I cannot get enough of “Once Upon A Time.”
As a child I was familiar with all the fairy tales: Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin.
Or so I thought.
But “Once Upon A Time” changed that line of thinking.
I don’t remember the last time I was so excited about a new show. Reality shows bore me to tears. All those melodramatic nighttime drama shows – women with overactive libidos, cat fights, backstabbing, underhanded plotting to screw somebody out of something – geez, I get enough of that on the public rail commute to and from work. Not to mention I get my fill of all that stuff at work.
And the only crime drama show left still worth watching is “NCIS.”
Granted, “OUAT” has backstabbing and underhanded plotting in an attempt to get revenge. But it’s done in a much more intriguing manner than all those melodramatic shows.
But “OUAT” has something all those other shows don’t have: freshness; a new perspective on some old friends. Those old fairy tale characters are presented more three-dimensionally and in-depth than they ever were in the pages of a book.
We begin with the Evil Queen, Regina (Lana Parrilla, also Mayor Regina Mills) who hates Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin, also Mary Margaret Blanchard) with a vengeance.
So how does the Evil Queen get even with Snow White? Why, she curses every storybook character in Fairy Tale Land to live in our world, including, of course, herself.
But just before the curse hits, Snow White and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas, also David Nolan) send their daughter, Emma, through a wardrobe to – guess where? – our world.
Fast-forward twenty-eight years later. Emma is all grown up and now a jaded bounty hunter. That is, until she is approached by Henry (Jared Gilmore), a precocious ten-year-old who turns out to be the child Emma gave up for adoption. And he was adopted by none other than Regina Mills, Mayor of Storybrooke, Maine who is the alter-ego of the Evil Queen.
And Regina is just as evil in our world as she was in Fairy Tale Land.
By switching back and forth between our world and Fairy Tale Land (sometimes referred to as “toggling” – probably an archaic computer term by now) we get to understand how some of those fairy tale characters became who they are.
For instance, Rumpelstiltskin (aka Mr. Gold, portrayed by Robert Carlyle) was not always the loathsome character he is portrayed to be in those fairy tales. He was once a kind-hearted pauper with a son. When the king’s men come around to collect his son to go to war, he must find a way to save his son from this fate. By stealing the sword of the “Dark One” and killing him, Rumpelstiltskin is transformed into the “Dark One” himself. But his son is so frightened of him he ends up losing his son anyway.
Rumpelstilskin was also the man who helped the Evil Queen implement her vicious curse on one condition: in our world, Mayor Regina must do whatever Mr. Gold requests if only he utters the simple word, “please.”
Of course, the part of the story where he becomes Rumpelstiltskin is fictionalized, bourne from the imaginations of a few writers from the “Lost” series which was one I never quite got into.
But their creative bent shines a lot of new light on some very old stories, including why the Evil Queen hates Snow White so much. It’s a lot deeper and more intriguing than mere jealousy.
I must admit, though, I do have a few dilemmas regarding the show.
Henry sought out Emma because he knows the truth, which he finds in a book called, get this, “Once Upon A Time” which tells the stories including the curse and Emma being sent through a wardrobe. He wants everyone in Storybrooke to remember who they really are.
I wonder how much thought Henry has given to that? I mean, if they all remember who they are will it be enough to break the spell? And, if the spell is broken, will they return to Fairy Tale Land before the curse? If they do, that means that neither Emma nor Henry will exist in Fairy Tale Land yet. If they return these twenty-eight years later, where will Emma and Henry fit in? Will Emma awaken one day and believe it was all a bad dream (a la “Dallas”)? Or will she remember her life in our world?
Mary Margaret (Snow White) is a teacher in our world and the very one who gave the book to Henry. Where did she get it?
And what about the relationship between Henry and his adoptive mother, Mayor Regina? Henry knows she is the Evil Queen and, of course, he can’t stand her for it. But she adopted him as an infant (thanks to some help from Mr. Gold). At some point, surely the child must have adored his mother as some boys are prone to do. And surely Regina’s heart is not made completely of stone: apparently she wanted to adopt a child to have someone to love. So where did that go wrong?
As for the actors they are right on target as both their Fairy Tale characters as well as their real-world alter-egos.
But the prize must absolutely go to Lana Parrilla as the Queen Regina and Mayor Regina. As Queen Regina, she has a hand in the lives of pretty much each and every fairy tale character created (vis a vis the writers, of course). Even Hansel and Gretel and The Mad Hatter (from Alice in Wonderland) do not escape her manipulations and magic. As Mayor Regina, she has more people in her pocket than she can count, including Jiminy Cricket (who is Henry’s therapist in the real world, portrayed wonderfully by Raphael Sbarge.)
And, when the people of Storybrooke, Maine finally return to Fairy Tale Land (hopefully several seasons from now), I wonder what will become of The Evil Queen? Will she ever have a change of heart? Or will she be locked away inside a glass orb, a victim of her own spell?
I hope they don’t do away with the Evil Queen entirely. She is much too interesting a character to do that to.
In a recent poll, TV Guide fans voted the Evil Queen as their Favorite Villain. And who can blame them? Lana Parrilla makes being evil (and I must say this) downright sexy!
I can hardly wait for the first season to hit DVD. I recently discovered that the first five episodes of “OUAT” are already available on DVD on Amazon.com to the tune of $50 (just for the first five!). However, each individual episode can also be purchase for $1.99 each on Amazon.com. They can then be viewed on your PC or Kindle Fire and other devices. I don’t have to wait for the DVD to watch my favorite episodes.
It must be a challenge – as well as a lot of fun – to be able to dress up for the fairytale scenes. I can only imagine what the actors and actresses go through.
But Sunday used to be my depression day. I’d mope around, wallowing in self-pity because I had to return to a detestable job that barely pays for my survival.
Thanks to “Once Upon A Time” I look forward to Sunday more than any other day of the week. Except Friday.