The Disney tradition of true love and soul mates continues in this week’s “Snow Falls,” a Snow White-centric episode that wisely stays focused on how White meets Prince Charming without feeling the need to include multiple stories. Jumping between two parallel worlds eats up time on the clock and slows down the progress happening in the real world, which, surprisingly, happens to be the more interesting of the two. One would assume that amidst the wizards and warlocks, witches and spells, unicorns and trolls, the fantasy realm would be the show’s main attraction, but it is not. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that we already know the stories of the fairy tale characters from our childhood. Yes, the writers do deviate a bit from the traditional text, but there is little, if any, suspense.
The twist this week in fairy tale land is that Snow White is revealed to be a Robin Hood-like heroine, a forest hermit and a fugitive who robs from the rich in order to survive. There is a bounty on her heart and early on Snow White confesses to the Prince that she is indeed responsible for the Evil Queen’s misery. The question remains is how?
The silliness of the modern day plot is saved by Ginnifer Goodwin’s performance, easily switching between the sweet and seemingly vulnerable Mary Margaret to the strong sword swinging and completely independent Snow White without ever missing a beat. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast doesn’t quite match Goodwin’s execution. Luckily, Goodwin and Matt Dallas (playing the Prince) have some excellent chemistry. Despite the corny dialogue in the fantasy world, it will be interesting to see how the two interact in the real environment – that is, once his amnesia wears of. Putting aside the central romance, Emma’s relationship with Mary Margaret is the episode’s strong point, which is good news since it will eventually play a key role in the season’s arc. “Snow Fall” also introduces two new figures with Dr. Whale and Catherine Nolan, both played by actors who are no strangers to television. David Anders has been a reliable supporting player in hit shows like Alias and Vampire Diaries, and Anastasia Griffith is said to be a favourite from Damages.
“Snow Fall” represents a slight improvement for the series. The dialogue is easier to digest, but could be taken down a notch and the directors could trust in their actors to telegraph their emotions without always relying on words. The effects continue to be dodgy but this isn’t the end of the world. Taking into consideration the budget, the effects shouldn’t be the prime concern. After all, effects and action are there to service the story and advance the plot forward. What is more important is having a compelling story, good acting, and solid direction. Once Upon A Time isn’t necessarily failing in any of these qualities, but perhaps the creators can turn that C- into a B+.