All fairytales come to a “happily ever after”; all storybooks come to “the end.”
Even ABC’s Once Upon A Time.
After seven seasons of rewriting childhood tales as we knew them, Once aired its final episode on 18 May 2018. I have to admit, I will have to deal with extreme separation anxiety from this one-of-a-kind TV series.
Well, Once is actually the first American TV series that I ever watched. I was introduced to its magical realm by my classmate. We were in first year college, and our squad got stranded in her humble abode for almost a week due to massive inundation brought about by extreme monsoon rains. To make each passing second count, we decided to spend the impromptu staycation glued on her TV screen.
Once was one of the shows we watched, and it was love at first sight.
Perhaps, I just liked its premise. It is really amazing how imaginative Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, the series’ creators, are. Imagine retelling well-loved stories of lore in a manner untold of before – one in which the lives of our beloved Disney personalities are intertwined intricately. You think you know all those fairytale characters? Well, with Once, you have to think again.
Snow White and the rest of the gang are stuck in the make-believe town of Storybrooke without their memories after the Evil Queen cast a curse so powerful that it transported everyone from the Enchanted Forest into a Land Without Magic. Hence, it was up to a Savior to, well, as her title implies, save the day; and that is Emma Swan’s job. With the help of her son, Henry (Jared Gilmore), Emma (Jennifer Morrison) goes on wicked adventures as we delve deeper into the fairytale world.
To make the brew perfect, Once boasts of other artistic elements such as its impressive cinematography, vibrant sets and CGI, elaborate costumes, and dramatic musical scoring. Truly, I was very much hooked to the series; perhaps, it is even my most favorite so far.
That is why I really felt sad that its magic had to come to an end. It is actually sort of bittersweet. On one hand, there are still many ideas that the story could explore, and I long to see those on the silver screen. On the other, I have to say that I really did not like the last season very well. For me, Once already ended with its sixth season. Extending the series for a season seven was a desperate move from its producers – it was like prolonging the agony of a mortally wounded soldier instead of giving him a mercy shot.
Anyway, with Once’s exit, why do we not relive some of the most memorable things about this fantastic TV series? Here are my top five faves:
1. Team Snowing and Team Rumbelle
Of course, fairytales will not be complete without the lovey-dovey.
For one, Once anchors its plot to the classic tale of Snow White and her Prince Charming. They were actually the central characters of the series, especially in the first and the few succeeding seasons. I really liked how the love between Snow a.k.a. Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming a.k.a. David (Josh Dallas) was written to be so true that it made them win against all odds. Well, they even wedded in real life! Now, that is the real magic of true love’s kiss. Oh, and who would ever forget their motto – “I will always find you”?
Another pairing that I liked would be that of Beauty and the Beast. Belle’s story, already well-loved as a Disney animated classic, met an intelligent twist with Once – the Beast is no longer a hideous lion-slash-bear-slash-bigfoot-slash-monster. Instead, he is the deceitful Rumplestilskin (Robert Carlyle). What I really loved about Rumbelle is how Belle (Emilie de Ravin) sees the hero behind the Dark One. Also, there are many notable references to the animation which made me smile every time I saw them. To top it off, the writers decided that the roller coaster ride was not enough – they had to add another emotional ‘awwwww’ moment somewhere down season seven.
2. Evil Regal [and the Queen’s Wardrobe]
What are heroes without strong villains?
Regina Mills a.k.a. the Evil Queen (Lana Parilla) is one fierce female antagonist who has an impeccable sense of fashion. With her tough personality and well-developed backstory [and majestic-looking royal dresses], Regina has become my favorite Once character. I really loved her character development throughout the entire series – how she transformed from anti-hero to anti-anti-hero. Indeed, everyone, even the Evil Queen, deserves a second chance at love, and a shot at a happy ending.
3. Frozen 2
In the wake of “Let It Go” topping music billboards, Once gave its audience a major shocker in the season three finale. Just before the credits began to roll, everyone found his jaw on the floor when a female figure dressed in chilly blue, and with snow-white braids, cast her hand to her side, sending a flurry of sparkles and snowflakes away from her fingertips. Yes, Queen Elsa has arrived in Storybrooke from Arendelle!
Hence, the first half of the fourth season was really one of Once’s best story arcs for me. It was written as if it were a sequel to Disney’s Frozen. Even Elsa, Anna and Kristoff’s outfits and personalities are faithful to the original. I just loved this part of the series.
4. 2-hour Season Finale Specials
Three seasons of Once were capped off by two episodes fused as one.
In the season three finale, Emma and Captain Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) find themselves in the Enchanted Forest just before the Dark Curse struck. In their attempt to return to the present in Storybrooke, Emma and Hook mess with the timeline, compromising Snow and Charming’s dashing tale of true love. Together, they exert all their efforts in putting everything back on track.
Meanwhile, season six ended with the two-hour Final Battle in which the Dark Fairy unleashed a curse way darker than the Dark Curse as she sought to destroy the Savior’s belief, leading to the subsequent destruction of all fairytale realms. For me, this is the rightful finale to Once. It is so disappointing how the Final Battle was downplayed by continuing the series for another season. Such a shame.
Then, there is season four which featured a big switcheroo in its curtain call. Here, the Author rewrote everyone’s stories, making heroes become villains, and vice versa. As Snow White this time around is the one casting fireballs towards the innocent Regina, Henry does everything he could to undo the sacrilege committed by the Author. I have to say that among the three two-hour season finales, this is what I liked best.
5. The Musical Prelude to the Final Battle
This is probably the most anticipated episode in all of Once – the moment when all major characters (excluding the Dark One who claimed he would rather gouge his eyes with a rusty fork) burst into songs just before the Dark Fairy’s curse was released throughout Storybrooke. Ever since the series adopted the Frozen plot into its complex storyline, fans clamored for a musical episode; and the producers granted our wish.
I loved how it seemed as if the characters were having the time of their lives in their own theme songs, especially in the Evil Queen’s “Love Doesn’t Stand a Chance” and Captain Hook’s “Revenge is Gonna be Mine.” Oh, and that final sequence after Hook and Emma’s matrimony, “Happy Beginning,” was truly delightful to watch and hear.
Indeed, Once Upon A Time’s spell is so strong that it has captivated my heart immediately, as if it were the Evil Queen robbing the Huntsman of his beating heart. Although the series had its dull moments, it had a lot of enchanting ones – those that will remain in our memories for a long time. Truly, even if Once’s story is now done for good, its magic will not be wearing off anytime soon. Well, not in my case.
So, thanks for the amazing journey across realms and time, Once! Your stories will surely be ones that I will be telling my children in the future as I lull them to peaceful slumber each quiet night.
Check out my piano cover of Snow White and Prince Charming’s Theme above.
This blog post’s featured image is from NOLA.