Suspension of Disbelief: Once Upon a Time

Suspension of Disbelief: Once Upon a Time

I like a good fantasy. Especially if it involves swashbuckling sword fights. And curses. And dragons. There isn’t a lot of good fantasy on television. At least the television I have access to. That’s why I was intrigued when ABC premiered Once Upon a Time last year.

Title: Once Upon a Time
Staring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Jared Gilmore, Robert Carlyle
Network: ABC

Once Upon a Time revolves around Emma Swan (a fairy tale name if ever there was one) and Henry, the boy she gave up for adoption 10 years ago. Henry leaves his sleepy town of Storybrooke to find Emma because, as improbable as it may seem, Henry believes she is the only one who can lift a curse placed on the small town’s inhabitants. You see, Henry believes that every resident of Storybrooke is actually a character from classic fairy tales, banished from their homeland by the Evil Queen.

Sounds crazy, right? Not so fast…

I’ll admit, I did have my reservations when I finally got around to watching the first season. I mean, ABC is owned by Disney and Disney isn’t exactly known for its strong female princess characters. And since ABC is owned by Disney, the characters in Once Upon a Time are taken from Disney princess movies. Snow White, Aurora, Mulan, Belle…they’re all there. (There are, however, a million other Disney and non-Disney fairy tale character to round out the lineup.) But these aren’t your grandma’s passive princesses.

Like those classic Disney animations, it’s all about the the princesses. But these ladies don’t need rescuing. These princess are expert archers, proven fighters, and they refuse to be controlled. As usual, it’s the “evil” characters that are the most interesting. Snow White and James (aka Prince Charming) are almost sickeningly in love and, even though their relationship didn’t get off on the best foot, that love keeps them firmly on the side of good. However, Regina (aka the Evil Queen) is hardly pure evil. She has a soft side and a compelling back story. The same is can be said for Mr. Gold (aka Rumpelstiltskin). Like the Evil Queen, his decent into dark power is caused by heartbreak and a feeling of powerlessness. It makes them relatable in a way that Snow White, Red Riding Hood, even Emma, aren’t.

That isn’t to say that the rest of the cast isn’t compelling. They are. After all, this is a fairy tale. One needs some white knights to root for.

But the most interesting part of the show isn’t the characters. It’s the story. Or, rather, the bastardization and conglomeration of Disney movies and other classic fair tales. The stories of the Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook, Pinocchio, and many, many more come together to form an epic saga of banished story book characters just trying to reclaim their home. (Red Riding Hood’s reimagining is my particular favorite.)  It’s at once familiar and exciting.

The overarching theme of this show thus far is love. So much love. All kinds of love. Parent-child love (Emma and Henry), classic hetero romance (Snow White and Prince Charming), and love that doesn’t make a goddamned lick of sense (Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin, what?). It’s almost oppressive. (Seriously, I get it. Snow White and Prince Charming will always find each other. You can stop saying it.) But it’s a big fairy tale, so it kind of works. But it’s also a story of the corrupting influence of power.

All things considered, Once Upon a Time is a fun, grown up version of classic fairy tales and totally worth the 30 hours or so it takes to catch up on Netflix and Hulu.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Poison Apples

Mindy is an attorney and Managing Editor of Teen Skepchick. She hates the law and loves stars. You can follow her on Twitter and on Google+.

3 Comments

  1. Great review. It sums up my reaction (go, Red! Charming, bland) My daughter got us watching together, and we have tremendous fun with it, trying to guess which fairy tale characters someone in Storeybrooke was likely to be, which new villains will emerge, etc.

    • Trying to figure out who will turn out to be whom is the best part! And, yeah. Charming is a snooze.

      • Interesting fact, Charming actor Josh Dalls was in Dr. Who Silence in the Library. Plus Jane Espensen is a OUAT producer, of course it’s going to be good.

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