Saturday, October 20, 2012

Pilot Season: Once Upon a Time (Curse Broken, Now What?)

Meh, I’m still behind. I stink.

Okay, last year we talked about Once Upon a Time a few times, and I know I mentioned how much I love that it’s a show focused on its female characters. Sure, there is a central romance (Snow White and Prince Charming), but the real relationships we as the audience care about are between the women. Which is awesome.

Well, hold onto your hats, because this season is just as lady-full as the last! But more, while last season was looking at the way women relate to each other as mothers and rivals for romantic affection, this season has largely doubled down on the first part and eliminated the second. This season is about family. And that’s pretty freaking cool.

Let’s backtrack. Last season ended when Emma finally broke the curse and all the fairytale characters remembered who they were. Yay, happy endings restored! Tragically, though, Rumplestiltskin was there just as soon as it ended to pop a bit of magic into the works. We didn’t know what happened, and now…we still kind of don’t know.

The season opens with some other people off in fairytale land, but we’ll get to that in a second.  We saw Snow and Charming embrace. We saw Belle and Rumple having a tender, if a little weird, moment. We saw Red and Grannie hugging everyone, there were dwarves, etc. But probably the most (intentionally) touching moment was when Snow and Charming turn to Emma and just start hugging the life out of her.

And this is when it got good for me. I mean, all that other stuff was fine, but this was the nifty part. Emma was not thrilled. Emma was not really that excited to find out her parents were about her age and a fairytale prince and princess. Emma, bastion of normalcy that she is, was pretty freaking nonplussed.

I’ve talked a lot this season about how I get irritated with inaccurate portrayals of women, and especially about inaccurate reactions to things. This – this is perfect.

I get Emma. I feel her. Her point of view here is totally valid. While I understand that to a viewer’s eyes, it might be easier if Emma would just fall on her knees and embrace her parents, I absolutely love that she didn’t.

Emma is our view in to the show. She’s the normal one. Henry, though technically more a part of the world than Emma is, is a bit too wide-eyed and embracing of the whole fairytale schtick to work for the audience surrogate. Also, he’s kind of super annoying.

Emma, though, Emma is the person we get. She’s our character, and her difficulty in accepting that the parent’s she’s longed to meet are actually Snow White and Prince Charming, and also some random people she knows as peers and occasionally felons…it’s pretty understandable.

Now, the first episode of the new season isn’t just all about Emma. Tragically. Regina (the evil queen) is also there, reeling from the loss of her upper hand, and frightened that she’s forever lost the love of her adopted son. I have to say, I like the new and improved scared Regina. I mean, I still hate Henry, but I like Regina’s constant striving for love. It’s sad and a bit touching.

The new characters introduced are reasonably compelling too, though Aurora needs a few lessons in not being a whiny saddlebag (and totally looks like a low-rent Natalie Dormer). Mulan is a fantastic addition and a nice sign that we might finally get a more diverse cast this year, instead of constantly feeling like we’re watching the contents of a sour cream carton.

Overall, I’m pumped and excited for another season of wacky adventures. I think Emma and Snow fighting through the other lands will be awesome, and I’m happy that my two least favorite characters have at least been quarantined away from everyone else (Charming and Henry – bleh).

But more, I’m happy that this season looks to be shaping up with some realistic female characters dealing with extraordinary circumstances and somehow managing to be human and freaked out by the situation. It’s comforting.

Once Upon a Time airs on Sundays at 8pm on ABC.


  1. An interesting point I saw made about Red and Granny is that - given the events of Red-Handed - their happy ending was their reconciliation in Storybooke (and maybe getting to forget that Red had wolfed out and eaten her boyfriend - something that could have been prevented either by Red trusting Granny more, or Granny giving a less vague warning).

    So maybe, when the relief at remembering and being reunited with the people they once knew wears off, so will the happiness of their ending. It would be interesting if Regina isn't the only fairytale character for whom this change isn't positive.

    (I am so looking forward to when I can get this on DVD).

    1. That is a good point. I mean, happiness is the death of drama, so we can only assume that problems will arise from the happy endings. But I think you might be onto something with Regina. She might actually wind up furthest ahead. Still. Again.

  2. I realize that nothing is fair but I'm still trying. I just want to do my best and what is possible