The best and the worst of its first season is carried over into the second season of ABC’s Once Upon a Time. On the wonderful side are the continuing imaginative interweavings of stories in a modern New England town featuring fairy tale characters in modern dress with tales both old and new in the land of the Enchanted Forest. But on the negative side are the increasingly repetitive scheming and manipulative vengeance plotlines that have characters bouncing between good and evil incarnations of themselves to the point of tediousness. And the audience is noticing: the ratings began sliding midseason and continued on a downward cycle through the spring.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 15 Hrs. 46 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case with leaves and slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 08/13/2013
The adversarial triangle relationships in the series continued unabated in season two. Regina/the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) is more determined than ever to win her adopted son Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) back from his biological mother Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and her mother Mary Margaret/Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and when turning benign doesn’t work, enlists the aid of her wicked mother Cora (Barbara Hershey) whose plan is to simply kill everyone standing in their way by stealing the ultimate dark power from current reigning baddie Mr. Gold/Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle). This leads to a ludicrous plotline in the latter part of the season when Snow White fears a blackened heart and seeks redemption because she had felt it imperative to help kill one of the characters who was threatening to kill her and her family. (Was she supposed to die so the evil ones could get their way? Her guilt and the outrage of the evil survivor are simply absurd, there only to continue a plot that was a rather hopeless mess through the season.)
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
Mr. Gold is likewise engaged not only in constant battles with Regina and Cora but also with the most notable and entertaining of the new introductions this season into the endless list of storybook characters – Killian Jones/Captain Hook (Colin O'Donoghue). We come to find out that not only has Rumplestiltskin served as a character in his own fairy story, he’s also been worked to be the Beast in Beauty and the Beast and the crocodile in Peter Pan, and Hook wants vengeance not only for the loss of his hand but also the loss of his true love at the hands of Rumple. And Rumple’s story is further compounded this season by his quests to win back Belle’s (Emilie de Ravin) affections and also to find his long lost son Baelfire/Neal Cassady (Michael Raymond-James) whose story is also a major part of the season’s second half with many engaging twists and turns.
The show’s writers also this season have introduced (with differing degrees of effectiveness) Mulan (Jamie Chung), Princess Aurora (Sarah Bolger), Lancelot (especially weak usage of this character), Gus the mouse from Disney’s version of Cinderella, Maleficent, the Giant (Jorge Garcia) from Jack and the Beanstalk, and fleshing out from season one the real identity of Dr. Whale (who turns out to be Viktor Frankenstein and played by David Anders). We also get more background on Pinocchio/August Booth (Eion Bailey) and additional stories of Red Riding Hood/Ruby (Meghan Ory), Jiminy Cricket/Archie Hopper (Raphael Sbarge), and the seven dwarfs with Grumpy (Lee Arenberg) still their most effective spokesperson. Even with some overly familiar plotlines that strain endurance and characters who turn evil on and off like a faucet, kudos are still offered to the show’s incredible production team for fashioning an elaborate television show that often takes on movie dimensions in the look and scope of the series and in the fantastic special effects which grace every episode.
Here are the twenty two episodes which are contained on the set’s five Blu-ray discs. The names in parentheses are the participants in that episode’s audio commentary:
1 – Broken (stars Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin)
2 – We Are Both
3 – Lady of the Lake
4 – The Crocodile
5 – The Doctor
6 – Tallahassee
7 – Child of the Moon
8 – Into the Deep
9 – Queen of Hearts (creators Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, star Lana Parrilla)
10 – The Cricket Game
11 – The Outsider
12 – In the Name of the Brother
13 – Tiny
14 – Manhattan (Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz, star Robert Carlyle)
15 – The Queen Is Dead
16 – The Miller’s Daughter (producer/writer Jane Espenson)
17 – Welcome to Storybrooke (writers Ian Goldberg, Andrew Chambliss)
18 – Selfless, Brave, and True
19 – Lacey
20 – The Evil Queen
21 – Second Star to the Right
22 – And Straight on ‘Til Morning (writer David Goodman and star Colin O'Donoghue)
The program is broadcast on ABC at 720p, and these 1080p 1.78:1 transfers look much sharper and more solid than the network broadcasts. The show has a very cinematic look, and the transfers capture the lush darkness of the fairy tale world as well as the often bright everyday look of the small town. Colors are rich and beautifully saturated, and flesh tones are true to life (except when they’re not meant to be). The Storybrooke scenes are always sharp, but the heavy use of green screen in the fantasy world segments result in images that are sometimes a bit softer, likely done deliberately to mesh more smoothly with the computer-generated backgrounds. Black levels are nicely rendered even if contrast occasionally varies from shot to shot. Each episode has been divided into 7 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix is a sophisticated one for network television. Like its video counterpart, the sound design often seems more movie-like with sophisticated split effects in many episodes and a gorgeous use of lush Mark Isham music themes in every episode which make the most of the extended surround channels. Dialogue is always very well recorded and has been placed in the center channel. There’s more for the LFE channel to do in this series than in many other television series. The discs also offer a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo surround track that’s quite effective on its own.
Audio Rating: 4.5/5
Audio Commentaries: there are six commentaries offered this season (see episode list above for the names of the participants). Apart from the season premiere track where the show’s two stars get caught up watching the show and don’t talk much, the commentaries are all quite good. Creators/producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz are very good about quizzing the stars in their commentaries about their feelings, motivations, and approaches to the acting. Fans will enjoy hearing these and will welcome new cast member Colin O'Donoghue who seems a little overwhelmed with his reception on the show (he was the season’s one new addition who was promoted from guest star to series regular before the end of the season).
Special Features Rating: 4/5
Welcome to Storybrooke (12:10, HD): a tongue-in-cheek morning show parody featuring guests stars like Amy Acker and series regulars like Lee Arenberg, Meghan Ory, David Anders, Robert Carlyle, and Emilie de Ravin.
A Fractured Family Tree (7:08, HD): narrated by Sarah Hyland and with sound bites from creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz along with other series writers, producers, and cast, this traces the very convoluted family connections between the major characters on the show using film clips from both seasons of the series to establish identities.
Sincerely, Hook (5:24, HD): a get-to-know featurette on the character of Hook and the actor Colin O'Donoghue who plays him.
Girl Power (13:05, HD): the show’s producer/writers and key cast members discuss the strong array of female characters on the show.
The Fairest Bloopers of Them All (3:13, HD): typical outtake reel
Eight Deleted Scenes (10:33, HD): may be viewed individually or in one montage
Promo Trailers: ABC’s Castle, Revenge, Scandal, and the upcoming Blu-ray release of The Little Mermaid.
An entertaining if slightly less involving season for ABC’s charming and imaginative Once Upon a Time, the second season box set continues the sterling video and audio presentations from last year’s set and contains some fanciful bonus material that fans of the show will enjoy. Recommended!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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