This show is a giant Easter egg hunt

by | Oct 8, 2020 | Fantasy Commentary, Movies & TV | 1 comment

One show that I never expected to like was Once Upon a Time. The basic premise is that Snow White and Prince Charming’s daughter ended up an orphan on Earth, grew up, and had a kid of her own before stumbling onto a tiny coastal town in Maine where fairy tale characters lived in a state of amnesia about their true nature.

As it played out however, it was a miraculous piece of worldbuilding that interlinked nearly every fairy tale Disney ever put its hands on (and a few more to boot). Early in the series, part of the fun is trying to figure out who everyone is. The clues can be subtle at times. I won’t spoil them for anyone who wants to check out the show, but just bear in mind that practically everyone in the town is someone, and knock yourself out.

Admittedly, and unsurprisingly given the source material, the storytelling leans heavily on fairy tale themes of love conquering all and magic coming at a (hefty) price. But many of the characters play off type. Heroes from the stories might be villains. Villains might end up as friends. Everyone is more complex than the cardboard cutouts imagined by the brothers Grimm and various Disney screenwriters over the ages.

As a side-effect of its very nature, this fairytale mishmash inevitably gets convoluted. If everyone is someone and every tale is part of the same universe, then the interpersonal and political dynamics become an impossible tangle.

“You’re my father’s long-lost brother” “But you’re also the king of my empire’s most hated foe” “Wait, am I like, an heir to your kingdom or something?” “Hey, once this war is over, we should have you over for a family dinner” *scary music* “Haha, they’ll never discover my fiendish plot to lose this war so I can ruin their king’s birthday feast!”

That’s a fake example (like I said, no spoilers), but it’s not far off from some of the weirdness that seeps into the show’s DNA.

Still, if you want to check it out for just a season or two, it’s a fun guessing game to play. Watch it with someone and turn it into a competition.

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1 Comment

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    This is one of my favorite TV shows! Well, up through season 6. I didn’t get into the rebooted 7th season.

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