Once Upon a Time has been on my “to watch” list since it first came out. I love the concept of alternate re-tellings of fairy tales and classic stories. It seemed like something that would be right up my alley; unfortunately, I never got around to checking it out until recently. Now that we’re almost at Season 5, I thought it was about time to play catch-up. Let’s just say that I’m very angry at myself for waiting so long. This show has quickly become one of my favorites. (spoilers ahead!)
For those of you unfamiliar with the story, Once Upon a Time takes place within two worlds: our “normal” world, and a magical, parallel world where our classic fairy tales exist. As Snow White is being wed to Prince Charming, the Evil Queen Regina casts a curse that plucks all of the fairy tale characters from their world and transfers them to Storybrooke, Maine, where they are destined to live the rest of their days with no memory of their past lives. The only people who seem to remember are the Evil Queen (now Mayor of Storybrooke) and the Mad Hatter (a pretty creepy dude).
The fairy tale characters live seemingly happy lives, even if they have no memory of their pasts. Snow White is a sweet elementary school teacher named Mary Margaret, the Huntsman is Storybrooke’s Sheriff Graham, and Jiminy Cricket is the local psychologist. Storybrooke is a town of habit and the citizens all appear to be happy with this. However, one night, Regina’s adopted son Henry ventures out of the town and tracks down Emma Swan, his biological mother, and tells her that she’s needed to save Storybrooke and its residents from the curse.
The entire season consists of exciting episodes where we switch between Storybrooke and fairy tale land. The flashbacks to the world of fairy tales are fun to watch because we get to see how all of the stories intertwined. My favorite example of this involves the Genie from Aladdin. In Once Upon a Time‘s version of the fairy tale, the Genie falls in love with the Evil Queen, but she betrays him, which eventually leads to him turning into the famous Magic Mirror. In the real world of Storybrooke, the Genie/Magic Mirror is a mild-mannered yet cunning reporter called Sidney Glass. I might add that he is played by Giancarlo Esposito, aka Gus from Breaking Bad. It’s such a huge shift between these roles that I was truly impressed with Esposito’s acting talents. I can only hope that he makes a big comeback in future seasons, though, I think he may have been too busy with filming Breaking Bad at the time, so I’m not too sure.
Speaking of surprise appearances by well-known actors, guess who plays the Mad Hatter from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland? Sebastian Stan aka Bucky aka the Winter Soldier. Being a huge fan of anything Marvel, I was floored to see him on this show. The Mad Hatter is a fascinating character both in Storybrooke and in fairy tale world. It’s just a shame we only see him in about two or three episodes. Nevertheless, he delivers an amazing performance no matter how small of a role he had.
Emma Swan, played by Jennifer Morrison, is a unique yet familiar character. She strongly reminds me of Bethana Sloane from the film Dogma. They both have the same dry wit, resourcefulness, inner strength, and overall determined persona. I’m not complaining since it’s about time we have more solid female protagonists, but I couldn’t shake the familiarity while I was watching. I was more surprised at the fact that Emma was only one of many main characters. I figured the show would revolve more around her, but as the season goes on, we learn just as much about everyone else. Every character has great development, even the minor ones like Grumpy of the Seven Dwarves or Jiminy Cricket.
I only have two big complaints about the show thus far. The flashbacks aren’t shown in chronological order. Whenever we change back to fairy tale land, it’s hard to establish exactly when certain things are happening in relation to one another. It became a little difficult to catch on at first, but it got much easier to understand in the later episodes. My other complaint is that the special effects are pretty bad. Everything supernatural or magical looks like a cartoon. In the episode where the Mad Hatter and the Evil Queen ventured into Wonderland, I had to pause and do a double-take because the world looked so fake. Maybe that was intentional since Wonderland is meant to be this trippy, psychedelic world. But other effects like the dragon and the fairies are just as absurd. I think they could’ve done much more with the special effects, even if it’s TV show.
These complaints won’t stop me from tuning into the rest of the series. I’ve fallen in love with Once Upon a Time and I can’t wait to see what happens in future seasons. My one hope is that it doesn’t go downhill quickly just like Heroes did. Please, let it only get better!
Final Grade: A +
+ I thought it was very clever how the fairy tales intertwined with each other.
+ All of the acting is phenomenal, especially with the central cast.
+ It’s interesting how there is more than one main character; I assumed the show would revolve solely around Emma, but we get just as much time with the other core protagonists.
– The flashbacks were all over the place; it was difficult to determine the chronological order of what happened in fairy tale land.
– The special effects are laughable.
– Archie Hopper has a dalmatian named Pongo. Does this mean we’ll see the rest of the 101 Dalmatians character roster in future seasons?
What were your thoughts on the first season of Once Upon a Time? Let us know what you think in the comments or on Twitter!