As Once Upon a Time creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz promised us back in February, the series finale wouldn’t be about tying up everything in a bow, “rather hearing the song one more time,” and what’s clear is that the book on Storybrooke can certainly be reopened up again whenever ABC feels the need. Kitsis also told us back then that his pitch for a season 8, if there ever was one, would be saved “for the reunion, when they (ABC) approach us in two years.”
“We were joking,” Horowitz told us last night about their tease for a potential return of Once Upon a Time. But given the current fever for yesteryear TV show reunions like Roseanne and Will & Grace, never say never.
So, after seven seasons and 156 episodes, here’s how Once Upon a Time closes its cover: After causing a ruckus and imprisoning adult Henry’s wife and daughter in a snow globe last episode, Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) holds all the fairy tale land’s characters’ fates hanging on a string. Henry breaking his wife and daughter out of a snow globe is easy, but stakes grow when Rumpel gets a hold of Henry’s pen and writes some morbid endings for the Storybrooke dramatis personae (read Snow White never finds love). This melee began last episode when young fairly tale Henry (Jared Gilmore) made a pact with Rumpel to write his own fate, a better fate. As such, young fairy tale Henry had a wrong to right with Regina’s former evil Queen self (Lana Parrilla), and killing her would thus seal everyone’s fates, per Rumpel.
In the forest, Regina has a Come-to-Jesus with young Henry, apologizing for killing his grandparents and begging him to see the light. Henry, like her, could turn for the better (at one point Regina dreams of seeing her old lover Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) again, where he tells her, “I know you would move to the light…your story is proof that one’s life is not set”).
Regina pleads to her adopted son, “You mean everything to me…If this is how I have to go out, showing you that people love you no matter what you do, that’s a worthy end for me.” The begging works and young Henry drops his sword.
While Regina doesn’t wind up being the sacrificial lamb, Mr. Gold does. He knows that the only way to stop his menacing fairy tale ego Rumpel is by ripping his own heart out. Doing so turns Rumpel to dust, literally Avengers: Infinity War-style. We see Gold returning to some normalcy in the afterlife as he finds his true love, Beauty and the Beast‘s Belle.
Regina says she needs to cast one more curse: “The dark curse is the blueprint for something wonderful,” she says. Essentially, she has a plan to bring all the realms to Storybrooke. “All the realms of story tucked away on a forgotten corner of Main,” says Regina. In the closing scene, we see Regina being whisked by car into a castle escorted by older Henry and Zelena. They bring Regina into a grand throne room where the kingdom is cheering, with Snow White and Prince Charming in the center of the room, bearing some good news: Now that there’s peace across the united realms, they need a good Queen, and who better than Regina to hold the job? Emma Swan then busts in late for the ceremony, with family in tow.
While there were old faces that returned for the finale, such as Swan (Jennifer Morrison), Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), they were mostly relegated to cameos.
Still ,if the entire cast had stuck together through season 7 without departures, would this still be the plot of tonight’s series finale?
Says Kitsis, “Last year’s ending would have been it. We would have postponed what we did last year. What you saw last year would have been this.”
A year ago for the season 6 finale, it was Fiona who had the fairy tale land in peril by imprisoning Swan and empowering her doubt to potentially bleed darkness, thus eliminating fairy tale land. While Rumpel reduces Fiona to a pile of dust with her wand, Emma is left to battle Gideon. It’s another case of self-sacrifice, whereby Emma allows Gideon to impale her, which releases her light magic, ending the battle. A smooch by son Henry makes it all better and revives Swan and Storybrooke.
The duo told us that killing off Rumpel sooner in the series was never in the cards, and that the series in the end isn’t just about the redemption of Regina, or that of Rumpel, but “the villain that everyone was facing was their own darkness and it took a healing heart in Regina, fighting herself and saving the family, and Rumpel fighting against the worst version of himself,” explains Kitsis.
“It’s not about the ending, the journey and the adventure continues,” says Kitsis, “Gold killing Rumpel was his ending. For everyone else, the story continues.”
Much like Regina, who fought to the bitter end, so did Once Upon a Time, as it weathered its transition from 8PM Sundays over six seasons to the more dormant 8PM Friday night slot in its seventh season. But make no mistake, there was a die-hard, fervent fan base for this series, which was loudly evident at Once Upon a Time‘s annual panel at San Diego Comic-Con in Ballroom 20; an event that will certainly be missed this July. It was here where there was a continual call by fans and an answer by Once Upon a Time creators and cast for a musical episode, one which finally came to realization a year ago. Kitsis and Horowitz were generous to their followers, always providing them a tease of a major character who would make their debut, whether that was Hook, Frozen’s Elsa, or Brave‘s Merida. Since its premiere in fall 2011, Once Upon a Time‘s viewing momentum was further propped by the growing dominance of social media, whereby the series’ characters had their own handles. Not to mention, it was a clear indicator for the creators in regards to what was working on the show, as they swung for the fences with sundry bizarro twists galore, especially with its approach to cherished Disney characters (count ’em: Peter Pan was Rumpel’s father, Merida seeks revenge on King Arthur for her father’s death, and Grumpy the dwarf is hatched from an egg).
“Once Upon a Time fans were different from the Lost audience,” says Kitsis about the show where he and Horowitz were ultimately EPs. “During the final season of Lost, Twitter was brand new; nothing where people could react in real time.” He gives props to the Once Upon a Time Cast, “who could pull off anything we wrote,” says the co-creator, making the zany more rational, more believable.
A few months ago, Kitsis said that in regards to his and Horowitz’s lives post-Once, “Since Lost, we’ve done 300-plus hours of television in the last fourteen years. We might take a break.”
But to quote Regina at the end of tonight’s episode, “This isn’t an ending. I hate endings, because then your story is done and everyone here, their stories are far from over.”
And while Once Upon a Time isn’t coming back any time soon, Kitsis hints that a new series is coming down the pike: “We’re gearing up for something else. You’re always on a well-deserved break until the next time that phone rings.”