A handful of days ago the fairytale-centric series Once Upon A Time ended its run after seven seasons.
When it was first introduced to critics most scoffed at the idea and predicted that it would be the first of the new shows to be canceled following the 2011 pilot season. Not only was it not cancelled but it went on to become the most watched and successful show for several years.
Ironically, my own Once journey only started in 2013. Initially, I’d watched the pilot episode and clearly remember being impressed by the incredible originality of the premise and concept of the show. Somehow it slipped out of sight for two years…perhaps it was fate (this will make more sense later). But when I got back around to watching it I became completely enthralled. I mean the whole hog here too. I could not stop talking about it and told everyone I knew to watch it. It wouldn’t take long before they’d seek my out to tell me how incredible the show was. I could see the glint of unadulterated joy and excitement in many eyes.
Here was a show unlike anything that’s been done up to that point in time. A fairytale show that starts after Snow White and Prince Charming’s happily ever after and one that offered nuanced back-stories to all the characters we thought we knew. How did the Evil Queen become evil? Is Snow White really just a damsel in distress? Not in this story! And at the core of the show and its narrative lay one overarching message: that belief and hope in something better was the most powerful magic of all.
Through its seven seasons the story of Once and its characters spread across several realms from the Enchanted Forest, to Neverland, to Oz, to the Underworld, to Camelot, and several in between. But at the heart of the show was the beautifully written characters. Created by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis these versions of otherwise well-known characters have become iconic and are now, arguably, the contemporary references to their folklore counterparts.
Normally, writing reviews and the like requires objectivity and a non-biased approach, and rightly so. But I happily make an exception to the this rule today and Regina Mills is the reason. Regina, or the Evil Queen, was the character that everyone loved to hate. At least up until the Stable Boy episode (Season 1, episode 17) that revealed some of Regina’s tragic back story. But this was hardly the turning point for the character. Instead she journeyed through seven season of fighting the darkness inside (and sometimes outside) of herself on a lengthy, often painful, path towards redemption.
Why do I cast aside the non-biased approach? Because it is fairly rare that a character is played with such emotional depth and skill as Lana Parrilla has done. The writers may have envisioned Regina Mills but Parrilla gave her life. By providing her with a multitude of layers she allowed for glimpses of humanity even on the Evil Queen’s worst days. Often she’d show her characters immense strength without uttering a word. She’d portray her vulnerability and her soul seemingly effortlessly. And lets not forget the epic delivery of all those one liners.
It felt right that Regina got the last word as the show drew to its conclusion after 155 episodes. After all, its her story that came full circle.
As she did in the Pilot she strutted into the same chamber. But instead of declaring her intention to cast the dark curse and rip away everyone’s happiness she is crowned, by popular demand, Queen of all the realms…the Good Queen to be precise. It would be an injustice to the character, writers, and the actress to try to capture Regina’s journey in a couple of paragraphs. Instead, if you’ve not seen Once Upon A Time do yourself a favour, and it will be a favour to yourself, and settle in for a magical experience and ride you are unlikely to ever forget.
Once Upon A Time couldn’t be mentioned without including the brilliant performance of Robert Carlyle as Rumpelstiltskin. From seemingly nowhere he created a character that was equally as tortured as he was hopeful. And the rest of the ensemble provided the perfect mix that sparked the magic. And I firmly believe that ‘they’ should look no further than Josh Dallas if a new Indiana Jones is to be cast.
From a personal point of view Once Upon A Time will live with me forever. Physically, with a tattoo of the famed poisoned apple and a Masters thesis on the evolution of the Evil Queen from folklore to Once Upon A Time. It must’ve been fate that my infatuation with the show was delayed by two years and right on time for Masters thesis.
Some would say that magic isn’t real. To them I would say that every week for seven years it was.