Fortunately for us, it is one of the best and strongest entries in recent memory, and is exemplary of the continuingly impressive uptick in calibre that television has come to offer us in the past decade.
We are introduced to a world of fairy tales, and as we all know, they always come to an end with a marriage, and a happily ever after – what happens between the two is where this programme picks up. This particular marriage is between Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and her Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), swiftly interrupted by the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla), who promises to curse their entire enchanted world, and steal from them their happy endings.
As the Queen prepares the curse, Snow and Charming have their first child, who is prophesied to be their saviour. After she is born, she is magically transported to the real world, where she grows up an orphan. Following behind is the fairy-tale world, trapped in the real world and trapped in time, without magic and without happiness, presided over by the Evil Queen, who has taken control of the town of Storybrooke as its mayor.
One precocious little boy manages to escape the town, and bring our now fully-grown daughter/saviour (Jennifer Morrison), back to Storybrooke, in an effort to have her go head-to-head with the mayor and save the fairy tale characters of the town.
Though the premise is something of a mouthful, it is very easy to get into whilst watching it, and rapidly find yourself hooked. With the acclaimed writers of Lost, Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis, creating the programme, you know it’s going to be good.
In each episode, we see a different tale unfold as the pieces of the puzzle slowly fit together, travelling back and forth in time and space – before the curse and after it, in the fairy-tale world and in reality.
My only minor issue with the programme is that the colouring in the fairy tale world sometimes seems a little off, and when watching the special features, it becomes apparent that these were scenes shot on a green screen. In many of these scenes, the colours are a lot colder and the lighting is not as you might expect, and I remain curious as to whether this is intentional – to provide a contrast with the real world – or if it is related to the way it was shot on green screens.
The stories, however, are wonderfully weaved throughout, never falling short of expectations, and they are incredibly intelligently re-imagined, embellished, and told from scratch. We see Geppetto, Jiminy Cricket, and Pinocchio; we see Red Riding Hood and her grandmother; we see Beauty in the Beast’s Belle; and, best of all, we see Rumpelstiltskin.
Robert Carlyle’s performance as Rumpelstiltskin is particularly noteworthy. He absolutely nails the role, and like only a handful of other roles in television (Hugh Laurie in House comes to mind, for instance), it’s impossible to imagine anyone but him playing the part.
We are also wonderfully treated to two very different sides to Snow White, and Goodwin is terrific in both, giving us the quiet and graceful princess-like character we are most accustomed to, as well as the more Joan of Arc-esque heroine, like Kristen Stewart in this year’s Snow White and the Huntsman.
As is the way with almost every strong dramatic programme, each episode leaves you wanting more, and naturally the biggest hook is saved for the season finale. And it is a fantastic finish to an excellent debut season. One thing’s for sure: Season two is going to be a lot of fun. There are plenty more stories to be told – both fairy tales and in the real world – and I can’t wait to see in what direction Once Upon A Time will be heading next.
- Once Upon A Time Orchestral Suite
- ‘Fairy Tales in the Modern World’ – This exciting feature allows viewers to explore the genesis story of “Once Upon A Time,” as they learn about the creative approach of adapting a world of fairy tales into the wholly original world of the show.
- ‘Building Character’ – From start to finish, following the creation, conceptualisation, casting, clothing, and filming of the beloved character, Belle, playing by Emilie de Ravin, from the ground up.
- ‘Welcome to Storybrooke’ – Ginnifer Goodwin takes audiences on a tour of Storybrooke, Maine, both the town on the show and its real inspiration – a small town outside Vancouver.
- ‘The Story I Remember… Snow White’ – The show’s actors share their childhood memories of the beloved fairy tale Snow White, illustrated to original storybook graphics.
- Once Upon A Time: Origins
- A Conversation with the Stars and Creators of Once Upon A Time
- The Fairest Bloopers of them All
- Easter Eggs – A Real Boy, A Precious Bundle, Noble Creatures: Wolves On Set, Action Dwarfs, Wardrobe Procession, Dwarfs’ Makeup, Storybrooke Vehicles.
- Deleted Scenes
- Audio Commentaries
There is plenty of excellent material to be found here, particularly in the segment surrounding Beauty and the Beast’s Belle, and the Conversation with the cast and creators is especially entertaining, watching them at a Comic-Con-esque panel, and answering some (less than inspired) questions from the audience, as well as a more engaging host.
Once Upon A Time Season 1 is released on DVD in the UK today.