The original and continuing premise of Once Upon A Time promised viewers a world where all your favorite fairy tale characters are real and living in our world, but not knowing who they really are, trapped by a curse. Part of the progression of the story arc has included the reveal of each Storybrooke resident’s true identity. As a show produced by ABC Studios, the creators also have access to the Disney versions of certain characters like Mulan, Belle, and the other princesses. The vast majority of the time the writers have shown a clever intertwining of many fairy tale stories that have worked — like Red Riding Hood also being the Wolf.
As the first season unfolded, we discovered ways to travel to other places such as Wonderland and Neverland. Adding these other story book worlds and their characters provided a great expansion to the Once Upon A Time universe that meshed well with the existing fairy tale world.
One character remained unknown all through the first season. A lot of speculation rose among fans about the true identity of Dr. Whale. Early in the second season, the truth was revealed. Dr. Whale is really — wait for it — Dr. Frankenstein! Watching the episode, one can sense how proud the writers are of this twist. But it didn’t go over so well with fans. Maybe this reveal would have brought more gasps than groans if the ABC network hadn’t spoiled it by giving away his identity in previews aired two weeks before the episode, “The Doctor” (2.05).
I fall on the side of not a fan of Dr. Whale being Dr. Frankenstein. However, the one redeeming factor about the character is the quality of performance David Anders delivers. His finesse for the tortured, out-of-control scientist of yore is fabulous. Anders’s portrayal is the only thing that makes the character fit onto the backdrop of the fairy tale world.
I could deal with and even learn to enjoy the addition of the character if it were the only one out of time and place for the established continuity of the Once Upon A Time world. The latest episode, “In The Name of the Brother” (2.12), brought the focus back to our intrepid Dr. Whale/Frankenstein. Viewers haven’t seen much of him since he had his arm ripped off by Regina’s reanimated fiancé, Daniel.
As an installment of a television series, the episode is well crafted, interesting, and drew believable connections between Frankenstein’s world and the Enchanted Forest world. I loved the nifty movie magic trick of everything in his world in black and white and items and people from the Enchanted Forest still in color. Viewers gained more insight into the doctor’s motives for his questionable actions.
But the one scene and lines that prompted this article came from Henry, when he tells Emma about Frankenstein’s story not being in any of his story books: “[His story comes from] Another land with different stories. If the curse went to places with other stories, then who knows who else is in this town?”
For producers and writers of television shows, a scene like this can become canon for a show. What the Once Upon A Time crew has done is grant themselves the freedom to do whatever stories they want. As long as it is part of a book, the character could conceivably appear in Storybrooke. With the Dr.-Whale-is-Dr.-Frankenstein episodes, they have set a precedent to go off the fairy tale or similar world model.
Are the viewers prepared to have more characters along the lines of Dr. Frankenstein added to the promised fairy tale canvas? It means Dracula, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, the Three Musketeers, or even Sherlock Holmes could be residents of Storybrooke. Personally, I think the producers and writers allowing themselves that much “carte blanche” with the story will be harmful to the original concept of the world. It throws the continuity right out the door.
I understand the desire of entertainment producers to create an opening to provide their audience with what is popular at the time. Right now, it is monsters, vampires, werewolves, zombies, and other paranormal/horror creatures. Once Upon A Time has come close to zombies with the reanimated characters and the villagers Cora controlled. The current Once Upon A Time climate is a welcome change from the glut of dark, creature-infested fare that almost every television network airs. Besides, fairy tales and their related worlds already contain interesting, even scary and formidable creatures such as giants and dragons. Most fairy tales tell powerful stories that don’t need embellishments from other types of stories.
Once Upon A Time hosts a myriad array of interesting characters interwoven in twists that are sometimes brilliant. Here’s to hoping the writers don’t get carried away and muck it up because they can.