Season Rewind: Catching up with ‘Once Upon a Time’
Last week I posed the Internet the question, “Should I be watching ‘Once Upon a Time?'” and the answer was a resounding yes. So I gathered my marathon essentials (BBQ chips, beer, a blanket, my phone and my couch) and I settled in for a long night of fairytales and good looking Irish men.
Now, let me preface this by saying that when this show premiered, I had every intention to add it to my weekly roundup. A show that is, for all intents and purposes, a fantasy, is basically my MO. But when it came down to it, I just didn’t have the time. A girl only has so much time to watch TV, people. So when I found out it was on Netflix, I thought this might be the right time. What I didn’t realize was just how quickly the show would hook me.
For those of you who might have been as slow on the uptake as I was, the premise of the show is that the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) – of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves fame – has cursed the fairytale characters that we’ve all grown up reading about and banished them to a land without magic (the US – don’t even get me started on this metaphor) and then erased their memories of who they once were. But what she didn’t count on was that the child of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) would be saved by traveling through an enchanted wardrobe
into Narnia to an unspecified place where the Queen couldn’t reach her.
Fast-forward 28 years (an important number that you learn the reasoning behind early on) and we meet Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), a bail bonds-person whose a walking cliche of abandonment issues. But she looks like Jennifer Morrison, she’s pretty bad ass, and she has no idea she’s the child of fairytale royalty and thinks her parents actually left her on the shoulder of a busy freeway, so we’ll let all those cliches slide.
A young boy all of ten years of age (Jared Gilmore) shows up at her door precisely as she blows out her lone birthday candle while wishing she didn’t have to be alone on her birthday. His name is Henry and as it turns out, Emma gave him up for adoption ten years ago. He explains to her that she must return with him to his hometown of Storybrooke, ME.
Emma eventually agrees to drive him home and on the way he explains to her that the inhabitants of the town are all fairytale characters who have no idea as to who they really are. He explains that its all written down in a book of his called, “Once Upon a Time.”
Although her intention is to drive Henry back home to his adoptive mother and then get the hell out of dodge, Emma finds herself drawn to Henry, to the town and to several of the people who make up its tiny little world. People like Mary Margaret Blanchard (Snow White), Sheriff Graham (The Huntsman) and Archie Hopper (Jiminy Cricket). She eventually agrees to take the position of deputy under Graham and to help Henry in Operation Cobra.
Each episode features a different fairytale character and explains their origin story. These origin stories are juxtaposed with scenes and events from their lives in our world and it’s easy to see just how similar the two worlds are as each individual story parallels the other. Also in each episode, Emma and Henry work together to right the wrongs the Evil Queen (Regina Mills, Henry’s adopted mother and the mayor of Storybrooke) has done to the people of the town. It is through their work together that the pair become rather close with Emma affectionately referring to Henry as ‘Kid.’
But not every story has a happy ending – for every Cinderella who gets to keep her baby because someone else (Emma) makes a deal with Mr. Gold (Rumpelstiltskin) in her place, there’s a story that ends badly. And it’s at this time that I must chastise all of you who told me to watch the show and who didn’t mention that the aforementioned good-looking Irishman (Jamie Dornan) who plays Sheriff Graham/The Huntsman, basically my favorite person on the show, doesn’t survive past the seventh episode of the season.
Graham, whose been having a loveless affair with Regina this whole time, kisses Emma (though she rebuffs him – remember the abandonment issues?) and triggers his memories of his fairytale past. He dreams of a wolf and after rushing out of Regina’s bed and her house he comes face to face with said wolf. We know its the same wolf because it has one eye as red as blood and one eye as black as night.
After talking to Henry – because this is what most people having a crisis do, they seek answers from precocious 10 year olds – he learns that the Evil Queen ripped out the Huntsman’s heart and stored it in a box after he refused to kill Snow White. It’s then that Graham goes in search of his own heart, believing that Henry is on to something and not a little boy suffering from psychosis.
Emma joins Graham on his quest as she runs into him outside Regina’s, but they’re thwarted by the witch herself as the mausoleum they’re in searching for his heart is supposedly one that belongs to her family and holds the remains of her father (whom she killed in order to enact the curse in the first place). After a minor punching match between the two women, Emma leaves claiming beating Regina’s face in isn’t worth it (I beg to differ). Graham follows her.
Shoving aside the coffin in the mausoleum, Regina descends into an underground cavern and we see the boxes in which she stores the hearts of people who’ve betrayed her.
Back at the sheriff’s station, Graham is cleaning up Emma’s barely noticeable cut, but they act as if the wound is really much deeper (oooh, metaphor!). The two share a kiss during which Graham remembers everything about his past. As he goes in for another kiss, he doubles over in pain, clutches his chest and falls to the ground. The scene changes to Regina crushing Graham’s heart and the dust that was once his heart falls through her fingertips. Exit the sexiest man on the show – and half the reason I was really hooked in the first place.
But even with Graham’s shocking and sudden demise, I still find myself hooked on Storybrooke. ‘Once Upon a Time’ is a fun story – just like the ones the show is based upon. It’s not too heavy, you don’t have to think too hard to understand it, and it’s full of characters that the audience can relate to. They’re relateable simply because they’re all characters we know from our childhoods, but also because their stories in the real world – our world – resemble the same kinds of circumstances and events that we experience ourselves.
By bringing these fairytale characters to life and making them just like the rest of us, the show let’s us imagine for a second that we’re all living in a world like Storybrooke and that we can all have our happy ending. If Mary Margaret and David can reunite (remember I have only seen half of the first season, so please don’t mention what happens between these two in the second half of the season), then why can’t the rest of us find our own happiness?
I was pleasantly surprised by the show and the acting, but I was even more surprised that ABC took a chance on a show like this, a show based so much in fantasy. This seems more like a show better fit for the CW as they have a younger target audience. But I think it’s also refreshing to see another network take a chance on something that isn’t based in a law firm or a medical practice. Network TV has become stale in recent years and I’ve often found myself shunning network dramas in favor of their cable counterparts. But I think it’s safe to say I’ll be sticking around to see what’s next on ‘Once Upon a Time.’
Note: Photo courtesy of ABC.