Fans of ABC's fairy tale drama Once Upon a Time have been anxiously awaiting news as to whether or not the show will be renewed for a seventh season. If it is, the show will be saying farewell to a crucial character. Cast member Jennifer Morrison announced on May 8 that if the show is renewed, she will not be returning as Emma Swan. She is the third cast member to announce a departure since Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas — who play Emma's parents (Snow White and Prince Charming) — revealed that they will not be returning, either.
Emma Swan has been the show's main protagonist since its premiere in 2011, and the thought of Once continuing without her is nearly unthinkable. In spite of the myriad of characters that have appeared on the show — from Cinderella to King Midas — the core of the show has always been about Emma. This is her story, the story of a lost little girl who defeated an Evil Queen, found the family she always wanted, and gave hope to a town full of people who had none.
Why Emma's Departure Makes Sense
In a way, it kind of makes sense that we'll be seeing the last of Emma in the upcoming season finale. Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis have already revealed that they are wrapping up storylines in case the show is not renewed, including Emma's role as the Savior. Whether or not she dies in the finale, her story will have reached its conclusion — there will be nothing left to tell. But if there's nothing left to tell of her story, why would they continue the show since it was originally about her?
Horowitz and Kitsis have also revealed that they are introducing two new characters in the season finale to act as a "soft reboot" in case the show is renewed, so it is likely that one of them will become the new main protagonist. However, fans that are already upset over Morrison's departure may become even more so if a totally new character is promoted as the new lead over old favorites like Regina. This could very well put the nail in Once's coffin.
If the writers are serious about finding a way for the show to survive without Emma, they would be better off to put the focus on the characters already on the show instead of introducing new ones.
Which Characters Could Replace Emma As The Main Protagonist?
As mentioned earlier, Regina has a strong following among the fans and could easily become the new main protagonist, which would also be a fitting twist for her character considering she started the show as the villain that Emma had to defeat. Captain Hook wouldn't be a bad choice either, considering he and Emma were recently married. There could be some good material with him continuing the work of a Savior in his wife's name.
Henry would also do well if he were put forth as the new main protagonist. He was the one who ultimately pushed Emma to embrace her role as the Savior. If it weren't for him, she never would have come to Storybrooke. Even if he didn't become the new Savior, his work as the Author would provide plenty of material for new episodes.
A more far-fetched choice as the new main protagonist is Gideon, but it can't be ruled out entirely. We've already seen the parallels between the two characters — separated from their parents as infants, raised in different realms, arriving in Storybrooke on their 28th birthdays — and those parallels have to exist for a reason. For all we know, the showrunners are setting up Gideon up to be the new Emma.
Regardless of which character is chosen, one thing is certain: If Once Upon a Time is going to survive without the character who has led the show for six seasons, it will have to be done with a fair amount of skill. Otherwise, fans may lose interest and decide their time is better spent watching something else.
Who do you think should take over should Emma not return for Once Upon A Time Season 7?