What ‘Once Upon a Time’ season 7 can do to make the show great again

Originally published 8:00 PM EDT, APRIL 9, 2017

Once Upon a Time season 6 is coming to a close, and my relationship with the show might be ending as well.

However, with no news of a renewal in sight, my decision has yet to be made. With that said, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz have ideas to move forward with more of seasons of the show. Their vision for more Once Upon a Time would brand the series with an entirely new narrative. The pair are currently working hard to lock down a future for the series. With that in mind, and my current distaste for the direction the show is taking currently, I have to ask myself a few questions: Do I trust that Eddie and Adam will do what is best for the series? Or do I speak from reoccurring disappointment and move on after season 6 ends?

Let’s rewind five years. I remember when I saw the pilot of Once Upon a Time for the first time. It was unlike any TV show I had seen. A mixture of magic and reality. It was a forbidden love story between Mary Margaret and David. The show was shrouded in mystery in many aspects: Is magic real or is it made up? If so, how does everyone in Storybrooke fit into the world of the Enchanted Forest? From the start it was a television show made with a recipe for greatness, and for a while it remained that way. However, as is with most TV, the inevitable decline began, and hasn’t had a lasting rise since.

At this point, for me, it doesn’t seem likely it will ever do so again. I’m holding on to hope, though. There are places I think Once Upon a Time could go before it ends, that would bring back the integrity and the magic of the show that was lost.

Setting

The heart of Once Upon a Time has always been the sleepy town of Storybrooke, Maine. However, it has never been its home. Since the beginning, everyone has been trying to find their way out of that cursed town. Some have escaped, Emma and Henry went to New York for a year, and everyone else even got back to the Enchanted Forest. Over the past six seasons we’ve been to Wonderland and we’ve been to Neverland. Arendelle, the Underworld, Oz, and Camelot. None of these excursions have been long-lasting. None of them have taken these characters where they belong indefinitely. Home. It is time for the citizens of Storybrooke to head back home to the Enchanted Forest.

Too long has that town line been drawn, unable to cross. These characters don’t belong here. Not even Emma, who has lived her whole life in the Land Without Magic. People are struggling to fall into their roles, now that they understand their true identities. There are some, Belle, Archie, August and Zelena included, that might fair well in the Land Without Magic.  However, for the most part, the people of Storybrooke have lost their way. It is time they find it and begin rebuilding themselves as a newly reformed kingdom back in the Enchanted Forest.

Once Upon a Time has always been at its best when its characters were given room to grow. For me, they have always had the most room outside of the town line. For example, two of the best arcs of the story since season one have been the trip to Neverland and the mystery of Camelot. Henry grew most as a character when he was thrown into a world outside his own. He made painful mistakes in Neverland regarding trust and belief in goodness. These mistakes furthered his storyline and character development which has remained stagnant throughout much of the series. In Camelot, Emma turned into the Dark Swan in order to save the man she loved. There was a brilliant mystery that season of how someone so good could go so evil. Furthermore, there was a darkness behind a Broken Kingdom that looked so beautiful on the outside.

Storybrooke is too limiting. There is no room for these characters to grow because the reality is that, since the beginning, Storybrooke has been a prison. That was the town’s initial intention when created by Regina using the Dark Curse. Until the citizens head back home or make the conscious choice to remain, they will never settle down and find who they truly are.

Conflict

A return to the Enchanted Forest, or lack thereof,  might just be the change in narrative that Edward and Adam are looking for. It would create a whole new array of conflict without resorting to the overused and frankly exhausting villain-of-the-mid-season recipe the show has been dishing out since season 3. (Pan then Zelena, the Snow Queen then the Queens of Darkness, King Arthur then Hades, Hyde, the Evil Queen, Gideon. You get the point.) Instead of facing bad guys, these characters would face each other as they begin to figure out what this new kingdom of theirs looks like:

Who goes home to Fairytale Land? Who remains in Storybrooke and runs the town for those who wish to stay? Will Snow and Charming reign over the Enchanted Forest or will Regina? What has happened to the Enchanted Forest since their last departure? Who is living there now? How will Emma deal with her new role as princess in a strange land?

Reintegrating back into Fairytale Land would bring this characters back to their roots. One of the greatest times for Once Upon a Time was while everyone was struggling to find out who they really were back in season 1. A possible season 7 could mirror this, but in reverse. There is an endless number of possibilities. Literally, an entire world is just waiting to be touched instead of bringing destructions in a new form to Storybrooke, Maine every couple of months. Returning to the Enchanted Forest would give characters room for growth and experimentation, such as Henry, who has lived his whole life in our world.

Furthermore, there is a matter of reintegrating into that world politically and culturally. It has been a large number of years since the Charmings last ruled over the Enchanted Forest. We have no idea what might have been going on in that realm since they left it behind. What sort of conflicts are they stepping into? This could easily bring characters such as Aurora, Mulan, and Merida back into the fold at the kingdom is rebuilt. As well as what sort of decisions need to be made regarding those who left their homes to and fled to the Land of Untold Stories. This season would be about reinvention. Reinventing the Once Upon a Time itself, and reinventing the world these characters choose to live in.

Resolution

Sadly, even our favorite TV shows must come to and end. And usually, it is preferred that they do so before they have run themselves dry. Once Upon a Time is a prime example of a series that is starting to overstay its welcome. It has lost itself in the cycle of new villain, town curse, salvation, repeat. It is getting tired and old. The decision to move the show back into the Enchanted Forest would give these characters the opportunity to start finally searching for their happily ever afters. This would become the segue into resolving all conflicts in the show up until this point. Which also segues me into some more subjective opinions about how Once Upon a Time needs to handle its character’s endings.

To me, there is something so unfulfilling about an entire show being wrapped up in a two hour series finale. It is even worse when a show is left with an open ended finale when such storytelling is not needed. There is a recipe in Once Upon a Time that if mixed correct could result in a season-long arc of resolution. Similar to shows such as Private Practice, whose final season contained an episode for each character, settling down, and wrapping up their storyline. Something similar can and should be done for Once Upon a Time. Maybe not in such a rigid and concrete sort of format as Private Practice. The two aren’t nearly the same sort of show. However a similar guideline could be followed.

These characters have been through too much in six seasons and deserve nothing less than a firm conclusion to each of their stories. There are few, such as Henry who might benefit from the possibility software an open future. However, in most cases, these fairy tale citizens deserve their happily ever afters. What those endings might look like isn’t up to me. Although, I have my wishes, I have my hopes.

I believe firmly that Dark Magic should be destroyed forever and the roles of the Savior and Dark One abolished. To me, this means the death of Rumpelstiltskin once and for all so that Belle can move on in the Land Without Magic. Meanwhile Rumple’s death and the destruction of would free Emma from saviorhood. Through this, she can live a happy life with Killian and her family in the Enchanted forest. Also, Henry would use his role as the other to create a place for everyone in this new kingdom. By his grandparents side, who will rule the kingdom with the help of Regina, Henry will be a peacemaker in this new land. His adoptive mother, Regina, will remain by herself. She will take care of Roland and will fill the hole in her heart with loved ones, not a loved one.

For once, the show should end with an era of lasting peace between kingdoms, realms, and even worlds. Instead of bringing yet another curse, villain, or estranged member of the Charming family into to muck everything up. Once Upon a Time deserves a seventh season worthy of its best moments, not its worst. If Edward and Adam decided to continue on past season 6, or even further on, changes such as this  would need to be made. Maybe not exactly how I envision it. However something new, something bold, and something lasting to put these characters back where they belong. In a land with magic. Whether that be the Enchanted Forest or not.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? SHOULD THE CHARACTERS OF ‘ONCE UPON A TIME’ HEAD BACK TO THE ENCHANTED FOREST? OR SHOULD THEY STICK AROUND IN STORYBROOKE AND KEEP FIGHTING NEW VILLAINS EVERY SEASON?
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