This Sunday at 8/7c, ABC’s Once Upon a Time conjures its midseason finale — as in the last episode you will see until March 9, as a result of the ambitous new split-season scheduling. As such, the stakes and the drama are especially high.
When last we tuned in, Emma, Regina et al discovered that Peter Pan had A) swapped bodies with kindly Henry, B) used his shadow to dispatch with the Blue Fairy and C) pinched the Dark Curse Regina used years ago to power down the Enchanted Forest and transplant its denizens to Storybrooke, Maine, sans memories.
If the puckish lad casts the curse anew, Rumplestiltskin has noted, there would be no way to undo it, seeing as the “true love” loophole would not be woven into it. That’d leave everyone stuck in time unaware of their true selves, with Pan to lord over them in this “new Neverland.”
Having failed in his original scheme — to steal the heart of the truest believer (aka Henry) — “Pan has regrouped and come up with a Plan B that is probably even more devastating and intense,” series cocreator Adam Horowitz tells TVLine. “It’s going to test all of our heroes to see if and how they can stop him, and at what cost.”
Because even though Pan is playing in a brand-new sandbox far from the Neverland realm, his particular brand of evil levels the playing field — and then some. Notes cocreator Eddy Kitsis, “We learn very quickly that he is a villain unlike any we’ve faced, and there is no ‘home field advantage’ for us.”
Whether the Storybrooke heroes can somehow thwart Pan’s plan and save their sleepy burg, the show bosses aren’t saying. But as the Neverland arc’s final hour unfolds, you can count on closure on assorted fronts.
“The midseason finale is meant to tie up all of the arcs and loose ends from the first half of this season, while also endeavoring to carry over the story into what we are hoping is a compelling new mode of storytelling in the second half,” says Horowitz. Adds Kitsis: ”By the end of Episode 11, most of the loose ends are tied up. Like, ‘Does Tink get her wings back?’ — all these questions will be answered. It will feel very much like a season finale, and we are very much setting up what will be a season premiere in March.”
As for what that second “non-stop” run of 11 episodes will look like, Horowitz previously told TVLine that it won’t be a deep-dive into a new realm a la Neverland, but instead a narrative that is primarily focused, Season 1-style, on Storybrooke and The Enchanted Forest. “It’s a different kind of story,” he says, “that is a direct outgrowth from the climax of the winter finale and the fallout that comes from it.”
Although the split-season scheduling — which ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and (to a lesser degree) Revenge are also trying out this year — is something the Once creators desired, did it come with cons as well as pros? Did crafting a midseason cliffhanger that must bridge a 12-week (!) hiatus bring with it an extra-heavy burden? “It does,” Kitsis allows, “but as writers, it frees you up, because you’re not trying to stretch one story through 22 episodes. You’re not coming back in the middle [of the season] trying to dance until you can ramp up for the end.”
So as the midseason finale comes to a climax, viewers can count on new questions to be raised and the threat of a new-yet-familiar evil — an iconic, yet-to-be-identified villainess played by Lost‘s Rebecca Mader — to be introduced (via a new promo following the episode). Hopefully, it’s all tantalizing enough to reel people back in come March 9.
“We have some intriguing surprises in the season finale,” Horowitz teases. “We’ve obviously been building to this all season, with the mindset of using it as a launching pad for the second half of the season. We hope the audience digs in and sticks with us!”
In the latest Spoiler Alert!, we discuss Once Upon a Time’s Rapunzel casting controversy