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TV Review: Once Upon A Time (Season 7)

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Once Upon A Time finally came to an end this week, after seven years of fantastical fairy tale adventures.

The seventh season was a reboot of sorts for the show, with most of the old cast departing and a new setting and new characters taking over. I was a little skeptical about this season, as they really had ended things in a good place in Season 6, and at least through the first half of the season, I was proved right. The second half was much better, but I couldn't help wishing that they had ended things where they were in season 6.

once upon at time season 7

Season 7 was confused right from the get go and that didn't really stop throughout the season. It felt like the showrunners didn't have a clear direction of what they wanted to do with the series, and who they wanted to be the villain. At first it seemed to be Victoria Belfry, then Mother Gothel, then Wish Rumple and there was no real coherency to any of them. With previous seasons, the characters would have a goal to accomplish, a villain to defeat by the end, but it's quite confusing when the villain the characters have to take on keeps changing! The show itself has mocked its own complicated storylines, but that doesn't exactly make it any easier for the fans to follow.

Hyperion Heights was definitely not as engaging a setting as Storybrooke, and even though my favourite characters, Hook, Regina and Rumple, survived the cast axe at the end of Season 6, their cursed personalities are so different for much of the series, that I couldn't even really be that engaged in their storylines. Henry was never my favourite character in the first place, and I didn't feel like Andrew J.West's older version of the character was any less insufferable than Jared Gilmore's younger version. 

I had mixed feelings about the new additions to the cast in this season. I liked Adelaide Kane's character, Ivy/Drisella, but they really didn't do enough with her. Kane gives a great performance, but her story didn't really get interesting until she was just about to leave. I enjoyed Tilly/Alice (Rose Reynolds) and Margot/Robin's developing romance, and Tilly's storyline with Hook was one of the more rewarding ones of the rebooted season. The new Cinderella, (Dania Ramirez) made me want to roll my eyes most of the time, and her chemistry with Henry was pracitcally non-existent. Lucy, the daughter of Henry and Cinderella, (Alison Fernandez), much like her father before her, is overly chirpy and kind of grating to watch. Once Upon A Time has always had a bit of a problem with character overload and this season was no exception - even with the slimmed down original cast, there were so many new characters it was a little difficult to keep track of them all. 

It felt like everything in the first half of the season took a little too long to play out. For every 40 minute episode, I felt like I was only really getting three minutes of pay off in the end. I liked the latter half of the season with Gothel as the main villain (who is much more compelling than Victoria Belfry) much better, although having Victoria Belfry, Gothel and Wish Rumple all play the villain in one season was perhaps a bit much. It might have worked better if Wish Rumple had been introduced earlier and been the main villain for the whole season.

It almost felt like the reboot couldn't decided what it wanted to be; it couldn't quite let the old cast go, but the new cast didn't really feel fully integrated, so it was this weird hybrid of the old and the new that didn't quite work. The old characters didn't feel right in this new setting, and the new characters didn't really have the time to be developed enough so that fans could become attached to them. The storylines were meandering and confused and it didn't really feel like one coherent plot at times. 

The finale episode certainly packed an emotional punch, with a great payoff for Rumple's overarching character arc over the last few years and some brief cameos from old friends (if you go into the finale expecting a lot of Emma, Charming and Snow White, don't. They're barely there) and a lovely happy ever after for Regina, but I can't help but feel like it wasn't really all worth it. 22 episodes of investment in a final season for the show and I still feel like the ending they had in Season 6 was pretty much perfect and that we didn't really need this last season. It was nice that the show ended on a high note and everyone got their happily ever afters, but I can't help but feel like this was a reboot that wasn't really needed after all. 

Still, I couldn't help but feel a little emotional seeing that final shot of the 'Leaving Storybrooke' sign. Once has been a part of my life for the last three years and even if I wasn't the biggest fan of the final season, saying goodbye is never easy. I just wish Once could have gone out on the high it really deserved, rather than after a lacklustre final season.

Once Upon A Time is available to stream on Netflix.

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