Back in May, I commented (you can read that post here) that the "soft reboot" of Once Upon a Time would probably be a good move for the show. And though I was past being excited for the new season, the three episodes that have come out so far have reignited my interest.
Exactly the two things that I predicted/hoped for are happening: intentional repetition and learning from the past. Now that they're a few seasons in, the writers have a better idea of the kinds of things that did or didn't work before; coming in with a fresh start, they can gently move away from what didn't work as well. If these first episodes are a taste of what's to come (and if enough people are even still watching the show), then Once Upon a Time has the chance to keep running.
Obviously the main repetition is with Henry and Lucy and a cursed town whose inhabitants have lost their memories. It's the same, but it's different. We also have the chance to see the "believing child" as a girl instead of a boy and the "unbelieving adult" as a man instead of a woman. All of the repetition goes with this idea of stories, stories being things real and tangible and always happening and always beginning again and never really ending.
Right away, though, the main difference in this new version of the show is the approach to fairy tales. Sure, the original show said that it was showing fairy tales like we hadn't seen them before--but they mainly stuck to the basic concepts. Now everything is turned around more. Deliberately, the main traits of a story (whether themes or characters' personalities or plot elements) are flipped, resulting in more unpredictability than we had before. Henry even mentions that there are different versions of each story, so we're getting to see some of these "different" angles play out (Cinderella, for instance, did appear back in season one, but that was a different Cinderella). This gives the writers the chance to play with the stories more; it also lets the audience feel like the plot is, once again, something new for us to discover.
Speaking of new things to discover. I can't pass on at least mentioning Rumplestiltskin. He was so wonderfully mysterious in season one, a trait that mostly vanished by the end of last season. Now he's back to being that weird character on the sidelines, the one who seems to know more than everyone else does, the one whose motives and agenda we can't quite discern. Love it.
This was one of those shows that people tended to say was a little white, wasn't it? It looks like that's one of the things they're changing up this time, mainly with the casting of Cinderella and Lucy. And of course I love that we're finally getting to see Tiana since she's one of my favorites; I look forward to seeing more of her story.
I think that's about it. Mainly I just wanted to say that I'm impressed at how much I enjoyed these first three episodes; I wasn't expecting that. I'll update again later, either at mid-season or at the end of the season, depending on when I have something more to add.