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TV Review | ‘Once Upon a Time’ brings new twist to old tales

Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 08:02


Warning: Do not watch ‘Once Upon a Time’ with kids. Kids believe that Snow White has short hair and that Belle is in love with the beast. Red Riding Hood was supposed to be an innocent child. This show is going to tell them otherwise.

‘Once Upon A Time’ is merely another attempt to add interesting twists to stories that most people have been exposed to since childhood. In an episode that recaps everything that took place in the first season, the evil queen casts a spell across the land, causing every fairytale character to forget who they were. These characters all live in the “real world”, or Storybrooke. When the spell is eventually broken, Prince Charming takes the lead and attempts to defeat the evil queen. What else would one expect a Prince to do?

Despite the number of times characters are made to act in the name of love, this show is in fact a dark fantasy. The evil queen, Regina, pulls out the heart of her lover with her bare hands as he begs her to free him from his misery. Both Aurora and Snow White’s grandson, Henry, get physically burnt as they meet in a dreamlike room engulfed in flames. This show puts familiar characters in unfamiliar situations, which is perhaps why it is so much more intriguing than most fantasy shows. This careful balance of old and new allows viewers to feel engaged while they keep in mind that these are still fairytale characters.

Surprisingly, it is not the acting of the main characters that leaves viewers with the deepest impression. Ginnifer Goodwin , who plays Snow White, Jennifer Morrison, who plays the lead, Emma Swan, and finally Lana Parrilla, who plays the evil sorceress queen Regina, are average at best. Josh Dallas (Prince Charming) and Jared Gilmore (Henry) fail to impress, though it is certainly difficult to criticize a likeable young actor such as Gilmore. Especially since Prince Charming as a character is barely explored in the original storybooks, the responsibility of making the character stand out lies on Dallas’ shoulders. Perhaps due to the nature of the character, however, he is generally unable to wow his viewers. 

Truly stunning, however, is Sebastian Stan’s portrayal of the Mad Hatter. His intense eyes, which transition rapidly through states of anger, frustration and determination, make his key scenes quite memorable. Another outstanding actor, Robert Carlyle, handles the role of Rumpelstiltskin with impeccable taste and class. Portraying a character who is cold and manipulative, yet affectionate toward the one girl he loves, Carlyle does not overdo any of these emotions and successfully gains viewers’ resentment and pity at the appropriate times. Jorge Garcia’s short appearance as the friendly giant living on the top of a beanstalk gave his fans a reason to smile. It is always nice to see a familiar face in television, especially when that person is known for comic relief as Hugo “Hurley” Reyes in the hit series “Lost (2004-2010).” 

It is difficult not to compare this show with the “Harry Potter” (1997-2007) and “Lord of the Rings” (1954-1955) series, as they are two of the most prominent fantasy series in history. Both of them have sets that could wow worldwide audiences easily. Knowing that this thought lingers at the back of all fantasy fans’ minds, “Once Upon A Time” should have done a much better job with its sets and shooting locations. The “Lord of the Rings” filmmakers made New Zealand proud by using the country as a memorable backdrop. Unfortunately, “Once Upon a Time” pales in comparison.

The show is intense and quite entertaining — it grasps viewers in a way that will probably make them binge-watch the entire first season. Watch it for Robert Carlyle’s amazing performance as the gruesome Rumpelstiltskin, if nothing else.

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