October 7, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Once Upon A Time”



This season’s Version 2.0 of ONCE UPON A TIME exists because of dwindling ratings, which led to a reduced budget and consequently a cast dump.  (The show was also moved to a less demanding Friday night slot.)  The potential advantage of that hardship was that after 6 seasons, series creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz could rethink their show, and try something new and different.  Disappointingly, they haven’t:  the opening episode of Season 7 is basically just a reboot of Once‘s original pilot.

The new Storybrooke is Hyperion Heights, a neighborhood of Seattle.  (No word on how close it’s located to Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital.)  Once again, it’s filled with fairy tale characters who have been cursed into forgetting their true identities.  Where the Once pilot had Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) roused by her forgotten son Henry (Jared S. Gilmore, who cameos here) to save the town from the curse, the new premiere has the adult Henry (now Andrew J. West) awakened by his unknown daughter Lucy (Alison Fernandez).  Where Storybrooke was beset by Evil Queen Regina, who was also Mayor of the town (Lana Parrilla) and Henry’s adopted mother, the Big Bad here is Lucy’s grandmother Victoria Belfry, who’s also a ruthless tycoon (Gabrielle Anwar).  Instead of a badass Snow White, we have a badass Cinderella (Dania Ramirez, from Devious Maids), who’s Lucy’s mom and who sweeps up a chicken joint in Hyperion Heights, while flashbacks reveal that her romance with Henry was a variation on Snow’s with Prince Charming.  This time around, Regina is a kindly barkeep, while Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) is a crooked cop, and Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) is his honest partner.

It’s still a good yarn, and Ramirez is a very appealing Cinderella, but anyone who’s been watching the show from the start will find every story beat familiar.  Perhaps Kitsis and Horowitz mean to move things along faster this time, although there’s no indication of that in the premiere.  For now, at least, it seems like there’s going to be a laborious wait while each character has his or her awakening while our heroes work to remove the curse.  Constant references in the dialogue to “making your own story” fail to convince that anything really new is in store.  (Based on the promos, Jennifer Morrison will be a guest star next week for even more familiarity.)

The lack of originality is surprising, because until Once got into a rut, Kitsis and Horowitz embraced the challenge of reshaping their show from season to season, memorably wiping out the original curse in the Season 1 finale.  There is something of a different visual look, because ABC seems to have given director Ralph Hemecker (who’s shot more than two dozen episodes) a pilot-sized budget for the reboot, allowing for plenty of location shooting in a city rather than a picturesque small town, but we’ll see how much of that remains in future weeks, and in any case it won’t make up for predictable storytelling.

If there’s a new family audience available on Friday nights, perhaps they’ll watch this Once without knowing or caring that it’s actually Twice.  For the show’s continuing audience, though, there seems to be little reason to watch substantially the same story reenacted by a somewhat new cast.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."