Friday, 4 May 2012

TV: Once Upon a Time, and Game of Thrones

This is my second look at Once Upon a Time as I commented a month ago after seeing the first episode, but I've only just seen the first two episodes of Game of Thrones as I had to wait for the DVD (not having satellite TV).

The two programmes are similar in that they are examples of that rare beast, a TV fantasy series meant to appeal to adults. In fact, in the case of GoT only to adults; the language, nudity and sex gaining it an 18 rating. In contrast, OUaT is entirely family-friendly. One other incidental similarity is in the detail: both include evil queens who are far more beautiful than the heroines (those seen so far, at least) - a very subversive feature!

Having said that, the two series are very different. Judging by the first two episodes, GoT is less of a fantasy and more of an alternative history. There are no fantastical elements included and it is little more than a fictionalised but convincing depiction of life as it was in Europe about 1,000 years ago. Perhaps it develops in more interesting directions later; the camera keeps dwelling on some supposedly fossilised "dragons' eggs" in a rather suggestive manner. Anyhow, while viewers are awaiting such developments, we can enjoy a well-scripted, well-acted show with high production values. The only downside is that I find it all rather depressing; after all, life at that time tended to be nasty, dark and dirty, and this is faithfully reflected in the story, which also has a sense of doom about it. Not an alternative world I would choose to live in even as a member of the aristocracy, let alone a pleb.

OUaT is far more whimsical and lighthearted, despite the darker elements introduced by the evil queen and Rumpelstiltskin. It is also completely unrealistic in almost every respect - except that it is set in an ordinary-looking present-day American town, and the heroine is (as far as she knows) an ordinary American young woman. It is the clash between our expectations of the mundane setting as seen from the heroine's viewpoint, compared with what we discover is actually going on in that town, which provides the intrigue. There's a faint echo of The Truman Show here, except that in this case hardly anyone in the town is in on the secret. A picture of the events which led up to the present situation is built up by occasional flashbacks showing the town's inhabitants as they had been in their lost fairy-tale world of castles, royalty, dwarves and magical powers. The series is still holding my interest.


Chimeradave said...

No fantastical elements? I know what you mean, that the fantasy elements in the series are kept on the back burner. But, what about the half-seen monsters at the beginning of the story that kill some folks?

Anthony G Williams said...

It wasn't clear to me what the killers were - they could have been human.