Wednesday, April 9, 2014

TELEVISION: Is ABC's Once Upon a Time losing its magic?

I’ve been a fan of ABC’s fantasy drama Once Upon a Time since its debut.

I loved the idea of fairy tale creatures in our modern world with no idea who they are.

I thought the idea of having a grown (and abandoned) daughter reunite with the parents that were essentially the same age as her had a lot of potential.

Through the first season of Once Upon a Time, I was not disappointed.

The show wove a tight tapestry of mythology and romance – and it managed to capture the imagination of viewers everywhere.

When the show finished its freshman season almost two years ago – it was on a high note. The curse was broken, Emma had woken Henry with a twist on “true love’s kiss” and Regina was a marked woman.

When the show returned the following fall, it made the mistake of immediately separating Emma and Snow
from the rest of the cast and sending them to the Enchanted Forest. While I wasn’t a big fan of the storyline, I did get what they were trying to do: They wanted David to bond with Henry and Snow to bond with Emma.

Here’s the problem, though: This is a show that’s supposed to be fun. Sure, we need drama to ratchet up the intensity of the program, but we also need to be able to laugh. Laughs have been in short supply on this show for more than a year.

Listen, I know this show isn’t a comedy. I get it. That doesn’t mean viewers can’t have fun while watching it. There isn’t anything fun going on with this show anymore, though.

My biggest problem with Once Upon a Time is the break-neck speed the writers shift storylines. For example, the beginning of the third season saw Emma, Snow, Charming, Rumpletstiltskin, Regina and Hook venturing to Neverland to save Henry. The arc took the entire first half of the season – and resulted in fans getting restless and bored because things weren’t progressing fast enough. What’s funny about that is that the entire arc occurred over a few days.

Then, the first half of the season ended with some actual growth from Rumple and the “ultimate sacrifice” – which everyone knew wouldn’t stick. Quite frankly, there’s no death on this show that they can’t happily undo whenever they feel like it – so that is one drawback to the show.

Anyway, the last time we saw Emma and Henry was the duo driving out of Storybrooke with amnesia about
who (and what) they really were while the rest of the denizens of Storybrooke were transported back to the Enchanted Forest.

It was actually a great cliffhanger for the winter.

Cut to the spring premiere, where we find Emma and Henry living a life without danger and dourness. Emma is in a relationship. Henry is well-adjusted and happy. Then Hook shows up, plants one of Emma and . . . everything is imploded.

Instead of trying to utilize any type of actual pacing, Emma had her memory back midway through the spring premiere and was reunited with her parents (without any big deal being made about it, mind you). Emma was instantly over her boyfriend – the flying monkey that was the Wizard (don’t ask) – and she was only mildly interested in what was going on around town.


We now have a woman walking around trying to pretend saying the word “wicked” a hundred times is somehow entertaining, Rumple is back with very little explanation and Neal is dead.

Now, I am a Neal fan. I’m not an Emma and Neal fan – but I was interested in Neal’s backstory. Personally, when you look at the history of Once Upon a Time – Emma has been through five love interests in a year and a half’s worth of time. Five? Yeah, five. Graham (my favorite), August, Hook, Neal and now monkey boy. That’s an obscene amount of love interests for one character in such a short amount of time.

Neal had a unique place on the show as Rumple’s son and Henry’s father. Plus he had that whole history
with Tink and Hook. So why kill him off? I don’t really care about Emma’s happily ever after – but Neal was at least part of Henry’s happily ever after and now he’s just gone – and I can’t help but feel it’s in an effort to prop Hook.

I get that people think Hook is some dreamy guy, but he does nothing for me (none of the guys on the show are really my cup of tea) – and I actually have pirate fatigue thanks to Johnny Depp. So I don’t get all the Hook love. Is he interesting? Maybe, but I can’t really tell because the writers keep beating me over the head and telling me that he is the be all and end all of characters on Once Upon a Time so I'm starting to resent him too much to pay attention to him.

How about we have Emma focus on being more of a complete person and not worry about her love interests for a change? How about that?

How about we try to find some middle ground between the boring and tedious pacing that has marked the first half of both the second and third seasons and the speed demon pacing that has marked the second half of both of those seasons.

How about we try to recapture the magic and let some of the gimmicks go? Just because you can wedge every fairy tale character known to man into a story – that doesn’t mean you should.

I’m not ready to give up on Once Upon a Time yet – but I am starting to lose hope that it will regain the greatness it once had.

What do you think? Has Once Upon a Time lost its magic?


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