Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Once Upon a Time Season 3 - You Always Go Full Adventure
When Once Upon a Time first started, I was intrigued, but definitely not entranced. The latest show to attempt to capture the magic of the early seasons of Lost, the show was one big mystery where the audience held all the answers and the characters were stumbling around in the dark. While this was greatly preferable to shows like The Event, where the characters held all the answers and the audience had none, every time the show flashed back to the wonderful characters they had developed in the Enchanted Forest, I grew to loathe "real world" characters like Mary Margaret more and more. But since that first season, the show has chosen to embrace its true calling, and I'm growing to love it more and more. Spoilers after the jump.
At the end of the first season, Once Upon a Time's writers made the smartest choicethey could make and threw their major conceit out the window. Other writers might have tried to drag out Emma breaking the curse until season two or three, leaving the main characters of the show stumbling in ignorance while Rumpelstiltskin and the Queen played with their lives. By breaking the curse, they gave the heroes a fighting chance, and this is important. Hope is always necessary even to the darkest storytelling. Otherwise, the audience feels nothing when the rug is pulled out from under them.
Now that we enter season three, the show has thrown off the final yoke holding it back from just being a pure Adventure show: Storybrooke. The tiny town in Maine started to feel claustrophobic in season two, especially as Emma and Snow had their own adventures in the Enchanted Forest. Now that the biggest block of main characters is out and about in Neverland, fighting Peter Pan, the show and characters feel like they belong for the first time.
This will not last, of course. The show has spent a lot of time and money developing characters and sets that are still back in Storybrooke, and the leads of the show would probably riot if they had to trudge through jungle forever. I suspect we'll find ourselves back in Storybrooke sooner rather than later. But in the meantime, and honest-to-god-Adventuring-Party is out in the woods, getting into fights and throwing around magic in a way the show's always been afraid to. This is the point in any TV where I get really excited - the show stops being about "X supernatural creature and their human friends" and starts being about a team, facing the supernatural together.
Of course, this can, and often does, backfire for a series. While Buffy gelled with its fans even more when Willow, Xander and the others started to be able to hold their own, other shows like Roswell and Heroes have seen their fanbases leaving in droves as they move away from the grounded setting and more into the fantastic. I think, I hope, Once won't have this problem, as the audience has been prepared with flashbacks since season one for good old fashioned sword and sorcery stuff. And honestly, Roswell and Heroes had more problems than just embracing their mythology.
One final point - the show will have to decide whether Rumpelstiltskin and The Queen are redeemable sooner, rather than later. They've waffled on it for a season, and this season should either be the redemption or damnation for one or both. Either way, I'm excited to see where it's going.