We admit to being avid gamers, and during the actual TV season (especially the May sweeps), the article here is something that we could never really hope to dive too deep into. However, for any of you who played the PlayStation 2 classic “Kingdom Hearts,” don’t you feel almost as though it was “Once Upon a Time” well before “Once Upon a Time” existed?
Don’t get us wrong here that these two are innately similar, as they have different narrative structures and one was almost surely conceived without the other in mind. But they do have one fundamental link, as it features an original character trying to protect the ones that they love while working with a variety of characters from other worlds. In the “Kingdom Hearts” universe, it is strictly Disney / Square Enix creations. As for “Once Upon a Time,” the list is more expansive and encompassing to many other fairy-tale worlds.
But is there anything that “Once Upon a Time” could pick up from the games for its third season, especially as we approach a new world in Neverland? If there is any one thing that overreaches all, it would be trying to capture that feeling of wonder you first got when, in the game, you first traveled to a place themed after “The Lion King” or “Pirates of the Caribbean”. It has to feel very different, even for a character in Emma who has realized that the world is hardly what she initially felt that it could be. What executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz did so well with on “Lost” was force us to ask questions about the places that they introduced: There were questions that we had without any dialogue, and this may be where season 2 dropped the ball somewhat when it came to the fairy-tale world that is rather than the one that was. Had there been more time, it would have been great to see more of what this place has become.
The other opportunity that comes from visiting a new world is something that the “Kingdom Hearts” franchise knows very well: The opportunity to rediscover that sense of adventure. Season 2 felt at times like quite a bit of sitting around, with the characters that had clearly-defined goals at times, being the ones that we are supposed to root against. We like the fact that season 3 of the show here begins with similar sort of goals in that there are two primary missions set up for this new world which are finding Henry, and also trying to determine what in the world happened to Neal Cassidy after he was sent through a portal. The mission to find these two makes our characters into more active heroes and villains, rather than passive faces impacted by someone else.
Finally, the last thing that “Kingdom Hearts” brings us in looking back at it are potential characters that you could bring into this world. We’re not saying to carbon-copy personalities, but people like Tarzan, some more pirates of lore, more residents of Agrabah, or even characters from within Greek mythology could be interesting to see here. Granted, we probably won’t be meeting any of them in the near future thanks to the present setting, but folks like the Little Mermaid are characters that we may see soon given that such a creature was mentioned in the season 2 finale.
The reason that a show like “Once Upon a Time” receives so much analysis and/or criticism is not actually because there is anything substantial wrong with it; it’s a good show with good ideas that appeals to a large audience. Much of the discussions revolves more around the idea that viewers have a sandbox laid out before them, and the premise yields them an opportunity to play. Video games and TV shows are different mediums, and some out there may be conceited and hold one up to a higher standard than another, but we believe there are things one can learn from the other. While “Kingdom Hearts,” if another game ever re-enters public consciousness, could learn to have a simplified story, “Once Upon a Time” could look to create a larger sense of adventure and wonder for a show that once had these as primary calling cards.
Are there any other franchises or creations that you think “Once Upon a Time” as a series could learn something from? If so, we want to hear from you here! For more specific coverage of the series, we have that for you at the link here.
Photo: ABC / Square-Enix