Once Upon a Time the review (aka two friends having a good old chinwag)

[Written or rather chatted about by Sharon Ring and Mark S. Deniz]

PLEASE NOTE THERE ARE MASSIVE SEASON ONE SPOILERS THROUGHOUT

Once upon a time there was a publisher and literary agent and they sat down to ponder a recent urban fantasy series…

Some of the main characters of the show

Mark: I’d say it’s all your fault, but seeing as I am very positive about the series now, I probably need to thank you for pushing me to watch more episodes when I was watching one every now and again and was 18 episodes behind the rest of you. What was it about the show that grabbed you right off?

Sharon: It didn’t grab me right off at all. That first episode was full of schmaltz. Well-written but full of so many cliches I was tempted to give up on it. Those in the know who were already watching it persuaded me to persevere, so I did.

M: Ah, so you pretty much started the way I did then but had a head start on me? Cool! So what kept you interested?

S: It’s a combination of factors. The dialogue is wonderful, the inter-weaving of plot and sub-plot is superb, the casting is excellent (one character in particular is genius casting for the show). More on that character in a bit!

M: I think I might know who it is…;-) I only just realised that we haven’t had a proper chat about the show, so this little online chat is our first ‘real’ chat – ooh the spontaneity of it all! Well not surprisingly it seems that we agree on what makes the show great (even with its schmaltzy bits), and I actually know who a few of your favourite characters are (not that our readers do though…). I was immediately impressed with protagonist, Emma Swan, sassy, sexy, pivotal role in the whole thang. I had a couple of characters that really grabbed me later on too, was that fact that it was deliciously character-driven the biggest thing for you or would you say the plots and sub-plots did it?

S: A bit of both. There are one or two weaker characters but I think that’s more to do with my own personal preferences of stories from my childhood. Without giving away too many spoilers there is a revelation later on in the series that was a huge disappointment for me. However, the upside to that disappointment was how the writers of the show played with those expectations. The internet was buzzing for weeks over this one hook.

M: Blimey, I missed all that kerfuffle entirely. I am going to write a spoiler alert at the beginning of this post so that when it goes live those who read this without having seen the show do so at their peril. So spill the beans, Sharon, what did I miss?

S: It was the true identity of August W Booth. Man, that bugged me. I wanted him to be Mr Gold/Rumpelstiltskin’s son, Baelfire, and what did we get? Bloody Pinocchio, that’s who! Yes, it fitted the storyline as we got closer to the truth and it allowed for some wonderful soul-searching on the part of Mr Gold, but ultimately I was disappointed by the revelation. It does, of course, leave room for an appearance from Baelfire in the next series, about whom I have a potential theory.

M: Ah, yes. I actually loved the scene where August announces he is Baelfire, as both he and Robert Carlyle were excellent in the scene. It was quite heart-wrenching stuff. It felt like Pinocchio was a character that didn’t really need to be in the show, as it felt like it was always going to be wedged in (see what I did there)…

S: I felt that was as well for a while. Once he reached the point of a reunion with Gepetto, his real father, that kind of made up for things. As it’s a huge theme for the show those reunions are really something. Still, back to Rumpelstiltskin for a minute. He’s the one I mentioned as a favourite character. I could rattle on about him all evening.

Sharon’s bloke

M: We might well get some of your rattling…I immediately loved his Rumpelstilstkin entrance, with his whiny/weasly giggles…that sort of tipped him into the favourites pile.

S:  It’s one of the most genius castings I’ve seen in a long while. I had no idea he was going to be in it. Just saw him pop up on screen and I was in love from the get-go. The dual characters work perfectly, perhaps better than any of the others. And his long arc behaviour has been exceedingly well thought out by the writers. I expect he has a whale of a time getting to play this odious, mercurial monster. Although, as the show progresses it becomes apparent that his monstrosity is not what it first appears to be.

M:Yes, agreed, if I’m not mistaken, he’s one of four people that are aware of the curse from the beginning: Henry, The Wicked Queen and August being the others. That’s one thing that if it’s been mentioned then I’ve forgotten it or missed it, which is the explanation about why three others (actually four, I’ve just remembered my favourite minor character, the Mad Hatter) know about something that was only known to the Queen (as per her spell). And why is Henry her adopted son – for plot purposes?

S: The way I see it Henry is her adopted son for a very important reason. Bear with me on this. Rumpelstiltskin was the one who put the idea in the Wicked Queen’s head to cast the spell to take them all out of Story Book Land and into Storybrooke. So far so good. What’s his reasoning behind all this? It’s because he wants to find his son, Baelfire. To do that he needs to cross to our world so he gets her to cast the spell, drags them all over, then waits for Emma to grow up (because time is irrelevant in Storybrooke, he can wait). He then treks off to get Henry in order to eventually entice Emma to town to break the spell. Once the spell is broken he can then bring magic into the world with a spell of his own making, which will then allow him to find Baelfire. Whaddya think?

M: I think I’m with you there m’dear, makes a whole lotta sense that one! I still want an answer for the others knowing about the curse, oh wait Pinocchio went through with Emma. What about the Hatter though, is it because he’s a loon?

S: Actually, I’m not sure on that one. I should probably go through the season again as I know the answer’s in there somewhere. Maybe something he did or said to the Wicked Queen at some point that made her want to punish him by forcing him to stay away from his daughter? That does seem to be a bit of a thing with her – separating people from their loved ones, which, from a psychological point of view is all down to her own heartbreak when she was younger, forcing her to become the person she is.

M: *nods* There is something about her leaving him trapped in Wonderland when she takes her father back through the hat which could link to it – oh there’s a lot I want to know about the Hatter in season two! So, should we argue about one of your faves now and easily one of my least favourites, Snow White?

Not by Mark she isn’t!

S: I love her and won’t hear a bad word said about the woman! Bring your argument forth then but don’t expect any more than short shrift from me on this subject! ;)

M:Erm, was it Snow White I meant? Well there’ll be one thing you can’t stand fast on and that’s the fight scene when she and the seven dwarfs rescue Prince (the most irritating character in the show) Charming from his Dad/Not Dad Jim Robinson – how bad was that done?

S: It wasn’t the best scene in the series but I see no reason to put Snow down for that one scene. Anything else? And you’re right about Charming. What a bland, insipid specimen he is.

M: I just thought casting was a bit off, I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that but wasn’t Snow supposed to be the fairest in the land, not the rough, tough fighting gal that would lose out to Red, the Witch, the dizzy fairy, etc, etc. any day of the week? “Mirror Mirror on the wall, you’ve got bad taste methinks”

S: That’s a little mean, isn’t it? Speaking on a personal level here, I find her very pretty. But I think some of the casting with this character is that they wanted a traditional look – the dark hair and porcelain skin – they certainly got that right. That said, she is certainly not as striking as many of the other female characters. Same goes for Charming and I wonder if this is a deliberate ploy on the part of the show. Standard generic casting so they don’t take over the whole show?

M: A very good point and I’m inclined to agree. They weren’t brave enough to make that decision with Emma, as she is incredibly striking, although has many flaws which make her very human. Her inability to deal with responsibility being a massive part of her arc. That leads me to one element that was very well done throughout and that was Emma’s reluctance to accept what was happening because we were being given the story in somewhat of a third person viewpoint and were aware of the curse immediately. That Emma wasn’t forced us to keep reminding herself that there was no way she should believe what was going on just because a child and a stranger told her similar things. Even when the Hatter ranted on about things you could see there was no way she was falling for it. One of my pivotal moments was when August showed her his wooden leg and it was normal for her. This concept that there is much more out there if we were open to it and not so blinded by logical was summed up at once.

S: Emma is striking? Well, there’s no accounting for taste. As you say it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Anyway, it’s interesting that you raise the subject of what’s logical and what’s not because one of the things I love about the show is the comparison between who they are in Story Book Land and who they become in our world. Traits and trades remain – such as Jiminy Cricket becoming local psychiatrist Archie Hopper or Rumplestiltskin becoming Mr Gold the local, hmm, what exactly is he? Antique shop owner, landowner, occasional lawyer. Jack of all trades that one. I digress. The comparison of the dual characters gets me and I think it might be a vital clue to Baelfire’s eventual appearance.

A very striking Emma (I’m sure you agree)!

M: Indeed! One thing I want to mention before I forget, (giving me a chance to pretend I didn’t read your comments about comely Emma) is the issue at the end of the season. Basically I’ve been reading on forums (I know, I know, me reading) that people are suspecting that the storm that came in means that we are wound back to the setting at the beginning with no one rememberiing who they are. If that was the case I would turn off the TV after about three minutes. Surely the ending was that everyone now knows who there were but are trapped in our world, some of them now having power again. What’s your thoughts?

S: Not sure yet. I’d be disappointed if that were the case but I think it might be something different. It’s something of Rumpelstiltskin’s, I’m sure of that. It’s a reversal of the curse, but I believe he may have added a clause to the reversal. A straightforward reversal would mean everyone’s memory restored and a return to their own land. I don’t think that’s going to happen because I don’t think that’s what Rumpelstiltskin wants. Remember I said I think this is all about him getting back his son? Why would he yank them out of our world and whisk them back to their own? I think they’ll stay where they are and I think some characters will continue to remember what has happened. Perhaps characters who are in a position to help him find his son. I do think that we will see many more characters coming in from the outside world, Baelfire being one of them.

M: That would be cool, as characters who know who they are in our world would open up all kinds of plot-goodness! And I agree with this thing about the characters coming in from the outside as they know who they are now and that makes a difference to their lives/motivations. Maybe the Hatter made a deal with Gold, because this would also benefit him, yes?

S: Perhaps, although don’t rule out the possibility of him having made a deal with the Queen of Hearts. Remember he was locked in her world, had his removed and replaced, then set to work to make another magic hat. She was quite an intriguing character. We didn’t hear her actual voice or see her, which was a bit of a thing with everyone in her Court. Lots of covered faces, did you notice? I think she may well be around more in the next season and there’s a fair chance we might discover she’s behind Jefferson/Mad Hatter being one of those aware of the spell.

M: I may well have got that one way off then, as I thought she was the one who the Wicked Queen had a fight with who then became the Sleeping Beauty Queen/Dragon…oh, I’m all confused now…I do remember the covered faces though, which was a tad creepy.

Oh and that apple, genius way of getting Snow to take a bite. Not sure how Gold had planned to deal with the whole thing about Emma eating the pie (if she had) either…

S: Okay, well the Sleeping Beauty Queen was Maleficent so she couldn’t have been the Queen of Hearts. Did you spot who was playing Maleficent? Pam from True Blood. I love that woman, she’s bloody great. Yes, the covered faces were very creepy and I’d like to know more about that. There’s a second series sub-plot right there. Hmm, how would Gold have dealt with Emma eating the apple pie? That’s a tricky one. It’s easy to think, because he’s been manipulating events from before the curse was cast, that he’s capable of stopping and causing all that happens but I guess that’s not the case, unless he has more up his sleeve than we’re aware of at this point. Wouldn’t surprise me at all.

M: I noticed our Pam (I can call her that, yes?) and the lovely Amy Acker too (who I have such a thing for, and incidentally is in Grimm as well). Of the main characters in the show there are three I think we need to look at here (we can ignore Prince Charming) and they are: the Wicked Queen, Henry and Red (oh, OK Red is not a main character but she is lovely!).

S: Where do we start? How do we solve a problem like Regina? She is fantastic. One of the things I’m most impressed with in her character development is allowing her to have a reason for her behaviour. It certainly doesn’t justify it but it serves to help the viewer understand that she was once a lovely young woman in love. It’s well-played. The show’s writers could have gone for a cardboard cut-out evil queen but they’ve chosen to humanise her. I think, though this is a massive speculative leap on my part, that we may just begin to see more of this side of her in the next season.

We love Regina here!

M: Yes, she starts off very cardboard but gets all those human traits as the season goes on. She’s a complex character who has had to adapt to a world in which she doesn’t belong but one which she forced herself (and all the characters) to. She’s also rather striking too…

And Red is just an interesting character through and through, there we have this little throwback to Twin Peaks and all of a sudden she comes into her own in one episode. I loved the whole thing with the cloak too, the fact that the cloak was her protection from the wolf inside her.

Henry is a little love, thankfully not one of these hugely irritating child actors that we are overwhelmed with in other programs (Terra Nova anyone?). I like the way he maintains his faith in his mum and is so determined to see ‘justice’ done that he’ll break any rule to do it.

S: You’re going to have to explain your Twin Peaks comment at some point. The cloak device was very clever and I wonder how soon it will be in the next season before we see its reappearance. If their powers are returned but in our world, that could make for an interesting moment or two. Henry’s initial determination to find his mum and then to make her believe what he knows to be real is a wonderful side of the show. It taps into something many children feel at some point in their lives – a feeling that mum or dad is not really their parent, that somewhere out there is the real parent who will truly love them, not like the wicked ‘other’ with whom they are forced to live.

M: Good point – I realise we have chatted a good long while now, you think any of our readers are still reading? Any conclusions on the show/last thoughts?

S: Yes, one. The thing that keeps drawing me back time and again, beyond the things I’ve already mentioned, is the delight the show takes in booting the viewer’s cynicism out the window. It is unashamedly fun and funny, and it also demonstrates that no matter how evil or bad to the bone a person may appear, there’s always a story beneath the surface and we should perhaps remember that next time we decide to judge another person.

M: A cracking point to end on, thank you ever so much for joining me on this and I can honestly say I can’t wait for our next banter!

One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. buffykennedy
    Jul 03, 2012 @ 08:25:07

    Everyone I know that watches this show loves it. My friend would DVR it and we’d get together every week and watch it. It’s such a neat show! Next season should be interesting!

    Reply

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