Change is never easy. That's a given. But big change is coming to Once Upon a Time when it returns for season seven on Friday, Oct. 6. And not everyone's thrilled about it.
All summer long, talk about the long-running ABC fantasy series has centered around the decision by co-creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis to give their show a major facelift. A majority of the cast, including star and one-half of the show's beloved central relationship Jennifer Morrison, did not receive new contracts. The sleepy town of Storybrooke, home to six seasons of inexplicable (and increasingly similar) curses, was being vacated in favor of the urban Seattle neighborhood Hyperion Heights. And the characters who were sticking around were getting new identities, new jobs, and new wardrobes. Suffice it to say, die hard fans haven't exactly shown a willingness to approach the reboot with an open mind.
But here's the thing: If they just gave the new season a chance, they might be pleasantly surprised to find, after a few seasons that felt like the show was merely spinning its wheels, that the Once Upon a Time has finally returned to form.
With the decision to re-focus the series on a grown-up Henry Mills (played by new series regular Andrew J. West, who bears a striking resemblance to his young predecessor, Jared Gilmore), Horowitz and Kitsis have wisely created a new season that harkens back to the heyday of season one (Like his mother Emma Swan before him, Henry has forgotten all about magic and is making ends meet as a driver for an Uber-like company), and yet still feels uniquely new. Whereas season one was a fun twist on familiar Disney stories, season seven is a fun meta-twist on OUAT's own history. And it works.
There's something fun about watching Lana Parrilla, Colin O'Donoghue and Robert Carlyle take on new roles with their cursed Hyperion Heights identities—Carlyle, especially. Trust us—but there's no doubt that the Regina, Hook and Gold we've come to know and love are hiding just beneath the surface. And the new actors added to the mix bring a spark of life that's frankly been missing from the series for some time now. (Sorry, not sorry.) Dania Ramirez's feisty new take on Cinderella and Gabrielle Anwar's ferocious Lady Tremaine are especially welcome additions, as is the mysterious new version of Alice (who's from more than just Wonderland, thank you very much!). Played by relative newcomer Rose Reynolds, this Alice—and her connection to Rumplestiltskin—will keep you on your toes.
All this is to say that there's a lot to be excited about in this brave new world that Once Upon a Time is building. And it would be a shame for professed fans of the series to turn their back on it now just because it's taking chances. We shouldn't want our TV shows to tell the same story for ever. Sometimes that necessitates saying goodbye (or, more accurately, "see you later," considering most of the departing actors are due to stop by for some visits) to characters whose stories have run their course. But there's still plenty of magic to be had here. Like Henry, fans just have to believe.
Once Upon a Time returns on Friday, Oct. 6 at 8 p.m. on ABC.