The Evil Queen has her hands full when Once Upon a Time returns after a three-month break.
Let's recap: Regina (aka the Evil Queen) gave Emma and Henry a spell that infused them with good memories. After Regina destroyed the scrolls, the curse consumed Snow, Charming, Hook and the others as Storybrooke disappeared and they were brought back to fairy tale form in the Enchanted Forest. One year later, Emma and Henry's temporary Manhattan bliss is interrupted when Hook warns Emma that her family is in danger.
Sunday's episode, titled "New York City Serenade," picks up moments after and also marks the debut of a witchy villainess: The Wicked Witch (real name: Zelena, played by Rebecca Mader). As executive producer Adam Horowitz hinted to reporters in February, "the vengeance that she wants to enact is exactly what we're going to get into in the next episodes," while fellow EP Edward Kitsis called the Wicked Witch's issue with Regina "a global problem and an internal problem."
"This Wicked Witch is an enigma. We don't know who she is, why she's there, what she wants. We know that she's connected to someone but we don't know who that is -- and she really is an unknown," Lana Parrilla tells The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the March 9 hour. The Wicked versus Evil battle will be an interesting showdown to watch as Parrilla tells it: "They're both powerful women and they both possess magic and they're both masterful at it."
When Once Upon a Time returns, Regina isn't running on all cylinders, due in part to her loss of Henry. "She comes back to Fairy Tale Land with a broken heart," Parrilla says. "Their land is different -- it feels different for them. Regina is a very different Evil Queen."
But how different is the Evil Queen? Parrilla insists that that the shift follows one's natural trajectory in life. "If you go through experiences, you learn the lessons -- you're a different person. She's involved, she's matured. Her goal for so long was to kill Snow White and she tried very hard to do that for a very long [time]. [But] they've had to work as a family," Parrilla says. "She can't go back to who she once was."
With a one-year gap between the breaking of the curse and Manhattan, the events that took place during that time -- a lot of which even the fairy tale characters are unaware of -- will be divulged in the second half of the run. Though, as Horowitz and Kitsis alluded earlier this year, viewers should be patient.
"We're in present time with no memories all of a sudden," Parrilla says. "We don't know what happened in the last year. There's a lot that has happened in the last year that is still being discovered for all of us -- even for me as an actor." One mystery that is addressed is Ginnifer Goodwin's real-life pregnancy. "It's funny, you flash forward into Storybrooke and end up pregnant but [Snow and Charming] don't remember how they're pregnant," Parrilla says with a laugh.
Though it's been alluded to that Robin Hood may be Regina's one true love, their journey to get to that place of romance will be a long and bumpy one. "Initially Regina is very opposed to letting anyone else in her head. It seems when she does that, they take it away form her," Parrilla says. "I don't know if she necessarily trusts any longer, doesn't really know how to be happy. However, Robin Hood is not Regina. He does fancy her and there's a spark between them."
Parrilla likened their courtship to Romancing the Stone, Robert Zemeckis' 1984 action-adventure/romantic comedy with Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. "They're working together, they're fighting together but it's just all that frustrated, built-up tension and sexual attraction that they don't know how to be adult about," she says. "It will evolve from there but that's all I can tell you for now."
Once Upon a Time returns Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC.