“Once Upon A Time” may have come out an entire decade ago, but it is still just as magical now as it was back then. Oct. 23 marked the 10 year anniversary of the pilot episode airing. The pilot is gripping and well-written and wonderfully paced, proving that the show stands the test of time.
The premise of the show is a bit hard to believe in: fairy tale characters living in our world in the United States. The Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) casts a curse upon the Enchanted Forest and all its citizens; everyone is sent to Storybrooke, Maine—a land without magic. Here, time remains frozen as long as the curse is active, and no one can remember their true identities. Nothing ever changes, until Henry (Jared Gilmore), the Storybrooke mayor’s adopted son, goes on a quest to find his birth mother, Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison). He was given a book of fairy tales that reveal the truth: the curse is real and can only be broken by Emma, the daughter of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas). A woman named Emma as the savior? Yeah, you can consider me hooked.
In the pilot, we get to see our heroes fall in love before they are torn apart from each other by the curse. We are dropped into the whirlwind of true love and the heartbreak of being separated. We despair as the curse looms ahead and rejoice as Emma decides to stay in Storybrooke. Though she doesn’t yet believe in magic, she is willing to stick around to appease Henry, and his joy is felt even through the screen. There’s an overwhelming sense of hope.
Outside of magic, it is incredibly funny to me to see the various small-town jobs that each character has. They match personalities so well. The Evil Queen is now the mayor; Snow White is a teacher; Granny (Beverly Elliot) and Red Riding Hood (Meghan Ory) co-run a diner; Jiminy Cricket (Raphael Sbarge) is a therapist. Perhaps most fitting is the mysterious Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) aka The Dark One aka Rumplestiltskin aka The Beast (yes, as in the one who marries Belle). He runs a pawn shop in town and plays the role of a strange rich man who can’t mind his own business. Mr. Gold’s inability to mind his own business, and his knack for making deals, runs through the show, allowing him to adopt all of these compounding identities. Throughout his life, he has visited every single fairy tale. He is quite literally the single thread of gold tying everything together.
Each character we meet in season one is complex and interesting, truly a feat when they are introducing a new fairy tale character in almost every episode. The most exciting cameo for me was The Mad Hatter, played by Sebastian Stan. Each episode takes us into tragic backstories both in the Enchanted Forest and in Storybrooke. But, no matter the issue, Emma is there to save the day. With her beat up yellow Volkswagen Bug and her trusty red leather jacket, she is unstoppable.
The pilot and the entirety of the season set up the show for great success. Sure, it’s not perfect—season four is terribly boring and season seven is riddled with plot holes—but overall, it is such a fun show. It proves that anyone, and I mean anyone, can become a hero if they try hard enough. “Once Upon A Time” shows that true love is real, but soul mates are made, not found at first sight. It proves that being a good parent is hard, but perhaps the most honorable thing a person can do. Most of all, the show emphasizes that good will always defeat evil, as long as there is hope. So, if you need some hope in both yourself and humanity during midterm season, open up Disney+ and dive into the magical world of “Once Upon A Time.”