Our story begins in a fairytale kingdom with the wedding of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), an event interrupted by the evil Queen Regina (Lana Parilla), Snow’s stepmother. Regina curses the couple, stating that no one in the land will ever have a "happy ending" again, then disappears. Snow and Charming sit on pins and needles awaiting the curse to occur, but it isn’t until the impending birth of their daughter, Emma Swan, that the curse comes to fruition. With the help of Geppetto and a magical wardrobe he builds, Snow and Charming are able to help Emma escape and every other inhabitant of this fairytale world is thrown into our realm, ending up in a little hamlet called Storybrooke, Maine. Time stands still here and no strangers ever visit the town. Likewise, no one ever leaves. Sadly, the inhabitants of Storybrooke go about their lives, having had their memories completely wiped of their former lives. According to the curse, the only one who can save the townspeople is Emma, the human product of Snow and Charming’s true love, when she turns 28 years old.
Meanwhile in Boston, Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison, House) is perfectly happy with her life as a bail bondsman, until a knock on her door on her 28th birthday shakes things up. Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) claims to be her 10-year-old son, the one she gave up a decade ago, and he also shows her a storybook and claims she must rescue the village from the clutches of the Evil Queen AKA Regina, who is the mayor of Storybrooke, and Henry’s adoptive mother. Emma returns Henry to Storybrooke with intentions of turning her back and leaving, but she is concerned for the boy’s welfare and decides to stay after a series of odd events. Before long, she is a member of the local police force and Henry is introducing her to everyone in town. Naturally, since they’ve forgotten who they were, they all go by different names, but we’d know them as Jiminy Cricket (Raphael Sbarge), Red Riding Hood (Meghan Ory), Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle), the Mad Hatter (Sebastian Stan), Cinderella (Jessy Schram), Geppetto (Tony Amendola) and Pinocchio (Eion Bailey), the Evil Queen’s Magic Mirror (Giancarlo Esposito), Hansel and Gretel, the Seven Dwarves and even Belle (Emilie de Ravin) from Beauty and the Beast .
Henry must convince Emma that the storybook is true, which is difficult to sell, although Mayor Regina does seem hell bent on getting rid of her and also on keeping local teacher Mary Margaret Blanchard AKA Snow White (Goodwin) separate from amnesia victim David Nolan AKA Prince Charming. But what good is evil against true love? Needless to say, much more occurs throughout the season, including murder, kidnapping, romantic liaisons, danger and intrigue aplenty, but that is for you to discover as you watch Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season. Revealing anything more would simply be an injustice.
Each episode weaves a delectable backstory for each of the characters, using information from the Disney classics as well as the Grimm Brothers’ tales, but then they develop the stories even further and we get to see a rich, never-before-seen history for each of these beloved characters. The writing is fantastic, as is the acting, but Robert Carlysle as Rumplestilskin is simply incredible. Hands-down, he is my favorite character, but everyone is spectacular. It’s always exciting to see who will show up in an episode, whether it’s Carolyn Hennesy and Kristen Bauer van Straten (True Blood), Amy Acker (Person of Interest and Dollhouse), Bailee Madison (Just Go With It), Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), Emilie de Ravin (Lost) or even Barbara Hershey (Beaches). The sets are fantastic and much of what you see is CG, but since this is a show based on fantasy, it really works. Everything is just a little bit "off" but in a good, other-worldly way. Filming is done in Canada and the scenes that take place in the woods are simply magical. You might think that watching Once Upon a Time on Blu-ray might make the CG and such more obvious, but everything looks terrific and simply pops. I will also warn you that the haunting and beautiful soundtrack will lodge inside your head like an earwig and you will find yourself humming it for days.
Special features are plentiful and include audio commentaries on select episodes, deleted scenes, and a blooper reel, plus featurettes on the characters of the show, the film sets, the translation of these classic tales into the modern age, and the fairytale of Snow White as remembered by the cast. Finally, there’s a Blu-ray exclusive featurette that lets you explore the history of several fairytales to see their genesis.
I can’t recommend Once Upon A Time: The Complete First Season enough. It’s the complete package and I can’t wait to see how everything shakes out in the season premiere. I really enjoyed how the season wraps up and I am excited to see the new fairytale characters that may be introduced. If you have even a passing interest in fairytales or ever remember reading these stories as a child, do yourself a favor and check out Once Upon A Time: The Complete First Season. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me fall in love with these classic characters all over again. Highly recommended.