It feels like only yesterday that Emma Swann met her estranged son Henry Mills and was dragged to Storybrooke, Maine to break the Dark Curse and save her family from evil. Ah, good times. But, all things must come to an end, and the sixth season of Once Upon A Time feels like a somewhat wobbly love letter to the series. While renewed for a seventh season, the sixth was the last with the original cast, most of whom have bowed out or been let go with the end of the main storyline. Tears all around! But, their last hurrah has been a tale of highs and lows, reminding us why the characters, the cast, and show writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz are so wonderful.
Spoiler warning for the whole season and series below!
The fifth season teased a pretty grand number of storylines for the sixth – the return of the Evil Queen, Mr. Hyde takes over Storybrooke and brings his “friends” from the Land of Untold Stories to cause some trouble, and a troubled Aladdin teased as a Saviour. And don’t get me wrong, the sixth season started off with a few promising episodes. Emma starts experiencing flashes of the future, discovering she will be killed in battle, and develops severe anxieties personified as a shaking hand. Regina tries to find a way to rid Storybrooke of the Evil Queen, who runs around, hamming it up, trolling everyone, and for some reason wants to get kinky with Mr. Gold.
Speaking of Rumplestiltskin, the handling of the Dark One’s character arc is sadly all over the place. He acts like a right douchebag to just about everyone, including his own wife Belle, who has since split from him due to his constant lies. He even claims that she will fall in love with him out of “necessity”. Yikes. And while he is pining after Belle and making threats, he has no problem with being unfaithful with the Evil Queen. Thankfully, he improves over the course of the season, even if his priorities are eschewed.
Anyhow, the whole Land of Untold Stories plotline starts off good. We get Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, Cinderella’s evil stepmother Lady Tremaine, the Count of Monte Cristo, an underused Captain Nemo, etc. However, its relevance quickly fades as the major character arcs grow, and frankly, they are a little repetitive. Emma has already been through the whole “I don’t want to be the Saviour” a dozen times before, Rumple and Belle’s relationship was dead, Snow White and Prince Charming are given little to do, Zelena could have easily been replaced with a tree, and Henry’s role as the Author is wasted. Angsty pouting doesn’t suit him.
Mr. Hyde gets unceremoniously killed off in the fourth episode, letting the Evil Queen rattle everyone’s cage. She mostly is around just to let Lana Parilla act her socks off, but there are some great twists, particularly when she rips Snow and David’s hearts out, only to put them back in, inserting a two-way sleeping curse in two, so only one of them can be awake at one time. Genius! There is also the subplot of Belle and Rumple’s unborn child, whom they meet as an adult in the first episode, the obviously evil Gideon, who is a pawn of Rumple’s crazy mother, the Black Fairy, who is almost written as a complex character but she becomes more of a generic evil villain towards the end of the season.
The first half of the season has a lot of issues, mostly wasted opportunities. For example, Captain Nemo shows up complete with the Nautilus as an associate of Hook’s. However, rather than exploring Nemo’s character and world, he is instead wasted in favour of a pointless subplot revealing Hook’s younger brother is onboard and wants revenge against the pirate. And the whole thing is introduced and resolved in one episode, and never mentioned again.
Aladdin and Jasmine’s presence is underplayed as well. Aladdin is established as a Saviour who has been worn out and broken down by his role as a hero, so much so he used some magic destiny-breaking scissors to escape his fate. But, we only see Aladdin’s first adventure as the Saviour and that is it. We never see nor hear any of the reasons why he broke down, and it is just waved off. They then obtain a genie’s lamp, and I immediately assumed that Jafar was going to pop out, since he was already set up to appear in the series and was transformed into a genie in Once Upon A Time in Wonderland. But, instead the lamp is empty (though it does pay homage to Robin Williams), and Aladdin just transforms into a genie upon putting on the genie bracelets. Wonderland established some specific rules about how genie-ology works, and those rules are simply tossed aside here. Jafar does eventually appear but is completely wasted.
Midway through the season, the Evil Queen transports Emma to a wish realm where she never became the Saviour and the Dark Curse was never cast, followed by Regina. The alternate reality provides some fun, even bringing back Robin Hood for a couple of episodes. Regina brings him back to Storybrooke in an attempt to have a second chance with him, but learns she can’t change him, and ultimately lets him go. Out of all the characters, Regina has had the best character development in the whole series. Even her story with the Evil Queen gets resolved in a memorable, tearjerking episode.
Hook eventually pops the question to Emma, but is briefly led astray due to Gideon, the Nautilus, and the fact that he murdered David’s father. That was one plot twist I saw coming and regarded it with a loud groan. It was really predictable and unnecessary. That’s something I’d expect to see that kind of soapy drivel on EastEnders. The whole subplot is quickly wrapped up and cast aside in favour of more heartwarming moments, such as when the whole of Storybrooke knock themselves out to awaken Snow and David from their curse.
Perhaps the biggest jaw dropper, for better or for worse, was when a flashback smashed a hole in the series’ continuity, by revealing Snow, David, and Rumple all awoke from the first Dark Curse in 1993, and while it leads to some charming moments, it feels very forced and is then retconned. Zelena gets some minor growth in the series, mostly left in the sidelines, loses her magic, gets one episode introducing the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion (hooray!), and that’s that.
And then comes the musical episode. Yesiree, there is a musical episode, like what was done with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but perhaps a bit more cheesier. It covers Emma and Hook’s beautiful wedding. Surprisingly, just about everyone in the cast can carry a tune, though the performance is somewhat spoilt by the limited choreography since most of the series is filmed on green screen.
The big finale mostly serves as a last hurrah for the original cast, throwing in a couple more “what if” scenarios where Emma was just nuts the whole time, the supporting cast are placed under a third Dark Curse, while Snow, David, Regina, Hook, and Zelena are trapped in the Enchanted Forest which is slowly fading away along with all the others worlds – caused by Emma losing hope. The final battle is for Emma’s soul. Now, that’s an original idea. Survival based on the lingering ideal of hope – a major driving force throughout Once Upon A Time.
And despite all of my negative comments on the sixth season, in truth, I still did love it more or less. I grinned like an idiot every time they had a charming moment between characters, whenever they brought back some old characters or introduced new ones. Plot devices and deus ex machinas were common and expected, the romance was always sweet, the magic was often used to pull plot devices out of thin air to get characters places, and the special effects have always been a little cheap looking. And I love every minute of it. Once Upon A Time may not be ending yet, but this is the end of its golden age, and hopefully the seventh season will offer something new while honouring what came before.
We’ll be saying goodbye to Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas, Jared Gilmore, Emilie de Ravin, and Rebecca Mader, though judging by the teaser for the seventh season, Henry will be back, though older and played by Andrew J. West, and the door may be open for the old cast members to return.
So, while this chapter is over, the story of Once Upon A Time isn’t over just yet.
What did you think of Once Upon A Time’s sixth season? Should it end with most of the cast leaving, or are you looking forward to the future? Leave a comment below or on our Twitter feed.