I wasn't quite sure what to think when I sat down to watch the pilot episode of Once Upon a Time. Knowing it was a story about fairy tale characters - written by the creators of Lost - certainly piqued my interest. If anyone could pull off an entertaining fantasy world, it's definitely these guys. Still, I went in a bit skeptical.
But I needn't have been. I was hooked from the opening scene.
Once Upon a Time is a beautiful, stunning, magical journey. I may never have been a huge fan of fairy tales, but like the three bears and their porridge, I want more.
It all begins with the happy ending between Snow White and Prince Charming, which infuriates the Evil Queen, who won't be defeated for long. She issues a curse that will steal everyone's happy endings, making this plan for revenge more complex and powerful than anything Emily Thorne has come up with. What happens when there is no hope of a happy ending? Well, it's certainly no fairy tale.
Which is why all of our beloved characters are banished to... New England. They are all stripped of their identities and their magic and are sent to live along side the rest of us. Of course, Storybrooke, Maine still has a bit of magic in it, however latent it has remained all of these years.
Ginnifer Goodwin is Snow White and is a wonderful combination of innocence and fierce survival instinct. One of my favorite scenes is of her and Prince Charming struggling to save their baby from the Queen's wrath. In an epic sword battle (and who doesn't love those) Charming actually gives his life in the hope that his child has the chance to rescue them all.
The Evil Queen, played by Lana Parrilla comes across a bit over the top at times, especially in her role as Storybrooke's mayor, Regina, but you'll never doubt that she has the power to pull off the curse that keeps them all unknowingly trapped in this strange little town.
Jennifer Morrison is wild card Emma Swann. A beautiful bail bondswoman, she's just smart, feisty, and kick ass enough that you believe that some day she could take on the Evil Queen.
But the person who stole the show for me was Henry, the 10-year old adopted son of the Mayor/Queen. He's spunky, intelligent and has just the right amount of persistence, and faith in fantasy to make you want to believe. He and Emma have some of the best banter in the series and I enjoy how he continues to poke at her resistance. When the clock in the Storybrooke town square finally springs to life, I couldn't help but smile along with Henry.
There are several other fairy tale characters here that we barely touch on in the premiere. I'm sure we'll be seeing more of all of them as the series continues. My favorite so far is Robert Carlyle, who makes a perfectly creepy Rumpelstiltskin. My question: will he really want to head back to the world of fairy tales where he's locked in a dungeon cell... when in Storybrooke he's a man with money and power named Mr. Gold? Will he help or hinder the efforts to break this curse?
As Mary Margaret, the reincarnated version of Snow White tells Emma:
Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing. | permalink
I'm hoping that power gives us some great story in the magical world of Once Upon a Time. So far, so very, very good.
C. Orlando is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow her on Twitter.