Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Once Upon a Time (TV series)


Season One. The premise was interesting. In Fairy Tale Land (or something like that), Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) marries Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), which enrages the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla). She puts a curse on everyone there, and banishes them to a land where there are no happy endings: Our world. They all live in Storybrooke, Maine (actually British Columbia), and none of them have memories of what they were before. One little boy has figured it all out, though. He has a book that tells all the stories from before. He sets out to Boston to find his birth mother, who gave him up for adoption. She is Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), who is a bail bondswoman and bounty hunter. A tough broad.

8/24. Well, we went on a marathon, and now have seen all 22 episodes. We had a great time. I was actually surprised at how much I liked it.

The show has several strengths. Each episode tends to feature one of the fairy tale characters and what he or she has become in our world. We switch back and forth to see what happened in the long ago, and what is happening now. Thus, Red Riding Hood/Ruby is a waitress and Granny runs a diner called Granny’s. So where is the Big Bad Wolf? Well, Red has some real surprises for us, and it ain’t in the bag of goodies she’s carrying to Grandma’s house. And Grandma don’t get eaten by no wolf.

Another great point is that, with the exception of Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle, in a terrific double performance), all the strong characters are women … and he is cunning and devious, which so often is the female role in stories like this. (Prince Charming, for instance, might as well be Prince Hamlet. He can’t make up his mind, and is only good for anything in the magic world, where he’s a good fighter.) Snow White/Mary Margaret is an elementary school teacher and the Evil Queen/Regina is the town’s all-powerful mayor, and the only one, save Mr. Gold, who remembers Fairy Tale land and retains a few small magic powers. Red Riding Hood/Ruby is also strong. The strongest of all is Emma Swan, who has no counterpart in the magic world because she is the daughter of Snow White, who was sent here as an infant in a magic chest carved by Gepetto, who also sent his son, Pinocchio, along to safety. She is brought to Storybrooke by her biological son who she gave up for adoption ten years before.

Wow. Complicated, huh? You have no idea. Another thing that keeps it rolling merrily along is that we keep getting back story … and then more back story before that, and then more … It gets tricky, and I’m glad we saw it all in a few days instead of spread out over months. One of the most important things we ultimately learn is that none of the characters
(none that make the transition to Storybrooke, anyway) is ultimately evil, or evil for the sake of evil. Every one of them, including the dastardly Rumplestiltskin and the power-mad, vengeful Evil Queen, has something in the back story that explains how he or she got that way. This humanizes them, and makes the stories all that more powerful. It’s quite something, to me, that a series based on fairy tales that we all know, can be so powerful and involving. And that one could feel sorry for the Evil Queen.

Along the way we learned some startling things:

Grumpy’s original name was Dreamy. There was an eighth dwarf called Stealthy, but he wasn’t stealthy enough, and was killed. And Snow and her posse can really kick ass when they need to!

Red Riding Hood is a … well, I can’t spoil that one. I loved it!

(I was startled at first at how much Disney stuff is here, then I remembered that Disney owns ABC, so that wasn’t a problem. The dwarfs sing “Hi-ho” when they’re off to work.)

Jiminy Cricket has become a psychiatrist instead of a conscience. But Jiminy here is a far cry from the humanized one we saw in the Disney version. He’s a real bug. Likewise, the Mad Hatter is completely re-imagined. The Huntsman from Snow White is a major character. Cinderella is something of a social climber—well, who could blame her? But you have to be careful when your fairy godmother is wiped out as she’s about to grant your wishes, and Rumplestiltskin shows up in her place and offers you a bargain. As he says, there’s always a price with magic.

There are many other characters listed at Wiki that must be appearing in the second series, such as Peter Pan and Captain Hook and Tinkerbell, Doctor Frankenstein, Mulan, and the Queen of Hearts. And damn, Netflix isn’t offering that series yet. I really want to see it.