For season 6, Once Upon a Time is changing things up. Since season 3 Once Upon a Time has operated on a two-half season structure, with the fall half of the season encompassing one contained story and the spring half a whole new storyline, often with new characters. This is no longer the case. TVLine reports that for season 6 Once Upon a Time will return to its season-long structure, telling one story for 22 episodes.
Time to Breathe
When speaking about the change, Once Upon a Time co-creator Eddy Kittis said, “It’s not going to be ‘Hyde comes to town, we fight with him for 10 episodes, and then in the winter finale he dies and we move on.’ We are… going back to that Season 1 mentality of small-town stories and smaller arcs.” This is about as encouraging news as Once Upon a Time fans are going to be able to find for season 6.
In the season 5 finale, Once Upon a Time introduced a huge curve ball to the proceedings. It wasn’t just that the villainous Mr. Hyde was in Storybrooke. It was that Hyde brought a bunch of (unseen) “friends” from the land of untold stories. Once Upon a Time has always been open to characters outside of the more traditional fairy tale stories showing up. Often those characters had to spend time justifying their existence before Once Upon a Time was ever able to really dive into them.
Given the abbreviated half-season structure, whenever a new character was introduced there was hardly any time to really get to know them. If a few episodes were set on setting them up that was already half their arc. Now with the new/old season structure Once Upon a Time can introduce, re-imagine and play with whatever literary characters are in the public domain without fear of running out of time.
With the half season structure two things, neither ideal, would happen on Once Upon a Time. Though there would be a new season with new characters, the story would focus almost entirely on the main cast leaving the guest cast completely out in the cold and severely underdeveloped. Or the opposite would occur where the new characters would be given the spotlight and the main cast would be almost totally forgotten. Now Once Upon a Time can take their time and balance new characters like Mr. Hyde with the old favorites Regina, Emma and Snow.
The Threat(s) of the Unknown
Speaking of Hyde, he is probably the one character that will benefit the most from this change in structure. Though Once Upon a Time set up a fair number of cliffhangers in the season 5 finale it was pretty easy to guess how things were going to play out. The first half of season 6 would either be all about Hyde with a dash of Evil Queen or the Evil Queen and Hyde would terrorize Storybrooke together. Eventually, probably at the beginning of winter, one or both of them would be defeated and Once Upon a Time could go back to the villain that never quits, Rumple. Now things are up in the air and Once Upon a Time desperately needs that element of unpredictability.
While good should always win on Once Upon a Time because it is the message of the show, Once Upon a Time has been downright boring about how good always wins. There are a few episodes in the beginning of the season where the heroes have no idea how to defeat their enemy. MacGuffins are discovered, searched for and sometimes destroyed. Then finally, there is one big twist that leads everyone to a mostly happy ending. It’s grown stale. After 3 seasons of the same type of story, It’s clear that Once Upon a Time has no idea how to balance the half season structure without following their very simple formula.
In a full season episode order, with mini arcs, Once Upon a Time is free to change things up. There is no longer a deadline for when Hyde or his arc needs to be wrapped up, except maybe at the end of the season. Once Upon a Time is not beholden to a time constraint of half season to introduce a whole new world, set of characters or mythology to their expanding lexicon.
The best seasons of Once Upon a Time are seasons 1 and 2. In retrospect, it appears that the fact that those seasons were able to tell their stories over full episode orders is what made them so good. In seasons 1 and 2, Once Upon a Time was able to introduce and develop side characters, giving them their own mini-stories. The world felt much more magical and alive in those years. Since that time, while enjoyable, Once Upon a Time has just been coasting on the magic created in those first 2 seasons. The world is fun but it no longer feels as special and big as it did before. The show used to be about a community and now it is just about one very extended family. Hopefully in season 6, Once Upon a Time will be able to get back to its full original glory.
But what do you think? Are you excited to learn that Once Upon a Time is going back to full season stories? Did you prefer the half season structure? How do you think this changes the story for Mr. Hyde and the Evil Queen?
Once Upon a Time will return for season 6 on Sundays at 8pm on ABC.
(Images courtesy of ABC)