It is unfortunate, but not rare, when a beloved show spirals down so epically, it completely abandons its fans in the wilderness. These folks wonder, “How on earth did I get here?” and “Why didn’t I turn back when I had the chance?” Such a thing has happened to almost every follower of ABC’s long-running series “Once Upon a Time”. When the show first came out (six seasons ago), the premise was engaging and put enough of a spin on the original fairytales to entice a large viewership. Unfortunately, the need to fatten wallets trumped the need to create a meaningful product. Thus, OUAT fell into the cyclical pattern of “Meet Villain – Beat Villain – Achieve Happiness – Meet Villain – Beat Villain – Achieve Happiness” so on and so forth…
Personally, I never got over the betrayal of the sloppy “Frozen” season. That debacle should’ve been enough to confirm that OUAT had officially reached “cash cow” status. However, I don’t think I truly realized how far gone the show was, until I suffered through the musical episode.
It is no secret that musicals are “in”. Sparked by the success of the 2003 flick “Chicago”, our culture re-embraced musical theater including the creation of the popular show “Glee” and the return of live TV specials. (If you’ll recall, fans of ABC’s musical show “Galavant” were downright inconsolable when it wasn’t renewed for a third season.) So, yes… In theory, dreaming up a musical episode for a Disneyfied television show makes complete sense. In practice however, I’d say that the crossover musical episode from The Flash/Supergirl/Arrow turned out to be far more bearable, maybe even far more enjoyable.
So, what actually happened in the OUAT musical special, and was anything done well? Surprisingly, yes. The episode opens up with a pre-curse scene. The power couple, Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), are expressing that they don’t understand why they’ve just burst into song. Honestly; the number was adorable, the tune was catchy, and both Goodwin and Dallas had pleasant vocal chops. I found myself feeling amused that OUAT may be poking fun at the Disney formula. I was mistaken. From there, the episode cut to another “tragic” backstory scene of Emma as a foster child (because we obviously haven’t had enough of that). In this scene, Emma is crushed because she is told that she has no place singing in a talent show. Anyways, back in pre-curse fairytale land, Snow and Charming discover that their life is now a musical because they made a wish to stop the evil queen. Apparently, armies and weapons were in short supply, because the heroes are given the “power of music” to stop Regina. Through the mystical “power of music”, Emma will forever have her parents’ song in her heart to overcome all obstacles. Barf. Again, why did the writers have to address the music at all? Was anyone really begging for this flimsy explanation?
For the most part, the vocals were fine (even great). Despite that, I can’t think of many things (outside of the opening number) that didn’t make me cringe. What was the most painful moment? Was it Regina’s scary jazzercise routine or Emma’s clenched teeth solo at the climax? Personally, I reached my breaking point when Regina, Snow, and Charming all engaged in a “belt-off”. This desperate-to-please spectacular was bursting with missteps that ranged from sad to pathetic.
In conclusion, I think this episode offended me so deeply because it categorized everything that has gone wrong with the show. Even the cast is aware that OUAT is a sinkhole, as several main characters ended their contracts despite the renewal. Simply, OUAT is not what it was (and hasn’t been for a long time). If you think I’m being harsh, pop in any of the episodes from season 1 and follow it up with this cotton-candy fueled, gag-fest.
Admittedly, I did chuckle when my favorite character (Rumpelstiltskin) smiled at the camera and refused to sing. If only the others had followed his lead.