Let’s Talk About Once Upon A Time

I’m fairly certain I’ve mentioned this, but I am a whore for fairy tales. I’m not sure what it is – the archetypes, the magic, or the happily ever afters. Or maybe I’ve just been brain-washed by Disney. Whatever it is, I like it. So when I heard that ABC was coming out with a new TV show about Fairy Tales in the Real World, from some of the team from LOST, I was pretty excited (even though I was afraid it might turn out to be a Fables ripoff).

As time went by, I got more and more skeptical. I’m not particularly fond of Jennifer Morrison or Ginnifer Goodwin, plus I was getting tired of All The Fairy Tale Crap coming up. Seriously Hollywood? That well, she is dry.

But, being the aforementioned whore that I am, I watched Once Upon A Time. And honestly I really liked it. But now that the first season is half over, I feel like it’s time to talk about The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The Good

One thing this show kind of has in its favor is its earnestness. There is no sense of irony, especially in the Fairy Tale World. Things are very black and white. The good guys are beautiful and good and happy. The bad guys are bad and sad and mad, but mostly still beautiful.

Another advantage is the cast. In general, they are good actors, doing the best with the material they are given. They are also, all, very attractive. Which probably shouldn’t count for as much as it does, but, well, I’m vain and looks-oriented. Sorrynotsorry.

I also get the feeling that the show has a plan. There is a pretty large backstory, and fitting so many characters into one big world certainly takes some doing. The re-imaginings of certain aspects of the stories are typically interesting, and sometimes quite intelligent.

And, perhaps most of all, the show is fun. It’s fun to see Jennifer Morrison chew scenery and glower. It’s fun to see Lana Parilla alternate from gloating bitch to glowering bitch. It’s fun to see a skanky waitress and go “OOO OOO IT’S RED RIDING HOOD!!” It’s fun to see Prince Charming cheat on his Real World wife with Snow White.

The Bad

Henry. Oh my gosh. This kid is so annoying. He isn’t adorable. He isn’t precocious. He’s just whiny. And he’s not very good at acting. I get that Emma needed a reason to get to Storybrooke (which, by the way, seriously??? groan), but I can think of any number of scenarios. Like, what if she was chasing a bail jumper, and she ended up there? And then couldn’t leave. Or what if she was just driving somewhere… I don’t know like going to see her alma mater or something… and got in a wreck outside Storybrooke? What if she suddenly started getting dreams and compulsively HAD to seek them out? I mean, this is just me spitballing, I’m not even paid to think about these things. Basically, I’m saying that this show could be a lot more mysterious, or ominous, or serious, if there were no Henry. If weird stuff was happening, and Emma slowly became convinced these people were fairy tales, rather than being beaten over the head with it, every five minutes, by her obnoxious brood.

Just how the earnestness of Once can be a good thing, there is a flip side to it. Namely, a complete lack of subtlety. For some people, this is fine. But for me, it feels like I’m being looked down on. Like the writers don’t trust me enough to figure out anything for myself, and insist on spelling it out as clearly as possible. Like I’m being talked down to. And it really bothers me. Just treat me like an adult, and trust in my ability to read between lines.

And finally, and perhaps worst of all, is the pacing. Now, I don’t mind a slow burn – on something like Mad Men or Homeland. But on a network show about Fairy Tales… come on. I respect that the show has a story to tell, but eleven episodes in we’re still getting origin stories. The main plot has literally not progressed at all. No one remembers who they are. Regina has not been stopped. Emma is still no where NEAR believing. Mr. Gold hasn’t done anything. No one has left the town. We are almost exactly where we were four months ago. It’s getting dangerously close to the Cardinal Sin of Television – Being Boring.

The Ugly

The green screen. Seriously. It’s ugly.

And that’s how I feel about Once Upon A Time. There’s a lot of potential, but I will never truly love it until it stops talking down to me and treats me like a grown up. Watching a show about fairy tales.


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