Once Upon a Time has officially closed the book on its final chapter, and it should come as no surprise that there were happy endings all around.
In a moment of pure self-sacrifice, Rumple (Robert Carlyle) decided to trade his heart for a dying Hook's (Colin O'Donoghue), killing himself and the Wish Realm Rumple in one fell swoop. In doing so, he cleansed his heart of all the darkness that had previously been there, allowing him to finally reunite with Belle (Emilie de Ravin) in the afterlife.
His sacrifice also gave Regina (Lana Parrilla) the idea to recreate the Dark Curse, but this time take a small sliver of everyone's heart to enact it, thereby bringing all the realms together in Storybrooke instead of separating them forever. They even named her the Good Queen Regina for it! The series closed on her coronation, in the very hall where she'd once stormed in on Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming's (Josh Dallas) wedding, with all our favorite characters — old and new — in attendance.
I've spoken to many of the cast members who returned for the series finale, and each one of them said that when they got the call to come back it was gave an immediate and enthusiastic "yes" for them. Is that gratifying to you guys, knowing you created something that so many people are so passionate about?
Adam Horowtiz: It's unbelievable.
Eddy Kitsis: Yeah, for us I think that really was. You know, one of my favorite moments is, not only did everybody say yes, but when Ginny Goodwin read the script, she texted us and she was crying. She said, "It's just so beautiful. You gave the queen her happy ending." And not only was Ginny attached to the show, she was attached to other characters and had hope for them. After seven years, it's not me and Adam's show. It's all of our show. Everybody who was on it, who wrote for it, who directed it, who was acting in it. That's the reason it was successful. That's why we went seven years, because it becomes a collaboration, it becomes a family. And I think that that's what made Once what it was.
Did you two always have this ending in mind? Or was this finale something that evolved over the years?
Horowitz: This is something that for a very long time we knew we wanted to build to, which was the redemption of Regina and her becoming the Good Queen. Season 6 was meant to be the finale for the story we started in Season 1, and we constructed it that way once we knew that there were actors who would be departing. Then that allowed us to kind of put off this ending to when it was appropriate, and once we learned the news that we would be ending this year, we geared the end of the season to reach this point.
Do you feel like you got enough of a head's up that the show was ending to wrap up everyone's stories the way you wanted?
Kitsis: We went into this season knowing it could be the last because anytime you have major cast leave and it's a season and you're on Friday night, you have to plan for it or you would be an irresponsible showrunner. So, we knew this was an option and thankfully ABC has been such great supporters of the show, they gave us enough time so that it wasn't like, "Oh my god," scrambled in the last minute. We've been planning this since December.
Horowitz: I think that it's a wonder that ABC really treated the show and the fans with a great deal of respect and I think they really knew that we wanted to be able to go out in a well planned way. So this was all really worked out as well as it could [be] to find a way to wrap up the show properly.
Kitsis: Yeah, I mean they loved the show as much as we do. A lot of them, they were in the pitch meeting when we pitched this, so they've been with us every step of the way, so it means as much to them as it does us.
Watching Jared Gilmore as dark Henry was awesome but also super disturbing. Why did you guys decide to go so dark with him, but then still redeem him in the end?
Kitsis: Well, the show was about hope and the show is about, "evil isn't born, it's made," and there's redemption for everyone. If you become the best version of yourself, you can start over. Just because you did something bad or you lived badly, it doesn't mean that's it for you. That was always the message of the show, so if the Evil Queen can become the Good Queen, for us, watching her help [Henry] in any form was a part of that. Jared, watching him go from a 10-year-old to a young adult, like I don't think he's ever been better than that finale. Like he has just turned into such a fantastically talented actor, so for us, it was also selfishly fun to see him play that because we loved when he was evil Henry during the Neverland Ark.
Rumple's final sacrifice was heartbreaking, but do you think that was really and truly the last step of his redemption arc?
Kitsis: Yes, and I think that's why [Regina] at the end says, "I saw a happy ending today, and I don't like endings." The show was always about not the happy ending, but the journey, and the people you do it with. And so Rumple giving his life for somebody who used to be his enemy, for Rumple to be selfless, and say, "you do the right thing because it's right," was for us his happy ending, because the thing that Belle always taught him was that life is about moments. In the "Up" episode this year, she didn't want magic to make her young again. She said, "What makes life special, is you only got one them." So in a lot of ways, he was kind of like the vampire who lived too long, and we got to see him redeem himself and his heart, and end up with the person he loves, which is Belle.
When you sat down to write the scene where Belle and Rumple reunite in the afterlife, what did you guys know you wanted to accomplish with it? For both the characters, and for the audience who loved them.
Horowitz: I think we wanted it to be a fitting farewell to the characters for the audience and for us as writers. He was saying goodbye to them. So it was emotional all around in the writing and creation of it and the performance and all of that, and that was what we were after.
Kitsis: And for us, one of the things about doing a broadcast show is you have a really tight time limit. And so that act five was really about giving Rumple the time to say goodbye, and really just being with him for the whole act. And so it was really important for us to give him the time to just go to Belle and just feel that emotion of he's returned home and he did it.
What do you hope the show's legacy is?
Horowitz: I mean, it's hard to talk about the legacy of the show because who could really say what it will be or won't be, but my hope is that the optimism and the hopefulness of the show will stick with our fans and resonate with them in some way.
Kitsis: Yeah. I think hopefully our fans will think about what the show's taught, that if we become the best version of ourselves and we hold onto hope, good things will happen eventually, even if they don't happen the way we want or when we want. I think that the show inspired a lot of people in many different ways, some to be writers, some to just be more hopeful. But for us, we really just want it to be a light of hope in a world that is often chaotic or scary.
Tell me about that Emma scene and why you guys wanted her to sort of burst in late with the baby and the red jacket and all of it.
Kitsis: Well, she really played that she was late, and she was. The show really started with the end of the Snow White you knew, but when we went to the wedding and the Queen came in and cursed it, that was the kick off to the whole series. What we loved was having Emma, who — the whole pilot was about getting her to safety, to break the curse, to defeat the Queen — [she] is now coming to the coronation of that very queen because they're now friends. For us, we loved the idea of repeating the line, ["Sorry I'm late"], but now it has a new meaning. For us, that symbolized the whole series.
Past seasons of Once Upon a Time are available to stream on Netflix now.