By Natalie Abrams
Updated November 13, 2015 at 12:00 PM EST
Credit: Eike Schroter/ABC

The battle for what ultimately amounts to be the ability to free Emma from the darkness will come to a head in Sunday’s special two-hour episode of Once Upon a Time.

With Merlin (Elliott Knight) now under Arthur’s (Liam Garrigan) control, the Sorcerer gives Emma (Jennifer Morrison) a pretty hefty ultimatum: turn over the Dark One’s dagger or your family will perish. “Arthur has a real economical ability to pinpoint a character’s weakness extremely quickly and his doing that will put one of the Charmings in grave danger,” Ginnifer Goodwin teases.

The threat leads to a showdown of epic proportions between Emma and our heroes against Arthur, Merlin and Zelena (Rebecca Mader). “It’s a detour from the plan,” Morrison says. “It’s not what Emma was expecting, and she now has to adapt, adjust and make a new turn in order to also save her family and stay on track with her plan.” But her plan, whatever it may be — it involves Hook (Colin O’Donoghue), according to this sneak peek — will have severe consequences that lead to a shocking revelation about what really happened in Camelot.

Though the situation is dire, it’s a great opportunity to see the Charmings alongside their daughter — something many fans have expressed this season is lacking. “I didn’t think of us as not having a lot of interaction,” Goodwin says. “The Charmings have just been trying to navigate her and figure out how to best support her. They never feel threatened by her. For them, it’s a matter of helping her get what she wants and trusting her to do that in an intelligent way, and also finding a way to save her without frankly threatening her.”

“It’s very complicated, because they need to save their daughter,” Josh Dallas adds. “They need to try to get her back into the light somehow.”

Credit: Eike Schroter/ABC

Back in Storybrooke, the situation is made more complicated when Zelena’s pregnancy suddenly accelerates and the baby arrives, causing strife for Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Robin Hood (Sean Maguire). “Regina really establishes the rules,” Parrilla says. “This is how it’s going to be, you can see your daughter, but under strict supervision. One of us has to be present, meaning Regina or Robin Hood. There is still a huge level of distrust when it comes to Zelena and Regina. I just don’t think she feels that Zelena is going to make the right choices, and she doesn’t. She wants that baby to be wicked and she’s going to teach it how to be wicked. She’s going to take it and run back to Oz. Regina and Robin Hood are going to do everything to stop that.”

“Robin being a bit of a family guy, he’s very concerned about the fact that you’ve got this dreadful, all but evil person who seems to be without redemption,” Maguire says. “It’s going to be a very difficult season for them to figure out what the best solution is. Also, the show’s about hope. We’re trying to believe there can be some redemption for Zelena, but we’ll have to wait and see if there’s anything in there worth saving. The difficulty for Robin is she’s the mother of the child. Under normal circumstances, he’d break his code and kill her, but then you’re killing the mother of your baby and that’s getting a bit biblical.”

But, in this case, Parrilla doesn’t think Zelena will change her ways. “Which makes me sad,” says the actress. “It’s like Cruella [Victoria Smurfit] — she was unredeemable as well, and she ended up dying as a villain. I don’t know what Zelena’s fate is, but I would hope that she could come around and they could be sisters. That’s a happy ending, and I just don’t know if they’re meant to have one.”

Credit: Jack Rowand/ABC

Meanwhile, the two-hour outing also features a big Merida (Amy Manson) storyline as she teams up with Mulan (Jamie Chung) and Ruby (Meghan Ory) to avenge her father’s death. “Merida returns to DunBroch to find out from the witch from Brave that her father owes a debt to the witch,” executive producer Edward Kitsis says. “It is up to Merida to repay it or lose her kingdom. This will be her first challenge as queen, so she enlists an old friend, who is Mulan. We’re going to get a flashback about her and how she became a warrior and how she knows Mulan.”

Fortunately, for those who have been missing Mulan and Ruby — or MulanRouge, as fans like to call them — “We’re also going to get where Mulan has been for the last year,” Kitsis says. “They’re going to team up with Ruby and we’re going to see where Ruby has been for the last year, because we know she has not been in Storybrooke.”

Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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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