Villain is introduced. Villain does evil things. Villain’s background makes audience empathize. Villain isn’t so bad after all. It’s a complaint some Once Upon a Time fans have made in recent years after the show began introducing a new foe each half season, even if the complaint isn’t technically true—Peter Pan, for example, wasn’t redeemed.

Now the ABC fairy tale series has brought in three villains—Maleficent (Kristin Bauer Van Straten), Cruella de Vil (Victoria Smurfit) and Ursula (Merrin Dungey)—to join Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) in a quest to get their happy endings no matter the cost. Was this the writers’ way of getting away from that tried-and-true formula?

“Yeah,” executive producer Adam Horowitz tells EW. “We certainly don’t want to repeat ourselves. What we want to do is hopefully tell new stories for our characters. These villains were very interesting to us, not just because of who they were as villains, but because of the possibilities we saw of how they could connect to our characters and what they could reveal about our characters. What does their arrival mean for Regina? What does their arrival mean for Emma? What does it mean for Snow and Charming? We have some answers to those questions and we’re very excited about it.”

Once Upon a Time returns Sunday, March 1 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. Get more scoop on the Queens of Darkness here and here.

Episode Recaps

Once Upon a Time

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

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