2015 has been a bit of a hectic year for me, to say the least. 😉 Getting married, living in a new town, starting a new job, and moving (twice) wreaked havoc on my schedule for a while, so it’s been nice to get back to a normal routine and pick up some of my hobbies again, like blogging and watching movies/TV shows. I’m still way behind on “The Flash” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” but after some prodding from a coworker, I’m now trying to get caught up with “Once Upon a Time.” 🙂 Thanks to Hulu, I’m now working through the current season (season 5).
I resisted “Once Upon a Time” when it first came out, even though the premise sounded interesting to me. It’s basically a mash-up of all the classic Disney fairytale characters, like Snow White, Prince Charming, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and more. However, the show presents these characters in new and unexpected ways. When we first meet them, they are trapped in our world in a village called Storybrooke. They’ve been cursed by the evil queen, Regina (Lana Parrilla), and none of them remember their previous lives in the fairytale world. A visitor named Emma (Jennifer Morrison) learns she has unexpected ties to this town—and its residents—and her son, Henry, helps her unlock magical powers she didn’t realize she had.
I guess the reason I resisted watching it is because I tend to be a little skeptical of new shows. Starting a new TV show is a bigger time investment than just sitting down to watch a two-hour movie, and I’m always afraid I’ll fall in love with a TV show that gets canceled too soon (“Firefly”—it still hurts!) or I’ll invest my time in a couple seasons of a new show, only to have it jump the shark. But people kept recommending “Once Upon a Time” to me, and I’m glad I finally gave it a try. It’s not a perfect show and yes, sometimes it is a little cheesy and over-the-top, but it has been a lot of fun and includes some great characters.
The thing I like best about “Once Upon a Time” is, undoubtedly, the characters. At first it’s just fun seeing where well-known Disney characters and villains will show up and how they’ll be portrayed in a live action setting. But it’s even more fun seeing how the show deviates from the traditional plot lines; for example, the Snow White in this story starts out as a sort of Robin Hood type character who is a lot more action-oriented than the character in the animated movie, and it’s not actually love at first sight for her and “Prince Charming.” Red Riding Hood is revealed as a werewolf (she turns out to be the wolf in her own story); Belle falls in love the Beast…who turns out to be Rumpelstiltskin; and Peter Pan is a villain, not a hero.
I really liked the set-up of the first season, which features flashbacks of the characters in their fairytale world, in addition to their current lives in the “real world” in Storybrooke. It’s fun trying to guess which fairytale characters the residents of Storybrooke actually are.
Another detail I like is that the “Once Upon a Time” retelling is often less black and white than the original stories. Sometimes the “perfect” heroes Snow White and Prince Charming make morally questionable choices, and villains still have redeeming qualities. In fact, the best characters are arguably the ones who are the most morally complex—the villains who have crossed over to the light but still sometimes flirt with the dark side. Lana Parrilla is my favorite actress on the show, simply because she has so much fun with the role of the evil queen Regina. She proves no one is beyond redemption and even becomes a hero later on in the show, though thankfully she never loses her trademark snark. In this version, Captain Hook is a suave, charming, but not-quite-trustworthy pirate, and Robert Carlyle also is excellent as the conflicted Rumpelstiltskin, who can’t quite escape the lure of dark magic and the promise of power.
The show does have some weaknesses, though, and some viewers might find it a bit too over-the-top at times. Since I’ve watched the equivalent of two seasons in about a month, I noticed the show does rely too much on some of the same plot devices. It’s a running joke among fans that every season the characters seem to end up getting their memories wiped and showing up in some new place without having any idea how they got there. Some of the plot twists don’t always work, either. The “Frozen” tie-in in season 4 felt a little too forced and more like a marketing stunt, and a subplot that involved Ursula, Cruella, and Maleficent teaming up didn’t quite work, since Cruella didn’t really feel like she belonged in the fairytale world.
Still, the show remains interesting, and this current season turns one of the biggest heroes into a dangerous villain and transports the cast to Camelot, where we get a new interpretation of the famous legend of King Arthur. And, of course, in typical “Once Upon a Time” fashion, Arthur turns out to be not quite who he says he is.
Do you watch “Once Upon a Time”? What do you think of the show?