Jack Rowand/ABC
May 13, 2013 at 04:27 AM EDT

[Obvious Note: Spoilers for Once Upon a Time‘s second season finale — “And Straight On Till Morning” — follow!]

Far-off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, that guy from Can’t Hardly Wait – Once Upon a Time‘s second season had it all, plus an action-packed finale that sent a sextet of major characters careening into the uncharted waters of Neverland. Want to know more about how the show’s writers planned this epic conclusion — as well as their thoughts on the season as a whole? You’re in luck: EW got the whole story straight from Once‘s co-creators-slash-showrunners, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. [UPDATE: Here’s our full recap of the finale.]

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How long have you been planning to incorporate Peter Pan into the show? I remember hearing last year that you had to work out a few rights issues first.

EDWARD KITSIS: Honestly, the whole first year, we wanted to do Neverland, and we never could because of the rights issues — which seemed weird, because Disney had a Peter Pan movie, and they had a show called Jake and the Neverland Pirates. We don’t know how or why, but they figured it out. When we finished season 1, we got the go-ahead before we did what we call “mini-camp” — in between seasons, we take two weeks, three weeks, and just kind of blue sky the season. We learned this on Lost. [Both Kitsis and Horowitz wrote for ABC’s mystical drama.] That’s when we came up with our Neverland.

Initially, did you have different plans for how you wanted to use Pan?

KITSIS: We knew we wanted to do Hook first. The first idea we had was that Rumpelstiltskin was the crocodile. We talked about, “Why would these two hate each other? What is the thing that could come between them?” And we both realized, “A woman.”

One of the finale’s biggest surprises is that Rumpelstiltskin seems to have tangled with Pan before.

KITSIS: He absolutely knows who Peter Pan is. In true Mr. Gold/Rumpel style, he knows more than Greg and Tamara.

ADAM HOROWITZ: And there’s certainly the implication that there’s a history there, one we’re eager to unfold.

Neverland is a mysterious island filled with mysterious people who kidnap boys for mysterious reasons. The whole thing seems like a callback to another show you two used to work on.

HOROWITZ: Uh, I don’t know what you’re referring to.

KITSIS: It’s funny — I didn’t think of that.

HOROWITZ: We honestly hadn’t thought of that, really, until you brought it up.

KITSIS: Peter Pan is my favorite. I love the idea that all the Lost Boys were orphans, and that they wanted Wendy to be their mom. In episode 21, Wendy painted this great portrait of what Neverland is, but of course —

— it’s actually kind of bleak and sad.

KITSIS: Things are fun for a day, but you need your family. You need an anchor in your life. And so I think we’re seeing that Neverland is a very seductive place for children. But now that you say that, the subtext…

HOROWITZ: You can take the writers out of Lost.

KITSIS: But you can’t take the Lost out of the writers.

HOROWITZ: But we can promise you, no smoke monster in Neverland.

We’re not going to find Tinker Bell at the bottom of a hatch?

KITSIS: No, but Ben Linus might be there.

He’s kind of like a fairy tale villain.

KITSIS: He is! He’s the man behind the curtain.

HOROWITZ: Don’t forget, Ben Linus started as Henry Gale from Wizard of Oz.

KITSIS: We’re really not bringing in Benjamin Linus, because he has a very successful TV show [CBS’s Person of Interest, starring ex-Lostie Michael Emerson]. Before people get excited — it’s a joke!

So now we’ve got the Neverland stuff, we’ve got Bae and Mulan in Fairy Land, we’ve still got Storybrooke — how do you plan to cross between worlds next season? Will episodes still include flashbacks?

HOROWITZ: At the end of season 2, we’ve placed our core group in a very difficult situation. Some of them are on the boat; some of them are behind in Storybrooke; some of them are in another land. So the question is, how do we best continue telling their stories? Sometimes that will require flashbacks; sometimes it won’t. We want to continue to expand the storytelling modality of the show, like we did in season 2, where we were able to do things like flash back to Emma for the first time, or see time during the curse.

KITSIS: We are not going to be doing episodes next season that have five different worlds in them. We definitely plan not to overly confuse or complicate the show. It’s about simplifying.

NEXT: New characters, the show’s darker tone, and that pesky prophecy

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Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.
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