What happens when the hero of a tale suddenly becomes the big bad?
That’s the question behind Season 5 of Once Upon a Time, which explores Emma’s (Jennifer Morrison) turn to the dark side. At the end of last season, Emma sacrificed herself to save Storybrooke once again, by becoming the Dark One.
Now, the savior who’s saved the day so many times needs saving of her own. Her parents, Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), as well as son Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), will band together to free Emma from the grip of black magic. And joining them in the quest is Emma’s one-time foe, Regina (Lana Parrilla), who’s found her happy ending, but has other problems to deal with.
This season introduces the first Pixar character on the show, Merida of Brave. And fans will journey to one of the most legendary, mystical places in storybook lore — Camelot.
Yahoo TV spoke to OUAT creators Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis about Season 5. Here are six juicy scoops they revealed to us:
1. Emma and Rumplestiltskin make one dark duo.
The first image from Season 5, teased during Comic-Con, shows Emma with Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle), making it seem like he’s evil Yoda to her dark Luke Skywalker. But how can Rumple even be with Emma, since last we saw Mr. Gold, he was in a coma and at death’s door?
“The context of how they’re together won’t really reveal itself to the fans until they see the premiere,” Horowitz says (he did tell Entertainment Weekly that it won’t involve time travel). “If we’re going to have Emma be the Dark One, we’re going to dive into Dark One mythology.”
Ooh, “mythology” — we like! Maybe that means we meet other, previous Dark Ones, or learn how the Dark One was even created.
“You are going to see flashbacks on being the Dark One, that is what I will say,” Kitsis explains.
2. Henry takes on a big role in helping his mom.
For years, Emma’s first concern was Henry’s safety. Now, the tables are turned, and the young teen — who became the Author at the end of last season — will have to step up to bring Emma back to the light.
“We’re going to see Henry is going from being a little kid to a young man. We’re going to see him take on more responsibilities,” Kitsis says. “As well, we’re going to see Henry have his very first crush. You can’t go to Camelot and not fall in love!”
Speaking of Camelot…
3. Merlin is the key to saving Emma.
At the end of last season, we also learned that the wizard whom the Sorcerer’s Apprentice followed was none other than Merlin. You know, the guy from stories about King Arthur and the Round Table. He might have the knowledge that Henry, Snow, and Charming need, so the whole family has to journey to Camelot to find him.
“We always loved the idea of Merlin,” Kitsis explains. “Last season, we teased the idea of the Sorcerer. For us, thematically, Camelot plays into a lot of the things we’re going for. Just as fans, it’s a fun world to do. I remember the first time I was a little boy and I went and saw Excalibur. As writers, it’s fun to have the Round Table and to see King Arthur with Prince Charming.” Do we sense a royal bromance coming on?
4. And Merida is a major figure in the whole rescue mission.
OUAT doesn’t just add characters for the sake of tie-ins. Sure, Frozen was still extremely popular when Elsa and Anna came on the show, but their storyline also introduced us to more of Emma’s past (and hinted at her dark side).
“We always wanted to do Merida, but it took us three seasons before we got there,” Horowitz notes.
The Merida we meet is living life after the movie, and the show will explore what’s happened to her since then. She’ll come across Emma first, though she has also has interactions with Belle (Emilie de Ravin).
“To me, she is both a princess and a warrior, which I think fits in with all our characters, be it Snow White or Regina,” Kitsis says. “We’ve always had strong women who are equally comfortable at a ball or at a sword fight. I think Merida exemplifies all those characteristics.”
5. Regina has her happy ending (mostly).
Emma going the dark side is balanced by Regina’s full embrace of the light. It’s been an evolution in the works for several seasons now, and finally, fans get to see Regina get the happy ending she’s yearned for in the form of Robin Hood (Sean Maguire, now a series regular).
But — and there’s always a but — she still has to contend with her wicked half-sister, Zelena (Rebecca Mader, also a new series regular), who is pregnant with Robin’s baby. Talk about a weird, awkward love “triangle,” if you can call it that.
“There’s no love triangle. But is it going to be complicated and emotionally messy? Yes,” Kitsis says.
While the first part of the season will focus heavily on Emma’s redemption, Kitsis promises, “We’ll get more insight into [Zelena] and what she thinks and her point of view.”
6. One fan favorite character is returning — and maybe more!
Good news for OUAT fans: Meghan Ory is returning as Ruby/Red Riding Hood for multiple episodes this season. Ory left after Season 1 to star in CBS’a short-lived drama Intelligence.
And even better news? The show’s creators are well aware which characters the fans want back, and they’re trying their hardest to make it happen.
“For us, our inspiration was always The Simpsons. You don’t see Disco Stu in every episode, but when you do, you know who he is. You know who Moe is. You know who runs the Kwik-E-Mart. You know who Principal Skinner is. You don’t see them every episode, but it fills the world out.”
The major obstacle, of course, is mundane: actors’ schedules. Kitsis notes that Jamie Chung (“Mulan”), Sarah Bolger (“Sleeping Beauty”), and Rose McIver (“Tinkerbell”) all have other commitments.
“For us, we definitely would love to bring Mulan back,” he says. “We love Jamie Chung. We have a whole story cooked up for her. It’s just finding the right time.”
Once Upon a Time premieres Sunday, Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. on ABC.