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I Will Always Find You
Once Upon a Time - Series 1 (DVD)
Member Name: charby
Once Upon a Time - Series 1 (DVD)
Advantages: Brilliant concept well executed, Robert Carlyle
Disadvantages: Takes a few episodes to find its stride
== Once Upon a Time ==
Snow White is marrying Prince Charming, which doesn't sit too well with her stepmother, the Evil Queen. The Queen swears she will put a curse on them to guarantee that they are never together and are never happy. With the help of Rumpelstiltskin, the Queen sets a spell on their kingdom that will send the two newlyweds as well as the rest of the fairy-tale world into another dimension, where they will not remember who they are or be able to be together. There is, however, a prophecy that Snow White's child, whom she is pregnant with, will be able to save them all once she turns 28. They manage to send their new-born daughter, Emma, to safety before the curse hits.
Emma Swan is a woman in her late twenties living alone in Chicago. She doesn't have any friends or family, having been abandoned at birth by her parents. She is solemnly celebrating her 28th birthday alone when she hears a knock at the door and is greeted by a ten-year-old boy, Henry. He reveals himself to be the son that she gave up for adoption as a teenager and, not massively wanting anything to do with him, she drives him back to his hometown and his adoptive family in Storybrooke, Maine. He tells her that his entire town is stuck in time and nobody has much memory of their pasts and that he has worked out that they are cursed fairy-tale characters stuck in our world, and that she, his real mother, is the only one who can save them.
== What I Thought ==
I absolutely loved the first series of Once Upon a Time. I really enjoyed the concept of fairy-tale characters being sent to our world without knowing who they really are, as this at least had a certain strand of originality to it, without being a completely unique idea. The implementation of this idea was done exceptionally, with scenes set in Storybrooke being interspersed with ones from the fairy-tale world they have left. The actors are the same for each world and we slowly come to work out who the Storybrooke characters used to be, while being shown their stories in their fairy-tale world.
One of the things I particularly liked about the fairy-tale sections was that they didn't stick 100% to the stories we all know, but took clever artistic license with a lot of it. The character of Rumpelstiltskin played a number of villain roles and has a much more interesting and complicated history than the one we know. The Snow White story is also more detailed and varies more than the Disney version or ones I've read, but is definitely well done and interesting. We even get to see the lives of the seven dwarves before Snow White came into their lives.
=== Acting ===
The acting was generally good on all fronts, but I was particularly impressed by Lana Parrilla in her role as the Evil Queen and Regina, mayor of Storybrooke and Henry's adoptive mother. She played the part with the necessary level of evil but also managed to reflect the depth of her character very well. Jared Gilmore (who played Bobby Draper in Mad Men) was also very good in his part as Henry, Emma's biological son, and was particularly impressive considering that he is only eleven years old. Jennifer Morrison was also good in her role as Emma Swan, but I don't feel that she played her character much differently than she played Cameron in House and I felt myself unable to think of her as anyone other than Cameron for most of it. This may be mainly due to her role in House being so familiar to me as I watch it all the time, but I also don't feel that she changed her character much for this role.
Now, Robert Carlyle: he was something else entirely. I don't think there is an adjective positive enough to express how much I loved his depiction of Rumpelstiltskin (or Mr Gold in Storybrooke). He played Rumpelstiltskin with a perfect mix of being slightly camp, slightly mad and more than slightly evil, while still having a deep character. He played his character in Maine in a more toned down way than his fairy-tale part in a way that worked ridiculously well. In many ways I would recommend watching this programme even just for him as his performance is that enjoyable.
I also have to say I enjoyed performances by Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White, Lee Arenberg as Grumpy, and Giancarlo Esposito as journalist Sidney Glass (I'll keep his fairy-tale identity secret for those of you who want to watch this), who many of you will recognise as Gus from Breaking Bad (and if you don't recognise him, then please go and watch Breaking Bad as it's too exceptional not to have seen).
=== Visual Presentation ===
Once Upon a Time is also somewhat of a visual masterpiece. As well as depicting a small New England town (albeit one inhabited by ex-fairy tale characters) with as much realism possible, the fairy-tale kingdom is stunningly presented. A lot of the fairy-tale stories take place in forested areas and these were always very atmospheric and visually attractive. There are also some exceptional shots of castles and the surrounding kingdoms, dragon fights and other brilliant shots from the fairy-tale world. Part of Rumpelstiltskin's excellence was also due to his appearance, as in his evil form he is made to look yellow and wrinkled in an evil manner, and this was definitely done very well and to great effect.
== Conclusion ==
I really loved the first series of Once Upon a Time and do not hesitate to recommend it highly. It's very entertaining, well written and acted, puts a good spin on fairy-tales we know and love, as well as being very dramatic at times. It's hard to stop watching and I would watch several in a row even if there was something else I really should have ben doing as I was enjoying it too much to stop. The only negative thing I have to say about this programme is that it doesn't start as well as it continues; I found myself not loving it all that much until the fifth or sixth episode, and I only persevered with it because I liked the idea behind it and it had come so highly recommended. I would therefore encourage you to keen watching it even if the first few episodes leave you feeling unsure about it, as it definitely gets better and better as the series goes on, and ends very well.
The DVD was released on DVD on 12th November so you can now pick up a physical copy of it. It is also already available to download from iTunes for £24.99 in standard definition (£29.99 high definition, which I imagine would look awesome), which is, a very reasonable price considering that it has only been released very recently.
In short, this is a very enjoyable series that I recommend highly. Honestly, I would say it's worth a watch for Robert Carlyle alone, but fortunately it's also a very good series excluding his performance.
Summary: A great series based on fairy tale characters trapped in our world with no knowledge of who they are