Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time image

I’m sure many of you have experienced the awe and frustration caused by TV series Lost. When Lost premiered, it was ground-breaking. Its non-linear storytelling and its ability to keep fans waiting for seasons on end to get answers answers to their constantly burning questions made it hugely popular with both viewers and critics. Lost ended its run in 2010 after six seasons of keeping its viewers guessing, and TV has never been the same.

You can see the impact of Lost every time you turn on your TV. Lots of shows have tried to recreate the unique storytelling and long-term payoffs that Lost offered, and many have succeeded. One of the best things that came out of Lost was a show created by two of its writer/producers, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. The show is called Once Upon a Time, and it’s my subject for Stuff Devon Likes this week.

Once Upon a Time (shortened by fans to simply “Once”) actually has a premise that is similar to Lost’s. Instead of a bunch of people stranded on an island because of a plane crash, Once tells the story of fairy tale characters who have been trapped in our world, a world without magic. Each episode usually tells two separate stories, one from the present and one in flashbacks or in another realm, that intermingle and somehow relate to one another. Like Lost, Once takes advantage of long-term mysteries and big payoffs that keeps fans invested and on their toes at all times.

I’m not going to lie. When I first heard what this show was about, I was skeptical. Fairy tale characters? Aren’t those just for children? No, actually, they’re not. Once takes the same fairy tale characters you loved as a child and turns them into dynamic, live-action characters who are quirky, fun, and relatable. You’ll have to suspend your disbelief for a little bit at first, but once you do, you’ll realize that a show about fairy tale characters can actually be really cool.

I really love the story on Once and the way its told. They give you enough that you can be interested and understand what’s going on, but they don’t give you the whole story until they absolutely have to. The flashbacks really help to develop the characters and offer some surprising revelations about their backstories and identities. We see most of the characters both in our world and in the Enchanted Forest of the past, and it’s cool to see both versions of the characters and get to know them each way.

Possibly the most interesting character is Emma, the outsider who finds herself in Storybrooke (the town all the fairy tale characters are trapped in). She has to come to terms with her past while learning more about her family and eventually taking on her role as the savior. All of the characters grow and change throughout the show, but Emma is probably the one who changes the most, and it’s really fun to see her transformation.

It’s also fun to see where these characters’ adventures take them. They start off stuck in Storybrooke, but they eventually explore other lands including the Enchanted Forest, Neverland, and even Oz. They meet many classic characters along the way, and Once always puts a special twist on each one. There is a ton of material for them to use (ABC is owned by Disney, after all), and it’s fun to see how they make each character and each story their own.

Once Upon a Time has been successful enough to warrant a spin-off, called Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. It focuses on Alice as she teams up with the Knave of Hearts to rescue her one true love from the evil Jafar. It’s a really good story told in 13 episodes and expands the Once universe. They’re actually incorporating one of the characters, the Knave, back into the main show next year, which I think is pretty cool. They’ve created this universe that can be expanded and focused in on at various times as the story requires, and I love it.

Once Upon a Time just finished their third season this month, and they’re scheduled to start their fourth season in the fall. I won’t spoil who the main villain is this season (and you better not Google it), but it’s really cool. Now is a good time to catch up on Once so you’ll be ready for what is shaping up to be an epic fourth season. Check the show out on Netflix or on ABC’s website and let me know what you think of it. Thanks for reading this week’s Stuff Devon Likes. Have a great weekend, and check back next Saturday for my review of X-Men: Days of Future Past!