‘Once Upon a Time’ (Season 6): What Next?

Right, uh, so… now what?

Through the ups and many, many downs of Once Upon a Time, the show has proven that the one thing its most resistant to is change. Sure, they’ve introduced a number of new characters over the years, but outside of lucky newcomers like Hook and Zelena, very little outside of the cast from the original season has ever mattered. This story has been, from the beginning, focused almost exclusively on Emma Swan and her ridiculously extended family – one where Peter Pan is connected to the Wicked Witch is connected to the Queen of Hearts.

And even inside of that focus, the show has pinpointed things down even tighter on Emma herself, with the majority of storylines focused on her and her struggles. So now, as she and several other major characters leave the show, the question remains of where the show goes without her.

Yes, this is usually the part where I optimistically point out the chance for the show to grow from the change, to inject fresh new energy into the proceedings. However, this is a show that has seemed to willfully refuse doing exactly that at every turn. Instead of bringing new elements to play, it’s recycled a number of tired plot threads. Secret relatives! Belle and Rumple drama! Magic always comes with a price! Even just this season, the show quickly cast aside the intriguing concept of modern stories in the public domain being featured for more drama with the Evil Queen and Rumple.

Sure, next season is set to introduce a number of new characters, but the central focus will still be on a trio of characters – Rumple, Regina, and Hook – who have lost/been separated from their loved ones – Belle, Henry, and Emma, respectively. Do we need to see them go through more angst? Will there even be any fallout, given the ten- to fifteen-year time-jump? Do fans actually want to see the show go on with so many of their favorite couples broken up or gone altogether?

Which raises the real question: does Once Upon a Time really need a seventh season? The show, however flawed, ended its story fairly well with the sixth season finale. Do we need to put the characters left through new stories, especially if there’s the severe risk that everything will end up feeling the same? It’s impossible to tell at this point, though after a very rough sixth season, it’s harder than ever to imagine the show will be able to find any of the old magic in its new, twisted version of the show. I guess we’ll see in the fall.