TV On My Terms: Once Upon a Dream Cast

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Despite my love for sci-fi and superheroes, fairy tale characters have never been my thing - although, having a niece, I'm acutely aware of the adventures of every one of the Disney Princesses - so I'm surprised at how taken I am with what has become my new fall obsession, ABC's Once Upon A Time. Especially considering I was highly skeptical of the premise in the beginning.

But here we are, weeks later, and it has me glued to the tube more than any other new series of the season.

Once Upon a Time Cast Pic

For some, Once may harken back to the Sunday nights when families would gather around the tube to watch The Wonderful World of Disney, but I love that it's more than just a relatively kid-friendly tale of princesses and evil queens - it's a fairy tale saga with bite. 

And that bite comes in no small part thanks to the gifted actors playing the iconic roles.

You may be thinking of how there are a number of shows that feature far grittier and realistic depictions of life and relationships. Absolutely, that is true. And, of course, every now and then the dialogue does veer into an area that could satisfy the yearnings of anyone craving dairy. However, the ability to take these characters and actually get you to take them seriously is not an easy feat - yet the cast of Once Upon A Time is doing just that and faring very well.

Consider last week's telling of how Snow White and Prince Charming first met. Initially, I considered Ginnifer Goodwin's Snow White to be the television equivalent of that moment you wake up and realize you have no feeling in your arm because you were sleeping on it and you flail it around trying to get the feeling back. But then, as if my mind had been read, Snow suddenly evolved into an action heroine, which Goodwin more than proved capable of handling. In the life of her Storybrooke counterpart, she deftly characterized the emotional subtleties in the turmoil experienced by Mary Margaret, eliminating any lingering concerns I had about Goodwin tackling the role.

Equally as pleasant were her moments with the charismatic Josh Dallas, which demonstrated that a pot-boiler of chemistry exists between the two after all. I'm fully on board the Snow and Charming shipper train now and cannot wait to see the relationship between the Storybrooke versions of themselves unfold. 

Meanwhile, Jennifer Morrison has given Emma some shining moments in her own right, and her interactions with young Henry (the endearingly spry Jared Gilmore) have given me reason to smile on more than one occasion. I enjoyed how she handled the situation with Ashley/Cinderella this week, particularly in the laundry room when she was offering advice to Ashley regarding expectations and impending motherhood. The conflict in her eyes over how she managed the situation with Henry's birth was visible and affecting.

Jamie Dornan as Sheriff Graham

Speaking of conflict, we have seen very little of Sheriff Graham to date - that is, unless you take the photo above into account - but he already appears to be one of the most conflicted characters in this story. Although his fairy tale alter ego hasn't been explicitly revealed, it's all but confirmed at this point that he is the Evil Queen's henchman, The Huntsman, who could not bring himself to kill Snow White in cold blood. In Storybrooke, he seems to be equally as trapped inside Regina's web of treachery as he is her sheets. I'm looking forward to Jamie Dornan getting an opportunity to flex more than his pecs as we delve deeper into his complex relationship with Regina, as well as with newly-minted deputy, Emma.

If Alias' Irina Derevko and Heroes' Sylar had a daughter, I have a feeling she'd look - and act - a whole lot like Regina/The Evil Queen. What more can one say about Lana Parrilla that her rapturously wicked performance doesn't already communicate week after week? Acidic dialogue drips off her stinging tongue like honey from a beehive, and is equally as rich.  She slithers across the screen with a haunting precision that engenders equal amounts of grim fear and ecstatic delight. Never has evil tasted so diabolically sweet, and Parrilla coyly appears to be relishing every delectable morsel. I know I am.

Last, though certainly not least, I have to give props to the one actor whose performance takes Once Upon A Time to stratospheric heights: Robert Carlyle as the morally defunct Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin. Carlyle ensures that one of the most nefarious characters in the history of literature is delivered with exactly the right amount of menace and maniacal wit. The man plays creepy like few others and makes Rumplestiltskin seem like the lizard-fleshed cousin of The Cryptkeeper. His presence elevates the performances of everyone else around him. In particular, with the most recent episode, "The Price of Gold," he gave me the same chills I felt watching the late Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker in The Dark Knight - and we know what that performance got him.

It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if Carlyle's performance also has him spinning gold come Emmy time.

Much like how Smallville pulled from the annals of the DC Universe and weaved them into the story of Clark Kent's rise to superhero majesty, Once Upon A Time has an endless supply of fantastical characters at its disposal, ensuring that there would be plenty of tales to tell for seasons to come. I have no doubt each new character we visit will bring with it equally enjoyable performances harmonizing with those of this stellar cast.

Jeffrey Kirkpatrick is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.

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Great review - BRAVO to all the fine actors - what a light in episodic television to have a show like this! P.S. Don't forge Jennifer "Morrison"
had a substantial role in 'Prison Break'.

Blu

Fantastically written piece here. I concur.

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What exactly did Cinderella(ashley) take out of Mr. Gold's safe? Was it the contract? Was the contract given back to Mr. Gold? i don't remember seeing this happen. If it wasn't given back does this not nulify the contract as he no longer has proof of it. Did Cinderella take anything else out of the safe? ....possible the magic wand? any thoughts?

Joyeful

I agree completely with this review, and I'm REALLY glad that you called out all the show's good qualities while still noting how cheesy the dialogue can be! I had my reservations about Jennifer Morrison carrying a show (I disliked her on House and downright hated her on How I Met Your Mother). She pleasantly surprised me. I am surprised, however, that while praising the cast, you didn't have more to say about young Jared Gilmore as Henry. That kid is so charming and endearing; I'd imagine the show would be a lot harder to watch without him.

Ace

And Jeff's review? How eloquent and witty that can only be described as just as awesome!! Bonus points for likening Regina into the she-devil spawn of Sylar and Derevko! Her portrayal makes me want to love her and punch her all at the same time. She's evil and yet I can only describe her as stolen food: so bad and yet so good. I can't wait to see The Sheriff and Emma develop. And yes! The Huntsman!! For some reason I thought he was the Black Knight, but yes! The Huntsman is much more appropriate.

Ace

@Doc Spot on! Spot on indeed as I, too, share your trepidation that Once goes in the same way as Lost. The first season had me hooked and stretching by season two, but after that, the show lost steam with me for that very reason. Hopefully the Lost writers learn from their mistakes and can continue to weave brilliance and intrigue into Once and maintain it's longevity. By

Picazo

Great review well said. I am also on board with this show.cant wait till next epsiode.

Saad702

I totally agree with everything that JK has said in this article. Once brings to together some of the most underrated actors who are all gems. This show will definitely go on to be one of TV's most iconic shows. The mythology is so rich, the characters are lovable. I find myself identifying with the characters, sometimes not personally but I can understand them. It's good to have a show that blends the make believe with reality or real life situations. My only hope for this show is that it does not get convoluted like Lost and that we don't see one day that Henry wakes up and realises everything was a dream.

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I totally agree! Everyone is perfect in their roles.

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