“Once upon a time, there was an enchanted forest filled with all the classic characters we know. Or think we know. One day they found themselves trapped in a place where all their happy endings were stolen—our world.”
So begins ABC’s newest series Once Upon a Time, premiering tonight at 8:00 ET/7:00 CT. Created by Lost alumni Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and starring an ensemble cast, including Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Lana Parrilla, Robert Carlyle, the series presents a slightly different take on fairy tales, and their characters.
Tonight’s premiere episode is a rich confection that travels back and forth between the worlds of The Enchanted Forest and Storybrooke, Maine. As the series begins, Snow White’s evil queen interrupts Snow’s wedding (if you recall, she marries Prince Charming), warning of the curse she will put upon all the residents of the Enchanted Forest. She will, she says, deprive Snow White, Prince Charming, and the rest of the forest’s inhabitants of their happiness—which will, at long last give to her a happy ending.
The curse is tied to the birth of Snow White and the prince’s first child, which they learn after a consult with the one who is said to know the future—Rumpelstiltskin (Carlyle). Although he appears a raving lunatic, locked up in prison, he tells the couple that their unborn child is the key to unlocking the curse—but not until she turns 28! He tells them to protect the child from the Evil Queen.
Fast forward 28 years to modern Boston where bail bondswoman Emma Swan (Morrison) is tracked down by 10-year old Henry, a boy she gave up for adoption when he was a newborn. Announcing that she is the one who will save Storybrooke’s storybook characters, if not the entire world, Henry wants Emma to accompany him home to Maine. Needless to say, Emma is a bit skeptical, but goes along, only to find that Henry is the adopted son of the town’s mayor Regina.
The pilot episode tells the dual tales of Emma’s birth and how she became separated from her parents—but also how in 2011, she begins to follow the destiny that has long been hers. And it does it with wonderful production values and some fine performances.
The episode flies by, as you start to wonder about the alter egos of familiar fairy tale characters. What motivates Regina, who is of course, the Evil Queen? Why would she have adopted Henry? Is it a matter of keeping your enemies closer, or is there something else driving her? And what about Rumpelstiltskin, whose evil is at least evident in the guise of Storybrooke’s richest man Mr. Gold? If he is so nasty, what would have motivated him back in the forest to warn Snow White and the prince about their child?
Once Upon a Time has great promise. It has a little of everything from adventure to character drama thrown in with the fantasy and mystery. I look forward to spending my Sunday evenings watching things unfold in Storybrooke!
After Sunday’s episode, stop by Blogcritics to participate in a LiveChat event to discuss not only Once Upon a Time, but the entire new fall season!