By Natalie Abrams
April 09, 2017 at 09:00 PM EDT
ABC/Jack Rowand
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Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Sunday’s episode of Once Upon a Time. Read at your own risk!

Gideon’s true plans for Storybrooke spilled out during Sunday’s episode of Once Upon a Time — and all signs point to the end as we know it.

Though Gideon (Giles Matthey) claimed he banished Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) to force Emma (Jennifer Morrison) to help him kill the Black Fairy (Jaime Murray), in actuality he was working for the Black Fairy because she has his heart. Nearly killing Emma via giant spider powered the infamous sword, allowing Gideon to create a breach in which the Black Fairy arrived — and with her comes the beginning of the Final Battle, as hinted at since the very beginning of the series.

“As we showed in the pilot, Emma was prophesied to come back and break the curse and the Final Battle would begin,” executive producer Edward Kitsis tells EW. “It appears we thought we had taken care of that, but it turns out that was not true.”

Though the residents of Storybrooke thought Emma had fulfilled her destiny as Savior many times over, this confrontation truly marks the end. “It’s all about the Final Battle, the final battle that Emma is clearly involved with and it’s life or death,” Josh Dallas says. “It’s a thing where Charming’s going to lose his daughter maybe, and so they’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen. [They’re] extremely worried. That’s what we’re pushing through, trying to get out of this sleeping curse, and trying to save her.”

Recalling that pilot prophecy, in which Rumple tells Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming their daughter will return 28 years later as the Savior and will have to fight the Final Battle, Dallas says: “At the time, they assumed that meant breaking the original curse. They didn’t realize that it meant this, and I think that’s something that Snow and Charming are struggling with. If they would have known that it was going to lead to this, maybe they wouldn’t have put her through that wardrobe.”

RELATED: Once Upon a Time stars in negotiations for potential season 7

They’re not the only ones dealing with fear about Emma’s well-being. “Regina, Emma, the Charmings, Hook, and even Zelena, they’re all a family, and they’re all very protective of one another,” Lana Parrilla says. “No one wants anything to happen to Emma, and if we hear that she’s going to face the most powerful evil fairy sorceress, everyone’s a bit terrified of what that outcome is going to look like, especially with Emma’s visions. She always saw herself getting killed, so everyone’s going to band together to really prevent that from happening. It’s really about strategic planning. How and when is this going to happen? When is the Final Battle beginning, and what do we need to do in order to prepare ourselves and save the people we love?”

With Once Upon a Time charging full speed toward the Final Battle, all involved say the danger is even more heightened than we’ve ever seen on the show before. That’s all thanks to the Black Fairy, the personification of evil, who is the true architect of the Dark Curse. “We always have high stakes, but I feel that the stakes are a little higher because this particular villain is the creator of the Dark Curse,” Goodwin says. “I don’t think any of us had really contemplated its origins until this storyline was interwoven. It does kind of give you that Oh sh— feeling.”

The larger problem is that the Black Fairy is very much an unknown entity — even Rumple (Robert Carlyle) doesn’t know much about her since she abandoned her son at a young age. “She is, by far, the most powerful force of evil we’ve ever encountered,” Parrilla says. “We know that she is Rumple’s mom, so we can only imagine how much darkness she possesses, and she probably taught him everything he knows somehow, but I think she’s also unknown, and she’s a new character for us to experience. So the residents of Storybrooke, especially our heroes, are a bit taken back, and not quite sure how to stop her.”

“She is way more powerful [than past villains],” Kitsis concurs. “Also, she’s Rumple’s mother, so there’s an emotional connection. The Black Fairy is almost a different level because she is almost no longer human; she’s part fairy. She’s the only fairy that’s fallen from fairyland. In a lot of ways, we look at her as the devil, in a sense.”

RELATED: Once Upon a Time: Inside that surprise happy ending

The Black Fairy’s impending arrival also caused Henry’s (Jared Gilmore) authoring power to go into overdrive during Sunday’s episode. Regina was therefore forced to turn to previous author Isaac (Patrick Fischler), who revealed Henry’s powers are taking over because there’s only one more chapter left in the book. “It means that we’ve reached the end of the very first book,” Kitsis says. “At a certain point, people say, ‘When are they going to get their happy endings?’ By the end of this year, some people’s stories are going to be completed — whether they’re good or bad, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Interjects EP Adam Horowitz: “‘Completed’ is a loaded term.”

“Yeah, you completed high school and that was the end of [your] high school, but then there was the next chapter,” Kitsis adds. “For us, we feel like after six seasons, there’s a chapter of people’s lives that we’re ready to wrap up, but there’s a big future, like with anybody, and a transition. We’re excited if we get an opportunity, and a season 7, to show everyone that.”

Suffice it to say, the end being nigh doesn’t sit well with our heroes. “Everyone’s a bit baffled by the whole concept because we don’t really know what that means,” Parrilla says. “And us actors don’t really know what that means. We know that this story is coming to an end, but we don’t know how it’s ending, and I think what’s unknown is also what’s so scary about it.”

But the prospect of a true happy ending is not necessarily scary to everyone in Storybrooke. “Something Snow has been contemplating this entire season is a return to normalcy,” Goodwin says. “Despite the way it may seem, she doesn’t crave drama in her life, and I think that she’s really, really ready to have a daily routine, and some peace and quiet, and she’s prepared for a bit of boredom. I think it would do her some good.” Hence, Snow doesn’t have any fear in terms of what this could mean. “But there is, maybe in some people’s regard, a little bit of delusion about how much she focuses on the silver lining,” Goodwin notes.

For his part, Charming has been too busy dealing with the potential impending doom that he hasn’t considered the silver lining. “He’s so wrapped up in the fact that this Final Battle is imminent,” Dallas says. “He’s so focused on that, and trying to deal with his own guilt of knowing that this was going to happen, and maybe not taking steps before to prevent it for Emma’s life. But then also realizing, at the same time, that if none of this happened, Emma wouldn’t be who she is, so I think he’s just super focused on that. I don’t think he’s actually really thought about that or let that sink in.”

Ultimately, though, it’s Emma who the pressure is on as the end nears. “Emma is going to go through every emotion that you would,” Kitsis says. “There’s the warrior part of her that wants to save her family, there’s the human part of her that doesn’t want to be the Savior and just wants a normal life, and doesn’t understand why she has to be the one to deal with it — and I think she’s going to run the gamut of all those emotions.”

“The final battle has been this threat that’s loomed over us for six seasons now,” Morrison says. “Everyone has a heightened sense of concern because this feels like a very dire situation, and it’s starting to feel more and more like Emma’s going to have to do this by herself, because Snow and Charming are still in this sleeping curse, and they’re realizing that they’re at the end of the book. They’re like, ‘What does that mean, the end of the book? Does the end of the book mean a happy ending? Does the end of the book mean she dies?'”

We’ll find out when Once Upon a Time airs Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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