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82 of 89 people found the following review helpful
There are some big changes in Storybrook in this second season of "Once Upon a Time." With the breaking of the Evil Queen's spell at the end of last season, Storybrook's residents are once again aware of their fairy tale identities. However, nothing in this dual world of reality and fairy tale is ever simple. For one thing, no one can leave town. For another, it isn't easy to get back to the original enchanted land that is home for the characters. For a third, Regina, the once and future evil queen, just can't seem to go straight, locking horns with Prince Charming, with Mr. Gold, and finally with a long lost relative.

There will be excitement and enchantment galore in the second season, as the backstories of yet more characters are revealed, and as characters travel between their two worlds. Emma and Snow make a dangerous trip back into the land of enchantment, only to be stranded and left in mortal danger. Their journey will give Snow a chance to teach Emma about motherhood and magic. Along the way, Emma will finally begin to understand that her own powers may extend past her street smarts and pluck. Her journey, and the viewer's, will be enhanced by meeting THE Captain Hook (who comes with his own complicated backstory) and Jack's bean stalk (and the Giant). Prince Charming will be acting sheriff in Emma's absence, and face his own challenges, including a missing Henry and the framing of Red for murder. Regina will struggle to keep a promise to foster son Henry not to use magic, while she and Rumplestiltskin may be compelled, unhappily, to cooperate to face a truly dangerous opponent from their collective past, an opponent who will force life-changing choices on a number of characters.

One of the attractions of the show is its creative mixing of fairy tales from any genre. How else, for example, to explain Ruby (a werewolf in her alternate identity) talking Dr. Victor Von Frankenstein into performing life-saving surgery on an auto accident victim? "Once Upon a Time: The Second Season" is very highly recommended to its fans, who are likely to enjoy more good storylines and excellent work by a solid ensemble cast.
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85 of 95 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon December 11, 2012
Giants, ogres, werewolves, Frankenstein, Mulan, Captain Hook ... what do all the things have in common? Once Upon a Time Season Two, that's what! This is the series that has single-handedly changed the face of television fantasy and made ABC a major player in creative, prime-time entertainment.

This show has almost limitless possibilities and (at the writing of this review) is creatively satisfying the potential of an ever-expanding setting while maintaining continuity with previous episodes. To date Once Upon still hasn't sold out to the prevailing model of dark/edgy/gritty, a thematic bandwagon I'm so sick of I could literally hurl, and more importantly they stick with the main characters from season one, continuing to develop them in a huge way (e.g. the welcome "manning up" of Charming) while constantly introducing new ones.

Also, I've sort of come to expect sub-standard or straight-up cheesy FX from television as a given and this is where Once Upon just continues to amaze me. What I really find astonishing is when I hear other people actually labeling the CG as bad... I guess I just don't get it. I mean if we see a dragon on TV we already know it's not real; we just hope it's convincing enough to maintain the illusion that the events we're watching might actually be taking place somewhere... out there. I say kudos to the producers for their frugal reliance on CG which is inherently a technology always one step ahead of being outdated and overly scrutinized as more people become fluent in graphics tech. In other words, too many people know how the trick is done to maintain the illusion if it's the only trick up the sleeve, so to speak, and so I guess it's a good thing that Once Upon excels in the areas of camera-work (including green-screen), costumes, sets, lighting, makeup, fighting and action choreography.

This is a bigger season with more action, lots of unexpected and clever plot twists, new realms and more fantasy than season one with just enough added drama to enhance adult appeal without detracting from the original premise; less emphasis on Emma, spotlight on Charming and Snow as their characters are reinvigorated, less of Henry, much more of The Dark One (i.e. Mr. Gold), sllightly less screen-time for the Evil Queen as new dangers and villains are introduced and based on the way this series is gaining momentum, I'd predict it may very well be a five year run because it just "feels" like the writers, producers, actors etc. actually enjoy what they're doing. :o)
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
So says Red Riding Hood, who is also a werewolf, to Dr. Whale, who is also Dr. Frankenstein. They're two residents of Storybrooke, the New England town that wasn't there before 1983, when the Evil Queen moved the whole population. Sending fairy tale characters from their enchanted world to the modern world isn't new to ABC--a short lived, broadly played sitcom called The Charmings had a similar premise. But Once Upon a Time is a sumptuous "theme park opera" in which the relationships and the relatives are as serpentine as Maleficent the dragon.

Season Two brought the realization to the characters that they were actual fairy tale people. They didn't believe young Henry last year, but like the existence of Mr. Snuffle-Upagus, eventually you can't keep denying the truth. So now the characters have dual essences; they remember who they were and who they are. Prince Charming (or should I say "Cool Hand Charming?") takes control and sets the town straight. Snow White and Emma Swan realize they're mother and daughter, and are embarrassed about all the intimate talks they shared (apparently Snow had a one-night stand, but it was caused by a spell).

The season also brings us the even evil-er Queen Cora, played by Barbara Hershey (who renamed herself "Barbara Seagull" in the `70s to draw attention to the plight of the species, and then changed it back). Was the name "Cora" drawn from the character Margaret "Wicked Witch of the West" Hamilton played in hundreds of Maxwell House commercials before her passing?

The other major newcomer is the beardy, Revlon-eyed Captain Hook, played with vim and vigor (but mostly vim) by Colin O'Donoghue, who in a bonus feature seems to be shocked by the amorous attention he apparently is getting from fans. (It's not like he asked to wear the sleek leather outfit with the flowing cape and the shiny chain around his neck and the shirt open to there, ladies!) Hook is much better in the second half of the season when he settles into a supporting role. He plays well off the other actors, who have really honed their roles and created a nice chemistry. The whole season seems to really kick into gear by the midway point.

Moving right along to biology, what's with Snow White and the Prince doin' it on camera, as their daughter and grandson enter the bedchamber? Without being a spoiler, Snow is racked with guilt about another deed, yet after being found together with nothing on but a 250-count cotton percale, they wait for their family to leave and get back to gettin' it on. Even Mom and Dad Dunphy were shocked, embarrassed and angry when their kids discovered them doing the same thing, and they're not even Disney characters.

No matter how complex the storylines get and the double crosses get double crossed this season, the standard bearers for the series remain Lana Parilla as Regina the Evil Queen (what's really magic is how she never smears that ruby red lip gloss) and Robert "Full Monty" Carlyle as Rumpel Stiltskin (but you can call him "Rumpel").

Like Dark Shadows, another ABC series, in which vampire Barnabas was racked with guilt about his murderous condition, yet slipped in and out of being a hero and a villain, so do Regina and Rumpel. Between that classic conflict and their acting skills, they're the ones upon which most of the rest of the show radiates. They can't turn nice, or you'd have no story. But you find yourself hoping they'll reform. And they do, then they don't, then they do.

Season two of Once Upon a Time looks like a movie on Blu-ray. The details of the costuming and art direction show up nicely. The special effects are mostly impressive, though the seams show once in a while. But you just couldn't do a show with the illusory sets and vistas in this series back in the day, before green screens and digital effects made such things faster and more economically feasible for TV.

And now for the bonus features (wait, let me get out my invisible chalk). This set has some of the most entertaining on any DVD set. Ariel Winter of Modern Family traces the convoluted family trees of the characters, so completely outlandish that even the cast themselves has trouble keeping it straight. Several interesting audio commentaries add to the understanding of how stories were created and how the actors approached their roles, especially after the curse ended, and they had to be two people in one. Gennifer "Snow" Goodwin explains that "Bobby" Carlyle actually changes Rumpel's behavior based on which character he encounters. Carlyle himself has assigned numbers to the levels of Rumpel's intensity. This is why I love commentaries!

The gem of the bonus features is a spoof of Good Morning America that features funny commercials (particularly the one for Granny's Diner in which Red does her impression of SCTV's Edna Boil) and the cast gets to have fun making fun. Check out how unctuous Doctor Whale is in his segment. They're having a blast with this short video, which was played at this year's ComicCon.

Next season promises a visit to Never Land and the appearance of Ariel. Even though the best of TV's series can ebb and flow as Once Upon a Time has this season, who couldn't resist sticking with it?
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2013
I've been an ardent fan of the show from the beginning, of the extraordinary cast in particular (they get 5 Stars!)- in seasons one and two I waited each week with baited breath for the next episode. But even though I want to see what happens next, and I'm watching season three, some things have troubled me about the show from the start. I've thought about it quite a bit, and though I'm not sure how well I can express it, I'll try. [NOTE: There's an update at the end of my review.]

I read recently that the director Sidney Lumet said "In a well-written drama, the story comes out of the characters. The characters in a well-written melodrama come out of the story." Though I'm still puzzling over what this means, exactly, by that definition I'd say Once Upon a Time is a melodrama, in that it is plot-driven, rather than character-driven. I think in the best works, in any genre, a great story zigzags back and forth between drama and melodrama, i.e., between plot and character development, each seamlessly informing and enriching the other. ONCE is woefully inadequate in the character development department. The characters are one-dimensional. These fantastic actors (and we fans) deserve so much more.

Before you say "They're fairy tale characters, for goodness sake, what do you expect?" I expect good drama- character development to rival, complement mythic themes. In thinking about the show, it finally dawned on me that the character neglect reminds me of the cognitive deficits in certain syndromes. In autism, for example, especially Asperger's Syndrome, one thing that characterizes many patients is a preoccupation with the trees to the exclusion of the forest. Such patients focus for hours on separate parts, on the mechanics of things. An analogy might be someone intent on cataloging the stars in the sky, one after another, but being unable to appreciate the majesty of the cosmos, feel a sense of awe and wonder when appraising the night sky in its entirety.

Similarly, in Oliver Sacks's wonderful book THE MAN WHO MISTOOK HIS WIFE FOR A HAT, he describes the behavior and bizarre "reality" of patients who've suffered right-hemisphere brain damage. What remains is the left hemisphere, and the way it processes info is by parts and feature analysis. Lacking the right brain, which puts everything together, sees relations, wholes, and attaches feelings and significance to perceptions and events, the left brain focuses on sequential details, linear analysis, which results in a very odd and unsatisfying experience for those affected, sadly. Indeed, patients with Asperger's and RH damage tend to have great difficulties with personal relationships, their perceptual blinders rendering them unable to apprehend other people in all their complexity. People who love them often find interactions extremely frustrating.

ONCE reminds me of that brand of reality, a focus on the machinations of the plot, with scant appreciation of the depth, profundity and emotional complexity of human beings, both individually and in concert with each other. The characters' major function is to drive the plot forward, it's the plot itself that take precedence, like a big math problem (albeit at times an intriguing one).

The antithesis of this, for me, might be the pithy, splendid TV Series THE CROW, STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN or the movie FAIRY TALE: A TRUE STORY. They succeed as both superb melodrama and superb drama, emotionally affecting, weaving intricate plot lines and characters into tapestries that become far more than the sum of their parts.

And another observation, at the risk of sounding sexist- I can't help but wonder if the fact that all the writers on the show are male doesn't contribute to this preoccupation with mechanics and linear details (research has shown that left brain processes tend to predominate in males, whereas females tend to use both hemispheres in tandem). Seriously, if I didn't know better I'd swear the show was written by a bunch of 14 year-old boys with high-level Asperger's Syndrome (some Asperger's folks have high IQs, see the world in simplistic, black and white terms, but construct super-elaborate scenarios around simplified themes from which they're loathe to deviate).

[Update: I stand corrected- as others kindly pointed out, they've corrected that situation and have hired female writers, I'm happy to learn.] Fairy tales have traditionally been the province of girls, much more so than boys. Granted, most fairy tales were recorded &/or collected by men, but I've always pictured them being offered as gifts, infused with hopes and dreams, by mothers down through the ages, told as bedtime stories, a feminine oral tradition fueling their children's- especially their daughters'- imaginations. I DO applaud the writers for depicting strong, heroic women, kudos for that. All I know is that what l most love about fairy tales...isn't here, it's missing.

Were I the head writer on the show, I'd ensure that the writers focus less on the dizzying intricacies and pyrotechnics of the plot (could it BE more pointlessly complicated??), and slow down a bit, putting flesh on characters' bones and exploring relationships between them. Can you do that without sacrificing clever plot twists, and while still showing what's happening with multiple characters? Sure, ST. ELSEWHERE, for example, did it spectacularly well (the best TV show ever, I think)- and the hit show BORGEN too, from Denmark. And actually, come to think of it, another offering starring Ginnifer Goodwin, HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU, also succeeded in that respect (at least I think so, not everyone liked it as much as I). In a review of it it was noted that even a brief scene in which Bradley Cooper declined Ben Affleck's offer of a cigarette bespoke volumes about the characters (while also advancing the plot), no wasted moments. Anyway, the marvelous actors on ONCE deserve such character development and subtlety, that's what I'm waiting for, yearning for, anyway...

Then again, when I'm feeling a little less magnanimous, I wonder if maybe the writers and producers don't know EXACTLY what they're doing. Now and then there's this nagging feeling that somehow I'm being made a fool of, that maybe someone's having a good laugh at my expense. Why would ANYONE stick around, year after year, given so few crumbs, on a mere promise of something that never seems to materialize? Where's the payoff for my attentiveness, my loyalty? Perhaps some suit said: "Mix up the metaphors! Throw in everything but the kitchen sink, THAT'LL keep 'em guessing. Hell, we can even call it a new GENRE!" Or: "Just toss around a few buzzwords, you know, true love, true hearts, true WHATEVER...human imagination being what it is, they'll supply their OWN profundity. HEY! How about SAVIOR- it's LOADED with associations, throw THAT in!" Could there be a standing bet as to how long the show can be drawn out, how much profit can be amassed, how much convoluted but simplistic DRIVEL can be heaped on hapless fans before they begin to get wise? You know the old saying, you can fool some of the people... I haven't given up on ONCE yet, but I'm getting awfully close.

UPDATE: The show continued in much the same vein, until Episode 4, Quite a Common Fairy- smashing, brilliant, exactly the kind of stories, with the interpersonal punch, I've longed for. If the show continues with this kind of writing I'll be one happy fan. WELL DONE!

The Crow: Stairway To Heaven - The Complete Series

Fairytale: A True Story

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales

The Very Best of St. Elsewhere - Four Tape Set [VHS]

Borgen - Season 1

He's Just Not That Into You
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2012
Pure entertainment, intriguing and there is enough there to keep your interest. Definitely a cult type program, may not have a broad appeal however if you like fantasy and fairy tail although campy at times can definitely be nostalgic. I just love this kind of stuff so I may not be the best critic. I give it a thumbs up, worth purchasing!!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2013
i really enjoyed the 1st season, but not this one, it's always about the same characters, it's always about i'm bad but i wanna be good, no wait i wanna stay bad.....;
many of the action scènes are ridiculous, hard to find the big bad dangerous when all you need is just a sword to beat them......i sadly son't expect much from the show anymore
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2013
The introduction of new characters starts to get a little confusing and seems to try to substitute for giving some of the original characters more depth. It's starting to play like a soap opera. But we still watch on the edge of our seats and can't wait to see what happens next - so the magic is still there! :)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2013
The show just keeps getting better and better as you watch it. Additional characters and story arcs just keep up your interests and wondering 'what will happen and who did this or that' in the progression of each episode. I admit when my husband and I first started watching the first season on Netflix we thought it was sort of cheesy and the acting inconsistent but we pressed ahead from the first episodes and found out that the show just gets better and better as you watch each episode. We both actually enjoy watching it now and we are on the last episode of the second season. I like this season alot with the addition of Hook, Cora, Mulan, Neal (Emma's love interest from the past), Tiny and other various characters that spice up the episodes. I enjoy immensely the set designs and the BEAUTIFUL costumes the characters get to wear in fairytale land. So pretty and the male characters, especially Hook, have some very well made costumes, as well. Take it from my husband and me, the show is so worth pressing ahead and continuing to watch because, as I said already, it is worth it... Thanks and I hoped that helps...
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2013
I was a big fan of Season One of ONCE UPON A TIME and I eagerly anticipated Season 2 on DVD. Season 2 took my by surprise and not in a good way. A fun take on classic fairy tales has become a constant shift of characters and plot lines. ONCE UPON A TIME has put a lot of actors to work as nearly every episode introduces a new character or re-introduces one who has gone missing. The problem is there are so many characters and so many story lines that things are getting beyound silly.
The basic theme is good versus evil. Emma, Mary Margarite (Snow White) and David (Prince Charming) have an alliance against Regina (the Evil Queen), Cora (Regina's mother) and Mr. Gold aka the Dark One aka Rumplestiltskin. When good is about to triumph, evil kicks in and the never ending story continues. Back stories keep going on and nothing is linear in time. The modern day was a consistant but that is no longer true as time jumps for the present back 28 years ago.
The taking peoples' hearts was over the top this season. Enough of all this! Please!! Tell a story and develop a character and story line. Much to my disppointment a new character with an interesting story appears and is dead in the same episode. Why bother? And the puff of purple magic smoke that is used over and over again by Regina and her mother is used over and over again.
There are some great actors in this series but there are so many stories going that it's hard to keep track. Mr. Gold and Regina both try to go "good" but nothing good lasts.
Portals open and "humans" come to Storybrooke and the city's inhabitants are in danger. To confuse matters more, these fairy tale characters are joined by literary characters such as Hook (as in Captain Hook) and Dr. Frankenstein. Are classic TV show characters next.
I was disappointed in Season Two but the season finale caught my interest so no doubt, I will be watching Season 3.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2013
Not half as good as season one. The breaking of the curse was also the breaking of the charm.It's a pity but the magic's gone;
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