'Once Upon A Time' premiere review: Did this fairy-tale show make your dreams come true?

Once Upon A Time premiered on Sunday night as a compatible lead-in to Desperate Housewives — that is, if you re-titled the new show something more apt, such as Desperate Fairy-Tale Characters. Certainly, like Housewives, its small-town setting is stuffed with nighttime-soap style characters engaged in endless intrigue. But Once, unlike Housewives, doesn’t have a humorous bone in its brittle body.

In Once Upon a Time, the set-up is exhaustively exhausting. Storybrooke, Maine, is a town where fairy-tale characters such as Snow White, Rumpelstiltskin, and Jiminy Cricket exist as ordinary citizens, without any memory of their literary heritage. The series, from Lost writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, jumps back regularly to a sylvan make-believe world where we see Snow White (Big Love’s Ginnifer Goodwin) threatened by the Evil Queen (24’s Lana Parrilla). The show seems to be about House’s Jennifer Morrison, as a contemporary-world “bail bonds person” tracking down the connections between the two universes, figuring out her own place in fairy-tale history, and bringing the two worlds together in harmony.

But wait, there’s more: Morrison is actually the grown daughter of Snow White and her wan Prince Charming (Josh Dallas). And the only person who’s made the connection between both worlds is a little boy name Henry (Jared Gilmore), who says he’s Morrison’s birth son, having figured it out by reading a book of fairy tales. (Please, Kitsis and Horowitz, assure us that we won’t reach the end of the series and find out the entire thing existed in Henry’s head, a la not just Lost, but also St. Elsewhere.) And I haven’t even mentioned yet that time has been frozen in Storybrooke and no one in the “real” world remembers who they are in fairy-tale land. We and Henry are the only ones to see the behavioral connections between, say, what a witch Lara Parilla is as Storybrooke’s mayor and the witch she was who cast the time-freezing, memory-erasing spell.

Once Upon a Time has some of the candy-colored palette of another ABC series that choked on its own whimsy, Pushing Daisies. But that show had a lively cast. Once is a succession of close-ups of gaunt glares from Morrison and pitiful pouts from Goodwin. Everyone — from Morrison’s hard-boiled bounty hunter to Parrilla’s permanently enraged Queen — seems so miserable.

This is a problem for the series, because viewers coming to the show for the light, good-will-prevail tone of fairy tales may be brought up short, and perhaps dismayed, by its dark fantasy. And dark-fantasy fans will probably find the series not dark enough. (For that, they have The Walking Dead on the same night, and, when it returns, Game of Thrones.) And to those of you who say, well, the Grimm brothers fairy tales from which Once takes off were more grim than we recall, I’ll say that I’ve re-read a bunch of the ones pertinent to this TV show, and they’re more brief, more varied in tone, and, at their conclusions, more positive in their outcomes. It takes but a few pages for Rumpelstiltskin to receive justice for his meanness; it’s going to take a long time for that to occur on Once Upon a Time, if only because the deft Robert Carlyle has been clearly cast as a long-term bad-guy.

I think there are a lot of people in the TV industry who believe there’s a large audience for this kind of bleak spin on life and our imaginary lives, whereas I believe that there’s a large audience that’s sick of precisely those qualities in their escapist television. As is becoming increasingly clear, “edgy” and “gritty” and “dark” are becoming exhausted, played-out tropes. The notion of its citizens being “trapped” in Storybrooke, Maine, by a “curse” is an all to easy metaphor for the way many people feel trapped in their own towns by the stagnant economy. And if a substantial number of viewers feel that way, wouldn’t they prefer to watch The Amazing Race or the World Series or football to escape that feeling?

Twitter: @kentucker

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  • saramarielouise

    Her name is Ginnifer, not Ginner.

    • Maldini

      It doesn’t matter what her name is. I usually don’t give Tucker’s opinions the time of day, but he’s spot on when he says “dark-fantasy fans will probably find the series not dark enough.” There’s Dexter, Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire and Homeland on Sundays. Those are all shows that I must watch. “Once upon a time” isn’t really my cup of tea. As Tucker says, it’s “stuffed with nighttime-soap style characters engaged in endless intrigue.” It’s just too cheesy.

      • Michael

        I actually like Ken’s articles, but on this one he is completely wrong. Tv went towards dark and edgy because most shows on television were candy coated lite versions of the real world and people wanted compelling television. I loved Pushing Daisies because underneath that Tim Burton vaneer was a dark series.

        I actually liked the premiere alot. It had a few rough edges, but it shows alot of promise. I don’t agree with Ken that this “edgy, dark, moody” tone will turn viewers off.

        Do you honestly think that some really cute and light/funny tone would work? Were a cynical society now. We like dark and gritty because it feels more truthful.

        I know that Once Upon a Time is a fairytale, but I think viewers are more likely to continue watching a fairytale story with dark edges than light and fluffy. I for one will continue watching.

      • ltmcdies

        and I think if there are four of just one sort of program …ie dark fantasy…in one freaking night …then one particular sort of viewer is being over served.

      • Tarc

        Yeah, Ken’s way,way, off-base on this one. I’m not sure what show he watched, but it wasn’t the one I did.

      • K

        There are too many good shows on Sunday. NOT making the cut. Kids have fun ;)

      • Stephanie

        Then why’d you waste your time watching it?

      • Maldini

        @ Stephanie : It’s not unheard of for people to watch pilot episodes of new shows and then decide they don’t like it. I do agree that it was a waste of time.

      • nina

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      • Michael

        I think that Ken needs to get laid. Grumpy ba$tard. Take a piss in your own cheerios. I’m enjoying mine just fine.

      • Joe S

        I enjoyed it, but it seems much more suited for a limited run series (10 or 13 episodes maybe a full season) than a series that runs for years. I think it will get stale pretty quickly after one season.

      • Sue

        I have to agree with Michael and Joe S. It seems like mini-series material. I did enjoy it. And since I don’t get Hbo/Showtime – the only Sunday night series I otherwise get would be the Walking Dead (plus the others really aren’t “dark fantasy” (like Games of Thrones would be) though Dexter might qualify as horror).

        I’ll be Tivoing and watching if I can that night or at some point during the week.

      • JS

        To all who feel the show has “limited material” – I hate to overuse the Lost connection, but I seem to recall this is exactly what people were saying about Lost after a few shows. I don’t think the creators will have any trouble coming up with enough mythology and story lines to keep the story going. A better concern is whether they will be able to unravel it all and come to a satisfying conclusion.

      • Joe S

        JS, I never felt that way about Lost, so that comparison doesn’t work for me. It seems like with a lot of these “mythology” type shows, the writers don’t have them planned out past the first season anyway. I really doubt the writers have a four or five-season story mapped out. Of course I could be completely wrong.

      • Rob Rubinate

        I agree, this was bad time slot planning. Sunday is when there are just too many great shows are on and I don’t think this one was good enough.

      • Annie

        Yeah, but the horrible place is… MAINE?? Seriously?? Why not place the cast in the middle of the Mojave Desert for the drama to unfold? I honestly thought the acting of Regina and Snow to be mediocre. And like Lost, I’ll stop watching this show after season one. So far the LOST writers are not impressing me with the lame plot.

    • Cygnus

      I thought technically the show was fine, but it lacks a soul so far. You don’t believe in the actors and any bonds between them. Morrison needs a partner in crime, and it can’t be the little boy. I know it’s cliche, but she needs one of those handsome, joke-ever-other-line Caruso types. Kinda a buried sexual tension like most male-female partner types on TV. Otherwise, Morrison seems like she’s on an island having to support this show herself, and she’s not that kind of star.

      • RaRa

        Perhaps some resident (maybe one of the “prince charmings” from the township will fill that role?

      • Krys

        I agree she needs someone to help her out definitely.

      • ltmcdies

        I think I’ll give the show at least a second hour before worrying about it’s lack of soul.

      • Emily

        Perhaps when the “John Doe” prince charming wakes up in the hospital, he can be her sidekick…but not her boyfriend, because he’s her dad… The sheriff of the town has potential, but, I think he’s meant to be the “hunter” to the Wicked Queen, so, he’s sentimental to Snow White… I think more backstory is needed, and they promised that in the previews.
        I quite enjoyed this show, as I expected I would.

      • lexi

        Perhaps it’ll be that Sheriff of Nottingham guy

      • Niix

        Perhaps with the writers they hired after the pilot — from both the Whedonverse and the Bad Robot family– things will pick up. For them, I’ll give it another episode or two. For now, though, it feels … unsure of itself.

      • Strepsi

        @ Cygnus, I agree completely. It was ok, but for instance the evil queen did not give me shivers in either of her forms… I put it down to weak dialogue writing.

        I couldn’t handle how many times characters said “Where’s my happy ending” or “Because THIS is my happy ending!” or “No more happy endings!” So literal — they need to add a witty gay dialog writer to the staff!

      • Cygnus

        BTW, I love Ginnifer Goodwin in any form. She is the cutest pixie of a woman, and her ears look like they’re going to take flight at any moment. She has the Best Smile in Hollywood….when she smiles. This show has her frowning, crying, and looking dire all of the time. Back to Tucker’s point about this fairy tale being pretty dour and morose so far. It’s like Dark Disney.

      • Niix

        My fear is that the premise is full of temptation for the writers to be achingly self-indulgent. The line between fresh/original and indulgent/overreaching is thin and often invisible in the face of ABC Studio money. Anyway, we’ll see how Kinda Dark Disney pans out.

      • Annie

        Besides staring at GInnifer’s large ears thru the first pilot episode, I really did not like the casting for Regina, Snow (hairstyle was better with a wig), and Prince. And honestly, the little kid just plain irritated the living daylights out of me. I did like Emma, surprisingly. But after one season, there is only so much this plot can go. I fear the LOST writers are going to spin in in the alternate universe where either it was eternity and they are dead or fairy tale universe was a sham and the boy is mentally ill. Not sure if I want to keep watching.

    • Beyoncé’s baby

      Ken Tucker, what were you watching, you are so wrong. I thought Once Upon A Time was amazing. The writing was excellent and the actors were awesome. I can’t wait for next week.

      • RCB

        The writer is so off on this one. I enjoyed it. One of the best pilots of the Fall. Looking forward to next week’s episode.

      • FrannieT

        I agree completely … did we watch the same show as the reviewer? I thought it was great!

      • Heidi

        I say give it time. As a pilot it had to introduce all the main characters and explain the beginning of a long (hopefully) story. If its simplistic then make it a Hallmark movie. Its got more substance than that and I see it going good places from here. I’ve also read that from other sites where critics saw the first three episodes and thought it was fantastic. I’m willing to keep hope alive a little longer!!

      • Kim from Texas

        I thought it was fantastic. For me, it was the boy that made the series sparkle. I cared what happens to the boy and want him to be rescued from the evil queen.

      • Destiny’s Child

        It seems like everyone at EW hates this show (what’s going on? Is this another Lost??!! Aah!!) I’m so glad to see other people who feel like I do the pilot was so good I cannot wait to see this show from beginning to end and the entire cast is amazing!

      • A Name

        Call me crazy, but I liked this better than any pilot I’ve seen in several years. Love the boy. Love all the conflicts already set up (hard-ass Emma vs. the evil queen/mayor, the mayor vs. Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold — who’s really calling the shots, anyway?). Like trying to figure out who the Storybrook characters are in Fairy-tale land. (For example, the innkeeper and her granddaughter, who I assume is Little Red Riding Hood.) The main thing is, I was interested.

    • Mr. Eddie

      Ken, I normally agree with your comments, but you are so WRONG on this one that I am frankly a little shocked. My 8 and 12 year old daughters ate this up like it was candy – both of them said “5 STARS” when the episode was over. It is perfect as a Sunday evening family show that parents can watch with their kids, and just dark enough that the parents can enjoy it too on a level above the kid’s perceptions. Bottom line, I can’t wait for next week.

      • LogopolisMike

        It’s weirdly odd that your kids speak in reviewer speak.

        Weirdly odd awesome that is. If I had kids I’d hope they’d do the same thing.

        (It’s weird that kids today might not get the “two thumbs up” reference.)

      • Niix

        @ LogopolisMike: Cassette Tape + Pencil = Evidence of age gap. Hell, the cassette tape alone…

      • Marty

        2 thumbs up, 5 stars, we loved it in my house and Ken Tucker sucked a lemon or something before he watched it.

      • SteveG

        A show you can watch with the kids?

        How do you explain Grandma (of Grandma’s Bed and Breakfast) being interrupted telling off the slutty Red Riding Hood for sleeping her way up and down the East Coast?

        Anyway, the addition of new experienced writers from solid show backgrounds should be able to break this one out successfully… or else it’s going to be Jennifer Morrison and the rest of the talented cast against the writers, unto death.

      • SJ

        SteveG – that was a rather softball type reference of slutty. It’s not as if they showed her being slutty, described her being slutty, or even straight up called her slutty. I heard prince charming say “what the hell” which I thought was just dumb writing, but mostly I thought the program was appropirate for upper elementary aged kids.

        Also, look back at some of the 1980s fantasty programming and you’ll find it’s not uber-chaste either. Labrynith, the Dark Crystal, Willow, a lot of it is dark.

      • Mo

        I am hopeful that this is something I’ll be able to watch with my daughter but I want to wait a couple more episodes before I do that. I don’t want to get her hooked on it and then say she can’t watch it when the characters start sleeping with everybody and their mother, which is what I picture when I hear the words “night-time soap opera”. Or just “soap opera”, really.

      • Annie

        They were promoting this show on the Disney Channel — owned by the same company. I think they are looking for a younger demographic. But the slutty Red comment by granny would make me think twice before allowing my kid to watch with me. Disney Channel is just fine for her.

    • I LOVED IT

      I couldn’t love this show more or disagree w/ Ken more. My favorite show ever. I love a show w/ the message of hope and that good will triumph over evil. Like Steve Jobs proved & often said, “Those who think they can change the world – do.”

      • Me too

        I agree

      • Maggie

        I loved it too…and so did my girls. We love the magic of it all, the two realms, the suspense. It reminds me of the 10th kingdom. We want more…and it’s something we can all enjoy as a family and look forward to every week. I don’t care about thinking too deeply into it…my life is stressful enough. This is pure entertainment…and the fact they make the “government” and medicine all evilly interconnected couldn’t be more true to today’s reality.

    • Caiti

      Isn’t it supposed to start dark? I mean, that’s the point…this is a grim situation. But (as Snow White/Mary Margret/Ginnifer Goodwin pointed out) there’s hope. I think if it weren’t dark, a lot would be lost. But I expect (as in any war) there will be moments of victory and defeat. It won’t always be so dark, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get darker.

      • Chris

        Just what is the grim situation? That they live in our world. Oooh, that’s so terrible. They need to do a better job of convincing me that these people need rescuing. Being a school teacher sounds like a good use of Snow White’s talents.

    • fish eye no miko

      @Michael: “underneath that Tim Burton vaneer was a dark series.”

      Are you saying Tim Burton isn’t “dark”? have you seen “Sleepy Hollow” or “Sweeney Todd”?

      • kittytoonces

        ..or Edward Scissorhands….or Beatleguise…most of his movies are dark fantasies!

    • Dwight

      Hey look at me I’m Ken Tucker. I’m bald, smarter than you, and know what people want. That’s why I work for EW. Also I haven’t been laid since HW Bush was president.

      • Snickers

        LOL…a little mean, but yeah, Tucker needs to just relax and enjoy life for a second. This show has more promise than the rest of the new fall line-up combined.

    • kgb

      No one forces anyone to watch what they do not want to. Turn it over to a brain dead show if you would prefer.

    • Gisele

      I am very disappointed in Tucker’s review – loved the show and can’t wait for the next episode. Why does Tucker feel he needs to criticize it for being a fantasy? What’s wrong with a little fantasy in today’s ridiculous scripted “reality” world? To compare the show to viewers being trapped in their homes because of the economy is ridiculous… Lighten up dude….

    • Saphron

      I just wanna say that in the above photo, Ginnifer is totally copying Allison’s penulimate photo from Cycle Whenever of America’s Next Top Model. She was supposed to be a little bird in a nest. And homegirl rocked it. I find it hard to believe that no one involved in this shoot had any idea that they were using borrowed ideas. Look at that photo! Even her arms are doing the same thing as Allison’s! For shame! FOR SHAME!!!

    • sarah

      i personnaly love the show. If the show were too happy where is your story and how do you keep it going. The show is perfect and my new favourite tv show atm

      • Hamida

        GD Star Ratingloading…Hi! This site is wonderful! It heepld so much!! I am 13 turning 14, and I believe in the world of faries. I have studied and read about them, and I am currently building a house for them. In my backyard, me and my little brother built a village for them! With a stream, a sit-down area, and more! I have seen what I believe is a fairy. A couple of years ago, I was getting out of my car (not mine my parents lol) and I saw what looked like a dandelion seed. But I could’ve swore it had legs, arms, and a face. I looked in amazement! When I turned to ask my mom is she had seen anything strange, I turned back to wear I saw he fairie and it was gone! Also, when I am outside I see faint glowing lights in the corners of my eyes. Is this faerie activity?Thanks so much if answered! Best of luck with other questions.-Happy Fairy Finding

  • Jesse

    God Ken, complain a little bit more! I, for one, loved the premiere of Once Upon a Time and wished it could have lasted an extra hour. I like my fairytales and mysteries just this “bleak”… Can’t wait for next week!

    • miss k

      Thank you! My friends and I were so excited about this show and we loved it. The previews didn’t make it seem like some happy-go-lucky fairy tale. I can watch a Disney movie for that. It was great. And who doesn’t love Ginnifer Goodwin?

      • Michelle

        Me. I can’t stand her. And her hair style as the “cursed” Mary Margaret it horrid. Don’t get me wrong…I loved the show, but her as Snow is going to take some getting used to.

      • fanboy

        Ginnifer <– first off stupid spelling, second.. that hair. THOSE EARS. I could almost feel them flapping.

      • Niix

        Ginnifer <– spelling has an origin which makes perfect sense. A name is just a name, anyway. It's supposed to mean something to bearer not pass some acceptance test from musty cranks on the interwebz who have a simplistic worldview.

      • Steph

        Just wait until all the Nevaeh’s (aka “Heaven spelled backwards”) grow up. But maybe they’ll just end up on reality tv like the Paris’ and Khloes… ;)

      • Carlos

        I just heard about you from Azalyne Skye Olsen I am a member of her COC. Though I live up in San Jose, I’d love to be on your maliing list & hear about your dinners, events etc.! My brother & family live in Watsonville & would be interested as well. Thanks! Hope to see you soon!

    • Amy

      I agree with both you and Miss k. It was a great show and I thought it was very creative, just like Pushing Daisies was. ABC can expect me to be waiting for the next episode on Oct 30th! :)

      • Krys

        I loved the pilot! I loved pushing daisies too and I wish they’d resurrect that show it was so good!

    • steph

      Seriously! Wow. Are you sure that grumpy ex-dwarf in the jail cell wasn’t you?

    • Alyssa

      I agree- I give it an A-, very good show….And I caught a few ” easter eggs” in the premiere too. It kind of reminds me of a TV version of Enchanted- but not as campy and silly. looking forward to more. Im a fairytale freak.

      • amanda

        haha! like the kid giving the teacher/Snow White a pear instead of an apple! I loved that, and I hope the writers keep throwing that kind of thing into the episodes.
        I really liked the show and thought the “tone” was just as I had expected it to be. I never though it was going to be a Disney fairy tale. Ken is a grump.
        And….Prince Charming is swoon worthy.

    • PamCakes

      I agree with you Jesse. I liked the show. I thought it tied together well and left just enough suspense to bring b me ack to watch next week.

    • Andrea

      YAY! i thought i was the only one who liked it! i thought the show got off to a really good start. It seems like a good family show. i think the fact that it’s not as “dark” makes it light-hearted enough to appeal to more people. in the short one hour premiere, they were able to lay out the ground work really well while making making me want to come back next week. can’t wait!

    • Meg

      Ken would rather have all the characters break into song a la Disney movies. “Whistle While You Work” wasn’t enough for you?

    • SLB

      I agree. I loved it!!

    • Lily

      I loved it. Thought it was GREAT.

    • brandon

      Seriously! I LOVED the premiere. Really hope it holds well in ratings.

      • susan

        I’m seriously not a fantasy type person so I went into this show, only because nothing else was on that interested me, thinking I would hate it. I absolutely loved it. Hope it continues to do well in the ratings so it dosen’t get cancelled.

    • Tarc

      Grimm’s fairy Takes are dark. DARK. Once was actually pretty awesome, and struck a great tone for a modern viewer that had some grit, but wasn’t beyond 8PM Sunday viewing.

    • Paloma

      I, too, enjoyed the show and wanted an extra hour because the first hour was mostly set up and I wanted to see what would happen after the clocked ticked forward a minute. Ken Tucker is so wrong.

  • Sherry35

    I loved it.

  • Jackie

    I don’t get what the problem with the show was. From the previews, I was expecting dark fantasy. I got dark fantasy, and I completely enjoyed it. My only concern is how they’ll be able to stretch it beyond one season. I would almost like it more as a mini-series, like ‘The 10th Kingdom’. By the way, ‘Pushing Daisies’ was awesome – there was more to it than just a lively cast (although the cast was excellent).

    • amble

      +1. I think this would work best as a self-contained one season thing (just as Heroes would have). I enjoyed it and am willing to stick it out for a few more episodes.

    • Meg

      Agreed–previews indicated it’d be better as a movie or a miniseries. Personally, if “Bachelor” gets two hours a night, something more enticing such as “Once” should get more than 43 minutes + commercials.

  • Nikol

    Ken, I don’t know what show you’re watching, because I thought Once Upon a Time was great. I must say, I didn’t have high expectations for it based on your review, but it kept my attention from start to finish; the actors were charming; and the plot line was hardly “exhausting.” Overworked much, Ken? It was simple and easy to follow. And it surpasses Desperate Housewives, which I still watch but whose end I welcome, on any given episode. You go this one wrong.

  • A

    Meh, I liked it enough to watch it again next Sunday. And since I don’t have HBO, I think I’ll have time to watch this on Sundays while watching Game of Thrones in the internet the next day.

  • Nerwen Aldarion

    Sounds like Ken Tucker has a poison apple stuck somewhere painful…

    Once Upon A Time is a unique show that actually has an interesting mythology driving it. I can’t wait to see how it continues.

    • asher

      Ken is complaining the show lacked a sense of humor, but it sounds more like he lacked a sense of humor while watching the show.

  • emilyelizabeth

    All too easy* (Not all to easy.)

  • Michael

    Yeah, I really loved it and think the criticisms in this article go a little overboard. To each his own, though!

  • Fool for Believing

    Disappointing. They lost me at “Jiminy Cricket”. Nothing like a lame reminder that this is all a commodity of the Disney Corporation. Then *the Wardrobe*. Yes… Disney owns those movies, too. I expect a surprise visit from Woody and Buzz, or a talking pickup truck, during sweeps week.

    • Jackie

      You DO know that ‘Pinocchio’ and ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ existed WAY before Disney, right?

      • Fool for Believing

        Yes… C.S. Lewis wrote in the 50s. Jiminy Cricket was invented for the DIsney movie. They were jarringly out of place in this context, unless you are keen to sell merchandise owned by Disney. No writer would come up with this, but a Disney exec would.

      • jessica

        Jiminy Cricket was invented for the Disney movie , but there was a talking cricket in the original Adventures of Pinocchio who called Pinocchio out on his rebellious behavior, and that cricket was not a Disney invention. A writer using different fairy tales as sources for a new story involving multiple characters would in fact come up with this stuff, not just a Disney employee. Get over yourself.

      • Jackie

        Actually, there was a talking cricket in the original ‘Pinocchio’ story, which was written in the 1800’s (he didn’t have a name, and Disney just happened to give him a name). And C.S. Lewis wrote the books from 1949-1954 (according to Wikipedia). The Disney movie didn’t come out until 2005, and they were not the first to make a movie out of those. The BBC did a series, albeit kind of a crappy one, in the late 1980’s.

      • Gregory

        From what I’ve read, the writers are indeed trying to create surprises by having characters from different fairy tales intersect. That’s a fun writing challenge. As far as Ken finding the show dark, the whole town has been cursed. Emma’s appearance marks the beginning point for good (aka light) to bubble under the surface. Works for me.

    • Zakry

      I think Fool got drunk on Haterade with Tucker last nite!

  • AuntieMM

    Not sure what to make of this one. Ken is right that the tone is way dark (don’t think you’d see any scouts selling cookies in this town). I may watch next week if nothing better on but I don’t think it will be must see tv.

  • Tinuviel Undomiel

    Uh Ken, I hate to break it to you but fairy tales were NOT initially funny and light. They were actually for adults. The original Cinderella featured no fairy godmother and no talking mice, instead it was a a tree with magical birds that gave her the gown and the slippers and the birds pecked out the stepsister’s eyes in the end. In Rapunzel she actually got pregnant and that’s how Mother Gothel discovered that the prince was climbing up to see her. So actually, Once Upon A Time is being true to the original tales, dark and not Disney.

    • MWeyer

      Thank you, Tinuviel, amazing how people seem to think classic fairy tales were always meant for kids. The series nails how dark they truly were and hope they run with that more as we go on.

    • Luddite

      So true. The original Red Riding Hood gets eaten by the wolf, the end. The Little Mermaid dissolves into sea foam. Not all the bad guys in traditional fairy tales get their comeuppance, and a lot of the good guys meet pretty grim fates.

      • alexia

        The original Sleeping Beauty story has a king raping Sleeping Beauty while she’s sleeping, then leaving her. She wakes up after giving birth to twins. The king’s wife (yep, wife) finds out about the twins and orders a cook to kill and serve the children to the king. Then the Queen’s about to have Sleeping Beauty burned alive when the king stops her. The Queen, after informing the king that he ate his own children, gets burned alive instead. But it turns out the cook saved the babies. So Sleeping Beauty gets to marry her rapist and live happily ever after.

        Grimm’s fairy tales, even the darker ones, are actually “cleaned up” compared to earlier stories. The Sleeping Beauty story I mentioned above is from Basile, but Straparola is another early collector of fairy tales.

        Fairy tales are dark. Lots of death, not to mention rape, incest, and dismemberment.

      • Kate

        alexia, I wouldn’t exactly say that the King “rapes” Talia in the Basile story. He finds her in her sleeping trance, falls instantly in love, and makes love to her. Yes, it’s sort of creepy (and it would be considered rape today, since she can’t consent), but it wasn’t seen as rape in the story. Perrault’s version of the story (his is the one that is the inspiration for the various versions we know today) keeps the macabre elements (the cooked children, for example), but makes it a prince who finds the sleeping princess, and his mother the Queen who is so jealous she plots to destroy the young couple.

      • fish eye no miko

        @Kate: Would you mind explaining to me precisely how someone “makes love” to an unconscious, unresponsive body?

      • Steph

        Semantics, my dear fishy! ;)

      • alexia


        I think fish eye no miko handled that nicely.

        Also, he basically forgets about her for a year, then goes back…presumably to enjoy her unconscious, unresponsive body, and finds her awake. Less “instant love,” more “convenient body.”

      • Doris

        The Little Mermaid is Hans Christian Andersen, not the Brothers Grimm. But I’d like to see her. I’d also like to see The Happy Prince and The Selfish Giant (Oscar Wilde) as well.

    • Lyndsey

      And don’t forget the stepsisters in Cinderella who cut their feet down to try to fool the prince that the shoe fit!! I’ll never forget the first time a librarian handed me a copy of Grimm’s Fairytales…it blew my mind as a kid because they were definitely NOT the Disney version! LOL! So since I was 10 I’ve always preferred the original, dark stories instead so this is right up my alley!!!
      I have learned that this guy is only happy when he has something to whine & complain about it! Usually if he hates it then there’s a pretty good chance that it’s actually good & enjoyable!!!

    • Alyssa

      It is nice that Disney owns ABC so the characters who didn’t have specific names can have ” NAMES” and storylines from both their original and Disney. Like say…a Mermaid in the Fantasy Land came to Storybrooke and was a …..lifeguard or something. She could be called Ariel- she didn’t have a name in Andersens.

    • Mellissa

      Lets not forget that every time the Little Mermaid took a step, it would feel like glass that she was stepping on. The fact that they’re Grimm’s fairytales always struck me as ironic, as they are, in fact, grim.

    • Dee

      Actually the originally Cinderella can be traced as far back as 9th century China. But as you said, none of them end very happily. As a child I loved reading the horrible depressing tales- and as they varied across the world. I enjoy seeing them like this, darker, and more true to their form. It’s probably as dark as we can get (and still westrocentric) as Disney has a hand in producing this. Or is producing this.

    • fish eye no miko

      Also, in Snow White, the prince doesn’t kiss her to wake her up. His men pick up her coffin and one of them trips. The piece of apple om Snow’s throat gets dislodged and she wakes up. Not as dark as some of these, but I’m mentioning it since the show did it the “Disney” way, with the kiss. If they wanted that, why not use the Sleeping Beauty story instead (er, the cleaned up one, without the rape and cannibalism…)?

      Honestly, this show was a big fat “meh” for me. I didn’t hate it, but I don’t find myself terribly enthused about it, either.

  • Joann Strong

    I thought it was refreshing and different and I am sick to death of reality shows and all the sexual sitcoms . WE loved it .

    • Lisa

      I agree. Less sex and reality… we need more shows that can allow some families to watch together and not have to worry about SEX popping up.

      I miss fairy tales. I did enjoy the 10th Kingdom.

      I hope this show gets better and doesn’t get canned too fast.

      • sublime

        Yes, less sex, because the world needs fewer people.

      • Bounce

        Agreed! Not enough shows to watch with the kids! We started terra Nova, then they started in on sex and we had to stop. Looking forward to watching this(DVR’d) Hope it will allow my children to watch with me!

    • Hey

      But, There was sex in the original fairytale stories though and not everyone who watches this show has kids or wants it to be a waterdown fairytale.

      • Strepsi

        TRUE THAT: In the original, Rapunzel was caught by the witch after she GAVE BIRTH from all the night time “visits” by the prince!

  • goat

    I wonder how long it will take for him to come back and say he likes this show too…just like Prime Suspect. So what if it was dark? I get that it is “dark and gritty”, but is it good? I kinda want to know if the show is good for what it is…and not for what this person wants it to be…

    • Beauty

      And The Voice.

    • Zakry

      Well said, Goat. Rate the show on what it is, and not what you were hoping for.

  • LM

    I liked it more than I thought I would and am interested to see what happens next. It could lighten up a bit, but my guess is that will probably happen. Tonight had to be the big setup.

    • LOL

      Lana Parrilla gives me a chub.

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