[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Sunday's season premiere of Once Upon a Time. Read at your own risk!]
Holy smokes, Once Upon a Time is back and wasting no time kicking off a new season of adventure for our favorite fairy tale characters. Sunday's premiere revealed a startling prophecy about Emma's (Jennifer Morrison) fate as a Savior, Rumple's (Robert Carlyle) not-so-great chances of winning back Belle (Emilie de Ravin) and the Evil Queen's (Regina Parrilla) return to Storybrooke. In fact, it looked like Regina was the only person to even kind of receive some good news at the start of the season.
We know many burning questions remain after that premiere; luckily, TVGuide.com got some answers from creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis following a special screening about what's next for the people of Storybrooke, including our heroes and their new neighbors from the Land of Untold Stories now that Hyde (Sam Witwer) technically owns the town.
Let's break this down by character.
Emma and the Devastating Fate of Saviors
Emma was dealt the rawest of raw deals in the premiere when she started receiving premonitions of the future that revealed a hooded figure stabbing her with a sword after a tense sword fight. It turns out there's a history of Saviors never being able to enjoy their own happy endings, but Horowitz and Kitsis reveal that there's even more at stake for Emma this season.
"We've seen [Emma] grow, fight and all these travels. What would happen if you really did all of this? What is it? Is it fair to return the happy endings to everyone else and then be told yours doesn't count? Would you still keep doing your job? Are you doing it out of the sake of duty or do you really believe in it?," Kitsis said. "We really wanted to get into Emma's head this year in a character way and explore what it means to have this responsibility."
Of course, Emma's struggles with the knowledge of her impending death are only compounded by the fact she's hiding what she's learned from everyone she loves, including Hook (Colin O'Donoghue). She's going to have to learn to overcome those walls if she wants to find some way from stopping the premonition from coming true.
"When Emma has a problem, she reverts back to Season 1...She can have these great scenes of hugging Henry, hugging her mom, and telling Regina they're buddies. Then all of a sudden, when something comes up she reverts back," Kitsis continued. "That's kind of the journey for her and Hook. Now that she's said, 'I love you,' we thought, well if you're letting that wall down and letting all those good things in, all the bad things are going to come in. It's that push-pull that's going to be driving them."
For now, Emma will be traveling the course alone as the show digs deeper into the mythology of Saviors, including Aladdin (Deniz Akdeniz) and the ones that came before. We can only hope that by the time Hook and Emma's family figure out what's going on with her, it's not too late.
Rumple, Belle and Morpheus — Storybrooke's New Dysfunctional Family
Talk about twists! In the most shocking moment of the episode, we found out Morpheus (Giles Matthey) is actually Rumple and Belle's unborn son all grown up (this is what happens when you sprinkle magic dream dust on your estranged wife's womb). It's a relief to see that Rumple and Belle's child was born safely, but it turns out that he already has some very strong opinions about his dad and was willing to double-cross Rumpelstiltskin of all people to try and protect Belle.
Now that Belle has woken from her sleeping curse, she's taking her son's advice and keeping both her and the baby away from her husband. Rumple isn't too pleased with that, but it seems that one of Once's favorite couples have again come to an impasse.
"Belle really is kind of in a place where she's given up on Rumple, but they have a child and that makes things things messier. When you have a child, you have to put aside your own feelings and put the child first, no matter how much you hate the other person. That is going to be tested," Kitsis said.
The problem with Rumple and Belle is that they can't seem to accept each other as they are, and thus they keep repeating the same mistakes and ending up in the same heartbroken places.
"What's interesting to us in exploring those characters and Rumple is you saw in the premiere when they're in the dream world and she asks if he would change for her, he says 'For you, I'd be the best man I can be,' which is a very carefully chosen set of words. He'll be the best man he can be but he can't quite get to that place of actually being a good man," Horowitz explained. "That's the push-pull of the relationship because she really does love him and see the good and the bad in him. She sees the potential, and it's that frustration which continues to grow, which is, 'Wow, if he could just keep going in that one direction it would be perfect,' but something always pulls him back."
Rumple once told Belle that he was a difficult man to love, which seems to ring true every season. That can prove to be infuriating for both Belle and for the ardent fans at home dying for these two to work it out. There's no reason to give up hope just yet, but Horowitz admits Rumple and Belle will have a harder time than most of the other couples on the show (especially since we haven't seen the last of Morpheus yet).
"They've got a journey to go on to see whether they get [their happy ending] or not. That's the fun of it for us, and hopefully the audience, which is exploring these ups and downs," Horowitz says. "Yes, there are a lot of downs, but that's because we have an incredibly good hearted character who has fallen in love with one of the most flawed characters on this show. It's never going to be easy and that's just the nature of what those two are."
Regina and the Feather's True Meaning
Robin Hood (Sean Maguire) is dead. He's staying dead. It's best to rip that Band-Aid off right now. Regina's final moments in the premiere may have confused a few fans when she said she chooses to believe his soul wasn't obliterated, and a tiny feather fell down behind her to show she was right. However, the moment was more of a symbol to show Regina's growth as a character, not to spark hope that Robin would be returning from the grave.
"When she explained she needs to have hope and believe that Hades [Greg Germann] was lying, that was her taking a leap of faith into believing he wasn't obliterated. He's in a better place and he moved on. Then when the audience sees the feather come down, that's telling the audience that she was right to have that belief. [Regina] doesn't need that physical proof," Horowitz explained. "In our minds, it's actually a more meaningful place for us to get to actually believe and hope that he is in that better place, than to actually dig around for physical proof and get it. We wanted to give the audience that little bit of confirmation."
That's not to say that Robin will be forgotten now. There's still a lot of grieving for Regina to do, and the season will follow her on her journey as she figures out how to let Robin go and move on. She needs to figure out who she is without Robin and without the Evil Queen inside of her.
"Regina's embracing of hope and embracing of this idea that she is now somehow different after separating the Evil Queen out of her is what we're really going to dive into. How different is she? What has changed, really?," Horowitz asks. "Is it simple as just the bad parts you're taking out? It's not as simple as that...It's going to change her, make her grow and make her face things."
She will have to face those things sooner than later as the Evil Queen has already returned to Storybrooke and is sinking her nails into Regina's sister Zelena (Rebecca Mader). The question remains whether Regina will be strong enough to take out the evil part of her once more, especially if the Evil Queen has already recruited part of her family.
What are you most excited about on this season of Once Upon a Time?
Season 6 continues Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.