Crack TV: ABC’s Once Upon a Time

I began watching ABC’s Once Upon a Time as a skeptic. My best friend (who’s hooked) told me the show was about fairy tale characters who are cursed by the Evil Queen to live in a miserable place without happy endings–aka our world. That sounds exactly like the plot of Enchanted, right? While I think that movie is adorable, I wouldn’t want to waste my time on such a cheesy TV series. But my best friend knows me all too well, and urged me to watch it with her.

And I did…I watched the first three episodes in row. Not afraid to say I’m addicted.

Other than the curse, nothing else about the show resembles Enchanted. In Once Upon a Time, the fairy tale characters don’t know they’ve been cursed. They live normal, contemporary lives in fictional Storybrooke, Maine, but they’re frozen in time. They never grow old, can’t leave Storybrooke without serious repercussions, and their lives are stagnant. But all of that changes when Emma Swan shows up.

Emma, a twenty-eight year old bail bondswoman, is actually the daughter of Prince Charming and Snow White, the Evil Queen’s archnemesis. Of course, Emma was spared from the curse by magical means and prophesied to return as an adult to make things right. Despite the predictability of the overarching plot, Once Upon a Time has quite a few surprises and mysteries. For instance, we still don’t know why the Queen hates Snow, but it’s not just because she’s evil and hates everybody. The Queen, like the rest of the fairy tale characters, has a complicated backstory and fairly deep character development. She’s also the Mayor of Storybrooke in our world and she sadistically enjoys watching the other characters suffer obliviously. Sometimes she dresses like a dominatrix, but I’ll give away the juicy bits if I say much more.

To put it briefly, here are the reasons why this show rocks:

Jennifer Morrison and Gennifer Goodwin (Snow White). I like their characters, and I often have a hard time liking female characters. (I think that’s why I stopped watching Breaking Bad…the women on that show are exasperating.) Morrison’s Emma Swan is cynical and forthright, but she’s got a soft side. I also find the contrast between Goodwin’s Snow White and her real world counterpart Mary Margaret compelling. Emma and Mary Margaret aren’t your token “strong female leads”–they stand up for themselves, but they have glaring vulnerabilities. Ironically, Snow White is a badass on this show. She’s not a frightened, naive preteen, but an intelligent, feisty young woman.

The “Omg-wtf?!” moments. It’s not like True Blood with crazy orgies and gruesome, sudden deaths, but there are jaw-dropping moments. Mostly incidents that cause the plot to veer in unexpected directions and backstories that make you reimagine fairy tale characters.

Jamie Dornan as Sheriff Graham. Is it his array of fitted vests or his unkempt facial hair? Or perhaps the Irish accent that makes him so appealing?

–By Jenna Cooper

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