Last season, ABC’s Once Upon A Time ended in a way that both wrapped the story fans had been following for a year and left them hanging with many, many new questions. After the curse that had kept the denizens of Storybrooke trapped in our time fell, fairy tale characters from Snow White to Jiminy Cricket remembered who they were…but what exactly did that mean?
After last week’s premiere, Spinoff Online spoke with executive producers and creators Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz about how Season 2 had changed things for everyone, including the startling turn that some of Fairy Tale Land still stands and that Snow and her daughter Emma Swan are now trapped there. Below, the writers dig into what corners of the world will be uncovered over this season and why, what the end of the curse means for the cast and for magic in our world, what old villains like the Wicked Queen and Rumpelstiltskin will face with the change, and what new characters like Captain Hook to Mulan will bring to the mix.
Once Upon A Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. You can still catch the season premiere “Broken” and last night’s new episode “We Are Both” on most cable providers’ On Demand services.
SPINOFF: When the last season of Once Upon A Time ended, we knew the end of the curse was going to make for some changes, but I’m not sure people saw a direct return to the untouched areas of Fairy Tale Land in the offing. This move was foreshadowed by the introduction of the Mad Hatter and his hat last season. At what point did you know you wanted to pierce that veil and connect the two places as a focus of Season 2, and what did that choice allow you that you couldn’t have done before?
Eddy Kitsis: For us, we knew we wanted to break the curse last year, but then the question became “Then what?” Well, the answer became “Seeing Emma in Fairy Tale Land.” We always had the idea that there would eb this post-apocalyptic, present day Fairy Tale Land that was still going on, and the reason we did it this early in Season 2 was because the episode was a lot about parents and sacrifice. Emma had just become a believer, and so for us, having her sacrifice or risk herself for Henry who wants Regina to live and then get sucked into the Wraith as a result of that … we thought it was great to have Mary Margaret go after her because as Emma said in the episode, “Being alone. Which curse is worse?” For us, it made for a good way to start the second season with something that was unexpected and yet also bond mother and daughter.
We only got a taste early in the first episode that Mary Margaret and Emma have accepted that they are mother and daughter early in the first episode before throwing them into this unknown world. Does their new situation help them bridge that gap in any way?
Adam Horowitz: Nothing is easy for these characters, and their relationships, and I think being thrown into this situation allows Emma an opportunity to see her mother in her world and also to get a glimpse of where she came from.
Kitsis: All of Season 1, Emma was like the big sister to Mary Margaret. But now, she finds out not only that this woman is her mom, but now she’s also in a land where she’s never faced any of these things. Her mom is the expert here, and so there’s a rebalancing of their relationship to be had.
How have you cut up the boundaries of Fairy Tale Land? Is there just a giant map in your office of which stories survived in that world and which made it to Storybrooke?
Horowitz: There’s a very specific plan we have for why Fairy Tale Land is the way it is, why some of it was left untouched, why some folks were left back and why others were taken. The reasons for that are things we intend to unfurl as the season continues.
One standout moment for me in the premier was when the townsfolk were going after Regina angry mob-style, and finally “Jiminy” had to step up and say, “This is wrong. We can’t do this.” Despite all the changes that have impacted these people in the 20-plus years since Storybrooke was founded, they do seem to retain the core qualities they had in Fairytale Land so far. Now with full memory of both worlds, will that continuity of character remain true for all the people?
Kitsis: The thing is that each character remembers both of their lives, and a lot of what I think you’re asking about gets answered this week [in Episode 2]. “Am I Grumpy, or am I Leroy?” I think that the 28 years is still very real to them whether they were implanted memories or not, and that idea of playing both characters is going to come into focus. In a lot of ways, the end of the curse may remind you of what you’ve lost, and it may remind you of what you need to get back. For Archie, just because his curse was broken it doesn’t mean he’d not a conscious just like he was before. Beneath that conscious is a man who was trying to redeem himself for the guilt of turning Gepetto’s parents into puppets. For him, it’s very natural to not want Regina killed because he doesn’t believe in that.
What’s the main challenge for the Storybrooke cast this year? We know that on the Fairytale Land side of things, Emma and Mary Margaret will be looking for a way home. But since Emma was such a driving force of what transpired in Storybrooke over the past year, what character steps into that role of being our focus in town?
Kitsis: I would say that “David” – otherwise known as Prince Charming – is going to have to be stepping in to gain control of the town that no longer trusts Regina – who has her powers back or is seemingly about to. And I think there’s a very delicate balance there to be kept. Gold has always operated where he doesn’t care who’s in charge. He just does what he wants. And Regina herself is broken now. She’ll have her own arc. But as far as putting the town back in order, I think we’re going to have to rely on David and Ruby.
Speaking of Mr. Gold, his story is taking on new wrinkles since Belle as played by Emilie DeRaven is a permanent part of the cast now. And Regina has a lot of complications with Henry now that are softening her a bit too. What is the main focus for our two villains this season since their smokescreen has fallen away?
Horowitz: I think that you call them villains, but to them, they’re completely justified in what their doing. So any softening in them you may perceive is a way that we’re approaching of attempting to deepen these characters – to deepen their motivations and complicate them. But they’re still antagonists because they’re still at odds with what some of our other characters are after. To us, villainy isn’t black and white. Its shades should be a little gray, a little complicated. And as we said last season, evil isn’t born. It’s made. And we’re seeing that process continue as a struggle.
Kitsis: And I think as far as Regina goes, she lost everything in the last episode of last season, but when she found out that Henry didn’t want her to die, I think it renewed her hope a little bit. She is a different person because of this. As Adam said, we’re going to see a different side of Regina than we have.
We’ve been teased of a few different new characters and new villains making their way into the show, but the rules have changed a bit because of the end of the curse. Are we getting away from the format of last season where we’d see a new person show up in town and slowly learn their Fairy Tale Land back story? Is there a chance for more direct crossover between worlds now?
Horowitz: There’s going to be ways we meet characters that are completely similar to the way we met them last year, and then there’s going to be totally new ways that we meet the characters. But the core focus of the show remains on our central Snow, David, Henry and Emma family as well as the Regina/Mr. Gold antagonist group and how their wants and needs interfere with each other. And like last season, other characters get pulled into their orbit to create conflicts and difficulties for everyone.
Watching the premiere, I wrote down the phrase “Who is Will?” which seems like a pretty important question for the year.
Kitsis: [Laughs] Well, obviously the fact that we had David ask him who he was in the episode was a sign that that’s something we wanted everyone asking. What we can tell you … well, we could just tell you who he is now and ruin it, but instead we’ll tell you to wait until episode five.
Horowitz: It’s coming!
Well, episode five is the first episode since the premier that the two of you will write, which is always a sign of big things to come. The structure of Season 1 was all about the curse existing and Henry wanting to break it – a very clear path. Season 2 so far has a ton of storylines rolling but not quite that direct a problem. Are these first five episodes here to set up that overall arc?
Horowitz: Hopefully! [Laughs]
Kitsis: Yeah, we hope that’s what we’re doing. Last year was about the premise of the pilot and breaking the curse, and now that the show has evolved, I think we’ve allowed ourselves more freedom. The first mission isn’t just one line. There are many issues we can play with. One is “Now that magic’s back, what does that mean?” Another is, “Now that the curse is broken and people remember who they are, can they leave town?” Then there’s just, “What happens now?” You’ve got Mary Margaret and Emma in Fairy Tale Land, but you’ve also got David taking care of a child. He’s only been a parent for 28 minute. We’re hoping that this season allows us to dig deeper into the people we already know and love and watch them develop into new and different avenues since last year was framed just with “There is s a curse, and it needs to be broken.”
Finally, what are you most looking forward to from new characters and old this season? Last year toward the end, the Mad Hatter was someone you were really jazzed to bring in. Is there a similar introducing awaiting you now?
Kitsis: I can tell you right off the bat, we’re very excited about Captain Hook. We think we have a fun twist on him, but we think he is a really fun character to watch.
Horowitz: I think that what Season 2 has provided us an opportunity for is to really dig deeper in all the characters. And that’s what we’ve tried to do. With the new characters you’ve seen so far like Mulan and Aurora, we’re really excited to show you who they are and even more excited to show you how they impact the characters you already know and help them grow and change moving forward.