Once Upon a Time: Not an instant classic, but worth getting LOST in for a while

I’m a day late, but I watched the new ABC show, Once Upon a Time this evening. They had my attention with “fairy tale characters stuck in the real world.” Finding out that it was written by Adam Horowitz and Eddie Kitsis from LOST, with Damon Lindelof listed as a “consulting producer” meant that I was going to have to at least give it a shot.

The pilot didn’t have the scope and production values of the LOST pilot, but I doubt we’ll ever see that again on network television.  LOST‘s pilot was very nearly a viable feature film. Plus, “fairy tale realm” is incredibly hard to pull off in terms of costumes, props, scenery and dialogue without ending up somewhere embarrassing.

Once Upon a Time wasn’t quite embarrassing, but it fell short of dazzling.  The acting was solid, but I suspect the writers need some time to hit their stride.  Also, on a local southern Indiana note, major props to New Albany High School alumni Josh Dallas, who played Prince Charming.

There were a lot of sly nods to LOST throughout. A few obvious ones I caught:

  • The clock in Storybrooke was stuck at 8:15 (two of “The Numbers”)
  • The house number on the Mayor/Wicked Queen’s house was 108, the sum of the numbers and the number of minutes on the timer from the Swan station
  • The protagonist’s last name is Swan, and her room key had a swan motif reminiscent of the Dharma swan logo
  • On one of the cuts to commercial, Chris noticed that they used the same “BOOM!” noise to end the scene.
  • I didn’t catch this, but an article I found published in August mentioned a Geronimo Jackson bumper sticker
  • When Emma asks the Mayor if she loves her son, they made use of a 360 degree pan around the main character, a technique used often on LOST (typically centered on Jack)

…And I wasn’t even trying particularly hard to catch those. I’m betting a second viewing would yield more LOST easter eggs in Once Upon a Time.

Thematically, I think the most obvious carryover from LOST is the emphasis on the parent-child relationship. Emma, the protagonist and the child of Snow White and Prince Charming, is both an orphan–or more accurately a foundling–and the birth mother of Henry. There’s a brief touching moment with Gepetto’s real world version, lamenting the fact that he and his wife were never able to have a child.

However, where LOST gave more screen time to fathers, it looks like Once Upon a Time may be putting mommy dearest on the hot seat. Snow White gives Rumpelstilskin the name of her child, knowing it will give him power over her, in exchange for information about the Queen’s plans. Emma requested a closed adoption when she gave up Henry, a decision the Mayor throws in her face. And Henry implies that living with the original evil Stepmother is an exercise in misery.

A mysterious place that is more than it seems, populated by morally-conflicted characters who are searching for what they’ve LOST

Yeah, I’ll be tuning in again next week.


  1. Kim Steadman

    How do you come to these conclusions??? It was a good show but a little slow at first. Thanks for all the great insights that i didn’t even notice!

  2. KatFrench

    Thanks, Kim. 🙂

    I like dissecting stories–taking them apart and looking at their strengths and weaknesses. I think it’s the editor part of my brain.

    I agree it was a little slow, and also they need to inject a little more humor. It’s an ambitious idea; they didn’t completely pull it off perfectly in the pilot. But it’s also a talented group of writers and actors, so I’m willing to give them a couple of weeks to work the kinks out.


Leave a Reply