Once Upon a Time: Season 1 created by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis (Kitsis/Horowitz, and ABC Studios, airs Saturday nights at 8/7c on ABC Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, and Lana Parrilla

Why Fairy Tales All of a Sudden?

Last week I reviewed the television program Grimm. Naturally, I thought it appropriate to review its ABC rival, Once Upon a Time. Both shows are incredibly alike in that they use common fairy tales as a point of reference. However, the two could not be any more different.

The creation of both seems to coincide with fantasy, a niche market, achieving widespread popularity. Since an adaptation of Harry Potter and Twilight means paying lots of money for the rights to broadcasting an author’s work, major networks utilize fairy tales which are one hundred percent free, exist in the public domain, and still make a ton of money.

Once Upon a Time transforms the fairy tale into the modern area with the premise that there is a town called Storybrooke where fairy tale characters are trapped by an evil spell – much like the movie Enchanted. Most of the characters don’t know they are trapped in this world with no memory of their past lives because they are enchanted by the malevolent spell cast by the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) who is encouraged by the malicious Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) to cast said spell.


Photo by Onion

Unlike Grimm, there is an incredible amount of hope in Once Upon a Time. The ABC series uses hope as a mechanism for escape, providing the viewer with the ability to hold on to hope in their own lives. Edward Katsis, co-creator and executive producer of the series, states,

“For us, that’s what a fairytale is. It’s that ability to think your life will get better. It’s why you buy a lottery ticket—because if you win you get to tell your boss that you’re quitting and you get to move to Paris or wherever and be who you always wanted to be. And that’s Cinderella, right? One day she’s sweeping up and the next she’s going to the ball. Adam and I just wanted to write about something hopeful that for one hour a week allows one to put everything aside and have that feeling that your dreams just may come true”

Hope in Once Upon a Time isn’t only that these characters stuck in our world will return to their normal lives; it is also that a mother, and our protagonist, Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) can rekindle her relationship with her son whom she gave up for adoption 10 years ago. Her son, Henry (Jared Gilmore), believes that Emma is the long lost daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. But, she is under the Queen’s spell and can’t remember anything of the sort. Emma somewhat believes her son, but is faced with a huge obstacle to full-scale trust: his adopted mother is the mayor of Storybrooke, and also the Evil Queen.

Noble Goals, Bad Heart

What makes this storytelling adventure work well is the fact that the casting is well done. Every character plays their part incredibly well as the actor blends into the character on the screen, and the evil characters are perhaps the best to watch because their characters are the most believable. There is an amount of believability, as no person is completely good or completely evil.

The evil queen/mayor selfishly desires a happy ending for herself. Happiness as her goal is one that we all share in life. But, she doesn’t want anyone else to be happy. The Evil Queen isn’t evil just because she naturally is that way, “She was made evil,” co-creator and executive producer Edward Kitsis states, “In fact, she’s more tortured and sad than she is just evil.”

She only turns evil because she denies others that same happiness she pursues, and creates an unpleasant town completely devoid of hope except for her own. However, her adopted son brings life back into the town through his uncanny sense of hope.

Photo by Alexander Boden

Similarly, Mr. Gold (or Rumpelstiltskin in the other realm), seeks to gain personal wealth, which carries, in and of itself, no moral weight; but he hoards wealth, taking it too far as his only aim in life. His involvement in the little town of Storybrooke is unending, and he seems to know much more than even the evil queen mayor about the character’s lives. Mr. Gold has a je ne sais quoi about him that makes him incredibly curious to watch. He’s evil, but his cunning and trickster ways provide interest, much different from the selfishness portrayed by the queen.

All in all, I like this show. It has characters you want to watch, with personalities that are intriguing. You root for the good guys, and simply hope the bad guys get caught. However, for me, I enjoy the television show Grimm more. Due to the way Grimm tells the story (in the Germanic style of fairy tale story telling), there is a darkness and realness written into the script and production that makes hope something of a rarity that one wishes to keep whenever it appears. In Once Upon a Time, the viewer is so flooded with hope that it seems less important because it is so ever-present, much like a Disney film. However, I still very much enjoy this series, and I suggest that you tune in to ABC on Sundays at 8.

Verdict: 3.5 out of 5

Posted by: Andrew Jacobson

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