Monday, August 18, 2014

TV Show Review: Once Upon a Time - Season 3

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Characters and acting that make us care about a great story
Cons: Some didn’t like first half story arc, but I enjoyed it
The Bottom Line:
Changing locations
Don’t slow the magic at all
A third great season

"I Don't Like Apples."  "Who Doesn't Like Apples?"  "It's a Family Thing."

For season 3 of Once Upon A Time, ABC and the producers decided to do a split season.  That meant we got 11 episodes in the fall, a long break, and then 11 more episodes in the spring.  The result was two mostly self-contained stories that captivated.

The first half of the season was started by the cliffhanger at the end of season two.  Henry (Jared Gilmore) has been kidnapped and taken to Neverland, and we’ve got quite the assortment of people hunting for him.  Naturally, his mother Emma (Jennifer Morrison) is leading the charge.  Also along for the ride is Regina (Lana Parrilla), Henry’s adopted mother, who also happens to be the Evil Queen.  We can’t leave out Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) and David (Josh Dallas), aka Snow White and Prince Charming.  Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle), aka Rumplestiltskin comes along as well.  Rounding out the group of heroes is Hook (Colin O'Donoghue), who has faced Peter Pan (guest star Robbie Kay) before.

Yes, these are our heroes who are putting aside their differences from the past to find and rescue the boy they all love because -  if you’ve missed the first two seasons - all but Hook are related to Henry.  However, even this common purpose can’t keep the group together for long, and they start splintering once they reach Neverland.  Can they come together to rescue Henry?  Or will Peter Pan win?

Now Neverland was just the first half of the season.  It was definitely different for us since we spent very little time in Storybrooke, which has been our home base for the first two seasons.  We did pop in there a couple of times, with Belle (Emilie de Ravin) and the recurring characters facing some trouble of their own.

Some fans of the show grew tired of this story arc, but I loved it.  Then again, I’ve always loved Peter Pan.  This was definitely a different take on the familiar character, and that did bother me at first, but I soon grew past that and actually started rooting for Hook (and his friends) to defeat Pan.  In true Once Upon a Time fashion, they kept the flashbacks coming and reveal some surprising connections between our established characters and the familiar Neverland characters.  And yes, we meet them all.

I’m not going to say much about the second half of the season to avoid spoilers.  I will say that it involved a new villain played delightfully by Rebecca Mader.  Again, it’s Once putting their spin on a very familiar set of characters.  The fans who grew frustrated with the first half of the season seemed to love this one more; I certainly enjoyed it.

Through these two different arcs, the characters continued to grow.  Honestly, that’s one reason I love this show.  Yes, seeing all these fairytale characters in one place is a blast, and watching all the twists is a lot of fun, but the producers have created such real characters that I love and care for all of them.  Yes, that even goes for Regina and Mr. Gold, the two villains of the piece who are the most interesting, complex characters.  I love how they have developed and grown and can’t wait to see what happens to them each week.  Not to say that the rest of the characters haven’t grown (literally in the case of Henry whose voice has noticeably started changing).  All of them are interesting to watch week to week.

This is a testament to the acting, which is uniformly top notch.  The regular cast is wonderful, and I’ve already praised Rebecca Mader, so I have to give a shout out to Robbie Kay.  His Peter Pan was delicious creepy and absolutely wonderful.  If anyone was paying attention, he will have a long successful career.

The special effects continue to impress as well.  Being a story about magic and fairy tales, there are quite a bit of them in the show.  Occasionally, the TV budget is obvious, but most of the time I completely believe what I’m watching.

Season 3 consisted of 22 episodes, and all of them are in this set.  With DVD, you get six discs with the episodes in native wide screen and full surround.  Extras include the usual deleted scenes, bloopers, and a few audio commentaries as well as a featurette on the villains of the show (including interviews with the actors and writers) and one on the creation of Ariel, who was included in a few episodes this season.

The Blu-Ray set cuts the number of discs down to five, but still has all the episodes and DVD extras.  It has additional deleted scenes and one more audio commentary plus a bonus featurette that takes us inside the writer's room.

So prepare to see two familiar stories in a completely different light as you embark upon season 3 of Once Upon A Time.  These episodes always fly by too quickly, and before you know it, you’ll be anxiously waiting for season 4 to start.

Season 3 Episodes:
1. The Heart of the Truest Believer
2. Lost Girl
3. Quite a Common Fairy
4. Nasty Habits
5. Good Form
6. Ariel
7. Dark Hollow
8. Think Lovely Thoughts
9. Save Henry
10. The New Neverland
11. Going Home
12. New York City Serenade
13. Witch Hunt
14. The Tower
15. Quiet Minds
16. It's Not Easy Being Green
17. The Jolly Roger
18. Bleeding Through
19. A Curious Thing
20. Kansas
21. Snow Drifts
22. There's No Place Like Home

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