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I Watched Once Upon A Time and Here’s What I Thought

The show Once Upon A Time is a series that aired from 2011 to 2018, stemming a full 7 seasons. The show centers around the classic fairy tales that we became familiar with through books or Disney movies. The main plot follows Emma, the story’s heroine, and her family, the Charmings—yes, as in Prince. The town of Storybrooke, Maine is filled with cursed fairytale characters that don’t remember who they are. Henry Mills, a young boy and Emma’s biological son, seeks to make the town realize who they truly are. During the break, I conquered many TV shows, but this was one that stuck with me. I’m going to keep it pretty general, but just in case, here is the official spoiler warning. Here are the best and worst parts of the show, in my humble opinion.

Henry Mills is actually a Great Character and Kid

I am not one who likes children in the media very often. I think it’s very easy to make a child obnoxious and overbearing, and while I think that can be accurate to a child, I want a character to be developed and human, no matter the age. We first meet Henry Mills when he shows up on Emma Swan’s doorstep telling her that he’s her biological son. This is what catapults the entire show and begins everyone’s journeys. I think Henry is a developed character first, and a child second. Part of me sympathizes with him because everyone is trying to snuff out his creativity and belief, and I think we’ve all experienced that at some point. I enjoyed watching his growth throughout the whole show, and I don’t think they ever ruined him for the sake of another person’s character development, or vice versa.

The First Season Does Get Repetitive with No One Believing The Curse

Okay, so I’ve learned that not everyone agrees with this, but I got really impatient around episode 10 in the first season. The plotlines were still interesting, but having a child tell them it was true and having every character half believe in the curse anyway had me tapping my foot. I think there was tension built in the first few episodes about a magical curse that took away everyone's memory except Regina Mills—curse caster, Evil Queen, Mayor, and adoptive mother of Henry Mills. Eventually, that tension wore off and there was a lag until the final episode or two. This was the only season where that lag existed because, without magic to fall onto, the plot points were oddly like a soap opera and a murder mystery combined. It was entertaining, but not necessarily what I signed up for.

The Addition of Captain Hook was Immaculate

Season 2 brought one of the show's best characters. Played by actor Colin O’Donoghue, Captain Hook was brought to life as a sexy scoundrel and pirate that loved rum and his ship, the Jolly Roger. He was also Irish, so that’s a huge plus. His character was not only appealing physically, but he was sarcastic and witty. He was the classic loveable, bad boy trope, but they also gave him a history. He had a need to avenge the death of his love, Milah. He had a redemption arc, and he had an epic romance. His character slowly evolved from being a surface character to being one of the best parts of the show. I recommend the show for many reasons, but his character is enough of one.

The Low-Quality Valley in the Middle of the Show

So, like any show that’s been on for long enough, there’s always a dip in quality. I don’t think Once Upon A Time ever got unbearable, but I think the show did begin to run out of ideas. For me, the quality dip was from the second half of season 4 to the middle of season 5. The second half of season 4 had ambiguous villains that were all half redeemed by the writers. The beginning of season 5 was a direct continuation of season 4 and took place in Camelot during flashbacks. Present time took place in the town of Storybrooke with a new bad guy and the good guys' brains wiped of their adventures in Camelot. My impatience got me again in wanting to know what happened in Camelot. Also, it felt like the characters weren’t as likable in this season. There wasn’t as much chemistry to feed off of between the characters since they were separated most of the season. This separation led to the season and its plots being repetitive. The end of season 5 took place in Hades’ realm, which had interesting, new stories each episode. It showed different people and how they were in this realm because they had unfinished business. The main plotline was interesting, but the side plots were also supporting the show and not detracting from it’s worth.

Season 6 was actually Really Good

This doesn’t happen very often, but I think season 6 was a great season. It was interesting, and there was a plotline that lasted the entire season, as well as a half-season villain. I think this season did a good job connecting the different plotlines that were introduced and bringing back characters throughout. Characters were also used for a greater purpose, so there weren’t any filler episodes without reasoning. Emma, the main character, had a great storyline that connected her to other people and finally helped her deal with the trauma she’s suffered and hidden in the past. The whole show talks about how Emma is “The Savior,” and this season is also where we finally begin to understand the lore and history behind what that means. To me, this felt like the final season and it felt like the producers thought it was going to be the final season. There was even a musical episode—something not added in for shits and giggles; that’s a last season decision. (Though, the musical was not as bad as I was expecting, and that’s all I’ll say about that). I think it wrapped up everything really nicely.

Season 7, however, was Completely Unnecessary

As I said, season 6 wrapped everything up really nicely. Season 7 introduced new characters, took some of the current actors and gave their characters new personas, and they didn’t have the entire main cast returning. For example, Colin O’Donoghue played Captain Hook from a different realm, so he was in the show, but not the same Hook we loved. Regina was no longer Regina or the Evil Queen, but a bartender. The whole season 7 was basically the first season of the show all over again but it took place in a Seattle neighborhood with characters I didn’t care about and a 30-year-old Henry Mills who, after successfully avoiding the annoying child role, became annoying in his adult life.

The Evil Queen had a Redemption Arc Fit for a Queen

Once Upon A Time gave out redemption arcs like they were Snickers on Halloween, but one redemption arc I could get behind was Regina Mills’, aka The Evil Queen. In season 1, she was a woman who twisted her trauma into the justification for murder and cruelty. Slowly, through the power of love and friendship—I know, I hate that I typed that too—she began to understand what true support is and how to live a happy life. The show really put Regina through the wringer. She lost love, and she was put in positions where her motives were questioned constantly, but she stayed on the course of progress and I think that’s important. She also built a great friendship with the main character, Emma, that came with a great rapport. They went from hating each other and being competitive over Henry, to loving him and raising him together.

The Cheesy Aspect is Definitely There, but I Didn’t Hate It

To sum this up, if I had picked a random episode and taken a shot anytime someone said the words love, hope, or faith, I would be dead as a doornail right now. The writers really lock onto those traits, and while there are moments that are so cheesy they made me cringe, I also reveled in it a little bit. During quarantine, my patience for super dark things has declined, and this show had a nice balance between messed up plotlines and this sense of community. I will never argue that every scene is a masterpiece, but I will say that there are scenes that make you feel right along with the character. Maybe it's because I’m a huge emotional mess, but I, at least partially, attribute it to their skills.

I watched a lot of TV during winter break in order to let my brain recover from the fall semester—PSA: it wasn’t enough time—and Once Upon A Time was one show that I dove into. I really enjoyed the adventures that the show took me on and the characters I got to spend time with. If you choose to watch, I hope you enjoy and gather more pros and cons for the list.

Grace Heinlein

Kutztown '23

A music major writes for a blog. That's the joke. You get it?
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