Blu-ray Review: Once Upon A Time (The Complete First Season)

There comes a point in a relationship where you have to share the remote control on a Sunday night or jeopardize the relationship. They want a little time with you and the TV after an afternoon of pro football. You can run to another room to watch Football Night in America, but that will put you deeper in the doghouse. They want you to sit next to them and enjoy the remaining waking hours of the weekend. This is considered part of the price of love. You just suck up the pain and hope the show ends before halftime. This is what happened last Fall when Once Upon a Time debuted. My wife was excited about a show about beloved fairytale characters starring a wife from Big Love as Snow White. The initial instinct was to gut through it until I saw who was playing Rumpelstiltskin. Once Upon A Time: The Complete First Season knows how to appeal to both sides of the loveseat.

Bail bondswoman Emma Swan (House‘s Jennifer Morrison) is surprised to be found by the 10-year-old son she had given up for adoption. Henry Mills (Jared S. Gilmore) doesn’t merely want to meet her. He needs her help. He fears his adopted mother Regina Mills (Swingtown‘s Lana Parrilla) is really the Wicked Queen from Snow White. Emma’s not sure if the kid is really her son, but she rather positive the kid has issues. She loads the kid up in her VW Bug and drives up to the rustic town of Storybrooke, Maine. Henry’s mother is the mayor so she seems to run town. She doesn’t like Emma and wants her returning to Boston promptly. Emma gets hints that there’s a strange magic in the little town. Audience members get to see flashbacks to when the characters were on the other side in the fairytale universe. Henry wasn’t lying about his hunches. “The Thing You Love Most” contains the element of the show that excited me the most. Emma uncovers that the town’s major investor is Mr. Gold. Who’s this enigma that controls so much real estate and runs an antique store? It’s none of other than Robert Carlyle, the second greatest Scottish actor of all time. The man dominated the screen in Trainspotting, The Full Monty and The World Is Not Enough. His secret identity is Rumpelstiltskin. He has made deals with every one. This allows him to be a bit of a wild card since even the Wicked Queen doesn’t control him. Carlyle is in his natural environment getting to be sly and devious through out the series. He understands how to tempt good characters into extreme contracts. He brings a richness to an already elegant production. He provides the emotional foil for Ginnifer Goodwin’s Snow White character.

Over the course of the season Emma finds she can’t leave Storybrooke. She’s the key to the citizen’s regaining their fairytale identities. Each episode delves into the character’s life before and after the big event. “Snow Falls” introduces Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) as a sleeping beauty. “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” reveals the sheriff is the Huntsman from Snow White. Can he cross the Wicked Queen once more? “Red-Handed” placed Little Red Riding Hood in the diner. “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” puts Giancarlo Esposito in a bottle. Gus from Breaking Bad is hanging with Trainspotting‘s Begbie. Maybe this is a fairytale series, but that’s casting a man can be proud to watch.

The production design gives an otherworldly quality to the scenes in the Fairytale world. The show looks as fantastical as the recent spate of big budget Snow White movies that hit the theater. There’s a glow to the action. Once Upon A Time: The Complete First Season is a series that appeals to women, but doesn’t make other viewers feel trapped on the sofa. In the midst of reworking legendary characters, they bring in the joy of Robert Carlyle. Once Upon A Time is a couch potato couple’s perfect fairytale.

The Episodes

“Pilot,” “The Thing You Love Most,” “Snow Falls,” “The Price of Gold,” “That Still Small Voice,” “The Shepherd,” “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” “Desperate Souls,” “True North,” “7:15 A.M.,” “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree,” “Skin Deep,” “What Happened to Frederick,” “Dreamy,” “Red-Handed,” “Heart of Darkness,” “Hat Trick,” “The Stable Boy,” “The Return,” “The Stranger,” “An Apple Red as Blood” and “A Land Without Magic.”

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The Blu-ray 1080p transfers bring out all the details The audio is Dolby Digital Surround. There’s a Spanish dub track. The episodes are subtitled.

Once Upon A Time: Origins gives the background of certain fairytale characters including Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Josh Dallas provides the narrative.

Fairy Tales In The Modern World
(20:27) lets cast and crew talk about how the Disney fairytale cartoons inspired the show. Robert Carlyle admits as a kid he was freaked out by a live version of Rumpelstiltskin.

Welcome to StoryBrooke
(6:46) gives a tour of the location Steveston village near Vancouver.

Building Character
(7:20) reveals how they took the fairytales and converted them into modern characters in Storybrooke. They tape a story meeting dealing with one character’s development.

The Story I Remember…Snow White (4:29) lets the cast remember how the fairytale goes.

Audio Commentaries
include Co-creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz explaining the how the show came together on “Pilot.” “7:15 A.M.” lets Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas relive their roles. “Skin Deep” teams up Robert Carlyle with writer Jane Espenson. “The Stable Boy” reins in Kitsis, Horowitz and Lana Parrilla. “A Land Without Magic” introduces Jennifer Morrison into the mix of Kitsis and Horowitz.

Once Upon a Time Orchestral Suite
(4:05) is an audio only version of the main theme.

The Fairest Bloopers of Them All
(2:20) is a montage of flubbed lines and lots of botched falls.

Deleted Scenes
(12:53) are nine sliced out moments including “Meet Rumplestiltskin.” They really serve him a bad lunch in prison.

Easter Eggs
are hidden away.

Once Upon A Time: The Complete First Season is a nice way to spend a quiet evening with someone you love. Fairytales for some and Robert Carlyle for the others on the loveseat.

ABC Studios presents Once Upon A Time: The Complete First Season. Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas and Robert Carlyle. Boxset Contents: 22 episodes on 5 Blu-rays. Released: August 28, 2012. Available at

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