Once Upon A Time: Review: Season 1 Ep 1

ABC, 25 October

Emma Swan is visited by her 10-year-old son who she gave up for adoption at birth. He brings her to Storybrooke, a town seemingly inhabited by fairy tale characters.

The first of two fairy tale inspired TV shows debuting this season (Grimm airs next week), Once Upon A Time takes the concept a little too literally for its own good.

Opening in true Syfy TV movie style in ‘fairy land’, we see Ginnifer Goodwin’s Snow White threatened by the wicked witch (Lana Parrilla). It’s a good while until we find ourselves in the real world, where the fairy tale characters have now been trapped by the witch’s curse, living mundane lives (seemingly including the witch herself—don’t think she thought that one through). The town of Storybrooke seems inspired by the one populated by fictional characters in Jonathan Carroll’s brilliant The Land of Laughs.

Teaming the sassy single girl with the wise-before-his-years kid is a cliché (one among many in this show) that plays out exactly as you’d expect. Of course, Emma finds herself unwilling to leave town, thus giving the series legs (although it is tricky to see how a long-running show can be developed from this set-up).

The heavy-handed approach (all the fairy tale characters are exactly what you think they should be) means that Once Upon A Time is lacking in charm and whimsy.

Rescuing it is Robert Carlyle whose brilliant turn as Rumplestiltskin/Mr Gold (owner of Storybrooke) really livens things up when he’s on screen. More of him, and this might hold my attention, otherwise it’ll be unhappy ever after for Once Upon A Time.

Verdict: A mixed bag, with an uncomfortable stylistic clash between the fairy tale and the real world.

Episode 1 ‘Pilot’: 6/10

Brian J. Robb


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