It appears the ship is sinking for ABC’s Once Upon a Time. Once the jewel in the networks drama lineup, the show has undergone some obvious backstage rumblings as some of its biggest stars seek to depart the show. Whatever the reason, it leaves the show without three of its main characters – and fans asking if there’s any point in continuing the adventure.
When the show began, it had a unique premise. The idea of Fairytale characters being trapped in a town and left without their memories was great idea. Sadly as the seasons have passed, the show has moved from this focus to a more melodrama in nature. It’s ensemble cast has ballooned with each passing season – forcing the show to give more screen time to characters that really didn’t deserve it. Heck, it’s already been announced that two new characters will be joining the cast before this season is fully done.
It also didn’t help that the show began throwing anyone it fancied into the mix. Many fans debate where villain fatigue began to play into the show. For me it was the Elsa crossover from Frozen – a sign that Once Upon a Time was more interested in delivering Disney extra promotion than nailing its story’s down. Up to that point, all the introductions made sense – but from that moment you could hear the whispers of Disney executives guiding the show forward.
Through this, the show lost touch with the elements that made it so strong – the strength of its core cast. Everyone from Snow White to Prince Charming felt developed, delivering on the promise. The time hopping elements helped to flesh out the context of the show, giving us comic relief if things seemed too dark. But as time passed – even this device began to feel like an awkward crutch upon which the show struggled with. The storylines became convoluted, directionless and in desperate need of clarity, as previous connections and storys were added in with little regard for continuity. It became a headache to enjoy the backstory
Jennifer Morrison isn’t alone in leaving. Her on-screen parents Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas are also departing the show – which leaves it minus pretty much 3/4th’s of the main ensemble. Yes Lana Parrilla is amazing as the Evil Queen (Sometimes good also), but I certainly don’t think she’s strong enough as a character to carry the show without her co-stars. In particular when the story of the show has been about them all growing and learning to move beyond their struggles.
The journey these characters went on was half the fun. Seeing heroes become villains and vice-versa was thrilling. How many other shows would turn Peter Pan into a villain? Sadly the show reused storylines ad nauseam, becoming tired and predictable. It’s more noticeable in a show that brings in new villains in every half season – and for Once Upon a Time – the formula became all too predictable.
It really makes me question how ABC and the producers plan to keep the show going. They’ve insisted there will be a Season 7 – but that doesn’t speak of the quality audiences can expect. Shows don’t tend to do well when the when they lose their main characters, as it’s a sign that things aren’t working behind the scenes.
Once upon a time, I was a huge fan of this show. But that time has long since passed. Creatively it’s stifled, with audiences growing jaded by the singular direction. I actually checked back in recently for the musical episode – and it felt more like a show wrapping up than charging forward. I’d rather ABC took the big decision and ended the show on good terms. If the central story line is done – why continue it? Why not end it with fans satisfied – rather than drag it out for a pointless.
I’m curious to see what they do with the show moving – but I feel that the time has come for the show to accept its fate. Continuing on would be a disservice to those fans who’ve held in there.