I have an interesting background with the ABC show Once Upon A Time. As many comic book fans can attest, this caused a bit of a stir in our world because it is very Fables-esque. Fables is an unbelievably brilliant comic series written by Bill Willingham. Years ago the concept for the show was sold to ABC, but a pilot was never made. Instead a few years later this came along, and the parallels are distinct. The creators of Once Upon A Time have admitted they read some of the comics, but they do not believe it is the same story. Obviously it is not the same story, but trust me, they would be better off to at least admit there was some inspiration taken from the comic. That is fine. People take inspiration from all types of sources, and there is nothing wrong with that. I highly suggest Fables to anyone who enjoys fairy tales but wants a darker and more mature look at it. Once I got past my “grrr argh” reaction to the show, however, I watched and decided to take it on its own merit. And I am glad I did. Spoilers below!

Once Upon A Time is about Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), a bail bond collector with no family or friends to speak of. Ten years ago she gave up a child for adoption, and he shows up at her doorstep on her birthday. Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) is convinced that a storybook he found is true and that people in his town are all characters from the fairy tales. They are stuck in Storybrooke (I know, lol) and only Emma can break the curse on them so they can remember their true selves. A long time ago an evil witch (Lana Parrilla) cursed the lands so that no one could have a happy ending, especially the person she hated most of all Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin). Emma comes to the town and agrees to stay in order to get to know her son better, and she squares off with the evil queen who is Henry’s adopted mother Regina. She gets to know the other inhabitants and grows closer to the handsome Sheriff Graham (Jamie Dornan). Meanwhile the audience gets to see the other side of the characters in the fairy tale land. They see Snow White hiding from the queen and meeting Prince Charming (Josh Dallas). It is on their wedding the witch declares her curse, and it is their child Emma who is destined to save everyone. We see other characters come to life in both their Storybrooke world and back home, such as Cinderella, Jiminy Cricket, Rumpelstiltskin, and The Huntsman.

So let’s talk about what works really well for the show. The movement between both worlds is seamless and very creatively edited. It never feels like the story is interrupted when we move between Snow White and her ‘normal’ counterpart Mary Margaret. Both sides look and feel completely different, yet they complement the other well. A lot should be said about the set design and shooting, especially for the fairy tale side. It is gorgeous. When Snow White and Charming walk along the countryside or get to the troll bridge, you have to admire the beauty and realism of something utterly unrealistic. The town of Storybrooke is simple, but it too works for what it is. You feel present in these places. The retelling of classic stories is always fun. They are familiar but have a new spin on them, such as Cinderella making a deal with Rumpelstiltskin after he kills her Fairy Godmother. He is the centerpiece of a lot of the conflict, although I wouldn’t necessarily call him an antagonist just yet. Not the way Regina/The Witch is. And she is fantastic. Lara Parrilla owns this role. I already was a fan of hers, but this really sold it for me. She manages to be tough and intimidating while there are glimpses of true emotion and vulnerability underneath, like you’re just waiting to hear her story because you know there’s more to her than just evil. Henry is adorable, and most of the inhabitants are interesting and entertaining to watch. Each episode is dedicated to someone’s story, and when you meet a new character in Storybrooke you can’t help but wonder who they are. I have some theories on Regina that I will post at the end of this, just in case they turn out to be spoilers. They probably won’t be. Speculation rarely comes true.

That is a lot of good, so what’s the bad? I do not have a lot to complain about here. I will say that Jennifer Morrison is so bland. I think it comes out more obviously when she is around much better actors, and that includes most of the cast including the child. I have never been a fan of Morrison, and my complaint usually is her blandness and how she manages to make likable characters unlikable somehow. It is something about her, I can’t put my finger on it. Her acting is wooden, which sucks because most of the plot revolves around Emma. I want to be on her side, I like the concept of her and her toughness and her growing connection to Henry. I know a lot of critics have commented on Morrison being the weakest point of the show, and I agree on this. Unfortunately that is never going to change. After that, the only concern I have about the show is its lasting power. Where is it going to go after Emma reawakens everyone in Storybrooke? How long can they bank on ‘ooo look your favorite fairy tale enjoy!’ until it gets a little old? Obviously this is only the first season so they do not need to worry about that yet, but Once Upon a Time will definitely get renewed so it’s inevitable to come up.

What surprised me about Once Upon a Time is that even if it is cheesy and about happy endings, it is not afraid to take risks and point out that sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to. Snow White and Prince Charming might belong together, but it was not an easy road for them in their world and definitely not in the normal world either. They keep stories moving in a believable way. They took a big risk by killing Graham so early, and I think that was the moment I went ‘okay show, I’m with you.’ Because damn that was harsh, and it proved they aren’t going to be smiles and happy time. Eventually people might wake up and have their happy endings, but like Rumpelstiltskin says, everything has a price. If you love fairy tales, try this show out. It will bring the kid out in you, and it is family friendly so everyone can enjoy it together. I would not call this a must-watch. Sometimes I leave it in the DVR for awhile and come to it when I get a chance, but I do enjoy watching it, and I look forward to seeing what comes ahead.

But just FYI, Fables would’ve been better. Sorry, the comic nerd in me had to say it.

I did say I was going to speculate on the identity of the witch. I believe she is the Miller’s Daughter (Regina Mills), who is in the original story of Rumpelstiltskin. It would explain their ongoing connection. She said that Snow White told a secret that ruined her life. Originally the Miller’s Daughter is the one who had the baby she promised to Rumpelstiltskin unless she could tell him his name in three days. I think it is likely to be tied to this somehow,  that because of Snow White she lost her child. It would make her easier to relate to and explain why she is so fervently close to Henry and craves his love. I could be wrong though, this was just speculation from what I’ve seen and the name sort of clued me in. I guess we’ll see!

  1. Henry Casey says:

    No thoughts about how this is co-created and written by Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, writers of most of Lost’s Hurley eps, as well as the Charlie episode Greatest Hits?


  2. […] wrote before about how I overcame personal prejudice to try out Once Upon a Time and the show grew on me. I was […]


  3. […] Thoughts – If you look back on my first story about OUAT, you’ll get a lot of how I was feeling at the break and how I struggled to get […]


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