I like my fairy tales like I like my men: dark and mysterious with just a hint of danger. Ha! OK, maybe that’s a little over-the-top, but with all the rebooted fairy tales popping up lately, it’s hard not to get caught up in the more mature retellings of our favorite childhood stories. While there will always be a place for the bubble-gum sweetness of Disney, I’ll gladly take a modern dark and twisted fairy tale that harkens back to the, well, dark and twisted Grimm original.
Even television isn’t immune to the dark fairy tale trend. Here are three shows —and one book! — that you should be binging every time you’re looking for a little tortured true love (or maybe a monster or two):
When Once Upon a Time first aired back on ABC in 2011, I’m not sure anyone could have predicted how popular it would become. But the drama knew their audience well: give us true love, adventure and just the right amount of campy fun and we’ll always come back for more. The premise is pretty complicated: Emma is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, though she was abandoned as a baby in our modern world because of an evil spell. All the fairy tale characters have forgotten who they are after being cursed by the evil queen Regina and are now living in Storybrooke, Maine. No one can get in or out, except for Emma, who shows up one day because of the son she gave up for adoption when she was younger. Phew. It’s not a simple story, and only gets more complicated as the years go by. But if you want to watch your favorite fairy tales play out on screen in ways you didn’t expect, then this show is for you.
Cop procedural meets fairytale nightmares in this NBC drama. Nick is a detective in Portland, Oregon when he learns he’s also a Grimm—a guardian tasked with keeping humans safe from the mythical beasts that walk among us. His family and friends get caught up in the world of the supernatural as he fights the Wesen (the German world for creature or being). The show has tackled ogres, zombies, creepy viruses and much more. Its fifth season is currently airing, so make sure to get caught up on the monsters and mayhem of Grimm.
The classic fairy tale gets a serious reboot in this CW show, currently in its fourth and final season. Catherine is a detective who sees her mother get killed the same night a mysterious beast rescues her. Nine years later and she still can’t forget that night, despite everyone telling her it couldn’t be true. But then a case leads her to Vincent, a former special ops soldier who underwent a secret government program to have his DNA altered. He’s now faster and stronger, although he occasionally turns into a “beast” with a violent rage he can’t control. Of course they fall hard for each other even as they’re getting hunted by the people who want Vincent to disappear for good. Romance, fairy tales and a super hot beast? Sign me up.
Wendy Darling: Stars by Colleen Oakes (Spark Press; October 2015)
Though this Peter Pan retelling was released back in mid-October, we’re still obsessed with Oakes’ version of the classic tale. Her story focuses on Wendy and tells the events of Neverland from the young girl’s point of view. But in this version, Wendy is 16 years old, fighting to find her place in her family, and developing a relationship with a boy in her neighborhood. When another mysterious boy flies through her window one night, she and her brothers are whisked away to a far-off magical land. But this Peter Pan isn’t all charm and fun: he’s got some dark secrets and an obsession with Wendy that just might be more dangerous than loving. For a truly dark spin on a childhood classic, this first book in Oakes’ new series in a must read.