Friday 7 September 2012

TV - Once Upon a Time, Season 1

I've finally reached the end of the 22-episode first season of Once Upon a Time, which I have briefly discussed early in the series (in April and May). To recap: the story begins in the present-day USA when Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison), a young woman with a talent for finding people, is herself found by her son Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) whom she had given up for adoption ten years previously. She takes him back to his home town, Storybrooke, and immediately find herself in conflict with Regina Mills (Lana Parrilla), the town's mayor and the woman who had adopted Henry.

Henry has a firm belief that Storybrooke is no ordinary town but is populated by people from another time: characters from fairy tales who have been transported to the USA by a spell from an evil queen - who happens to be Regina Mills. Unsurprisingly Emma Swan refuses to believe him but the viewers of the series know better, since running in parallel with the scenes in Storybrooke are those from the land of fairy tales, in which we see the same characters as they used to be. So we know that teacher Mary Margaret Blanchard (Ginnifer Goodwin) is really Snow White - and Emma Swan's mother - and that her husband Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) has become David Nolan, a local handyman who is inconveniently married to someone else.

The core of the plot in Storybrooke is the tussle between Regina and Emma, with Mr Gold, formerly the evil magician Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) playing a mysterious game between the two of them. Meanwhile Henry is desperately trying to convince Emma that all is not as it seems, and that only she has the power to break the curse which preserves everyone in Storybrooke, frozen in time, and allows none of them to leave. As I mentioned in my previous comment on this series, there's a faint echo of The Truman Show here, except that in this case it seems that hardly anyone in the town except the mayor is in on the secret - although that is not quite true, as we slowly become to realise.

The programme makers have a wonderful time drawing on a wide range of fairy tales for the scenes set in fairyland, where we are shown a whole series of interlocking events (not always in chronological order) which gradually build up a picture of exactly what led up to the mass transfer to Storybrooke. The contrast between the scenes in Storybrooke and the interleaved ones set in an exotic world of queens and princes, magicians and spells, keeps the series interesting. The downside is that there are many characters (some of which play a major part in just one episode before disappearing) and many story lines, which leads to a certain lack of focus and drift from the main story. Despite this, I thoroughly enjoyed the series which finished on a cliff-hanger of an ending to set it up nicely for the forthcoming second season.


Bill Garthright said...

I thought it was imaginative, Tony. But one season was all I wanted. These kinds of things get old pretty quickly. Then again, I tend to think that about almost all television shows.

Anthony G Williams said...

Yep - it must be the perennial problem for the people lucky enough to find a successful formula for a TV series. Do they stretch it out as far as possible, and eventually lose their audience through boredom, or do they keep evolving it to attract new viewers, and risk losing the old ones?