So, I’ve been watching Once Upon A Time, which is a lot of fun, with some great performances. But to my mind, there’s a flaw in the concept – a flaw familiar from Lost, a flaw that in fact we rarely saw before Lost…
Once Upon A Time is divided between the ‘real’ world, where a group of amnesiac mythological characters are living ordinary lives in ignorance of who they once were – and the fairytale world they once inhabited, where we see their lives before a witch’s curse transported them to our world.
Okay, fine, but those scenes in the fairytale world? They’ve already happened. They’re ancient history. And it’s very hard to get excited about what a character did years ago, however much it may inform and shape their present, when we’d rather be seeing what they’re doing here and now. Especially when the here and now is as fascinating as “a bunch of people live in ignorance of their true natures” or “plane crash survivors struggle to survive on a mysterious island”.
And secondly – although the Once Upon A Time writers work very hard to make those flashbacks illuminating and dramatic – there’s always the possibility that extended flashbacks are just a lazy way of conveying character traits, flaws and strengths that the writer should actually be showing us in the present. What’s stronger: flashing back to show us the hero lost a sibling in childhood, or seeing him here and now, still unable to enter a hospital because he’s so weighed down by bad memories? To my mind, the present always trumps the past. It feels more real, more immediate, the stakes are higher and the outcome of each scene less certain.
So, over to you. Am I wrong on this? Has Lost made extended flashbacks showing the key moments of a character’s life a legitimate storytelling technique – or does it annoy you as much as it annoys me?