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Is ‘Once Upon a Time’ worth watching? I watched 3 episodes to find out

“Once Upon a Time” is the story of a mother with a troubled past. Her 10-year-old son — who she gave up for adoption long ago — believes his mother is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming.

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A scene from the “Once Upon a Time” episode “Lost Girl” on ABC

A scene from the “Once Upon a Time” episode “Lost Girl” on ABC.

Jack Rowand, ABC

SALT LAKE CITY — It can be hard to find new shows to get into, with so many series available on TV and streaming platforms and nothing but time to spare because of the coronavirus pandemic.

So I dropped in to watch three random episodes of ABC’s “Once Upon a Time,” available on Netflix, to get a taste of the show and see if it’s worth watching.

“Once Upon a Time” is the story of a mother with a troubled past. Her 10-year-old son — who she gave up for adoption long ago — believes his mother is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming.

“In this fantasy series, a young woman is drawn to a small Maine town and discovers that it’s filled with elements of the fairy tale world,” Netflix’s description reads.

Content advisory: “Once Upon a Time” is rated TV-PG, according to IMDB. The series contains violence, implied sexual content, innuendo and “iffy language,” according to Common Sense Media.


‘An Apple Red as Blood’

Season 1, episode 21

Netflix description: “As Henry begs Emma to stay in Storybrooke, Regina works on a plot that could rid her of Emma permanently.”

  • It’s clear there are two related storylines: one that takes place in the “real” modern world of Storybrooke, Maine, and another that takes place in a magical fairy tale world. It was interesting to watch the two play out together as the episode switches back and forth between them. It was also intriguing to watch how the show brings together characters from a variety of fairy tales, from “Little Red Riding Hood” to “Alice in Wonderland.”
  • I enjoyed seeing Snow White lead a daring rescue mission and fight off the bad guys in this episode. In this case, it’s the princess attempting to save Prince Charming, which I thought was a fun variation on the typical fairy tale.
  • Something else I appreciated about the series from this episode was the emphasis on family. Several of the characters are motivated by love for their children, including both protagonist biological mother Emma Swan and antagonist foster mother Regina Mills with their son, Henry Mills, which I thought was inspiring. The content of the show also seems to be pretty family-friendly for viewers.

‘Good Form’

Season 3, episode 5

Netflix description: “Hook attempts to save David from the deadly Dream Shade poison and remembers when he first came to Neverland. Emma tries to get a message to Henry.”

  • It appears at this point in the show that the two storylines have merged, with the main characters from Storybrooke now in Neverland from “Peter Pan,” and everything taking place in the fairy tale world. The main characters are the same, but the relationships between them are more developed. Loyalties have also shifted as Emma and Regina are working on the same team, united on a mission to save Henry.
  • It was interesting to see in this episode how heroes and villains as they are traditionally known have switched roles. It seems Hook is a hero as part of Emma’s team and Peter Pan is a villain aided by his band of Lost Boys, which gave the narrative a twist.
  • This episode shows Hook’s backstory. This is just one example of how “Once Upon a Time” adds depth to classic fairy tale characters by reimagining their pasts and what drives them.

‘Mother’s Little Helper’

Season 6, episode 16

Netflix description: “Gold and Belle urge Emma to help Gideon defeat the Black Fairy. Henry experiences a strange shift in his powers. Hook takes a high-stakes gamble.”

  • The storylines in Storybrooke and the fairy tale world have separated again, but are more directly connected than in the first episode I watched. It’s evident just how complex the series has gotten, with various fairy tale characters involved in different narratives across multiple worlds. And there is a new villain, the Black Fairy, which shows the story is constantly changing.
  • It is apparent in the Storybrooke narrative that Henry has magical abilities and that something abnormal is happening with them. Regina and Henry seek information from a man who has had similar abilities about what is going on and how to solve the problem. The man tries to bargain for “Hamilton” tickets among other demands in exchange for the information. I thought this was a fun way to also incorporate the real world in the story.
  • It dawned on me while I was watching this episode that the fairy tale elements in the show extend beyond characters and places to objects as well. For example, Hook in this episode tries to bargain for a magic bean that will open a portal to a different realm. “Once Upon a Time” is a true blend of fairy tales, bringing multiple stories together in an interesting way.

Is it worth watching? Yes. I would be interested in going back to watch the series from the beginning and see how everything connects, based on the three episodes I watched.