Disney’s Aladdin came out when I was seven years old, so after Beauty and the Beast, it was the first of the Disney animated canon that I watched repeatedly and actually understood the story the first time around.
While never my favourite, I nonetheless really enjoyed the story (and the songs) and it reminds me of being seven, so I have a strong affection for it.
Thus I was concerned with how the writers of Once Upon A Time would address the story of Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, Jafar, etc. I trusted that they would do a good job, considering that they have a great track record at weaving the various tales together, but I was nervous about whether or not I would like it.
I was not disappointed – Aladdin and Jasmine are just as I pictured them if the animated characters had come to life! In the flashback scenes, they are wearing beautiful versions of their classic Disney film costumes, although Jasmine’s is more tasteful and realistic, while Aladdin’s is appropriately rough-looking. Aladdin is a charming, rogue thief who needs to be persuaded to accept his destiny. Like Emma, he has a tough exterior.
In fact, Aladdin is a lot like Emma, down to wearing a leather jacket and having a penchant for stealing cars, as well as being Saviours. As it turns out, to avoid the tragic fate prophesied to befall Emma, Aladdin forswore his Saviour powers. In Aladdin, Emma has a chance to see what she does not want, and she is determined to both help Aladdin and Jasmine and figure out a third option to her fate.
Albeit due to the Evil Queen’s meddling, the Charming clan finally find out what is troubling Emma. Naturally, they are as determined as she is to figure out how to save her. Hook is not entirely convinced that what Aladdin did was a bad idea – after all, he is still alive. The episode Street Rats serves as an important chapter in that it introduces our new characters and storyline as well as finally puts all of our heroes on the same page.
The story continues in Dark Waters, wherein Hook and Henry take centre stage. I enjoyed the integration of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the theme of forgiveness vs. vengeance. Was it a tad heavy-hitting? Yes, but it is the type of message that needs to get out.
Most importantly, the Evil Queen is trying to drive a wedge in to our family of central heroes. Instead of going after Emma directly this time, she plants discord between Henry and Hook. This is an already fragile dynamic, since Henry does not want a new father and is a moody teenager besides. As his mother, the Evil Queen knows how to push him to be distrustful. (In this case, rightly so.) What this leads to is ultimately reconciliation between Henry and Hook, but also between Hook and his half-brother as well as between Hook and Emma. Thus, the Queen is no closer to her goal except that she has roped Rumplestiltskin into helping her…sort of.
I was most impressed by how natural the steampunk submarine fit into the series. Despite being somewhat more scientific, Captain Nemo and the Nautilus felt right out of the fairy-tale books. It is a different era to pirates, but it is still far from being realistic.
The strength of this show is that the writers, directors, costume designers, set designers, etc. all manage to create a world where everything flows together despite being a mash of cultures, eras, architecture, and story types. The various worlds fit together neatly, moreso now than they did in earlier seasons. The characters are believable and work well with each other.
Yes, it is contrived, but it is meant to be. It is an epic tale of adventure, mystery, romance, and magic.