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Once Upon a Time: The Complete Second Season (2012-2013)

ABC Studios
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/13/2013

All Ratings out of
Show: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/21/2013

In theory, every company does some sort of promotion, but no one else does promotion like Disney. Theory has made self-promotion a science. Not only do they use their movies, TV shows, theme parks, and merchandising to shove their products in our collective faces, but they are masters of cross-promotion. It's rare for a Disney property to miss the opportunity to advertise another Disney brand. So, I wish that I had been at the meeting when two writers/executive producers who had worked on Lost pitched an idea to have a television show which could feature dozens of Disney's most famous characters in a brand new way. I can only imagine that the Disney execs began crying tears of money. Fortunately for us, the fruit of that imaginary meeting, Once Upon a Time, is actually entertaining.

(Editor's Note: It's impossible to discuss Season Two of Once Upon a Time without divulging information from Season One, so read with caution if you want to avoid spoilers.) Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) works as a bounty hunter and private detective in Boston. One night, she is confronted by a young boy named Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) who claims to be her son. Emma is frustrated by this kid's sudden appearance, but she is curious, as she did give up a child for adoption several years before. She agrees to drive Henry back to his hometown of Storybrooke, Maine. Henry explains that everyone in the town is a fairy tale character who is the victim of an evil curse which was set forth by his adoptive mother, Regina Mills (Lana Parrilla), who is mayor of the town. Emma returns the boy to Regina, but she's also concerned about him, so she decides to stay in Storybrooke.

Meanwhile, we learn what happened in the fairy-tale world. Upon the wedding day of Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) appeared at the ceremony and threatened the happy couple. Some time later, following the birth of Snow and Charming's baby, the Evil Queen releases a curse, which she procured from Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle), which sends everyone to our world and creates the town of Storybrooke. Once there, no one but Regina and Rumpelstiltskin has any recollection of the fairy-tale world, and they go about their daily lives, never aging.

Emma begins to poke around the town and immediately notices that things are certainly odd. As we learn more about the inhabitants of the town, Emma and Henry grow closer, much to the chagrin of Regina. While foiling one of Regina's plans, Emma breaks the curse, thus giving the residents of Storybrooke back their memories.

As Season Two opens, the people are beginning to realize who they are, but wondering why they are still in Storybrooke. Just as Snow, Charming, Emma, and Henry are having a reunion, Emma and Snow are sucked into fairy-tale land. There, they meet Cora (Barbara Hershey), Regina's mother, and Captain Hook (Colin O'Donoghue), both of whom are trying to make their way to Storybrooke. Once this happens, things grow very dark, as Regina finally snaps and decides that if Emma is going to try and take Henry from her, then she will destroy the world. While Snow and Charming work on a plan to send everyone back to fairy-tale land (or The Enchanted Forest, as it's called), Regina puts a doomsday plan into place.

ABC (and by proxy, Disney) has a tendency to overhype things, and Once Upon a Time was no exception. I remember seeing the commercials for the show and thinking that it looked somewhat pedestrian. However, I also read that it was a good show for families. I enjoy watching movies with the kids, but there are very few shows which appeal to all of us. (The Middle is a good one.) So, we gave Once Upon a Time a shot and it turned out to be deeper than I expected, and the kids loved it. I also liked the fact that Season One actually wrapped up an important storyline while setting up a good cliffhanger in the process.

Season Two became even deeper than the first season and it was here that Co-creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz stopped messing around and went into full-on Lost mode. Yes, just like that frustrating show about those people on that island, Once Upon a Time began to incorporate more and more overlapping stories which took place in different times, more subplots, and more screentime for Jorge Garcia. The result was a show which showed that it wanted to be more mature in its storytelling than its subject matter would suggest, but also a show that was unnecessarily complicated at times. In addition, the show committed the Cardinal Sin of separating its main characters. However, the writers on Once Upon a Time are crafty and they knew to bring in a shocking moment every few episodes in order to keep the viewer hooked. (Pun intended.) Still, I got really tired of the constant, "Why can't Regina be good?" storylines.

At its core, Once Upon a Time is a show which does a great job of combining a very simple premise with some clever writing. It's fun to see what the series does with familiar characters, and everyone who watches it attempts to guess who will show up next. The 22-episode season drags in some spots, but the show does a good job of combining action and heart and the ending has me curious about Season Three.

Once Upon a Time: The Complete Second Season shows that the scenery is not safe from Robert Carlyle on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of ABC Studios. The five-disc set contains all 22 episodes of the show's Second Season. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 23 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good and the image is never soft. This definitely rivals HD broadcast quality. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are pretty good, as the sometimes highlight off-screen sounds. Sounds like wind and rain come from the rear speakers and the musical cue which signals a chapter break fills the rear channels and brings in the subwoofer.

The Once Upon a Time: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. Disc 1 offers an AUDIO COMMENTARY on "Broken" with Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas. The AUDIO COMMENTARY on Disc 2 is on "Queen of Hearts" and features Co-creators/Executive Producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and Lana Parrilla. Disc 3 has an AUDIO COMMENTARY for "Manhattan" with Co-Creators/Executive Producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and Robert Carlyle. Disc 4 has two AUDIO COMMENTARIES -- "The Miller's Daughter" has Writer Jane Espenson, while "Welcome to Storybrooke" offers Writers Ian Goldberg and Andew Chambliss. The remainder of the extras are found on Disc 5, which starts with an AUDIO COMMENTARY on "And Straight on 'Til Morning" with Co-Executive Producer David H. Goodman and Colin O'Donoghue. We get eight DELETED SCENES which run about 11 minutes. "Good Morning Storybrooke" (12 minutes) is a fake TV talk show hosted by Paul Scheer, Yvette Nicole Brown, and Amy Acker. This also contains appearances by some characters from the show and it comments on the show, but it's also very strange and not very funny. (Although, the nod to Lost was good.) "A Fractured Family Tree" (7 minutes) explores how Charming, Snow, Emma, and several others are related. This is narrated by Sarah Hyland. The actors chime in on how confusing all of this is. "Sincerely, Hook" (5 minutes) is an interview with Colin O'Donoghue, who discusses his experiences on the show as Captain Hook. "Girl Power" (13 minutes) examines the female characters on the show and how self-sufficient they are. This includes comments from the cast and the creative team. "Fairest Bloopers of The All" is a 3-minute gag reel.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.