Despite the promise of the Final Battle in this Sunday's season finale, the surprising imminent departure of leading lady Jennifer Morrison and our strong encouragement to the contrary, ABC has, in fact, handed Once Upon a Time a renewal for season seven.
But Morrison's absence won't be the only major change coming the long-running fairy tale mash-up's way. Co-creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis are in the midst of a near-total reboot of the series, meaning that Storybrooke is going to look very, very different this fall. Here's everything you need to know about OUAT season seven.
Along with Morrison, E! News has confirmed that long-time series regulars Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas, Jared Gilmore, Emilie de Ravin and Rebecca Mader would not be returning for the new season. Mader broke news of her departure on Instagram with an emotional post, telling fans, "This wasn't my choice but a creative decision of the show's that I totally respect and understand." Horowitz and Kitsis later confirmed the full extent of the departures with a lengthy statement praising each actor's indelible contribution to the series, while also commenting on their possible returns.
"Words can't do justice to what Ginny, Josh, Emilie, Rebecca and Jared brought to ONCE UPON A TIME… but we'll try… never have we had the privilege of working with a more talented group of collaborators. Each brought unique talent, incredible intelligence, and their own individual bit of magic as they gave life to these iconic characters.
Ginny reinvented Snow White for a modern audience – there was no way she would be stuck cleaning up after dwarfs, she created an iconic empowered heroine for the 21st century.
Josh mined the depths of Prince Charming – a character who in myth was just a "type" but in his superlative interpretation became a complex man fighting for love and family.
Emilie took the character of Belle to a deep and soulful place, bringing great intelligence and warmth to the character, making her fiercely independent, strong willed but also an eternal optimist who saw only the best in all those she encountered.
Rebecca took us on a broomstick roller coaster ride as she re-invented the Wicked Witch of the West by finding the pain beneath the green. She made the character soar to incredible heights while always keeping her grounded and relatable.
And Jared literally grew up before the eyes of millions, from a child actor with enormous innate talent to a young man whose abilities continue to astound as he created a character who truly, as we say on the show, has the heart of the truest believer.
We can't thank them enough for the hard work, dedication, and passion they delivered day in and day out. Without them there would be no ONCE UPON A TIME.
As ONCE continues, this group will always be the beating heart of the show. And even though we won't be with them every week, in a show about magic and hope, we fervently believe it won't be the last we see of them. "
With so few series regulars left, the rebooted seventh season will have a sharper focus on Lana Parrilla's Regina, Colin O'Donoghue's newlywed Captain Hook and Robert Carlyle's Rumplestiltskin. How, exactly, Hook and Rumple will go on without the loves of their lives, Emma and Belle, remains to be seen. But perhaps there's already an explanation for how Regina might move on without son Henry. Season six finale guest stars Andrew J. West and Alison Fernandez are also reported to be involved in the new phase of the series, with potential to stick around in season seven long-term. And one only need compare a photo of Gilmore to a photo of West to get their theory wheels in motion about who he might be playing. Hint: Henry all grown up. (H/t to EW for that stellar theory!)
How It Will All Go Down
With Sunday's two-hour finale on the way, Horowitz and Kitsis promise all will be clear soon. "I think the way we sort of look at it is these are stories for these characters and there are set end points to different stories but that doesn't mean that there aren't new stories for different characters," Horowitz recently told reporters. "So I think that by the end of the season finale, a lot of what we've been doing for the last six years is wrapped up in a very satisfying way and then we move forward in a way that at the end of it, hopefully you'll see what we're hoping to do in season seven."
Kitsis added: "I think if there's one thing this show has done, it's reinvented itself every year and so this show has the ability to be many different shows so we feel like creatively it's time to end a few stories but the new show, we feel like this is the kind of show that regenerates. And I think when you see the ending you'll go, ‘Oh yeah!'"
Are you looking forward to a rebooted OUAT? Sound off in the comments below!
Once Upon a Time's sixth season finale—AKA as well as your last chance to spend some time with Emma, Snow, Charming, Belle, Henry and Zelena—airs Sunday, May 14 at 8 p.m. on ABC