“Once Upon a Time… Happily Never After” is how you feel when the series comes to an end. At the risk of sounding a little harsh, we were glad for the short, six-episode length of the show. Now, we were intrigued by the premise of the Netflix romantic series and were excited by its potential. Why wouldn’t we want to see a fairy tale being parodied in this era of heartbreak by online dating? While the show was not boring enough for us to turn away from it, and we credit its short length for that, it did not entertain or even meet our expectations.
What ‘Once Upon a Time… Happily Never After’ Is About?
The story is about a town that is cursed with never falling in love due to the doomed love story of a princess and a fisherman. So, unless the reincarnated lovers release the dragon into the lake on the night of the pink moon, nobody in the town will ever be able to love. How the parody plays out is in the form of a parody of fairy tales sprinkled with a general commentary about their sexist nature.
In the present day, the town is a tourist attraction due to the presence of the dragon, which is the source of income for most of the townspeople. This means that a lot of them do not want the curse to break, as the loss of the dragon means a loss of income. But other than this being brought up as an occasional concern, nobody actively tries to stop the curse from breaking.
We see that it is not just Soledad and Diego but everyone in the town who has reincarnated, and most of them seem to be aware of their role in the tale, but not of their past lives. Diego is now Maxi, who works as a town prostitute. Juana, who is mistaken for the princess, is in the town on holiday with her boyfriend, Antonio. Antonio married a girlfriend who he got pregnant with while cheating on Juana, and he married her out of “Catholic guilt.” But he plans to leave her to marry Juana, and they are using this holiday to work on their relationship, though Juana is on the verge of giving up. Maxi and her fall in love almost immediately and kiss, something that hasn’t happened before and makes the townspeople think that the curse is going to break. Throughout all this, the dragon, which is centuries old now, is on the verge of death, which places an urgency on the circumstances. And that’s when Gayo enters the picture. She is Maxi’s best friend and an environmentalist, and she looks just like the princess. We see the rest of the episodes bring back the characters from the original fairy tale to set the stage for the fulfillment of the prophecy.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘Once Upon A Time… Happily Never After’ Ending Explained – Do Soledad And Diego Lift The Curse On The Town?
The ending is the best part of the show, and we mean it in the sense that the previous five episodes were just a set-up for the finale. The story progresses only as a way of establishing the character’s motivations, with very little else happening otherwise. It is in the final episode that we realize why there is confusion regarding how the princess looks. It’s because the original portrait of her was lost, and the painting of her successor was understood to be how she looked, due to corruption of the lore over the years.
We see Juana and Maxi elope on a unicorn to find the dragon and release it into the lake. But the dragon is with Goya, who is hell-bent on doing the deed herself because she wants the virality and the fame from protecting an endangered species. At this point, even though Goya is the reincarnated princess and Maxi is her reincarnated lover, in this life, they are just best friends, and Maxi is clearly in love with Juana. A crowd has gathered outside the boat, demanding that Goya release the dragon. Meanwhile, Enamora is kidnapped by Antonio when he steals the ambulance she is in.
Eventually, the whole town, Maxi, Juana, Antonio, and Goya, reach the lake, and we know that it is now the final act of the story. A battle ensues between Enamora and Antonio, who has memories of Froilan, through which Juana and Maxi end up releasing the dragon into the lake. But since they were not Soledad and Diego, it is perceived that it was a mistake. Before dying, Enamora tells Simona that Goya is the princess.
In the following scene, we see Goya and Maxi acknowledge that they are not in love with each other, but they kiss according to the tale. This ends with Goya leaving town as she does not believe in the tale and Maxi trying to fix things in his own way.
This is when Juana reads the fine print of the tale and deduces that the reincarnated Soledad and Diego just have to release the dragon together. They don’t have to be in love with it. Simona has dived into the lake and retrieved the dragon at this point, which enables Maxi and Goya to successfully complete their mission. The curse is broken, and people regain the ability to fall in love. “Once Upon a Time… Happily Never After” ends with Antonio getting arrested and the people of the town realizing that they had always been reincarnating in this town and they had always been together. It is kind of a sweet ending, in fact, more of a “problem-solved” ending than a fairy tale one.
We feel that the story deserved a better execution. “Once Upon a Time… Happily Never After” had great potential, one that could address the nature of free will and the complexities of love and independence through the very humorous lens of parodying fairy tales. The flashback scenes were entertaining, but the story set in modern times just did not excite us. And surprisingly, we know the three principal characters the least of the cast, with each of them having very one-dimensional parts to play. It could be because that was an extension of the parody or simply because the short length of the show did not allow the creators to explore them more, but either way, that just did not sit right with us. We doubt this show will have a sequel, considering they wrapped up the story at the end, but if they do, we hope to see something better written and more nuanced.
“Once Upon a Time… Happily Never After” is a 2022 Musical Romance series created by Manolo Caro.