Monday, June 15, 2015

Once Upon A Time- Episode Analysis (Pilot)

Yes, that's right.  I'm still alive.  I deeply apologize for the long inactivity.  (Thank you, work and social life.)

I've decided to try something a bit new for a while. I've recently became a fan of the ABC show, Once Upon a Time.  

If you haven't given it a chance, I highly recommend you do so.  At the moment, the show is in the middle of the hiatus between seasons 4 and 5.  To pass the time before the season 5 premiere, I'm going to go through each episode and give my personal opinion on them.  That said, please keep in mind that these analyses are coming from someone who has seen the series in its entirety to date, so there might be some minor spoilers popping up here and there.  I will try to keep these to a minimum, and even when they do pop up, I won't be giving away too much.  In addition, I'd like to apologize in advance if I don't really go into thorough detail for some episodes in season 1.  This will be because season 1, while entertaining, can hit moments where the storytelling drags somewhat, leaving you wishing they'd pick up the pace a bit.  So, without further ado, here is my analysis of Once Upon a Time's pilot episode.

This episode is pretty much what you’d expect from a show’s pilot episode, from setting up the premise and introducing us to our cast of characters.  We learn of how Snow White’s stepmother, Evil Queen Regina, placed a curse over everyone in the Enchanted Forest that sent them all into the modern world, more specifically the town of Stroybrooke, Maine, with everyone losing their memories in the process. However, on the day the curse is cast, Snow White and Prince Charming send their newborn baby girl, Emma, through a magical wardrobe that sends her to a location outside the curse’s reach, in the hopes that she will return one day and save everyone.  Flash-forward 28 years later, where Emma, now fully grown, is sought out by her long-lost son, Henry, whom she put up for adoption ten years prior.  Henry, who had since been adopted by Regina (oh, the irony), has figured out the truth about Storybrooke, and convinces the skeptical Emma to journey to Storybrooke herself so she can break Regina’s curse.  This show really doesn’t mess around, as we’re immediately shown what we’re in for from the start.  Pretty much every character we’ve known from our childhood bedtime stories just comes to life in this show.  We’ve got Snow White and Prince Charming, of course, but we’ve also got Geppetto and Jiminy Cricket, with cameos of Red Riding Hood, Pinocchio and the Blue Fairy.  Even Rumpelstiltskin makes a brief appearance, and all it takes is one episode to let us know that this show is really going to build on and flesh out the fairy tale characters nearly every child in the world has grown up reading about.  And it’s really neat to see how everyone, even though they’ve forgotten who they are, still retains a semblance of their true selves.  For example, we have Geppetto’s Storybrooke counterpart, Marco, commenting about how he and his wife never managed to have children of their own, which was the main reason why Geppetto made Pinocchio in the original story.  Even Snow White, now Mary Margret, has managed to keep her tendency to spout speeches about the importance of hope.  Not to mention her affinity to birds.  Although, I do have one slight nitpick.  In one scene, Snow White comments how Regina gave her the Poisoned Apple just because Snow was prettier.  But, as anyone who has seen future episodes could tell you, the reason for the Poisoned Apple was a bit more complicated than a vanity issue.  But I get it.  The show writers don’t want to give away too much at once.  I can respect that.  Besides, it’s the pilot episode.  Pilot episodes are designed to gain endorsement from the television networks that will run the show.  They’re typically used as a test to gain a feel for what works and what doesn’t.  It’s not unusual for some minor elements to change after the pilot episode.  In fact, there are a good number of shows that never make it past the pilot episode.

I also REALLY love how they chose to introduce Emma in this episode, showing us how she busts that guy, Ryan the Embezzler.  Great job show, for immediately letting us know this is a woman you do not want to mess with.  I nearly broke out laughing when we see she’d put the boot on Ryan’s car prior to entering the restaurant.  Yeah, she already KNEW this guy was most likely going to do a runner when she confronted him, and decided to nip that in the bud, just in case.  You’re good, girl.  Props to you.  And that whole scene with her and Henry when the two are talking about their family situations?  That was a very well-acted scene. I always admire  actors who can cry on cue, and it gives us our first real glimpse of how deep Emmma’s scars run when she tells Henry the story about how her first foster family returned her when they had a kid of their own.  Which begs the question of how such a thing is even allowed to begin with.  Granted I know very little about the whole foster system, but we’re talking about living children with feelings here.  They’re not coffee tables.  Seriously, how is returning a kid like a dress that didn’t fit even legal?

I do have a question after re-watching this episode.  So, time in Storybrooke is frozen.  Does that mean that everyone in Stroybrooke is literally frozen in time?  If that’s the case (and the second episode claims it is), I really can’t blame Henry for figuring out what’s really going on.  Later episodes also seem to hint at the fact that there haven’t been any children being born in Storybrooke, and the children that do exist in the town are stuck at certain ages.  In other words, I’m gathering Henry is the one person in town who is actually physically aging?  While I imagine the curse is keeping everyone else from noticing that fact, with the exception of the two people who were actually involved in the actual spell-casting (Regina and Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin), Henry was born outside of Stroybrooke, and therefore isn’t affected by the curse’s memory-altering side-effects. The kid’s clearly not stupid, so he’s bound to notice that and get suspicious.

Bit of advice to Regina.  If you really wanted Emma to leave Storybrooke, which I get that you did, given how you clearly felt threatened by her presence, it probably wasn’t the best move to spout out that whole ‘stay away from Henry’ rant.   Even if I hadn’t already seen the proof that Henry was right with all his fairy tale talk, thanks to all the flashbacks?  You coming out of nowhere with that little hissy fit; I still would have seen that as the big robot saying ‘Danger, Will Robinson!’  Seriously, where did that come from, lady?  Emma wasn’t really giving any indication that she wanted to take over as Henry’s mother at this point.  All she did was comment on how she’d made a wish that she didn’t have to be alone on her birthday, and that Henry had shown up on her doorstop immediately afterward.  In fact, I sorta think she would have left Storybrooke on her own if you had just thanked her for returning Henry and left it at that.  I hate to tell you this, Regina, but you really did kinda dig your own grave there.

One interesting little touch I really enjoyed about this episode was the door to Emma’s apartment in Boston.  If you pause the DVD to read the words on the door right before she opens it and meets Henry for the first time, you’ll see phrases like ‘cast a spell’ written on it.  

You gotta wonder if Emma unknowingly chose this apartment specifically for that reason.  Almost as if the knowledge of her true identity was buried away in her subconscious mind all along.  Rather like with Rapunzel from Disney’s Tangled remembering the sun insignia that was essentially her parents’ royal crest, or Moses from Dreamworks’ Prince of Egypt remembering his mother’s final lullaby.  And while you really can’t see it very well in this episode, screencaps and promotional photos from other episodes also show that Emma has a tattoo of a flower on the inside of her wrist.  A flower that is practically identical to the flowers that appear on the Charming royal crest.   There’s one more clue that Emma’s memories of her birthplace was buried away in the farthest corner of her mind all along.  Also, when Emma and Henry first arrive in Storybrooke, when Emma slams the door of her car in frustration, one of the electrical wires above her head suddenly sparks.  A little subtle foreshadowing to her currently dormant magical abilities, maybe?  That’s certainly going to be my head-cannon from here on in.

Of course, there was one thing in this episode that still kinda bugs me.  So, Snow White’s stepmother places a curse over all of the Enchanted Forest fairy tale land, and everyone in it winds up in our modern world with absolutely no memory of who they really are or where they came from.  All right, I’ll buy that.  Besides, it’s not too dissimilar to the plot of the Disney movie, Enchanted, and that was a pretty good movie.  You wanna know what I don’t buy?  Henry, a little ten-year-old boy, is wandering around a big city by himself.  At night.  And he’s carrying around a credit card.  And the taxi driver who gives him a ride to Emma’s apartment doesn’t question this?    Okay, where do I even begin?  First off all, what ten-year-old carries around a credit card?  There’s your first red flag there, and I do award the show points for acknowledging that later on.  But there’s also the fact that he’s alone, with no parent or babysitter in sight.  That sort of thing might not be as big a deal in a small town like Storybrooke, but this is happening in Boston.  That’s a pretty big city.  Maybe not as big as New York or Los Angeles, mind you, but it’s still in the top 30.  It’s even more of an issue that this is happening at night.  I’m considerably older than ten, and even I’m hesitant about traveling the city streets at night without utilizing the buddy system.  You’re seriously telling me this cab driver didn’t see this situation for what it was and take that kid to the nearest police station?  I’m calling horse-feathers here.  However, I’m probably being overly-critical because, that grievance aside, this first episode did its job and got me interested enough to keep watching, just to see what happened next.

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