ABC’s latest hit twists classic fairytale stereotype

Kathryn Jaslikowski, co-a&e editor

When a friend requested that I check out ABC’s latest hit series, Once Upon a Time, I was immediately skeptical of what I would find. The title itself warrants the makings of the classic fairytale story line: shy, ordinary girl undergoes magical transformation to make charmingly handsome prince fall in love, and they live happily ever after.

Tuning in for the first time proved to be a challenge. The pilot was slow at first, with somewhat perplexing transitions between the fairytale world and the fictional town of Storybrooke, Maine, the two universes where the story takes place. But by the 30-minute mark of the hour-long program, I was completely enthralled in this haunting, suspenseful tale.

In the first episode, we meet bail bonds-woman Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) on her 28th birthday when a young boy named Henry Mills (Jared Gilmore) arrives at her door claiming to be the son she gave up for adoption 10 years earlier. Insisting she drive him back to his home in Storybrooke, the boy complies as long as she listens to what he has to say.

Henry produces a large book out of his bag which contains the contents of a fairytale inhabited by any and all classic characters you can imagine, from Rumplestiltskin to Cinderella. Henry claims that all of the citizens of Storybrooke are actually the characters in the tale, but because of a dark curse instilled upon them by the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla), they are stuck in the real world, where they are miserable and have no recollection of their true identities.

The show often switches between the two universes so that viewers are allowed to see how a scene plays out in the fairytale world before turning back into the real world to see it occur there.

The biggest surprise is when Henry reveals to Swan that she is actually the daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince James Charming (Josh Dallas) and that at birth, she was predicted to save these people from the curse on her 28th birthday.

Each actor plays his or her respective role with a unique charm and charisma applicable to the original character. Dallas utilizes his masculine features and swoon-worthy blue eyes to succeed in his role as Charming. Goodwin is more than convincing as the confident, quick-witted Snow White, while Parrilla plays her opposite with a kind of devilish poise that puts other portrayals of the Evil Queen to shame. Lastly, Gilmore adds a childish charm to the show, providing a youthful element in a cast of experienced adults.

Besides the suspense of wondering when the citizens of Storybrooke will finally figure out that they are story characters, this show provides a darkness that has been missing from fairytales since Disney took over their recreation in the 20th century. The Grimm Brothers initially incorporated evil elements into their tales, which Disney took out for obvious reasons when mass producing them for children. Thus, when one tunes in to watch Once Upon a Time, it is ironically refreshing to watch Snow White be stalked by a blood-thirsty huntsman or cringe when Rumplestiltskin cackles maliciously upon assuming the powers of “the Dark One”, allowing him to control the dark magic in the land.

This element to the show adds a component that is appealing to those, like myself, who were and are initially skeptical of the show’s intentions. Have no doubt, while there are a number of entangled love stories, there is plenty of mystery and terror to accommodate that more stereotypical aspect of a fairytale. Such a nice blend of different genres is a complete relief from the horribly trashy reality shows and grotesquely humorous sitcoms on TV nowadays.

While some of the lines are delivered without enough conviction and the story line is a bit puzzling to follow at first, Once Upon a Time is a relaxing, fulfilling way to spend a Sunday evening before starting a new week. In the midst of guessing who some citizens of Storybrooke are in the fictional world, the audience gains a new perspective on the classic fairytale enough to satisfy anyone’s need for a fulfilling change.