Friday, August 16, 2013

Once Upon a Time Season 2 Blu-ray Revewed

Once Upon a Time is a show that defies all per-concieved notions about what Disney might do in a television show staring most of their princess lineup and what you think ANYONE might do with this source material in a TV format. It is consistently funny, surprising, excellently written and very well cast....and only after season 1 have I come to realize I'm basically hooked on a fantasy soap opera. CURSE YOU DISNEY MAGIC!! Having accepted I love supernatural mellow drama, I am now prepared to go out into the world and change people's minds about this show, as, quite frankly, the teasers and signage for the show don't do much to convince my core peers to watch unless they are secret Disney freaks. Let's see if we can change your minds.

Season 1 saw the sleepy little down of Storybrooke welcoming the first visitor it has had in nearly 30 years..not that the inhabitants would notice. Until Emma, the sexy ass kicking bounty hunter arrives, time was at a virtual "Groundhog Day-esque" stand still. With her arrival, time begins to roll forward, pushing against a curse enacted by the town's mayor who just happens to be the lead evil queen from our fairy tales. DUN dun duuuuun. Point of fact, the entire town is comprised of fairy tale characters brought to the "real world" and cursed to act contrary to their ideal nature and thus, making their lives miserable for all eternity...that is until the chosen one comes to save them! There's always a chosen one, isn't there? Emma must defeat the evil queen and break the curse to bring happy endings back to the people (and dwarves..and various magical folks and creatures) of the Enchanted Forest.

Without any further plot spoiling, we flash forward to Season 2. The curse is broken and the townsfolk all remember who is to blame for their misery...and in a world where magic isn't exactly the most reliable commodity, the evil queen had better watch her back lest the citizens burn her at the stake, ole' Salem style. Mr.Gold AKA Rumpelstiltskin (which sounds ridiculous when you say it out loud...and I'll admit I laugh when anyone dares call him "Rumple" for short) has brought back magic to ensure he is the dominant power in this new land, but seems content to attend to his own affairs while a new, darker power emerges to threaten good and evil alike.


The show introduces Captain Hook as a young, devious sort more liable to raise an eyebrow at the ladies than bother chasing pre-teen boys around an island. While he leans toward malicious intent, he stands by a personal code that swings toward the side of angels as often as it serves the blacker sort, but over all he is dominated by an overriding goal... the death of Rumpelstiltskin! He comes off a bit more buckle than swash. We also get further acquainted with Cora, the evil queen's mum, whose hobbies include causing horses to freak the hell out, seizing power, long walks through fields on fire and ripping people's hearts out. The character is fairly likable, even though we aren't really shown a softer side to forgive her the evilness, but rather some brief looks into her past to better explain her motives. Also new to the show are Mulan (every bit the warrior woman you came to love in the animated film), Princess Aurora (aka Sleeping Beauty who doesn't bring much to the show other than a talent for mucking things up and being the only a-typical damsel in distress), Prince Phillip (also very much a damsel in distress in his own right), Neal (the long lost love of Emma with a past that would take an entire season to speak on) and the first non-fairy tale folk to encroach upon Storybrooke with motives far more sinister than sightseeing and crabbing.

The show continues with its usual charm peppered with plenty of light, non-forced humor via excellent writing and the befuddled facial expressions of Emma who can still be surprised by fairy tale elements. I did note the drama was dialed up to 12 with the usual evil characters struggling to be better people causing extended scenes of folks looking pained and sobbing..usually into each other's faces. Luckily, the soap opera quality begins and ends with those brief moments. I'll also mention the blending of the CGI backdrops hasn't gotten any better, but isn't as jarring as some scenes from season 1. The central theme of Once Upon a Time Season 2 is "not everything is black and white" with even the most evil creatures having motives you may deem as justifiable and deeper than that, those stories we read as children twisted beyond your imagination, providing extremely pleasing surprises in the most unexpected of places. If you can't find anything to like in this show, you are undoubtedly the enemy of fun.

Blu-ray extras are somewhat plentiful and absolutely gratifying for long time fans. Every disk includes a commentary track for one episode with actors and creators giving insights into the scenes you'll be watching over again for years to come. In the couple I watched, I learned that the actor playing Rumplestilskin delivers his performance differently in front of every character to become the thing they'll most fear and Captain Hook fans are called...HOOKERS!! Who knew? Deleted scenes are mostly throw away items, which I suppose could mean all the best stuff is actually IN the show. Bloopers are genuinely funny, which is not always the case, and play unforced. Girl Power discusses the strengths and nuances of the female leads in season 2. Sincerely, Hook explores the origins of the character with the actor portraying him and how he approaches little things like body movement to bring it all to the screen. A Fractured Family Tree delves into the relationship connections now revealed in season 2 that plays out like a line from the song "I'm My Own Grandpa". It's enough to cause a spontaneous nose bleed. Finally, we have the gem of the set, "Good Morning Storybrooke", which, as luck would have it, is already on YouTube!! WHY they would unleash this amazing little extra apart from this set is beyond me, because owning it would have been worth the cost of the set all on its own.

If you are an old school fan of Disney, this show is a dream come true. If you're a fan of superior fantasy television, you'll have heaps to smile about here. If you are just a well rounded geek who can appreciate killer stories, look past the sometimes wonky CGI and fall in love with the man called Rumpelstiltskin! Whatever the case may be, if your interest is piqued, start with Season 1. This is NOT a series you'll want to jump in the middle of.

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