Friday, 4 September 2015

Review: Once Upon a Time Season One

Before twitter the world recently exploded with the drama of PLL (Pretty Little Liars), everyone was talking about Once Upon a Time. And because I’m that far behind the times, I’ve only just finished the first season.

I was immediately intrigued by Once Upon a Time because I love retellings of fairy tales. Having said that, I was also a little dubious as adaptations tend to be a bit hit and miss. It’s easy to fall into a trap of cringe-worthy clich├ęs, but there are some really ingenious retellings out there, both on page and screen.

To give you an idea of what Once Upon a Time is about (without ruining it with spoilers), it tells the story of a bunch of fairy tale characters who are trapped in a town called Storybrooke in the modern world as we know it, but with no knowledge of the lives they led before. We enter Storybrooke with Emma, who is dragged there after the son she gave up for adoption turns up on her doorstep, telling her she’s the only one who can ‘break the curse’.

The narrative of Once Upon a Time switches between present day in Storybrooke and past happenings in fairy tale world, although I’m not sure that’s exactly how the time-scales work, as sometimes the two almost seem to be existing alongside one another. Early on in the season each episode focuses on a new character, both establishing them within their fairy tale past and locating their new life in Storybrooke. Not only does Once Upon a Time innovatively recreate iconic fairy tale characters in the modern world, but it really cleverly intertwines and overlaps all of the traditional fairy tales, often adding unexpected twists in plot and spins on characters.

I would say it took me about five or six episodes to properly get into the series; it takes a while to get used to the contrast between the fantastical fairy tale world with slightly ‘cheesier’ acting and the grittier realities of the modern world. Some characters, Snow White for example, I found initially difficult to believe in when in Storybrooke, but once I got used to their style of portrayal I became fully immersed in both lands.

At the end of Season One, my favourite character as it stands is Rumpelstiltskin, and I’m not normally one to have a villain as my top choice! However, I’m a sucker for a complex and ‘misunderstood’ character, and I love how your relationship with him changes on an episode-to-episode basis. The writers really skilfully throw your empathy all over the place, and it keeps the series feeling fresh with each new scene.

If you’re someone who loves a good fairy tale and isn’t adverse to a bit of fantasy, I would definitely recommend Once Upon a Time. It is far-fetched, even when you buy into the storyline, but once you’ve got over that it becomes so gripping and addictive. One thing I’m really hoping for with Season Two is that we see some more complexity with Emma; I get the whole independent, sceptical guard she holds up, but it would be great to see some more depth to her character, especially since she’s the protagonist and our main way into the story.

Have you seen Once Upon a Time? What series are you loving at the moment?


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