Oct 18, 2012

[TV] Once Upon a Time: Season 1

Since our interests seem to follow a particular pattern (or cycles may be a better term), it appears that one of the on-going points of interest involves classic fairy tales. We've seen quite a number of movies based on old children's stories but given a more adult spin to things. Thus we get all these action adventure style tales involving some pretty ferocious dwarves and the like.

And now we have a number of TV shows venturing into this area as well with their own angles to address things. Once Upon a Time came out about the same time as another fairy tale related show, Grimm, but for one reason or another this is the one that I stuck with. It's not that I particularly love or greatly like the show. At the time it was just better than Grimm and thus I figured I might as well hedge my bets and focus on one show. I can take only so much suburban fantasy or whatever you want to call this.

At least the show became moderately interesting towards the end of the season and thus I continue to watch it now that the show has returned to the small screen this month. And so it's just as well that we formally visit this in a review.

Synopsis: Once Upon a Time is a fantasy drama TV series created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. The show received a number of niche nominations for tits debut season including Favorite New TV Drama at the People's Choice Awards and Best Genre Series at the Satellite Awards.

The show pretty much centers around a bail bonds collector Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) finds herself in the small town of Storybrooke. She had once given up a son and she now knows that he is alive and well in the town. And when she does meet Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), for some reason he is obsessed with a book of old fairy tales and believes that everyone in the town is somehow connected to these old characters.

And he's not exactly wrong, which is where the fantasy element to things comes in. The mayor of the town (and Henry's adoptive mother), Regina Mills (Lana Parilla), is actually the Evil Queen of myth. The entire town of Storybrooke is under a curse she cast many years ago to take away their happiness in favor of her own. Thus the show takes place in two realms - the modern world where Henry continues to attempt to convince Emma of the truth while they try to deal with Regina's little schemes to keep the status quo and in the former fantasy world as we slowly learn what happened to the various characters.

Given how they manage to tie the various fairy tales together into a single narrative, it's only natural that comparisons with comic  books like Fables or perhaps even the musical Into the Woods. What I mean to say is that this isn't an entirely new angle to things, but it doesn't mean it can't be an interesting premise. And they certainly tried to work on growing an interesting enough cast of characters with a rather decent plot.

But the plot does take quite a while to build and the first half of the season or so is spent on a sort of story of the week style of adventure. While it does make sense that we still need to get to know everyone better and become acquainted to which fairy tale character everyone is supposed to be, they certainly take their time to tell each story. I'm all in favor of good storytelling but to take that long to lay out the groundwork can be a bit draining. But it does pay off to some extent as you get to the end.

Thankfully, they do manage to resolve the concern of the curse by the time the season wraps up. I was seriously worried that this was going to become some sort of long-running gag and we'd spend a few more seasons just trying to figure out what to do about that. And thus the real storytelling is set to begin with the coming second season. So that's definitely something to look forward to.

Once Upon a Time is not the greatest TV series around but it does have its moments. I suspect this first season is not a good showcase of what the show really has to offer and for now I'm going to gamble on the second season. Thus the first season rates a decent 3 fairy tale reveals out of a possible 5.

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  1. I'm still on the first episode. I don't know if I'll be continuing. Haha

  2. It takes a lot of commitment, hehe.
    I do my best to watch at least 5 episodes of any series before quitting or what have you. Need to give them a decent enough chance to prove themselves.