“Once Upon a Time” (Blu-ray)
Like NBC's “Grimm,” “Once Upon a Time” debuted in the 2011-12 season, when movie studios were just starting to roll out high-concept “dark fairy tale” melodramas such as “Red Riding Hood.”
While “Grimm” quickly found its footing as a supernatural take on police procedurals, ABC's “Once Upon a Time” had loftier aspirations — not a surprise, given that Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz of “Lost” fame created the series.
That pedigree not only secured a ready-made audience, bringing “Losties” on board, it promised a degree of atmospheric beauty and top-shelf effects, which come through in the Blu-ray edition of “Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season,” and a deep, consuming mythology. “Once Upon a Time” delivers on those elements, but it also carries more than a whiff of ABC's mid-'00s nighttime soaps — in its more torrid moments, and there are plenty, it could earn an alternate title: “Desperate Princesses.”
“Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season” uses the “Snow White” fairy tale as its foundation: as Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin of “Big Love”) marries Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) crashes the wedding and curses all the magical characters in attendance, promising to take away “the things you love most.”
Months later, the bill comes due: Charming and Snow hide their newborn baby as their magical land is consumed by the curse.
Cut to modern-day New England, and a skip tracer named Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison of “How I Met Your Mother” and “House”) is approached by young Henry Mills (Jared Gilmore), who claims that Emma is his birth mother and that his evil stepmother, Regina Mills (Parrilla) is using her office as mayor of Storybrooke, Maine, to operate as a petty tyrant.
Storybrooke is, of course, where all the fairy tale denizens landed: they never age and have no memory of their former, more magical lives, but Emma begins to unravel that past thanks to kind schoolteacher Mary Margaret Blanchard (Goodwin).
Kitsis and Horowitz weave a labyrinthine web of plots into this series, but the familiarity of characters such as Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle), Red Riding Hood (Meghan Ory) and others makes “Once Upon a Time” consistent fun for viewers who enjoy guessing which tale is being pulled into the storyline.
The endless conniving of Parrilla's character can grow tiresome, but Goodwin's double turn as Mary Margaret and Snow makes up for the Evil Queen's soapy stream of threats and double-crosses. Goodwin was often the most interesting element of “Big Love,” even as that show eventually ran off the rails, and she makes “Once Upon a Time” more enchanting with her presence.
— George Lang