“Once upon a time.” A universal beginning to a thousand stories. This bold offering from ABC tries to combine them all, uniting the characters with a common history and forever altering their collective trajectory.
Emma Swan is a “bondsperson,” scraping by in a lonely existence in a rough and uncaring world. She is visited by Henry, the son she gave up 10 years prior, who tells Emma about Storybrooke, Maine, a town populated by actual fairytale characters who, due to an evil curse, have forgotten who they are. It turns out, Emma is actually the long lost daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, and is the only one who can save them all from a world without happy endings.
A world without happy endings? Clearly, they have never been to Singapore.
This show is full of potential, but the execution seems lacking. It has all the elements of a decent fantasy, but it feels restrained–it’s like Xena Warrior Princess for Republicans. The acting is a little hammy, which works in the world of make-believe, but it’s jarring when we switch to the real world. The good news is, there are plenty of avenues to explore and a lot of room to develop the large cast of characters. This could be a really good show, given enough time.
Once Upon a Time comes from the minds of Lost writing alumni Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, which could be a dividing element for some. Lost was plagued with unresolved storylines and overly cryptic dialogue. Hopefully, there is an established ending and they’re sailing a straight line to the finish.
Robert Carlyle is a standout as Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold. Seriously, I fell in love with this guy in Trainspotting, and I’ve been waiting for him to find a role that he can really tear apart. If you can look past the bits of scenery in his teeth, you’ll really enjoy his performance.
The Blu-ray presentation does not help this show, as everything make-believe takes on the quality of a high-school production. I’ve heard similar complaints about the upcoming Hobbit movie. There’s something about fairytales that demand the soft lighting of candles and the fuzzy edges found only in dreams and close-ups of Barbara Walters.
Special features include “Once Upon a Time Origins,” which looks at the history of all fairy tales and their place in collective human culture. There are also cast interviews, a glimpse behind the scenes and a blooper reel that, unfortunately, also does not include Jackie Chan.