tribble

Once Upon a Time

I watched all four episodes yesterday when I was sick.



My feelings are mixed. The premise of the show is that the wicked queen from Snow White cursed all of fairy tale land to take away all their happy endings. (Sound campy? It kind of is.) Now all these fairy tale characters are trapped in a town in present-day Maine, where they don't know who they are and live not-quite-fulfilling lives. The show alternates between the back story in fairy tale land and the present day, where Jennifer Morrison, aka Emma Swan, is the chosen one who's supposed to rescue them all.

I do like a lot of things about the show. Although the fairy tale land is campy and unengaging, the present-day narrative is really interesting. I thought I might vomit every time Snow White appeared on the screen, but her character is surprisingly deep, especially in the modern-day setting. They've jazzed up her back story too, so she wasn't just hanging out in the woods waiting for her Prince Charming to show up. Emma Swan, the lead, is also appealing: lonely and hard, looking for fulfillment and belonging just as much as all of the other characters on the show, even though she's not from a fairy tale herself. The feminist in me likes to see a female "chosen one," and a lead female character who is good without necessarily being nice. The wicked queen also gets some surprising depth; I empathize with her because of her conflicts as a mother, and she has (as yet unrevealed) motives for wanting revenge on Snow White beyond simply envying her beauty. On the whole, I feel that the show has done well by its female characters. Snow White, Emma, and the wicked queen are clearly the lead characters, and they are interesting, complicated, and very different from one another. It's not perfect (what is?) and your mileage may vary, of course, but I wasn't disappointed.

That said, the show has writing problems. I don't think they've figured out what tone they want to set for the fairy tale world. It doesn't come off as real or emotionally resonant, and I think it's unintentionally campy (which is not as good as intentionally campy, IMHO). The dialogue is often clunky, and the "banter" is too predictable to really be funny. I'm sick to death of the precocious little kid archetype, but the creators of the show clearly aren't: the other lead, besides the ladies, is a ten-year-old boy who convinces Emma to come liberate the fairy tale people. I've seen his character a million times before, and I haven't liked it once since I was about twelve years old. Rupert Carlyle's character, Rumpelstiltskin, is equally annoying. Carlyle's magnetism makes him just bearable, but I swear if I hear him say, "I shall have that baby!" one more time, I might scream.

All in all, I suppose I liked it overall. It did entertain me for four hours, which is more than I can say of a lot of shows. The episodes are all on ABC.com if you want to watch.
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They're also on Hulu, which is where I've been watching it.

I liked that even Cinderella wasn't a complete milquetoast -- and I think it's just that the fourth ep was pretty bad with the baby thing -- and the tabletop FRPG player in me was screaming at Emma not to make the deal. Nothing good ever comes from owing someone an open-ended favor in fairy tales.

And Mr. Gold knows exactly which deal was being referred to there in Queen Mayor's garden.

I agree that the writing's uneven, though I think part of the problem with the fairy tale sequences is that they're trying to capture that fairy-tale tone without doing quite enough research. That said, though, it's far better than Grimm (which I can't stop watching for some unholy reason, much like House), which has two dead, one outright evil, and one barely-there (but ready for bait when the main character needs it) women in it.
I liked Cinderella too; I thought her story line and how it intersected with Emma's was pretty interesting. And yes, I agree, Emma is going to regret that deal with Rumpelstiltskin. I wonder if he's going to turn out to be the real "evil" on the show.
Oh, I think he's meant to be the motivating Evil -- (Spoiler for anyone who's not watched the show: The Curse is his, after all) -- but I am curious to know what Snow did to Regina because she admitted she'd ruined the Queen's life.

Also, I forgot how I loved the relationship between Regina and Maleficent -- cheesey, not-quite-friends, but not really enemies...
What I want to know is, why they think we should sympathize with Emma because the 'Evil Queen' has her baby. She didn't want the baby. She gave it up, and Regina has cared for him and I believe loves him to the best of her ability.

Why do they think we're going to support her suddenly wanting rights to the child she didn't want?

Also WHY DOES HE WANT THE DAMN BABIES OK? WHY? DOES HE EAT THEM?
Hm. I never felt that she show thought we were supposed to be on Emma's side in her relationship with Henry. I think both women have been presented sympathetically, actually. I feel for Regina, who's obviously struggling a little bit with her kid and understandably threatened by Emma's appearance. But I also see why Henry would be seeking out other adults in his life, and why Emma might regret giving him up. It was certainly her choice to give him up, but not an uncomplicated one, and I don't think she wants "rights" so much as an opportunity to have a small relationship with him.
I think it's mainly the way that Henry is acting that is setting me off. With all his 'You're not my mom' and then running off to Emma and her...letting him. Emma that is. It just bothers me a bit.

I can see your point though, thanks :) That does put it a bit more in perspective.
I agree with averzierlia about wondering why the creators think we should sympathize with Emma. I mean, I do sympathize with her but just because we know it's the evil queen doesn't mean she didn't spend all of Henry's life thus far caring for him to the best of her abilities and it doesn't automatically make her bad.

I'm glad to find someone else who isn't fond of Rumpelstiltskin. All my friends who like the show love his character.

I have to say Emma and Mary/Snow are my favourites. And I'm hoping the writers/creators do hit their narrative stride and that the show keeps getting better because I do like the concept and like you said it's nice to see a show with a female "chosen one."
I can understand why people would sympathize with Emma. Giving up a child is not an uncomplicated thing, and when this very appealing kid appears when she is lonely and wants a relationship with her, I get why she'd go after it. I don't think we're supposed to view Regina as "evil" in this situation; I really do sympathize with her feelings about Emma, even if I don't agree with her method of handling them.
I think this show is going to find its footing. I totally agree about the dialogue (especially in fairytale land) and some of the plotting. The kid....I think he'll have a different kind of significance, ultimately. I mean, these are some of the guys behind Lost, and we are only four eps in.

Rumpelstiltskin's going to wear on me, though, if he doesn't have a reason for wanting babies all the time soon.
Yeah, I really wonder what he's doing with all those babies. Eating them? Selling them on the black market?
Thirding what averzierlia said. I like the three main leads, I like that they interact and have intact relationships. Admittedly they fail the Bechdel test a lot since they're often talking about Henry, but I'll take what I can get. But I haven't been given any real reasons to like Emma over Regina beyond her being 'evil'. Okay so we've seen she's rather cold to Henry, but she's not horrible to him, just distant.

I quite enjoyed Snow's backstory and actually I don't mind the flashbacks too much. I'm interested to see how they twist the various fairytales.

I disagree on Carlyle, I love Rumplestiltskin. He should be campy and weird with all that twitching around, but I believe in him, he's scary and awesome. Though I agree, we need answers on the baby thing, otherwise it's just odd.

I hope they do something with the name, since knowing someone's name is a very important thing in a lot of fairytales, but so far they've done nothing with it. Also I want to know why he limps!
Wow, I did not even notice that he limps. Now I'm curious too. It looks like they're setting him up to play a big part in the show, so hopefully we will get some answers soon.