It's been three long months since Once Upon a Timeshocked viewers by sending our favorite fairy-tale characters back to the Enchanted Forest while wiping Emma's (Jennifer Morrison) and Henry's (Jared Gilmore) memories of their time in Storybrooke. When the ABC fairy-tale drama returns, it's been a year since Emma and Henry took up residence in New York, while Regina (Lana Parrilla) and the Charmings have had their hands full with new foe the Wicked Witch (Rebecca Mader)! So what's in store for Oncers when the show returns?
Oh, memories: As we saw in the midseason finale, Hook (Colin O'Donoghue) has come to New York in an attempt to get Emma to remember her past life so she can help save her parents. But Emma will not be quick to trust what appears to be a crazy man dressed as a pirate. "It will not be easy, as it never is with Emma," executive producer Edward Kitsis says. Don't worry, you won't have to wait all season to see the Emma we know and love.
Home sweet home: Storybrooke may have been wiped off the map at the end of the midseason finale, but that's not the last time we'll see the small town. In fact, it comes back into play in a huge way, with the fairy-tale characters returning to town with no memory of the past year. For that reason, the requisite flashbacks will primarily take place over that year. "We're flashing back to the year that was so every episode we're unloading this mystery of what happened. Who cursed us? And who is this crazy green woman?" Kitsis says. This new Storybrooke still contains magic and may even include a few new faces.
Something wicked this way comes: You can pretty much guess who's among those new faces since she also happens to be the culprit behind this new curse. Known as Zelena in the world of Once, Mader's witch in Storybrooke seems anything but wicked. After all, she gets in Snow White's (Ginnifer Goodwin) good graces, but it won't be long before we see the real side of her. "She's pretty wicked when she is the Wicked Witch," Kitsis says. "She does some things that are distasteful, but she does it with style."
Wicked vs. Evil: Suffice it to say, Regina will not get along with the new baddie, whose sole mission appears to be taking out the Evil Queen. "The vengeance that she wants to enact is exactly what we're going to get into in the next episodes," executive producer Adam Horowitz says. We'll actually learn more about Zelena in a flashback story featured in Episode 16, fittingly titled "It's Not Easy Being Green." "When we learn more about the Wicked Witch... we'll understand what she has against Regina is a global problem and an internal problem," Kitsis says. "Those two are definitely going to get into it." As for Regina, we can also look forward to this meeting coming soon!
Down the yellow brick road: Yes, you will get a glimpse of the famous yellow brick road that Dorothy once followed. "The world of Oz is a place you will see and we'll spend a little bit of time there," but it won't take center stage like Neverland did, Horowitz says. Besides the Wicked Witch, we'll see many other iconic characters from L. Frank Baum's story, including Glinda the Good Witch (Sunny Mabrey). "Unlike the Glinda of the movie, who appears in a bubble and is pure goodness, our Glinda is pure goodness, but she's a character that's gone through a lot more," Horowitz says. The show will be more true to the original story, however, when it comes to those famous slippers: they'll be silver, not ruby as seen in the 1939 film.
Dead or alive: Rumple (Robert Carlyle) seemingly died in the midseason finale as he took down his father, Peter Pan — who we will not see again this season. Though Rumple's fate will not be revealed in the midseason finale, Neal (Michael Raymond-James) and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) will set out to find him. "In a lot of ways, [Neal] finds himself in a similar position that his father did, which is, 'I'm stuck in a land and I need to get back to the people I love,'" Kitsis says. "The question is: Will he follow the same path? Rumple was willing to curse everybody to get what he wanted. Neal, up until this point, has been a really moral center for his dad. We'll see what path he goes down."
New heroes: Speaking of Belle, we'll get to see more iconography from Disney's Beauty and the Beast film with the introduction of Lumiere (Henri Lubatti), as well as the increased evolution of Belle herself. "What we loved about the character is that she's a bookworm who wanted to actually experience adventure," Kitsis says. "This year you're going to start seeing her come into her own by using her brain. She's going to be a hero that will reach for a book or use her intelligence more than a sword."
Familiar faces: In addition to learning about the Wicked Witch's past, we'll also get to see the origin stories of Cora (Rose McGowan) and Snow White's mother and father. The writers also had a killer plan for The Huntsman (Jamie Dornan) to return, but he's a little busy over on Fifty Shades of Grey at the moment. Ho Hum. The good news? Henry's storybook will continue to play a role in the second half of the season, though we won't learn the author just yet.
Ready for the return of Once Upon a Time? Hit the comments with your excitement!
Once Upon a Time returns Sunday at 8/7c on ABC.