Things are about to get interesting in Storybrooke.
As Once Upon a Time returned for the second half of season six, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Regina (Lana Parrilla) found their way home out of the wish land--thanks to an always-welcome appearance from August (guest star Eion Bailey)--bringing with them the wish land's version of Robin (Sean Maguire), which shouldn't get weird at all. (Yeah, right.)
Once home, Emma had the showdown with the hooded figure that's been plaguing her all season long, only she found the strength to flip the script on Gideon (Giles Matthey), blasting him with her powers and putting up a good fight. Although, as Gold (Robert Carlyle) later told Belle (Emilie De Ravin), she just may have incited a war, given that Gideon's plans include him becoming the Savior regardless of the costs.
Oh, and we finally learned how a chance encounter with August as a young runaway gave Emma her iconic last name, Swan! (He stopped her from burning the pages of fairy tales for warmth, rescuing The Ugly Duckling just in time.)
It was a lot to unpack, but luckily co-creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis were on hand to tackle our burning questions about where the show goes from here, how the much-talked about upcoming musical episode figures into things, and what it took to convince Colin O'Donoghue to step into that fat suit to bring the wish land's version of Hook to hilarious life.
With all this talk of war coming to Storybrooke, just how bad are things going to get?
Kitsis: Um, I think it's going to be really bad.
Horowitz: I think there's an intensity that's about to overcome everything and it's going to be not just be about the external conflicts of what's going on with Gideon or whoever else they may be facing, but also internally as all the characters have to look inward and deal with their own issues in the face of great adversity.
We see Gold tell Belle that he doesn't want Gideon to kill Emma, that we wants to spare him the same fate that's befallen him. Can we trust him when he says that, given that he is Gold, after all?
Kitsis: I think that in this case, what we do know is it's like a gangster who wants his son to be a doctor. That's how we approached it. Rumple is many things, but he does love his son. He does feel the guilt of what happened with Baelfire and I think he means it. I think that me may be unable to resist the dark magic, but he certainly doesn't want to send his son on the same life. You always want whats better for your children. So, I believe him. But that doesn't mean he won't be tempted or have curveballs thrown in his way.
Gideon talks about his motivation not being out of pure evil, but instead needing to become the Savior to go save others. Can you talk about what that means?
Kitsis: What I can tell you is that he hinted at wanting to free the realm of the Black Fairy. His motivations are going to become clearer in his origin story and the Black Fairy's origin story, which is two flashbacks we'll be doing this year. Gideon's is episode 16 and the Black Fairy's will be 19.
With all of this intensity coming to Storybrooke, how exactly does a musical fit into that? What can you talk about the plans for that?
Horowitz: It's interesting you should say that because we've been thinking about a musical for a long time, and we've actually been planning this one since last fall. What we wanted to do with a musical, one of the things that the bar we had to clear for ourselves was that we didn't want it to be a standalone episode or something outside of the continuity. We wanted it to be an organic part of the season's storytelling. And we found a way to do that which we're really excited about. So all this intensity and stuff that going on in town, I think you'll see, once we get to the musical, that it is nicely balanced by what's happening in the musical. The storytelling in the musical is the key to all the different storylines going on.
Kitsis: Yeah, it's not like a one-off, "Oh, it doesn't matter."
What was the reaction like amongst the cast in approaching the musical episode?
Kitsis: They all have musical backgrounds, so they were really excited. They've been very enthusiastic. It's interesting. They really, really are excited. What we love is that the audience already knows how talented our cast is, but I don't think they realize how well they can sing. So, it's really fun for us to show off our fantastic cast.
I want to talk a little bit about Regina's decision to bring the wish land's version of Robin Hood back into Storybrooke. When you guys killed off Robin last season, was this idea already there to play with another version of the character?
Horowitz: As with most of our ideas, when we get between seasons we do this planning for the upcoming season and a lot of these big ideas and big arcs grow out of that. So what usually happens at the end of the season is we take a few weeks when production is done to sit with the writers, we look back at what happened the previous year, we look ahead to what we want to have happen the next year, and we have a whole slew of ideas that we've had since the beginning that we want to find a place to touch on. I think that idea grew out of those discussions there and then we kind of seeded it in to what we've done this season. And you'll see in the second half of the season how it comes into play and most importantly what it means for Regina.
This version of Robin, how does he handle adapting to Storybrooke and, in turn, how does Storybrooke adapt Robin Hood suddenly being back?
Kitsis: I mean, exactly. People are like, "What is this?" We've dealt with large snow monsters and wraiths and dragons and fairies, but we've never had a bizarro version of someone else coming back. So, I think that Storybrooke is going to be wary, but I think more importantly, Regina's friends and family are going to be wary because this is not the same Robin Hood and Regina has been trying very hard to remove the darkness from her and move forward with her life. This is definitely going to be a test of that.
I have to ask, when you told Colin that he was going to become that old, paunchy version of Hook, how did he take that?
Horowitz: Colin was full-throttle for it. He is an incredible actor who will go any place you point him to and make it special.
Snow has been stuck asleep for so long. What can you tease about how this situation with her and Charming moves forward?
Horowitz: Well, one, it seems like she's been asleep longer than she has been because we've been off the air. But, yeah, it's been a challenge. One of the big elements of the storytelling in the second half of the season is how do Snow and Charming deal with this new curse of being separated in a way—they've been separated before, but it's always been by physical distance. Now, they're separated in a way that's almost even more cruel. How do they deal with that? And can they overcome it and how? Those are a lot of questions that get posed and dealt with as the season progresses.
There's been a lot of talk about the future of the series past this season, with rumors floating about a possible reboot to the series as some storylines close. What would you say is the truth about how you're approaching an upcoming additional season?
Horowitz: I think that we're approaching it in that there's another chapter to the story that we want to tell, and hopefully we get the chance to tell it. Within the bounds of this season, there are many, many stories that we've been telling for a long time that may reach some kind of climax. But at the same respect, these are characters who have, to us, really rich history and vital lives yet to be explored that while we may shake things up in a big way—we're hoping to—there's a lot more we want to do if we're lucky enough to get the chance to do it.
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.