This morning I turned on my computer only to get a gut punch as I read that Jennifer Morrison is leaving Once Upon a Time at the end of this season. Now, admittedly, I invest too much emotionally in my favorite television characters, but putting that aside…
It is a little shocking because Morrison had spoken out about how much she loves the show and working on it. It came across as if any decision to leave would be on the part of the show runners and creators, and that Morrison was willing, even wanting, to stay. Maybe money played a role, we don’t know. However, this demonstrates what I believe is a substantial reason why network television has declined in viewership so much.
This is not the first time this has happened. A few years ago, fans of The Vampire Diaries were shocked to learn that the female lead, Nina Dobrev, was leaving after six seasons. Now, I was never a fan of Elena and Damon, but I didn’t find the way the last season or the series finale wrapped up that character to be satisfying. That kind of ruined the previous six seasons for me, because Elena began the show as a strong, independent character, and ended it as a lovesick girl who couldn’t handle herself without her boyfriend. She never had time to find herself again in any way separate from Damon. Now, this isn’t a problem faced by Once Upon a Time fans, as Emma Swan kicks ass and has had the opportunity to fully develop and grow throughout her six seasons.
And that’s the problem. Fans are currently waiting in limbo to see what will happen to their favorite character. She just got married, and we haven’t heard if Colin O’Donoghue, who plays Hook, will return next season. If he returns, how will they explain the absence of Emma? This brings the disaster that is Nashville to mind, where they dealt with it by killing off the main character. I don’t want to have watched Once Upon a Time for six years to have them kill off the main character just so they can squeeze another year out of it. It would be better to just end the series altogether and let it go out on a high note. they could also just make “season seven” an entirely new show, a la Major Crimes, which continued The Closer after Kyra Sedgwick left.
Viewers don’t want to watch a series and get involved with the characters only to have the rug ripped out from under them. When we watch a show, we want to know that we will be able to see the show finish the way the creators want it to end, not the way they have to work it out because of network drama (see: Castle). It’s far better for a show to end of a high note, even if the fans don’t quite want to let it go yet, and be remembered positively (see: Buffy the Vampire Slayer) rather than run into the ground so the network can keep making more episodes long after the fans have lost interest (see: Grey’s Anatomy).
So please, Once show runners, don’t make any creative decisions that break our hearts. The world is hard enough right now, and we watch these shows for entertainment and to feel good. For those who just want to watch a downer show, Grey’s Anatomy is actually still on (I know, I can’t believe it either).
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