Season Premiere: Once Upon a Time

There is a town in Maine where every storybook character you’ve ever known is trapped between two worlds, victims of a powerful curse. Only one knows the truth and only one can break her spell.
ABC’s “Once Upon A Time” had me hooked from the pilot. Basically, every fairytale character you grew up loving has been cursed into forgetting who they are for the past 28 years. There is only one woman, named Emma, who can break the spell (incidentally, she’s Snow White and Prince Charming’s kid). The Evil Queen is the mayor of this new town, and she is the only one who actually remembers who she is. (Or is she?)
I am in love with this show. Granted, I’m a Disney geek and am always up for a reinvented fairy tale, but this show’s appeal doesn’t come solely from legend. Yes, when the characters are in “Storyland”—the world they have been cursed to forget—their stories are the central focus. But when they are in the real world of Storybrooke, Maine, the focus goes to Emma and her son Henry.
Henry brings Emma to Storybrooke because she is his biological mother and the Evil Queen (real-world name Regina) is his adoptive mother. After his teacher, Mary Margaret (aka Snow White), gives Henry a book of fairy tales, he becomes convinced that he knows the true nature of the town and that Emma is the only one who can save them all. The relationship between mother and son is endearing and starts to look more real as the first season progresses.
From a technical viewpoint, this show is weird. The fairytale sets are very badly green-screened, but I honestly think it’s kind of charming. It adds to the effect that this is a world separate from our own. The magic that you think you know, like fairy godmothers and true love’s kiss, is replaced with that of Rumpelstiltskin, whose mantra is that “all magic comes with a price.”
Also, if you expect the fairy tales to be exactly like your favorite Grimm story or Disney movie, you’re sorely mistaken. Snow White is forced to become a thief after her evil stepmother threatens to kill her. Prince Charming was engaged to someone else. Belle and Rumpelstiltskin have a romance (he’s the Beast—get it?). The reinvention is enough to keep it interesting to both those who love and hate the original stories. Also, the Evil Queen is hot and has the best closet of any fictional character I’ve ever seen.
As is the case in all television shows that have been told they will have a second season, the first ends with a cliffhanger. Basically (spoiler alert for the rest of the article), Emma figures out that Henry is actually right and these people that she has come to know actually are fairytale characters. She really figures this out because Regina gives her an apple turnover (right?), which Henry eats and falls into a Snow White-like sleep. Emma then has to get a love potion from the heart of Maleficent (in dragon form) and bring it to Rumpelstiltskin so that she can get Henry back—which works—and then Rumple brings magic into our world.
The new season has only had two episodes so far, one of which features Mulan and Princess Aurora, along with a wraith (which, let’s face it, is actually a dementor). The show’s writing is just as good as it always was. (Snow White telling Prince Charming that she had a one-night stand because they were cursed? Classic.) The second basically gives us more of Regina’s backstory and establishes Prince Charming as a source of unlikely power in a basically lawless town. We’re promised more of Emma and Mary Margaret in the next episode, along with Ogre Wars. I’m just hoping that they don’t try to integrate Shrek.
It’s going to be an interesting season, and seeing how magic reacts in the real world along with how these people can integrate the two lives that they’ve been forced to live is an interesting concept. Lana Parilla, who portrays Regina, says that magic will react kind of like the way it does in “Bewitched”—she’ll try to make a birthday cake appear on the table and an elephant will show up instead.
Also, episode five is called “The Doctor” and we’ll FINALLY get to know who Dr. Whale is. So far, all we know is that he was in Regina’s pocket, he leads the pack trying to kill her when the curse is broken and he tells Prince Charming that he isn’t “his” prince. The suspense is killing me! But I guess that’s the point, isn’t it? All magic comes with a price, and in this case, it’s waiting a week between episodes.