While people had predicted it, I'd remained disbelieving, but here we are: Once Upon A Time has been renewed for Season 7, despite its lead actor, Jennifer Morrison leaving the show. It's hard not to have mixed feelings about this news. On the one hand, if you're a fan, obviously you'll be excited to hear that Swan's departure doesn't have to mean the show dies a premature death. But, on the other hand, the blonde isn't just the hero of the series, but its heart, too. It's hard not to be skeptical about how the show would function without her.
One of the original co-creators of the show Adam Horowitz gave us a glimpse into what the future of the series might look like minus Emma Swan: "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." He continued, "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 7."
The series has asked us to emotionally engage with her and that matters. No matter how passionately you support the show, you've got to admit that the storylines have got super complex in places and kind of hard to follow (much as you might expect from Horowitz and his co-creator Edward Kitsis, who both wrote and produced on Lost together). The world of Storybrooke has always relied on us investing heavily in your favorite red leather jacket wearer to keep us interested even if we'd missed an episode or two or didn't totally understand what was going on even after doing a Wikipedia deep-dive.
I mean, I get it. TV networks need to make money to survive and if you've already got a strong, supportive audience and healthy viewing figures, why would you cancel a show just because one actor left? And, sure, this is a good thing; all those writers and producers and non-Morrison actors get to keep their jobs. But to build a following for a show that began with the journey of one character and then to announce a new season with no clear road map for how that would proceed without them suggests that the powers that be don't really care that much that fans are here to identify with these characters.
Emma Swan wasn't some generic placeholder for cliched ideas of heroism. Her parents could be that way sometimes, but not her. She was a mother. She demonstrated Democrat-style zeal in giving seemingly-bad people second chances rather than dishing out street justice. She dished out street justice when street justice needed to be dished. She had issues with vulnerability and being dependent on people, with abandonment and with finding herself and her home. There are a lot of qualities here that I'm assuming viewers saw in themselves.
We're going to need something seriously big to convincingly fill the void left by Swan. But, hey, the writers are good at seriously big finales. As Snow White often says, there's always hope.