The Once Upon a Time Season 2 recap and Season 3 mini preview has just aired. And this week’s proper Season 3 premiere, The Heart of the Truest Believer gives us our first glimpse of all the dangers lying in wait for our characters in Neverland. Peter Pan reveals himself to be a master manipulator, tricking Henry into revealing just how powerful his sense of belief is, Greg and Tamara meet a swift (and fitting) end, and our reluctant gang of heroes and villains learn that if they want to survive in Neverland, they’ll have to work together.
But many questions remain – why does Pan want Henry’s heart? How will Neal make his way from the Enchanted Forest to Neverland? What is the significance of the doll that brought the fearsome Rumplestiltskin to tears?
Once showrunners Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis tell us what we can expect in Neverland, about Tinker Bell and how the OUAT version of Ariel differs from the killer mermaids that attacked the Jolly Roger in the premiere.
What’s ahead in Neverland?
Kitsis: The thing we wanted to do this year – and we’ve always wanted to go to Neverland – is we really wanted to focus on the core characters, and we thought because Neverland is a place where you don’t grow up, then you have to confront your past. So our inspiration was the idea that these characters would have to return to who they were before the curse in order to achieve this, and at the same time, we wanted to have them dig deeper into what everything means. We wanted to have time to reflect on what’s happened and what does it mean? Yeah, Emma looks at Mary Margaret as her mom, but does she really actually think of her as her mom?
Horowitz: We were really trying to use Neverland as a prism through which we can see these characters more clearly and more deeply.
Will we see anything romantic develop between Emma and Hook?
Horowitz: Well, the whole relationship “ship” thing is an awesome thing that fans bring to the experience of watching the show, but the story we’re telling encompasses both the relationships between all the characters and potential romances and the bigger emotional story, as well.
Kitsis: Obviously, they think Neal’s dead. Obviously, Hook is a man who likes ladies, and as we saw last year when they climbed the beanstalk, Emma has probably captured his heart a little bit. But in the same respect, we see that Neal is fighting like hell to get a second chance with her, and right now, I think that Emma is focused on getting Henry. She’s not somebody who likes to let her walls down, and her heart’s been broken too many times for her to be worried about dating right now, but we’ll see. She’s got two handsome guys.
Why choose killer mermaids to attack the Jolly Roger?
Kitsis: Well, in the Peter Pan book, they were only nice to Peter, and they were saucy, and we like our mermaids saucy. For us, when we were coming up with this, we just loved the idea that that was who they were attacked by, and that was kind of symbolic of Neverland. It’s not what you think it is. Most people think of Ariel when they think of mermaids, and what they don’t know is that she’s surrounded by really hot-tempered mermaids.
Horowitz: To be fair, they were swimming peacefully when a pirate ship came through.
Kitsis: Yeah, to be fair to the mermaids, this is their turf, and they did not have an entry visa.
What Is the “Once Upon a Time” version of Ariel like?
Horowitz: It’s our spin on Ariel. She’s going to be different than what you saw of the mermaids in this premiere.
Kitsis: I think the spirit of Ariel, JoAnna Garcia plays really well, which is the spirit of somebody who wants to see the world and wants to experience things outside of what they know. So we have our own little take on it, but I think that the thing that makes Ariel such a great character – this spirit within her – is similar to our Ariel.
Horowitz: And there’s a fork in the episode.
How will the Charming family dynamic shift in Neverland?
Horowitz: It’s complicated, and hopefully in a good way… they’re an unusual family in that there’s this odd age thing going on between them – they’re the same age, and they’ve been separated for many, many years, and now they’re thrown together on a mission. And really, for the first time in an enclosed kind of space, they’re able to start to deal with and sort out so many of these issues that they haven’t really had a chance to address yet.
Kitsis: I think, also, for Snow and Charming, they realise in this moment that their daughter doesn’t really look to them for parental guidance, and that’s hard to get. So they’re realising they need to earn it. In a lot of ways, when they see Emma thinking, “if I took that bean last year and threw it on the ground and just took Henry when we had the chance, none of this would have happened. And maybe being good doesn’t work. Maybe it works in the Enchanted Forest, but it didn’t work in Portland, and it certainly didn’t work when I grew up.”
I think that what is hard for the Charmings is, they realise that their daughter grew up without hope, and that they have to instill it back in her, and how do you do that when her son is kidnapped, and you’re in a place that is making you confront your past? Because she has more in common with the Lost Boys than she does Snow and Charming.
Is Peter Pan beyond redemption or sympathy?
Kitsis: Our characters are all looking for a happy ending. They’re all looking for love. Some people are okay playing hardball. Some people want to do it the right way. Peter Pan is an interesting story…
Horowitz: In our minds, evil isn’t born, it’s made, and I think that applies to all the villains, including Peter Pan.
Kitsis: But he is a sick, twisted kid. The fact that Rumplestiltskin who, up until this point, is probably the nastiest of our villains and the most clever – when he says it’s someone he’s frightened of, I’m frightened of him. He gets in your head, and he says “oh, what are you most insecure about? I’m going to really exploit that.”
What are the challenges of having Lost Boys as villains, considering you can’t have our heroes killing kids?
Kitsis: Can’t we? (Laughs.)
Horowitz: We thought that that is a really interesting dilemma, to have villains that, just by looking at them, you really can’t engage in a real way…
Kitsis: Even though they’re probably two hundred years older than you.
Horowitz: But they’re trapped as children, as boys, and how is that going to be a challenge?
Kitsis: The Lost Boys have a bit of a Lord of the Flies situation going on. But it is tough, and no one wants to kill children, but they want to get Henry back, and this is their villain. So, I think that is a challenge, but we have a very clever group, andthe show has gotten very dark, but we never do violence that is gratuitous, and we don’t kill people unless it is earned… and I think Greg and Tamara were probably earned because they believed in something without thinking about it.
What role will Henry play, now that he’s in Pan’s clutches?
Horowitz: Henry has, as we’ve seen over the years, been a very resourceful, independent boy, who will now be thrown into a situation where that will not only be tested but he’ll have to deal with not just running away and trying to escape, but with a psychological test, which is Pan, the ultimate manipulator?
Kitsis: The thing that makes Henry so great is his belief. He believed enough in a book to get on a bus, to go to Boston, to convince this woman who gave him up for adoption in a prison in Phoenix, to come back because Snow White and Charming needed to remember whom they were– and it worked.
So this is a world where that belief will be used against him, and I don’t think we’ve ever seen that before.
How will Regina handle being trapped with people she hates?
Horowitz: It’s not going to be easy for her.
Kitsis: You could see at the end, she doesn’t care for Emma saying she’s the leader. Rumple said right away, “I’m out,” and I think she’s so mad that she’s (like) “why am I at the kids’ table?”
Horowitz: Some of that will be delved into in Episode 3. We get a little bit more into Regina and just what it’s like for her to be on this trip with people she detests.
How much will the season focus on Rumple’s predicted fate, and his attempts to avoid it – or not avoid it?
Kitsis: A lot. There was a prophecy, and the prophecy said that the boy would be his undoing. So it seems to me he left, very determined to do the right thing, but he was offered a deal – he is offered many temptations, and now he doesn’t even have to kill the boy. He just has to leave an island.
He believes he has nothing left to live for. He holds himself responsible for the death of his son. What he doesn’t realise is that his son is in his house with Robin Hood. So Neal is very important to many characters on the show right now, who are behaving in certain ways based on the knowledge that he’s dead. Episode 4 is called Nasty Habits and that will be (Rumple’s) first back-story that we see this year.
What can you reveal about where Mulan, Aurora, Phillip and Neal’s story is headed?
Kitsis: Episode 3 will show where that’s going, and Neal is going to – come hell or high water – get back to Neverland, and so I think that they feel like they’re heroes who will support him, and we know that Robin Hood feels a debt to him…
Horowitz: There’s a little bit more of a wrinkle to their story that we’ll delve into in Episode 3.
Once Upon a Time airs Fridays on M-Net Series Showcase at 6.30pm