In Defense of my Favorite Show
As Once Upon A Time seemingly is winding down, I seem to be seeing more and more posts about it tagged with “negativity” and questions about why other fans are still happy about it.
It has changed over the years as the focus has moved toward redemption arcs, which is a theme near and dear to my heart. There’s nothing I love more than shades of gray. Aside from that, I just see epic storytelling, and it hurts my heart when people have nothing but bad things to say about the writers and production staff, because those are the same people who gave us these characters and these settings and this, well, magic.
Do plot threads get dropped? Yes. Absolutely. (Maleficent & Lily, shrunken down Anton, Will Scarlett, most of the Land of Untold Stories people, and the reason why the Sorcerer’s Mansion is in Storybrooke when Merlin was, well, a tree). Some of this is related to cast availability or production restraints, but I feel a lot of it is due to the writers biting off more than they can chew. They have created a world with all sorts of possibilities, and then have to make their vision fit into twenty-two, sometimes twenty-three, episodes. My biggest wish is that we could have supersized seasons of about forty episodes, but modern television production doesn’t seem to allow for it, so I forgive a lot.
For the stumbles and short-changes I’ve gotten with the show, I’ve also gotten a steady diet of drama, humor, angst, love, grief, and human issues that I can personally relate to in a fantasy setting. It’s not random that the only other show that ever affecting me to this point was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and for the exact same reasons.
A while back I watched a YouTube video about why the Star Wars prequels didn’t work. The reviewer asked if the characters could be defined without using physical descriptions. What made them who they are? What motivates them? Good question, and difficult to do with those films. I don’t have this issue with the characters in Once. Emma (original recipe): Independent, guarded, smart, skeptical. New and improved Emma: Protective, loyal, smart, determined to hold onto what is hers, fiercely loving. Her changes tie directly into the person she was before her story began. She appeals to me even without knowing she’s beautiful or blonde or partial to red jackets. I understand what motivates her and the complexity of the decisions she makes. I can say the same things about Regina, Killian, David, Mary Margaret, Gold, even Henry and, to an extent, Belle and Zelena. I may not love these characters equally (and some I don’t love at all), but they aren’t one dimensional, and they are established so that the actions of each of them affects all of the others. it’s absorbing and involving and I can (and often do) spend hours discussing all of this with other like-minded individuals (shout out @flslp87 @linda8084 @whimsicallyenchantedrose). After BtVS ended it took me nearly 10 years to find that sort of show again.
I’m going to appreciate it while we have it. I will get annoyed when the focus is off my faves and onto some other characters who had the unfortunate luck to be featured just when my heart was broken by things that happened to Hook or Emma or Regina (sorry, Merida and Dorothy and, sometimes, Ruby). I will be frustrated when I’ve built up my own expectations and been underwhelmed by the payoff (the return of Hook’s heart, first time pancakes happening… sometime when we didn’t see and weren’t specifically notified, every character finding out when major things happened to other characters). Thankfully we have the option of fanfic and drawings and videos and manips to fill in those gaps. Honestly, would we be driven to do those things if we weren’t so touched by the story?
And then there is payoff. PAYOFF. I mean I have an OTP who are actively together with no doubts. This is something that I’ve never really had before, and finally can be excited because a show got it RIGHT. A couple getting together doesn’t have to mean an end of interest in their relationship. Give me a thousand Captain Swan kisses, and I’ll still want more. Give me their arguments and their makeups. Show one of them getting mad and the other one understanding it and even being amused by it, because that is how it’s done. That is good writing.
So there it is, in a biggish nutshell. Thank you, Adam and Eddy. Thank you, Jane. Thank you, Andrew. Thank you, Brigitte. Thank you to all of the other writers and the directors and the producers, and THANK YOU to the cast - such gorgeous and talented people.
Now I’ve gone and made myself all weepy.