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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Once Upon a Time’ promises happy endings

Published: May 19, 2012
Section: Arts, Etc.

“There is a town in Maine, where every storybook character you’ve ever known is trapped between two worlds, victims of a powerful curse that can only be broken by one person.” So goes the opening sequence of many episodes of “Once Upon A Time,” a magical show that enchants viewers every week on ABC. If you have not yet seen this magnificent work, there are a few small spoilers ahead, but nothing that will give anything too significant away.

The show centers mainly around Snow White, although it introduces a new fairy tale character almost every episode. Throughout the episodes, we are taken on a journey, learning more about their previous lives in what I call “fairy tale land,” while also following the present-day story about their lives in Storybrooke, Maine, where they are currently trapped. The Evil Queen cursed them all to become trapped in our world, where they have no memory of their previous lives as fairy tale characters, and where time has stopped.

The Queen herself does remember, though she poses as the mayor of the town. We find out throughout the series that Rumpelstiltskin (posing as “Mr. Gold,” who makes many deals) also knows the truth. Pinocchio, seen as a stranger who came to town, knows as well, since he was sent to our land as a young boy with these memories. The Mad Hatter (known as “Jefferson”) is the last character who we are informed knows too, as that was in fact his curse. He must live knowing that he has a daughter who in this land has no idea that he is her father. He watches her from afar, wishing they could live happily together again.

The main tension in the series comes in the form of Emma, Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter, who in fact does not believe in the curse, or that anyone is a fairy tale character at all. She was brought to our world as a baby along with Pinocchio, is now all grown up and has found her way to Storybrooke. Her son, Henry, tries constantly to convince her that the curse is real, with a book containing the full stories, which is of course titled “Once Upon A Time.” Being the sheriff in town, however, she believes that one needs evidence for something to be true. Her non-belief has remained a frustrating element throughout this season.

“Once Upon A Time” interestingly creates complex back-stories for characters that we never read about. For example, Snow White’s prince was actually a poor shepherd who took the place of his twin who was adopted by the king years ago. He is in fact supposed to marry King Midas’ daughter, but ends up with Snow White as he has fallen in love with her and never gives up. We also learn that the reason Snow White’s stepmother (the evil Queen) hates her is not simply jealousy of her beauty, but revenge for a mistake Snow White made years ago that caused the Queen’s lover to die.

The Queen’s mirror has a backstory as well. He was originally a genie, who was given a wish for himself to use. Having fallen in love with the Queen, he wished to remain by her side forever. She had led him to believe that she loved him in return but, the case being the opposite, she would not allow his wish to be rightly granted. Plus, as we are constantly reminded, there is always a consequence when using magic. Therefore, right after making his wish, the genie gets put into her mirror and remains there for the rest of his life. In Storybrooke, this character remains by the Queen’s side as a reporter, but continues to be manipulated by her, and will write anything she asks of him.

There are also quirky adjustments to the original tales. For example, there were originally eight dwarves, one being named “Stealthy,” though he died when escaping the Queen’s castle, leaving only seven. His death occurred on the day Snow White met the dwarves, as they were all locked up together in jail, and helped each other to escape.

Some people criticize “Once Upon A Time” for being too corny, as many phrases are quite melodramatic. I would argue that, however, being a show about fairy tale characters, it is allowed to have some cheese-ball lines. Plus, having come from creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis is proof enough that it has to be a great show, since they worked on the popular show “Lost” as well. “Once Upon A Time” adds in fun references to “Lost,” such as the clock in Storybrooke being stuck at 8:15, just like “Lost’s” well-known Flight 815.

After 22 episodes, this wonderful season has come to an end, and I can only look forward for the next season. Without giving too much away, I will simply say that the season finale was phenomenal, while huge events occurred that many viewers did not expect until next season.