Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season 6 premiere of Once Upon a Time. Read at your own risk!
Being the Savior is not all it’s cracked up to be; Emma Swan learned that the hard way during Once Upon a Time‘s sixth season premiere.
Facing an influx of new characters coming to Storybrooke from the Land of Untold Stories, along with the villainous Hyde (Sam Witwer) claiming ownership of the town, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) started to have visions of the future — a grim one that sees her fighting a hooded figure who ultimately gets the upper hand and killed her.
Hyde spotted Emma’s hand tremors — a side effect every Savior before her has faced — and sent Emma to follow the red bird that would lead her to an oracle. Like with every Savior before her, the oracle explained, the future she glimpsed cannot be prevented; the journey to get there may change, but the end result will always be the same. In short, Saviors don’t get happy endings.
So, is there no way to save Emma Swan? “That is a question we are posing,” executive producer Edward Kitsis says. “That’s what we’re going to explore this season.” Though, EP Adam Horowitz is quick to remind fans that OUAT “remains a show about hope.”
Now the question is: Who’s under the hood? As Hyde points out, as the Savior, Emma will want to help the new characters from the Land of Untold Stories, but one of them could ultimately be her killer. “Emma is going to wonder who that is,” Kitsis says. “We’re definitely going to be exploring that. It could be someone we’ve met before. I definitely would say it is somebody we’ve met before. Who’s in the hood is going to be a mystery. To tell you now would be like, ‘Here’s who shot J.R.‘”
(Side note: My theory is that the oracle is actually Jafar in disguise, the red bird looking far too similar to Iago from Aladdin. The visions may be a trick that causes Emma to second guess herself, leading to her being more vulnerable to the villain from Agrabah, who is actually under the hood.)
Emma’s fate hanging in the balance is all part of the show taking a deeper look at what happy endings really mean. “What we really wanted to do was get inside Emma’s head,” Kitsis says. “Six years ago, when we met her, the very first thing she did to Henry is she said, ‘I don’t believe any of this.’ She even denied having a kid. We’ve seen her grow and fight and [go on] all these travels. We thought, what would happen if you really did all this? Is it fair to return the happy endings to everyone else and be told yours doesn’t come? Would you still keep doing your job? Are you doing it out of the sake of duty or because you believe in it? What kind of role model are you? We really wanted to get into Emma’s head this year, in a character way, and really explore what it means to have this responsibility.”
For now, Emma’s keeping what’s in her head to herself, lying to Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) about her tremors and the visions. “It’s a lie that’s coming from what’s a good place in her mind, but he’s probably not going to feel that way when he finds out,” Horowitz says.
“The fun thing about the six seasons, at least as writers, is you get to revert to that,” Kitsis says. “When Emma has a problem, she reverts back to season 1 — wall goes up, ‘I’ll figure it out myself, I don’t need to tell anyone.’ That’s the journey for her and Hook, which is now that she said last year, ‘I love you,’ well if you’re letting that wall down and letting all the good things in, all the bad things are going to come in. It’s that push-pull that’s going to be driving them.”
Suffice it to say, keeping the truth from Hook and her family will start to weigh heavily on Emma. “It affects her in the way that that anytime you keep a lie from the people you love, it starts to eat at you,” Kitsis says. “What happens usually is one of two things: You have to come clean or you have to continually double down and it only make it worse. Emma will absolutely double down.”
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. Stay tuned for more OUAT news on the rest of the Storybrooke residents.