Luke Bryan says “goodbyes ain’t never easy, so break it to me hard.” So here it goes. I’m breaking up with you.
I would say it’s not you, it’s me, but I don’t want to lie.
It’s definitely you.
Where do I even start? Back when we first got to know one another, I was in search of a different kind of TV show, one that was smart and clever and interesting. Your first season blew me away with the tie-ins to classic and Disney fairytales. I was on board with Emma the Savior, Rumple the man who would be redeemed by True Love, and even Snow White and Prince Charming. Regina was a fantastic villain, chewing scenery everywhere she stomped. It was all so perfect.
Then things went a little off track. You kept us in Neverland for two months worth of episodes and then had the audacity to reveal our heroes had been there less than a week! You, not only decided continuity, world building and following the rules you laid out wasn’t important, but also you asked us to believe it wasn’t important either. Until you reversed your decision and made it the focal point of an episode or, even worse, a season.
It didn’t get better. The special effects lost their charming low-budget appeal and left me scratching my head (where does Ursula keep her tentacles exactly?). Family connections lost their emotional punch as more and more were pulled from thin air (Hook knew young Baelfire! Zelena is Regina’s half-sister! Emma’s friend Lily is Maleficent’s long-lost daughter!). New characters were tossed in and yanked back out at random (Blackbeard, Ursula). Your timeline, once delightfully difficult to follow, became a tangled mess so that it’s unclear if Emma has known Hook a couple of years or just four months (check out this timeline to see what I mean). Even worse, Wonderland transplant and everyone’s favorite smartass, Will, was completely and unacceptably shunted to the side in favor of the Frozen arc.
And then you really started to irritate me. You turned intelligent, charming, and strong female characters, played by even more kickass actresses, into some of the most ugly tropes on primetime. You squandered the Emmy-class talents of Robert Carlyle, Kristen Bauer, Barbara Hershey, and Lana Parilla on convoluted storylines smashed full of cringe worthy dialogue.
You had the balls to kill off your best villain, Cora, but never found that courage again. Instead, you opted to bring villains back to life in ever more complicated ways (Zelena’s spirit conjured up a body and then killed Marian and took her place?). You asked us to worry about our heroes as they again and again fought for their lives but only truly killed one of them, and it was only Neal.
You made Belle a complete moron! Repeatedly! Her character-saving speech to Rumple in last winter’s midseason finale “Heroes and Villains” was tossed out the window by the end of season 4 when she inexplicably gets back with Rumple despite his continued lying, deception, and deliberately ruining everyone’s lives in the quest to make his own better.
You built a show upon the foundations of love conquering all and then perpetuated the notion that True Love can be discovered and embraced after only knowing someone for a week or even a month or if you’re Ariel, like 5 minutes.
There were moments when we could’ve ended on a high note, parted like a mature adult/show, and been the better for it. Just last Fall when we concluded the underwhelming Zelena arc, for example. Hook and Emma finally had a heart to heart and got together. Rumple, despite being a liar, married Belle and seemed sincere in his vows. Robin and Regina were happy with their lives with young Rolan and the Charmings were practically blissful. Good had prevailed, evil was vanquished, and happy endings were handed out all around.
Even better though would have been Season Three’s midseason finale, “Going Home.” This will forever be the best example I’ve seen of a show missing its exit cue. Evil was conquered but not without cost. Rumple finally and truly redeemed himself by sacrificing his life to save everyone else’s including his pair of happy endings, Neal and Belle. Regina rescued the town by transporting them home to the Enchanted Forest, thereby proving her hero status. And even though she was separated from her parents, Emma got the family she gave up long ago: Henry. We even got a Captain Swan kicker to give the fan fiction writers plenty to work with.
But it wasn’t enough. Instead, you decided to drag this out until we hated each other or at least until I couldn’t do this anymore.
So I’m saying goodbye. I think a part of me loved you. But not nearly enough to stick around for Dark Swan.
We’ll always have Season One.
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