Once Upon a Time Review: “Pilot”

Sunday night already has a horrorshow; now it’s got a faerie-tale based fantasy penned by some of Lost‘s writers.

Title: “Once Upon a Time: Pilot”

Cast and Crew

Directed by Mark Mylod
Written by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz

Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow White / Mary Margaret Blanchard
Jennifer Morrison as Emma Swan
Lana Parrilla as Evil Queen / Regina
Josh Dallas as Prince Charming / John Doe
Jared Gilmore as Henry Mills
Raphael Sbarge as Jiminy Cricket / Archie Hopper
Jamie Dornan as Sheriff Graham
Robert Carlyle as Rumplestiltskin / Mr. Gold
Tony Amendola as Geppetto / Marco
Warren Christie as Ryan
Beverley Elliott as Granny
Meghan Ory as Red Riding Hood / Ruby
Keegan Connor Tracy as Blue Fairy
James Bamford as Black Knight
Jakob Davies as Pinocchio
David Paul Grove as Doc

Additional cast and crew information may be found here.


The Wicked Witch/ Evil Queen of a Faerie Tale Realm casts a foul spell that sends well-known fantasy characters to our world, with no memory of their past. The now-adult daughter of Snow White, sent as a child years earlier, must reclaim her heritage and set things right.

High Point

The show has some minor character moments that got my attention. Ginnifer Goodwin shows potential in her real world identity, and I enjoyed the late-episode banter between Granny and Ruby. I also liked the idea of Snow White going into labor, with Doc attending– very un-Faerie Tale-like, very real-world.

They’re going to have to do more with these characters to keep my attention, however.

Low Points

The aggressively unnecessary introductory narrative. Given that the show asked us to think a little, why would they add that disconnected bit of explanation, written by someone who assumes the audience are morons?

The Scores:

Originality: 2/6 Faerie Tale Characters in the real world has been done many times before, with a Fables likely being the one familiar to most of our readership.

Effects: 5/6 They’ve got strong CGI, in the other-world and in Storybrooke. The castle looks like a Faerie Tale castle inspired by Hogwarts which was, of course, inspired in part by Faerie Tale castles. So thanks for that iconological headache.

Story: 4/6 The story is uneven, but the show, like so many series with an arc, spends a lot of its first episode establishing as many things as possible. This may the reverse-Lost; instead of gradually introducing elements without having a clear idea where they’re going, this rapidly dumps everything, and I’m fairly certain they have a direction in mind, since we know the basic backstory by the end of the first episode.

Acting: 5/6 Overall, a well-performed show, though many of the actors fare better as the scenery-munching Faerie Tales than as their real-world counterparts.

Emotional Response: 4/6 Meh. It has a good premise, and it shows promise. I enjoyed parts of it. My wife seems interested, so I may do future reviews.

Production: 6/6

Overall: 4/6 Storybrooke itself has nearly as many stylizations as the Faerie Tale Kingdom, and I think it has to be that way. One way for the characters to work is to ensure their “real” world is a version of our world—and even Emma realizes things don’t quite make sense in the quaint west coast Maine town to which she’s come. However, Emma’s original world should have seemed entirely real, and it felt too much like television. We’re not getting reality and fantasy, but conflicting stylized worlds. I don’t know exactly how this will affect the series, but I didn’t entirely work for me.

In total, “Pilot” receives 30/42

7 replies on “Once Upon a Time Review: “Pilot””

  1. I enjoyed it. More than the Snow-White-In-The-Real-World Sitcom from the 80s!

    I dunno about Jennifer Morrison though. She always looks like she’s frowning…

  2. The line from the trailer for next week’s episode:

    Snow (Referring to the evil queen): “She blames me for ruining her life….”
    Charming: “Did you?”
    Snow: “Yes…”

    gives me some hope that there’s more depth here than initially revealed.
    In all, this one has enough hooks to grab me for at least a second episode.

  3. The cast of characters we’ve seen so far (in Storybrooke) doesn’t come close to what we would have seen in a Fables pilot (from Bigby Wolf to Bufkin the flying monkey). It could be that I’m being unfair but given that ABC had a Fables TV show in development at least as recently as 2008, as a fan of that comic book I think I’m entitled to some disappointment.

    Even so, I thought the pilot was pretty good for what it was. We’ll find out over the coming weeks whether they’ve got more in their tank. It’s got to be more than just a slightly odd soap opera to keep my interest given the potential of the concept.

  4. The wife and I watched this last night and it managed to catch our interest enough to give it a few weeks.

    There is a lot of potential here but so far to me it feels more like the kind of story that would work better as a miniseries than a regular series, since I’m not seeing a way they could ever hope to have any kind of satisfactory resolution to anything in the context of how they’ve set it up.

    I hope they find a good direction for it and don’t run out of steam too early. Making the entire series into one unresolvable arc is a bit of a tall order and will need to be changed up now and again.

    • Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. How in the world could they come up with enough storylines to pique our interests as a regular series. A mini-series with a set resolution at the end might be preferable to knowing that it will never end until the series is cancelled…

  5. Agree with alot of you. It’s interesting, it’s just not great. It’s no “Fables.” I’m giving it a few weeks to see if it really goes places.

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