Once Upon A Time started season six with questions and it ended with answers. In fact, season 6 ended with what one might consider all the answers. All the happy endings – or, at least, the ones the show could conceivably give us.
The journey – our journey – and most importantly, Emma Swan’s journey, that of lost girl who didn’t have anyone and then found a family, found her parents, discovered she’d always been wanted, found that she was a hero in her own right and also found personal fullfillment and happiness, not because she found true love, although she did, but because she found herself, is over. There might be new stories to be told, but the ones we’ve been following for six years end here.
So, let’s go into the season, and examine what the show did right to close out all the storylines, what they did wrong and what we simply wanted more of and we just didn’t get. We’ll also talk about our favorite episodes and specualte a bit about what’s coming and whether we’ll stick along for the ride.
The season was one of high highs and low lows, and though balance was characteristically lacking, in the end, like always, the highs, which, in this particular case, were very high, make season 6 compare favorably to other seasons. You don’t go out of Season 6 with a bad taste in your mouth, if anything, the ending of season 6, the lessons learned during it, leave you with a sense of completion. The journey is over. You can go on with your life, or not, but the characters you know and love are safe. They’re happy.
Captain Swan: You could say this is one of the things that have worked better – and more consistently for the show since its introduction, but Season 6 allowed these two characters to move forward, to live together, get engaged, get married, and just …enjoy those quite moments together. As a couple. As an entity. They were always partners in this journey called life, but this season truly allowed us to enjoy Emma and Killian as we always wanted to – together. And sure, we wish we’d gotten more, because …we’re greedy that way. When something works, you want more of it, that’s human nature. We’d watch an entire season of what some people mockingly dubbed ‘Once Upon A Captain Swan.’ We really would. No joking. But since this review is not meant to harp on what we didn’t get but, instead, celebrate what we did, I’ll say that this season – and this show, for a long time – only worked because of the strength of its OTPs, and Captain Swan was (is) the most important one of them.
Charming Family: This, honestly, if you consider the ending, can, in one way or another, include almost everyone. But I’m talking mostly about Snow and Charming, their daughter, Henry and yes, Hook and Regina. They’re family. All of them. An unconventional type of family, yes, but the kind you make sacrifices for, the kind you love and sometimes you want to strangle, but you just can’t quit.
The individual relationships within the context of that family might have been lacking at times – I would have loved more Snow/Emma or more Hook/Henry, but they faced problems as a family unit, they took turns in taking the lead and they just supported each other, through it all. And when you consider this unit included two former villains, and two women who started this show fighting for the love of a son, that’s a lot of character development.
Snowing: We started with them, and it’s fitting that Season 6 gave Snow and Charming more of a chance to be, well, Snow and Charming, that they’ve had since season 3. They weren’t just Emma’s parents, or Henry’s grandparents, they were a couple. The original couple who loved each other and started on this journey, and they weren’t just there as a token, or to remind us of why we fell in love with this show, they actively made us fall in love with them, with their love story and with their family, all over again.
What Didn’t Work
Rumple’s ‘redemption’ arc: If what the show did with Rumple, not just on Season 6, but thought the whole duration of the show can even be called a redemption arc. The message of Beauty and the Beast was always about looking beyond what was obvious, something that Once Upon A Time translated to seeing the man behind the beast, and that was all fine and well for a while. And then Rumple (and the writers) took it one step too far. And then fifty steps. By the time he was placing locator spells on Belle and keeping her “safe and secure” but basically holding her hostage there was very little to root for, not just in Rumple, but in his relationship with Belle. And yes – the Gideon part of the season was much kinder on Rumple. He’s always been better in the father role than he’s been in the husband role, and making Gideon the key to his final redemption was both fitting, and somehow, touching. But …was his final “redemption” earned? No. Was it fair? Hell no. And just the fact that he had it so easy makes the journeys of everyone else, but especially Hook and Regina seem absurdly difficult in comparison.
Balance: The eternal problem for Once Upon A Time, they just don’t know how to balance their characters. There was a lot of good in Season 6, and yet, in a way, it feels like no one got the time they deserved to tell their story. This, of course, is a result of having too many damn characters, and yet, it’s also a result of giving secondary characters too much screen time.
The show was a bit better than in Seasons 4 or 5, but that doesn’t mean the problem was fixed, no. Captain Swan still got short-changed, as we got to see very few of the quiet, happy moments that inform a couple, and the same can be said for Snowing, or even for Emma and her parents, Regina and Henry, Emma and Henry, Zelena and Regina. All of this while we got an episode focused on the Count of Monte Cristo, Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde, Beowful, the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, and that’s not even counting all the screen time Aladdin and Jasmine got.
And yes, secondary characters are good and necessary, but we should have never been left feeling like we got too little of what we wanted and too much of what we didn’t. That’s Once Upon A Time’s problem, and it always has been.
What We Wanted to See More Of
Regina and Zelena: And not just them fighting – we got a lot more of that than we wanted. We wanted to see them develop a close bond, we wanted the fact that they were willing to sacrifice things for each other mean something. We wanted it to be about more than shared blood. And yes, we got some cute moments, and Lana and Bex certainly made us believe that these two loved each other …but there was plenty of chance to give us more sisterly bonding, and the show didn’t.
Snow and Emma: And that’s not even as egregious an offense as the lack of Snow/Emma. This show was built on Snowing and the friendship between Emma and Mary Margaret. But, the more the show went on, the less time they gave to the mother/daughter relationship, until it felt like the two of them being so close was something we imagined. Yes, Snow/Regina was not just good, it was necessary, but the original female relationship we wanted to see more of wasn’t that – it was Snow and Emma.
Robin Hood: I always loved the promise of Robin more than what the show actually gave me, and Season 5 was absolutely brutal to him, but what they did with Robin this season was actually …good, and in a way, I guess that just makes it all worse. They could have told a good story with Robin, they just chose not to.
Regina’s journey towards self-acceptance: The thing about Regina that I enjoyed in Season 6 was that the show finally allowed her to own up to her own mistakes and try to move forward. Of course, not all of them, because Graham is apparently the thing we shall never speak of again, but still, seeing Regina say, yes, I did bad things, yes, me, not the Evil Queen, but me, was a big step towards Regina becoming the person she always wanted to be. She had to accept herself, warts and all, love herself, warts and all, if she ever wanted to move forward, if she wanted to shed the Evil Queen. And she did.
What We Wanted to See Less Of
Golden Queen: If I never have to see Rumple and Regina make out again it’ll be too soon. This scarred me. Moreover, it wasn’t really needed to make the plot work and it felt like one of those things the writers just threw in there to shock us, or to “differentiate” between Regina and the Evil Queen, which, I promise you, the wardrobe was more than enough.
Secondary Characters: Aladdin and Jasmine were kind of okay, and Cinderella was fun to revisit, but did we really need all the other secondary characters we got, especially in the first half of season 6? The answer to that is the same answer we’ve always given – no. If there’s one thing Once Upon A Time never managed to do in six seasons is balance their nominal “main characters” with the guest stars and that’s part of the reason why people had a hard time really engaging with the secondary characters: we all felt they were taking time away, time that could be and should be spent on the characters we already cared about.
“The Other Shoe” (Episode 6×03) – This episode brought back Cinderella, one of my favorite guest stars and it finally pushed Emma forward in her relationship with Killian, in a believable way.
“Murder Most Foul” (Episode 6×12) – Captain Charming adventure for the win! This episode proves that the show can thrive even without focusing on the various romances.
“Awake” (Episode 6×17) – Season 1 flashbacks are the best flashbacks, and this episode reminded us of why we fell in love with this show in the first place, with Snow and Charming, and with this family.
“The Song In Your Heart” (Episode 6×20) – The best episode Once Upon A Time has done in years, and in the top five for the series overall. It had everything, songs that we’ll be singing for years to come, a wedding to remember, family moments and it did a great job of sticking to the message of the whole series, that of hope.
Least Favorite Episodes
“A Bitter Draught” (Episode 6×02) –This episode was so boring I had to look up what happened during it to be sure I was thinking about the right one – and I’d just rewatched the entire season! Plus – I love the Count of Monte Cristo, but this was just …no.
“I’ll be Your Mirror” (Episode 6×08) – Rumple put a magical tracking device on Belle. A MAGICAL TRACKING DEVICE. That’s all I have to say.
“Wish You Were Here” (Episode 6×10) – The wish realm was not Once Upon A Time finest moment, for many reasons, chief among them the fact that Regina just killed the Charmings to try to wake up Emma because they’re not real people, but then wish-real Robin IS a real person? Ugh. The inconsistencies.
“Ill Boding Patterns” (Episode 6×13) –Rumple/Gideon focused episodes are always better than Rumple/Belle focused ones, but this was still sort of a filler. Also, they had Hook propose while keeping this huge secret, which, no. No.
Season Finale Impression
No one can pretend they were blown away by the finale, and I think that has a lot to do with the episode that preceded it, because the musical was just perfection and anything compared to that was going to be found lacking. As a bow on Emma’s journey, though, the episode worked well, even if it spend too long with the Black Fairy and the convincing Emma thing and too little on the reunion and on the actual happy beginnings. At least the show delivered on its promise, though – it gave us happy endings, some deserved, some not so much, but we got them, and that was the whole point of the show.
Next Season Speculation
We already sort of know where next season is going, though there’s still a fair bit of speculation possible as we know the basics, but we don’t know how it will work. Yes, it’ll revolve around grown-up Henry and his daughter, but is this even our Henry? And, if he is, is he meeting our Hook, Rumple and Regina or are the versions of them we’ll meet wish-real versions or …maybe something else?
Personally, though I think I’m not going to get my wish, especially considering Jennifer Morrison will return for one episode, I’d prefer if these were completely different versions of the characters. I got my happy endings, and I don’t want them jeopardized for a season that might or might not work. These characters have fought for a long time to get where they are right now. I’ve watched them fight. I’d hate to see that taken away.
But, only time will tell. Right now we don’t know enough to know if it’ll be good – or to know if I even want to continue on this journey. I’ll let you know when we do.
What were your thoughts on Once Upon A Time season six?