Everybody knows the stereotype of fairy tales, that they are entertaining stories, usually with some moral (but not always, like fables) that showed good characters struggling against trials and evil tribulations, prevailing with some often-magical help, and getting to live happily ever after (though some fairy tales actually do not). Still, modern entertainment gets a kick out of subverting the conventions of the fairy tale genre, like ABC did with “Once Upon a Time” and Bill Willingham did with “Fables” for DC Comics’ Vertigo label. Now, another TV series, this time on CBS All Access, is jumping on that bandwagon.
Created by Kevin Williamson based on an original idea by Mexican fantasy crime drama “Érase una vez” on Blim, “Tell Me a Story” takes the modern subversion of fairy tales into an even more extreme and gritty degree than ever before, framing children’s classics like “The Three Little Pigs”, “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Hansel and Gretel” into an interconnected psychological crime thriller that would make “Once Upon a Time” blush. It is not in a streaming service for no reason after all, and the darkly twisted series works on its first episode thanks to great acting from James Wolk.
Wolk plays Jordan Evans, a husband who becomes a crusading widower after his wife is killed in a deadly bank heist pulled by three perpetrators wearing pig masks. Jordan is now driven to put one of the robbers, named Eddie (Paul Wesley) behind bars, with a huffing and puffing determination a la the wolf to blow down his life in return for his own loss. Somehow Wolk sells through his characterization of the grieving Jordan that he and Eddie, and all the other characters whose paths have crossed in the first episode, are all living in a very unsettling world.
While Jordan and Eddie’s “Three Little Pigs” thread carries on, with the former as one sort of wolf, another take on the famous fairly-tale predator is seen with Billy Magnussen’s Nick, a teacher who gets into a relationship with his student Kayla (Danielle Campbell), who lives with her cool grandma (Kim Cattrall). It does not take a genius to realize, from Kayla’s distinctive red hoodie jacket and the wolf tattoo on her thigh, just which fairy tale she, her grandma and Nick are coming from. Adding into the dark web are estranged siblings Hannah (Dania Ramirez) and Gabe (Davi Santos), whose encounter with narcotics makes for a totally dangerous take on “candy and sweets”.
“Tell Me a Story” had its pilot episode premiere rather specifically on Halloween this Wednesday, but the follow-up episodes will debut on Thursdays the following weeks, all on CBS All Access.
Image courtesy of Hollywood Reporter