In many ways, the Wizards of Waverly Place series finale has been a long time coming. Selena Gomez has such a successful singing career — not to mention some not-awful movies — that it’s easy to forget she still puts in her time on the Disney sitcom that made her a star.
But no longer: The show ends tonight with the hour-long episode “Family Wizard,” which sees the Russo siblings Alex (Selena), Justin (David Henrie), and Max (Jake T. Austin) facing off against one another in the wizard competition to determine which of them will be allowed to keep his or her wizarding powers.
It almost makes you wish that the series weren’t ending, right? Over the last season especially, Wizards has become a complex fantasy show with time travel, angels of darkness, and wizard persecution—occupying the empty space left after ABC darling Sabrina the Teenage Witch went off the air in 2003. This promo will catch you up on all the season 4 shenanigans and set things up for tonight’s finale:
The idea of two of the three characters losing their powers has hung over this show for all seasons, giving it more stakes than your typical Disney series. Of course, they slithered through a loophole in 2009′s Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie, where Alex beat Justin in the wizarding competition but then wished for everything to go back the way it was, thus erasing everyone’s memories of her victory.
But this time they’ve stuck to their guns; and interestingly, creator Todd Greenwald waited until an hour before shooting the final scene to hand the cast members their pages. “It was definitely satisfying,” he said, “and the actors, who were playfully jockeying to see who would win the competition, didn’t see [this ending] coming.”
“I liked it that way,” Selena said. “It kept the ‘competition’ fresh and real. I was actually very happy with how it ended. I feel like fans will be surprised. The result matches each of our characters.”
Here’s a video of the three Russos from the finale press junket, where they discuss how the show was like high school — since Selena and David started the show at 14 — and what it’ll mean for it to be over: