Once Upon A Time
Series 6 (Second Act).
So, prior to the penultimate episode of this series, I actually had no idea that series six was meant to serve as a soft ending to the series -- a 'soft ending' here meaning that Emma's story, as well as the stories of the majority of the cast, would be ending, and the series would be changing its cast of characters and its central conflicts going forward.
I had a brief inkling when Rumpel remarked that all of the darkness Emma had faced had come from the Black Fairy, but given that every threat has been the biggest, worst threat ever, I didn't pay it that much mind. It wasn't until the episode that was both a musical and a wedding that I realised that no, no, this really was the end of Emma's story. A musical-wedding episode is practically the definition of 'let's go out with the biggest ratings spike we can.'
Picking up where the series' first act left off, Emma duels and manages to overcome Gideon, Rumpel and Belle's son, only for him to stick around, scheming to bring his captor, the Black Fairy, into Storybrooke. As the Black Fairy arrives, Emma realises that she's heading towards the final battle, the fated showdown between herself and the Black Fairy -- a showdown that may end with her death.
|A wedding on a diner roof? Really?|
So, the Black Fairy is not the most compelling villain. When we get her backstory, it's basically the same as most villains' backstories in Once Upon A Time: She loved someone, and that love somehow ended up turning her evil. In the Black Fairy's case, it's that she loved her son, Rumpel, who was destined to become the Saviour -- and her attempts to see him to safety by creating the Dark Curse resulted in her becoming the Black Fairy, his prophesied enemy, and then being banished.
The one thing I really don't like there is the retcon that she was the creator of the Dark Curse. Rumpel being its creator gave us some genuinely good storylines and mysteries in the early part of the show, so taking that element away feels like it does more harm to the story than good, especially since it's not backed up by any compelling mystery: As soon as we find out that the Black Fairy was behind the Dark Curse, we also find out exactly why she created it, and we basically find out how, too. It makes a central element of the series oddly boring.
But the Black Fairy is a lot of fun to have around, as former Hustle actor Jaime Murray plays her with no shortage of scenery chewing, and easily dominates every scene she's in.
|Nobody seems that alarmed by the Black Fairy's presence here.|
The other key element of this 'soft' ending, of course, is wrapping up everyone's character arcs, and in that respect the series has a home field advantage on account of how most of the cast hasn't even had character arcs for a very long time. Rumpel is about the only character with an arc that hasn't been resolved, and marvelously, magically the show manages not to resolve his arc in any kind of satisfactory fashion. He betrays everyone, and then two episodes later basically just decides to be a good person, at which point his entire character arc stops dead.
The show does its best to convince you that Emma, Zelena, Regina, Snow, Hook, and Charming all have arcs that need wrapping up, but it does this mostly by introducing either entirely new character conflicts or dredging up old ones for the span of exactly one (1) episode, after which they are happy, untroubled, and have reached the end of their character development. It's an interesting strategy, but not one that really works.
We do get a pretty solid musical episode out of it (and oh, how my patience started to wear thin once the first notes of the song began to play, but the songs were good enough to keep me engaged), though, so that's nice.
The finale also isn't terrible, actually, revolving around Regina, Snow, Charming, Hook, and Zelena trying to return to Storybrooke, while Henry attempts to make Emma believe. It's never really explained why Emma not believing in Storybrooke makes it collapse in on itself, Neverending Story style, and in all honesty it doesn't make much sense that it would, but never mind.
Ultimately, Once Upon A Time has been a terrible but fun show. It gets some points for being one of the few shows on television that is predominantly women-led, and predominantly about women, and while it loses plenty of points elsewhere (basic plotting, not just being exhaustingly stupid, special effects, any arc that focuses less on fairytales and more on Disney), it's usually managed to at least be an enjoyable series to watch.
Next series, it looks like our focus will be shifting to an adult Henry as the main character, which is an interesting idea, at least.