Now that Emma has become the new Dark One, there are so many burning questions Once Upon a Time fans have about the new season! Has she gone full-on evil? Can Hook save her? What really happened to Rumple after Emma became the Dark Swan? Ahead of Once Upon a Time’s Comic-Con panel on Saturday, EW caught up with executive producers Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis to get some juicy scoop on what’s in store:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Will there be a time jump when the show returns?
ADAM HOROWITZ: You will see the direct aftermath of where the show left off.
What can you tell us about Emma (Jennifer Morrison) as the Dark One? What are her powers like and has she gone full on evil?
EDWARD KITSIS: The right answer is you’re going to see both. We intend to show you how she would become dark and what would happen if she was.
HOROWITZ: It’s a slow burn as opposed to all of a sudden.
Is there a part of her that’s fighting her dark urges, or has she succumbed to it?
KITSIS: Every part of her is fighting her dark urges. Really, the question we want to ask in the premiere is: We saw Rumple and his weakness, and we saw the Dark One before him literally trick Rumple (Robert Carlyle) into killing him so he no longer had to have this curse on him, so what happens when that mixes with the lightest magic of all, and will Emma have the strength to fight it?
What differences will she have from the Dark One that was Rumple? Does she make deals like Rumple?
HOROWITZ: How a Dark One manifests is specific to each person who takes on the mantle. Emma will have her own unique spin on what it means to be a Dark One.
KITSIS: We’re going to get really into the Dark One mythology. One thing that we think about is once you become the Dark One, it allows you to have the freedom to have no inhibitions.
HOROWITZ: You become the ultimate version of yourself, but on the dark side.
What are you guys calling her?
KITSIS: We had a lot of debate about it. Since she is the Dark One and she is Emma Swan, we felt like, how could we not go with Dark Swan, but deep down in my heart, I still like Black Swan best. Dark Swan is the one for us.
What are some of the themes you’re going to be exploring this season?
KITSIS: We are going to be exploring hubris. We are going to be exploring love and what happens when you use it as a weapon and what are the things that it makes you do. In the past, we’ve said love is the most powerful magic of all. It makes you do many things you normally wouldn’t think you would. That’s a lot of what we’re going to be exploring.
The first thing that pops into my head: Because of Emma’s love for her family, she might want to get vengeance on certain people who have done bad things to her family in the past.
HOROWITZ: This is all part and parcel of the darkness that she’s going to be wrestling with.
KITSIS: Vengeance is a very low hanging fruit you want to grab.
How is Henry (Jared Gilmore) dealing with Emma being the Dark One?
KITSIS: Henry starts out the way he always has. Henry’s has the heart of the truest believer. He believes in his mom, believes she will fight it and stop it, and he will save her like always.
Who possesses Emma’s dagger at the moment?
HOROWITZ: That’s an excellent question. The possession of the dagger, who has it, where it remains and how that works is something we get into pretty quickly.
KITSIS: In the premiere we do.
What’s Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming’s (Josh Dallas) main drive at the beginning of the season, convincing her to be good or solely focusing on tracking Merlin down?
KITSIS: Really it’s a combination of both in a sense that the quest for Merlin is the quest to free Emma. For us, Emma, as we’ve seen since she united everyone, everyone was on their own side. We feel like when they got to Neverland, Emma finally united them and became the leader. Now, what happens when you have to save the leader and they’re not leading anymore?
When Rumple became the Dark One, he didn’t suddenly disappear, so are we going to get an explanation of where Emma has gone off to?
KITSIS: We’re going to show you that. I’d say the main difference is that Rumple killed the previous Dark One, so he immediately became one. What we saw was the Apprentice take the darkness out of Rumple and then it was uncontrollable, so it’s a whole different way of receiving the Dark One curse.
How is Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) dealing after Emma finally said she loves him and then became the Dark One and disappeared?
KITSIS: We’re picking up with him in a state of, “I’ve come too far to not be happy now.” He’s going to go and save Emma come hell or high water.
Is Emma your villain for the first half of the season or will someone else have that mantle?
HOROWITZ: I would say it’s not as simple as that, but she certainly is villainous. There’s certainly her darkness to contend with.
KITSIS: There will be new characters that come in and out. One of the things we really love is that Emma becoming the Dark One has really focused it back on that family dynamic again.
HOROWITZ: The Charming family is in crisis. That’s the big driving element of the beginning of the season.
KITSIS: And the Charming Family now extends to a lot more people, I would say.
What can you tell us about these new characters, Merlin, Arthur and Guinevere?
HOROWITZ: We’re doing our Once Upon a Time spin on these characters. There will hopefully be things familiar to the iconography to all the characters from Camelot that you’ve known about in a way that’s hopefully unique and fun. How they intersect with our characters and their dilemma and their quest is where a lot of the fun hopefully comes.
Now that Emma has taken his place, how does not having the darkness inside of Rumple change him?
KITSIS: Well, the last we left him, he was doing his Han Solo Carbonite impression, so the real question is: Will he ever wake up? That’s what we’re going to explore.
If he does wake up and if he is a good person again, is there a possibility for Belle and Rumple?
KITSIS: This is a show about hope, so to give up hope would be horrible, but that doesn’t mean it will be an easy path or a successful path.
You do have Rumple’s mother coming in. Is there anything you can tell us about her or what side she brings out in Rumple? [Editor’s note: It was confirmed at Comic-Con that Rumple’s mother is not appearing. The producers were actually casting for Brave‘s Merida and hoping to keep it under wraps. ]
KITSIS: I would say people will see very clearly in the premiere what we intend to do with that character.
The Wicked Witch (Rebecca Mader) and Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) are sticking around! Is there anything you can tease about the love triangle and what Regina is facing as Zelena and Robin’s baby is due to arrive?
HOROWITZ: I wouldn’t call it a love triangle. It’s a—
KITSIS: —love obstacle. It’s the annoying guest that won’t leave your house. They say they just need a place until they find an apartment, but they never find an apartment.
HOROWITZ: Obviously, Zelena’s presence presents many issues.
KITSIS: I would say it’s the guest who won’t leave, but instead of just eating your ramen, they’re trying to kill you.
So Zelena is not aiming for redemption then?
KITSIS: Well, she’s certainly not aiming for it when we see her.
HOROWITZ: No, that’s for sure.
KITSIS: There’s no fun in that.
HOROWITZ: The Wicked Witch is still wicked. I would say she’s pretty unrepentant about what she’s done at the start, which is not to say there’s not a tortured soul inside of he. We obviously have her to have some depth, but she has done some pretty horrific things. It’s created some issues that Robin and Regina have to deal with. Yeah, it’s not a love triangle.
Because Emma made it her goal to give Regina (Lana Parrilla) her happy ending, will Regina make it her mission to repay the favor?
KITSIS: I hope so, or else she’s really selfish.
Much like Hook and Emma’s relationship took a backseat as Emma tried to help Regina find her happy ending, is that going to be the case with Regina and Robin Hood’s relationship this season?
KITSIS: The one thing I know about Merlin is he’s tied into King Arthur, and the one thing I know about Arthur is he’s from Camelot, and if there’s one thing I know about Camelot is it’s a place for romance. As far as we’re concerned, all the couples will still be very active.
Since you scaled back on Michael Socha’s role as a series regular, does that mean we won’t be getting the story of him and Anastasia this year?
HOROWITZ: We hope to get to it. We hope to see Michael more. He’s not a regular anymore, but he’s still a part of the Once Upon a Time family and universe. We’d love to get to it.
KITSIS: We remain big fans. It is a large cast with a lot of people that are front and center.
How much will we be seeing of Maleficent (Kristin Bauer van Straten) and Lily (Agnes Bruckner) since we know she’ll be searching for her father, and Maleficent could also make an ally in the situation with Emma?
KITSIS: We intend to tell that story at some point this season. We set it up for a reason. That is one we are definitely intending to do. It’s not going to be in the first five, but that’s not to say that it might not be in the first five.
Is Lily’s father somebody we might recognize?
HOROWITZ: We don’t want to comment on his identity right now. It is a thread we left open for a reason. We look forward to exploring it.
Once Upon a Time returns Sunday, Sept. 27, at 8 a.m. ET on ABC.