ONCE UPON A TIME Season 6 Finale Review: The Swan Song


It has been a little over 12 hours and I am still not sure what to feel.

ONCE UPON A TIME has been a part of my life for so long now, that it feels like I’ve just closed a chapter last night. I remember when we got the screener for the pilot in the summer of 2011 and I thought that it seemed like such a silly premise. A town full of fairytale characters who have all been cursed and don’t remember who they really are? Please. It felt like a kids show and I only watched it because I had to do a preview kind of thing about it.

But that pilot was actually good. I was so pleasantly surprised that, when the show premiered in September, I kept watching it and it just kept getting better and better. Emma Swan soon became one of my favorite characters ever and I learned so, so much from her. I admit that for the past three seasons or so I’ve had kind of a love/hate relationship with the show. It hadn’t been as amazing as it once was, but I was still around because this was Emma’s journey and I needed to see it through.

I know a lot of people say this is just fiction, but when it comes to fandom and a show you love and that you’ve dedicated so much time and effort and emotion to it, these characters almost feel like part of your family and you want them to be happy – just like you would want a friend to be happy.

So this is bitterweet. Was I happy about this finale? No. But I don’t think anything would have really made me happy. Letting go is something so hard to do and saying goodbye to a character that has been so strong and inspiring is… it’s hard. It’s really hard.

I felt like the resolution to the Black Fairy drama was rushed, but at the same time, I felt the episode kind of dragged at some points. And I understand why it was rushed, I really do. After all, when this was shot, they had no idea if the show would be picked up for a new season, so they needed to wrap up everyone’s storylines, which was hard to do for a show with so many characters.

The parallel with the first season was a little too on the nose at times, but at the same time it felt like we had come full circle. Henry’s struggle to make Emma believe was even harder than the first time around, because the Black Fairy’s curse put her in a mental institution, with memories that she had been there for the past two years for believing in Henry’s delusions about fairytales.

Meanwhile, everyone else was back in the Enchanted Forest, stuck there, with no way to go back home. But the more the Black Fairy – who was now the Mayor of Storybrooke – crushed Emma’s beliefs, the more the magic realms were destroyed. When Emma is completely hopeless and the Black Fairy convinces her to burn the story book, the Enchanted Forest nearly gets completely destroyed. And it’s sneaky Henry that makes her believe again, by giving her a new book, telling her story.

The final battle was not really supposed to be an actual physical fight, but a battle for Emma’s hope and beliefs. The second she stopped believing, everything went to hell. And it was Henry’s book that helped her overcome her fears and go back to Storybrooke to face whatever she needed to face. Henry – the poor kid – was ready to face the battle himself. After all, the Black Fairy still had Gideon’s heart and, even after her death, he still had the mission to kill the Savior.

But Emma shows up at the last second and takes Henry’s place – just in time for her family to return to Storybrooke. When Rumple killed the Black Fairy, the curse was broken and everything went back to normal. But Gideon still had his mission, so he went after Emma anyway. They fight for a little while, but then Emma makes the ultimate sacrifice and lets him kill her.

While that battle was happening, Rumple and Belle went after Gideon’s heart. He does find it, but when he is about to command his son to stop, his Enchanted Forest, scaled self shows up, taunting him that he should just put the heart down and let the Savior die. That way, he would be all powerful because darkness would win. But Rumple was stronger and tried to stop Gideon, anyway, at the exact same moment that he ran Emma through with his sword.

Whatever happened next is anyone’s guess, but the power released there seemed to obliterate Gideon as well. Emma died, but Henry manage to bring her back with a true love’s kiss, just like she did back in season 1, when finally allowed herself to believe.

So we had a happy ending for everyone. The Charmings lived happily ever after, so did the Evil Queen back in the Enchanted Forest. Regina is now the beloved Mayor of Storybrooke, Rumple and Belle got baby Gideon back and Emma and Hook finally got to live happy, normal lives. It was a bit rushed, it was so incredibly cliché, but you know what? I’m glad they lived happily ever after. I’m glad to have met these characters and I am so so happy I got to go along for the ride for six years.

If there was something I learned from this show is that you can’t ever give up on hope and that love is the most powerful magic of all. Those two lessons alone made for a great six years and so many incredible stories. But something that Emma said in one of the first few episodes back in season 1 was probably the biggest lesson for me:

“People are gonna tell you who you are your whole life. You just gotta punch back and say, “No, this is who I am”. You want people to look at you differently? Make them! You want to change things, you’re gonna have to go out there and change them yourself, because there are no fairy godmothers in this world.”

This episode aired in 2011 and this quote has stuck with me ever since. So Emma, thank you. This came at a time that I needed to hear it and it has definitely helped me turn my life around.

I know ONCE UPON A TIME has been renewed and it will be a complete reboot, but this is the end of the road for me. I’ll still watch it, but the journey ended for me when they gave Emma Swan her happy ending. And I’m okay with that. I have no idea how they are going incorporate Regina, Rumple and Hook in a storyline that happens in the future – this time with Henry’s daughter – but I wish them well and that the next season is successful.

But so help me God, if they break up Captain Swan, I will riot.

ONCE UPON A TIME is set to return in the Fall on ABC.

For all the latest TV news and reviews