After six seasons and an overdue season renewal announcement, I was expecting yesterday's season finale to be the end of Once Upon a Time. The show has, after all, needed to get on its feet again and find new ground each and every season, so it did feel like trying to keep it going longer would be stretching things too thin. In fact, I expected to be disappointed if I learned that there would be another season.
And then along came the finale episode and the announcement that there will be a new season but with a "soft reboot."
Here I'll begin talking about last night's episode, so don't keep reading if you haven't watched it yet.
There needs to always be a reason why a story is being told. Things can still be happening to characters, but not necessarily things that need a story: at some point, a character's story ends. It has to end, otherwise it loses meaning. It loses theme and it loses importance.
Season 1 resolved its story in case the show wasn't renewed for a second season. But that meant that in future seasons, it always moved away from what that first season had offered and it always wavered, trying to find a new way. In the first season, we saw too many characters. In later seasons, we saw not enough characters. And I grew very tired of Snow and David.
So with that said, it's a good move to say that this story is resolved. We've seen the story of Snow and David, Emma and Hook, Henry, and Regina. That story is finished. It doesn't mean that they're finished; it just means that we don't need a chronicle of their whole lives.
I didn't at first like the idea of just switching to a different main cast. That sounded like the show would still be in the same awkward story situation, just with a new set of characters. And when Lucy first showed up in the finale, I thought the writers were just making up another backstory as usual. But then along came that last scene, and it all fit together in such a nice circular way.
We're intentionally right back where we started. Lucy has the book and the faith and she goes knocking on Henry's door just like he originally knocked on Emma's door. To me, this implies that we're going to get not just episodes that are repeating things that have been done before but rather intentional reputation of ideas, plot elements, and themes (like in say, Star Wars). And because it's a refresh, start over, they're able to look at the show as a whole and map it out again and possibly avoid the awkwardness that it's had over the years (resulting from the quickness of the Season 1 resolution).
It's not just a chance to start over. It's a chance to gather the scattered threads, pull them back in, and arrange them neatly. I was looking for this show to end, but now I find that I'm excited for the new season.
(I have to give one final note on this episode that has nothing to do with whatever else I was talking about. After Baelfire died, I said that if the show ended with a happy ending and he stayed dead, then I would be sad. He had a pretty terrible life, and he was a good guy, so I wanted better for him. We didn't get that; he stayed dead. But it was perhaps just as satisfying that the show did address him. Rumplestiltskin has the chance (that is, the Black Fairy tempts him) to try and bring back his son, but he knows that this is a distortion and well, black magic; it's something evil that he might have tried to do in the past but now is able to say that he will not do because he wants to do what's right. If anything can give a feeling of finality to Rumplestiltskin choosing right over wrong, it's an issue to do with his son. Baelfire became an example of Rumplestiltskin's failures in life--and Gideon became the warning against repeating his mistakes and then later the chance to start afresh in the right way. So it all works rather well in the end, even if Baelfire did remain with a terrible life. That's a touch of reality, I guess.)