Once Upon a Time 1×03 “Snow Falls” TV Review

Everyone at the hospital.
These characters are pretty much all monochromatic.

As I was thinking about this episode and what I was going to write in this space, I was trying to figure out what about this show is off. There have been some media fans who’ve slagged it off as the cheaper version of Fables. (Let’s just not talk about Fables and its problems.) But in fact, Once Upon a Time has the same exact problem Fables had in its early year (and arguably now too though there were some token bad portrayals), it’s all a bunch of white people. (The Mirror was the only exception, but there should be more diversity!) Sure, we’re dealing with European fairy tales, which are from cultures that were, at the time said fairy tales were written down, by-and-large populated by white people. That said, this is TV, this is a fairy tale; we can mix it up. I hope that when they introduce say Sleeping Beauty, she’s brown.

Of course, I’ll keep wishing on a star because I’m cynical TV would ever do this. 1) Because TV is largely white. 2) Because some jackass in casting, production, etc., will say something horribly offensive, but coded, like ‘Vanessa Williams just doesn’t look the part of Cinderella’s evil stepmother.’ (If you ever watched Ugly Betty, you know that Williams can play anyone’s evil stepmother or queen and add the right touch of scheming and sympathy.) Or 3) Someone will say that sleepy little towns in Maine are only populated with white people. Yes, Maine may not scream racial diversity the way say Oakland might, but this is fantasy, this is TV. And most places in the world, thanks to relatively cheap modern transportation, are ethnically diverse in some way.

As far as the story of Snow finding Prince Charming (James), I found it an interesting, but not unbelievable twist. One strong point Once Upon a Time has over other fairy tale rewrites (at least modern ones I’ve read/watched) is that they’re filing in the blanks: either the omitted times in the traditional stories and/or using it as world-and-character building in order to match the personalities the writers have given the characters. (Since fairy tales are based on archetypes, besides some awful stereotypes, the characters don’t have huge personalities, which TV writers, especially the writing staff they’ve hired for this show, write characters with big personalities.)

Snow is captured by Prince Charming.
You know immediately that Prince Charming hasn't captured an ordinary woman in his net.

However, I found the fairy tale part far more fun and intriguing than the Storybrooke parts, which doesn’t bode well for the show. It needs to work on making the current time just as fascinating as the past. (Though I can’t say I’ve ever really watched a drama about a small town, unless you count Twin Peaks… Not to say this is some new idea — it’s not — just that usually, not my cup of tea. Though I guess Gilmore Girls is technically a drama. Anyway…)

I appreciated how Prince Charming was set up as Prince Charming, while at the same time, he didn’t come off as lady-killer smarmy or having magic rip-off-your-panties powers, ala Fables. Instead, we see that he’s courted others besides Snow.

Snow tries on the wedding ring and finds she likes it.
Snow tries on the wedding ring a little too affectionately. While Goodwin looks better in a horrible wig than her short pixie cut.

Goodwin does a better job as action hero than I thought she would. Though she always plays great as a stubborn character who’s particularly bent on not being told what to do or being convinced to do something she doesn’t believe in. I love that Snow has survival skills, but I wish the show put more of that into her Storybrooke life. Yes, she gave the book to Henry, and I hope there’s more, but I’m not really seeing her do anything but teach children (as hers was taken from her) and take care of the sick (really her husband).

Snow reads to James.
Snow reads to James, the story of their true love.

I’m hoping that we get more revelations about how much power Regina still has. Since the introduction to the show makes it clear that she remembers her life before and her spell, I want more about her continued powers and what’s diminished. I’m also wondering if they’re going to wait until the season finale to have Emma reveal that she’s Snow’s daughter.

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