I remember the first time I watched "Once Upon a Time."
Missing the first week it premiered, I recorded the pilot as well as the second episode when it came out the next Sunday. The premise of the show enticed me—the Evil Queen banished herself and every other fairytale character to our world to ensure they would never receive their Happy Endings by replacing their memories with false identities. Spanning over seven seasons (and a short-lived spin-off show--#riponceuponatimeinwonderland) and many more realms than that, the show became my absolute favorite.
And now, it is ending.
May 18, 2018, a Friday, will be the last time that "Once Upon a Time" graces the tiny screens in our homes. If we were to divide our lifespans into segments of how long a beloved TV show of ours lasted, then this is the end of an era for me.
I began watching this show in 2011—I was in 8th grade, going through that weird phase that we all experience in middle school where we’re always hungry and always hating the way our skin looks when we see ourselves in the mirror. Much to my surprise, though, I was the only one in my class watching the show, but don’t think that stopped me from endlessly recommending it.
The way I sold the show was, “Imagine every Disney character in the same story, but darker.” Every time, I’d get a false promise of: “I’ll look into watching it.”
But they never did.
Everyone else was too busy watching "Pretty Little Liars," "The Walking Dead," or "The Vampire Diaries." "Game of Thrones" would come later that year.
I only got one friend involved in the show this year--during every health class, we would watch the episode that finally uploaded to the ABC website that week.
This was the first time I ever became obsessed with a TV show; just ask my parents. I monopolized every TV in the house to be playing the show when it came on so that it could get more "viewers." I found out shows got canceled if a lot of people didn't watch them, and this was a show that I was determined to have run for 20 seasons.
Fast forward to season two of OUAT: the curse is broken, everyone has their memories, but they are still not home. And I started freshman year.
Both the characters on the show and I were going through uncharted territory. I was experiencing Driver's Ed while Emma struggled to call Snow and David her parents. I was struggling through Pre-AP Biology while Aurora and Phillip reunited. I was finding new friends while the residents of Storybrooke were exchanging long-awaited hellos and how are yous.
This was also the year I discovered Tumblr and joined an entire online community of people who loved this show as much as I did. We shared our favorite moments and predicted theories that most of the time came true.
We even speculated which fairy tale characters would come next on the show. And there were so many: the Queen of Hearts, Captain Hook, Lancelot, Frankenstein, Mulan, Aurora, Prince Phillip and Peter Pan.
Even though the ratings dipped a little this season, season two will be a favorite of mine for how fantastical it became. In the beginning, I thought the show might be one that plays reality right next to fantasy, without either crossing over. But it became an epic fantasy instead--which is exactly what I wanted.
I think I got about 10 more people to watch the show this year, but that's only because Netflix had the entire first season.
Season two became the season that felt out what the rest of the show would become, which is basically what freshman year is for high school.
But the third season will always be my favorite (I still made sure every TV played in on Sunday night). It was the season that gave the show the dark elements the writers could have always employed, but usually never did.
The main six (Emma, Snow, David, Hook, Regina, and Rumple) have to travel to Neverland to rescue Henry from Peter Pan. And to make matters worse, the Wicked Witch of the West invades Storybrooke with the plan to write her own happy ending--by rewriting time.
The actors who played the villains this season really made the characters stand out (which is why they come back from time to time) and made all of us fans love to hate them, made us never want them killed off.
Also, the main six are each focused on separately in the first half of the season, and in the second half of the season, they realize their best strengths can fight off all evil.
Also, Ariel finally finally finally appeared this season, and though it was only for brief moments, I lived for every single one.
In your sophomore year of high school, you think you know the school, but there's way more to learn than you thought. There were still more friends to meet, more classes to struggle through, but even more to express creative art through. You do not rule the school, but you're not the lowest rung either, anymore.
While I did not have any magical villains to fight my sophomore year, I did have to learn to drive alone, I learned how to balance a job and school, and I learned how to properly take an AP exam.
This was also the first year I successfully asked and took a girl to the school dance.
Despite "The Wizard of Oz" being my favorite fairy tale, season three was my favorite of "Once Upon a Time" because when they did Peter Pan, so too did my school theatre department. I played Mr. Smee!
And now we get to the dark days of the show.
And high school.
This was the season where the writers decided to include "Frozen" into the story simply because the movie appealed to so many people worldwide, and the showrunners believed they needed something big to draw viewers back. But they'll tell you it's just because they enjoyed the movie so much.
I'll be honest, "Frozen" is not my favorite Disney movie. I would prefer probably anything else. I like the story, just not how much everyone puts it up on a pedestal.
But the show took the plot of their "Frozen" arc to start immediately after the movie ended. Anna comes to Storybrooke to find her sister, Elsa, who has conveniently just been released from an urn. But where Elsa comes, the Snow Queen, their aunt Ingrid, comes to collect and train her niece on her powers.
There was so much good stuff packed into this season, but like junior year, it was disappointing. However, it still managed to have its bright spots, and those brights spots made the entire affair watchable--just not as enjoyable as the entire show was.
Junior year. Everyone tells you it is the worst, but it's actually not. In fact, it was one of my favorite years.
That was the year that included Physics and AP Language and Composition.
For one class, there was an awful teacher and a science that is NOT UNDERSTANDABLE.
For the other, there was an amazing teacher that improved my writing, but the class was probably the hardest subject I had to take in high school. I only got a 3 on that AP exam and I have never been more crushed by a result in school.
But, I got a 5 on the AP American History exam, which is amazing because that class made the lover of history that I am today.
That year also featured my standing on the sidelines for a sport I knew I could play better than whatever the seniors were doing on the field. But it was their final year, so I had to applaud and be a teammate and do as I was told (not bitter at all still).
I did not take anyone to Homecoming that year, I was turned down, which was fine. I got to catch up on shows that night, I think.
But you know what made up for all of that?
I made some amazing friends that year. In the movies about the American high school experience, there is usually the group of friends around the main character that makes us wish they were our friend as well.
In junior year, I got to have that. I hung out with these nine people every day. We went out to eat... a lot. We tried and failed to do homework together... a lot. We were out past curfew... a lot.
We talked to each other every day for hours on end and never wanted the fun to stop. May A.S.S. live on forever in our hearts. You guys were actually the best part of my junior year. You made me more adventurous.
(Thank you Brady, Kacey, Austin, Cali, Cameron, Chloë, Micaela, and Sammy)
Like my junior year, season four wasn't good, but it wasn't totally bad, either.
The mythology of the Author was an incredible development that made the show different from other fairy tale retellings. The inclusion--as weak as it was--of having three powerful Disney villains team up against the Savior was epic to watch. And the addition to the original "Frozen" story was interesting to keep up with.
This season sure is memorable. And so is junior year.
Moving on from this (if you're still with me), season five premiered during my senior year. SENIOR YEAR! I could not believe high school was finally ending; it felt so weird, like it all happened so fast.
And season five?
Boy, was it confusing as hell and quick. Emma was the Dark One, and then she wasn't; Hook was. Then all the dead Dark Ones came back to life, and Rumple became the Dark One again.
Then King Arthur tried to conquer Storybrooke. But, then all of the characters had to make a trip to the Underworld and prevent Hades from eliminating one of their own forever.
I think I am single-handedly the reason why the show survived. You're welcome, Eddy and Adam.
Anyway, the weirdness perfectly describes senior year, too, if you think about it.
In August of that year, I thought I was going to the University of Michigan. If not that school, then Emerson College in Boston. Or Miami University in Ohio. Never did I think that I would be at Oklahoma State University, but I am very glad that I am.
In the fall that year, I never thought I would have played as well (not to pat myself on the back, but also, yeah, to do it) on the football field as I did. I'd been ignored for so long, I began to doubt how good I used to be, just like Regina doubted how good she could be as a person with the magic she tried to use to protect her family.
As True Love prevailed on the show, the fun of senior year prevailed through every senior event all the way to prom. That night was absolutely wonderful. We came together and danced the night away and partied until dawn and threw away every care and insecurity we harbored during high school.
And then came graduation where we had to say goodbye to each other. Just as the characters knew they needed to say goodbye to Robin Hood and move on to a brighter future, we knew that had journeys to complete for the paths we decided to take in life. The people we grew close to in these four years became a family, people that would live in our hearts forever.
Season six: the beginning of the end, and the ending of a new beginning.
Getting a chance to separate their personalities, the characters began to wholly break apart from their evil selves, which made each of them realize their inner psyches. Admitting their faults, each of them began to change and attempt to become better versions of themselves without needing magic to do so.
While Hyde may have revealed to the Evil Queen that she does not need Regina to exist, the show expounded upon the belief that we are all good and we are all bad, even at the same time, but we are human. And it is the actions we make that sets our path.
This season also concluded Emma the Savior's arc by having her face the Final Evil, which was the Black Fairy. But "Once Upon a Time" played the ultimate trick--despite basing the entire plot of the show around Emma's journey in finding her family again, there are still more stories to tell, seen as such by the closing scene of Henry racing through the woods with his daughter, Lucy, away from some unknown evil.
Freshman year of college. What. A. Time.
It was the ending of my adolescence and the beginning of what I hope is not the rest of my adulthood. That year was the closing chapter of expecting my parents to help me through every chore of life, and the beginning of myself trying to be more mature. It was a year of a lot of firsts.
My first roommate. Living with a stranger is never easy, but he made it a lively time because of how great of a friend he was before he dropped out of school.
My first relationship. There were a ton of pitfalls and uprisings with this one, but a lot can be said about how much I learned from this experience. She taught me a lot about what I was actually looking for and made me see what I needed to work on personally.
My first college party. Can't remember it.
My first planned philanthropy event. Because I got such a high from planning an event that would further help a charitable organization achieve its end goal, I have striven to join as many philanthropy groups on campus as possible. And I like being in control of thing because of my power complex.
My first fraternity. There was a lot to be gained from this brotherhood. I got to make friends with so many people that I would not have otherwise met. I got to help rebuild a group from the ground up. I got to perform in events that reignited the actor in me from high school. I even got to a point where I realized this was not the right fit for me, and so, I joined a different group.
My first Quidditch match. It was too hot. I think I got sunburned very very very badly.
But what is my unknown evil? What is comparable to whatever Henry and Lucy were running away from, or what Emma Swan needs to defeat before it destroys her? Adulthood.
And finally, *cue drum roll,* the final season of "Once Upon a Time." Season seven. The end of an era.
Henry is a full grown adult now who comes to live in Hyperion Heights in Seattle, but he has been cursed by Mother Gothel and Drizella who repeated the same curse that Regina did so many years before. So, he doesn't remember that he is in love with Wish Realm Cinderella and that his daughter is Lucy.
But just when he thinks he is about to get his happily ever after, the Wish Realm Rumplestiltskin pays a visit to the town and it will take every person to fight him off--even the characters from the previous seasons.
The final episode played last Friday. I haven't seen it yet, but I cannot wait to watch it.
This season of the show, like the others before it, has actually come to reflect what is going on in my life. And here's why:
The show went through a soft reboot, a new timeline with new characters set many years after the original story ended. I am in England right now studying abroad, a sort of soft reboot of the college experience. I have been to so many new places, I have met so many freaking amazing and awesome and wonderful and incredible people that I will remember forever, and I have made memories that will never be forgotten.
Even before leaving for the mother country, I joined a new fraternity whereby I had to endure rigorous pledgeship. I undertook a fiction writing class with a teacher that helped my writing tremendously by having me write what I usually do not: realistic fiction. I gained the full experience of the OSU Homecoming--especially the long hours of it. I even fell for all the wrong people, but found all the right friends, too.
This one year changed my entire life more so than any year before it, just like this one season changed the entire game of the show more so than any villain could hope to create.
If you read this far, then I am sorry because I just realized that I have been comparing my life to a show about fairy tale characters. But it's not too bizarre, really.
TV shows, like any other form of storytelling, have the ability to express what we are really thinking and reflect what we have all already done in life.
Beginning this show at the plucky age of 13 and ending it at the still-not-wise age of 20, I can really see the journey of how far I have come since 8th grade, just as you can see how far Henry came from his young age of 9 in the first season.
Starting in at the middle school where I thought I shone like a star, to traversing the weird world of high school, to gaining a footing in college, this show was with me through it all.
Even though our lives can't be categorized by seasons or boxed up into them in sets of DVDs, they still resemble a roadmap of accomplishments and the pain we acquire in our lifetimes. The map is pockmarked by regret and triumphs, and love, too.
But at the end, there is our Happily Ever After.
I am proud to say that "Once Upon a Time" is my favorite show (besides F.R.I.E.N.D.S. of course), but I am ashamed that I have not seen the series finale yet. Just waiting for it to come on Netflix UK!
Because of this show, I emailed the creators of it asking if I could help write for the show (during season four, no surprise).
Because of "Once Upon a Time," I still have themed posters I asked my mom to make for every season of the show.
Because of "Once Upon a Time," I used to cancel plans with people because Sunday nights were my Once nights, there was no room for anything else.
This show was my first boxed sets of TV DVDs. I bought every album that came on iTunes. I know this show so well that I can usually interpret where a friend is in the show just by one screen capture (don't ask me how I know this).
Thank you "Once Upon a Time" for being the show I never knew I needed with me as I grew up.
Thank you to Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz for creating this wonderful world for me--you've inspired me to create my own fairytale retelling world.
Thank you to all the actors and the set designers and the writers for giving me this treasure of a show.
I wish I could have met any of you.
But for now, I will carry the soul of this show in my heart forever.
And tell more people to watch it because, after all, it is all on Netflix now!