If you watched the third season premiere of ABC's Once Upon A Time, you may have picked up on the fact that Peter Pan wants something more with Henry (Jared Gilmore) than just his literal "truest believer" heart. If all he wanted was the organ, he could rip it out of him as easily as we've seen Regina (Lana Parrilla) or Rumple (Robert Carlyle) do the same thing. After all, Neverland is Pan's playground, and the Lost Boys are his Lord of Flies-like minions. They have Henry trapped-- literally. But to just kill a core character wouldn't give him any leverage over his powerful loved ones searching for him. In fact, it would pretty much end any intrigue or story in Neverland in the first place. But instead, things there are just getting started. What's to come for some very troubled characters-- old and new? We checked in with series executive producers Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz to find out!
- Rumple's daddy issues take full flight. The jungle of Neverland is playing tricks with Rumple, who even though dons his "old look" is a somewhat softer, more humbled man after coming to terms with his responsibility for his son's (assumed) death. Horowitz pointed out that a great clue for Rumple's journey could be found on his season's character poster where the tagline talked about the belief of ability to change one's destiny. Episode four will be the first backstory episode for Rumple this season (entitled "Nasty Habits") and directly deal with his actions versus intentions.
"We've hinted in the past that his father is a coward and that his father's name is kind of something that haunted him and that his father left him-- Those issues have played themselves out in his relationship with his son...so whatever happened to Rumplestiltskin in his past is something that [informs] his problems today. It is something we're going to deal with this year. We are going to see that...This is a man who wants to break the cycle of this past. He wants to be a good father, but it's like that quote 'I can resist everything but temptation', that's also his weakness...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, just leave an island. Whether he can or can't, that is a core dilemma for him because he's being ripped back and forth by this prophecy that says the boy will be his undoing and the fact that the boy is his blood and what are his priorities?" Horowitz said.
- Neal (Michael Raymond-James) is still a key player, but more often than not his presence may be felt rather than seen. "Neal is very important to these characters who are behaving in certain ways under the [assumption] that he's dead," Kitsis said. But it won't be until episode three that we see him or his desperation to get back to Neverland again. Horowitz pointed out that "come hell or high water" Neal is driven to succeed in that area, and he is surrounded by "heroes that will support him," including Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) who "feels in debt to him."
However, characters like Rumple and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) are acting out of the belief that they have lost Neal forever. They may grieve, but they may not really move on. Not even if the shared moment on Hook's ship made you think otherwise.
"They think Neal is dead, and Hook is obviously a guy who likes the ladies. And as we saw last year when they climbed the beanstalk, Emma is probably someone who has captured his heart a little bit, but at the same time, we see that Neal is fighting like hell to get a second chance with her. And right now Emma is fighting like hell to get Henry. She's not someone who likes to let her walls down. Her heart's been broken too many times for her to be worried about dating right now," Kitsis said.
And Horowitz added that the focus of the show is not on romance at all right now but the bigger mission of finding Henry and keeping everyone safe in the process. "The relationship 'ship' thing is kind of this awesome thing that the fans bring to watching the show, but the story we're telling encompasses [all] of the relationships, romances or not, but the bigger emotional stories as well," he said.
- Episode 3.03 also introduces Once Upon a Time's twist on Tinkerbell. "She has a connection to some of our other characters that you'll see," Horowitz teased cryptically.
- The Charming family drama experienced on the boat was an indicator of even more contention to come. "For Snow and Charming, they realize in this moment that their daughter really doesn't look to them for parental guidance, and that's something hard to get, so they're realizing in a lot of ways they need to earn it. They see Emma thinking like 'You know, if I took that bean last year and just threw it on the ground and took Henry when I had the chance, none of this would have happened. And maybe good doesn't work. Maybe being good works in the enchanted forest, but it didn't work in Portland, and it certainly didn't work when I grew up.' And I think that what is hard for the Charmings is that they realize their daughter grew up without hope, and they have to instill it back in her. And how do you do that when your son is kidnapped and you're in a place that's making you confront your past? Because she has more in common with the Lost Boys than Snow and Charming," Kitsis said.
- Ariel (JoAnna Garcia) may not be The Little Mermaid you expect. The mermaids we already met in the season premiere were nothing like what you might expect Ariel to be from the cartoon of your childhood, but that's because Kitsis took a cue from the Peter Pan book when creating the mermaids that attacked Hook's ship. "They were only nice to Peter, and they were saucy, and we like our mermaids saucy. It's kind of symbolic of Neverland: it's not what you think it is," Kitsis said.
But Kitsis also didn't want fans to worry that Ariel would be as "really, really hot-tempered" as those mermaids by which she is surrounded. "We'll be seeing Ariel in episode six, which is called "Ariel," so slightly a spoiler title. It's our spin on Ariel. She's going to be different than the mermaids you see in [the] premiere," Kitsis said.
"I think the spirit of Ariel you'll see, that JoAnna Garcia plays really well, is the spirit of somebody who wants to see the world, who 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 definitely is similar to our Ariel [but] our Ariel focus is much more on her and her journey, and she also has a connection to one of our characters that we'll see."
And of course, with a slightly new spin on Ariel comes a slightly new spin on Prince Eric and Ursula, too. But while Kitsis and Horowitz didn't want to spoil the "how" behind the differences, they were excited to share that there is also a fork in Ariel's episode-- a very important fork that we'll come to understand in just a few weeks...
Once Upon A Time airs on ABC on Sunday nights at 8 p.m.
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