The midseason finale of Once Upon a Time introduced us to so many new story elements, it's hard to keep all of them straight! But there's one that's a little more important than the rest, a character we'd been hearing about all season: Anastasia (Yael Yurman).
It appears she's the Guardian that's been teased all season too, the figure who can take the Dark One's power without being consumed by it. She sure seems powerful enough all on her own to be able to handle the dagger Rumplestiltskin ( Robert Carlyle) is so eager to be rid of. Unfortunately, she's now in the hands of Mother Gothel (Emma Booth), who's nefarious plans for her undoubtedly have something to do with the Coven of the Eight, a circle of witches she'll need to assemble to see her grand plans play out.
TV Guide talked to showrunners Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis about Anastasia's fate, Zelena's ( Rebecca Mader) new cursed identity, and Alice's (Rose Reynolds) long-awaited true love, who also happens to be a familiar face.
Mother Gothel seems to be pulling all the strings here, but why would she want to travel to a world without magic?
Eddy Kitsis: I think her motivations are very specific. She is specifically targeting somebody in Hyperion Heights. She is after somebody very specific. What we're going to be doing is building to a showdown in the second half of the series between Mother Gothel and some other very powerful people.
What can you tease about the Coven of the Eight and their agenda?
Kitsis: Mother Gothel is going to be recruiting the Coven of the Eight, who are under cursed personas. So a lot of these witches don't realize they were once powerful witches, and they now find themselves in everyday jobs. We're going to see she's doing that for a reason, but what we're excited about is there's going to be a major curveball thrown in that plan that is going to be a complication for her and our heroes. It's not just going to be every week she finds a new witch and wakes them up and assembles them and goes towards a dastardly plan. We're really excited.
Adam Horowitz: There's another threat that we've just hinted at that's unexpected and going to enter Hyperion Heights very shortly.
Will we be able to recognize any of these new witches?
Kitsis: We'll definitely recognize a few of their names, absolutely. These are witches from iconic fairytales or Disney lore.
How long will Zelena/Kelly be sticking around this season?
Kitsis: Kelly's going to be sticking around for a lot of the second half of the season, so we're really excited because we're going to get to see the two sisters partner up and hero out together, which we've never seen. It's fun to see Ronnie (Lana Parrilla) and Zelena together.
Whether or not it's her happy ending remains to be seen... Her wedding and the fiancée is now very complicated because how do you tell somebody who's from our world that you were once a wicked witch - they'll think you're crazy. I think it's a very complicated thing because now that she's awoken, there's a part of her life she doesn't know how to share with this guy. I think that's going to be very emotionally complicated for her.
What can you tell us about Robin's (Tiera Skovbye) cursed identity?
Kitsis: Robin's cursed identity is a free spirit sort of wandering soul. She is somebody who is experiencing the world with a backpack. She has an interesting relationship with her mom. I think we're going to see some real Zelena, mother-daughter fun in the second half of the season.
Did you know from the start you would be incorporating this LGBTQ storyline when you created a new version of Alice?
Kitsis: Yes, we did it from the beginning of the year. What we wanted to do for the finale was we purposefully didn't say who cast the curse so it would be a mystery through the first half of the season, and then what we wanted to do for the finale was time jump. So we see Alice and Robin in love, and for the second half of the season, we're going to see how they met and how they got to that place. Of course in Seattle, very much like Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Charming (Josh Dallas), they don't know each other. They don't remember each other, and they don't even realize they're in love. So we're going to see how they met in the fairytale side, and we're going to root for them to find each other in Seattle.
Once Upon a Time has always had a very strong LGBTQ following, so were you guys excited or maybe a little nervous to finally incorporate a queer storyline into a major character's arc?
Horowitz: We just felt like this was a story we wanted to tell, and we want the show to reflect the world as it is. We love the story we have with these characters, and we're having a lot of fun writing them, and we can't wait for the audience to see where that relationship goes.
Is Anastasia officially the Guardian or is that something we shouldn't be sure of yet?
Kitsis: We are strongly suspecting it is her. The thing about the Guardian is we also at one point realized it was Alice, and she hinted towards Rumple making some kind of sacrifice so Robin and Alice could be together. So I would look at the Guardian as kind of like the Dali Llama, which is when one is gone a new one appears. But right now Anastasia looks like a prime target for it.
And given that, should we be worried about Rumple passing on this power and dying?
Kitsis: Well, I think we should be worried because we realize he's like a vampire who's lived for a thousand years. He's ready to move on and move on from the power. I think we should also be worried about people tempting him and returning him to darkness. In the same respect, he is also a very powerful person in Seattle in a land without magic, and he has a lot of enemies. I'd be worried about his past maybe coming back to thwart him.
As wicked as she's been, I've been secretly rooting for Drizella (Adelaide Kane) this whole time, so is there hope that she and Tremaine (Gabrielle Anwar) might one day mend the fence and stop being so villainous?
Kitsis: I would say this is a show about hope, so if the Evil Queen can change, I think anyone can. Drizella has been our secret weapon this whole time. We purposefully in the beginning of the year wanted to start with everyone thinking, "Oh, well Lady Tremaine clearly cast the curse, she's the new Regina," and then twist it because we always knew we wanted Drizella to be the villain. Adelaide has just really popped in a way that's really exciting. To see the audience feel the same way is really gratifying because she's doing such a stellar job, and we think she's been one of the best villains we've had on the show.
Even though Henry's (Andrew J. West) kiss didn't wake Lucy (Alison Fernandez) up, do you think the fact that he even believed the tiniest bit it would means things are moving in the right direction for him?
Kitsis: I think so. I think when we started out the year, Henry always had the heart of the truest believer, and he'd lost his belief. In that one moment, his mom says, "Don't stop believing. You're not cynical." We see Henry starting to believe or at least wanting to, which is a really important step, but the unfortunate conundrum is when he started to believe is when Lucy's belief was taken from.
Once Upon a Time will return in 2018.