Once Upon a Time
Once upon a time, the standard beginning to every fairy story ever. Staid, boring, cliché and tired out. Once Upon a Time is also the title of a new TV show from ABC but it is anything but tired or old (though it may dip into cliché occasionally).
The premise of the show; every story book character you’ve ever heard of, and probably a few you haven’t, have been banished from them their magical world to live in modern day America, without any memory of their pasts or their true selves. The curse that banished them is exceedingly powerful and can seemingly only be broken by one person; the lost daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, Emma Swan.
It is through the eyes of Emma Swan that we see much of the story. She is brought to Storybrooke, the town where all the fairy tale characters are trapped, by Henry, the son she gave up for adoption ten years ago. Emma only means to drop Henry back with his adoptive mother, the town mayor Regina Mills, the Evil Queen, but once there she finds it difficult to leave. Henry who tells her this is because of the curse and that only she can break it. At first Emma thinks he’s merely an imaginative kid who hates his mum. But the longer she stays is Storybrooke, the stranger things seem, not least the way the mayor treats her.
As the season progresses we are introduced to more and more characters, see the story through their eyes as their backstory is fleshed out through flashback to the fairy tale characters’ lives in the Enchanted Forest.
The dual nature of the majority of these characters means they’re a lot more fleshed out a rounded than a lot of TV characters. The interplay and parallels between the real and fantasy worlds is interesting and the fairy stories told are not quite the ones that are generally told to children. This definitely helps to keep it interesting; elements of the stories are familiar but different enough to stay fresh. The slight changes in the fairy tales add more depth to the characters, and even some of the more evil characters seem more sympathetic in light of their embellished backstories. Themes of love and loss and betrayal fill this world, and the fact that magic has a price is drummed into you again and again.
In this world, the story is filled with political machinations, intrigue and just a little backstabbing as the Evil Queen fights to keep the curse and her little kingdom intact. Opposing her is Emma Swan, fighting as much for her son as she is to break the curse (perhaps more so). Characters are complex, their allegiance is not always what you think it is, and often change sides. The ‘good’ characters are often flawed, the ‘evil’ characters have positive traits and can be sympathetic, and nothing is ever, ever what it seems.