Well, you were warned. Tomorrow, lucky US viewers will be able to tune into the season 7 premiere of Once Upon a Time, so I had better get my pre-season blog post out there before anyone is in a position to say "nope, that's not going to happen... and not that either". When we Swedes get to see this season of Once is anyone's guess. However, I'm hopeful that it won't be that long, and that either the obscure channel which usually sends the newest Once episodes (and which I only discovered when they were half-way into season 6, hence the long DVD wait) or Netflix will take pity on me.
I was excited about this season even before I'd seen the last one. The set-up promises to resemble the one for season 1, which I still think is the best. In season one, hard-bitten Emma Swan was visited by Henry, the boy she gave away for adoption at birth, whose mission was to take her to his home town Storybrooke and make her believe that its inhabitants were in fact fairy-tale characters living under a curse that only she could break. In this season, an adult Henry is visited by a daughter he doesn't remember, who in her turn has to convince him that fairy tales are real and that he and the most of the other inhabitants in the part of Seattle where he's living - Hyperion Heights - are victims of a new curse. Among the cursed Hyperion Heights residents are the three characters who've made it over from the original six seasons: Henry's adoptive mother Regina aka The Evil Queen from Snow White, his stepfather Captain Hook, and last but not least his grandfather Rumplestiltskin. However, the curse has given them new identities, and they don't remember who they really are, nor do they remember Henry (presumably - although with Rumple, you never know).
I really liked the original premise where the series protagonist has to be made to believe in a completely bonkers concept which then happens to turn out to be true, so I'm glad that this plot element is back, as well as the contrast between flashbacks in a fairy-tale realm and life "in the real world" where there's no magic. Once magic entered Storybrooke (not that I think it was a bad move to bring it - of course not) plot-lines tended more and more to hinge on convenient magical objects which could bring about all kinds of wonderful things but which for unknown reasons had never been used before, nor were they used again when the plot no longer required them. This time around, the characters will have to rely on their wits to stay out of trouble - luckily, some characters have more wits than others.
So what are my wishes - which, as they're not magic, I hope won't misfire - for Once Upon a Time season 7? (I wont even try to predict anything with this notoriously unpredictable show.)
More characters from real fairy tales We will see new versions of some fairy tales already covered by Once in this season - like Cinderella, as Cinders is Henry's love interest and her wicked stepmother Lady Tremaine is the new villain (yay - I always thought she'd make a great Once baddie!). Fair enough: as there are countless versions of the Cinderella story, I can see how there can be more than one Cinderella in the Once universe, though how there can be more than one Alice in Wonderland beats me. I do hope, however, that the show will take the opportunity to introduce characters from fairy tales we haven't seen yet. There are so many great fairy tales out there crying out for a Once spin: Frau Holle, The Six Swans, The Wishing Table... Heck, they haven't even done Puss in Boots yet.
What I hope we won't see too much of are fictional characters who have nothing to do with fairy tales. I don't mind the odd Kafkaesque bureaucrat here or Cuckoo's Nest-inspired nurse there, and Doctor Whale in Storybrooke was such a hoot that I can forgive him for turning out to be a Victor Frankenstein whom Mary Shelley would surely not have recognised. But season six went overboard with a slew of non-fairy-tale-related characters like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, the Count of Monte Christo and Captain Nemo. If they had been included because the writers were great fans of the original novels I'd have understood it better, but the characters seemed to be based on vague, popular-culture conceptions of what they're supposed to be like rather than their actual book counterparts. I know enough of the Count of Monte Christo to be able to spot that the Once version neither had the same back-story nor the same personality as the original. In which case, why include him? I'm not one to object to random Rumplestiltskin scenes, but I'd rather see him get his claws into, say, King Thrushbeard than Dr Jekyll or Edmond Dantes.
A little less Disney ABC studios, where Once Upon a Time is aired, is owned by Disney, which means the series can include plenty of references to the classic animated Disney films. Which is fine - I'm a huge Disney fan - but it can become a bit much. I'm not sure including characters from Frozen and Brave in season four and five respectively was a good idea, for instance: Elsa and Anna are charming in their own film, but they fared rather worse when confronted with the regular Once crew who had three full seasons of character development under their belt. As for Merida, she seemed perpetually out of temper.
It will be interesting to see what Once makes of Tiana from The Princess and the Frog, who will appear in the new season. I actually have no idea what fairy tale The Princess and the Frog is supposed to be based on: not the brothers Grimm's The Frog King, at any rate. In this tale, the princess not only does not kiss the frog, she hurls him to the wall - and that's when the curse lifts. (Which in its turn makes the story ideal for a Once take - who could have cast an impish curse like that...?) I like Disney's Tiana a lot, but I'm wondering how they will preserve her endearing workaholic doggedness in a new, non-New Orleans context. Having said that, since we are going to have Tiana, I certainly hope Dr Facilier turns up too.
Good use made of the Storybrooke squad The original heroine Emma may have left, but as long as Rumple and Regina are still on board, Once Upon a Time lives on to fight another day. For Regina, I would dearly like to see a lasting love interest this season. Yes, I get it: she's a strong, independent woman who doesn't need a man to get her happy ending, etc. It was still a little sad that she was pretty much the only one - OK, she and her luckless villain-fancying sister Zelena - not paired up at the end of season six (not that I thought the death of Regina's bland love interest Robin Hood in season five was much of a loss). Regina could also use a little stronger storylines than she's had past seasons. For much of season six, her bad alter ego the Evil Queen - set loose by Dr Jekyll's serum - got to have more funny lines and meaty scenes than her "weak tea" better half Regina. The Queen even fitted in a sizzling affair with Rumplestiltskin/Gold (Belle was AWOL as per usual and threatening to keep his kid from him, so yeah, he was allowed). The resolution to the split personality plot line was a bit of a muddle: suddenly there were two Reginas, with equal parts of light and darkness in them, when the most satisfying conclusion would surely have been to merge the two halves together again. Never mind: maybe confrontations with Lady Tremaine will bring out the old sass and fighting spirit in Regina. As she said herself at one time: "I get antsy when I don't know who to hate".
I've not been a great admirer of Captain Hook (aka Killian Jones - no, I don't know why he's not called James either) so far, on account of his tedious feud with Rumple/Gold, aka "the Crocodile". It feels wrong, though, that there is a version of Captain Hook I don't care for. Also, I can see that the character has potential: he has some funny lines and moments ("My daughter has just lost everything""Well, aren't you mum of the year"), he and Emma are sweet together - though the series wallowed a little too much in their romance for my personal liking - and he sometimes does well out of plot-lines which don't include crocodile-hunting, such as the touching back-story involving his revered older brother Liam. My wish for this season, then, is that Hook and Rumple will finally bury the hatchet in earnest, and Hook will be given something better to do with his time. Judging by one trailer, the two enemies will end up as colleagues in their cursed Hyperion Heights lives. Hook, now a cop, shakes hands with Rumple who purrs "We'll do great work together". They're bound to fall out sooner or later, I guess, but any scene where an oblivious Hook gushes puppyishly over his wonderful new boss would be most welcome.
As for Rumple, I'll take anything I'm given - I'm sure his new cursed persona will be as brilliant as his other incarnations, though I will miss Mr Gold and his natty suits. And surely Lady Tremaine will be the lucky woman who gets dark-sorcerer neck-kissed this season? Come on, she's handsome, she's determined, she's temperamental, she knows her way around a curse - it's bound to happen. It's not that I don't hope that domestic bliss with tiresome Belle still waits further down the line for Rumple when he's de-cursed, but for my money, she can wait a good while yet.