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Once Upon a Time, Season Two (2012)


Not all stories end with the coined phrase happily ever after. Some travel through dark forests and defeat evil witches, others tear apart loved ones for emotional turmoil. No matter the ending, all have to begin somewhere, once upon a time…
With the whole of Storybrooke awakened from the effects from evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrila) and her powerful curse, its people are scrambling to reunite with loved ones, in the process rediscovering who they really are. No one is happier to be reunited than the Charmings – Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) finally knows that her daughter is Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) and she isn’t about to let anything tear them apart again. When a twist of fate sends Emma and Snow falling through a magical portal opened by Regina, David (Josh Dallas) loses his wife and daughter all over again – it’s a separation he wouldn’t be prepared to settle for were it not for Henry (Jarred Gilmore), whose own needs outweigh David’s desire to put aside all rational thought and go to any means necessary to find Snow again.
On the other side of the portal is a portion of The Enchanted Forrest that was not destroyed by Regina’s evil. There, Princess Aurora (Sarah Bolger) has just been found and awakened by Prince Phillip (Julian Morris) who, along with Mulan (Jamie Chung) has been fighting off demons for years just to find Aurora and see her safely returned back to the only sect of people left who’ve survived these many years protected from the only threat that is left – Cora (Barbara Hershey). When a sacrifice is demanded, life is lost and Emma, Snow and Company discover that Henry and Aurora’s fates are intertwined – and Emma may have to trust their safe passage back to Storybrooke to a man (ColinO'Donoghue) with a twinkle in his eye, something that does not come easily to the woman who has already had her heart broken...
After two years of being a sold-out Oncer, I’m still not sure what it is that I love most about this show. It’s not the (dialogued) script or special effects, which then leaves the story arcs, characters, costumes and settings. All of those elements are comingled in one of the most sparkling (small screen) cinematic packages that any of us have or will be likely to run across in a while. ABC developed a – I think this is safe to say – brilliant concept when this foray into the fairy tale land first teased viewers with its magic. Where they’ve failed is in the scripting – if possible, I think the dialogue has gotten more sappy that usual. Nearing the halfway point of season two, I would be lying if not admitting that the show slowly but effectively got stronger in its intricacies. By the time we reached the breaking point of Rumplestiltskin obvious improvement was there, however week-after-week, episode-after-episode surprised me how “bad” the special effects were. Even on the small-screen and given all of the technology at the fingertips of the people behind-the-scenes, I’m amazed that there isn’t more credulity to the imagery in fairy-tale land.
I think what keeps me coming back is the clever interpretation of the famous fairytale sagas. The writer’s intertwine the fates of character’s you’d never imagine would have connections and takes our dim, safe perspective of these iconic names and challenges our ideas of them. If ever you thought you knew these personalities (as Disney would have us know them!), you may find that turned upside down. Some newbies crop up in season two (Aurora, Captain Hook, Mulan and more!) plus we catch up with old favorites such as Ruby (Meghan Ory), Belle (Emilie De Ravin) or the Seven Dwarves. Within these characters is where the heart and soul of this show is. Of course, a select number of them turn out to be evil villains but what’s most interesting is they all have a “trigger” that could resurrect them back to their former selves – all of them once had goodness in their hearts and instead of embracing that, they’ve chosen evil over goodness. Regina cracks ever so slightly whenever she’s confronted by Snow’s kindness; Rumple keeps Belle at a distance because she could be the catalyst that turns his heart backwards. These personalities (or rather the good guys) is what ensures my return. Also making fun guest spots are Lesley Nicol and Annabeth Gish.
Surprisingly, the costumes are a flaw. the present-day ensembles are way better than the past; in Storybrooke, Mary Margaret and Belle have an adorable vintage-vibe going on and in the past the girl’s dress looks “cheap” (unless they’re having adventures – in that case, everyone does look pretty cool). Season two does “up” its concepts and the “bigness” of its storytelling. There are some fabulous twists and the stories constantly keep us on our guard, never knowing if the appearance of a new character will turn out good or bad. Because of this, for anyone who may be contemplating watching this series, you’d be best to watch it in its proper order as there are dozens of trails that intersect. This season forces enemies to work together and also takes some risks while working hard to flesh out the main cast of characters. If you like productions that are unusual and full of fairytale throwbacks, then you’re missing some unique fun by not watching this show. I may have complaints about it and feel cheated out of some things that writer’s don’t push harder to perfect and captivate, however I’m not about to give up because all of the Storybrooke stories are actually quite good. I know I’m ready to delve into its version of mermaids and Neverland. How about you?
Share any thoughts you may have about Once Upon a Time! What was your favorite thing about season two; do you like season three thus far? Speculate below!
(What to know: Aside from some swordplay and magic, the violence is relatively non-graphic – more fantasy “violence” than anything. The Evil Queen is constantly scheming something and because of that she uses multiple spells to get what she wants – she kills various people with magic; a man is beaten up, a woman strapped to a table and tortured [electric shocks], and various characters have their hearts ripped out of their chests. We see some of Frankenstein's work. We meet a "seer" whose eyes are in her hands. There are a few innuendoes and a scene or two of a married couple in bed along with another woman and her lover. There are a few profanities. The show is rated TVPG.)   

24 comments

  1. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with Once Upon a Time. (Well, not hate by any means, but dislike.) I love the characters and how they connect so many fairy tales. I've watched it from the start and I plan on watching it until the end.

    But sometimes it is just *so* cheesy! (And this is coming from someone who usually doesn't mind cheesiness. I mean, Full House and Boy Meets World are still two of my favorite shows.) The dialogue can be pretty awful, as can the special effects and even the acting on occasion (young Snow White, I'm talking to you). I agree that it seems like the show is selling itself short and not living up to its potential. It could be so much better and it frustrates me that it doesn't seem like they're trying very hard. And sometimes I feel like they're trying to make the storyline too complicated...it seems to be heading in a Lost-like direction and that makes me nervous. My parents have started watching the show with me, and I'm constantly having to try to explain backstory to them (they only started watching at the very end of season 2).

    Despite all that, I keep watching. Because amongst all of the mediocre, there are moments of brilliance. :) Like the seer...that part was so incredibly creepy but I actually really liked that bit of Rumple's backstory. And I am really enjoying season 3 so far. I've always liked Peter Pan (I'm due a reread of the book!), and I like the way they've twisted the story. {Not sure if you've watched any of season 3 yet, so sorry if this is a spoiler, but I think bringing in Ariel of The Little Mermaid at Neverland will be pretty clever, given that there are supposed to be mermaids there anyway.} I'm just not sure how long they can carry on the Neverland setting...I hope it won't go beyond the end of this season.

    And I have to give it to them...I've never been one of those girls who falls for the "bad boy" characters, but Once has changed that. :) I have a bit of a crush on Hook!

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    1. YES! Kristin, this comment is spot-on. I have a love-dislike relationship with this show also.

      I can overlook cheesy most of the time (I mean, come on! Who loves Hallmark movies more than me!? ;D) but for this show, I think I’m hard on it because – as you say – it has the potential to be so much greater. The scripts as a “big picture” (the concept) are really good, it’s the conversations that are really… silly. (David in particular was a bit of a wimp when Snow went missing!)

      (Never did watch Lost but I hope writer’s don’t drift too far into that – from what I’ve heard the end of that show was quite a bombshell.)

      That’s fun! I hope your parents are enjoying the series. My mom and I watch it together and were just talking about would-be fans watching this; I’d recommend starting from the beginning since oh-so-many of the plots intertwine – how about you?

      That seer thing *was* creepy! I have to agree though as always it’s nice to learn more about what drives these characters (i.e., their Enchanted Forest past) and I find it really interesting that each of the villains have a “trigger” (in the form of another person) that could turn them back to goodness. Most stories don’t exploit that as ‘Once’ has and it’s quite clever.

      As for S3 spoilers, no I’ve not watched the season however please feel free to throw any spoilers my way! I’m their biggest fan. ;) I’m super anxious to meet Ariel and nervous about Peter being… well, not as I know him from the live-action film. *bites nails*

      Ah, Hook! Now there is a dude I have a love-hate relationship with! One moment I am championing him, and the other I feel like I need to do a Mr. Knightley impression, “badly done, Hook! Badly done indeed…”

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  2. The first season (as always) is the best, but S2 and S3 have been pretty good, too! S3 feels a little weaker, like you're just going around in big circles....but it's "Once," so I'll continue to love it no matter!

    Cute photo up on the top!! I really want to finish watching the first Season of Arrow, but I don't want to buy it and I can't find it online. And now the second season is slipping me by on Hulu! Aaah! :)

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    1. I'm not sure which season I liked best, Kellie... I'd have to watch them closer together I suppose to determine that. All I do know is that I tend to like the Storybrooke tales better and that surprises me! I'm with you; I'll continue to love this show despite its flaws because well, it's 'Once.' And a fairytale! ;)

      Aw, thanks! I say that photo and thought it too cute to pass up. I am LOVING that show. I'm getting close to wrapping it which means - hello, gushing review. ;) Hope you can find Arrow somewhere on-line. I've got a set (Blu-Ray + DVD) if you'd ever wish to borrow any. Maybe check Amazon...? I know sometimes they have them for rent. :)

      Great to see your smiling face, Kellie. Hope things are well with you.

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  3. I liked the concept of this show but it's soooo cheesy / badly CGI-ed I gave up after awhile.

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    1. I'm right there with you, Charity - the CGI *is* bad. That being said, I cannot give it up. It's too fun - flaws and all - for that. ;)

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  4. I was so happy to see that you'd reviewed Season Two, Rissi!

    Seasons One and Two are great but, as you say, the special effects are horrible. The wolf doesn't even look real in its episodes, the Enchanted Forest is totally cheap, and, yes, some of the costuming is way off. And OUAT isn't the best at dialogue or drama. But the advent of Captain Hook . . . they had me there ;) He's my absolute favorite, though unfortunately he isn't quite as well-done in some parts of Season 3. Or at least there were some Season 3 moments with him that I might have changed.

    Season 3 itself is not up to par with the other two seasons in my opinion. The setting is constantly dark--there is no morning there. Emma's masculinity annoys me, Hook's womanizing annoys me (he's supposed to be in love with one of the characters now, IMO, and is portrayed only to be lusting after her), and the whole plot is just a little weak it seems like. Or weaker than normal. I'm actually almost enjoying Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. more than OUAT.

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    1. All I have to say to this comment is: DITTO! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who finds the costuming a bit “off,” Hannah. As a girl who loves any sort of costume drama, I want to love this show for that very reason but instead, that’s one of the flaws. And those CGI effects, YES! They’re quite bad also – it seems odd considering all the awesome technology at filmmaker’s fingertips these days. *sigh*

      Aw, too bad S3 is setting itself up badly. Hope it gets better. I’m intrigued by the Neverland story and of course seeing how Hook evolves. I saw that fans are now “shipping” Hook and Emma. Hmm… not sure what I think about that. Emma is supposedly in love with Neil, so…

      As for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I’m eager to watch that one next summer! Looks fun. :)

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    2. The CGI effects make me wonder sometimes if the creators of the show actually meant to have them that way. But then I wonder why on earth would they do that? Hmm. Well, anyway :)

      I know right? Emma, Neil, Emma, Hook, Emma, who?

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    3. You make an excellent point, Hannah! It sounds odd that they'd want to be mediocre, however your suggestion makes me wonder...

      The Emma/Hook/Neil love triangle thing could be interesting. Hm. Who knows how that will play out! ;)

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    4. After coming back here to your review and reading through my comment, I am very happy to say that the second half of Season 3 is much better than the first! The writers ended the first half brilliantly, and have brought in a couple new characters in this second half. I do feel like some of the pacing is too quick, but otherwise it's much better than the first few episodes of this season.

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    5. Hooray! You've no idea how exciting that is to know, Hannah. You know I've been seeing the promos for Once (while watching Dancing with the Stars) and am definitely getting my curiosity piqued for this season. All of these new characters sound fun (go Wizard of Oz) and I am liking that Regina may not be the "ultimate" villain anymore - it's about time someone challenge that woman. ;)

      Thanks for sharing.

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  5. I have been with this show since day one. I like it for the most part, but I agree there are some parts where I ask, "Why did they do that?" The CGI, oh my goodness. It could have been so much better. The costumes are hit and miss. Sometimes they are great, other times, they need a new stylist.

    I was a huge LOST-y. Loved the show, so with a lot of the the people coming back for OUaT, I love it! It's like a reunion show. :-) I love OUaT in Wonderland for that as well. :-)

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    1. Me, too, Kate! Because of that, I am sticking with this show until it ends. I love a lot about it but oh, my! Those effects are awful. Costumes are usually adorable in Storybrooke (I love the vintage vibe) however most the time their fairytale counterparts are a bit... "out there." Like the effects, the styling could also be way cooler.

      Never watched Lost however I know several of the characters are from the show which is neat! ...I am a HUGE fan of the new HFO which has Daniel Dae Kim in it. Cannot wait to try "Wonderland," it looks fun also - cheesy effects and all. ;)

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  6. Confession time: I have the biggest crush on Captain Hook. Not in a strange lusting after an actor kind of way, but I think he would be the PERFECT hero for a book. I'm hoping Serena Chase sees this comment! There is a really interesting back story there and I think there is a lot of emotion and character development that is still on its way. Very clever of them to make Peter Pan a villain. It will be interesting to see where they take this Neverland storyline and which characters they will bring in especially with the new Wonderland show also doing fairy tales.

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    1. My relationship with Captain Hook is a love/hate sort. ;) On one hand I think he's AWESOME in a way I've never seen Hook before (partially because of that backstory you mention), in another I'm annoyed at his loyalty being bought time and again. I'm hoping S3 puts him in a better place (his change of heart in the S2 finale hints at that) especially since Peter is not the boy we all knew.

      That Neverland story is one that intrigues me. So long as they don't overuse it, I think it may be the best arc yet - that S2 ending was quite the cliffhanger! :)

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    2. Serena Chase did see this. ;) And --oh yes--Hook. I must admit I was kind of turned off the show by the end of last season (and how many times did my daughters and I roll our eyes and comment on the overacting of young Snow White? Blech.) I had almost decided I wasn't even going to care if I watched OUAT this season or not, but then... Hook. I mean, Hook. The last two episodes especially, have been enjoyable. So iguess I'm back in. ;)

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    3. Your comment made me smile, Serena! I'm right there with you and your daughters, there are plenty of eye-rolling moments but... my fairy-tale loving heart just cannot give this one up. Here's hoping Hook redeems some of the show for you. ;)

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  7. Season 2 is probably my favorite so far. I loved meeting the new characters and I loved watching everyone in Storybrooke remember who they are. I'm totally in love with the writing for this show and for me personally, I don't watch the show for it's special effects. Yeah, they aren't great. But that's not what the show's about. The show's about telling fairytales in a new light. About weaving them together to make something new. So I just don't let that bother me. Oh, and I totally agree, there were definitely some cheesy lines in this season- but they were well placed (the ones I'm thinking of anyway.)

    Glad you enjoyed it! Can't wait to see your reaction to season three. They've opened a whole new can of worms. lol!

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    1. As usual, you make excellent points, my friend. The show isn't all about the effects but with it being part fantasy, I guess I just expected it to be better. :) That being said, I LOVE the writing in terms of how clever the "big picture" is.

      The greatest thing for me is how they weave together these fairy-tales, shatter certain iconic characters and still bring it all together brilliantly. Plus meeting these characters in contemporary (small town) America has been a blast!

      ...I *cannot* wait to see S3 either. It sounds interesting and I'm curious to see if the Neverland plot overstays its welcome. :)

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  8. Really nice review! Once Upon A Time had me hooked with the first season. The second I felt went on for a few episodes too long, and wasn't crazy about the villains except Cora. It's such a fun show and something I look forward to watching every week!

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    1. What I like most is that those villains each have a "trigger," a person who could turn them back to goodness. That is a really interesting side plot(s). Some of the twists overstayed their welcome, true though for the most part, the season was good.

      Thank *you* for reading, Katy! :)

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  9. Rissi! I haven't commented in forever! But I have still been reading when I can. :) (You're the reason I'm subscribed to the "emma approved" channel on YouTube. ;)) I just recently started blogging again.

    I love OUAT! I think the first season is my favorite so far. But I just so enjoy what they've done with all the fairytale character's stories and lives. So creative! And don't get me started on the costumes. SO IMPRESSIVE. In my opinion, the 3rd season has just started to get very interesting. I can't wait to see how it all turns out. How do you feel about season 3 so far? I'd love to hear your thoughts! (And I'm all caught up, so don't worry about spoilers. ;))

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    1. Hey, Maria. I'm just glad you stopped by today - thanks for that, and for being a reader. :)

      Aw, yay! Glad you're watching Emma Approved; it's cute though I think I prefer LDB. So far.

      For its creativity and genius flips of the fairytale characters we "knew," this show is brilliant. Beyond that, I do have some squabbles with it, however I always overlook them because the show is just... fun! I'm not sure which season I like better (one or two) and as for three, I wait for the DVD's, so I haven't see it yet (yep, I'm crazy :D). Although, I did watch the last 15minutes this past Sunday and OH, MY! This is going to get interesting. *bites nails* What about you... what do you think of the season so far? I've got a basic knowledge of what's going on (Emma and company searching Neverland for Henry) and the new characters and am always happy for spoilers! ;)

      Glad you're back to blogging. I'll be visiting soon.

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