‘Once Upon a Time’ Pilot Recap: Oh God, Please Make It Stop!

That headline above isn’t a line of dialogue from the episode. No, that’s just me begging for mercy while watching the premiere of ABC’s new fairy tale… thing, whatever it is… ‘Once Upon a Time’. Needless to say, I’m not a fan.

The premise of the show, as much as I can understand it, divides its attention between two realities. In one, the fairy tale characters we read about as children are real, and live in an actual enchanted forest. As Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin from ‘Big Love’) marries Prince Charming, the evil Black Queen (Lana Parrilla from ‘Swingtown’) interrupts the ceremony to cast a diabolical curse. After the birth of the couple’s first child, all of the residents of fairy tale land will be swallowed up by a dark cloud and transported to “someplace horrible, absolutely horrible” where they will become trapped in time and forget who they are. That horrible place… Maine, United States.

In the modern day, a spunky bail bonds agent named Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison from ‘House’ – and, on a related note, I’ve never been sure whether that show’s official title is ‘House’ or ‘House, M.D.’; it’s called ‘Dr. House’ in Europe) receives a visit from a 10-year-old boy claiming to be the son she gave up for adoption. Young Henry insists that she return with him to the town of Storybrooke (“Storybrooke, seriously?” she asks) where all the fairy tale characters live seemingly normal lives and have no memory of their enchanted pasts. The Black Queen is the mayor and Henry’s adopted mother. Snow White is his grade school teacher. Jiminy Cricket is his psychologist. Rumpelstiltskin (former Bond villain Robert Carlyle) is a conniving businessman who owns most of the town. And Emma herself is the lost child of Snow White and Prince Charming.

Emma thinks that the kid has a vivid imagination. She drives him home with the intention of just dumping him off and getting on with her life. However, upon meeting his bitchy new mom, Emma instantly recognizes that the kid is telling the truth about at least one thing: The woman doesn’t really love him. So, she decides to take a room at the local B&B (run by Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother) and stay in town for one week to see what’s what. No doubt, that week will stretch on much longer.

Personally, I found the ‘Pilot’ episode just unbearable to watch. I’m honestly not sure what audience the show is even meant for. The “real world” stuff plays like a glossy primetime soap that won’t be particularly appealing to children or families, and the fairy tale stuff is too cheesy for adults. The episode is also very badly written. The fairy tale scenes are filled with anachronistic dialogue like “She’s trying to get in your head” and “What the hell is this?” without any sense that this was a deliberate decision. The whole thing is stiffly acted, and feels like no one has committed to the material. I really hated it, and have no intention of ever watching again. My happy ending will be to pretend that this show never existed.


  1. Cam

    it was better than i expected it to be. granted I had low expectations, but it kept me interested enough to watch it next week.

    man, the fantasy world was super cheesy though

  2. My fiance loved it, I fell asleep out of lack of caring. Go figure, there is your target demo.

    btw, I love Disney movies, so its not like I’m predisposed to hate it. I just hate lazy writing.

  3. So finally saw it. Yeah, the pilot episode is pretty bad. I feel like I am watching the TV show version of Enchanted, just with MUCH worse writting, and the princess (and everyone else) has amnisia. I don’t know, I may give it one more week. It has enough of a story that I KINDA want to see where it goes, but unless things get better quickly, I doubt it will hold me.

    I think I am confusing this show with something else that was starting this fall. I thought this was supposed to be really dark.

  4. Joe B

    Truly an awful show! Awfully considered, scripted, directed and acted. May this one take a hike quickly so we can get back to the hard realism of “Torah-Borah” (or whatever the hell it is!)

  5. I liked it ok but I can’t let my kids watch it because of all the language. Did she really need to call the little kid a Bastard( Though he may be)
    Will see where it goes.

    I wanted to watch No Ordinary Family but only saw the pilot and by the time I was ready to watch more everyone told me not to bother, then it was canceled.

    This story has been on tv before. It was a funny little sitcom called The Charmings