‘Once Upon A Time’ 7×22 Review: A Happy Beginning

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The series finale of Once Upon A Time,  very appropriately titled “Leaving Storybrooke,” provided many feels and tears, and a solid goodbye to a show that has held my heart for seven years.

We had everything from cameos from Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Josh Dallas – who all exited the show at the end of last season – to the reappearance of Storybrooke itself. There was so much in the episode that was like a love letter to the fandom that has supported the show for the past seven years. Then there’s the wrap up of the current plot lines we’ve had all season – especially Rumple’s fight to get back to Belle.

There were a few twists dropped along the way that I did not see coming – and I guess it’s a good thing.

All in all, it was a solid series finale that provided what Regina called a happy beginning, instead of the traditional “happily ever after” or happy ending. The show really came full circle – with curse and all (in a good way) to give the characters the “happy beginning” they deserve.

All season I’ve asked if all the characters deserve the happy beginning – but they did each beloved character their justice. Well – maybe except for the Blue Fairy. I was shocked to see that ending to such a good character.

So – let’s break it all down.

Entering Storybrooke

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Just as much as Emma Swan, Captain Hook, Regina Mills, Rumple, Prince Charming, Snow White, or Henry Mills are characters we’ve all fallen in love with over the seasons, so has Storybrooke been a character in this show unlike any other. It is the town that is the basis of all these stories. Where everything came to life.

It’s only fitting that this small town in Maine is where the show ends; it’s where it all began. Even more so – all the realms are united under one finally. No separation between the Wish Realm and Storybrooke – or any other for that matter – via a curse not unlike the original one. The exception: it’s full of love instead of hate. It unites realms instead of separating them – and people from the ones they love. United and living in happiness in Storybrooke under the peaceful rule of Regina – now dubbed the Good Queen. She’s no longer evil. She’s overcome her evil roots once and for all.

It’s a proper ending to such a long and complex journey. One I had hoped we would get. My biggest worry was that they would forget about the people in Hyperion Heights – but they didn’t and for that I can smile. Over the course of the season I had become attached to many of those characters and it would’ve been a let down for those characters to not get their own payoff.

Where We Left Off

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At the end of “Homecoming,” we saw Robin and Alice entering Storybrooke to ask for help to rescue Henry, Wish Hook, Rumple, Regina, Ella, Lucy, and others from the grasp of Wish Rumple and Wish Henry. Well, Robin’s return to Storybrooke wasn’t received as she had hoped it would be. But then again, this town has no clue this version of her exists.

That’s proven when Robin talks to her mother, Zelena. (Yes, we have another cameo from Rebecca Mader.) In this, Zelena has a five-year-old Robin in the car with her. It takes the crazy explanation of the timeline and stuff – one so unbelievable that Zelena and many other have issues believing – to get them to agree to help them.

My one question in all this – because time travel is involved – is how in the world is there not a time loop here or something? I guess we will never know, right? I’ve moved on. Really, I have.

Back In The Wish Realm

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Once, Robin and Alice get help from Storybrooke in the form of Zelena, Snow, and Charming, we get a series of rather complicated events that all build up to Wish Rumple’s demise and Wish Henry’s change of heart.

You are asking how in the world can Wish Rumple be defeated so hastily? Well, this ending kills two birds with one stone. Not only does Regina get through to Wish Henry – whose negative emotions about what she did to Snow and Charming in that realm were powering Wish Rumple’s plan to isolate them all from each other with no hope. When Regina got through to Wish Henry that he is in fact loved is when the plan fell apart.

Rumple takes advantage of this and sacrifices his heart to Wish Hook, who is barely holding on to life due to his poisoned heart and kills Wish Rumple. Before Wish Rumple passes to the afterlife – he says that Wish Hook deserved his happy ending with his daughter.

Now, you ask how Rumple can die. I did too. It seems when the powers of the Guardian were stripped – so was his immortality. He still seemed like he had lost all hope – until he sacrificed his heart to Wish Hook. A fitting end for Rumple. A full circle thing for the Wish Hook/Rumple friendship.

Rumple FINALLY gets what he wanted – to be reunited with Belle. We get a beautiful scene in which we see just that. While he has tragically left us – he has found his happy ending with Belle in the afterlife. It’s what he wanted, and with that sacrifice he has fully earned his happy ending. He was a hero.

When we left off last episode, Ella and Lucy were trapped in Wish Rumple’s snow globe that is rapidly filling with snow. Rumple, Henry, and Wish Hook get trapped inside as well. Eventually – and it feels like it comes from thin air – Maui’s fish hook appears, and they can break themselves out of their prison.

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Yeah, there’s a lot things in this episode that really appear as plot devices to get the characters to where the writers wanted them to be. Maui’s hook = ANOTHER MAGIC BEAN (which was used to get from Storybrooke to the Wish Realm). I love the use of a good plot device, but seriously, I believe use of the magic bean is one of those things I had enough of this season.

Especially since they are supposed to be rare. There are good plot devices and there are bad ones. I feel they used the items to just get to the ending they wanted. Which is what a plot device does – but using it in an ingenious way is also what makes it a good plot device. This is not that. It’s probably one of my harshest criticisms of the series finale.

The Happy Beginnings And The Characters That Returned

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The episode provides the characters with a new happy beginning, living in Storybrooke with all the realms connected. None of the characters are separated anymore. They have all found the people they love and want to be with. It’s beautiful and fitting ending to this complex and amazing story that we have watched grow and develop over the past seven years. It’s been an epic and amazing journey through the many realms and stories that we’ve gotten through the years. I can’t begin to count the characters that have been brought to life by this show; there are just too many. However, no matter the journey or how little the screen time they had, there was always a connection. Whether positive or negative is a different thing entirely.

What’s fitting is the characters we’ve come to love and connect with – our heroes – got their beautiful happy beginnings in Storybrooke. They are now all together. There’s an open-ended feel to it that will allow the fans to speculate on what can happen next for years to come in fan fiction and other ways. I feel it was a fitting end to the show that I fell in love with seven years ago. That I still love very much.

Yes, even I’ve had my criticisms of how certain plot lines were handled, but we’ve all had those. No show is perfect. Guess what? TV shows are written by human beings and we are nothing but the definition of imperfection. While OUAT at least has a sense of whimsy about its mistakes, it also has some beautiful moments. If you keep looking at the mistakes and focusing on them, then the beauty is lost. The epic story told over the course of seven seasons should not be overlooked. Sure, criticize it, but also enjoy it. All of it.

I want to thank Eddy & Adam for bringing this epic show to life for the past seven years. To the cast – Jen, Ginny, Josh, Lana, Bobby, Colin, Jared, Bex, Emilie, Andrew, Dania, Alison (and many, many more), many thanks for their amazing performances. Without them these characters wouldn’t have jumped from the script to the screen.

Speaking of the cast – we had some epic returns (some could be appearances for the first time) for this beautiful series finale.

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  1. Emma – in the most epic parallel to the pilot ever – with Hook puns included.
  2. Baby Hope – Killian and Emma’s baby Hope made her first and only on-screen appearance.
  3. Killian – the original Hook, our beloved Killian Jones, made his appearance and in style as he apparently had to baby proof his hook for Hope.
  4. Captain Swan – While I mentioned both characters separately – seeing my beloved ship happy and with baby after all this time made me tear up – I needed to mention them.
  5. Snow and Charming – They come as a packaged pair. Snow and Charming return to help Henry stop Wish Rumple and help provide Regina with her happy beginning. It was epic to see them again.
  6. Prince Neal – A 7- or 8-year-old Prince Neal appeared beside his parents in the big group scene.
  7. Robin Hood – In a dream sequence, we get an epic Outlaw Queen scene that is as beautiful as the short-lived relationship was on the show. Seeing Sean Maguire again made me tear up.
  8. Zelena – When Robin and Alice are in Storybrooke, they find Zelena. who helps them with their mission to overcome Wish Rumple.
  9. Belle – In a scene after Rumple’s death in the afterlife, we see Rumple reunited with Belle after all this time; an ending he FINALLY earned.
  10. The Dwarves – At the beginning of the episode, we see the dwarves again.
  11. Granny – We saw her cameo in a flashback last week, but we also got a little cameo in present time from her this week with the dwarves.
  12. The Blue Fairy – The Blue Fairy made a short appearance only to get her happy ending dashed by Wish Rumple.

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Emma and Killian – aka Captain Swan

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Last season, we got an epic payoff moment for Captain Swan – their wedding. While many of fans believe this is where the story should’ve ended – it wasn’t the case by any means. It had only begun. We’d gotten the tease of Emma’s pregnancy in “A Pirate’s Life,”  Jen’s only other appearance of this season. In the series finale, we get to see the baby herself. It’s the ultimate payoff.

Having been told by both Jen and Colin that they got to name the Captain Swan baby was cool. They chose the name Hope – which ties into the theme of the spirit of the final scene. With love and hope anything can be overcome together, even loss, which unfortunately is part of life. It was beautiful to see, and I loved their epic entrance that was an amazing parallel to the pilot.

Emma and Killian, with baby in tow, interrupting Regina’s coronation as the Good Queen was epic and an amazing call back to Regina interrupting the wedding of Snow and Charming in the pilot. It was everything I didn’t know I needed.

Snow and Charming – aka Snowing

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Seeing Snow and Charming appear for the first time in this episode to help Henry rescue Regina from an evil Wish Henry’s grasp is everything. It made me cheer. It made me tear up. That’s how much I missed seeing this epic and beautiful couple that was the basis of it all on my screen again. Just beautiful with the call back to the pilot and their wedding at the final scene.

Regina

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Regina’s ending is one she’s earned. She’s worked hard to become a better person. To be redeemed from the woman that everyone knew as the Evil Queen. Does this erase all the bad she did in the past? No. It doesn’t. She has owned up to it and realized that the love of her son, and the other people around her, is what can save you from evil. In this, Regina finally proves she has done exactly this.

She gets crowned the Good Queen. An elected Queen of all the realms – now connected under one last “curse” that brings them all together. To lead them into their new beginning. It’s fitting.

Henry, Ella, and Lucy

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In the midst of it all, we see Henry gets reunited with Ella and Lucy, finally getting his happy beginning in Storybrooke with his wife and daughter. After all the pain he went through under the curse, Henry deserves this. As Regina told his Wish Realm self, he is always good and always chooses the right thing.

That’s the Henry Mills we were introduced to as a little boy seven years ago – and that’s the Henry Mills we still see as a man today. A man that’s now more than a son or grandson, but a father and husband as well. Henry’s journey has been beautiful and I’m so glad I got to witness it to this epic happy beginning.

Rumple and Belle

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Rumple, in his last act (due to his immortality being stripped from him by Wish Rumple), sacrifices his heart to defeat his Wish Realm version and save Wish Hook from his death by his poisoned heart. It’s this last act of bravery and heroism that propels Rumple into the after life and reunion with Belle – which we get to see. It’s an ending he FINALLY earns. A forever in the afterlife with Belle something he’s desired since “Beauty.”

While tragic as it may seem – as he is dead to other characters – it is the ending Rumple wanted. It has been foreshadowed all season and I was only hoping we’d get to see Belle again.

Wish Hook and Alice

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Due to Rumple’s massive sacrifice, Wish Hook can live a new happy beginning with his daughter. He’s finally capable of giving her a hug and when it happened it was epic as can be. I may have shed a tear at this epic and earned reunion between father and daughter.

Robin and Alice

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There’s a scene in the episode where Robin asks Wish Hook if she can marry Alice. It’s epic and beautiful. Wish Hook couldn’t help but tear up that his little girl had found love – giving his seal of approval immediately.

So here we are with a potential engagement. A happy beginning for two characters who have definitely seen their hardship.

Conclusion

It’s a happy beginning for all, and an ending I can appreciate. I feel this episode was a beautiful love letter to the fans that have followed for the past seven years and fallen in love with these characters and relationships along the way.

I’m not going to sugar coat it – these characters have their issues. There are many gray areas in these characters that have been explored along the way. Just as none of us is perfect, the characters shouldn’t be either. The flaws are what attract me to a character. It makes them more human – even if they are not. It’s been an epic journey watching these characters notice these flaws and acknowledge them. To make mistakes and learn from them. Are they anywhere near perfect? No. Not at all, but that’s the epic part of this journey that OUAT gave us.

They gave us characters that somehow, someway find love and acceptance despite these flaws. That earn redemption and a happy beginning to the next chapter of their story. Now, it’s up to us – the fans – to keep these epic stories flowing. They can stay alive in our hearts and our minds. In fan fiction. I can imagine some beautiful stories that can be crafted to continue what Eddy & Adam have started. This is how this show lives on. Through us – the fans.

It’s not a goodbye. Not really. In the sense of the show, yes, but in our hearts it will live forever. The final scene a fitting parallel to the first time we see Storybrooke – the sign that announces you are leaving the magical Maine town that the majority of the show has taken place.

I cheered, I laughed, I cried – and all in the span of this magical hour of TV that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. It’s fitting that the Leaving Storybrooke sign is the last shot of OUAT – ever.

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This is the part of the review where I tell you about the next episode – but I can’t because there isn’t one. This is it. And now – I’m crying all over again while writing that. It will take a while for me to emotionally let go of this show.

Goodbye OUAT, you will be missed.


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