Once Upon a Time has been renewed for season 7, EW has learned.
In its sixth season, the ABC fairy tale drama has been averaging a mere 4.5 million total viewers and a 1.5 in the 18-49 demographic. Even so, EW had previously heard it was a near-lock to return.
The renewal comes on the heels of the news that Jennifer Morrison will not be returning as a series regular next season. Lana Parrilla, Robert Carlyle, and Colin O’Donoghue, who were negotiating new deals, are all expected to return next year.
Earlier this year, ABC Chief Channing Dungey seemed to indicate there could be possible exits should the show be renewed, noting that OUAT bosses Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis were looking at the potential seventh season as a springboard in a new direction, “which doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re not bringing cast back. It’s just: How do you kind of hit the reset button in a way that gives you an opportunity to expand the stories that we’re telling?” Dungey said.
Morrison’s exit raises the question of what will actually happen to her character Emma in the Final Battle after being prophesied to die earlier this season. Emma got her happy ending (technically beginning) during Sunday’s musical, in which she wed Hook (O’Donoghue), but the Black Fairy (Jaime Murray) unleashed a curse that was meant to separate the Savior from her loved ones for the Final Battle, which will take place in the two-part season finale.
OUAT‘s season finale, which will air Sunday, is slated to provide a sense of closure, while also launching a new chapter for season 7. That new chapter would include the introduction of characters played by The Walking Dead alum Andrew J. West and Jane the Virgin star Alison Fernandez, who will both appear in the season 6 finale, with the potential for more. Check out our theory on that here.
However, executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis have previously noted that season 7 will not go through a complete overhaul. “We’re not designing this in a way where you say goodbye to everyone and never see them again,” Horowitz said. “We’ve been telling a story for six years now for these characters and now we’re trying to complete that story, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have other stories.”
Once Upon a Time‘s two-hour finale airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.