Once Upon A Time Series Finale Review: “Leaving Storybrooke” Brings an Emotional Conclusion

Once Upon A Time

It’s finally come and gone, Once Upon A Time fans. We all knew the series finale would come one day, but that doesn’t mean any of us were emotionally prepared. I certainly wasn’t. I was more prepared around this time last year, in fact, for Once Upon A Time to meet its end, but instead it was renewed for a victory lap, shaking up the cast and premise in the process. While the seventh season didn’t always work and it sputtered along the way, “Leaving Storybrooke” turned out to be a wonderfully heartwarming, tear-jerking episode in which we saw old friends collide with new ones, and most everyone got the happy ending they were looking for.

I thought the Season 6 finale, save for the adult Henry tag, was really a perfect finale for the most part, so I wasn’t sure what to think of a Season 7. Then, I watched it, and it was (mostly) good TV, but it didn’t carry enough emotional weight for a long-time fan. So the episodes that focused on characters like Regina, Henry, and Rumplestiltskin were excellent, but it became pretty hard to care about most of the new characters. That was the rub of the entire Season 7. I have to hand it to Kitsis an Horowitz, though. Once they found out the show was ending, they just wrapped up most of the new character stories and turned their focus to wrapping up the series and bringing closure to us long time fans. There was a lot this season that I didn’t care about, but I ended up very emotionally invested in the last 4 or 5 episodes.

I was worried when they announced that Emma, Charming, Snow, and many other old characters were returning because I was afraid it would diminish the work they’d been doing with Rumple, Regina, etc. But each and every return was well-used. Charming and Snow gave the whole finale story some emotional weight. Emma’s return was no more than a glorified cameo. Belle and Robin Hood were used in exactly the right way, and they brought back just enough familiar Storybrooke faces to take us back to that place. Really, the use of returning characters couldn’t have been better, and even though the new characters were around in these last few episodes, it was smart to leave them on the backburner.

I do get a little misty-eyed in some series finales, and this was no exception. What really got me was Rumplestiltskin and the sacrifice that he made for Hook-2. Rumplestiltskin began Once Upon A Time as a damaged, broken man who used power as a crutch to hide his cowardice and insecurity. He began truly evil, but over time the love of Belle, of Baelfire, of Henry, and the good nature of the people he was surrounded by tore down the walls of his heart and he became a better man. As you watch him through the series you see him make selfish, manipulative decisions, get better, backslide, get better again, and as the series wraps up, you finally see Rumplestiltskin’s desire to deserve Belle’s love win out over everything. It was an incredible, emotional story that is really quite relevant to modern society. “You don’t do the right thing for a reward. You do it because it’s right.” But he got his reward after all, didn’t he?

I found Regina’s happy ending to be fitting, also. Instead of trying to give her a third “love of her life” after losing both Daniel and Robin in her adult life, they made her Queen of the United Realms. As a viewer, it was much more satisfying for Snow White to call Regina “The Good Queen” than it would have been for her to get married. After all, what strong woman truly needs a man, anyway?

Here are a few other thoughts:

  • Robin Hood’s brief return gave me very strong feels. All the feels.
  • Umm…how good was Jared Gilmore in these last few episodes? I don’t know if he just didn’t get enough to do before, or if I’m only noticing now because he’s been gone for a bit. But I was floored at how good he was.
  • I thought Robin Hood gave me all the feels, until “Weaver” called “Rogers” his only friend. SO MANY FEELS.
  • We’ll be here for days if I list everything that made me feel things in this episode. But just one more: When Charming and Snow showed up to rescue Henry, I was grinning from ear to ear. Couldn’t have been more perfect.
  • Of course, I got misty eyed both when real Rumple/Mr. Gold/Weaver sacrificed himself for Rogers/Hook-2 and Tilly/Alice, and when Regina was crowned “The Good Queen”.

With all the ups and downs of Season 7, Once Upon A Time really stuck the landing here. It was emotional, it brought back most (if not all) of the fan-favorite characters, and in true storyb(r)ook fashion, it had a happy ending.

It’s been a pleasure reviewing this show for TVOvermind for the last few years. I will miss bringing my thoughts, but always look me up on Twitter or email me if you’re feeling nostalgic about it. I’m always up to discuss.

What did you guys think? Did you enjoy it? Let us know!

Once Upon A TIme Season 7 Episode 22 Review: "Leaving Storybrooke"
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Summary

Snow White, Prince Charming, Emma Swan and more return to help Henry and Regina conclude the journey on the series finale of Once Upon A Time

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