SPOILER ALERT: If you’re not up to date on the current season of ABC’s Once Upon A Time, go catch up then tune into this post 🙂
I’ve always been a huge fan of fantasy stories and faery tales so when ABC announced the premiere of the hit drama Once Upon A Time back in 2011, I was instantly hooked. I must admit I was a bit skeptical and hesitant to continue the series after its first season because I was convinced the writers could not keep the story flowing without it seeming forced, but I have never been so wrong. The acting in this series is nothing to brag about and mediocre at best. The special effects are something out of a cheap video game and probably easily replicated using a simple video manipulation software. But the writing…even Disney could not do what the writers of OUAT have done. They have successfully combined [almost] every faery tale and children’s story into one gigantic plot that never seems to end.
Viewers have been exposed to the unnamed Enchanted Forest from which Snow White and Prince Charming hail, Wonderland, Sherwood Forest, and now Oz. Each magical land is as unique as the last and the people that emerge from them are just as special. It takes talent to reinvent anything labeled a classic and even more talent to breath a new and modern life into it. This show appeals to children today and those of us who grew up watching the Disney versions of many of these stories. The characters we have been introduced to are from every generation. Disney’s Snow White was released in 1937, Cinderella in 1950, Alice in Wonderland in 1951, and Sleeping Beauty in 1959. The show’s more recently added characters of Peter Pan (1953) and Robin Hood (1973) have provided new twists such as Robin Hood’s fatherhood and Pan’s dark side. The writer’s included in the story Little Red Riding Hood (Ruby and Granny in Storybrooke) and the giants from Jack and the Beanstalk, two tales not influence by Disney, as well as Rumpelstiltskin whose position is propelled to a leading role in the series. Did anyone think all of these characters could come together in one epic story? I sure didn’t see it coming, but the best part of the series has been guessing as they showed up on screen, “Oh that’s Mulan!” or “It’s Wendy’s brothers, John and Michael!”
It’s wonderful that the plots have overlapped so nicely with one another but I am truly impressed at the intricate family tree mapped out by these brilliant writers. For those of you who religiously watch the show, have you actually sat down and put to paper who is related to who in this series? It’s maddening! But necessary to fully understand everyone’s relationship to one another. The whole story started with Henry, the son of Emma Swan who is the heroine of the show. She gave Henry up for adoption years earlier and their paths cross when he has to convince her that she is the only person who can break the spell to bring everyone’s memories back, vanquish the Evil Queen, and reunite with her parents Snow White and Prince Charming. This is quite a task for a lonely young woman from the city who barely believes in personal happiness let alone complete faery tales. Henry has been adopted by Regina, the town of Storybrooke’s mayor who is incidentally also the Evil Queen herself and the only one with the memory of what happened since she set the curse to begin with. Anyone who knows the traditional story will also know that she is Snow White’s stepmother having at one time married her father. So we have Regina, stepmother to Snow and adoptive mother to Henry, who is also stepgrandmother to Emma, birth mother of Henry and daughter of Snow White and Charming. Confused yet? It gets better. We found out last season that Emma’s ex-boyfriend Neil is also Baelfire, the son of Rumpelstiltskin. So Rumpy (as I affectionately love to call him) is Henry’s grandfather, as is Prince Charming. To make things even MORE bizarre, we meet Peter Pan. And this is not the 1953 Disney Peter Pan and further still from the original stage play character written by J.M. Barrie. This Pan is dark and sinister. His shadow is downright evil with a mind all of its own. Viewers discovered that Peter Pan, the spirit of eternal youth, is the father of Rumpelstiltskin who selfishly gave him up in order to be forever young in the magical land known as Neverland. So now, to recap again, on Henry’s father’s side we have Neil, the son of Rumpy, the son of Peter Pan who is now Henry’s great-grandfather.
To extend the confusing network of familial relations, there is Belle, most commonly known for her role in the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast, who is romantically involved with Rumpy, appropriately the Beast. This was the spin the writers used that made me an official believer in the OUAT scripts. He was a beast, in legend and in this show, who transformed through the love showed to him by Belle which he eventually reciprocated. The roles of these two characters have been reversed at least once. When Belle’s memory was lost, Rumpy had to convince her, by his love, who she was. Then she had to believe with all her heart that he would return to her from Neverland because he too loved her. Rumpelstiltskin’s relationship with women doesn’t end here. We discovered that he was the mentor of the Evil Queen and her sister (as we found out just two weeks ago) who is the Wicked Witch of the West in the land of Oz.
Now that we have traveled through three confusing but magnificently written seasons of this show, we find roles reversed again but this time in Emma and Henry. Henry who, in season one, had to convince Emma of the truth of Storybrooke, is now clueless as to who his parents and grandparents are and it is Emma who has to work hard, with the help and loyalty of Regina, to save the town from yet another curse, this time from the crazy green lady and her army of flying monkeys. I cannot wait to see what is in store for these characters and that is the beauty of the writing of this show. Just when I think there is nothing more they can do, they turn around and astound me. With the inclusion of Rapunzel last week, I am desperately awaiting the arrival of Merida from Brave and Anna and Elsa from Frozen as I know it is just a matter of time and discussion of copyrights with Disney. For anyone who made it this far in the post who has NOT invested their precious time with this show, I highly encourage you to do so. As a writer, I can greatly admire the talent of TV show and film writers, but the writer from Once are in a completely different league. Where others are in the minors, these guys are the professionals.