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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Once Upon a Time’ launches slow-moving season

Published: November 1, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

For a show that has drawn over 12 million viewers for one episode, the ABC fairy tale series “Once Upon a Time” seems to be losing momentum. Season three premiered to only 8.5 million viewers on Oct. 10. “Once Upon a Time” has showcased heroes fighting dragons, dark magic consuming loving fathers and ogres stomping over small towns in Maine. In comparison, season three seems tame. But true fans of the show will not stop watching—because we wait with bated breath to see what happens to our beloved characters.

So far, season three largely takes place in Neverland. The true genius of “Once Upon a Time” rests in its ability to take well known fairy tale characters and transform them into something new and interesting, while still retaining the core values of the original characters. In “Once Upon a Time,” Peter Pan is terrifying. He is the demon of Neverland, controlling who can leave, since every character becomes his prisoner once they enter his harsh land. Season two presented Peter Pan as a menace, a possible rapist of little boys. Season three illuminates him as a mastermind, a character who is able to outwit and outplay even the most powerful characters, such as the “Dark One,” Rumpelstiltskin.

While watching Peter Pan plot his evil schemes is entertaining, the main problem with season three thus far is that all our favorite characters are stuck in one place. Seasons one and two had characters present in both the enchanted forest (where the fairy tale characters lived) and Storybrooke, Maine (the real world, where at first, their true identities were hidden by a spell). The show would often flash back and forth between the past and the present and between both worlds. While season three also does this to an extent, the plotline seems mainly concerned with one thing: finding Henry, who has been taken prisoner by Peter Pan.

Henry is the child of Emma Swan, a woman known as the “Savior,” who broke the curse for all the fairy tale characters in season one. This makes Henry the grandson of Snow White and Prince Charming. He is also the adopted son of the Evil Queen, and the grandson of Rumpelstiltskin. While all these familial relationships may be confusing, the end result is that all the main characters are in Neverland, desperately trying to save Henry due to their blood ties.
As it stands, Henry is probably not going to be saved any time soon. The various characters bumble around in the forests of Neverland, getting poisoned by accident and fighting with each other. The previous seasons of “Once Upon a Time” featured multiple plot lines running concurrently. The mistake writers made with season three was expecting one main quest to entertain viewers for an entire season.

While this season may not be as strong, the characters are as vibrant as ever. A particular standout this season is Captain Hook, played by Colin O’Donoghue. Hook is brooding, snarky and a surprising help to the other characters because he previously lived in Neverland. While labeled as a villain in season two, audiences feel compassion for Hook as we learn more about his history on his home turf. With a bottle of rum constantly in his hand and a sly smile on his lips, O’Donoghue pulls off the role very well. His chemistry with Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) is believable, and he puts true emotion into his fantastical lines.

If the “Once Upon a Time” characters can seize Henry and travel back into their alternate worlds, the show will retain its popularity and prestige. But if they take too long, audiences may lose interest—and perhaps turn to the “Once Upon a Time” spinoff, “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.”