‘Once Upon a Time’ is one of the smartest new television series to debut last fall, featuring two intertwined stories per episode. Season one is available on DVD & Blu-ray.
This year movie theatres saw two re-imaginings of the Snow White fairy tale; one a comedic children's story, the other a dark, murderous rendition. But both of these fail in comparison to the outstanding narrative weaved for the small screen in the first season of Once Upon a Time.
The show seamlessly shares two stories each episode, featuring parallel characters from this reality and a fairy tale world. In the opener, Henry (Jared Gilmore) arrives on Emma's (Jennifer Morrison) doorstep claiming to be the son she gave up for adoption years earlier. He came seeking her help to break the spell over the town in which he lives, returning its inhabitants to the fairy tale world from which they came - and no longer remember. To end the curse, Emma, the daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), must defeat the evil queen (Lana Parrilla), who also happens to be Henry's adoptive mother and the mayor of Storybrooke. This mission is the driving force behind the first season, even though Emma is not a believer.
Later episodes chronicle the love between Snow White and Charming, and their Storybrooke counterparts, school teacher Mary Margaret and amnesiac David. But while Prince Charming was perfectly devoted to Snow White, David couldn't ever seem to get it right with Mary Margaret. The idyllic fairy tale love story is consistently juxtaposed with the imperfect real world romance, as one couple vows to always find each other and the other endures dishonesty, betrayal and mistrust.
Numerous other fairy tale characters are featured throughout the season, including The Huntsman, Hansel and Gretel, Belle, Rumpelstiltskin, Red Riding Hood and Pinocchio. Each has their Storybrooke counterpart that fills the other half of the episode as the two stories are expertly interwoven. A standout episode of the season centred on how Grumpy the dwarf received his name. The touching narrative describes a dwarf named Dreamy who once loved a faerie, but whose heart turned to stone when their relationship ended. The parallel story is about Leroy, the town drunk, finding hope in a nun named Astrid, played beautifully by special guest Amy Acker.
The writing in this show is brilliant. Their ability to tell two stories in each 45-minute episode without it ever feeling disjointed or incomplete is stunning. Unraveling as a season-long mystery, every new clue gets viewers closer to the truth while causing even more questions to surface. The constant scheming of Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) keeps viewers on their toes; and the introduction of August W. Booth (Eion Bailey) was an excellent tool in drawing audiences further into the characters' world and deepening the mystery.
With an amazing closing reveal and revelatory season finale, the anticipation for the second season to begin is nearly unbearable.
Creators:Adam Horowitz and Edward KitsisStarring:Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison and Lana ParrillaSpecial features include: commentaries; deleted scenes; “Once Upon a Time: Origins”; “Fairy tales in the modern world”; “Building Character”; “Welcome to Storybrooke”; “The story I remember... Snow White”; and “Fairest bloopers of them all.” (ABC Studios)