'Once Upon a Time' Bosses: Emma's Journey Will Span the Entire Season

Co-creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis preview the ramifications of Emma's dark path, the "Hannibal Lecter of Storybrooke" and returning favorites.
Courtesy of ABC/Jack Rowand

The characters of Once Upon a Time will find themselves facing one of the biggest fights of their lives when the show returns for its fifth season: they will attempt to free Emma (Jennifer Morrison) from the darkness she is now chained to.

"The darkness, whether it's taken from her or if she gives into it completely, it's going to affect her," series co-creator Adam Horowitz told reporters at a recent screening.

Though the ABC drama has opted to split its recent seasons in half and tell two (mostly) contained stories per year, Horowitz emphasized that the consequences will be long-lasting. "The ramifications ... are felt throughout the entire season," he said. "While a lot of this story in the first half we tend to wrap up in the midseason, there are bigger issues that are introduced as early as [the premiere] that will carry over for the whole season. ... Emma's journey is going to encompass the whole season."

Added co-creator Eddy Kitsis: "Last year when we started the search for the Author [in the season premiere] and realized that's where the second half [would go], we're going to do a very similar thing."

But as important as Dark Swan is to Once Upon a Time's fifth season, there's still plenty more in store. Kitsis and Horowitz shared a few more teases about what's to come.

Meet the "Hannibal Lecter of Storybrooke."

Zelena (Rebecca Mader) may be locked up when the fifth season kicks off, but never underestimate the lengths that Regina's (Lana Parrilla) half-sister will go to in order to gain her freedom. "I would say she's the Hannibal Lecter of Storybrooke," teased Kitsis.

"I would say pregnancy has changed her, but not necessarily for the better," added Horowitz. "If that's the case then it's pretty scary."

While Horowitz acknowledged they will "explore her pregnancy and what happens," Kitsis hinted the baby might be born this season. "I would be disappointed if I didn't see a baby," Kitsis said, before jokingly adding: "I'm sure it wouldn't happen during sweeps."

Familiar faces are returning — and love might be in the air.

Once Upon a Time has introduced a whole gaggle of characters in the show's first four seasons, and a few notable faces will return this year.

"We're very excited to have Mulan back," said Horowitz. "We're very excited to also have Ruby coming back. And we're very excited to have Merida a part of the show. How they're all going to interact or not interact is some of the surprises we want to keep for now."

Since it's been a bit of time since we've seen Jamie Chung's Mulan and Meghan Ory's Ruby/Red, the show will explain what they've been up to. "We're not just planning to drop them back in the show with no explanation and just say, 'Oh, they were over in the corner,' " said Horowitz. "We do want to give a taste of where Mulan has been and what she's been up to and what she's been going through. The same with Red. And there are other characters who may return, as well, and we want to do that as well [with them]. We want to sort of honor the idea that their lives, all these characters' lives have been going on during now the fifth year of the show, and we wanted to give a taste of where they've been and now see how they can reconnect with everybody else and what that's going to be going forward."

Extra good news for their fans? "They won't be in every episode, but they will be in multiple episodes and we have arcs planned out for them," previewed Horowitz. "It's been a while since we've seen Mulan and Ruby and we've been thinking about them for a while and we hope the audience [has missed them,] too."

The writers have also hinted they will finally explore Mulan's sexuality ... and potentially with an actual relationship. (Mulan had unrequited feelings for Aurora, and nearly confessed them to her ... but Aurora's confession that she was pregnant led Mulan to stay quiet.) "I would say that we know that that community [has] been big supporters of the show, and we would love to be able to tell a love story that reflects that," said Kitsis.

"We want the show to reflect that world as it is now and whether that's going to be with any particular character, we're not going to say," said Horowitz. "It's something we want to do this year, and it's something that is due and important to do on the show. This is the world we live in."

Mulan might not be the only one experiencing a new love this year — Henry (Jared Gilmore) will be experiencing an important first in season five. Teases Kitsis, "I would watch the second episode where we might meet Henry's first crush." 

Once Upon a Time returns Sunday, Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. on ABC. And be sure to check back after the premiere for more from Kitsis and Horowitz about what's in store this season.