I have in the past slated the fantasy-drama series Once Upon A Time, in particular in comparing it unfavourably to Grimm. This was because both shows started at the same time, and shared a basic premise of rewriting fairy tales. Arguably, Grimm has now moved beyond this premise, centring more on its crime procedural/Buffy aspects. This naturally leads me to reappraise Once Upon A Time in its own right.

In hindsight, I perhaps did the programme a slight injustice. Its plots are often inventive and offer clever extensions to the stories we know so well. Snow White becomes more of a warrior figure, almost a female Robin Hood. The baddies, in particular the Evil Queen and the Wicked Witch, are people who got tired of being punished for doing good. My favourite rewrite was constructing Peter Pan not as the eternal boy, but as a selfish, cruel and ultimately destructive elderly man who hungered after youth as a means of remaining powerful. A stark warning for those of us who refuse to grow up and accept the responsibility that comes with it.

I do have some issues with it still though. For a start, there is still for me a lot of schmaltz in the relationships between characters. Everything is resolved by the love of a parent or spouse, everyone seems to be willing to sacrifice themselves for a greater good, and the good guys always seem to win in the most convenient of ways. No wonder characters like Regina constantly turn to the dark side – it is the only thing that stops the show consisting just of people singing to birds for an hour.

Speaking of Regina, I do wish we weren’t constantly forced to watch her try and become good and fail. Yes, I like the depth of character she has (bar Mr Gold she appears to be the only one to have more than two dimensions) but there must be something she can do. I must confess I have only just begun season 4 (the show is currently only available on Netflix in the UK), and whilst I am intrigued by her plan to rewrite the stories so the bad guys wins why does she have to identify herself as a villain? Surely we have seen enough of her better nature to see she is morally complex at worst?

Perhaps the fact I am asking so many questions of one character – although similar ones could be asked of Gold – proves the show works. It drags you back in because you want to see where the characters go next. However, it is a sign of where it sometimes goes wrong that you start rooting for the bad guys.

Advertisements