“Once Upon a Time” Pilot Released; Let the Fairy Tale Battle Begin!

Although Oct. 23 is the official release date of ABC’s new fairy tale series, “Once Upon a Time,” I was delighted to see IMDb offering the full first episode for free viewing today.  As I’ve been excited for the upcoming battle of the fairy tale shows since March, I eagerly settled in to watch the pilot.

To quickly summarize the show’s concept, all of the fairy tale characters we know and love have been transported to the modern world by spell of an evil witch (Lana Parilla).  To further complicate things, they no longer remember their true identities, giving them no way to fight back against this curse.  Think “Fables” plus amnesia–an easy criticism of the show’s plot.

Despite the similarities to “Fables,” however, the pilot was relatively solid, striking a good balance between an angsty and mysterious present and flashbacks to the characters’ magical pasts.  Although this episode didn’t delve particularly deep (Few pilots do.), many scenes teased the audience by suggesting future twists and upcoming conflict.  I’m not a true fan yet, but if the show makes good on the potential the pilot hinted at, there’s a good chance I’ll become one.

I was interested to see that the show is not simply focusing on true fairy tales.  Many references were made to Carlo Collodi’s “Pinocchio,” which I’m willing to accept.  Although this story is not a true fairy tale, it is getting closer to becoming one; few people seem to know the name of the original author (Carlo Collodi), and there have been tons of adaptations, many of which bear little resemblance to the original story.  Lines were further blurred, however, when the book that represents the characters’ past lives briefly showed an illustration of some flying monkeys.  Likewise, the magical wardrobe capable of transporting people to another land was clearly a Narnia reference.  “Pinocchio” may be halfway to a fairy tale, but “the Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and “The Chronicles of Narnia” are not.  Although many audience members will likely ignore this, some will know enough about fairy tales to make this a little wince-worthy.  If the writers expect to get away with this kind of line blurring (something of which “Fables” is wildly guilty), they’ll have to make their plot compelling enough that pickier audience members will be willing to let it slide.

Overall, I found the pilot pretty enjoyable.  I’ll admit, however, that I remain excited  for the Oct. 28 premier of  “Grimm,” which is sure to be this show’s greatest competitor.  Let the fairy tale battle begin!

Jessica: True Blood’s Little Red Riding Hood

I’ve been considering doing a post on fairy tales in “True Blood” ever since the beginning of season 4.  In episode 1 of this season (“She’s Not There”), Sookie (Anna Paquin) learned that Claudine (Lara Pulver)  was actually her fairy godmother.  Then, two episodes later, in episode 3, “If You Love Me, Why Am I Dyin’?”, Sookie’s “fairy godmother” comes up, yet again.  While it’s clear to me that the fairy godmother is an obvious Cinderella reference, I just didn’t think this was enough for a whole post.  Certain that we would learn more about the denizens of Faery, I decided to wait a while to make a full post on fairy tales in “True Blood.”  After seeing Jessica’s (Deborah Ann Woll) Little Red Riding Hood getup in the season finale, however, I couldn’t resist a mini-post.

For those of you who didn’t see the episode, here’s the first scene in which we see Jessica as Little Red.

Although the footage of Jessica running through the woods with her cloak flowing behind her is lovely, HBO’s post to the fictional character’s blog is much more interesting.  In the original fairy tale, Little Red is clearly the victim; she’s a helpless little girl who falls prey to a devious wolf.  Jessica, however, is anything but prey.  In the world of “True Blood,” she’s the ultimate predator: a vampire.  Werewolves (or regular wolves, for that matter) are no match for her supernatural powers.  By dressing up as Little Red, Jessica is turning the story upside down.  This Little Red isn’t exactly innocent.  In this story, she’s the irresistible evil lurking in the forest.

The thing is, the original fairy tale paints a picture of a darker Little Red Riding Hood–one a bit more like Jessica.  In the earliest versions of the story, the wolf makes the little girl into a cannibal by convincing her to eat her grandmother’s blood and flesh.  That sounds more than a little vampiric to me.

Not only that, but Jessica’s version of Little Red is an extremely seductive one, and what is “Little Red Riding Hood” if not a cautionary tale about resisting temptation?  If the girl had listened to her mother rather than leaving the path to pick flowers, she would never have run into trouble in the first place.

For those of you interested in replicating Jessica’s costume for Halloween, the True Blood Fashion Q & A has a great article on putting it together, including tips as well as links to stores at which some of the pieces can be purchased.

As I said before, I expect many more fairy tale references from this show in the future, what with the recent addition of fairies and fairy godmothers.  Until then, however, at least we have Jessica as Little Red.

Lost Girl and Fairy Tales, Part Two

Last April, I started getting into the Canadian TV series “Lost Girl.”  Excited by the potential for fairy tales on the show, I wrote a post called “Lost Girl and Fairy Tales,” predicting their appearance in the series.  Yesterday, my predictions came true; “Lost Girl” finally aired “Mirror, Mirror,” a fairy tale themed episode!

For those unfamiliar with the show, it stars Bo (Anna Silk), a succubus who, having been raised by humans, only recently realized her Fae nature.  Now, she works as a sort of supernatural private investigator, helping others in the Fae community.  Meanwhile, she is still searching for answers about her own mysterious heritage, navigating the murky waters of Fae politics, and doing her best to have a personal life.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Best friends Bo and Kenzi are forced to face Baba Yaga in this week's episode of "Lost Girl."

Still hurting from her breakup with Dyson (Kris Holden-Ried), Bo decides to join her human pal, Kenzi (Ksenia Solo), for a drunken girls’ night.  Unfortunately, Kenzi invokes Baba Yaga (a witch of Slavic fairy tale fame) while she’s under the influence and asks her to lay a curse on Dyson.  Once sober, however, our heroes seek to get the curse reversed.  Baba Yaga agrees, but takes Kenzi as payment, leaving it up to Bo and Dyson to get her back.

While the episode paid tribute to the Baba Yaga fairy tale stories, some of the details were changed for the show.  For instance, the old stories depict the witch’s house as a cottage with chicken legs; in the world of “Lost Girl,” however, Baba Yaga lives in some sort of alternate Fae dimension of her own and only travels by way of mirrors (kind of like a Fae version of the Bloody Mary urban legend.)  My guess is that a house on chicken legs probably sounded a little too far-fetched for network television.

Although parts of the Baba Yaga story were altered, “Lost Girl” stayed true to the original tales in many ways.  Just as in the old stories, the “Lost Girl” version of Baba Yaga is both powerful and scary.  She has the ability to grant wishes and offer wisdom, but is also known to kidnap and eat young people.  Seeking her counsel is considered extremely dangerous.  Not only that, but both versions depict her using human bones as building materials; in the fairy tales, her fence is often made of bones, and the show claimed she built her entire house out of them.

The episode also made reference to several other fairy tales.  At one point, Kenzi references Snow White by speaking rhyming commands to a mirror.  She even starts these commands with “mirror, mirror” (also the name of the episode). There are hints of “Hansel and Gretel” to be found, as well.  For instance, the witch tries to fatten her victims up before eating them, but is defeated when Kenzi closes her inside her own oven.  Of course, I can’t say I’m surprised that the writers went in that direction; in some Polish fairy tales, witches living in gingerbread houses are called “Baba Jagas.”

All in all, Bo’s first fairy tale encounter was a delight to watch.  I can only hope that more such episodes crop up in this and future seasons of “Lost Girl.”  In fact, I’m sure they will; the end of the episode suggests that Baba Yaga may have survived the fires of her oven.  Who knows when she’ll be back for revenge?

Want to learn more about “Lost Girl,” or discuss the latest episode with other fans?  Visit the “Lost Girl” subreddit (r/lostgirl).

Warehouse 13 and Fairy Tales

If any of you watch the SyFy Network’s original series, “Warehouse 13,” you might have noticed the following lines in this past week’s episode (“Insatiable,” season three, episode ten).

Myka: “We deal with artifacts, not fairy tales.”

Pete: “Well, a lot of those artifacts come from fairy tales…”

For those of you that aren’t familiar with the show, the basic concept is this; the Warehouse agents (most of whom are in the Secret Service) travel around the world collecting dangerous objects imbued with  supernatural powers.  Many of these artifacts are historical in nature and get their power from contact with now well-known historical figures or situations.  For instance, a piece of driftwood from the Titanic can give people hypothermia, and Edgar Allen Poe’s pen allows its wielder to bring Poe’s stories to life.

This is far from the first time the show has hinted at fairy tales.  In fact, as you can see in the clip below, a shot of “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” appeared in the season one opening theme.

Although this episode was more about zombies than princesses, “Warehouse 13” has previously confirmed that in the world of the show fairy tales are based in reality.  This is evidenced by Cinderella’s Knife, an artifact the team chases in season two, episode ten (“Where and When”).  According to Artie (Saul Rubinek), the story of Cinderella and her glass slippers originated from the real Cinderella’s use of the knife, which turns its victims into glass.  The show has also played with artifacts and ideas from other fictional stories, such as Carlo Collodi’s “Pinocchio” and Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”  Although these are NOT true fairy tales, they often get lumped in together.

Considering the fact that this season’s main villain is after a Pinocchio themed artifact (author Carlo Collodi’s bracelet), it seems that Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka’s (Joanne Kelly) conversation may not just have been simple banter.  Although Myka is skeptical, Pete recognizes the potential for truth behind fairy tales.  They’ve encountered one fairy tale item (Cinderella’s knife), so why not others?  After all, the Warehouse did introduce them to “a world of endless wonder.”  I can’t help but think that more fairy tale artifacts are in store for the Warehouse agents.  There’s just too much foreshadowing and suggestion here for this not to pan out.

What do you think?  Are there more twisted fairy tale artifacts to come in this season of Warehouse 13?

Supernatural and Fairy Tales

I’ll admit it; I’m a sucker for shows about fighting fantastical/demonic creatures. “Buffy,” “Angel,” “Lost Girl,” “Torchwood,” and “Doctor Who” are all on my top ten list, as is Eric Kripke’s creation, “Supernatural.”  Not only do these programs give me the dark fantasy/sci-fi fix I’m always on the lookout for, but they often allude to fairy tales, whether subtly or blatantly.  The latter is true of “Supernatural” season 3, episode 5 “Bedtime Stories.”

In this fairy tale themed episode, demon hunters Sam and Dean Winchester are shocked to find a town plagued by incidents reminiscent of the Grimm classics.  The familiar stories of  Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White, The Three Little Pigs, and Hansel and Gretel are all mirrored in violent incidents cropping up all over town.  At first, Dean does not see the connection between the ancient stories and the violence, but Sam knows better; he explains to his brother that fairy tales were not always the bright, happy stories for which Disney has become famous.  Although many in our culture have no knowledge of the original tales, Sam is aware of their formerly sinister nature.

In an important way, fairy tales are a great metaphor for the world in which the Winchesters live; although knowledge of the evil creatures they fight has long been lost to the general public, they are aware of the world’s darker nature.  They know that their world is not the scientific, sunny place it might seem at first glance.  While others see the happily-ever-after Disney version of the world, they see it for what it truly is; ancient, violent, and full of things that go bump in the night, just like the original versions of many fairy tales.  They know that a happy ending is not guaranteed.

Although this episode most directly addresses fairy tales,  folklore (the root of many fairy tales) and urban legends (their more modern cousins) can be found in nearly every one.  Lovers of fairy tales and dark fantasy alike are sure to find “Supernatural” to their liking.

Lost Girl and Fairy Tales

I love “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” so whenever I hear about a show that bears some similarities, I give it a try.  Recently, on the search for something to fill the Buffy void, I had the good fortune to find one of my new favorite shows: “Lost Girl.”  This Canadian program, which has only aired one season so far, got fantastic reviews.  In fact, there’s talk of it being picked up by a U.S. network, as well.

The story centers around Bo (Anna Silk), a benevolent succubus who must feed off the sexual energy of humans to live.  She is part of the world of Fae, which is hidden to most humans.  Fae are basically all of the mythological creatures of fairy tales and legends; wolf-shifterssirens, banshees and more all exist in “Lost Girl.”  Although most Fae use their powers for themselves and their clans, Bo is different; she uses her powers to work as a supernatural P.I. (“Angel,” anyone?) fighting evil, solving mysteries, and protecting humans and Fae alike.  The script is filled with funny moments and quirky dialogue despite the dangerous, life-threatening situations the characters find themselves in every episode.  Basically, it’s “Buffy” or “Angel” with a lot more sex.

Although this show has only been around for a little while, fairy tale connections are sure to crop up.  Not only are mythological creatures from the legends and fairy tales of various cultures already included, but one character has even appeared by name: the Morrigan.

Emmanuelle Vaugier plays the Morrigan on "Lost Girl."

According to Irish legend, the Morrigan (played by Emmanuelle Vaugier on the show) is a goddess or female monster of battle, strife, and fertility.  She is often considered extremely warlike and can change into various creatures, including a cow, a crow, an eel, and a wolf.  On “Lost Girl,” she appears as the leader of the Dark Fae.  So far, little has been revealed about her nature and powers, save that she is combative and manipulative.  My guess is that she will soon be more directly linked to the legends that surround her.

Either way, I would recommend this show to anyone who enjoys fairy tales, “Angel,” or “Buffy.”

Buffy and Fairy Tales: Spike as Pinocchio

Joss Whedon loves making pop-culture references, and fairy tales are no exception to this rule.  As I mentioned in a previous post, there were more than the average number of fairy tale references in both “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel.”  Buffy even went as Little Red Riding Hood for Halloween in season 4, episode 4 “Fear Itself.”  Today, I’d like to take a look at a handful of these references and do a bit of dissection on them.

Hansel and Gretel show up in Sunnydale.

Before I get started, I’ll knock the most obvious reference out of the way.  In “Gingerbread,” season 3, episode 11, Sunnydale is visited by a demon that takes the form of two dead children in order to create strife in a town.  The Scooby gang soon realizes that these “children” are none other than the Hansel and Gretel of fairy tale fame, and narrowly avoid getting burned at the stake for witchcraft.  In this episode, Joss seems to be revealing an opinion shared by J. K. Rowling; fairy tales had to come from somewhere, and there may be more truth in them than we imagine.

Interestingly, the character who seems to make the largest amount of fairy tale references on these shows is Spike.  Although it’s true that Spike and Xander are the two characters who tend to gravitate towards pop culture references, Xander just does not have the same proclivity for fairy tales in particular.

The story Spike most often refers to is actually “Pinocchio.”  While it’s true that this is not a fairy tale in the truest sense, it has started to become one; few people seem to know the name of the original author (Carlo Collodi), and the number of adaptations written is nearly preposterous.  Either way, Spike refers to becoming a “real boy” on many occasions.  Here are a few for your consideration.:

  • In “Buffy” Season 6, episode 7 “Once More with Feeling,” Spike says, regarding a puppet-like demon who appears in the episode, “someday he’ll be a real boy.”
  • In “Angel” season 5, episode 4 “Hell Bound,” Spike is still a wraith after sacrificing himself to close Sunnydale’s Hell Mouth and save the world.  In discussion with Fred about how he might become solid again, Spike refers to her “making [him] a real boy again.”
  • In “Angel” season 5, episode 10 “Soul Purpose,” Angel has a hallucination in which Fred suggests that Spike “deserves to become a real boy,” right after Wesley just mentioned that, after being such a hero, Spike deserves to get what he’s “always wanted.”
  • In “Angel” season 5, episode 22 “Not Fade Away,” Spike asks Angel if he thinks one of them will “get to be a real boy” when their battle is all over.

That is not to say that Spike never makes non-Pinocchio references;  in season 5, episode 19 “Time Bomb,” he references Paul Bunyan when he calls Illyria  “Babe the Blue Ox.”  Still, Spike’s continuous comparisons about Pinocchio are odd and, when studied closer, a little uncanny.

The thing is, Spike really does want to become human again.  He worked hard to regain his soul, but he’s aware that something about him is not true.  When Spike considers himself, he does not think of himself as a “real boy.”  Angel, on the other hand, clearly feels whole already.  Certainly, something about humanity seems appealing to him, but he doesn’t really have the taste for it; in “Angel” season 1, episode 8 “I Will Remember You,” Angel becomes human after being infected with another demon’s blood, but rejects that life because it is more important for his purposes to be a hero.  Spike, who is motivated by love above everything else, relishes such a chance in a way that Angel, whose ultimate goal is not love but redemption, never can.  Spike wants to be human to love and feel as humans do.  Angel wants to receive humanity as a reward so that he can know for sure that he has been redeemed.

Not only that, but Spike has the opportunity to become a “real boy” in a way that does not exist, for Angel.  While Spike’s personality is essentially the same with or without his soul, Angel’s is completely different.  In fact, in  “Angel” season  4, episode 14 “Orpheus,” Faith realizes, when she enters Angel’s mind that Angel himself is the curse.  Angelus sits inside Angel at all times, observing the good his body is doing and being furious about it.  That’s why his personality is so dependent upon the soul.  Angel is, in fact, not a real person at all.

Of course, there are plenty of other fairy tale references in these shows, if you watch for them.  For instance, Fred has a really cute line in “Angel” season 3, episode 5 “Fredless,” in which she mentions “dumb old fairy tales,” and the ways in which her life has both reflected and deviated from what those stories taught her.

Have fun searching for more fairy tales in the Whedon-verse!

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