A few thoughts on Once Upon a Time

Last updated 14:09 06/07/2012

The first season of Once Upon a Time finished last night on TV2. What did you think? Did you enjoy the finale, and the series? I have to be honest: I'm surprised to have it made all the way to the end of the season - it seemed to drag through the middle of the season, before the Red Riding Hood and Mad Hatter episodes started a solid run to the finale.

(Warning: Spoilers from last night's Once Upon a Time finale follow.)

Putting aside many of the more obvious themes of the show - the notion of fate and destiny being one that was played out through nearly every character - I thought it was funny how my own response to the show, or rather to the idea of a show based on fairy tales, was mirrored by Emma's response to the magic within the show.

20120706In the same way that it took a major event on the show (the accidental poisoning of Henry) to make Emma finally believe in magic and in the curse that had brought all of the fairytale characters to the town of Storybrooke, it wasn't until the later parts of the season, when it was clear that evil queen Regina was actually out to destroy everyone in town, that I started to find myself really enjoying the goings-on of Once Upon a Time.

Was I happy with how things wrapped up? For the most part, yes. I mean, it was obvious early on that the end of the season would come down to a battle between Emma and Regina, and after Jefferson showed up with his magic hat and August revealed his wooden limbs (I loved the scene last night when he transformed back into a puppet) it was pretty clear that magic would be coming to Storybrooke in the not too distant future. It was exciting to see that dark purple cloud engulf the town, with Mr Gold ominously saying that "magic is power" and setting things up for an interesting second season.

As far as the season as a whole goes, I think Regina is a decent villainess, despite the fact that Lana Parilla comes across a lot more intimidating in full fantasy garb during those Enchanted Forest cutaways. Still, her faceoffs with Emma have been entertaining, even though they play out like your average primary school pantomime.

Mr Gold was a highlight of the season for me. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that Robert Carlyle is the most interesting actor, and Mr Gold the most interesting character, on the entire show - menacing in Storybrooke and delightfully creepy in his flashbacks. The best moments in this show nearly always feature Rumpelstiltskin.

The old sheriff, who turned out to be the huntsman, was fun: actor Jamie Dornan is an interesting guy to watch and I've missed him on the show. That said, August and Jefferson have filled in the gap nicely; Sebastian Stan is another great actor, and I hope he gets an expanded role next season. He'd make a great secondary villain.

The show does have its flaws though. Jennifer Morrison is one-note in her portrayal of grumpy, perpetually stunned sheriff Emma Swan - and even that might be a compliment. If I could call her performance half-note, that would probably be fair. That said, I feel it isn't entirely her own fault: Morrison is better than the range she's been allowed to explore on Once Upon a Time, where Emma has spent most of her time being surprised and frowning.

Perhaps the biggest problem for me was the romance of David/Prince Charming and Mary Margaret/Snow White. I know I'm supposed to care about these two but, like Kate-centric episodes on Lost, I just could not get invested enough to care about anything that happened between the romantic leads on the show, even as Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas became two of its more consistent performers.

So, to sum up: a good series with the potential to be better in its second season, but weighed down by a disappointing lead and an uninteresting romantic pairing. A good finale last night which didn't allow the first season story to drag on too long, though - and it leaves hope that a second season (already ordered) might improve on the foundation already in place.

What did you think of Once Upon a Time this year? Do you agree that it was good, but could be better? Who is your favourite resident of Storybrooke?


A new feature which I'm trying out today: one of the most common complaints I see in the comments section at On the Box is that you're not even aware of which new shows are starting each week. To try to help, every Friday I'm going to include a list of as many new shows as I can, as well as a few other bits and pieces, and post it over at my personal blog - I'll also list a few of the major shows here, but make sure you click the link below for a more extensive list.

Coming up in the next week, July 7 to 13...

Boss, Season 1 encore - SoHo, Saturdays at 8.30pm
House, Season 8 finale - TV3, Saturday at 9.30pm
The Simpsons, Season 23 finale - Four, Sunday at 7.30pm
Unforgettable - One, Mondays at 8.30pm
The Fades, Season 1 - UKTV, Tuesdays at 9.20pm
The Slap - TV3, Wednesday at 8.30pm
Breaking Bad, Season 4 - Four, Thursdays at 10.30pm
Glee, Season 3 finale - TV3, Friday at 7.30pm
Jono & Ben At 10 - TV3, Fridays at 10pm

For a more extensive look at the week ahead, make sure you click here.

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maz   #1   02:17 pm Jul 06 2012

Thanks for the reminder about The Slap!

radar83   #2   02:22 pm Jul 06 2012

I quite enjoyed the series. Most of and if not all of us grew up reading fairy tales and I thought this series put a great new twist on each of them. As for the storylines I again thought they were great! It is pleasantly refreshing to see a tv series with sex, drugs and nudity plastered through out.

Allan Scadden   #3   02:23 pm Jul 06 2012

Once Upon A Time surely isn't the best show on Television, however it did bring a unique story and some compelling fantasy drama that I haven't seen in quite awhile. I'm glad the show was picked up for a second season and will eagerly await the year or so it takes to arrive on our screens. In the mean time though, I cannot wait for shows such as Sons of Anarchy, Downton Abbey, Fringe, Mentalist, to come back on our screens with new seasons. Television shows have grown and changed so much over the past decade and I believe that a certain few producers finally know how to make a show brilliant. Shows like Doctor Who and Sherlock, both have fantastic writing and acting and yet are short and sweet. Perfect. Finally I'd just like to say that what I am most looking forward to is the tenth season of Red Dwarf finally airing. Good times are to be had everywhere. Cheerio

big_ry   #4   02:25 pm Jul 06 2012

I agree with everything you've said. I thought the romantic pairing was more interesting in the enchanted forest context than it was in Storybrooke.

Pitty the Huntsman had to be killed off as well.

I also enjoyed the twist on little red riding hood.

gazza   #5   02:34 pm Jul 06 2012

I enjoyed the final, it promises to solve the problem of the enchanted land flashbacks being vastly more entertaining than anything happening in Storybrooke, I also like when shows take a chance and change the formula a bit which may well happen in the second season (with the coming of magic to storybrooke and everyone getting their memory back).

I agree about Mr Gold/Rumpelstiltskin, definitely the best character on the show.

Also agree about snow white and prince charming...just a bit meh.

I hope we see some character development around Emma in the second season, and also more werewolf red riding hood (that was a neat twist).

Cleggy   #6   02:36 pm Jul 06 2012

My thoughts mimic yours pretty closely. It started off well, dragged in the middle, then picked up when The Mad Hatter made an appearance. I'm also loving Robert Carlyle, although I think I prefer the understated evil of Mr Gold to his (IMHO) overly hammy portrayal of Rumpelstiltskin, dearie.

The major relief for me though, was to see a resolution to the seasons main story arc. I'm a little over the "Answer one question, ask two more" format, which seems to be all the rage since the popularity of Lost. It's made more frustrating by the fact that US TV network execs are fond of cancelling shows after just one season, leaving fans hanging out for a resolution. At least if OUAT never makes it to S2 here, we have some sense of closure.

Michael   #7   02:55 pm Jul 06 2012

Can't wait to check out some Jono & Ben :D

chaton   #8   03:00 pm Jul 06 2012

Once Upon a Time is only worth watching for Robert Carlyle' performance. Otherwise the series would be pretty boring - just can't care much for the characters really.

Tracey   #9   03:18 pm Jul 06 2012

I really enjoyed Once Upon A Time. I think you are right that The Queen is more intimidating than Regina, but then when she was the Queen she had magic, which probably gave her the confidence to be that little bit more evil.

I'm happy with how the season ended. If they hadn't all got their memory's back and the curse carried on to the next season I probably wouldn't watch because it would be too drawn out.

D   #10   03:55 pm Jul 06 2012

I enjoyed Once Upon A Time, I enjoyed it's rather 'sleepy' pace, and I enjoyed the flash-back scenes (once I got used to them - initially they were REALLY annoying). I agree that Robert Carlyle's Rumpelstiltskin/Mr Gold was wonderful, he really did put on an impressive performance, he was truly a pleasure to watch (but then, when is he not?). I'm looking forward to another season.

Thank you for the list of new shows - I'll be taking in The Boss on the basis of your recommendation (no pressure :P).

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