Netflix is wonderful to fall asleep to. You can choose a show and if you nod off it’s no problem to rewind and pick up where you left off. Lately I’ve been watching Once Upon A Time again. Originally aired on ABC, this is a wonderful retelling of the old fairy tales we know and love, but with a twist.
Created by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, it ran from October 2011 to May 2018. They also wrote many of the episodes but just a few of the other writers include Jane Espenson, David H. Goodman, Liz Tigelaar and Ian Goldberg. For a full list go to Wikipedia. These bright, imaginative folks turned kiddie stories into fun watching for grownups. A mix of fairy tales, folklore and Disney movies, we get to reconnect with some old favorites.
If you read the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson you know some fairy tales ending badly. Remember poor Little Mermaid, immortalized in Anderson’s hometown as a statue gazing longingly at the sea, probably right before she jumped in and was turned to foam? Or the mean-ass sisters and stepmother in Cinderella who had their eyes pecked out by crows, ostensibly with Cinder’s blessing? Peter Pan was far from a good ole’ boy. In OUAT even the villains get a happy ending. Except Hades.
Because the Evil Queen wanted her happy ending, she cast a spell that took everyone in The Enchanted Forest to a modern-day town she created, Storybrooke, Maine, unaware of their former lives. She’s the mayor, Regina, and the only one besides her who knows the truth is Mr. Gold, aka Rumplestilskin, owner of the local pawn shop. Unbeknownst to Regina her adopted son, Henry, discovers the secret when he’s given a book called Once Upon A Time by his teacher, Mary Margret, who just happens to be Snow White. It’s full of illustrations of the townsfolk as their counterparts.
Henry isn’t affected by the curse because he was born in our world, given birth by Emma Swann whose destiny it is to break the curse and restore everyone to themselves. He travels to Boston to bring her to Storybrooke and she’s reluctant to go. The only thing she doesn’t doubt is this is the child she gave up for adoption. She thinks the boy’s deluded. In a much later episode she tells him, “Kid, just because you believe something doesn’t make it true.” He fires back with, “That’s exactly what makes it true.” Belief is very important to children and it plays a big role in the story for the adults, too, and for us, the viewer.
The writers of this well-done series make it very watchable. Okay, the memory and sleeping curses get a little redundant and I could have done without the final season but all in all it’s a great show. I have laughed so hard at times and wiped away a tear at others. The villains are pretty nasty and the good guys valiant but we get to see reversals in every heart when push comes to shove.
In my opinion, Robert Carlyle (The Full Monty, 28 Days Later) gives the most multi-faceted performance, as Rumplestilskin. When in the storybook world, he speaks with a high-pitched cartoon voice and bows mockingly when introducing himself. His modern doppelganger, Gold, is even more menacing and just as willing to make a deal. As they say, magic always comes with a price. Sometimes it’s a steep one and he never fails to relish someone having to pay. He also fills the shoes of The Dark One, a powerful wizard, once a cowardly man, his true nature only a scratch from the surface. Belle, of Beauty and The Beast, comes to the story line and we discover The Dark One is The Beast. Only sweet Belle brings out the good in him but he loves power above all, with ruinous consequences.
The other main characters are Ginnifer Goodwin’s Emma, Jared S. Gilmore as Henry, the truest believer, Josh Dallas as Prince Charming (David) and Jennifer Morrison as Snow White (Mary Margaret). The real kicker is Lana Parilla as Regina, The Evil Queen. I can’t decide if I love her or Rumple more. She hasn’t forgotten a thing, not her dead first love or the rage that brought out in her for all things tender and loving.
It wouldn’t be much of a plot or a series if she didn’t have conflicts, chief among them her love for Henry and her guilt of the deaths she was complicit in or outright the cause of. Mostly, she could give a damn. In The Enchanted Forest she goes about in her black carriage and ceiling fan-endangered hairdos snapping necks and disappearing in a swirl of purple smoke.
But, of course, we get to see her softer side. For Henry’s sake she tries to be good and manages to do so. Her bad girl days go on the back burner. Until needed. Then, boy howdy, watch out. With that crooked smile, she faces down her opponents and you know she’s really going to enjoy turning them to toast.
Why do I love her? She is who she is. We get to see why (an unrepentant witch of a mother, played by Barbara Hershey), and you can kind of understand the scourge of The Enchanted Forest, even as you wish she’d be a little nicer. She turns the other cheek to weak. If you’ve pissed her off and she comes after you, you’d best run. Only Charming and Snow are protected from death by innate goodness. Everyone else is going down.
There’s something admirable about that, admit it. What she says, she means, with no apologies. At one time or another we’ve all wanted to zap someone.
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