6:00pm PT by Alyse Whitney
'Once Upon a Time' Bosses on Emma’s "Looming Fate," Aladdin Arc, and Rumple and Belle’s "Intense" Journey
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Sunday's season six premiere of Once Upon a Time, “The Savior.”]
It’s only a matter of time before the Savior is no more on Once Upon a Time.
In the season six premiere, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) saw a vision of her fighting and ultimately losing a battle with a dark-hooded figure. This premonition was paired with debilitating tremors that almost killed Regina (Lana Parrilla), and — although they are a mystery to Emma — she wasn’t the first Savior to be affected. In flashbacks, the newly-introduced Aladdin (Deniz Akdeniz) battled the same problem as he came face-to-face with villain Jafar (Oded Fehr).
When The Hollywood Reporter sat down with co-creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis, they didn’t say much to brighten Emma’s future. In fact, Kitsis pointed out “she could die as early as next week.” This season will focus on showing the “toll of being a Savior” rather than the history of Saviors like they did with the Dark Ones in season five, using Emma and Aladdin as examples in both flashbacks and present-day Storybrooke.
Below, the bosses preview what to expect as Emma’s secret starts to get out — especially how it will impact her relationship with Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) — how the Evil Queen’s introduction will impact Zelena (Rebecca Mader) and Regina’s relationship, Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) and Belle’s (Emilie de Ravin) "intense" future with their baby now that she’s awake, and more about the complications with Mr. Hyde (Sam Witwer) and the Land of Untold Stories’ residents.
Is the identity of the hooded figure who stabs Emma in her vision going to revealed sooner rather than later?
Eddy Kitsis: You'll have the answer before the Christmas break.
So the timeline of this is that she could die around Christmas?
Kitsis: No — we could find out who's under the hood then. She could die as early as next week.
Adam Horowitz: That looming fate is something that hangs over her and opens up a lot of questions. Is it an immutable fate or is it something you can fight and change, and what does that mean? Do you tell the people you love, and how does everyone deal with that? Her first instinct is not to tell, so we're going to explore what that means initially.
Is this a secret that slowly spreads from one person to another in Storybrooke?
Horowitz: The secret is going to get out. The question really is does it get out because she tells and decides to do the right thing, or does it get out because she's forced to? That is something that is going to happen within the first batch of episodes. This is not something that we're going to drag out for a long time. The first part is, how do you handle the secret and how does it get out? The second part of it is, in the aftermath of everyone knowing what these visions are, what they mean, and if they will fight or embrace them.
How impacted will Hook and Emma's relationship be by the secret and her looming death?
Kitsis: Emma and Hook are dealing with an internal problem. It’s not like we’re going to do a love triangle or break them up, we're actually showing a real relationship. If Hook finds out, it's going to be dealt with the way that you would if a significant other lied to you. It’s Emma's need to try and do things on her own which gets her in trouble. Hook is always battling those walls that she puts up.
Hyde warns Emma that someone from the Land of Untold Stories could be lurking, waiting to kill her. Are we going to see signs of concern with Monte Cristo or these other new characters ticking up, or is it more that people are trying to help them?
Kitsis: Our characters believe the best in people, so they're going to help them. Will there be certain people who may have histories and pasts that come up? Well, of course. … But our heroes' point of view is: 'We're going to help them. We're going to return their happy endings, help them not be frightened and complete their stories so they can move on.' But there’s Hyde and the Evil Queen in the way.
The danger of Hyde and Emma's relationship is they need something from each other. He gave her a bit of what she wants, but when is that other shoe going to drop? Could she betray the people she loves to get answers about her death?
Horowitz: Emma's really going to have to deal with the consequences for keeping secret what Hyde has told her and for however she's going to pursue dealing with this new information. It's not a case of she's going to take Hyde's side or necessarily form an alliance with him, but it's more about the wrench he's thrown into her relationships.
How much will the Savior mythology evolve? Is there further symptoms after the tremors, like seizures and then imminent death?
Kitsis: We're definitely diving more into that and what happens. If there's a second step? I'm not sure. I think one of the things we're going to learn is seeing your future, it's going to happen, but it may not happen the way you want. What we're going to see is Emma just struggling with that in her head for a while — philosophically, what does that mean? How do do I live my day to day?
Is there a lot of backstory with Saviors that we'll learn this season, or is it just encapsulated by Aladdin, Emma, and this oracle?
Kitsis: The first batch of episodes would be that. We're not going to really meet any other Saviors for the first half.
Horowitz: It's different than what we did with the Dark Ones where we had a whole batch of them at one point. This is less about mysteries of who were Saviors throughout time and more about what it means to be a Savior and what it does to you. We see Aladdin and how he was wrecked by it, and then seeing Emma start to get these shakes is meant to launch a story about what is the toll of being a Savior. That's what we're really interested in exploring — six years in, Emma has gone to these lands, saved these people, learned magic, and grown. She's been a hero now for some time, but it takes a toll. There’s no accident to it. There is something in the nature of this kind of job and being this kind of person that does this to you.
How deep will Aladdin's stories go? Will we see a beginning and end? Could he perhaps have seen a vision and died?
Kitsis: We're definitely going to be telling his story.
How will Aladdin and Jasmine be incorporated?
Horowitz: They get incorporated into the Storybrooke world within the first batch of episodes and there's slightly longer term arc plan for them.
Kitsis: We're going to be doing our spin on it, so episode five is going to be their backstory with a different take on what the movie was.
Jafar was on Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, but he was re-cast. Did anything about his character change, and do you have any plans to incorporate more Wonderland elements and characters onto this show?
Kitsis: Naveen [Andrews] wasn’t available, but it’s the same character and same evil problems. It's not like saying, "Oh, Wonderland didn't happen.” For others, you never can say never. We're a big fan of Sophie and Michael's. There were stories we wanted to tell on [Wonderland] that we didn't get to, so hopefully someday.
Will the first half of the season balance Aladdin’s story and the Land of Untold Stories with our core characters’ issues?
Horowitz: Yes, absolutely. We hope that when the audience finishes watching the first 10, they'll see that it's not as simple as it appears at first. Aladdin and Hyde will be a part of it, but at the center of it is Emma and the Savior dilemma and Regina and her Evil Queen dilemma.
Zelena seems torn about what to do with the Evil Queen. She's scared, but she's also intrigued because now she has both sides. How does that dynamic evolve?
Kitsis: That's exactly what it is because Regina basically said, “Yeah, I blame you," and who's there to pick her up but the other sister. Zelena says, "You took out the side that's most like me," and here we go — here's the sister you always wanted. That push and pull is going to be playing out in the next few episodes. Zelena is a character who feels alone. She is looking for family, but she always feels on an island and she's done really horrible things. We can't forget she killed Rumplestiltskin’s kid. He doesn't strike me as somebody who forgives.
Horowitz: When she says, “You took out the part that's most like me,” those are not the words of someone with a clear conscience who has completely redeemed themselves. That's someone who recognizes the wickedness in themselves as an integral part of who they are.
Is there a timeline for seeing Rumple and Belle’s baby’s birth and how they cope with that?
Horowitz: There is a definite plan for when that child is born … it's going to happen this season and it gets intense.
Are we talking about actual complications with the birth?
Kitsis: There is the classic case of Rumple, who has wronged everybody. Rumple is going to do what he needs to do for the baby. Don't forget, he's somebody who takes babies — he doesn't have them taken from him. I would say that is his motto.
With the Evil Queen’s role, does Emma and Regina's relationship become more strained or grow stronger this season?
Horowitz: Emma and Regina’s relationship continues to grow and has evolved greatly since when they first met. I love the moment in the premiere when Regina confesses her fear about what it means to not have magic — that's something that you confess to a friend or someone you trust. It’s really interesting for us to explore these two women who were completely at odds when they met in the pilot of the show and now have found themselves in this unlikely friendship that's now grown into a likely friendship.
Has Snow become more of an important part of Regina's life, too? They have a heart-to-heart in the premiere that seems like the most genuine moment of the series.
Kitsis: It started with [The Evil Queen] breaking up [Snow’s] wedding and now it's [Regina] confiding in [Snow] and actually being on the same side. And Zelena pointed that out: "You ran to your friend Snow White." They're actually friends, much more even than Regina and Emma. They have this history and they knew each other's parents, even though Regina killed hers. For all the spectacle of the show, those are our favorite moments. The moments where it's just quiet between two characters and you get to see the evolution of them.
Lastly, Cinderella is returning this season. What is her arc like?
Horowitz: With Cinderella, it's less an arc than she returns in an episode and we may or may not see her more because we love the character. Her episode is very impactful on what's going on with Emma and Regina and all of our core characters.
Kitsis: We find that some of the characters from Cinderella made their way to the Land of Untold Stories. Her stepmother and stepsisters all have stories that haven’t played out.
Once Upon a Time airs on Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.