Almost seven years ago I wrote: "'Once Upon a Time' is exactly the show fairy tale fans have been waiting for. It's got princes, princesses, swordfights, evil witches, curses, prophecies, fairies, dwarves, mysteries, and yes, of course, true love."
I hoped against hope that the show would go on to fulfill its promise, and indeed it did so (although at times it lost its way). There were moments, or even months when I felt nearly ready to give up on watching it, and then some twist, or good writing, or awesome costume, or beautiful character moment drew me back. It was a hot mess of emotions that made no sense at times, and it was a beautiful fairy tale that kept me coming back for more. It outlived its welcome for the final seasons, but even then, Season 7 had enough good stuff in it that I would recommend any fan finish watching to the end...even if you end up skipping parts of season 5 and 6.
(Spoilers for all seven seasons to follow)
My husband has seen most of the show with me, and ended up liking Season 4 the best (go figure) although we stopped watching again toward the end of the Camelot/Dark One arc in Season 5. I may just skip the rest of that season to show him the end of Season 6 -- I'm not sure.
At the same time, the series finale brought back enough nostalgia for me to go back to the beginning again, to return to the days when Emma Swan was not a believer, and Regina was evil, and Snow and Charming were still looking for each other. For the days when Henry was tiny, and Ruby a regular, and nobody in a grave (for good). For the days when things were fresh with the beckoning of adventure.
I love that we got this show, imperfect as it was. The costumes spurred my imagination and that of many fans who ended up giving me the chance to live my dream doing custom costume commissions (until ill health put that to rest). I loved getting to tune into fairy tales every week, retellings and old tellings. I loved the cast so very much and was happy to keep watching them even when things were mediocre.
I didn't mind that everyone was related; I did mind that all of the decent men except Hook and Charming got killed. I came to accept the story they wanted to tell when they turned Peter Pan evil, and I went from hating Hook to loving him (although I still think some early issues were valid.) I wish we'd gotten more of Ruby and Dr. Whale and I will never stop mourning Baelfire. I loved some costumes, hated others, and couldn't figure a few of them out. I think Mulan and Aurora got too little time on screen, but at the same time I'm sad that Anna and Elsa never came back (the Frozen arc wasn't perfect, but the actresses playing those women were). I still think Mob Boss Bo Peep was weird, the Wonderland spin-off crazy and wonderful, and have all the mixed emotions about Rumbelle.
In short, like most of the fandom, there was no way they could make a show that pleased us all, yet they did make a show that, despite controversies and ranting, still elicited deep loyalty and love and made it through seven seasons. They even got a remarkable number of cast members back for the series finale, which I think goes a long way to show what kind of an environment this was for the actors and crew.
I am really going to miss getting a regular dose of fairy tales on my screen. I'll miss the hope in the darkness, the costumes and the characters, and the flight of imagination we got to take every week. At the same time, we got not one but two serious closure finales, which I think is pretty fabulous. Although I wouldn't hate a spin-off show about certain side characters, I am fully at peace with the main story of the Charmings, Regina, and Rumplestiltskin being finished for good.
Thanks for the adventures, OUAT. I definitely will never forget you. And, if I'm ever blessed with kids, I'll be passing on your stories (or most of them) to a new generation of fairy tale lovers.