Tale As Old As Time

Everyone loves fairy tales, don’t they? And everyone knows fairy tales, too. They’re what we’re raised on from an early age. One thing this show does well is to present us with recognizable characters and stories, then it turns them on their head and gives us an alternative viewpoint. Snow and Charming snark at one another like a modern couple in a rom-com movie. The Evil Queen is deliciously camp and utterly broken. Red Riding Hood is a wolf in Ruby’s clothing. And we know these characters…or, as the show points out, we THINK we do. A reworking of these fairy tales with a modern contextual twist and compelling back stories makes for indulgent and entertaining viewing. We feel safe in the knowledge that we gleaned as children, before we’re plunged into the unknown and are left wanting so much more than what fairy tales told us.

There Is A Town In Maine

The show was created by two writers from LOST, Adam Horowitz and Eddie Kitsiss. Given their experiences writing for that show, alternate universes were almost a given when it came to creating Once Upon A Time. But what this show does well is to offset the fantastical Fairy Tale World with a small town in Maine, cross referencing and comparing the humdrum with the magical. Actors are given the opportunity to add facets to their repertoire by playing two distinct characters in either world, and we’re rooted in the recognizable universe of Storybrooke whilst given the unfolding history of each character in the Enchanted Forest. Using alternate universes is a tried and tested trope in television, but it works. Every. Single. Time.

Holding Out For A Hero

At its heart, the show is about heroism and the triumph of good over evil. But we’re given a reluctant hero who has little faith in the existence of fairy tales, estranged from her son for ten years, and who runs at the first sign of trouble. With a checkered past, Emma Swan is hardly the savior we’re expected to believe she is, and she makes mistakes and judgments that we sometimes find difficult to swallow. I guess sometimes the hero is the anti-hero, and sometimes we cheer on the side of evil simply because we can’t help ourselves. Being “good” might not always put you on the winning side, and the show forces us to re-evaluate precisely what “good” and “evil” really are.

A Kiss Of True Love Can Break Any Curse

In true fairytale fashion, we’re told repeatedly that true love is essential for any of the characters to have a “happy ending”. But true love is an elusive thing, and the show gives us an exploration of the obstacles that might stand it its way. Snow White and Prince Charming are meant to be together, but what happens if they’re not? Using Storybrooke as a messed up, fractured representation of love in all its forms, it manages to break our hearts repeatedly by giving us true love, then wrenching it from our chests in the style of the Evil Queen. And it hurts so much, we can’t look away. In fairytales, love seemed to be the endgame for all characters. In Once Upon A Time, love is messy, complicated and never, ever easy. That’s something that resonates with all of us today.

Good Is Good, Bad Is Better

The villains on this show are complex, broken creatures who are justified in their evil doings. Or, at least, that’s what we’re led to believe. And we DO believe it because they’re compelling beings who are multifaceted and capable of the most unutterable acts while we cheer them on from the sidelines. Robert Carlyle and Lana Parilla are wonderful adversaries, and lurch from epic, Shakespearian standoffs to deliciously camp performances that are simply unmissable.

Author:

Ruth was born a fangirl and likes to write both fanfic and commentary on her favorite shows. She is whimsical at best; rambling at worst. She lives in London, but secretly hopes to have homes all over the world if that winning lottery ticket ever works out. When it comes to TV, she is a glass swan of emotion and is unashamed of sharing that with whoever will listen.