"I ate my boyfriend--but we can't let it stop us." @ 26 August 2013 09:58 PM

So says Red Riding Hood, who is also a werewolf, to Dr. Whale, who is also Dr. Frankenstein.


They're two residents of Storybrooke, the New England town that wasn't there before 1983, when the Evil Queen moved the whole population. Sending fairy tale characters from their enchanted world to the modern world isn't new to ABC--a short lived, broadly played sitcom called The Charmings had a similar premise.


But Once Upon a Time is a sumptuous "theme park opera" in which the relationships and the relatives are as serpentine as Maleficent the dragon.



Season Two brought the realization to the characters that they were actual fairy tale people. They didn't believe young Henry last year, but like the existence of Mr. Snuffle-Upagus, eventually you can't keep denying the truth. So now the characters have dual essences; they remember who they were and who they are. Prince Charming (or should I say "Cool Hand Charming?") takes control and sets the town straight.


Snow White and Emma Swan realize they're mother and daughter, and are embarrassed about all the intimate talks they shared (apparently Snow had a one-night stand, but it was caused by a spell).


The season also brings us the even evil-er Queen Cora, played by Barbara Hershey (who renamed herself "Barbara Seagull" in the '70s to draw attention to the plight of the species, and then changed it back). Was the name "Cora" drawn from the character Margaret "Wicked Witch of the West" Hamilton played in hundreds of Maxwell House commercials before her passing?


The other major newcomer is the beardy, Revlon-eyed Captain Hook, played with vim and vigor (but mostly vim) by Colin O'Donoghue, who in a bonus feature seems to be shocked by the amorous attention he apparently is getting from fans. (It's not like he asked to wear the sleek leather outfit with the flowing cape and the shiny chain around his neck and the shirt open to there, ladies!)


Hook is much better in the second half of the season when he settles into a supporting role. He plays well off the other actors, who have really honed their roles and created a nice chemistry.


Moving right along to biology, what's with Snow White and the Prince doin' it on camera, as their daughter and grandson enter the bedchamber? Without being a spoiler, Snow is racked with guilt about another questionable deed, yet after being found together with nothing on but a 250-count cotton percale, she and Princey wait for their family to leave and then get back to gettin' it on.

Even Mom and Dad Dunphy of Modern Family were shocked, embarrassed and angry when their kids discovered them doing the same thing, and they're not even Disney characters.


No matter how complex the storylines get and the double crosses get double crossed this season, the standard bearers for the series remain Lana Parilla as Regina the Evil Queen (what's really magic is how she never smears that ruby red lip gloss) and Robert "Full Monty" Carlyle as Rumpel Stiltskin (but you can call him "Rumpel").


Like Dark Shadows, another ABC series, in which vampire Barnabas was racked with guilt about his murderous condition, yet slipped in and out of being a hero and a villain, so do Regina and Rumpel. Between that classic conflict and their acting skills, they're the ones upon which most of the rest of the show radiates. They can't turn nice, or you'd have no story. But you find yourself hoping they'll reform. And they do, then they don't, then they do.


Season two of Once Upon a Time looks like a movie on Blu-ray. The details of the costuming and art direction show up nicely. The special effects are mostly impressive, though the seams show once in a while. But you just couldn't do a show with the illusory sets and vistas in this series back in the day, before green screens and digital effects made such things faster and more economically feasible for TV.


And now for the bonus features (wait, let me get out my invisible chalk). This set has some of the most entertaining on any DVD set. Ariel Winter of Modern Family traces the convoluted family trees of the characters, so completely outlandish that even the cast themselves has trouble keeping it straight.


Several interesting audio commentaries add to the understanding of how stories were created and how the actors approached their roles, especially after the curse ended, and they had to be two people in one. Gennifer "Snow" Goodwin explains that "Bobby" Carlyle actually changes Rumpel's behavior based on which character he encounters. Carlyle himself has assigned numbers to the levels of Rumpel's intensities. This is why I love commentaries!


The gem of the bonus features is a spoof of Good Morning America that features funny commercials (particularly the one for Granny's Diner in which Red does her impression of SCTV's Edna Boil) and the cast gets to have fun making fun. Check out how unctuous Doctor Whale is in his segment. They're having a blast with this short video, which was played at this year's ComicCon.


Next season promises a visit to Never Land and the appearance of Ariel. Even though the best of TV's series can ebb and flow as Once Upon a Time has this season, who couldn't resist sticking with it?


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