Two Lost boys will serve up plenty of Lost Boys as Once Upon a Time opens Season 3 this Sunday at 8/7c.
When last we tuned into the ABC drama, Emma, the ‘rents, Rumple, Hook and Regina had set sail for Neverland in search of Henry, who had been whisked into a portal by Tamara and Greg. The action picks up — save for a brief detour to 11 years ago — with the unlikely allies splashing down in Peter Pan’s ‘hood, well wary of what awaits them.
Series cocreators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis gave TVLine a deep dive into the new season, previewing a collision of egos, overdue family bonding, romantic detours and an overall exploration of character that some feel eluded Season 2.
TVLINE | Do you feel, that if you had any regrets about Season 2, that it was at times quite plot-driven and not as character-driven as you might have liked? Is that anything you were conscious of as you went into Season 3?
ADAM HOROWITZ | We are always conscious of trying to make it character-driven and not plot-driven, and if Season 2 appeared that way to some, that’s certainly something we don’t want to have happen with Season 3. Our intention going into Season 2 was to make it character-driven and to make the plot service the characters, but can we do better? We always try to. With each season, we’ve tried to be ambitious, and I think we’ve succeeded with some things and fallen short with others. We just have to look at the “game tape” of what we’ve done, learn what worked best and build on that.
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TVLINE | I’m thinking of, for example, Regina. Last year, she seemed to be doing a lot of stuff to service the plot.
EDDY KITSIS | It’s unfortunate then that it came off that way, because what we tried to do was treat “magic and being good” like the metaphor of an alcoholic. So in the first nine episodes, Regina was staying clean for Henry, resulting in her saving Snow White’s life, which is a cold day in hell for her — and then she’s not invited to dinner. And when she is invited to dinner, she looked across the room and realized these people may tolerate her, but they will never forgive her. So when her mom comes with “the bottle,” she takes the short way out. And in the end when she says, “Everyone thinks I’m the Evil Queen; let me die as Regina,” what we were setting up was a person who kept going back and forth and at the end of the day realized they didn’t want to be remembered for something horrible they did. People might have thought she was flip-flopping, but for us it’s like quitting cigarettes — you go on and off until you can finally put it behind you. But in Season 3, she’s going to embrace who she is a lot more.
HOROWITZ | If anything, the challenge for the show has been and continues to be taking the mythology that involves all of these characters — the stuff that kind of comes out as “plot” — and making it digestible in as smooth a way possible through character, through the moments they share and wherein they reveal themselves.
KITSIS | Regina might have been flip-floppy, but she was not one of the ones we thought was “plotty.”
HOROWITZ | We were trying to take a dive with Regina and we think we got her where she needed to be. Maybe the dive was a little splashier than it should have been, but for where we wanted to go, we now are in a position to do some new things with her in Season 3.
TVLINE | As Season 3 takes shape, how will it differ from 2 in theme, in tone…?
HOROWOTZ | I’ll say one thing: On the character front, something that you brought up and we’re very conscious of, we are really making the effort to peel back the layers on these characters. That’s one of the reasons we’re embarking on this Neverland story. As you’ll see particularly in the first half of this season, a lot of time is spent in Neverland with the six people on that ship, and what they encounter there and what Neverland itself does to them helps shine a new light on them.
TVLINE | What questions or issues are you aiming to raise or explore with this journey?
KITSIS | Neverland, for us, is a place where you don’t grow up, and since you have no future, we feel like Neverland makes you confront your past. There was a certain speed to Season 2, and there were big issues raised that we didn’t catch our breath in enough time to explore — like, Emma questioning why she has magic. And Emma now knows that Mary Margaret and David are her parents, but does she really look at them like parents? And what is it like for them? What does it mean to be a mom as opposed to saying you’re a mom? And Regina was told by Greg Mendel, “You’re a villain, you don’t get a happy ending,” so she wonders if that’s true. We want to take the time to explore these big character things that we set up in Season 2. What I love about Neverland is it’s like you’re in the jungle. It’s magical and yet at the same time dark and sexy.
TVLINE | As the six search this land that is foreign to at least some of them, will they be splintered into different “camps” a la Lost’s Jack and Locke? Will there be torn allegiances?
HOROWITZ | There will certainly be hurdles to be cleared in order for them to rescue Henry — if they do in fact manage to rescue Henry. We’ll see different alliances, and we’ll see splits occurring… different permutations of things.
KITSIS | You have six people on the boat who all think they’re a leader. At the end of Season 2, they were all united with, “Let’s go get Henry,” but when they face their first obstacle, you can’t have six leaders.
TVLINE | Right. Like, if you ask me to choose between Charming, who you know has the right priorities, and Hook, who might have a tactical advantage, I’m in a pickle.
KITSIS | Exactly. And if you’re Regina, who thinks she’s smarter than both of them… [Laughs] For us, that’s the fun.
TVLINE | Is Peter Pan someone they will meet right away? And will he quickly live up to the ominous billing Rumple gave him?
KITSIS | We think so, but you know Twitter….
HOROWITZ | We’ll meet Peter Pan rather quickly, and we think that he lives up to Rumple’s warning, which was, “That’s who you need to be afraid of.” And if The Dark One is afraid of someone, you should probably listen to him.
TVLINE | What are you going to do with Snow and David amidst all this? I mean, Henry is Emma’s son, he is Regina’s son….
KITSIS | I would say that Emma is their daughter, and in Neverland, a place where there are no parents, they’re going to wonder what that means. And how do you parent a 28-year-old who has the same life experience you do?
HOROWITZ | On a certain storytelling level, what the beginning of this season provides us, that we weren’t able to do in Season 2, is: The family is together. We have the chance to really play these moments of what it means for David and Mary Margaret to come to terms with their daughter Emma, and how being her parents is going to be difficult for Emma and difficult for them. How do they forge this unique familial relationship?
KITSIS | Also, if you remember in the finale Emma wanted to throw the bean and get the hell out of there, and Mary Margaret said, “Let’s do it the hard way” — and the hard way got Henry kidnapped. Last year, David and Mary Margaret were, “We are both.” This year it’s, “We need Snow and Charming,” that’s what this mission requires. In a lot of ways, Mary Margaret may not be able to bond with Emma, but Bandit Snow and Emma have a lot in common. She needs to return the light to her daughter. And in the same respect, David is more a man of action than words, and he realizes that while he barely knows his daughter, he can show her what a hero is.
TVLINE | Are there answers to be had on the Home office mystery, as we get to Neverland?
KITSIS | Very quickly. Within the first two acts of the premiere you will see what the Home Office is.
TVLINE | And what about Pan’s specific want for Henry? Is that visited early on?
KITSIS | It is teased early on, but that is the mystery of the first 11 [episodes].
HOROWITZ | You understand very quickly what Peter Pan is doing and what he’s up to, but what’s really behind it is unfurled as we go along.