REVIEW: Once Upon a Time, S7 Ep 22 – Leaving Storybrooke

Once Upon a Time, S7 Ep22 - Leaving Storybrooke

Once Upon a Time concluded its seven-season run with a bittersweet episode that saw the main characters face their demons and then finally get the happy endings they deserved.

Once Upon a Time, S7 Ep22 - Leaving StorybrookeThe characters may have had to contend with Wish Realm Rumple’s evil scheme but the episode was really more of Regina, Rumple, and Hook facing their demons, and conquering them.

We need not dwell too much on how the situation resolved itself for the others. Alice and Robin took a trip to Storybrooke (where we got to see Granny and the dwarves for one last time), somehow gave Maui’s hook to Hook and Rumple.

In an awesome reveal, Snow and Charming helped Henry burst Regina out of prison.

But wish Rumple’s ultimate plan involved darkening wish Henry’s heart to the point that he would write terrible stories for everyone, isolating them in the worst possible situations. Regina confronts Henry in a duel and manages to convince him, without magic or trickery, that she loves him and that he can see the light. And so she saves the day.

Rumple’s Sacrifice

While most everyone was trapped in the snow globe of doom, Rumple and Wish Hook had some bonding moments where the former admitted that Hook was the closest thing he ever had to a friend. While it was touching because of the performances of Robert Carlyle and Colin O’Donoghue and the chemistry they have built over six seasons of the show, it didn’t exactly ring true to me (what about Regina? or his other apprentices? weren’t they kind of his friends? not to mention Belle?)

Once Upon a Time, S7 Ep21 - HomecomingAnyway, this was a good enough setup for what was to come. Rumple uses the last bit of magic he can find to finally defeat his darker self. Once Upon a Time has always been about characters, no matter how villainous, being given a second chance and Rumple has had so many chances over the years but his characterization has been frustratingly inconsistent, mostly because of plot requirements.

But this episode finally shows the result of years of atonement and the influence of Belle’s love. Rumple decides to do the right thing, not because he will be rewarded with seeing Belle again, but because it’s right. He plucks out his heart and “donates” it to the dying wish Hook, saving the latter and destroying wish Rumple, who dissolves like sand, Avengers Infinity War-style.

The most touching moment was Regina’s reaction to Rumple’s death, the gentle way she held his face in her hands as she tearfully bid farewell to him. It’s been no secret that these two are my favorite characters on Once Upon a Time, and they have had such a long and complex relationship in the story. I’m glad that, in the end, they both got proper sendoffs.

After all, Rumple’s sacrifice was still rewarded as he got to reunite with his beloved Belle in the afterlife. Rumbelle forever.

Regina’s Redemption

Once Upon a Time, S7 Ep22 - Leaving StorybrookeThe story came full circle with Regina as she stood on the threshold of the place where she first announced that she would cast the dark curse back in the pilot of the show. And just in case viewers missed the very obvious choice of setting, the characters had to mention it as well.

But it was a glorious parallel, from Regina as the villain of the piece, the Evil Queen hated by all, to the united realms’ first elected ruler, chosen and loved by all. This effectively completes Regina’s long and arduous journey to redemption and it was a wonderful moment to behold.

Regina has proven many times over that she has what it takes to be a hero and a leader. And without the revenge or rage in her heart, she has become a more caring and compassionate queen, and a good mother to Henry.

Once Upon a Time, S7 Ep22 - Leaving StorybrookeThe show also proved that Regina didn’t need a love interest to have a happy ending (Dr. Facilier who?) She barely even reacted to his death which makes his introduction as a potential love still such a strange decision. Her other true love, Robin Hood, did make a short appearance in a dream sequence where they shared one last, bittersweet moment together.

Once Upon a Time subverts the fairy tale trope of the happy ending once again, not by having Regina end up with a love interest or a child of her own, but quite fittingly, having her surrounded by people who have come to love and accept her for who she is.

She makes a beautiful speech to recap the whole series as a montage of seasons worth of story plays. There have been so many adventures and there are bound to be so much more. But Regina finally says that anything is possible with hope.

Reunions

Once Upon a Time has always had such a large cast, with more characters being added as the seasons progressed, so it was impossible to bring them all back for one episode. But most of the main players were there and that mattered the most.

And just when I thought the writers were going to excuse Emma’s absence with a lame “the baby was fussing”, in bursts the Savior herself, complete with her iconic red jacket. The Once Upon a Time finale would not have been complete without Emma and I’m glad they managed to get Jennifer Morrison to return for one last time. And her baby’s name is Hope.

Once Upon a Time, S7 Ep22 - Leaving StorybrookeRegina’s decision to unite all the realms of story by bringing them to Storybrooke was inspired, leading to a CGI-filled panning across various magical kingdoms. No hearts were crushed this time as everyone supposedly shared a piece of theirs (which we know is possible because Snow and Charming are currently sharing one heart). No more realm-hopping anymore. It’s like Storybrooke has become some sort of ultra-crossover Disneyland.

And though it was only mentioned in passing, the reveal of the identity of Lily’s father as Zorro was one last amusing twist of Once Upon a Time. Zorro is a dragon. I’m not sure how the showrunners would have gotten the rights to a character not even in fairy tales but it was fun to hear. The rest will have to be left to weird fanfiction.

The beauty of the show not being cancelled abruptly is that it gave Kitsis and Horowitz the chance to craft a satisfying conclusion and to tie up all loose ends. Everyone is reunited with their families and Regina is queen of all.

For all my criticisms of the show, I could not help but feel emotional as I watched this finale. After all, I did spend seven years with these characters and so this also feels like the end of a journey for me. And what a journey it’s been.

I’m very pleased that Regina and Rumple got the happy endings they both deserved, and that we got to spend a few moments with all these characters one last time.

Thank you for reading all my rants and reviews over the past few years and for sharing this strange, magical odyssey with me. We’ve had our ups and downs, Once Upon a Time, but I’m happy with the way you wrapped up.

Thank you for the magic.