I was thinking a while about a clever title, but… well, which one could be better than the show’s own?
Only last week I became enchanted – in every sense of the word – with this show about… well. Fairy tales? Actually, every time I want to tell someone about it, I’m not really sure how to call and describe it.
One thing, however, remains true, whatever I say: I love that show. I’ve seen only 12 episodes so far, and I already love it. It’s like it is made for me. Fairy tales, all the characters you know from the stories from your childhood and countless Disney movies I adore… and here they are brought together in a wonderful, fascinating and charming new way.
ONCE UPON A TIME is not a children’s show, mind you. Actually, I find it to be very adult, and, following the original purpose of fairytales in the best way, slightly scary. But damn, it is well made.
The show’s premise is that because of a Curse (that’s with a capital C) the Evil Queen casted upon the fairytale world, all characters are suddenly trapped in our time and our world – in a small town called Storybrooke somewhere in Maine. And they are without memories. Well, most of them.
Storybrooke’s Mayor, Regina Mills, is no one else but the EQ herself – and of course she knows what’s going on in the small town. Only that she has no idea that Mr. Gold – or Rumplestiltskin in the fairytale world – also remembers. And he is also her strongest counterpart; if not stronger than her.
The story starts with 10-year-old Henry (who I by now want to slap every time he opens his mouth – or doesn’t open it, for that matter, because his teeth are obviously glued together and he mumbles more than he speaks – argh!) appearing on head hunter Emma Swan’s doorstep. She is his birth mother – and he needs her help. Her help to free the people of Storybrooke, as he is sure she’s the only one to break the Curse and best the EQ.
Emma thinks the boy is crazy (she has every right to…), but brings him home nevertheless, thus visiting Storybrooke. And finds herself staying. Because she becomes curious, and because Regina – Henry’s adoptive mother – is a bit too insistent on her leaving town. Emma finds friends and allies against Regina, and she becomes Sheriff. With the help of Mr. Gold, no less.
I particularly have taken an interest in Rumplestiltskin – with Robert Carlyle’s portrayal of him (and Mr. Gold). There is no other character with so many facets as him, as he can be totally evil as Dark One/Rumplestiltskin, but at least from the moment you know his back story, you see him as so much more. Mr. Gold, on the other hand, holds the strings, but even though his ulterior motives are not yet clear (not to me anyways; I think there’s a lot more, this was only the first season, after all), he doesn’t appear as someone who is simply hungry for power and pure malicious.
Different to Regina – I don’t buy that she cares about Henry at all, and I never feel any sympathy whenever she seems hurt. As EQ, she killed her husband and her father in cold blood (shedding a few crocodile tears), and she wanted to kill Snow White. And as Mayor, she does everything to manipulate, scheme, and generally do bad things. But hey, they are the same persons, so no surprise there.
The mix-up is… interesting and hilarious at the same time. Not hilarious as in funny, but more as in… very curious. I’m still trying to understand it all, though it is becoming clearer with every new episode I watch. And thanks to various bits I read on the web.
All right, what do we have. The Evil Queen is the stepmother of the grandson of Snow White and the Prince, while she is also associated with Rumplestiltskin. Rumpelstiltskin, on his part, is still spinning gold (and named Mr. Gold… get it?), but he is also loved by and in love with Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Belle used to be betrothed to Gaston, the guy she refused in the original tale. And, by the way, Belle could still break the “curse” Rumple (the “Beast”) is… “suffering” from with her True Love’s Kiss (although he doesn’t want that…yet).
Then we have the Genie from Aladdin (or One Thousand and One Nights), whose lamp (with him in the very comfy inside) is found by Snow White’s father and freed by the same man. He comes to the castle and falls in love with the king’s wife, who is no other than the Evil Queen. The Evil Queen uses him to kill her husband and abandons the Genie – forcing him to make a wish that traps him inside her mirror(s) and thus makes him become the same (which I couldn’t help but smirk at… now that’s a fate, really).
Other tales are mostly left alone, like Hansel and Gretel, or Cinderella; those aren’t mixed with the others. Little Red Riding Hood especially is mysterious; she’s Ruby, waitress in a diner, wears a lot (or a lot less, if you look at her clothes… or what’s left of it) red, and seems to be kind and all.
Oh, and Emma? Well. Emma is the Savior. The child of Snow White and Prince James (or Charming, as SW calls him), who was put in a magical cupboard right after her birth during an attack by the EQ, so she wouldn’t find the child. Because Emma is the only one who can release all the characters.
Emma also moves in with Mary Margaret Blanchard – who is, unknowingly of course, Snow White. And thus Emma’s mother. And it was Mary who gave Henry the fairytale book which made all this start, which gave him the idea that something’s off with Storybrooke.
Snow White’s James – or David Nolan, as he is called in Storybrooke – is married to Kathryn (I hate it that they gave her *that* name…) – and Kathryn was once Princess Abigail, the daughter of King Midas, and the woman James was supposed to marry before they agreed to call it off because they both loved someone else . So it’s not only fairytales, but also ancient myths that are included here – as King Midas is a figure from Greek mythology.
Now, before I get even more into the details – what do I love so much about it, despite barely knowing it? Simple. It’s fairytales. It’s this world everyone, at least once in their life, wished to be part of. Kings and queens, princes and princesses, sorcerers and fairies, dwarfs and trolls, lots and lots of magic, the Good and the Bad.
Even though it was confusing in the beginning, I’ve quickly grown to totally adore this whole mix-up of all the tales and characters – because it is very clever made. It all makes sense. We only know the stories apart from each other, but who is to say that they are not connected? Imagining that SW, Cinderella, Rumple & Co. are all from the same world has its charm; even more when you also include other cultures like the Oriental one, or mythologies like the Greek one. There is an almost inexhaustible source if one takes all of these tales and myths together.
One thing they are not that good with is green screen tech. I think they still need some practice in that field. At least I see in every single scene where they used it that they did so. Okay, so I really don’t mind, given how great the show is, but it kinda irritated me in the beginning, because I’m trained to see this and it distracted me from the actual plot.
But, in any way. Even though I’m not yet through with the first season, I’m already looking forward to the second which will start on the same day as the new Mentalist season (ha!). The promos look very promising, and not only because they have all their memories back – but not their power(s). Which is especially interesting with the EQ, as she now has to face the wrath of Storybrooke’s inhabitants without being able to defend herself. Also, they’ll bring in new characters, like Hook (who is believed to be Dr. Whale’s – played by David ‘Julian Sark’ Anders – alter ego). There is talk about the little Mermaid and even Oz. In short: It gets more and more exciting.
And yes, I am of course waiting to see what happens to Rumple/Belle, as the producers not only use their shipper name in spoilers – Rumbelle – which is already promising in itself, but also announced that there will be a kiss in the season premiere… and one wonders what a kiss could mean to Mr. Gold, if it was able to release Rumple (or would have been if he had let her).
For now, however, I’m happy to watch the remaining episodes… and then maybe start all over, because it makes so much more sense what happens in the beginning when you’ve seen the ending. And I just love to get to the bottom of things… 😉