Welcome to the Real World, Snow White; Or How Fairy Tales Have Taken Over My Sunday Nights

Do you believe in fairy tales?

I do.

But, let me clarify. I don’t believe in fairy tales literally. I mean, we can talk about how the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge live a fairy tale romance and lifestyle all we want, but in the end they’re normal human beings with highs and lows just like everyone else.

So, to say I believe in fairy tales doesn’t mean that I believe they actually exist. I do believe that everyone can have fairy tale moments in their life. But, mostly, I believe in the escapism of fairy tales, the mechanism they provide for children and adults alike to imagine and dream, and I believe in their entertainment value.

The last six months have been big for fairy tales, and it looks like the trend is going to continue.

In particular, it’s been a big year for fairy tales on network television where  two different series focus on them, one on NBC (Grimm) and one on ABC: Once Upon a Time.

While I’ve heard good things about Grimm, I’m not going to talk about it here, because I’m not a viewer.

I am, however, going to talk about Once Upon a Time and how it has filled a void in my Sunday nights that I didn’t know existed, since I (as discussed in a previous post) devote my Sundays nights to PBS’ Masterpiece.

Not only is this a big year for fairy tales, it’s also a big year for Snow White. Not only are there two feature films coming out soon focusing on Snow White (Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror), but Once Upon a Time builds upon Snow White and Prince Charming’s story, allowing for a whole new take on the land of fairy tales, how its characters are all interconnected, and how they’re not all quite what they seem.

I had seen the previews for Once Upon a Time online and on TV early in the Fall and was waiting excitedly for it to premiere — I may claim that I don’t believe in fairy tales, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a sucker for them. 🙂

I knew from the beginning that Once Upon a Time was going to be interesting, not only from what I knew of its basic premise, but also because its two creators were once writers on the JJ Abrams’ series Lost. 

To explain that basic premise of Once Upon a Time , I need to take you back to the beginning of my post. I asked you whether you “believed in fairy tales,” but what I should have asked was “What if fairy tales and all their characters were real?”

This is what Once Upon a Time is all about.

As I said before, Once Upon a Time, at its core, is about Snow White. Most of us know the story. Snow White loves Prince Charming, she makes the Evil Queen mad, the Evil Queen poisons her with an apple, the Seven Dwarfs place her in a glass coffin, Prince Charming finds, kisses, and saves Snow White and they all live happily ever after.

Or do they?

Once Upon a Time begins with a wedding. Prince Charming has rescued Snow White and they’re getting their happy ending — until The Evil Queen shows up and vows to destroy the newly married couple’s happiness.

Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White and Josh Dallas as Prince Charming

Lana Parrilla as the Evil Queen.

Our stay in “fairy tale land” (real name: The Enchanted Forest) doesn’t last long and before we know it, we’re being introduced to Emma Swan, a bad ass bailbonds-woman living in present day, modern Boston.

Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan.

It’s her birthday – her 28th – and she’s alone in her apartment, just having blown out the candle on her cupcake when the doorbell rings. Her unexpected guest is 10 year old Henry, the son she gave up for adoption, who says he’s come to get her and bring her back to his hometown of Storybrooke, Maine. Freaked out by his appearance and willing to do anything to shove this skeleton back in her closet, Emma agrees to take Henry home.

Jared Gilmore as Henry.

Henry doesn’t keep the motive for his visit secret long. He’s brought a book with him, one whose stories, he claims, are true, and in which he says his birth mother is a character.

Henry tells Emma that she is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, and she is meant to save the residents of Storybrook — all fairytale characters from the Enchanted Forest — who were cursed by the Evil Queen. She was born shortly before the curse was enacted and her parents found a way to send her out of the Enchanted Forest in time. Since then, all of the Forest’s residents have been trapped in Storybrook, where time stands still and no one except, it seems, for Henry, can leave. No one knows who they are either, or how they’re related to one another. They are “normal” people who go on with normal lives and don’t notice that no one ages and nothing ever changes.  The Happily Ever Afters are over.

Mary Margaret is drawn to the comatose John Doe.

Snow White is Mary Margaret, a lonely teacher who spends her spare time volunteering at the hospital where she dotes on a comatose “John Doe” (Prince Charming). Rumpelstiltskin is Mr. Gold, the town pawnbroker. Granny and Red Riding Hood are Granny and Ruby, grandmother and granddaughter running an inn and a diner. Jiminy Cricket is the town psychiatrist, Dr. Archie Hopper.

She doesn’t believe Henry and takes him home. He claims his adoptive mother, Storybrooke’s mayor, is evil.

Does the Mayor remember who she really is? Does she know who Emma is?

Turns out she is, because Mayor Regina Mills happens to be The Evil Queen.

Emma drops Henry off and when she tries to leave town, “something bad happens” — just as Henry tells her it will — and she is prevented from leaving.

So, Emma stays, and again, just as Henry predicted, things begin changing in Storybrooke.

Broadcast on Sundays at 8pm on ABC, Once Upon a Time is my new obsession. It perfectly blends fairy tales, with their romance and fantasy qualities, with a great mystery.

Each episode takes place both in Storybrooke and in the Enchanted Forest. The action is Storybrooke drives forward, while the backstory in the Enchanted Forest doesn’t always take place in order.

If you’re interested in watching, I definitely suggest starting from the beginning. This is a show that builds upon its previous episodes, like puzzle pieces being fit together.

If you don’t have access to previous episodes, then you should catch up via recaps on the internet.

Have fun in Storybrooke and the Enchanted Forest. But watch out for The Evil Queen/Regina — her dishes are deadly.