Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis, Once Upon a Time‘s co-creators/showrunners, decided to give the show a massive shake-up ahead of the new season writing out an abundance of much loved characters including the show’s lead Emma Swan after the departure of actress Jennifer Morrison. The soft reboot of the show has divided fans with many unable to accept the axing of the likes of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) while others are excited to see the show tell a completely new story.
It also serves as the perfect place for new viewers to jump on the bandwagon!
In what the showrunners are calling a requel (part reboot, part sequel), we are introduced to a whole host of new characters. In this opening episode a few are more important to the story than others.
The first and most important are the grown up version of Henry Mills played by Andrew J. West, who we were introduced to at the end of Season 6 and the latest iteration of Cinderella (Dania Ramirez). There is clearly chemistry between the pair and the show instantly begins to lay the foundations of the next big love affair akin to Henry’s grandparents Snow White and Prince Charming. However, this version of Cinderella isn’t all sweetness and light and very much like most of the shows beloved lead females she has a roguish quality to her which we see both in the new Enchanted Forest and our realm in Seattle where her cursed alter ego Jucinda is equally as fierce and impulsive. In true Once Upon a Time fashion there is also a major twist to the traditional story, for Cinderella it’s enacting revenge on the Prince who she believes is responsible for murdering her father – I wouldn’t recommend leaving a glass slipper at the scene of the crime Cinders!
The other notable new face is Lady Tremaine (Gabrielle Anwar), Cinderella’s wicked stepmother who like many villainess’ before her is incredibly camp and outlandish but already promises to be a delicious antagonist for our heroes. Her The Devil Wears Prada inspired alter ego Victoria Belfrey is equally as eccentric and seemingly determined to not only preserve her curse but also make her stepdaughter Jucinda’s life a misery.
While many of the faces from the past have gone there are still three that remain integral to the story. Firstly Regina, (Lana Parrilla) who we see at the beginning of the episode wishing young Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) well as he sets off on his own adventure, has fallen victim to a curse not unlike her own where she now lives as Roni, oblivious to her real life and true identity. Roni is strong willed, wise cracking, denim wearing bar owner who is potentially more than a match for Lady Tremaine’s ice cold Victoria – and wait until Regina resurfaces, Lady Tremaine/Victoria better run and hide.
Also along for the ride is Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) , estranged for wife Emma and also victim to the curse, he is living as Officer Rogers a rookie cop working for Seattle PD. He quickly makes Detective and is partnered with the shady Detective Weaver (Robert Carlyle) who has a habit of taking the law into his own hands. Weaver also happens to be Mr Gold/Rumplestiltskin who no doubt knows more than he is currently letting on.
The episode itself is a bit all over the place and seemingly only serves to introduce us to all these new characters both new and old. The queerness of the earlier seasons is still there in plain sight and it would appear that it’s heart is still in the right place but the episode felt a little convoluted, more so then usual.
The casting of adult Henry is perhaps the episodes biggest plus point, and potentially the shows saving grace, as not only does Andrew J. West look like he could be Jared S. Gilmore’s older brother but he also has the charisma and charm to engage the viewers. And fans of The Walking Dead will know he has the acting chops to pull this off too.
However the changes made have been brutal and plenty which will no doubt alienate many fans. Despite moving it the Friday night graveyard slot, ABC will hoping that enough of the shows charm and heart is still there to keep viewers around for another season. But can a show really survive without so many of its stars?