Show Review: Once Upon A Time Season 1 (Spoiler-Free)
Rating: 9.8 out of 10 stars
I watched Once Upon A Time for the first time with my sisters, and it was so good I was happy to watch it a second time with my roommate and suitemate. Most fairy tale retellings don’t impress me, but Once Upon A Time, especially Season 1, was able to tell the stories in a way that celebrated the old and emphasized the new.
After watching several episodes, I was shocked that anyone would rate this show PG. It is not appropriate for children–read on to find out why.
Season 1 of Once Upon A Time first aired in 2011 and concluded in 2012. It was created by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, and is an ABC television series now offered on Disney Plus.
Season 1 stars Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parilla, Josh Dallas, Jared S. Gilmore, Raphael Sbarge, Jamie Dornan, Robert Carlyle, and Eion Bailey.
On her 28th birthday, Emma Swan is unexpectedly reunited with the 10-year-old son she had given up for adoption. After driving him back to his adoptive mother in Storybrooke, Maine, Emma’s concern for him makes her hesitant to leave.
Her son, Henry Mills, believes that the stories in his book of fairy tales are real. He thinks that the people of Storybrooke are fairy tale characters trapped by a curse and have lost their memories of their past lives.
Henry tells Emma that she is their only hope for breaking the curse, but Emma does not believe him.
Season 1 tells the stories of various characters, alternating between their pasts in a fairy tale world and their current lives in Storybrooke. It also follows the struggles of Emma and Henry against Regina, Henry’s manipulative adoptive mother.
- Clever foreshadowing
- Consistent, well-crafted structure
- Great acting
- Subverting viewer expectations
- Clever ways of connecting various fairy tales
- Likeable, realistic characters
- Impressive character development
- In-depth backstories
- Character names in Storybrooke chosen for meaning
- Costume design reflects character personality
- Occasionally overdramatic
- The graphics in Wonderland were shoddy
The title sequences always has a different shadowy sneak peak of what the episode is going to be about. Look for dark woods in the title screen to see the foreshadowing.
The structure of each episode includes flashbacks to a character’s past in the fairy tale world as well as glimpses of the character’s present-day life in Storybrooke.
The story that has happened in the past is usually linked strongly to what is happening in the present in any given episode.
Viewers have certain expectations based on their knowledge of the fairy tales. However, the creators of Once Upon A Time use this to their advantage by making stories seem familiar before repeatedly subverting viewer expectations.
These are not the bedtime stories kids everywhere grew up with. These are new, refurbished, refined and stunning.
The way that fairy tales intertwine is particularly clever, especially the way the Beauty and the Beast tale works.
Almost every single character has an in-depth back story, and many begin in Season 1. The story of Snow White and Prince Charming take center stage, but my personal favorite is the story of Red Riding Hood.
The characters develop both in the past and in the present. The most development is seen in Emma Swan, Mary Margaret Blanchard, and David Nolan.
The characters act realistically considering their personalities, and even though it is dramatic, the reactions of the characters are often reasonable considering their circumstances.
Character names in present-day Maine were chosen carefully for their meaning. For example, the name Mary Margaret Blanchard was chosen for Snow White because Blanchard is a French name meaning “white” and Mary and Margaret were names Snow used in her fairy tale past to conceal her identity.
The costume design fits the characters’ personalities perfectly. For example, Regina’s hair styles and costumes particularly reflect her flamboyant style and dark personality.
The drama is reasonable and understandable most of the time, but sometimes it is over-the-top. For example, when something terrible happens, the camera will often switch rapidly from shocked expression to expression in a way that seems overly contrived. People can be shocked, but not every character needs a close-up.
Overall, I really enjoyed Season 1 of Once Upon A Time. I would recommend this series for teens and adults.
Despite its PG rating, I would not recommend Once Upon A Time for children due to violence, suggestive content, and dark themes. Seriously. Hearts get ripped out and crushed, there is an affair, people get turned into animals and stepped on, a person is mauled and eaten, etc.
If you are interested in how I rate shows, check out my rating system.