Once Upon a Time requires the suspension of disbelief.
There’s the fact the show brings mythical characters to life, there’s the setting of two worlds (fairytale and contemporary) and there’s the American accents coming from what have always been European characters (Prince Charming: “What the hell is this?”).
If you’re down with all of that then you’ll probably have yourself a fun time with this new US drama.
At the centre of the first world, the Enchanted Forest, is Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) brought back to life by Prince Charming (Josh Dallas). But the fairytale-perfect wedding is interrupted by the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) who threatens a curse upon all and sundry. It’s a theatrical, pantomime opening, matched by unbridled performances. This fairytale setting is also home to Red Riding Hood, Rumplestiltskin, Gepetto, Pinocchio and more (some are Grimm Brothers characters, but not all).
Cut to modern day America and bounty hunter Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) celebrating her 28th birthday alone, until a boy, Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), arrives at her doorstep claiming to be the son she gave away several years earlier. Emma is forced to take him back to his home, the town of Storybrooke, Maine. Henry is convinced his biological mother is inextricably linked to the past via a large fairytale book he carries.
Meanwhile Snow White gives birth to a baby named Emma, but forced to save her from the Evil Queen’s doom bearing down upon the castle.
Back in Maine, Henry’s mother is played by the same actress as the Evil Queen (and she’s still pretty unpleasant). His school teacher is also played by Ginnifer Goodwin. It’s clear that the performers will play dual roles, linking past with present, fiction with ‘fact.’
US drama Grimm also premiered recently on Pay TV as fantasy-meets-procedural, but on first offerings, Once Upon a Time is the stronger of the two because it doesn’t take itself quite so seriously.
But with the exception of Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin, it looks like the girls will be having all the fun here.
High concept dramas haven’t worked too well of late (Alcatraz, FlashForward, The Event etc) and 7:30pm seems like an ambitious timeslot for this show. But Once Upon a Time isn’t shy about its desire to offer escapist storylines.
Don’t expect anything as sophisticated as Pan’s Labyrinth but if you are happy to suspend disbelief for 60 minutes you’ll probably enjoy this one.
Once Upon a Time airs 7:30pm Tuesdays on Seven.