By Meredith Loftus
ONCE’s Season Finale Closes the Chapter with a Happily Ever After
In the two-hour season finale, Emma Swan and the heroes face off against darkness one last time in the final battle. The battle for Emma’s belief begins after the Black Fairy erases her memories from after Henry fell victim to the poisonous apple turnover in the first season. Emma’s family, minus her son, is sent back to the Enchanted Forest, awaiting the destruction of their realm once Emma loses all her belief. Emma is pushed to burn the storybook and leave Storybrooke after the Black Fairy hurts Henry, triggering doomsday destruction on all the other realms. When she returns to Boston, a handmade storybook Henry left for Emma gives her enough hope to return to the town, thus saving her family. Rumple confronts and kills the Black Fairy, breaking the curse and giving back everyone’s memories. Unfortunately, the Black Fairy still had control of Gideon’s heart and commanded him to kill Emma before she died. Rumple finds Gideon’s heart but fails to free his son from the Black Fairy’s bidding. Emma sacrifices herself during her battle with Gideon. She dies, but with the power of true love’s kiss from Henry, the curse is broken, Emma is saved, and Gideon is turned back into an infant. The final battle is won and our heroes celebrate by living their lives in peace as a family. Years later, Henry’s long lost daughter, Lucy, finds her father in Seattle and informs him that his family needs his help. With that, a new story will begin this fall.
Against All Odds
When the Black Fairy initiates the final battle, the battle itself proves to be more than just a physical fight. It is a war for the soul of the savior. First, Emma is cut off from most of her family and friends. Emma spent most of her life believing she was alone in the world, so the Black Fairy wanted to bring her back to that state of being. The Black Fairy knows that there is strength in numbers, and Emma has a whole army behind her. Fiona attempts to break Emma’s morale by separating her from her husband, parents, and friends. While she does not fully have her memories, her family fights with everything they have left to attempt communication and a return to her. While stuck in the Enchanted Forest, Killian goes off on his own to find a magic bean at the birthplace of his relationship with Emma: a beanstalk. The first time Killian was there, Emma’s mother watched as he and Emma embarked a journey, during the days he was only motivated by revenge. Love changed him as well as Emma. Now, the once dastardly pirate is motivated by his love for his wife, even though she doesn’t remember him, plus, instead of sitting on the sidelines, Emma’s father joins him in finding a way back to Emma. It’s a beautiful reminder of where they started to where they are today. It’s an unlikely love story, but Emma and Killian’s story is completely their own and stands as one of the great true love stories this series has known. It may have begun on a beanstalk but thanks to Emma’s other true love, it does not end there.
The only defense Emma has in Storybrooke comes from the author, her son, Henry. With the heart of the truest believer, Henry makes it his mission to help Emma remember her story. We are brought back into the world of season one, where no one remembers who they are, except Rumple, and it’s up to Henry to restore the memories. Her first inclination is to do what’s best for her son, even if she includes running away in the equation. When she does burn the storybook, it doesn’t stop Henry from getting her story to her. When she does run away, it doesn’t stop Henry from fighting until the end. Henry prompts Emma to believe that she can be the hero of her own story. He inspires her to believe that she could have a happy ending. He has the power to bring out her courageous side to fight an unknown enemy. Henry is the reason she comes back without her memories in tack. He just helps her believe what he already knows to be true about her.
The Final Battle
Rumpelstiltskin was born and was originally fated to be a savior that would eventually die while battling a great darkness. We knew that the final battle between light and darkness would happen, but once it was revealed that the Black Fairy is Rumple’s mother, their showdown was inevitable. Rumple spent the majority of the season trying to mend his relationship with Belle and do right by his son, Gideon. When the time comes, Rumple goes to battle for his family. The Black Fairy is holding them hostage and tries to lure Rumple with empty promises of bringing Baelfire back to life. The master manipulator himself sees through her lies and kills his mother, a woman he spent all of his life hating for abandoning him as baby. Defeating the people who have brought Rumple the most pain in life, his parents, has helped him find redemption. However, tackling outside forces is one thing. It takes real strength to turn away from your inner demons. They know exactly how to entice us into giving in. Rumple faces his inner Dark One while rescuing Gideon’s heart. His darkness tells him to try and gain more power out of this battle. For the first time in a long time, Rumple turns away from the desires as a Dark One. His love for his family is more powerful than his lust for power. Rumple is finally redeemed and comes out as the hero Belle always believed he could be. This once savior saved himself.
From the beginning of this season, Emma has been haunted by visions of the end of her story. The fate of the savior leads to death. She was tempted in the past to change it, run from it, and not remember it. She chooses to make her happy memories now, enjoy the middle, and fight for her future with Killian, her family, and her home in Storybrooke. She is the savior of Storybrook who fights for the people she loves. Emma Swan is the light and a true hero. It’s all led to this. Emma faces off with Gideon and she chooses the greatest act of love as her defense: she sacrifices herself. She is surrounded by her husband, family, and friends, feeling more loved than ever before. She knows her identity and has fully embraced it. Emma can die knowing that she found everything she was searching for her whole life and had no regrets. Facing the end, she accepts her fate without a fight, which shows more heroism than many possess. There is no greater love than laying down your life for a friend. Emma Swan demonstrates great love in her final battle, and in the end, it saves her.
The heart of Once Upon A Time is the relationship between Emma and Henry. Henry brought Emma home to Storybrooke to reunite her with her family and bring back the happy endings. It was Emma that broke the original dark curse with true love’s kiss to Henry. It’s completely fitting and satisfying that true love between a mother and son saves the day one last time. Earlier this season, Emma told Henry that in spite of her prophesized grim ending, she wouldn’t do it over again because the real magic in her life began when he walked into hers. Now after the final battle, Henry brings Emma home to Storybrooke to reunite her with her family and bring back the happy beginnings by awaking her with their magic: true love. Poetic and poignant, this resolution comes full circle, ending a six-season story we all have fallen in love with.
Happily Ever After
After Emma is revived, Henry finds the storybook and the final page is written. They have reached the end of the book. The only logically question is: now what? No more battles, no more curses, no obstacles or quests in their way. What does the end mean for them? They get a happy beginning. It’s like Snow said in the pilot and in the finale: “Believing in the possibility of a happy ending is a powerful thing.” Only now, when they get to live out of that hope, they get to experience joy. The Storybrooke heroes have paid their dues, sacrificed much, and fought for so long. Now they get to keep going on doing what they love, with the people that they love.
Snow and Charming moved into a bigger house with a farm on the outskirts of Storybrooke where they get a second chance to raise their child, Baby Neal, something they were deprived of with Emma. Snow goes back to teaching, a vocation she loves. To this day, Snow and Charming’s love for each other has burned as brightly as it did when they met years ago. Similarly, Rumple and Belle are getting their second chance at a family with Gideon since he was turned back into an infant. Belle finally gets to be the mother she always hoped she could be, and Rumple has the chance to right the wrongs he made with Baelfire. Rumple and Belle’s relationship has been tumultuous in the past three seasons. Through everything, there is now forgiveness, honesty, and above all, love. As they dance around the pawn shop, their tale as old as time endures.
Regina Mills’ view of her happy ending has changed and refined over the last six seasons. When we first met her, Regina’s idea of a happy ending was killing Snow White. Over time, she’s admitted that she wants to belong and be accepted by the people around her. Now, she has her son she has a restored relationship with her sister, Zelena, and she’s fully embraced by the people she wronged years ago. Forgiveness and love have changed the former Evil Queen. Speaking of which, the Evil Queen finds herself living in the Enchanted Forest with the dream world Robin Hood. When the curse came to destroy everyone, the Evil Queen sacrificed herself, without prompting, to give Regina and the rest of the people a shot at finding a way out. As a whole, Regina and the Evil Queen have found redemption through their sacrifice and heroism. The Evil Queen is saved after the final battle is won, and she gets a happy beginning with Robin Hood after he shoots her over an engagement ring with his arrow. The queen and the thief finally get their second chance at love. All of Regina is finally happy.
For a couple of orphans who were hurt by love, it was difficult for Emma Swan and Killian Jones to believe that a happy beginning together was attainable. They had to fight for their love, overcoming darkness, other realms, even their own baggage and insecurities. It took patience, understanding, forgiveness, an equal partnership, and above all, a true love that can withstand the harshest storms. There is good news: they won. Their love conquered. Their happy beginning is here. It’s an extension of what they’ve always been together — partners. Killian joins Emma as her deputy, furthering his commitment to stand by her side and work with her. They get to enjoy a married life full of new adventures. After seasons of fighting for each other and their futures together, there isn’t a more perfect resolution than the savior and the pirate enjoying their quiet moments and creating a new life together.
The moment that encapsulates the victory and the joy from living out of hope is the last scene in Granny’s where the Charming extended family gets together for a big family meal. Here lies the family that every person in that room was searching for. Former enemies are greeted with smiles. Food is being set on the table. Laughter fills the air. The place radiates joy. Here is the peak of the happiness for which each hero fought tirelessly. We’re all searching for that type of belonging and home that comes through family and friends. If you have identified with any of these characters over the years, our hope is that this happy scene at Granny’s offers you hope that this type of community and love is out there for you. It’s not easy, but when you find it, fight for it. Don’t let this pass you by. For it is a great privilege to love and be loved by another.
When the series began, Emma Swan made a wish on blue star candle that she wouldn’t be alone on her birthday. In the end, Emma gets her wish, spending a Thanksgiving meal surrounded by her extended family with all the love and happiness she could ever wish possible. All is well. For Emma and her family, it’s more than a happy ending or happy beginning. This is happily ever after.
- Let’s just address this up top: the timeline of the series. According to this finale, the events of the final battle took place two years after Emma broke the dark curse in Storybrooke. That roughly makes the events of six seasons happen in just three years. You expect me to believe that in three years’ time that Baby Neal managed to stay infant-sized for almost two years?! He should be walking based on this timeline. Plus, where does the season three forgotten year in the Enchanted Forest fit into this? Listen, continuity doesn’t make or break franchises for me, but given ABC is owned by Disney, you would think Once Upon A Time could learn a thing or two from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
- Speaking of Baby Neal, he was actually with his parents when they were sent back to the Enchanted Forest. I’m glad after seasons of being put on the sidelines, Baby Neal got to see some action. After all the curses and realms from his formative years, he gets to reap the benefits of a normal childhood growing up with his parents on a farm. You’ve earned it, kid!
- After Emma won the final battle, there a brief montage showing the restoration of multiple realms we’ve seen over the course of six seasons. It was great to see Aladdin and Jasmine happy in Agrabah. Neverland and Wonderland was a happy sight too. However, I was absolutely giddy seeing Arendelle again, with a special appearance from Sven.
- I’m happy to report that there was no use of Rumple ex-machina in the season finale. For one, he did not just pop into a scene out of the blue, and two, all of his decisions were set up. Well done, Rumpelstiltskin. Well done.
- As Snow drove off to work, Charming carries Baby Neal out with him towards the farm. While he does, a familiar sheep dog joins them. That’s right: Wilbie, Charming’s dog from the Enchanted Forest, is reunited with his family in Storybrooke! Part of me wants to nitpick and ask how he got there, but I don’t care! I was originally asking for a Wilbie spinoff, so this more than satisfies.
- The use of season one parallelism also rears its head at the end of the episode, when a ten-year old Lucy knocks on the door of Apartment 815, which is the time the clock tower in Storybrooke was stuck on for 28 years during the first curse. In addition to that, Lucy arrives at the apartment with a storybook in her hand and announces herself as Henry’s long lost daughter which was the same blunt approach a young Henry took when finding Emma in Boston those many years ago. Like father, like daughter I guess.
- Is there a chance that the babies (Neal, Robyn, and Gideon) will create their own hero group in their early teens? They could become the new golden trio.
- Now with the bow tied on most of our Storybrooke heroes, we look forward to a new story, one where Henry seems to have lost his way and it’s going to take the determination of his daughter to bring him back into the world and save the day. There’s curiosity in discovering more this fall. Until then, I want to end this review the same way the finale ended: with great respect, love, and of course, a happily ever after. The end.