Once Upon a Time's ratings have been less than magical lately — it hit a series low after Sunday's Season 2, Episode 18: “Selfless, Brave and True.” While the ratings are still better than many shows on air, it's always discouraging to see such an intense sophomore slump.
What could the show change next season — assuming it gets renewed, which it almost certainly still will — to (hopefully) help boost the ratings back up? Obviously we love OUAT — that's why we devote endless hours of our life to it — but we do have a few thoughts about why this season is losing viewer interest, and what the writers could do to improve the situation next year.
1. Cut back on the number of characters. This show has too many characters, and we're not even talking about one-episode guest characters. It's fine by us if the writers want to stick to the Fairy Tale of the Week formula some of the time. But this season devoted too much time to multi-episode guest stars and recurring characters. Mulan and Aurora. Cora. Hook. Nealfire. Tamara and Greg. And that's on top of the large cast we already loved from Season 1! We like each of those characters individually, but added together they've become overwhelming, and it often feels like there's not enough time to do each character justice.
2. Slow down the pace. In a similar vein, this season has also been overflowing with more major plotlines than we can count. The aftermath of the curse breaking and the introduction of magic in Storybrooke. Snow and Emma in Fairytale Land. Cora and Hook's vendettas. Rumple seeking Bae. Whatever the heck is going on with Tamara and Greg. Again, we have nothing against any of these individual storylines. They're all good ideas, but they could have been spread out over two or even three seasons. That would have allowed space for each plot to breathe, and would also leave room for...
3. More character and relationship moments. One of our main problems with the breakneck pacing this season is that it feels like important character beats have been skipped. Emma and David have hardly said hello, let alone had a real father-daughter moment. How does Neal feel about the fact that Emma had to give Henry up for adoption and he ended up being raised by the Evil Queen? We wouldn’t know because we missed that little conversation. Does Regina mind that her son's biological father is back in the picture? Does she know that's who Neal is? (And if she doesn't, why has she not once asked?) Again, that hasn't even been addressed. The list could go on. This show is rife with complex, unique character dynamics, especially amongst the core cast of characters, but lately it feels like many of the complicated emotions are being glossed over in favor of flashy plots.
4. Fix the scheduling. Obviously, this one's on ABC, not the writers. But Once Upon a Time's schedule has been wacky this year, even by network TV standards. We doubt its on-again, off-again disappearing act has helped any.
What changes would you like to see to Once Upon a Time — or do you think it's perfect as is?
Catch the next episode of Once Upon a Time on Sunday, April 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.