When Once Upon a Time returns Friday, ABC will kick off the final 12 episodes of the show. But fans of the long-running fairy tale drama need to know one very important thing before the series finale: Not everything will be wrapped up.

After seven years, 156 episodes and countless twists on beloved fairy tale characters, the show will reach its conclusion in May, but fans who are hoping to get answers to the burning questions they’ve been asking for years should be prepared. “It’s less about tying up every loose end, it’s [more] about the feeling, and that’s what we’re really striving for, which is the feeling of Once Upon a Time,” executive producer Adam Horowitz says.

Executive producer Edward Kitsis concurs, noting that the final run of episodes are more of a celebration of what everyone loves about the show. “It’s one last adventure,” Kitsis says. “It’s maybe seeing some old friends. It’s saying goodbye to the show and being reminded of all the things we love — if it was the twist on fairy tales, if it was the romance, if it was the swashbuckling, or if it was the magic. The last two hours for us is less about tying it up in a bow and just getting to hear the song sung one more time.” (And no, that doesn’t mean there will be another musical episode before the finale.)

The move not to provide definitive answers — seriously, what was the deal with Emma’s tattoo?! — feels reminiscent of the series finale of Lost, on which Kitsis and Horowitz previously worked. But the OUAT bosses insist it has nothing to do with the timing of when they found out the show would end, as they suspected from the start of the rebooted seventh season that this could be a possibility. “The finale was going to be what we were going to do, and then we’re just not doing cliffhanger,” says Kitsis, who reveals they did have a pitch for a potential season 8. “It was never heard,” he adds before quipping, “We’ll save it for the spin-off when they approach us in two years.”

Speaking of Lost, the OUAT bosses reminisced over a number of references they’ve slid into the show over the years. There have been Apollo bars, of course, but Once also included Mr. Clucks this season — and had Daniel Dae Kim voice the drive-thru guy. Emma’s VW Bug is a reference to Hurley’s van, and even their former Lost bosses Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have done voiceovers as a weatherman and a DJ. “At some point we should stop making Lost references, but we keep doing it,” Kitsis says. “I think we even have like three left coming up.”

With Horowitz and Kitsis on the precipice of wrapping up the series, it’s been a very emotional time in their writers’ room. “We have a lot of people who have been there for many years, some since the first season,” Horowitz says. “So it’s a lot of everybody wanting to go out with that feeling, the stuff that we’ve all loved, the romance, the adventure, the emotion of the show. We’re trying to make sure that we give the audience one last dose of that.”

Once Upon a Time airs Fridays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

Episode Recaps

Once Upon a Time

Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.

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