These days, it seems like all the chatter about Once Upon a Time revolves around Emma Swan, formerly known as the Savior, going dark and, sure, the Season 5 stakes are high when the show returns Sept. 27. Emma sacrificed herself to the floating black goo gob of Dark One magic in the finale and promptly disappeared to another realm just as she and Hook seemed to commit to each other. Also Gold/Rumplestiltskin is in a coma, Zelena tricked Robin Hood into knocking her up, Regina’s happy ending came with a power zap, the sorcerer’s apprentice has one foot in the grave, and the author was power hungry and vengeful.
But even with the Dark Swan rising, executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis reminded reporters at a screening of the premiere episode last Friday that there’s always time for love in fairy tales. “While the stakes are super high with Emma, there is still room for fun,” Kitsis promised, adding that journeying to Camelot will put more than one couple in the mood for love. “Romance and adventure is inherent in Camelot as a mythological story that we all know. Being in this place of romance and adventure has an effect on each and every one of them.”
So what better time than now to take a look at how all the ships are shaping up:
Emma and Hook
Their timing sucks. Just as the sheriff (Jennifer Morrison) and her guyliner-wearing bad boy (Colin O’Donoghue) had vanquished all the obstacles that kept them from declaring their love (see meddling mermaid, Frozen foes, memories of a dead baby daddy, being manipulated into trapping powerful allies) and fully committing, Emma’s prophesized evil streak started to show its ugly head. Horowitz promises the game isn’t rigged.
“No one loves these characters more than us. We do not sit down and say, ‘Let’s piss off Captain Swan people today.’ There are no agendas,” Kitsis says. “The relationships that form or have obstacles are part of their journeys. At the end of last season they are ripped apart, but we see them right back together, dealing with the issue [in the premiere]. Her relationships with everybody are going to be tested. We love the idea of watching Hook fight for her, as well as [for] Regina and her family.”
Horowitz adds, “We also love the notion that two of the people that she has grown closest to over the years, Regina and Hook, have both battled darkness themselves, and their experiences can inform what she’s going through and either help or hinder her. The whys of their relationship will be revealed, but it’s a big part of the first half of this season. It’s going to take the 11 episodes to get there.”
The OUAT cast teases whether or not Emma and Hook’s love will last:
Snow White and Prince Charming
After battling amnesia, curses, and a classic villain whose baby they doomed in an attempt to save their own daughter, the OG Storybrooke 'ship will hit another bump in the road — and it might once again be a consequence of past wheeling and dealing. Horowitz reminds viewers that back in Season 2 it was established that “Mary Margaret and David have a past with someone from Camelot who [isn’t] there when they arrive, Lancelot. Mary Margaret was able to have a child because of Lancelot. We also know that David is going to become pretty close to Arthur. There’s going to be palace intrigue.”
Palace politics and the parental need to rescue their daughter from the dark side will also take a toll on Snowing (Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas). Horowitz continues, “We are going to see those two as desperate parents wanting to save their daughter, feeling powerless and not knowing who to trust. When you are married and there’s a really bad situation you can’t do anything about it, sometimes you turn on each other. We are trying to play that in as real a way as possible so we are going to see Snow and Charming fight in a way that we’ve never seen before, and we hope that the fact that they share a heart wins out.”
Rumpelstiltskin and Belle
Nobody knows the push-pull of hearting a bad boy better than Belle (Emilie de Ravin). The struggle is real. Rumbelle got married, but it wasn’t long before she realized that he’d given her a fake dagger to falsely gain her trust and he would always choose power and magic over love. She had seemingly kicked the Dark One (Robert Carlyle) to the curb and then across the town line — even briefly flirting with Will — but his heart failure and eventual comatose state has weakened her resolve once again. In the premiere, she is holding vigil at his bedside. “It is important to note that Belle cares what is happening to Rumple, but that doesn’t mean that all is forgiven or that everything that came before doesn’t need to be dealt with,” Kitsis says. “This is a new chapter with new obstacles and a new set of issues the two of them are going to have to deal with.”
But Horowitz adds, “When something really horrible happens to someone, you tend to push pause and make sure they’re OK, and then you can go back to be mad at them.”
Not wanting her concern to sideline her from another adventure, the creators will introduce the iconic Beauty and the Beast rose as a mystical life monitor. “The Blue Fairy says she is too useful to sit on the sidelines, so this will let you know if he is OK. But you need to go on an adventure and do something,” Horowitz says. “My favorite Belle is the one [who] is strong, and we are going to see that strength this year.”
The cast on what’s next for Rumbelle and Snowing in Season 5:
Regina and Robin Hood
Three’s company, but four’s a crowd. Outlaw Queen (Lana Parrilla and Sean Maguire) may have discovered Zelena’s (Rebecca Mader) treachery and imprisoned her in the depths of the hospital with a cuff prohibiting her from casting spells, but not before the Wicked Witch made a baby with her sister’s bae and put an asterisk on Regina’s happy ending with Robin. Regina, now fighting for the forces of good, can’t exactly take it out on the half-Hood baby, so she’s forced to let Zelena come to term. It also turns out that they need her magic to open a portal to get to Emma, so not even the Camelot quest will provide alone time for the new couple. In fact, it will likely be hormonally charged.
“Pregnancy has changed [Zelena] but not necessarily for the better, and that’s pretty scary,” Horowitz says. “We explore her pregnancy and what happens…”
Then he adds, “I’d be disappointed if I didn’t see a baby. I’m sure it wouldn’t happen during sweeps.”
Lana Parrilla spills on Regina’s “challenging” love life in Season 5:
Mulan and Aurora or…
Back in Season 3, Mulan (Jamie Chung) revealed that she had fallen in love with Princess Aurora (Sara Bolger) during their quest to find the missing Prince Phillip. But when Aurora dropped a return bomb — that she and her royal were expecting — and Chung became a regular on the short-lived series Believe, writers put a pin in the plot twist by having Mulan join Robin Hood’s Band of Merry Men to spare herself the pain of being around the happy couple.
With Mulan’s previously announced return to the fairy tale fold, which will span multiple episodes during this season, Horowitz and Kitsis teased that a same-sex relationship will be featured this year. “We know that community has been a big supporter of the show, and we would love to be able to tell a love story that reflects that,” Kitsis says.
“We want the show to reflect the world as it is now. It’s something we want to do this year. It’s due and important to do,” adds Horowitz before throwing in quickly: “Whether that’s going to be with any particular character, we’re not going to say.”
The ambiguous qualifier could mean any number of things, including Mulan meets someone new, more LGBT characters will be introduced, the storyline will focus on Sleeping Warrior but they will try to throw fans off the scent, or maybe someone we are already familiar with will have a change of heart. Come to think of it, Horowitz did mention that “King Arthur and David are going to bro out” while the gang is visiting Camelot. “They are going to have a bromance unlike any other. We are going to see a reawakened hero.” We jest, of course, but we’d also bet money that fan fiction of this ilk already exists.
Henry and ?
When Hook enlists the savior’s son-turned-author to help him with a plan his mothers likely wouldn’t approve of, Henry (Jared Gilmore) jumps at the chance, announcing that he can make his own choices now that he’s “grown up.” We assume that he, as a self-proclaimed adult, will be more interested in chicks than comics and broken clock towers. Horowitz confirms this single is ready to mingle. “He absolutely can try [to start dating]. I would watch the second episode, where we might meet Henry’s first crush. You can’t go to Camelot and not fall in love.”
Once Upon a Time returns Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. on ABC.