Dick De Jong
September 2, 2013
If ever there were a TV series that demands a refresher course before the start of the new season, it is Once Upon a Time.
With a gnarly family tree of slash (/) characters (Snow White / Mary Margaret Blanchard, Prince Charming / David Nolan, etcetera) hopscotching between Storybrooke and Fairy Tale realms while cycling through centuries, a conscientious viewer requires a flow chart to keep the plot lines straight.
Considering that the creators of Once Upon a Time, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, were Executive Producers on an even more serpentine saga, Lost, you will understand while I will not attempt to summarize the loop de loops of Season Two of Once Upon a Time.
I do marvel how the writers have woven a byzantine web from seemingly unrelated fairy tale characters. Though, I can appreciate the howls from those who protest when their beloved childhood fictional friend is reimagined with a little less gilded aura. (For example, Emilie de Ravin's Belle who is sometimes more Beast than Beauty.)
The passion that the fans exhibit for the various characters can be attributed to the quality of actors recruited for these multidimensional roles. Veteran thespians like Robert Carlyle imbue the countless facets of Rumplestiltskin / Mr. Gold with a glower of heartlessness and an occasional glimmer of humanity.
For me, the delightful surprise is Lana Parilla as Regina Mills / Evil Queen. You might think it impossible to root for a villain who reaches into Snow White's chest and rips out her beating heart, but Parilla, with a wistful gaze of a mother losing her child, can then ever so gently rend your heart in sympathy.
The problem with populating a TV series with so many interesting individuals is that the story becomes fragmented in an attempt to give them all screen time and the viewer can lose focus.
Supposedly, the first episodes of Season 3 address that issue by following six of the main protagonists as they sail off to Neverland. But we'll see if the creators and writers can bridle their penchant for blending multiple story and time lines.
Story and character concerns aside, Once Upon a Time deserves a second viewing for its production values.
The designers of the sumptuous costumes have garnered Emmy nominations (2012 and 2013). The craftsmanship of the warrior gear and the royal gowns are fabulous.
And on a network TV series budget, the Special Visual Effects (Emmy nominated in 2012) are truly outstanding. I'm constantly amazed at the quality of work that goes into creating all the diverse fairy tale lands with their castles and creatures.
Finally, with Netflix just posting Season 2 of Once Upon a Time, the valid question is why buy the Blu-ray compilation.
I streamed an episode from Netflix and though it looked fine on the big screen, the colors in the Blu-ray playback of the same episode were richer. As you would expect, the picture quality was simply better.
And, of course, Netflix does not offer any of the bonus features that are provided on the five-disc Blu-ray package.
Let's begin with the odd duck feature, "Good Morning Storybrooke," which is a parody of a local TV station's morning show. It has its moments, but you could sleep in and miss it.
The tagline for "Sincerely, Hook" says it all, "Swoon over the dashing Killian Jones, aka Captain Hook." I imagine his swoon-ability has caused a number of teens to update their wallpaper on their digital devices.
I liked the concept and execution of "Girl Power." The Once Upon a Time creative team has made a concentrated effort to balance the strength of the male and female roles. That means the women are much more in control than they are usually in movies - not only kick-ass physically but also mentally and emotionally. And they share the stage as both heroines and villains.
The Bloopers are not Jackie Chan level, but who knew that Lana Parilla was such a cut-up when breaking her shackles and chop-sockying her guards for good measure?
Each disc provides at least one Audio commentary of an episode, often with an actor or writer. I sampled a few and they were refreshingly informative. I especially enjoyed "The Miller's Daughter" with commentary by the wonderful writer, Jane Espenson.
You can think of "A Fractured Family Tree" as a visual Cliff Notes diagramming how all the characters are related. The narrator, Sarah Hyland from Modern Family adds a light-hearted touch to the mind-numbing permutations of familial relations.
Studio: ABC Studios
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Robert Carlyle, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O'Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Meghan Ory
Length: 22 episodes, 946 minutes total
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
DTS Master Audio 5.1
Spanish, French, English SDH
On to Season 3.