The conclusion of Sunday’s Once Upon a Time premiere gave fans a twist: Emma was transported to fairy tale land, along with her newly realized mother, Snow White.
EW.com talked to the Once Upon showrunners and actress Jennifer Morrison (Emma) about this development a few weeks ago. Though we haven’t seen the next episode, I think we’re all safely assuming that Mulan, who found the duo unconscious, isn’t going to slaughter the show’s stars in their sleep (as stunning of a plot twist as that would be). Don’t worry, we’re not revealing what happens to Emma in fairy tale land or how long she’s there, but the producers and cast make some interesting big picture points about the advantages of having a stranger in a strange land this season.
“We can do fairy tale land stories this year with a new element that can react to things in a way we haven’t been able to do before,” said executive producer Adam Horowitz.
In other words, putting the show’s most grounded character into the fantastical world alters the show. Emma is the Once Upon resident skeptic, a stand-in for the audience. Emma has a fresh, and often funny, perspective on things that the fairy tale land characters take for granted. Plus, the fish-out-of-water tale is one of the most timeless tropes in storytelling, it just works.
“There’s also the emotional level for us of having a mother and daughter together,” Horowitz points out.
Morrison likewise says the premiere twist gives Emma a fresh direction for season two. After her character grudgingly accepted the truth about Storybrooke last season, now she’s got a bizarre new reality to comprehend. “There’s a whole new reason for her to be skeptical because she’s been dumped into a land that makes no sense to her,” Morrison says.
Whereas now that the Storybrooke characters remember their pasts, in a way they’re fish out of water too in the modern world — albeit less so, since they also remember their “cursed” past.
So in both worlds, Once Upon is setting up some cultural clashes.
Once Upon returned Sunday night to very strong ratings, bringing in 11 million viewers.