There are few things true geeks like more than a genuine debate about who or what is the best of something. Who’s the best Star Trek captain? (Kirk) Who’s the best Doctor? (David Tennant) So it’s really no surprise that when Once Upon a Time and Grimm, two very similar shows, debuted this fall people immediately started to argue over which was better and which would manage to escape cancellation.
I started off firmly in the Grimm camp. It’s so reminiscent of Buffy that it felt a bit like going back to a high school reunion. Everyone is the same, but slightly different. In this case, the effects were a bit better but they still had that somewhat cheesy, not quite scary look of the Buffy baddies. It made me want to say “Awww!” every time a demon showed his true colors.
But the biggest similarity between Grimm and Buffy is the story itself. Instead of a slayer, you have a Grimm. Instead of a teenage girl, you have a cop. Those might seem like big differences, but the stories of the shows run so closely it’s like they’re in parallel universes that almost touch but not quite.
Once Upon a Time, however, is a bit different. Like Grimm, the characters from the world of make-believe are real and living here with us but this is not their home. They all think they’re human, and that’s how they’re living, but only because they’ve all been transported here by the Evil Queen and lost their memories in the process.
Our heroine, she’s one of them, only she’s been living outside their little town. This makes her the most human of the lot and she holds the key to putting everything back to rights. The only problem is that there’s just one little boy who knows the truth and neither our heroine nor anyone else believes his story.
This show isn’t a weekly battle with a new bad guy, it’s an ongoing struggle to put an entire world, the world of fantasy and fairytale, back in its rightful place. And although no one knows who they really are, the evil or good that formed them has carried over into their human lives. Snow White is a gentle, naive teacher. The Evil Queen is nasty and controlling and even has a tree full of lovely red apples in her backyard.
The story of Once Upon a Time unfolds in our world and theirs, through a series of flashbacks to the time before the Evil Queen cast her spell. We see how Snow White and Prince Charming met and it’s full of exactly what you’d expect, but at the same time it’s a surprise. The prince defeats trolls with a shiny sword and shoots arrows like he’s Robin Hood, but his princess isn’t cowering in fear. It’s the story we all know, but not quite the way we know it.
So, despite starting off loving Grimm, I’ve found myself sucked in to the world of Once Upon a Time. I don’t how their stories will end. I can’t imagine how it’s all going to come together and I find myself rooting for the good guys and against evil just like I did reading about them as a kid. Despite revolving around characters we’ve all know since childhood, Once Upon a Time manages to tell a new story. Whether it leads us to the dwarfs and the safety of their cottage or into the darkest parts of the forest is hard to tell, but I can’t wait to find out.