Once Upon a Time: Endearing or Insane?

I thought I was just about done trying out new fall TV series, but I keep getting new recommendations and so here I am. Once Upon a Time however, was suggested to me by our very own Nattyb, so I thought I would definitely give it special attention. We generally have similar tastes in television, and he maintained he thought I would like it.

Big words, and with only two episodes to go off of, it might be too early to tell, but I don’t think I was quite as impressed he was. The show is extremely high concept, and does battle with Terra Nova (apocalypse + time travel+ dinosaurs) to secure the loftiest concept of the year.

The premise is something similar to Enchanted, which took a Disney princess and through an evil curse, brought her out of her animated color drenched world, and into our rather shitty one. That worked wonderfully as a comedic concept, thanks mostly to the lovely Amy Adams, but to tackle it as a drama? It’s a bit…strange.

It’s not as Desperate Housewives as it looks.

The show is all about fairy tale characters being transported into our world, but not exactly in the way you’re thinking. The show opens with the classic story of Snow White, who is rescued by Prince Charming, and the evil witch swears revenge. She’s going to unleash a curse upon the entire world so devastating that it will ruin everyone’s happiness FOREVER.

What exactly does that entail? Transporting the entire land of make believe into a town called Storybrook in Maine in our non-fictional universe. All the characters are now regular old humans, even if they were dwarves, fairies or imps before, with regular old lives in a small town. The Queen is now the mayor, Snow White is a school teacher, Jimminy Cricket is a shrink, Red Riding Hood is a whore, and so on. But the thing is, nobody knows this ever happened. They all think they’re ordinary people, and have no recollection of their former lives as fantastical characters in a far off land.

Only one person knows the truth, the queen/mayor’s son, a little boy named Henry. We meet him as he’s hitching a ride to New York City where he finds Emma, a 28 year old bail bondswoman who happens to be the grown-up daughter of Snow White and Charming, and Henry’s long lost mother. Her parents sent her into a magic wardrobe to avoid the Queen’s curse, and now Henry, whom she gave up for adoption ten years ago, has come back to bring her to Storybrook and help everyone remember from whence they came.

Prince of Popped Collars.

I told you it was high concept right?

It’s only been two episodes, so it’s kind of hard to see where this is all going. Emma doesn’t believe Henry, as she shouldn’t because she’d have to be insane to, but stays in town when she realizes his adoptive mother isn’t exactly a fit parent for him.

I don’t really understand where the show goes from here. Right now, the episodes have been split with about two-thirds taking place in present day, and a third back in fantasy land. For example, we learn in a flashback in episode two that the Queen had to kill her own father (also named Henry) to make the curse work.

How exactly does Henry convince Emma this is actually happening? What is each week going to be like? The first episode was an intro to the concept, the second merely had the mayor and Emma sparring as the mayor thinks she’s trying to steal Henry away from her, but how long can that go on?

Little Red Riding Ho.

I also don’t understand the fundamental premise of the show. The Queen wanted to make Snow White miserable and herself happy. With this curse, all she’s done is transported everyone somewhere else. Sure, it’s kind of a boring small town, but it’s hardly a hell hole, and Snow White seems pretty content as a school teacher and hospital volunteer, as does everyone else living there.

The Queen might be mayor, but to me that’s a bit of a demotion from Queen, and she seems just as miserable  as she was before, but now she has a child to take care of she doesn’t even love, and she doesn’t have any cool magic powers either. And you would think an after effect of this curse would mean at least SHE would remember the old world, but she’s as clueless as any of them. Then what the hell was the point of any of this? Your grand plan was to go from all-powerful sorceress queen to mayor of a crappy town in Maine stuck with all the same people who hated you before? It’s like the premise was created for the purpose of building a show around it, but when you actually think about it, it doesn’t make any goddamn sense.

There are ongoing mysteries I suppose, like how the hell Henry is the only one to somehow know this entire story, and I presume we’ll meet more fantasy characters as time goes on, but I just don’t know how I feel about it. It seems too goofy to me, and there doesn’t seem to be a clear endgame in sight. Is it anything more complicated than through some sort of magic, Emma defeats the Queen and everyone gets transported home? Is that it?

Sorry Natty, but I don’t quite agree with you on this one. I would love to hear a counterpoint as to why you were so impressed, and no, the Queen’s rack does not count as a valid reason.



  1. Mandy November 4, 2011
  2. =DocDoom1= November 4, 2011
  3. Jim Lahey November 4, 2011
  4. joe November 4, 2011
  5. Earthworm Jim November 4, 2011
  6. Davy November 4, 2011
  7. LadyObsidienne November 4, 2011
  8. trashcanman November 4, 2011
  9. jaromir November 4, 2011
  10. Javier November 4, 2011
  11. Korky November 6, 2011
  12. Ali November 7, 2011
  13. Eric Juneau November 7, 2011
  14. kash November 11, 2011

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