Why “The Final Battle” Should’ve Been Once Upon A Time’s Series Finale

Why “The Final Battle” Should’ve Been Once Upon A Time’s Series Finale

***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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5 Burning Questions for Once Upon A Time Season 6

5 Burning Questions for Once Upon A Time Season 6

The delightful television series Once Upon A Time returns on September 25th with the season 6 premiere. Season 5 ended with an array of juicy cliffhangers and tantalizing prospects, made even better by thrilling tidbits released throughout the summer. Here are 5 burning questions for the upcoming season:

  1. How will the return of Lily and Maleficent tie into season 6?

Once Upon A Time creators and executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis (they will be referred to as Adam and Eddy for the rest of this post) have confirmed the return of Lily and Maleficent for season 6. After their fascinating development in season 4, it was quite disappointing for neither character to appear or even have their absences addressed in season 5. Their relationship as mother and daughter was just getting started, and they were finally moving forward from being two formerly revenge-obsessed individuals to overcoming their tragic pasts as they reconciled and began moving forward, finding a new place in the universe. And don’t forget that the identity of Lily’s father/Maleficent’s dragon lover is still a mystery!

I expect season 6 to explain what Lily and Maleficent were doing during season 5, how their relationship and individual identities have continued to evolve, and to answer the mystery of Lily’s father/Maleficent’s dragon lover. The answer to this mystery likely lies with the Land of Untold Stories, providing a practically endless potential of characters. This crucial figure has likely come to Storybrooke with Hyde and will bring Lily and Maleficent back into focus. My only doubt about this is Lily and Maleficent may have left Storybrooke in the season 5 finale via Zelena’s portal. If you remember in season 4, Maleficent tells Lily that magic is keeping her alive, and she will crumble into dust if she crosses the Storybrooke town line. When Storybrooke’s magic was tethered to the Olympian Crystal, Maleficent may have needed to leave Storybrooke in order to survive, to be in a place like the Enchanted Forest where magic would continue to keep her alive.

Wherever Lily and Maleficent are, it’s time to see them return in a big way that will surely answer many of the lingering questions surrounding them from season 4.

  1. What kind of past do Rumplestiltskin and Mr. Hyde share?

No character has as many past connections with major antagonists like Rumplestiltskin. From Regina to Cora to Peter Pan to Zelena to the Snow Queen to the Queens of Darkness, Rumple almost always seems to have a significant influence on the show’s major antagonists. The season 5 finale made it clear that he has a past with Hyde, and that it’s a nasty one. Could Rumple be as important a figure in bringing about Hyde as Jekyll himself? The Dark One is the only individual Hyde seems to fear so far, the only one more powerful than him. Rumple thus is integral to Hyde’s character (and naturally to Jekyll as well). Hyde may also be integral to Rumple’s character in a way we don’t fully realize yet.

  1. How will Rumplestiltskin wake Belle from the sleeping curse?

The sleeping curse has afflicted many in Once Upon A Time. From Snow White to David to Henry to Aurora to Dorothy, many have fallen under the curse and been woken by true love’s kiss. But with true love’s kiss out of play for Belle and Rumplestiltskin, our favorite Dark One has to figure out a new way to wake his wife. It’s a familiar dilemma in new territory. The answer not only lies with the information Hyde gave Rumple in exchange for the Pandora’s Box with Belle inside and Storybrooke itself. The answer also lies with the new character Morpheus (god of dreams in Greek mythology, will probably interpret Belle’s dreams and communicate with her via the dreams), and with both Rumple and Belle making sacrifices to help their unborn child.

  1. How will Emma be influenced by Aladdin and Savior mythology?

One of the most exciting pieces of news released this summer was that Aladdin and many characters and elements from his story will appear in season 6, and furthermore, Aladdin is(was?) a Savior. Adam and Eddy have promised that Savior mythology will be explored this season similar to how Dark One mythology was explored during the Camelot arc in season 5. While there were always clearly defining traits of Dark Ones and a history that began long before Rumple or Zoso, the same clarity and mystery wasn’t so true of Saviors until now. Since Emma broke the Dark Curse at the end of season 1, it hasn’t been so clear  what it means to be a Savior. Sure, she helps people achieve their happy endings and stands up to evil despite incredible odds in order to aid in saving the day, but so do many other characters (Snow White, David, Henry, Regina, etc.). What has made Emma a Savior since the end of season 1 and how will that influence her journey this season? Will being a Savior begin taking a toll on her the way it did to Aladdin? Likely through Hyde and the characters from the Land of Untold Stories, Emma will meet Aladdin and discover much more of what it means to be a Savior, extending to the Savior mythology.

  1. What does the Evil Queen want? Moreover, how will Regina cope with the Evil Queen’s return, particularly in the wake of Robin Hood’s tragic death?

When Regina was the Evil Queen, she above all wanted Snow White to suffer, and a lot of the time that suffering revolved around obtaining Snow White’s heart. With Snow’s heart, she could finally have revenge for the secret Snow spilled to Cora, the secret that led to the death of Regina’s first true love Daniel. This was Regina’s primary motive in casting the first Dark Curse.

But with the Evil Queen split from Regina and now a being of her own, what will the Evil Queen want? She can’t just want all the same things Regina wanted as the Evil Queen. Too many people and circumstances have changed, one of the most significant being Zelena. Remember, when Regina was full-on Evil Queen she was unaware of Zelena’s existence. I see the Evil Queen’s motives being a mixture of things she used to want and things she wants now. The obsession with Snow’s heart and Snow suffering will remain. New desires like destroying Zelena will also arise, along with others we cannot yet foresee. Perhaps the most fascinating of these possibilities is what the dynamic will  be between the Evil Queen and Henry.

As often seems to be the case, Regina has one of the most difficult paths to navigate, still grieving for the man she loved while also literally facing her worst self. Aligning with the show’s themes, she’ll have help from friends and family to help her through this incredibly difficult time. Yet that still doesn’t change the fact that Regina seems to have a harder road ahead of her than any other character, and she’s already had one of the hardest roads to begin with. Regina’s quest for her happy ending has been grueling as the writers seem intent on screwing her over more than any other character. She won’t have her happy ending handed to her like certain characters (you know who you are.) Her character development has been the most in-depth, satisfying and believable up to this point and I feel confident that will continue into season 6.

Image credit: http://zap2it.com/2016/08/once-upon-a-time-season-6-emilie-de-ravin-belles-family-history/

Once Upon A Time 5×16 “Our Decay” Review

Once Upon A Time 5×16 “Our Decay” Review

Once Upon A Time 5×16 “Our Decay” delivered on all fronts. Rumplestiltskin and Belle have the conversation I’ve been waiting for so long to happen, two central characters who either been mostly or completely absent from the Underworld arc returned in thrilling and meaningful fashion, and “the big bad” of this arc gets some delicious character development.

Belle has been absent most of this arc, but she gets sucked into the Underworld and reunites Rumple. I’m so happy to see Belle back at center-stage on the show. She keeps getting a lot of focus and truly being a main character and then shunted off to the side. With the way things have been going in this arc, it looked like she might unfortunately be relegated to a minor supporting role. But that all changed, and was made even better by her reunion with Rumple. They finally had a conversation where they were both honest with each other about themselves and their relationship. I’ve gotten so sick of Rumple lying and being emotionally abusive to Belle. I was also tired of Belle too often forgiving Rumple and giving into his deceit. She’s a hell of a good person, but she’s also an incredibly intelligent and strong woman. I’m so glad she figured out Rumple is the Dark One again. It was a relief for Rumple to not deny the truth, but to show her the dagger and give voice to how much he loves his power, that even before becoming the Dark One he loved power. The only difference was he didn’t have it. It was also great to see Rumple admit that while he loves his power he still loves Belle, and the two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Using the same line of thinking, he argues that Belle didn’t just fall in love with the man behind the beast, but with the man and the beast as neither can exist without the other. I don’t completely agree with this, but I do agree that Belle’s feelings and attraction toward Rumple are a lot more complicated than loving the man behind the beast. Rumple is also a lot more complex than that. At the same time, I was happy to see and hear that Belle would not condone all of Rumple’s deceit and treachery. Rumple lies and tricks so much that it’s always particularly refreshing when he’s genuinely honest with himself and others. It was a powerful, refreshingly honest conversation between these two that was long overdue. Add in the news about Belle being pregnant and the contract that puts the child in danger, and this conversation was my favorite part of the episode.

Zelena has been completely absent this arc and I loved seeing her come back in such epic fashion. Rebecca Mader demonstrated many of the best parts of Zelena: her emotional manipulation, her ruthlessness, her inability to trust others, and a deep love for her child. Zelena’s return to the show and her fascinating connection and backstory with Hades didn’t seem forced at all, though it easily could’ve been if the episode went in a different direction. This is a testament to the writing but also to Rebecca Mader’s fabulous acting. That none of the “heroes” have a connection with Hades but Zelena makes her all the more special and integral to this story arc. Rebecca Mader has fantastic chemistry with Greg Germann (who has been remarkable as Hades and constantly exceeds my expectations).

Addressing the Zelena-Hades backstory first, I’m sure many feel it was too rushed, however, I feel it worked well. We got to see more of Oz and the time in which Zelena ruled the land through terror. Back in the season 3B arc where Zelena was the primary antagonist, I felt the Oz backstory seemed very incomplete. Compared to other lands like the Enchanted Forest, Neverland, Arendelle, Camelot, and now the Underworld, we really didn’t get to know Oz well in season 3. This is largely because our central characters didn’t spend any time there and we weren’t there for the majority of a story arc. We only saw it in two episodes for Zelena flashbacks. The storyline with Dorothy seemed pretty shoehorned in and we didn’t get a good sense for it, nor were the writers able to cleverly twist the traditional Wizard of Oz storyline enough with the limited spent there. We returned to Oz in the season 4B episode “Heart of Gold,” but we didn’t see much more of Oz in that episode, more of the focus going to the character development of Robin Hood and that he had a bit of a past with Zelena. Thus, it was delightful to return to Oz in this episode and see more of it, to see the Scarecrow and Munchkins and more of the land’s climate while under Zelena’s control. And of course, seeing Dorothy come back as such a badass and fearless adult awesome to see. I really hope we see more of adult Dorothy, and discover what transformed her from the girl we met in season 3B “Kansas” to now.

Beyond Oz itself, I buy into the Zelena-Hades relationship for several reasons beyond the acting of Mader and Germann. They both understand each other in a way that few others can. They understand what it feels like to feel unloved and hated while their older sibling gets all the glory and triumph and everything they ever wanted (or so Zelena thinks). They’re both incredibly conniving and vengeful and powerful and resourceful, but though they might not admit it, they’re also lonely.

Is it true love? Hell no. While this show is big about its true love, it’s also shown that while true love exists, it also takes a lot of time to develop and maintain. If you think about couples that have or had true love in this show (Snow and Charming, Emma and Neal, Emma and Hook, Regina and Robin, Rumple and Belle, Aurora and Philip) it’s taken and in some cases is still taking a lot to develop and maintain those deep emotions. The same goes for non-romantic relationships of true love (Emma and Henry, Regina and Henry, Emma and Regina, Regina and Snow, Rumple and Neal). While it may not be true love between Hades and Zelena, there is a mutual understanding and undeniable connection that bonds them.

(Also a tangent about Hades: With Zeus confirmed as his brother and Hercules as his nephew, if we’re keeping in line with the mythology, wouldn’t that also make Poseidon his other brother, and furthermore Ursula his niece? Hades being Ursula’s uncle will probably end up having zero relevance to the story, but an interesting connection nonetheless.)

The backstory in Oz with Zelena and Hades was wonderful, but their Underworld meeting in the present may have been even better. How fascinating that Hades made the Underworld look like Storybrooke for Zelena! I love how it’s left open-ended whether Hades is being genuine with Zelena. Usually when someone is being manipulative in this show, we find out pretty quickly. It’s a secret between characters, but not from the audience. I like that this time it’s a secret and for now it’s up to our interpretation. I don’t trust Hades. While I think he has some feelings for Zelena, I don’t see him putting those feelings ahead of his power and schemes, just like Rumple who Hades parallels in a lot of ways,

A few final things I enjoyed from the episode: I’m glad we finally found out who’s been taking care of baby Neal and baby Hood since the “heroes” departed to the Underworld (great to see the Blue Fairy again, it’s been too long). It was also nice to get a glimpse of Storybrooke with all the time we’ve been spending in the Underworld. I’m also glad Robin Hood finally got more focus and he gave a concrete reason why he left his child behind to go to the Underworld to help save Hook. It works well with how much he obsesses over his “code” but I still think staying with his child would’ve been more responsible and more of the right thing to do, albeit less glamorous. He’s reunited with his baby now . . . but who’s taking care of Roland while he’s gone? The Blue Fairy as well? This may go unanswered, but at least we have less questions about Henry being the Author in the Underworld as his skills are really rolling now. Give props to Regina as well for still trying to help her wicked sister out, despite all the hell Zelena has put her through. And finally I’ll also say that I was happy to see this episode depart from the “soul of the week” format that this arc has gotten a bit too much into. We’ve gone from Henry Sr., to Hercules, to Milah, to Liam, each week getting introduced or reacquainted with a dead soul, attach their backstory to one or more of the main characters, find out what their unfinished business is and see if they can move on from the Underworld or not. This worked really well with Henry Sr. and Milah, but with Hercules and Liam seemed a bit forced. In this context and all others, this week was a refreshing and all around fabulous episode!

 

Image taken from http://www.threeifbyspace.net/2016/04/upon-time-516-review-brief-look-decay/#.VwMPEvkrJD8