This past Sunday, ABC aired the winter finale of “Once Upon a Time,” a popular show that adds a contemporary twist to classic fairy tales.In essence, the show focuses on the cursed town of Storybrooke, Maine, where nearly every one of Grimm’s characters you can imagine has been stranded. The show has gained a substantial following in its four season run, but viewership has declined slightly in recent months.
Perhaps in an effort to snare more viewers, “Once Upon a Time” formulated a rather chilly plot line for this year and shipped in some visitors from Arendelle. With “Frozen” being the fifth highest grossing movie of all time, this would seem like a sensible move, but even with Elsa, this season has still had a few glaring flaws.
The minds behind “Once Upon a Time” are often genius, weaving magnificently convoluted webs of intertwining plots that mirror the original fairy tales, while giving them a fresh update. Unfortunately, a severe case of writer’s block seems to be festering ABC studios these days. Not only are many of the lines forced, uncharacteristic, and occasionally painstakingly simplistic, but much of the plot is contrived, anticlimactic and predictable.
With a piecework pattern of cliched one-liners constituting the bulk of this year’s script, many potentially epic dialogues and scenes were ruined. In the past, the show moved quickly, bouncing from one storyline to the next. More recently, the bank of fairy tales seems to be running dry.
A sincere effort was made to create an intriguing villain by introducing the Snow Queen, an estranged aunt of Elsa’s, but the character’s story arc was unrealistic and invoked little suspense. The Snow Queen herself was hardly portrayed as evil or even particularly dangerous, so it was difficult to take the plight of the main characters seriously.
In the midst of all these issues, “Once Upon a Time” does still have several laudable aspects. The show must be commended for working in the mirror motif from “The Snow Queen,” a plot device which was quite cleverly integrated into the story. Additionally, the performances of all of the actors, the cast from “Frozen” in particular, were exemplary, allowing the episodes to maintain intrigue, even when the lines they spoke were so horrendously written that viewers’ faces were warped into a permanent cringe.
Generally, both Storybrooke and the enchanted world the characters hail from are well-built, with interesting back stories and settings with rich visual art. This aspect of the show has not been neglected thus far in this season.
While it may be going through a bit of a slump right now, “Once Upon a Time” loves its cliffhangers, having left a rather bizarre twist floating around in the last episode, so the future of the show still seems hopeful.