Once Upon a Time,
There was an enchanted forest filled with all the classic characters we know.
OR think we know.
One day they found themselves trapped in a place where all their happy endings were stolen.
Seven years and many, many adventures later, they all found their happy endings once again, as the world said goodbye to Once Upon a Time.
The Writes of the Roundtable took a look back at some of our favorite and not-so-favorite parts of this magical show.
Let’s start this off on a positive note: What was your favorite part of Once Upon a Time? What’s the one thing you’re going to take away from it?
Anam: The messages that came out of the show were great. Seeing the villains’ redemption arcs was especially wonderful just because it shows that, no matter what your past might be, you can still change; you can still be better, and you do deserve to be happy. That’s an important message. However, my biggest takeaways from OUAT are the incredible friendships that came out of it. This series brought people together from all over the world — social media helped some. Those friendships are going to stay long after the show ends, and that’s what I’m really going to cherish.
Christina: Despite the numerous flaws in its delivery, Once Upon a Time gave me something to love, be inspired by, and create friendships over. And I think it did that for a lot of others, as well. People have come together from all around the world thanks to their favourite characters, thanks to the actors that depicted them with such fervor and love. Viewers found friends. Some found love and created families; some even found the strength to overcome their own hardships. In the end, I think that’s wonderful.
We’ve also seen a big group of actors come together to work, and some have ended up becoming besties for life — or even finding their other halves, too. To me, there’s no better thing to take away from OUAT than the positive effect it has had on personal levels.
Luci: Honestly, the biggest message from Once Upon a Time is that you should never give up hope. As long as you still have it, you will find a way to make things work. But the one message that still resonates with me to this day is an Emma quote from season 1, in which she tells Cinderella that there are no fairy godmothers in this world. That if you want something, you need to get out there and do it yourself. That rang true for me the first time I watched “The Price of Gold” seven years ago, and it is still the quote that comes to mind whenever I think about Once Upon a Time.
Sarah: My favorite part about Once Upon a Time was how well it brought to life the characters we’ve known for years, in their own signature way, and told their stories to bring hope as their message. I had never seen a show tout hope as a prevailing theme, when so many thrive on drama (too much of it), and its never-ending twists and turns for the audience. The fact that Once Upon a Time began and ended with hope is what I’ll take and keep with me always because whenever I need it, I’ll find it right there.
What’s something you could have lived without?
Anam: Captain Swan…ugh. Emma’s character was totally butchered for this beard. And with Adam Kitsis and Eddy Horowitz stating that they needed to bring the baby on for the finale in order to avoid a “fan riot,” it’s clear this was nothing more than fan service.
Christina: Adam Kitsis and Eddy Horowitz ruining everything that’s good and awesome and pure in this show, for the sake of not even good drama…Yeah, I could have lived without that.
Luci: I could have definitely lived without this last season. Last year’s finale would have been perfect as a series finale, but they just had to stretch it out for another season with most of the cast gone. Storytelling-wise, it was unnecessary and ruined a perfect ending.
Sarah: I could have lived without the writers forgetting that plot drama becomes ridiculous and eye-roll-inducing when you’re sacrificing characters to serve up twists and turns. Once Upon a Time‘s first few seasons held onto the series’ characters serving the plot, but that got lost somewhere along the line — and I sincerely wish it hadn’t.
OUAT prided itself on being a show about hope and regularly offered life messages. What was your favorite?
Anam: Loving yourself means accepting everything, including the dark parts, and you aren’t going to be there until you face your demons and come to terms with them. Your past is a part of you, and it will always be a part of you. Learning from it is important, but so is accepting it. You can’t change what happened; you have to accept it and move on.
Christina: I feel like “Evil isn’t born, it’s made” is the best message I’ve taken from Once Upon a Time. I wasn’t a fan of the constant hope speeches and how family matters most of all, not to mention the whole concept of a happy ending because, ultimately, not all heroes and not all families were treated the way they deserved. Some were literally obliterated from existence for no reason. But when it comes to someone’s choices and the way they deal with life and its difficulties, I feel that “evil isn’t born, it’s made” are the truest words ever spoken and respected on the show. No woman or man is born a bad person. It’s all about how we choose to deal with life and its hurdles, if we choose the right way or the easy way.
Luci: Same as the first question. Emma to Cinderella:
“People are gonna tell you who you are your whole life. You just gotta punch back and say, ‘No, this is who I am’. You want people to look at you differently? Make them! You want to change things, you’re gonna have to go out there and change them yourself, because there are no fairy godmothers in this world.”
Sarah: I’m going to agree with Luci and emphatically vote for “People are going to tell you who you are your whole life. You just got to punch back and say, ‘No, this is who I am.’” From the very beginning of Once Upon a Time, this resonated with me, and I loved that it was never truly forgotten throughout Emma’s journey.
Who or what is your MVP of the series as a whole?
Anam: Lana Parrilla and Robert Carlisle. They carried this show. They’re exceptional actors, who, week after week, went above and beyond to deliver quality work. If it weren’t for these two, Once Upon a Time wouldn’t have lasted past the first season. Rumple and Regina have the most complex storylines, and they went through the most hurdles. Regina’s redemption arc is easily the best thing to come out of this show.
Christina: Lana Parrilla, period. I have no idea how the woman has managed to do what she did these past 7 years, but I was in awe of her from the second she said, “Sorry I’m late.” Parrilla put her heart and soul into her character, portrayed numerous versions of Regina — all so different, yet all equally special — with not just integrity, but also dedication, care and love; and she managed to grow from the most vicious villain to the most remarkable hero and role model. Even when the content was questionable at best, Lana could win over viewers with a mere twitch of her eyebrow and a single teardrop. Had it not been for her, there would have been no show — at least not for as long as it lasted.
Luci: I’d say Lana Parrilla and Jennifer Morrison. They carried the show flawlessly throughout these years, and Parrilla did it alone for the last stretch. If it weren’t for these two ladies, OUAT would have tanked in the first couple of seasons.
Sarah: Jennifer Morrison and Lana Parrilla, hands down. Both of them portrayed their characters so fully throughout the length of the series, which was no easy feat, given the alternate versions, timelines and wonkiness it got up to the longer it went. They are truly masters of their craft in every sense of the word.
Favorite overall episode/scene?
Anam: “Page 23,” hands down — especially the scene between the Queen and Regina, where Regina states that she loves herself and is going to embrace her darker half. That episode was so beautifully done, and that scene tore me apart. That message is so important and hits home for a lot of people. It’s not easy to get to that point, and watching this woman come to terms with everything and move forward was a sight to behold.
Also, “Enter the Dragon” holds a special place in my heart. Seeing Maleficent and Regina’s backstory that most definitely ended with a little something, something — fight me — was awesome. That episode was, pretty much, ABC-appropriate porn. Not to mention, Kristin Bauer and Lana Parrilla are just a vision together.
Christina: I have a soft spot for quite a few scenes and episodes. “The Stable Boy” was the first episode that opened my eyes and made me love Regina hardcore, and Parrilla’s portrayal of young Regina was beyond exceptional. The season 3 winter finale, “Going Home,” was the very first episode that brought me to tears, and I’ll never be over the scene where everyone says goodbye to Emma and Henry — the two of them leaving in the yellow bug, while the rest of the characters, along with Storybrooke, get swept away by a purple cloud. “A Curious Thing” is one of my overall favorites, as it had the perfect balance between drama, family, romance and action; and I think the parallel between this episode and the pilot was one of the best things ever. I get goosebumps when I see Regina stand above Snow and Charming as a friend, not a foe, while the curse takes them back to Storybrooke — this time in unison.
I’m also a huge sucker for the infamous vault scene between Robin and Regina in season 4. I think the chemistry between Lana Parrilla and Sean Maguire is unlike any other, and the two delivered the scene so beautifully and so naturally that I still fangirl like the first time whenever I watch it.
But I think the OUAT episode that I enjoy and love most of all is the season 4 two-parter finale, “Operation Mongoose.” The alternate universe was one of the writers’ most brilliant ideas — I’m actually quite bitter they visited so many realms, yet completely neglected going back to this one. It was so much fun to see all roles reversed and, through that amazing adventure, see Henry become the Author and give his mom a happy ending. I loved every second of both parts of that finale, from beginning to end.
Luci: The Season 3 two-parter finale is still my favorite, even after all these years. It had everything I loved about Once Upon a Time: It was heartwarming, funny, and romantic; and it had lots of adventure and suspense. “There’s No Place Like Home” is the one episode I turn to when I feel like visiting this world again.
Sarah: My favorite episodes will always be the season 3 finale two-parter, “Snow Drifts/There’s No Place Like Home.” This finale was a culmination of some wonderful season-long storytelling, which I’ll never forget. I spent the entire summer squealing at a scene that took place outside of Granny’s. My favorite scene of the entire show, though, was when Emma declared, “I am not nothing. I was never nothing.” She’d been through the wringer from the power of the Dark One trying to manipulate her, and she took back her real power. Despite thinking otherwise for so long, she came to the realization that she was enough to matter to the world and everyone who loved her.
And finally, was that finale satisfying? Did it do Once Upon a Time and its characters justice?
Anam: I wasn’t expecting to get as emotional as I did. Maybe it was just knowing that this was it; this show played a big part in my life once upon a time (pun intended), so the finality of it did make me bawl like a baby.
Rumple’s final sacrifice was heart wrenching. I’m not going to lie: I was hoping True Love’s Kiss was going to happen when Regina kissed his forehead and he’d wake up. It was needed to get rid of Wish Rumple — making Rumple the big bad for the finale was a great idea, though, since it brought the story full circle — but seeing him die was hard. The GoldenHook and GoldenQueen scenes, though…Having this precede the Rumbelle reunion kind of dampered it just a bit. It didn’t seem to have the same effect as the first two. It was cute, of course. But maybe not as impactful as it could have been.
That OutlawQueen scene: Lana Parrilla and Sean Maguire have incredible chemistry, and seeing some sort of closure for these characters was needed. The decision to kill Robin is still absolutely moronic — especially when Hook showed up again — but allowing Regina to get that closure and know that Robin’s not completely gone was important for her. She needed to hear that she was the one who did all the work to get to where she was, that on this journey — even though people have been along for the ride to help her — she was the one who made the choices she did and got to the place where she is. She’s changed. Everyone can see it, and they know Regina is the one that can lead them.
Which brings me to the ending, Regina’s coronation. This was her perfect happy ending. She said it herself back in OUAT‘s fourth season: Regina’s happy ending is finally feeling at home in this world. She decided to bring all the realms to Storybrooke — does this mean there are 3+ Reginas walking around? I’m all for this, but really? — and they needed a ruler and they wanted her. She looks around, and then turns back, stopping the ceremony to ask where Emma was. Gah…Everyone is staring at her, but she’s only got eyes for Emma (sounds like a wedding, tbh).
Anyway, Emma struts in, and Regina delivers her softest “Emma” ever, before Snow crowns her. And obviously Ginnifer Goodwin broke a little, as well as the rest of us. I was bawling. Regina was always meant to be a queen; but the people gave her the title of Evil. Now, she’s come full circle and is The Good Queen. Add that to the fact that she’s no longer in those black dresses that were her armor — she’s wearing her favorite color. Her final speech, the flashbacks, the stroll through an empty Storybrooke…I literally cried like a baby.
Side note: Zorro? Being Lily’s dad? Really? I mean, thank you for filling in Once Upon a Time‘s biggest plot hole. But really?! Unless Zorro means Regina in a mask….
Also, Keegan Connor Tracy was brought back just to lock up the Blue Fairy? Poor girl didn’t even get a word in.
Christina: I think the Once Upon a Time finale created a lot more questions and plot holes. I keep wondering, with the united realms, does it mean that there are four Reginas coexisting, three Henrys, two Zelenas, two Hooks, etc.? Why was Wish Rumple defeated, when original Rumple sacrificed his heart? But hey, it wouldn’t be Once Upon A Time if there weren’t inconsistencies to the very end, right?
Even so, I admit, I teared up A LOT while watching this episode. I’ll give it to the writers: The OUAT finale had some great moments. Regina refusing to fight Henry; then doing it, but only in defensive mode, and relinquishing to death, if it meant her son knew he had people that loved him…Yeah, that broke me. The relationship between Regina and Henry is the purest and most significant one on this show. Once again, we owe that to Lana Parrilla, who fought for it back in the series’ first season.
Also, when Snow and Charming appeared in the cell, even though it had been spoiled by the promos, I still cried like a baby. It was so wonderful to have them back and see the original trio, reunited and fighting in unison. And the minute Snow crowned Regina the elected, Good Queen, I bawled. Like a baby! Regina got what she wanted, with the Charmings’ blessing — not to be queen, but to be loved — and being unanimously chosen as the queen of this new land shows how much she truly is loved now. Regina and Snow have come so far from the pilot, and I am forever bitter this friendship didn’t get the credit it deserved in later seasons. Ginnifer Goodwin and Lana Parrilla would have nailed it.
I also liked how Rumple’s story ended. When he sacrificed his heart to save Hook, it was like a parallel to Snow and Regina, the old rivals who became friends. In the end, and after such a hard life, a peaceful death where he could be reunited with his true love was a good end.
As for the Robin and Regina scene: Don’t touch me. I’m still fragile! As a fan of the couple, I will always want more than what Once gave me. Because, as the writers themselves admitted through Regina, the pair’s story was “so short.” But let me tell you one thing: Lana Parrilla and Sean Maguire delivered their final scene with such warmth, with such emotion, with such love in their eyes and in their acting, that, even though it was not everything I wanted, it was definitely something I really needed. And yes, I haven’t stopped crying ever since.
The parallels between this scene and so many iconic Outlaw Queen scenes, were numerous — all beautiful and touching — and it left me with the hope that, when the time comes for Regina, she will be reunited with her soulmate. In the end, albeit short, Robin and Regina’s truly was the most epic of them all; and it was epic because of Parrilla and Maguire who, despite the crappy material they were given after a certain point, they made everything special with their dedication. I’ll never not be thankful to them, for everything, and for this special last gift that their scene in the tavern was.
Sarah: I’m just going to say it: That series finale was straight up weird in how it came to a “resolution.” I mean, using the bones of the Dark Curse to reunite ALL the worlds, and magically hide them in the corner of Maine, where Storybrooke has existed all these years? I can understand the appeal in literally bringing everyone together; but, for me, it created more confusion than happiness.
There were a few specific moments, like Regina fighting to save Henry (no matter what version), Robin showing up in a dream, Snow and Charming arriving up to save the day, Rumple finally choosing to selflessly do right, and Emma and Killian showing up late, with baby Hope in tow, to the ceremony that touched my heart. When I say that, I mean that I was tearing up, and it reminded me of how special the character moments are and how they truly made up the fabric of what made Once Upon a Time so great.
Those moments did the show justice far more than anything else; and for that, I’ll always be grateful. The plot, however, was just up in the air. I wish it had not been so crazy up until the last few minutes, and I wanted to have more time to spend with these characters, just being together before we said goodbye to them permanently.
Criticism aside, though, from all the timelines craziness, I loved that the OUAT writers brought everyone together as much as they could and reminded the audience, first and foremost, that hope is what they sought to bring with this show. Bravo, Once Upon a Time, and thank you for seven wonderful years. I will miss you.
Thank you for the memories, Once Upon a Time.