As I’ve stated many times over, I’m not much for TV these days. I loathe the reality genre in its bloated, stinking entirety, especially in its creation of “celebrities” (I use the term very loosely) for celebrity’s sake with no regard to actual talent or import. As a result, I’m usually very pleased to find ONE new show per season that I’m actually interested in. However, I can now safely and with a sense of great relief say that this season has so far produced not one, but two, keepers. The first is Fox’s Zooey Deschanel vehicle, The New Girl, which is one of those polarizing shows that people either love or hate; I’m firmly on the side of love, since I see a lot of my quirky, fluffy self in Deschanel’s Jess (and if that makes you hate me, get off my blog). Better yet, I just watched the first episode of what could very well shape up to be my favorite show in many, many moons, ABC’s new twisted faery-tale Once Upon a Time. Only one episode in, and I already heart this show with every ounce of my being. I wasn’t too impressed with its pedigree at first. From the same creative team responsible for Lost, which I frankly found dense, incomprehensible and WTF-inducing, this new program offered an out-of-left-field premise (the denizens of faery-tales trapped in the modern world, their happy endings stolen by an evil queen) and only a couple of recognizable faces (Ginnifer Goodwin and House, MD‘s Jennifer Morrison), but I’m glad I gave it the benefit of the doubt.
Goodwin stars as Snow White herself, cursed on her wedding day by the evil queen (Lana Parilla) who earlier tried to poison her. With the fate of her unborn child and the entire kingdom in the balance, Snow White and her husband Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) seek the oracular abilities of Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle), who foretells that the child will escape the kingdom’s destruction and remaking, and will return on her twenty-eighth birthday to set it free once more. Snow White gives birth to her daughter Emma as the queen’s minions invade the palace, and Prince Charming is struck down by the evil knights as he transports the baby to a magical wardrobe, into which she vanishes without a trace.
In modern-day Boston, Emma Swan (Morrison) is a bounty-hunter and an orphan, whose lonely birthday celebration is interrupted by the arrival of the son she gave up for adoption ten years ago as a troubled teen. The child, Henry (Jared Gilmore), weaves an improbable tale of living in a town, Storybrook, populated entirely by storybook characters who no longer remember who they are and implores Emma to come home with him. Not believing a word of this, Emma transports Henry back to his hometown and his adoptive mother, the town’s mayor, who looks suspiciously like the evil queen we saw earlier. As Emma drives out of town, she swerves to miss a wolf in the middle of the road and hits a tree. She wakes up in the town lockup under suspicion of drunk driving, but when Henry’s adoptive mother Regina arrives with the news that he’s disappeared again, she and the sheriff enlist her expertise in tracking people down. Accessing Henry’s computer activity, Emma finds that his trip to locate her was financed on a credit card belonging to his schoolteacher, who happens to look a lot like Snow White. When the teacher, Mary Margaret Blanchard, is questioned, she is unaware of the theft of her credit card until she checks her wallet and finds it missing. Mary Margaret also had given Henry the old storybook from which he had supposedly crafted his nonsensical theories, and she tells Emma where she will probably find Henry.
Emma finds Henry in the jungle-gym castle where Mary Margaret assumed he would be, and he once again asks Emma to stay in Storybrook even if she doesn’t believe him. When she takes him home, Regina coldly tells Emma to leave town and have no further contact with Henry, since in her eyes Emma lost any right to him in giving him up for adoption. Regina then preens before a golden mirror, clutching Henry’s precious book with a triumphant smile– it seems she alone knows that Henry’s stories are true. Emma, however, checks into a boarding house which looks to be operated by the former Red Riding Hood and her grandmother, and runs into a mysterious Mr. Gold, who, she is informed, owns the entire town. He also bears a striking resemblance to Rumpelstiltskin. We see Mary Margaret visiting the hospital room of a comatose man who is the very image of Prince Charming, while Henry, looking sadly out of his bedroom window at the frozen clock in the town hall, which has been stuck at eight-fifteen for his entire life and is proof to him that Storybrook is trapped in time, sees the hands of the clock start to move again, and joyfully realizes that Emma has decided to stick around. So the first episode ends. I can’t wait to find out what happens now– gotta fire up the DVR.
It’s rare for me to get sucked into a new show so quickly. The acting, the cinematography, the costumes, the effects, and above all, the story and its writing, are all top-notch. I really can’t heap enough praise– it’s that good. If you missed it, it’s streaming on IMDB, and I suggest you go plug the gaping hole in your entertainment life right now, in spite of all the spoilers I just threw at you. The joy is in the execution– and you know as much as I do about what happens next. Enjoy…