For example, Glee followed up a stellar first season with a lackluster second that lost at least one viewer (me). Even one of my favorites, Fringe, stumbled starting from the second season block, abandoning its direction to maneuver back on a strong course, and why not?
After the first season, you’ve hit your stride. You’ve told a story. You’ve come to a conclusion. More than starting the first time, starting all over again is hard.
In contrast, Once Upon A Time hit season two running. Curse is broken. Things are moving.
Once Upon A Time hit its stumbling point in season one. The show seemed aimless, turning into name dropping, introducing new characters each week while the original narrative spun out of control. By adding some new voices to the team, OUAT was able to turn around and close with an amazing finale.
Did they go full dragon? Yes. Yes, they did.
So, what makes the second season strong?
How about a mob marching on the queen? A few new characters are snuck in, some in our parallel universe. The most curious new character came in at the very beginning. I refuse to conjecture at this point. On top of that, a new Evil is unleashed in the wraith.
But what’s a big source of conflict? A bunch of suddenly self-actualized fairy tale characters are trapped in a town, each individual seeking their own happy ending. It’s a clash of storytelling. Everyone has the potential for conflict, even without being an evil queen or corrupted immortal.
Which brings me to the “bad guys.”
In Regina, our evil queen, Once Upon A Time has given me the villain I want to root for. They muddied those waters by giving her a weepy backstory (I don’t need my evil queens to have backstory; just make them kick ass and I will be pleased). She’s not misunderstood. She’s not trying to simply create her own happy ending. She has power and it has corrupted her. She’s smart and manipulative. Chillingly evil. I love it. She foils those annoying do-gooders and it looks like a team-up is on the way.
By the end of the episode, our smart, spunky modern girl is transported to fairy tale world with her same-age mother. So, like Revolution, we’ve fallen into another commonly used YA trope, but at least we’re dealing with grown-ups this time, right?
While I still think Once Upon A Time is an advertisement for Disney movies (Whistle While You Work is not from the Brothers Grimm; Pongo is an overt reference to 101 Dalmatians), it’s still doing wonderful things for the fantasy genre in making it accessible and acceptable to the masses. If you haven’t seen Season 1, it’s out on DVD and available through Netflix. Catch up and we can talk about it.
Are you watching? What are your thoughts? If not Once Upon A Time, what should I be watching?