As someone who grew up during the “Golden Age” of Disney I love fairy tales. So when I heard that ABC was going to be doing a show about fairy tale characters I grew positively giddy in my excitement. Two episodes of Once Upon a Time have now aired and I couldn’t be more relieved that my high expectations were not disappointed.
Emma Swan is a loner living in Boston who is surprised on her birthday by the unexpected appearance of the now 10 year old boy she gave up for adoption. She agrees to drive Henry back to his home in Storybrooke, Maine and along the way he spins a strange tale of his home and the people who live there. According to Henry all the inhabitants are actually fairy tale characters who are under a curse where time stands still and they no longer remember who they are. The curse was cast by the Evil Queen who in the current world happens to be Henry’s adoptive mother. He claims that Emma is really the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming and that she is the only one who can save them. Worried about Henry, Emma decides to stay to make sure that he is okay.
I really like the concept of this show; I think it is interesting. It is a lot of fun to see these characters we have grown up with put into a “real world” scenario. The Evil Queen is the town mayor, Snow White is an elementary school teacher, Jiminy Cricket is a therapist (and his name is Archie Hopper, which made me chuckle) and they all behave in ways you would imagine their fairy tale counterpart would.
One of the most fascinating components of the show is reminiscent of the flashback sequences in LOST. Each episode of Once Upon a Time offers a glimpse into the fairy tale world that these characters were torn from. We are able to find out bits and pieces of their stories and the things that motivate them. This is where they are fleshed out for us. For instance, in the second episode we were shown what the Evil Queen had to go through in order to unleash her dark curse and the price she had to pay. While I don’t necessarily sympathize with her yet I do understand that there is much that lies beneath the surface of her agenda and in her mind at least she is justified in the things she is doing. And I am extremely curious about what Snow White did that she feels ruined her happily ever after.
As a side note, I must take a moment to recognize the high production quality of the show, especially during the fairy tale scenes. The locations used for filming and the cinematography are just gorgeous and truly make you feel as though you have been swept into a fantastical land where magic exists. It is not very often that you see something of this caliber on television.
Without question right now I am most intrigued by the character of Rumplestiltskin (who is aptly named Mr. Gold in Storybrooke). He is played by Robert Carlyle who is great at playing these sly and somewhat creepy types of characters. We were briefly introduced to him in the pilot, but got a much better look at him in the second episode. I am amazed at the difference between the squirmy and mischivous Rumplestiltskin and his very poised, yet no less threatening counterpart Mr. Gold. Carlyle does an incredible job making these two very distinct characters still have enough threads of similarity that you know they are the same. There are so many things that I want to know about him. Where did he get the curse that he traded to the Evil Queen? What kind of power does he have? Why is he considered so dangerous and imprisoned in the fairy tale world? Does he know who he and everyone else really is in Storybrooke? What does he know about Henry and Emma? The list goes on and on. I am sure that it will be some time before answers to these questions are even hinted at, but honestly that doesn’t bother me. Robert Carlyle does such an incredible job with this role that part of me doesn’t want the mystique taken away.
It has been a long time since a show based in fantasy has survived on network television, but I have high hopes that Once Upon a Time will break this trend. With it’s unique concept, interesting characters, air of mystery, and stunning visuals I really think it has a chance. Of course I have thought the same things with other promising fantasy shows and they have all been cancelled. Only time will tell if Once Upon a Time can prove to be a show that holds audiences captive season after season or if it will be another in the long list of shows that disappeared once the novelty wore off. I hope with all my heart that it is the former.
What about you? Have you been watching Once Upon a Time? Do you like it or think that it lacks some appeal? Which characters are you most intrigued by? Any predictions on what we can expect this season? Let me know in the comments.
Next Monday will start my four post series looking at characters from Harry Potter, but the following week I will take a look at NBCs attempt to fill the fantasy void through Grimm.