Friday, April 26, 2013

Rewatching "Once Upon a Time"

The first season of "Once Upon a Time" is on Netflix, and I'm indulging myself with a rewatch.

Guys, I'm having so much fun. 

I love how the writers had the guts to actually state their themes. Over and over again, you hear the characters say:

"You always have a choice"


"I will find you. I will always find you."


"Any curse can be broken."

OR (the biggest theme?):

"Magic always comes with a price."

I love, first, that the show has such strong themes, and I'm just in awe of the boldness of the writers in actually putting these themes into words and then actually putting the words into their characters' mouths and - most of all - totally getting away with it.

Because it works. I don't know how it works, but it works. And I really, really want to learn how they're doing what they're doing so that I can do it myself.

Actually, I take that back: I think I do know why it works.

It works because the characters' actions back up their words.

"Magic always comes with a price," intones Mr. Gold, over and over and over again. But you see that truth in the plot line every time he says it. Someone uses magic - takes the impossible solution - but they pay for their power. They pay for it by losing a child or losing a relationship or losing a valued object or - most strikingly of all - by losing their integrity. You hear the theme stated, but only after you see it play out.

Come to think of it, it's also a method that fits the genre. "Once Upon a Time" is a take on fairy tales, and fairy tales and fables have traditionally come attached to a moral-of-the-story.

The one exception
In the story the writers are telling, the only theme more important than "magic always comes with a price" seems to be: "True love conquers all". And as far as I can remember, no one ever actually says this. The closest anyone comes is Prince Charming, with his refrain of "I will find you; I will always find you."

But it does seem to be implicit: it's the whole theme behind Emma, the main character. She's saving the world, and she can do it because 1) she's the product of true love, and 2) she has true, unselfish, sacrificial love for her son. All the other lessons of fairyland seem to be warnings: be careful, you can choose that, you can take any path you want, but you'll pay for it later . . . except for the lesson of Emma. Which is: true love conquers all.

But maybe, being a Disney product, you're just supposed to get that. Maybe it's the one theme they don't have to state. Maybe it's the one that's so true, so good, so important, that it can just be shown.

Not a conclusion I'm completely satisfied with  - I'm interested to see where this goes, as I continue my rewatch.

But, boy, I'm enjoying myself.

-Jessica Snell


Tienne said...

Thanks for the rec! I watched the pilot on Netflix and am excited to see the rest. :) So far I love it.

Jessica Snell said...

Tienne - one caution (and I think I mentioned this in an earlier blog post about the show, but failed to here): there's an adultery plot in the first season that I find problematic. I think they solved it fairly well for a secular show, but still - it's there, and it's not handled as well as it could be. Just a heads-up. :)