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'Once Upon a Time' EPs Tease Season 3: Mermaids, Captain Swan and 8 More Hints

Executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz talk Neverland, Peter Pan and more in a look ahead at the upcoming season.

Once Upon a Time Hook Emma Season 3 Premire - H 2013
Jack Rowand/ABC
"Once Upon a Time"

[Warning: Some spoilers ahead.]

Once Upon a Time is no longer in Storybrooke.

Season three opens up with the beloved characters heading into stormy waters as they venture to the previously-unseen world of Neverland. For executive producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, displacing the core group into a completely new land created welcome challenges for the characters that will thoroughly impact the rest of the season.

STORY: 'Once Upon a Time's' Ginnifer Goodwin on Snow/Charming Hurdles, 'Sinister' Neverland

"We wanted to focus on the core characters, and we thought Neverland was a place where you don't grow up, then you have to confront your past. Our inspiration was the idea that these characters would have to return to who they were before the curse in order for them to achieve this. At the same time, we wanted them to have to dig deeper into what everything means," Kitsis told reporters at the Disney lot in Burbank.

With season two so much like "a bullet," Kitsis said, "we wanted to have time to reflect on what's happened and what does it mean?" As the new season progresses, Horowitz noted that Neverland serves "as a prism through which we can see these characters hopefully more clearly and more deeply." The first two episodes, he said, merely serve as a glimpse of the "layers starting to peel back."

The Hollywood Reporter compiles 10 season-three teases:

1. Welcome to another world: There's Wonderland. There's Storybrooke. But wait, there's more? Within the first two episodes, the ABC fairy tale drama will mention yet another world that might or might not play into some of the main characters' arcs.

2. A deep dive into Rumpelstiltskin's past: The first season-three episode that will focus on Rumple's backstory will be the fourth, which is called "Nasty Habits." As the producers reveal, that will be the first Rumpelstiltskin-centric hour.

STORY: 'Once Upon a Time' EPs' Guide to Surviving Premiere Night

3. The search for Henry: Emma's main mission is to get Henry back to Storybrooke safely, but things will get testy on the Jolly Roger rather quickly -- with Regina, Captain Hook, Snow and Charming all on board.

4. Unpleasant mermaids: The Little Mermaid, Ariel, won't be making an appearance until episode six in an hour appropriately called "Ariel," but that doesn't mean mermaids aren't going to make a splashy debut early in the season. When they do appear, their introduction is rather unruly and unexpected. "We like our mermaids saucy," Kitsis teased.

5. It's all about belief: "I would say that belief is really kind of the theme of the season so far, and we're seeing how belief impacts each one of our characters," Horowitz offered.

6. "Captain Swan" a go? The first two episodes of the season feature some flirtatious banter between Captain Hook and Emma, who are under the firm belief that Neal is dead. "The whole relationship thing, that's an awesome thing that fans bring to the show," Horowitz said. Added Kitsis: "They think Neal is dead. Obviously Hook is a man who likes ladies, and as we saw last year when they climbed the beanstalk, Emma captured his heart a little bit."

7. Storybrooke on the backburner: Unfortunately for those expecting to see Storybrooke early in the season, the sleepy town won't be a focal setting "for a while," Kitsis said. "It'll be a little while before we're in Storybrooke," Horowitz added.

8. Flashback opener: Season three opens with a pivotal event that took place 11 years prior with Emma forced to make a drastic, life-changing decision that will shape a good portion of her life.

9. Two mini seasons: ABC announced that it would split some of its series into two separate runs in an effort to minimize repeats. "If it is impacting [the story], we hope [it's] in a really positive way," Horowitz said, adding that the producers are looking at the two 11-episode runs as "mini seasons that are hopefully thematically connected and building to one big finish." The first half of the season will allow the writers to "tell this Neverland arc" before kicking off the following arc, which picks up where the first 11 episodes end.

10. Who is Peter Pan? The identity of the character will be revealed sooner rather than later, but he isn't going to be pleasant to deal with, and Pan will have some tricks up his sleeve to get what he wants. As Ginnifer Goodwin hinted to THR, if "Rumpelstiltskin is afraid" of Pan, "he is probably one of the greater villains of any realm."

Once Upon a Time premieres on Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. on ABC.

E-mail: Philiana.Ng@THR.com
Twitter: @insidethetube