To say Once Upon a Time has made a splash among viewers this year would be a gross understatement. The show’s enchanting characters, rich mythology, and heartbreakingly artful storytelling has cast a spell on many — not the least of which are readers of my Spoiler Room column.
Last year, around the holidays, I treated you to a nice chat with Chuck creator Chris Fedak. This year, when trying to pick the subject of a special edition, the choice was simple.
Once Upon a Time closed out its first half with the death of a major character (RIP, Sheriff Graham), leaving us wondering how Emma and the town will cope without him. I couldn’t wait to find out what’s next, and judging by the pure volume of your questions, neither can you. So I hope you enjoy this chat with creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, where I pose many of the questions you all have been sending to me during the past couple of weeks. How will Emma react to the death of Graham? What will we see from Snow and Charming? And will there be more deaths? Read on for those answers and more.
Note: Spoiler Room will be back in its full, Q&A format next Friday, so send me your questions (firstname.lastname@example.org). And until then, Happy Holidays to you all!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So I have to start with the final haunting image of the last episode: Regina’s wall of hearts. How is that knowledge and visual going to launch us into the second half of the season?
ADAM HOROWITZ: We’re going to launch into the second half of the season through the eyes of someone else, which is Mr. Gold and Rumpelstiltskin. We’re going to actually find out how Rumple became Rumple.
EDWARD KITSIS: That said, the reveal of the vault is a very important thing for us in terms of moving forward in the season in that we wanted to send a very clear message that Regina knows what’s going on and has some very clear intentions in Storybrooke.
You also ended with the big death of Graham, which was terribly sad….
AH: We were just as sad. I think we’re even more sad.
EK: It’s funny. From the day the pilot was picked up, this was our plan for the character. It’s interesting, but part of the intent was to make you love him and we loved him very much. And the fact that the audience seems to have loved him means a lot to us, in that we feel like we succeeded on that front. If you don’t feel sad, then it was a failure of the execution of the story.
Trust me: No failure here. And I’ll add to that: I was thrown off a little by the fact that we spent much of the last episode learning Graham’s fairy tale story. That investment made me feel that he was safe, which, obviously, he wasn’t.
AH: That was all designed.
So in the next new episode (Jan. 8), are we going to see Emma’s reaction to his death and, not only that, but to him saying he “remembered” his life in Fairy Tale land?
AH: I think sometimes these things have a different effect and they manifest themselves differently. I think the way Emma is going to react to it is going to be much more of an emotional reaction than a mythological reaction.
EK: But Graham’s death hangs over the next episode in what we hope is a very deep way, and it reaches out and touches a lot of people in the town. And that’s what we explore in that episode.
AH: Exactly. And the next episode picks up a few weeks after. It’s not literally the next day.
We saw in the preview that Emma is going to be fighting to be the next sheriff. How’s that going to play out?
AH: Well, I think that is exactly — when you say “What’s her reaction to his death?” I think the thing she took away from episode 7 was that Graham died trying to free himself from the pocket of the mayor. Therefore, she’s not going to let that badge go to anyone but her. And I think the badge becomes her emotional connection to Graham. Emma is somebody who, in this stage of her life, has never had a home. She’s always gone from place to place and she’s always walled herself off from people because she doesn’t want to get hurt. So a situation like this sends her back more than it puts her forward because her walls come up.
I love that it becomes a symbol because that’s what so much of this first half has been about — Emma not understanding why the mayor has this incredible hold on people.
EK: That’s exactly what the episode is about.
So is Rumple going to take a much more active role in the second half of the season.
AH: He certainly steps forward in a bigger way than we’ve seen thus far — not just Rumple but Mr. Gold. Mr. Gold’s role in the town and his connection and effect on the characters around him is something that becomes a more important part of the show as we move forward.
EK: And we’re excited to see much more of his story in Fairy Tale Land and as we do that, we start to get more of a peek into what’s going on in Storybrooke as well as in Fairy Tale Land. And a few more characters pop up — some we’ve seen before and some we haven’t.
I hear that Rumple has a surprising connection to a character we’re going to meet for the first time.
AH and EK: Yes.
AH: Keep watching. We don’t want to ruin any surprises.
EK: It’s probably not that hard to figure out — for people who put a lot of thought into it and it they read the titles. But we have a really great mash-up with him coming up.
AH: But what we can say is that the first batch of episode after we return in January, there are a whole lot of characters we explore — Rumple and Mr. Gold being the first. Then we also are going to be meeting Hansel and Gretel, and getting a look into the origin of the magic mirror, and meeting Belle from Beauty and the Beast. So we’re excited to see them and to see how they mash-up with our existing characters.
Are we going to learn more about why Rumple seems to know more than the other characters about the curse?
AH: Absolutely. What he does or does not know about Storybrooke becomes very clear in the first bunch of episodes back.
Now, let’s jump to Dr. Whale because David Anders is great. What are we going to be seeing from him?
AH: We love Anders. We have a little break from him, but he comes back after a bunch of episode in the second half of the season.
EK: But who he is, is a big question.
AH: And it’s a question we have an answer for. When we’re going to get to it, we can’t say quite yet.
EK: But we’re definitely seeing more of Dr. Whale.
How is bringing Dr. Whale into Mary Margaret’s story a little bit — after their one night stand — going to effect what’s going on with her and David (Charming)?
AH: It’s not just Dr. Whale. It’s the entire situation — a relationship that’s starting from a place of huge obstacles. We have two people who’ve had an immediate attraction to each other, but one is just coming out of a coma and is married and the other one is Snow White and doesn’t know it. There’s a lot they have to overcome and Dr. Whale is just part of it. But one of the big stories we’re telling this season is about this true love and about how it can overcome anything. That’s one of the hopeful messages we’re trying to send with the show.
EK: There’s a big episode coming up for them.
AH: Yes. After we come back, we have Rumple, then Hansel and Gretel, then we have a Snow and Charming story. … But their story continues in all the other episodes as well. We’re either checking in with them in Fairy Tale Land or Storybrooke.
Speaking of their obstacles. I know that Anastasia Griffith, who plays David’s wife on the show, just booked a role on a BBC series, Copper. Does that mean she’s not going to be around long or did that fit into your existing plans for her?
AH: I think we already have a plan for her. Often there will be actors who work on other shows and ours ,so you end up working it out because you know enough in advance. Meghan Ory just did an episode of Supernatural. But we definitely have an arc for her. We’re going to get deeper in her story in the back half of the season.
So in sum, how is the back half of the season going to build upon what we’ve learned in the first half? Big picture-wise.
AH: In Fairy Tale Land, what’s great is that we’re going to be able to tell different chapters of stories we’ve set up. And we’re going to dig deeper into the characters. And in Storybrooke, we have stories developing because you’re starting to care more about Henry and Emma and Regina and Mary Margaret and David. And we’re going to dive deeper into their world and highlight that stuff a little more.
Have we seen the last death this season? Or can we expect more carnage?
AH: Boy, I don’t know. You never know. As Henry said to Emma in the pilot, the final battle will be begin. Unfortunately, with final battles, there are casualties.