Once Upon a Time Creators Tease Adoption Flashback Twists, Warn of Peter Pan's Resilience

Once Upon a Time Regina Adopts HenryAppropriate for the onset of the Yuletide season, “What child is this?” is one of the questions Regina (played by Lana Parrilla) will ponder this Sunday on Once Upon a Time (ABC, 8/7c), as we flash back to Storybrooke’s very early days and Mayor Mills’ growing desire to be a mom.

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“This [storyline] started last year in ‘Welcome to Storybrooke,’ when Regina met Owen,” Once cocreator Eddy Kitsis notes. “We realized that when she cast the curse [that transported the Enchanted Forest’s denizens to Maine], it created a hole in her heart. The curse was not fulfilling for her. She needed something more, something real.” And in spending time with uninvited Storybrooke guest Curt Flynn’s young son, “She realized that the love she was looking for was in a child.”

But can a wicked witch make for a mindful mom? (After all, baby Henry doesn’t look too content in the episodic photos that have circulated.) “Regina wasn’t always the Evil Queen,” series cocreator Adam Horowitz reminds. “There’s a woman inside of her with a heart, who has felt love and who has felt loss, and now she has a hole in her heart from casting this curse. How does she go about filling that hole? And can she do it with Henry?”

Kitsis says that another question to perhaps be raised, if only because the always resourceful Mr. Gold aka Rumplestiltskin has his manipulative mitts in the mix, is: “Does Regina realize who Henry’s [birth] mom is?”

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All told — including as teased in this week’s Ask Ausiello column — “there are some twists and turns in the saga of how Regina adopted Henry,” Horowitz affirms. “A couple of ‘What ifs?’ are posed.” And in visiting that defining, emotional juncture in Regina’s life, Lana Parrilla “killed it,” Kitsis raves.

“One of the reasons we’re showing [this flashback] right now, in our 52nd episode or whatever, is to see in Neverland how far this woman has come,” Kitsis explains. “You see what she was like as a vengeful Evil Queen, and you see her now in present day as Henry’s mom.”

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Speaking of Neverland: Henry is, as Miracle Max might put it, “mostly dead” — or as the Once bosses say, “in pretty rough shape” after donating his ticker to Peter Pan for misguided reasons. As the coming hour unspools, “The drive to get him back to himself is what’s fueling our folks on the island,” says Horowitz. But despite their boldest best efforts to right this horrible wrong, Kitsis must warn, “Peter Pan does not go down easy.”

Once Upon a Time’s fall finale airs Sunday, Dec. 15.

Want more scoop on Once, or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.