve that function narratively, but the other devious acts that the Evil Queen performs are curious. She gains very little from separating that family. So why do it? Well, I think the reason why the Evil Queen does this is out of a sense of bitterness. She clearly wanted Hansel and Gretel to live in her palace with her, assuming that the wealth and the comfort that the stately home provides would make up for the lack of father. Evidently, she doesn’t really consider or recognise love, but she also wants to feel that sense of companionship and being needed and responsible for other creatures. This desire for a child has been seen before in the Evil Queen, hence why she even has Henry in the first place. A non-maternal human wouldn’t adopt a child, even if she is evil, and that’s something that we mustn’t disregard about Regina: she really does want to be loved and needed and looked up to. When they reject her in this way, she wants them to suffer for having hurt her. Which isn’t exactly fair, but I suppose power has gone to Regina’s head just a little bit.
  • Not very much advancement on the Mary Margaret/David front here, again, but hopefully that picks up soon in the next couple of episodes.
  • Who is the mysterious stranger on the motorbike? They seem enigmatic, which means that they must be important. After all, Emma is the only other arrival in Storybrooke in its history, and she is going to break the curse, so is he significant or connected to the Enchanted Forest in some way?

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