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Once Upon a Time, there was a show on ABC called “Once Upon a Time” that took all of our beloved fairytale characters and set them in the real world. It was a premise that not all could get behind, but was nonetheless intriguing. I was on the fence, but the show moved on and did well and I saw not an episode. A second season was ordered, and though I was still intrigued, the show was too far along for me to start following it. Comparisons have been made to the comic “Fables” by Bill Willingham, and while there are some similarities, this show is a different beast altogether. Though the premise was enticing, I was also wary of the show being a soap opera about fairytale characters. I can say that that description is valid, but not very accurate, and after journeying with the characters of the show, I can say a happily ever after is still a long ways away, but I’m up for tagging along with Snow White, Prince Charming, Emma, Henry and the rest of the family.
For those uninitiated in the world of “Once Upon a Time”, it’s a show where the fairytales we all grew up with happened, albeit in a much more adult and action oriented manner, with not one real damsel in distress. The “Enchanted Forest”, as it’s referred to in the show, is the world where every fairytale character lived, from Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, to Mulan and Peter Pan, to King Midas, and even Arthurian legends. The show references them all. In the Forest, the Evil Queen, Regina (Lana Parrilla) cursed the land so that everyone would be sent to the real world, unaware of who they truly are. With the Queen being the only one to retain her memories, she essentially gets to live “Happily Ever After.”
Her daughter Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and her husband Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) decide to use a magic portal within a wardrobe carved from an enchanted tree to send their newborn child away before the curse. Fast Forward 28 years, and Emma (Jennifer Morrison), the now adult child of Snow and Charming, had a son of her own when younger, but gave him up for adoption. Ten years later, that son, Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) hunts her down and brings her back to Storybrooke, Maine. This is where all the people of the Forest ended up. I can’t tell you what fully happened next as I didn’t see the first season, but by the end everyone has regained their memories and magic has been brought back to the world by Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle). WHEW!!!
Now that we’re all caught up and everything, I can start talking about the stuff I did get to watch. No spoilers about story here, just quality of show. I have to say, it’s not bad at all. The cast’s take on classic characters like the ones mentioned above, along with The Mad Hatter, Red Riding Hood, and even Pinocchio make the show worth watching. Written and created by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis of “Lost” and “Tron: Legacy” fame, the show deftly weaves intrigue, some politics, fantasy, drama, and humor to ensnare you. The second season has just as many twists and turns as the first, so there’s an bit of mystery as well, as you follow the protagonists on their journey, learning as the characters learn.
The show is split into present day events in Storybrooke, and the newly re-accessible Enchanted Forest (or at least a part of it), and sheds new light on the background of characters. There are no one-dimensional characters here, everyone has depth to them, especially the villains. Robert Carlyle and Lana Parrilla, and new addition Colin O’Donoghue as Captain Killian “Hook” Jones truly shine, and all are great memorable characters. The story progresses at a decent pace and keeps you interested the whole time. I really couldn’t believe how quickly I was drawn into this world and its inhabitants. And that’s the thing whether it’s in the Forest or Storybrooke, you just want to keep watching.
Visually it’s fun as well. In the Forest you get some nice wooded area scenes, and the palace and castle backgrounds are decent for TV budget. They’re the CGI backgrounds from shows like “Spartacus” and “Sanctuary” and their creatures aren’t half bad either, the Ogre and the Wraith in particular. The fantasy settings feel real enough and you won’t be taken out of the story. At 22 episodes long, there’s a lot to cover, but it kind of flies by as things get more and more complicated and the family trees continue to intertwine. One of the special features is all about the confusing family dynamic of the show, while yet another focuses on the strong female characters. There’s also a featurette about Captain Hook, as well as deleted scenes and a blooper reel.
I won’t lie, though the premise was interesting, this isn’t something I probably would’ve picked up on my own. That said, I’m glad I had the chance to watch it. I don’t buy a lot of TV shows but I will be getting Season 1 of this to play catch up, and will be watching both Season 3 and the “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland” spin-off mini-series this fall. If you like fairytales, good storytelling, and some good twists, take a chance and make a wish “Once Upon a Time.”