Blu-ray Review: ONCE UPON A TIME The Complete First Season

Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Release Date: Aug 28th, 2012

For those who have yet to see the first season of ONCE UPON A TIME, it follows Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) as she moves to the quaint, small town of Storybrooke, Maine after the son (Jared Gilmore) she gave up for adoption ten years prior comes to her for help. The town is inhabited by fairytale characters that are unaware of their true identities and unable to find a happy ending due to a curse placed on them by the Evil Queen. Emma is the only one who can break the curse, if only she can be convinced that it truly exists, and her stay in Storybrooke pits her against Regina (Lana Parrilla), the Evil Queen and Henry’s adoptive mother.

Emma serves as a great entry into the town because she begins the series as an isolated woman and viewers have the chance to meet the residents of Storybrooke along with her. She develops over the course of the season as she begins to trust and rely on others. Her progression intersects seamlessly with the themes of hope and love evident in the show as she grows to love the son she once gave up and finds a sort of family in the town.

Another prominent arc is the relationship between Mary (Ginnifer Goodwin) and David (Josh Dallas), the cursed incarnations of Snow White and Prince Charming. Mary is a kind schoolteacher who falls in love with David after he wakes from a coma with no memory of his previous life or of the woman to whom he is married. Their relationship is well-developed with moments that make them immensely human, inherently flawed, and wholly relatable. In the cursed world, Mary visits the diner at 7:15am every morning just to see David, despite knowing they can’t be together, and David is confused over having feelings for one woman, but an unremembered past (and present) with another.

Their situation is the best example of how the curse prevents them from being the honorable people they both know they could be and it’s these layers that add substance to a forbidden relationship that could have easily turned viewers against them. There are one or two moments that seem constructed purely to drive plot, but that is either a weak point among many more shining moments or the effects of the curse on preventing the characters from achieving happiness.

This is the type of show that requires a masterful balancing act and show creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis manage just that. New characters are introduced and developed without ever sacrificing the progression of the main characters. The dual stories of each character, in both their fairytale world and their cursed incarnation, work in tandem to highlight the effects of the curse and how they’ve changed as a result. Everything is connected, from the stories of the main characters to the inclusion of inventive backstories for childhood favorites. Each character is given a depth in unique ways that make them seem new, while paying homage to the qualities that made these characters resonate with those already familiar with them.

They include not only expected fairytale favorites including Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, but also some unexpected such as the Mad Hatter or the Huntsman. The various worlds of each of these stories are combined into a cohesive universe. There is something fantastic about seeing the Evil Queen and the Mad Hatter wander through Wonderland while plotting against Snow White. Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) is also used to help tie the stories together beyond simply coexisting as he makes deals in the most unexpected and perfect of places. While the diction used in the fairytale world is a bit jarring, jumping between current and old-fashioned, it smoothed out over the course of the season.

Hopefully further episodes will continue to expand upon the way the curse affects the nature of the characters. The characters in the fairytale world are not without hardship and pain, as Rumplestiltskin and the Evil Queen’s backstories prove, which introduces the question of whether the relationship between Mary and David in the cursed world is troubled by the world in which they now live or the curse effecting them personally. The show prompts questions of how fate, the curse, and free will play into each other in the interactions in the realistic, cursed world. Also, regardless of which world they are in, what does it mean to have a “happy ending” when not everyone can win and not everyone was evil to begin with?

The season finale finishes strong and leaves viewers with hope that these questions and the combating dual natures of the characters will be delved into further. It is both satisfying conclusion to the season that prompts questions which, if answered, will make for a season two that could easily surpass the first. The ending moments will have viewers (any myself) cursing that a new episode won’t air until September 30th.

Kristen Micek