Oct 17, 2013

[TV] Once Upon a Time: Season 2

Once Upon a Time has really become one of those shows that I'm not quite sure why I continue to watch it. It was a bit of a struggle to get through the second season and a large part of my support probably stems from the desire to patronize fantasy television efforts. Let's face it - science fiction and fantasy shows don't survive very long on US network television.

It's not that the show's all bad, but it tends to drag a bit and often loses focus. And this season was full of a number of strange plot twists and other shenanigans as we follow our merry band of characters across worlds and back.

This is not Fables, although I'm sure a lot of us hoped it would be something sort of like Fables. But really, it's not and it will never be Fables. So I try not to be bitter about that...at least not too much.

And seriously, these fairy tale characters tend to lack a lot of common sense when you get down to it.

Synopsis: Once Upon a Time is a fantasy drama series created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. It currently airs on ABC and has actually spawned a spin-off series, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. On a personal note, I haven't quite committed to watching the third season (that just started) or the spin-off show. Still on the fence.

The first season ended with Mr. Gold / Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) successfully triggering the return of magic to Storybrooke. Thus everyone begins to remember their fairy tale identities and of course they also realize the fact that the mayor of the town, Regina, was once the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla). It takes a while before the townsfolk come to terms with what had been done to them and naturally some bad stuff happens.

In this case, we have Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and her mother Mary Margaret / Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) getting transported to a part of the fairytale land that somehow still survives despite Regina's curse. There they meet Aurora (Sarah Bolger) and Mulan (Jamie Chung) and they eventually join forces to help find a way back to Storybrooke for the two. Meanwhile you have Regina trying to reform in order to salvage some of her relationship with Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), although there are other forces at work that will get in the way of her personal goals.

This second season continues to follow the pattern of the first with the constant flashbacks to how things were back in the fairy tale days. The shifting doesn't always feel all that necessary, especially since the modern day characters are pretty sure of who they were in the past. There are still some interesting reveals along the way, but there's also a lot of fluff that we probably didn't need.

I feel like the series could benefit a lot from a shorter season run. The need to stretch out their plots across 22 episodes every time is near madness and you can tell when they start grasping for material. The show does has its moments and when it's great, it's pretty great indeed. But otherwise we get a lot of running around the town, thus leaving us as viewers wondering why the heck they continue on so.

This season also introduces interesting new fairy tale characters, chief among them Captain Hook, as played by Colin O'Donoghue. He's not exactly in the image of the Hook's we've traditionally encountered across different books and cartoons, but he serves his purpose well enough. And his power set is a little unique in this series, despite the diminishing magic or whatever.

This season also revealed more about Emma's history and her life as criminal on the run during the days of her youth. This was interesting information, but not necessarily all that fascinating and it probably didn't need to stretch across several episodes. We get it, she was a bad girl and she was totally into that guy. A quick flashback would have been more than enough to introduce Neal (Michael Ramond-James) and then jump us to his involvement in the present day.

I may or may not watch the current season based on how this second season wrapped up. I just feel annoyed that I feel obligated to watch both the original series and the spin-off at the same time since they're going to interconnect plots sooner rather than later. And that feels like network television blackmail. But still, Once Upon a Time could be far worse and so this second season still rates 3.5 inconsistent behaviors of magic out of a possible 5.

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