***Spoiler warning!

Once Upon A Time‘s season 6 finale “The Final Battle” reminded us more than ever of the show’s oft-repeated phrase “Magic always comes with a price.” While certainly not without its faults, the series has always proved to be delightful and make us believers in magic. But like anything of value, the magic needs an end deserving of its beginnings. The season 6 finale overall provides the ending we deserve for the whole series, not just this season.

Both parts of “The Final Battle” draw a number of parallels to the series premiere, helping to bring the story full-circle. The parallels vary in terms of creative strength. Testing Emma’s belief in a fresh way with world-shattering stakes yields a wonderful parallel. On the other hand, Snow or Charming saving one another with true love’s kiss for the millionth time (with dialogue of “I will always find you” and the latest obstacle “did give me pause”) already became stale long ago. Regardless, all the parallels usher the characters and the audience into the epic (and much different than expected) final battle prophesied from the beginning, ultimately leading the core characters to the happy beginnings most of them deserve and fought like hell for. There couldn’t have been a more perfect ending for the series and season 6.

As for the journey towards the finale, season 6 was not my favorite, largely because it lacked the narrative focus of earlier seasons. The focus of what it ultimately means to be the Savior and for Emma specifically received consistent focus. Many other narratives meandered and a few creative opportunities–particularly concerning a few villains–were squandered. How could the fascinating Jekyll and Hyde be killed so quickly and how could the Land of Untold Stories go so unexplored? Why incorporate a magnificent villain like Jafar if you’re barely going to use him? That being said, the season answered most of the questions heading in and as the episodes progressed (see the 5 burning questions I had for season 6: https://matthewrudoyblogfun.wordpress.com/2016/09/03/5-burning-questions-for-once-upon-a-time-season-6/). Longtime questions like who created the Dark Curse, why Malcolm resented his son Rumplestiltskin, the identity of Rumplestiltskin’s mother, and what the final battle would entail were all answered. The one question that went unanswered despite Adam and Eddy’s promises was the future of Lily and Maleficent and the identity of Lily’s father/Maleficent’s dragon lover. I thought the dragon guarding the beanstalk in the finale might finally provide some answers but alas it was not to be.

While not as focused and able to meet its potential as compared to earlier seasons, season 6 did provide answers and still found ways to be imaginative and engaging. Lana Parilla slayed as both Regina and the Evil Queen, investing the audience in the tension and unlikely resolution of their conflict. New concepts like the Wish Realm  and characters like Nemo enthralled us. The musical episode actually worked really well, Zelena’s “Wicked Always Win” being my favorite musical number thanks to the devious opportunism mixed with infectious optimism through the talented Rebecca Mader.

All these pieces building to the high-stakes, unique take on the final battle provided the opportunity to end on a creative high note, the core characters’ hard-won progress coming to fruition. Instead they end with a cliffhanger that recycles the original story.

I’d be lying if I said I’m not somewhat intrigued by how Henry has become the person seen in the episode’s flash forwards. But the intrigue does not negate the failure to capitalize on a satisfying ending. The magic of Once Upon A Time will continue at the price of losing many of our beloved characters and robbing audiences of a fitting, satisfying end to the series for the core characters we know and love.

Do you agree or disagree that “The Final Battle” should’ve been the series finale? Share your thoughts in the comments below and on social media!

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