This isn't the Peter Pan you remember from your childhood.
Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and the rag-tag group of heroes and villains that attempted to rescue Henry (Jared Gilmore) in Neverland learned that the hard way during last week's Once Upon a Time. Coming face-to-face with Pan (Robbie Kay) and his Lost Boys, Emma was forced to confront the truth about herself: She's an orphan, having grown up without the love and care of Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming (Josh Dallas).
But it's Pan's threat that's the real problem. He swears that by the time Emma actually finds Henry, her son will want to stay on the island. And when she leaves, she won't just feel like an orphan — she'll actually be one. Unfortunately, that might be true after Charming was skimmed by an arrow doused with Dreamshade poison.
What can you tell us about Peter Pan's motivations?
Edward Kitsis: For us, our characters are all looking for a happy ending. They're all looking for love; it's just what choices do you use to get them? Some people are OK playing hardball. Some people want to do it the right way. Peter Pan is an interesting story.
Adam Horowitz: Evil isn't born; it's made. That applies to all of the villains, including Peter Pan.
Kitsis: But he's a sick, twisted kid. You saw the fact that Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle), who we can all agree up to this point is probably the nastiest of our villains and the most-clever ... said it's someone he's frightened of, I'm frightened of. He gets in your head and he says, "Oh, what are you most insecure about? I'm going to really exploit that."
Why did you decide to explore a Peter Pan who is evil?
Kitsis: There's a lot of Peter Pan's out there, and you look to take your own take. For us, it came from a character place, which is somebody who refuses to grow up has to have a lot of problems. It sounds great when you're 16, but when you hit 25 or older, you start to go, "Oh God, I'd hate to be 16 again and I'm missing all the things in life." You can't just hit the pause button. This guy is probably there alone. We started to think about Heart of Darkness and Peter Pan started to become Kurtz for us, and we started to talk about going up the river to have to get him.
Horowitz: Imagine if you're stuck at 16, great, but for hundreds of years you're getting carded. What's that going to do to you?
Will we get to see a backstory for Pan — maybe one that includes what happened to Rufio?
Horowitz: We're not doing a Rufio backstory.
Kitsis: We're not doing his backstory, but we are going to be telling you how Peter Pan became Peter Pan and why he made the decision he made.
Is it harder to have a villain and the Lost Boys, who appear to be children, when it comes to how far you can go with violence?
Horowitz: We thought that was a really interesting dilemma to have villains who, just by looking at them, you really can't engage.
Kitsis: Even though they're probably 200 years older than you.
Horowitz: But they're trapped as children, as boys, so how is that going to be a challenge?
Kitsis: It is a challenge because even Regina was like, "You're lucky you're a teenager," but at the same respect, you see they have a profound effect on Emma. At the same time, Felix scares me. That guy is so creepy. The Lost Boys have a bit of the Lord of the Flies situation going on. It is tough and no one wants to kill children. They want to get Henry back and this is their villain. We have a very clever group. We have gotten very dark, including killing someone's father to enact a curse, and kidnapping children and throwing them in the infinite forest. But at the same respect, we never do violence that is gratuitous. We don't kill people unless it is earned. [Killing] Greg (Ethan Embry) and Tamara (Sonequa Martin-Green) was probably earned because they believed in something without thinking about it.
Is the goal to see Henry corrupted?
Horowitz: It's going to be sad when we kill him.
Kitsis: Wait until you see the scene with his lifeless body.
Horowitz: They get hungry and they have to eat him. [Laughs] The premiere is called "The Heart of the Truest Believer." That's who Henry is. He is pure. His belief is true and pure. What happens when he is now trapped with a Pan who is—
Kitsis: A teenager who literally is one of the most charismatic figures we've ever seen?
Horowitz: There's the allure of that 15-year-old — or whatever age he appears to be — in that constant youth. There's that alluring side of Peter Pan and what being a Lost Boy means and what happens when Henry is exposed to that and manipulated by that.
Kitsis: No rules, no curfews, no bedtimes and ice cream for breakfast.
Will Henry try to escape?
Horowitz: Henry [has], as we've seen over the years, been a very resourceful, independent boy who is now going to be thrown into a situation where that will not only be tested — he's going to have to deal with running away and trying to escape — but now dealing with a psychological test. Pan, as we've seen, likes to mess with your head. What's going to happen when Henry is face-to-face with the ultimate manipulator?
Kitsis: The thing about Henry that makes him so great is his belief. He believed enough in a book to get on a bus to go to Boston to convince this woman who gave him up for adoption in a prison in Phoenix to come back because Snow White and Charming needed to remember who they were, and it worked. This is a world where that belief is going to be used against him. I don't think we've ever seen that before. That's what we're excited about.
Horowitz: Belief is really the theme of the season so far and we're seeing how belief impacts on each one of our characters.
Kitsis: For us, belief is so important in everything. You need to believe in magic, you need to believe in yourself, you need to believe in your family. Neverland runs on belief. That, for us, was the uber theme. This is a show for believers and that is a show about hope.
What do you think of Peter Pan? Hit the comments!
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.