Science/Fantasy Monday: Once Upon A Time
So, I finally had a chance this afternoon to watch my recordings of the first two episodes of the new ABC show Once Upon a Time. While others have already written some great reviews of this show, such as Kait Nolan’s great detailed run-down of the pilot episode, I thought I’d share a few of my own thoughts on the show anyway.
First off, for those not in the know, the premise of Once Upon A Time is this: on her 28th birthday, lonely Emma Swan (played by Jennifer Morrison) is visited by 10 yr old Henry, the son she gave up for adoption as an infant. When Emma takes him back to his home in Storybrooke, Maine and his adopted mother, Regina, the boy tells Emma that all the citizens of Storybrooke are fairy-tale characters. All these characters are frozen in time, not aging, with no memory of who they are. Henry explains that his adopted mother is the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla), his teacher is Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), and Emma is actually Snow White’s long lost daughter. And folks, that’s just the first fifteen minutes.
Each episode so far alternates between scenes mainly following Emma in Storybrooke, and scenes that relate the events leading up to the fairy tale characters being trapped in the “real world.”
So, let me say this: the premise is fantastic! It must be pretty clear by now that I love things that re-imagine fairy tales (Ever After? Loved it, even despite Drew Barrymore’s horrible fake accent; every version of The Little Mermaid ever? Have it; Kait Nolan’s take on Red Riding Hood in Red? Wonderful!); anyway, I loved the idea. I was skeptical about the execution. Would it too cheap, cheesy, badly written, badly acted? I was terrified to find out.
Admittedly, the production values leave something to be desired. Some of the special effects look a bit cheap; some of the costumes are a little costume-y; and the green screen bits! Pretty bad. But they are trying to get some pretty big film-like visuals out of a (I imagine) fairly small budget, and you have to admire the effort. So, pressing on…
The writing so far has been pretty good. The plot looks to be just complicated enough to keep things moving for awhile (and it seems that Snow White may have done something to earn the Evil Queen’s ire, which is interesting), and the dialogue (while not brilliant), is painless and semi-believable. Except in the second episode when Regina states: “You have no idea what I’m capable of” — cause, really, do they ALL need to say that? Honestly?
And the acting is surprisingly good. That’s not to say I didn’t think Jennifer Morrison would be good — I liked her on House, M.D. — but it did seem like an interesting cast choice. But Jennifer Morrison is believable as a half-vulnerable orphan, half-tough-as-nails bail bondsperson, who seems entirely capable of going toe-to-toe with bitchy manipulative Regina/Evil Queen. Speaking of, Lana Parrilla is fantastic as Regina/Evil Queen, who is believably evil but not without complexity and emotion. Ginnifer Goodwin as Mary Margaret/Snow White (to me at least) hasn’t done much but look pale and pretty and sad, but there’s still plenty of time for her character to get more interesting.
These three women are definitely the heart of the show, but there’s also Jared Gilmore who does a decent job playing smart and endearing Henry. And Robert Carlyle (who some might, as Kait Nolan points out, recognize him as Durza from Eragon), is wonderfully creepy and manipulative as Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin.
If you haven’t seen either the pilot or this past sunday’s episode, they are both available to watch for free on the ABC website: here. I definitely recommend you check it out! It looks to be a fun ride, and if the show keeps improving, it may end up being the best show of the Fall.