LOOK BACK: ABC's Once Upon A Time
Last night, ABC's Once Upon A Time aired its last episode after seven seasons.
The series started off with the Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrilla) casting a spell to send the majority of the inhabitants from the Enchanted Forest to the Land Without Magic. This was to be a curse to extract revenge on a land in which her arch nemesis Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and her Prince Charming (Josj Dallas) had their happy ending. Before the curse takes place, Snow and Charming manage to spirit their daughter Emma (Jennifer Morrison) off to the new land in an enchanted tree to spare her after learning from Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) that she would be their savior on her 28th birthday. When Emma reaches this age, she is found by Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) claiming to be her son and she was the only one to save them all.
And thus began the saga of Snow White's and Prince Charming's extended family. Most of the show took place in the fictional town of Storybrooke, Maine, where its inhabitants could never leave. Their lives in the Enchanted Forest would be told in flashback. And their characters took on names that suggested their colorful past - Snow White was Mary Margeret Blanchard, Rumplestiltskin was Mr. Gold (and later Weaver), Red Riding Hood was Ruby, and so on. The show added more characters to its regular rotation such as Belle (Emilie de Ravin), Hook (Colin O'Donoghue) and Zelena (Rebecca Mader), the Wicked Witch of the West.
The immediate charm of the show was that, while not specifically Disney characters, the characters are named after some of Disney's fairy tale classics. Snow White's dwarfs are the same in the animated feature. The Little Mermaid is Ariel. Beauty is Belle. Sleeping Beauty is Aurora. And so on and so forth.
But, unlike the Disney films, all of these characters interacted with each other in the Enchanted Forest and created many fun opportunities for mashups among classic fairytales. For example, Rumplestiltskin, it turned out, was both the Beast to Belle's Beauty and the Crocodile who took Captain Hook's hand.
I also loved when you'd find out one famous fairytale character was actually related to another. Rumplestiltskin's son Baelfire ended up being the biological father of Henry making him the other grandparent. Peter Pan was Rumplestiltskin's father. Regina's mother was the woman for whom Rumplestiltskin wove gold. Regina's sister was Zelena. Phew! It was so fun to follow the dots to how all the characters related with each other.
I loved these match ups more than when they actually tried to mimic the Disney animated films directly. The beauty of the show was that it would make us think Disney without it actually being Disney. The costumes could make them look very different like Snow White or give suggestions with color like Belle. So, when they had Anna & Elsa or Merida show up wearing the exact clothing they do in their animated features, for me, it felt it landed to close. It was too easy to draw comparisons.
Most of the seasons followed Snow White's family with Emma being the Savior and her son Henry being the True Believer and, later, as an Author of stories. We saw life beyond the Enchanted Forest, venturing into other land such as Never Land, Wonderland, Oz, Arendelle, the Underworld and so on and so forth. The series even bore a spin-off called Once Upon A Time In Wonderland that only lasted one season. I also liked that the series addressed LGBT relationships throughout the series. Mulan was in love with Aurora and, in the seventh season, Alice was in love with Robin (the daughter of Zelena and Robin Hood).
Toward the sixth season, Once Upon A Time started losing its charm and several of the main cast announced that it would be their last. So, the season finale of the sixth season by giving our heroes the happy ending they were searching for. Series villains turned hero Regina, Rumplestiltskin, Hook and Zelena became the heroes of the seventh season and were transported to the new Land Without Magic of Hyperion Heights near Seattle, Washington. Henry, Regina, Zelena and Rumplestiltskin teamed up with Hook, Alice, Cinderella and Tiana from the New Enchanted Forest against the likes of Mother Gothel and Lady Tremaine.
I had my misgivings about this new season as I felt it was a desperate attempt to try to capture the show's former glory, but I actually really enjoyed the seventh season and, by the end, was bummed that I didn't get to see these stories explored a little more. Some of the biggest twists capitalized on what made the beginning seasons of Once Upon A Time so popular - the surprise mashups! Rapunzel ended up being Lady Tremaine after her heart was broken when she returned to find her husband happily married to another woman. Alice ended up being the child of Hook and Mother Gothel. And Drizella ended up being a villainous mastermind with a heart of gold.
In the final episode, some of the inhabitants from Hyperion Heights make it back to Storybrooke to seek help from Snow and Charming.The episode is filled with appearances from the original cast. Regina casts her final curse where everybody gifts a piece of their heart to bring all the realms from the Enchanted Forest to Wonderland to Agrabah and, because of this, Regina is crowned the first elected Good Queen and receives her happy ending. Or, as she says, new beginnings because ending means the story is over. I thought it was a very fitting and nice ending to the series.
Speaking of happy endings, my congratulations to Prince Henry and Meghan Markle, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, on their wedding today. So, in Once Upon A Time style, may you find your happy ending, but may your story be a long one.