I started watching these two shows while drawing comics and discovered that they affected me emotionally, so I wrote a review about them. However, I didn't really have anywhere to post it, so I'll just post it here, where everyone is free to ignore, agree with, or HATE anything they lay their eyes on.
Here we go...
I hate Once Upon A Time for the same reasons I originally hated Lost – it tried to cover up poor writing by drip-revealing mysteries to you with their quirky lack of chronology. The only problem is, in this case, they started us off in the Fairy Tale world, so the entire fantasy world plot only serves to provide us with a backstory we already took to be true: Storybrooke is cursed in some way and only Emma can save them.
This makes the first two episodes almost completely irrelevant. In the Fairy Tale world, they’re telling us a curse is coming (which we’ve already seen, and they’re telling us a lot). In the real world, it’s a drama about an estranged mother who is concerned, yet aloof, about her biological son that believes in fairy tales, who spends much time trying to convince her that it’s all real. We already know it’s all real, so the fact that he barely tries to convince her is annoying, cuz you can tell they’re just trying to prolong the series as much as possible, and it just becomes a redundant screaming match between Emma and the Wicked Witch. “I love my son” “I don’t believe you” “Go to jail” “Ok”. And the Wicked Witch main driving force behind being evil is just because she was written that way. She comes off more as annoying and repetitive than anything. How many times can she threaten Emma to “Stay away from my son” before she just HIRES A BABYSITTER?
I feel like they should have spent a bit more time in the development stages… held back on the CGI blandness of the fantasy world and given us more mystery to unravel – more characters to guess their fairy tale counterparts. Instead, they tell us right away. And since we already know their history, there’s no surprises. The mayor is the Wicked Witch. The teacher is Snow White. Prince Charming is in a coma. The creepy rich man is Rumpelstiltzkin. Red Riding Hood and her grandmother… the magic mirror… the only characters that could have been played around with more are too obvious. The Sheriff is the Witch’s Huntsman, who has already betrayed her at this point in the story, and it’s obvious he’s going to betray the Witch at some point because he’s the only attractive male to have a relationship with our main character. It definitely wouldn’t have been Missed Opportunity #2 – Jiminy Cricket – whose fairy tale identity is only known to us because the kid FRIGGIN TELLS US. I’ll point out quickly that only in the Disney franchise is Pinocchio’s cricket friend known as Jiminy Cricket; way to show off your employer, ABC.
There was your chance to create an interesting character, Lost Guys, and you ruined it. You’ve completely pulled a character out of his story and given him meaning. Was it so important that everyone got the Hopper – Cricket connection that you just couldn’t keep yourselves quiet? Why not pull in some characters and not have the kid know who they are? It’s an entire CITY of fairy tale characters. There are hundreds to choose from. Have some fun with it. Don’t just weakly rip off Fables. Fables was interesting because, while the um.. “Fables” are refugees from their homeland, they also have interesting lives outside of that. A murder mystery; an uprising; a government takeover. While the far off threat looms, they’re doing stuff. It’s not all just a drawn-out build to an obvious happy ending (they’ll defeat the curse and return to Fairy Tale land, except for Emma and Henry and probably the Woodsman who will stay in the real world and have to sadly say goodbye to the fairy tale characters while retaining some sort of magical portal that lets them communicate with the other world).
And while we’re discussing Fables knockoffs, let’s move to the other, slightly better, but not perfect iteration – Grimm. Grimm is the story of a guy that can see that some people are really Fairy Tale creatures. And when I say “Fairy Tale creature”, what I mean is some sort of human-animal hybrid, occasionally with special powers, but not always.
This time, it’s NBC and former Angel producer David Greenwalt’s turn to create some whimsy, this time trying it’s best to be Buffy while not giving off any of the tell-tale signs of it. And for the most part, it does a good job. Our Grimm doesn’t have super strength or shoot firebolts from his hands. He just kind of knows about stuff, and is a cop, so he gets to carry a gun around, which helps, because almost every week he shoots someone (in the pilot, it’s his first time to kill anyone, ever).
That’s basically the show. It’s just a murder-a-week with a fairy tale twist and tiny bits of an overriding plot line. And it’s this burlesque dance teaser of a plot that makes Grimm better, or should I say, hasn’t ruined it yet. There are many opportunities to do something interesting, and I’ll probably be let down at some point, but it hasn’t yet.
First, the only real characterization that our lead Nick has is that he seems to be opposing these long-standing family rivalries that exist. The Pig people talk about their peace with the Grimm family, while Nick sort of sided with the Big Bad Wolves. He had to shoot down the Queen Bee in the line of duty, though she was after someone who tried to kill him earlier, thus making him unpopular with the Bee People (not sure what Fairy Tale this is from). Anyway, this trait could make the deceased character of Marie much more interesting. Was she a vessel of blind hatred for those that possess the physical traits of the “Evil” characters, even if their actual personalities don’t match up? That appears to be the thoughts of the Fables, so maybe his discovery and then rejection of this past could be a driving factor.
Then there’s the supportive police chief character, who is also some sort of secret king or something. It’s always the token police chief. Why not make him the voice of reason? He’s trying to keep the peace among the fairy tale people, which is why he went after the blood-thirsty Marie, and now he’s keeping dibs on Nick to see if it will turn out the same. Then they could join forces and fight a greater threat. Most likely, the exact opposite will be true, but that hasn’t happened yet, so.. don’t disappoint us, Greenwalt. Surprise us.