- Series Title: Once Upon a Time
- Season: 6
- Episodes: 22
- Discs: 5
- Network: ABC
- Cast: Jennifer Morrison, Ginnifer Goodwin, Lana Parilla, Josh Dallas, Jared Gilmore, Robert Carlyle, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Sean McGuire, Rebecca Mader
- Format: Widescreen, Color, DVD
I put off watching Once Upon a Time Season 6 for a very long time. I haven’t really been watching it as it airs for several seasons, and after Season 5 I think it just left a very bad taste in my mouth. However, season 6 was excellent! It was brilliant! And it was a return to the first season or two of Once Upon a Time. The season is not split into two distinct halves, but once more is a single story told over the entire season, with a unifying theme.
Season 6 of Once Upon a Time really does play out as a planned final season. The Land of Untold Stories and Aladdin are important influences, but this isn’t like seasons 5, 4 or 3 where there are two distinct plots in two distinct halves of the season. Rather, the arc plot is The Final Battle. There are also a lot of call backs to season 1 of Once Upon a Time. This season was so well-done and so circular back to the beginning (and perfectly done as well) that it makes you want to watch the entire series again. In that way, even though it’s television, is resembles a good novel.
The first episode of the season is extremely confusing, so much so, that I double-checked my DVD case to make sure I hadn’t accidentally grabbed the wrong disc. However, the second episode provides some much-needed exposition and from that moment the story flies along. The characters from “The Land of Lost Stories” arrive in Storybrooke, including Regina’s evil half, The Evil Queen, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There are some episodic tales of the Lost Stories characters where we learn that the characters who go to the Land of Lost Stories are the characters who didn’t get their happy endings – not because they were “evil” or “villains” but simply due to bad luck, or the actions of someone else. It other words, Lost Stories, are both depressing stories – and more like real life.
Regina’s evil half also is transported over to Storybrooke – where she does cause a lot of havoc. However, all our characters have grown and matured over the years – so now they no longer fall for the Evil Queens manipulations and tricks. They might briefly fall for it – but give someone a chance to think and they realize, “hey, two Reginas – that’s not the Regina she’s pretending to be”. Meanwhile, Dr. Jekyll works with the town, and we learn the details of his story (it involves a woman named Mary – his love, whom he can barely speak to, who’s fridged – we think). Yeah, it’s that story again, but Once Upon a Time does give it a bit of spin. It turns out it was Dr. Jekyll who, albeit accidentally, kills Mary – and as he’s unable to deal with what he’s done, he blames Hyde. When Jekyll is killed – Hyde also disappears. Regina discovers that if she gets hurt or if the Evil Queen is hurt – so is the other, and this extends to death – if they kill the Evil Queen she will die too. Regina briefly toys with the idea of committing suicide to stop the Evil Queen – but is talked out of it by the people around her.
Meanwhile, Belle is pregnant with Rumple’s child. Rumple goes to the land of Morpheus to wake her (Belle having been under a sleeping curse from last season). In the dream realm, he meets Morpheus, Gideon, their child. Gideon convinces Belle to not trust Rumple. Belle wakes – and tells Rumple she wants nothing to do with him, and she won’t let him near their child. Poor Rumple – all he wants is second chance at a family. Rumble expresses anger and resentment at “the fairies” (such as Blue Fairy etc) but at first we don’t know why. We learn the missing piece of his story. Belle is serving in his castle when Rumple brings her a baby to care for – a baby without a name. Belle is confused and angered by this, reading Rumple’s contract with the parents. Rumple takes the child to the Black Fairy who takes children, babies, away to a place where they will be tortured. Rumple doesn’t want to turn over babies to the Black Fairy but he has no choice. And we find out the Black Fairy is Rumple’s mother, who gave him up, without giving him a name. Rumple ended-up in the care of his father, who names him Rumpelstiltskin. His father blames him for losing Fiona, his mother. But Fiona had read a book of prophecy which was “good news/bad news” – her son was destined to be “the Savior” – and the Savior always dies. Fiona studies fairy lore, tricks Belle into translating an spell for her, and turns herself into a fairy. She starts developing the Dark Curse – the same curse the Evil Queen would cast on the Enchanted Forest to send everyone to Maine (the Land Without Magic). Blue Fairy and Tiger Lily (from Neverland – which we briefly revisit) try to stop Fiona. But Fiona takes a pair of shears, Shears of Fate that can separate a person from their destiny. Fiona cuts the ribbon that links baby Rumple to his destiny as a hero. This single act turns her into the Black Fairy, and creates the Rumple that we know. The Black Fairy then steals children. Children Rumple gets for her. These children end up in her realm where they are tortured and made miserable.
Meanwhile, Belle’s pregnant, and the Evil Queen slips her a potion to speed-up her pregnancy. Belle jumps to the conclusion that Rumple did this to her. She again swears she won’t be with Rumple – and she won’t let Rumple have anything to do with her child. But she names the child, Gideon, as in her dream, names his godparents, and then – hands the child over to the Blue Fairy to watch over, which of course was precisely what Rumple didn’t want to happen. Blue has good intentions, but she is unable to stop the Black Fairy who takes the child to a land where time passes differently. From this point on it appears Gideon will be destined to kill Emma, the Savior.
Meanwhile, Zelena, the Wicked Witch is raising her daughter. She tries living with Regina, but the two just cannot get along under the same roof, so she moves out to her own farmhouse. Regina still blames Zelena for the death of Robin Hood. She even gets upset when Zelena tells her she had a feather from Robin for her, but she lost it. However, getting a little distance works. Zelena slowly learns, she slowly improves herself, and like Regina, she learns to leave aside “being Wicked” for the sake of a child, in this case – her daughter. Towards the end of the season, Zelena tries to prove herself by taking on the Black Fairy alone. This doesn’t work and makes things worse for the town. But she learns her lesson and she and Regina work together.
Lana Parrilla is brilliant in a dual role here. her Evil Queen really brings back the first season when Regina was truly evil. But, she’s our Regina deep inside – and Regina shows her that. In the end, Regina realizes she cannot kill her “evil half” – she takes on some of the darkness from the Evil Queen’s heart – and gives her some of her light. And she then uses one of the wishes from the genie of the lamp (now Aladdin) to send the Evil Queen someplace where she can get her second chance. She’s sent to the Enchanted Forest – to meet Robin Hood.
The Aladdin plot is very brief – we meet Aladdin, and Jasmine, see Jafar, the mystical city of Agrabah, and even the flying carpet. We briefly see Ariel the Mermaid again. We find out Aladdin is the “diamond in the rough” and the Savior of Agrabah. And for no good reason whatsoever, the actor playing him – plays him with a Cockney accent, even though he’s born and raised as a street rat in Agrabah. Yes, that makes no sense whatsoever. With the characters from the books of lost stories in Storybrooke, Aladdin and Jasmine arrive in Storybrooke. But their storyline is not long (really no more than a few episodes), it’s integrated into the rest of the storyline because the wishes are useful but a double-edged sword (never has “be careful what you wish for” been more important). But in the end, the wishes are a plot device, and, like the tales of lost stories – it’s a brief part of the season, not the focus, like when Once Upon a Time did Frozen.
From the first episode of the season, Emma is finding her hand shaking, and she gets visions of the future, a future where she dies. She goes to see Dr. Hopper (Jiminy Cricket), who is in several episodes (he also counsels Capt. Hook a few times). With the Evil Queen back in the enchanted forest, Hyde dead, the Aladdin and Lost Stories plots wrapped up, the rest of the season focuses more and more on the Final Battle. Though, Aladdin and Jasmine are present until nearly the end.
The relationship between Captain Hook and Emma heats up. Even with some interference by August (Pinocchio), Hook gets some advice from Dr. Hopper, and decides he will propose to Emma. Being an old-fashioned guy, he first asks David’s permission, even with the secret in his past. David grants his permission for Hook to marry Emma after Hook proves himself. Hook decides to come clean with Emma about his secret and then propose (because he doesn’t want to do anything to break them up later like hiding things). When he shows up at the house where he and Emma live together, she proposes to him having found the ring. So he doesn’t tell her. But he feels conflicted. He talks to Dr. Hopper and Nemo (of the submarine fame – he showed up with the lost stories characters), and decides to be honest with Emma. But he goes to say goodbye to Nemo and his brother who is on the Nautilus crew – and the sub sinks anyway – sent to another realm. Moreover, Hook is cursed to never return to Emma. Emma thinks Hook left voluntarily, but eventually learns the truth when Ariel lends Hook a shellphone. Emma hears Hook’s message but can’t reply and have him hear it. Gideon uses the tears of a Savior to control her and enact this curse.
But Hook makes it back, he and Emma marry, and just as the wedding finishes and everyone is celebrating, the clock tower strikes six – and the Dark Fairy dust is released cursing the town. The call back of Leroy (Grumpy) being the one to announce this curse, just as in the Enchanted Forest, he announced the coming of the Dark Curse is beautiful.
With the Dark Fairy Dust cast – everyone is returned to the other Realms. Henry wakes in Storybrooke, where everyone is only their “real world” counter parts. Moreover, the Dark Fairy is mayor, acting as Henry’s “mother” and has Emma in the local insane asylum. The belief in fairy tales is said to be Henry’s delusion. As Emma loses her faith and belief – the realms crumble and disappear. Emma’s last battle is a battle of faith. And it appears she loses, when she burns the fairy tale book, Once Upon a Time, and returns to Boston. She even gets a call from her old job offering her a skip to catch. But she finds in her bag, a book – a storybook written by Henry (remember, Henry is the Author), as she sees the pages with images from the serious showing herself doing various things, she gets an idea and returns to Storybrooke. Emma’s belief starts to lift the curse – and she remembers more about the stories as she learns to believe again. In Storybrooke, we now get the scene, at night, in the rain, we’ve seen so many times, as Gideon and Emma fight. But Emma is in a holding pattern – she knows that killing Gideon will make her dark, but if he kills her, the battle is over.
Yet, everyone has forgotten about Gold – Rumple – the Black Fairy tries to manipulate him one last time and experiences epic fail. He kills her, turning her to dust. Rumple and Belle run to the underground tunnels. And it is Rumple, who finally fulfills his destiny, finding Gideon’s heart, doing the right thing, and launching a counter-curse that makes everything right again. Gold is, at the end, the savior. Gideon once more becomes a baby to be raised by Belle and Rumple. The last episode ends with a montage of everyone in Storybrooke being happy at Granny’s – Emma and Hook together, Zelena with her child, Regina is happy, the Charmings have their son, Neal, and Snow is a teacher. Emma is sheriff, with Hook at her side. Everyone is happy – and end, at a dinner table, everyone together, to live “happily ever after”.
Oh, and that little girl bringing the book, Once Upon a Time, to the real world? She knocks on the door of now grown, 28-year-old Henry Mills, and tells him, she’s his daughter.
Before we get into the implications of all this, the penultimate episode of Season 6 of Once Upon a Time is The Musical episode – which is absolutely brilliant. It’s integrated into the overall storyline of the season, it starts in the Enchanted forest, the theme of the “song in your heart” carries over into Storybrooke where Emma has her own song and the last song of the musical is very joyful, and the music is perfect, and just what you’d expect for each of the characters. It really is just how a musical episode should be done and it works perfectly.
OK, back to season 6, because there is a lot to discuss. Starting at the end – by showing Emma who she is by writing her in to a book – Henry creates Emma as a storybook character. Now, granted, her parents are Snow White and Prince Charming and she’s co-parenting with the Evil Queen, but still, one thing that made Once Upon a Time work for six seasons was that is was grounded in “reality” through the character of Emma. That she is now a storybook character as much as her parents, both gives her a happy ending (and the last montage is incredibly joyful) but it’s a bit artificial too – very much like a romance novel. Still, I did love it. I wanted to see happy endings for these characters, including Gold and Belle – and we got it.
Second, with all the mentions of “The Final Battle”, I kept thinking of CS Lewis and the Chronicles of Narnia. Fortunately we didn’t go quite down that route. But even though Emma isn’t killed in the final battle, she is changed, and it’s her “final battle” because she won’t have to fight again, thought someone else will – the baton will be passed.
This season was brilliant, especially the musical (one of the best musical episodes I’ve seen), but I don’t think I will watch season 7, which is a soft re-boot with a new cast. I tried Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and didn’t care for it. And season 7 has been moved to a Friday night death slot, so it’s on it’s way to cancellation. But as a way to go out, you can’t beat season 6 – it truly was brilliant. it ws acted brilliantly, it looks gorgeous (rain and mist and snow – with Winter reflecting the darkness of the story, pure perfection), there are callbacks to the first season, everything works. I truly loved it, and I don’t know why I delayed so long in watching.