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Monday, November 7, 2011

Review of Once Upon a Time

No, this isn’t the beginning of a story. It would be a bit cliché don’t you think? I promise I’ll refrain from commenting on the lack of creativity in the title (oops, just did) during my review of ABC’s new fantasy drama based on its writing merit.
To start, I must mention that given the intense promotion of this television show and the constant reminder of its successful assembly of writers from LOST, I was disappointed in the premiere. Once Upon a Time (here on referred to as OUT) lacked the same hook of its predecessor and the pilot episode seemed too focused on instant character development where it should have centered on setting up the plot to lure viewers in for subsequent episodes.
With that said, there is plenty about OUT I found intriguing. The parallel worlds are entertaining in two fashions: 1- the fantasy world acts as a traditional escape from reality, 2- the real world hosts playful Easter eggs that hint at their relationship to the fairytale (my personal favorite is the mayor’s apple trees). Suggestive moments where the citizens remember their fantastical past provides depth to both the story and its characters. Generally speaking, fantasy protagonists are adolescent boys (which I suppose they achieved with Henry) so it’s refreshing to have a nearly grown Emma Swan* as the main character and eventual Storybrooke savior. The age twist of Emma’s parents essentially being her peers could also provide comic relief or a dramatic upheaval in the future, but it is likely the focus will continue to shine on Henry for the time-being. As far as characters go, the cast is varied enough to satisfy the many point-of-views and backstories people (read: I) often crave.
The first half of the season will largely be exposition, and the two episodes that started this journey certainly informed viewers of the necessary basics. It wasn’t until the third episode that OUT started to remove itself from expected fairytale drivel into a reinvented, modern take on these classic stories. The Evil Queen or Mayor was more or less one dimensional. Even the removal of her father’s heart didn’t quite sink in giving his short cameo. In episode three however, she took on a compassionate side that expanded her character, giving her room to become a unique villain. Undoubtedly the best part of this episode was the unconventional story of Snow White and her Prince Charming. For one, they actually gave him a name: James. And secondly Snow was not the detestable and gullible girl from childhood stories; she was an independent, thieving miscreant with class.
Although the dialogue is predictable and the stories have been done before, there is a good deal of fresh spin (specifically the characters) on these tropes to create the longevity OUT deserves. This is certainly a tale that cannot be told over a season, and much like LOST it requires numerous installments to properly communicate the intricate narrative. I cannot comment much further since the program has barely stepped into the spotlight, but from this juncture I can say that Storybrooke holds a great moderntale in store for faithful viewers.         

* I felt I had to comment on the last name Swan. Sure, it has a nice symbolism of purity (if only people really knew the ferocity of swans, ha) but it has become overused. Elizabeth Swan, Bella Swan…now Emma Swan? Come on, writers, any other last name would do.

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