Salvaging the problematic ‘Once Upon a Time’


Breaking down what Once Upon a Time is doing wrong, and how to fix a show with such great promise.

Sunday night ABC featured a two hour event for the original series Once Upon a Time. The eighth and ninth episodes aired back to back–“The Birth” and “The Bear King.”

A fan since season 1, I was one of the original viewers of the show. However, there are several TV shows today that have either grown sour or the writers are simply too busy trying to get money that the stories and arcs are simply garbage. So, what is wrong with modern TV?

Once Upon a Time

Once started out as a mysterious show which followed a 28 year old Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) arriving in the town of Storybooke. Emma, who is visited by her son Henry whom she gave up several years ago, is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming. The show was about heroes and rescuing and magic. With the success from its first season and second season the show began to stray away from its original concept for its 3rd season back in 2013.

Since then the show has introduced various iconic Disney characters such as Merida, but simply bringing characters to life from an already pre existing successful franchise is not enough for the show. This Sunday, their two hour special only brought in 4.81 viewers and was rated 1.6/5. Over the past year their numbers have gone significantly lower, but why? The show runners brought in famous characters like Frozen’s Elsa and Anna–and we can’t forget about Peter Pan!

Here’s what Once writers need to fix before it is too late. For one, they need to change things up ASAP. Each season to date has been about the same thing: saving either Henry, Emma, or her parents. It’s always the hero’s journey repeated again and again and again. Second, the memory loss is getting on my nerves.

The best test to show who is a good writer from a bad one is their ability to adapt. Change isn’t always a bad thing. This brings me to my third point, engage viewers minds into the episodes they watch. No one wants to watch a TV show if they can predict everything. Like books, people want to be actively drawn in and thinking.

“Birth” and “The Bear King” explained that now there are two Dark Ones–don’t even get me started in how horrible the idea is. For one, a writer should know his or her world better than reality. Throughout the series the Dark One has been presented as both a mythical and ancient creature. However, it was also indicated in the Season 4 finale by the Apprentice to be a tool to keep the darkness inside a host to contain it. So, the story on how the dark one was created doesn’t really make sense now does it–with Nimue?

First of all, how was she able to drink from the Holy Grail? If her heart was full of vengeance than she shouldn’t have been able to. Secondly, the whole two Dark Ones goes against the entire focus of balance the show has been building up. Merlin is sort of like the Light One, right? So, if only a pure heart can pull the sword or a hero then the sword unlike the dagger stands for goodness–remember the sword was broken in half a symbol for two sides of a coin (good and dark). If Emma somehow tied him to the sword shouldn’t that have made hook a Light One??

Treating Characters Fairly

The biggest issue I have with the show is the way they treat their characters. I have heard from countless fans on how characters at times out in ways that make no sense just to serve the plot. Character Development 101 in college teaches that characters fit into the plot not the other way around.

My sympathy goes to the Rumbelle and Outlaw Queen fans. The writers either shove these ships to the side to please their larger audience. Characters like Ruby, Belle, and Robin hardly ever got screen time for character development. Instead these characters are simply used for “bigger” or more “important” character’s growth or plot.


Hercules and Meg are heading to the Once universe which gives the writers a chance to start fresh. Hopefully they can bring a villain in that has zero magic–please Once Upon a Time grant us at least that! Overall, if the show wants to grab a larger audience it needs to be willing to first of all adapt and second of all challenge themselves as writers and its viewers. Successful shows like Game of Thrones, Doctor Who, The Walking Dead, Arrow, and even Bob’s Burgers have beloved characters but more importantly are unpredictable.

Do you agree? Should Once Upon a Time up their game?