Warning: This recap for “The Final Battle” episode of Once Upon a Time contains spoilers.
There are no endings — just new beginnings. Call it “The Circle of Life.”
Once Upon a Time’s sixth season draws to a close with many endings for most of the characters we’ve come to know and love. And everyone gets a happy ending, after a tense Final Battle engineered by the evil Black Fairy. But the finale also has an entirely new beginning, a reset for the show in Season 7, featuring an adult Henry and his young daughter.
So, OUAT goes back to the start.
The two-hour finale contains many callbacks to the pilot and first season, as once again Henry has to convince Emma to believe. But there are so many differences, too, since the relationships have evolved over six years. Emma is no longer a lone wolf, but someone with a family, a son, and a husband. And Regina, who was once her greatest enemy, is now her best friend.
Things change… but as the final moments reveal, things also stay the same. That whole “Circle of Life” thing again.
Here’s a rundown of the Season 6 finale:
Villain of the Week: The Black Fairy
During Emma and Hook’s wedding, the Black Fairy’s dark curse takes over Storybrooke. Henry wakes up to find that the town has pretty much reverted to what it had been when Emma first showed up. Nobody believes in fairy tales. Emma is in the looney bin. Fiona is his adoptive mother. And Snow, David, Hook, and Regina are all MIA.
They’ve been sent back to the Enchanted Forest. Regina soon deduces that the Black Fairy’s agenda is to make Emma stop believing — and if she stops believing, it’ll completely destroy all of the fairy tale realms (including Arundel, Agrabah, Oz, and Wonderland) and everyone within them!
Hook comes up with a plan to find a magic bean to open a portal back to Storybrooke, and David joins him in climbing up a beanstalk to the giants’ lair. Hook is able to find a bean, but Emma’s transformation into a nonbeliever is starting to tear apart the Enchanted Forest. The stalk goes down, and with it, Hook and David!
Back in Storybrooke, Fiona is super creepy as she tries to make nice with Mr. Gold and Gideon. The latter is bitter because he believes Belle abandoned both of them. Fiona tries to keep up this story by showing Gold (clearly Photoshopped) pics of Belle posing at famous landmarks around the world.
It turns out, Gold has been pretending he fell under the curse with everyone else. In reality, he’s biding his time until he can find Belle hidden away in town.
When he finally confronts Fiona/The Black Fairy/his mother, she teases him with the possibility of bringing Baelfire back to life. But Gold decides to do the right thing this time and turns his mother into dust!
Then, he searches the tunnels for Gideon’s heart, to prevent his son from fulfilling the Black Fairy’s final command — to kill Emma. But her magic is too strong, and even though Gold attempts to stop Gideon (despite some heavy temptation from alter ego Rumplestiltskin), he fails.
Heroes of the Week: Emma, Regina, and Henry
In again-cursed Storybrooke, Emma is painting swans in a mental hospital when Henry visits to persuade her that fairy tales are real, that her parents are Snow White and Prince Charming, and that she’s the Saviour.
Emma won’t believe it; she just wants to go home to Boston. Fiona stokes her doubts by magically pushing Henry down a stairwell. It reminds Emma of the time he almost died of eating a poison apple pie. If he keeps up this fairy tale nonsense, he’ll keep getting hurt. So, Emma does what Fiona suggests — and burns Henry’s storybook!
That triggers the dissolution of the magical realms, including the Enchanted Forest. As Emma drives away from Storybrooke and back to Boston, that world begins to crumble and her parents, Hook, and Regina are about to become toast.
Hook delivers the magic bean to Regina, but she doesn’t have enough power to revive it. There is someone who does, though — the Evil Queen (who moved there, with Robin Hood, from the Wish Realm). When the EQ learns Henry is in danger, she sacrifices herself to hold back the dark magic for as long as she can until Regina can use the bean.
When Emma arrives in Boston, she finds a new journal that Henry has started. It tells her story and how she saved Henry from that poison apple pie with true love’s kiss.
Back in Storybrooke, Henry is determined to save his family, even if Emma is gone. He gets a sword from Gold’s shop and seeks out the Black Fairy. But just as he’s about to charge into her office, Emma shows up! She may not remember her parents or being the Saviour, but she wants to try to be the Saviour Henry believes she is. She wants to be the hero in his story.
Just as she takes the sword, the spell is broken because Gold has killed the Black Fairy. Emma remembers again! The Enchanted Forest is saved! The fairy tale characters survive!
But because Gold could not save Gideon’s heart from the Black Fairy’s spell, Gideon is still hell-bent on killing Emma.
They will meet in the street to do battle. Moments before, Snow, David, Hook, and Regina show up and the family has a joyful reunion. And Regina gives Emma some advice: if Gideon kills Emma, light magic will be destroyed. But if Emma kills Gideon, her soul will be blackened.
But Emma can find a third way — just as she did with Regina when they used to hate each other. Regina believes in Emma.
Emma and Gideon face off. They clash swords, as Emma declares that she is the Saviour and she will give hope, no matter what the cost. Even if it means herself! She throws away her sword and lets Gideon stab her in the gut.
Emma falls in a shower of light, seemingly dead. Her family rushes to her side. Henry kisses her forehead… and Emma awakes! It’s a reversal of how she saved him with true love’s kiss in Season 1.
Down in the tunnels, as Gold and Belle hug and mourn their son’s dark fate, they hear a baby’s cry. It’s Gideon, somehow! He’s reverted back to his true age! Their happy ending turns out to be a happy beginning.
Henry opens up his newly-restored storybook to the last page, which reads: “When Good and Evil both did the right thing, faith was restored. The final battle was won.”
A brief epilogue shows all of the magical realms, including Arundel and Agrabah, restored. The Charmings move into a picturesque farmhouse with baby Neal. Emma and Regina send Henry off on the school bus. Snow White teaches at the school. Hook is now a deputy sheriff. The dwarves make a present of a new door to Regina. Gold and Belle dance to a tale as old as time in his shop. And in the Enchanted Forest, the Evil Queen gets an arrow of a marriage proposal from Robin.
And they lived happily ever after… at least for a little while.
The finale opens and closes with glimpses into the future. In what seems to be the Enchanted Forest, a man is chased by a monster back to his home, where his daughter waits. He charges her with running and keeping safe the storybook.
Later, she returns to find their home destroyed and her father missing. Tiger Lily arrives to reassure the little girl that she will reunite with her father someday.
That someday turns out to be years after the events we see in Storybrooke. The little girl takes a train to Seattle and knocks at a door. The man answers. He turns out to be a grown-up Henry Mills! And she’s his daughter, Lucy.
Oh, but he doesn’t have a daughter. Lucy assures him he does, and adds, “Your family needs you.”
And we’re right back to the beginning.
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
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