'Once Upon a Time' Bosses Talk Belle's New Romance, Maleficent's Shocking Reveal

Co-creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis, as well as co-star Kristin Bauer van Straten, break down Maleficent's big secret.
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[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the "Unforgiven" episode of ABC's Once Upon a Time.]

Once Upon a Time wasted no time in revealing the secret (to the audience) that Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming (Josh Dallas) are desperate to keep quiet from their daughter, Emma (Jennifer Morrison).

Sunday's hour revealed that Snow and Charming were responsible for (the newly revived) Maleficent (Kristin Bauer van Straten) losing her child in the months leading up to the curse being deployed.

And that's just scratching the surface of what went down in "Unforgiven." Here, Once Upon a Time co-creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis, plus Bauer van Straten, dissect what went down and what's to come.

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Maleficent (seemingly) has a very valid reason to hate Snow and Charming.

Although the Queens of Darkness went to Snow and Charming to help them stop Regina's (Lana Parrilla) curse — which would eventually place the characters in Storybrooke — Maleficent took the step of reaching out to an expectant Snow to share the news that she was pregnant, too, and to ask for help … which Snow rebuffed. And, while viewers don't know the full extent of what went on in the months before the curse was activated, Snow and Charming were responsible for the loss of Maleficent's child.

"That's the tip of the iceberg of the secret," Horowitz told reporters following a recent screening of the hour. "Our hope is by the time everything is revealed, it really informs who [Snow and Charming] were in season one."

"Obviously we know the curse was cast, but for us, it's really more about the character motivation," Kitsis said. "We hope that in seeing the second half of the season, you'll go back and look at the series in a different way. Like, at the end of the second episode and you realize Maleficent wasn't just a villain, she was a mother who was trying to protect her kid, and now if you rewatch 13 and you watch everything she's doing, hopefully it gets more depth to it."

The news of Maleficent's derailed motherhood came as a shock to Bauer van Straten. "[As] an actor, you go, 'Oh my gosh, this adds a whole other layer! I didn't know that; what would that have meant? Wow,'" Bauer van Straten told THR. "Eddy and Adam have said quite a bit that evil characters are made, not necessarily born, and so it's nice to get some backstory. Maleficent was already who she was when this happened, but I just thought that adds a whole other color to her that possibly, in my mind, humanizes her a touch.

"This adds another layer to Maleficent's concept of a happy ending, and how she's going to exact that, and who she's going to use to make it happen," Bauer van Straten continued. "It's always fun to play with a character that's immortal; they don't rush, always, to their revenge. They have patience, they have time on their side. Maleficent, I like to imagine, was very intelligent, so she can sit and watch a chess game and do things I found really shows she has huge forethought. But her main goal would be to enact punishment with interest. Always."

As Maleficent looks toward revenge — and a possible happy ending — there remains one big lingering question: Who was the father of her unborn child?

"That's actually a mystery at that point [in the story]," Bauer van Straten laughed. "I asked the same question at the same time, and got no answer."

 

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Will Regina be swayed back to the dark side?

After Snow confessed her past with Maleficent to Regina, she had another request: She wanted Regina to go undercover with the Queens of Darkness. But since Regina only just joined the "good" guys, how she'll cope in that world is a potentially dangerous proposition.

"I think there's always an element of coming to terms with what she was and what she wants to be," Horowitz allowed. "But she's so strong. Mary Margaret goes to Regina for a reason -- it's partially what she says with 'You used to be a villain,' and Regina can walk in that world with a little more confidence and more safety than anyone else. … What we loved about it was that Snow was asked to keep a secret and couldn't keep her mouth shut. Can Regina keep her mouth shut? Regina is probably a stronger and better secret-keeper than Snow White. But it does create a bond between the two of them. … She was her stepmother."

"We loved the fact that despite everything, these two can come together," Kitsis added. "They started off as friends — they started off with Regina saving her life." Plus, "Regina's going to have a huge curveball thrown her way this second half."

But in the meantime, the Queens of Darkness will expand their ranks. "The dynamic among the four of them is fascinating because each person has the potential for bad or good, depending upon the circumstances," Bauer van Straten shared. "That's a big, entertaining argument that we all wondered: "Who could go good, or who could go bad? Who has that potential?" Once we found out more about Maleficent, we wondered about her softer side. If somebody wants something bad enough, they could do things that really are against their character as we know them. That's a big [thing] this year: walking that line, and what's the biggest tipping point at any time to go bad or to go good?"

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Belle (Emilie de Ravin) has moved on … and Rumple (Robert Carlyle) won't handle it well.

Although Belle asked Ursula (Merrin Dungey) and Cruella (Victoria Smurfit) about Rumple, the final moments of the episode revealed that she has, seemingly, moved on with Will (Michael Socha) … a moment a newly returned Rumple witnessed.

"For us, I think any time you have your heart broken, you look for a reason to smile again," Kitsis explained of the new couple. "And I think that we've hinted Will leaving Wonderland had some heartbreak. And you have Belle, who clearly had some heartbreak. The reason was, they have a lot in common: They both fell in love with villains. They both hoped the villains would be redeemed. He fell in love with the Red Queen (Emma Rigby), and she changed, and he saw the woman beneath the monster, and that's the same as Belle. They have a lot in common. What we loved about Belle in the winter finale was she was like, 'It's enough. It's enough lying.' At a certain point you have to stop giving people the benefit of the doubt, and you have to say 'Change or f— off.' We loved that strength from Belle, and we loved that moving on, because if we look at Belle as a character, we remember she volunteered to save her town because her father wouldn't let her be a hero. And then she became the maid, and then she became his wife, and she hasn't really lived. So for us, it's kind of like if you got married at 21, and at 32 you might think, 'Maybe I want to live again.' "

"Belle has to be strong, and I think one of the things that happened in that relationship with Rumple is as his lies grew and his betrayals grew, the audience was seeing that Belle was unaware of any of this, and we really wanted to go from the first half of the season of her discovering [the truth] and then letting her act out of strength," Horowitz added. "And now, if they are to have any chance of being together, she has to be a strong person, and what he has to do is difficult."

And a brokenhearted Rumple is not someone you'll want to cross. "You have a man who's lost everything — Belle has moved on, [so] he's going to do his Rumple-est to get it all back," Kitsis teased. "The Queens of Darkness think they're working with Rumple, but we all realize, 'You work for Rumple.' "

"After what happens at the end of the episode, he doesn't disappear," Horowitz added. "That activates him in a way that starts him on a new quest that he's energized about."

What's going on with Hook (Colin O'Donoghue) and Ursula?

After Ursula and Hook had an awkward run-in, Emma became curious about their past … a history Hook wasn't quite willing to spill. But viewers will learn more about the origins of Ursula (at around age 18 or 19, per Kitsis) in an upcoming episode.

"We're getting a whole episode — episode 15 — [that] will explain what he did to her; … it was not sexual. As he said, it's far worse," Kitsis shared. "So when you think about what would be worse than having your heart broken, I would say having your soul crushed."

Aside from that, Emma and Hook are on relatively solid ground right now. "It's what Mary Margaret said in that closing montage: She's beginning to open her heart up," Kitsis said. "For us, it's watching Emma open her heart up, even though she's about to find out some really bad information. And for Hook, we're going to figure out he has some things going on with his head that he's concerned about.

"I think for Emma right now, the two people she trusts most in her life are lying to her, and she's suppressing that," Kitsis continued. "Finding that out will be kind of a bummer. I think Emma is going to have to confront her past in a lot of different ways. She's done a lot of growing over the past three-and-a-half seasons, but what happens when the [people] who were helping you grow might be just as bad as the people you were trying to get away from."

Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC. Which reveal shocked you the most? Sound off in the comments section below.

Twitter: @marisaroffman

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