Enjoy fairy tales? Interested in a series with a new spin on classic stories? ABC seems to be putting a firm bet on all of that, as the show Once Upon a Time continues to be a ratings hit, something of a prime-time wonder-kid for the network, and in bountiful ways. The show is something that goes beyond the ordinary realm of standard television fare and becomes the entirely unique and inspired effort that keeps around 8 million viewers in suspense and full wonderment on a weekly basis as the storyline and the fascinating characters that inhabit its world of creativity continually unfolds before the audience.
The beginning of Season 1 introduced the intriguing concept that a curse had been placed upon a story-land world with classic fairy tale characters: only they were real, and the world they lived in had disappeared from their grasp when the Evil Queen cursed them to be living out a normal, droll live where there are no 'happy endings' -- the place of banishment? We'll just have to say it's the place we humans like to call home: the land of modern day Earth.
So.. Spoiler Alert: If you haven't seen Season 1 yet, you'll want to stop reading, as some details will be discussed that a viewer of season 1 can listen to but that a newcomer won't want spoiler. End transmission.
The season one finale introduced the concept of Magic arriving to the place of banishment, the land called Storybrooke: Rumplestiltskin (performed by Robert Carlyle, in one of his absolute best roles of his entire career) brought the ability for magic back to the land and an element of the curse seemed lifted when Emma was able to help save her son during what seemed to be a last few moments. People were so surprised by the season's end: Was the curse actually lifted? People could remember themselves. However, could they return to their magical land? Magic Eight Ball Says: Time will tell.
The second season's early stages actually introduced some concepts familiar for the Lost fans out there as the show takes some rather surprising turns at the start of the year and two elements in the show converge in a surprising way when the season picks up from where the series debut season left off. Some of the characters wind up back in the magical world and others are left living in Storybrooke. While most of the characters in Storybrooke want to find a way back, some are actually just trying to get those tossed back, um, well... back to Storybrooke land! Storylines diverge (in a similar fashion to some of Lost's later plot-divisions) and are then unfolded leading back to a convergence.
Emilie de Ravin has an expanded role as Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and fellow Lost alum Jorge Garcia returns to play a lovable Giant named, you guessed it: Tiny! Or Anton. Take your selective pick of names. Such as is the case with many of these characters on the show, as the majority of them seem to have "original names", "magical world names", and "Storybrooke" names. Huh... well, it does keep things interesting, for sure.
Other memorable supporting roles such as Grumpy (of the Seven Dwarfs) and Red (Riding Hood) are sadly minimized during this season but occasional great moments still happen to unfold for these parts, but with a much slower pace.
The main storyline elements in the second season seem to have been much more focused on the relationship between Regina (Lana Parrilla) and her mother, the introduction of dastardly villain Hook, and the continuing storyline of Rumplestiltskin looking to find his lost son and to save his relationship with him, as well as his love, Belle.
Along the way, some shocking plot-lines unravel with the other characters, especially with Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), Emma (Jennifer Morrison), Henry (Jared Gilmore), and the other lead characters as some curious and fascinating directions with them begin to unfold within the show.
Lastly, what happens when a surprise visitor stumbles upon Storybrooke? And is the visitor actually up to more than what it seems like at the start? The season concludes with an odd, briefly done and ultimately major change affecting Storybrooke in the form of some rather unwanted visitors with their own plans that might involve the magic of Storybrooke.
Once Upon a Time is one of the best series on all of television (network or cable, take your pick), and it continues to generally impress with its creative plot-lines, characters, and events that make the show one of ABC's must-watch programs. The immense creativity of the show is something that impresses often, with a seemingly never-ending array of unique ideas that the writer's come up with for different ways to spin classic fairy tales into entirely new stories for a more modern audience of television viewers.
Part of the genius of the show's creation is found in how it's something that has blended perfectly into the world of the fairy-tale universe established by parent company, Disney, who have told a immense array of the stories themselves in animated efforts over the past several decades. The creation of this show is a delight with many layers as a result and it feels like something which could only be found on the ABC network: it's perfect matching home.
The series is from creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, who were two of Lost's creative brains (they actually wrote the most episodes after Lost show-runners Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof). This season, however, they actually wrote only a handful of episodes and the stories excelling the plot-line the most seemed to be coming from some of the supporting players, such as Jane Espenson, who writes a lot of the best episodes during the season, and manages to keep things interesting.
The show mainly works so well because of the writing team, which was a well-assembled one to have to be sure, but the direction, costuming, set designs, and overall high production qualities all lend an aspect to the show that is distinct, impressive, and beautiful for the show's realized creativity.
Once Upon a Time has so many bursts of energetic creativity at each turn and these individuals who have helped in spades to make the series become a reality have continued to craft what is one truly amazing program; one which will go down in history as one of the greatest, smartest storybooks realized in the history of ABC television. This is one expanded fairy-tale universe you absolutely don't want to miss.
Once Upon a Time arrives on Blu-ray with a stunning 1080p AVC encoded presentation that is one of the greatest looking transfers you will find for a modern television show released on the format. The colors are lush and accurate, skin tones are natural, depth is impressive, and there certainly is an overall clarity and resolution that is remarkable. The image never seems soft or underwhelming. This is a great set with PQ that will please even the most "Grumpy" of fans. There actually seems to be a minor improvement in the clarity and quality of the video over season one.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation is a good improvement over the first season's lossless sound design. The first season's mix wasn't that involving and seemed almost too minimalistic in design with a front-heavy quality. The second season Blu-ray's audio isn't perfect, but it's a dramatic improvement. Surround usage becomes common during some adventurous sequences and crowd chatter and music expansion is a bit better on this set.
Overall, it certainly won't impress as a top-tier television production in the audio department (it was certainly never as interesting a sound mix as Lost was or shows like HBO's True Blood). However, fans will be pleased with the improvements made to Season 2. It's a crisp, clear, occasionally impressive, and worthwhile sound mix with a clear boost from lossless audio.
English SDH subtitles (for the deaf and hard of hearing), Spanish, and French subtitles are included.
The supplement element of the set is not quite as in-depth as I was personally hoping for it to be. The extra of note is going to be found in the six audio commentaries included across the season set, which comprises commentary from actors, writers, and producers affiliated with the series.
The set also contains several brief featurettes. The first, "Good Morning Storybrooke" is a silly, fake news program telecast with select cast members participating (along with some celebrities and comedians) to make a comedic spin on a news broadcast in Storybrooke. It also "resolves" (hopefully not...) some storylines seemingly dropped during the actual season of the show. It wasn't particularly great, but fans will want to check it out (especially to hear Robert Carlyle doing a voice-over ad for "Mr. Gold's" shop of wonders). The piece runs 12 minutes (HD).
A Fractured Family Tree (7 Min., HD) is narrated by ABC Family's Sarah Hyland, and it's basically an odd piece exploring the many ways in which almost all of the characters with exploring this show's family-tree seem to actually be related to one another to some degree. Generally silly, this piece felt just a tad "fluffy" but also somewhat interesting for connecting these family dots.
Deleted Scenes (11 min., HD) are found on the set as well with eight cut moments from the show's season. (Note: Extra deleted scenes are included on the Best Buy exclusive edition).
Girl Power (13 min., HD) is a fun feature exploring the kick-butt hero's of the show, who definitely demonstrate great "girl power" with finesse, strength, brains, and skills in large quantities. The show's main heroes tend to be women, and this piece explores that strong, wonderful element of the series with interviews with writers and actors from the show.
Sincerely, Hook (5 Min., HD) is a fairly standard EPK style interview with the actor who performs the Hook character on Once Upon a Time.
Bloopers (3 Min., HD) offer some comedic moments behind the scenes of the show's fun production.
The Best Buy exclusive edition includes an extra disc with a featurette on the style of the filmmaking, which takes a look at the production and costume designs on the series. The extended piece runs 15 minutes and explores some of the best design aspects of the show.
Once Upon a Time is one of the best shows on television at the moment. I was blown away throughout most of the second season, but it did have some moments where the writing of characters began feeling a bit repetitive, and the conclusion of the season (including the confusing finale) makes it end with a bit of a "huh?" going into the third season: yet the creatively smart team hasn't really let the show down much at all, yet, so one can hope everything turns out splendid with the third year of the show. It's a great thrill ride of fascinatingly realized characters in a fairy-tale world that's fun, enchanting, and quite (remarkably!) smart.
The second season PQ/AQ is impressive throughout and with a decent selection of extras, serious fans will absolutely want to add the set to their collections.