Spoiler Warning: Do not read on unless you’ve seen “Once Upon a Time” season 4, episode 14, titled “Unforgiven.”
Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) have had their share of ups and downs on “Once Upon a Time” thus far, but the events of the March 8 episode threaten to destroy everything they’ve built — especially their relationship with daughter Emma (Jennifer Morrison). We now know that the seemingly perfect pair are somehow responsible for Maleficent (Kristin Bauer van Straten) losing her child, and according to executive producer Adam Horowitz, “that’s the tip of the iceberg of the secret that you saw. Our hope is that by the time everything is revealed, you’ll see it really informs who they were in season one, when you met them for the first time.”
Back in the Enchanted Forest, Snow and Charming learned that their unborn baby had the potential to be a hero or a villain by being a product of true love, and they were willing to do anything to prevent their child from heading down a dark path — even if it meant trusting the Queens of Darkness, Maleficent, Cruella de Vil (Victoria Smurfit) and Ursula (Merrin Dungey). But now that they’re keeping secrets from Emma in the present day, are they inadvertently pushing her towards that darker fate?
“They want to keep it so badly from her, because their initial intention is that they want to protect their kid — that’s what parents want to do, and that’s what they did in the very beginning when they decided to put her in that wardrobe,” Dallas told Variety. “They wanted to protect her and give her the best possible choice. She’s had some consequences for that, but it was still a better choice than being cursed. So they tried to save her in the beginning, and here’s another example where they’re trying their best in this crazy situation to protect their kid. Now that I’m a parent, I get it — I get that you want to do whatever you can to protect your kid, and sometimes as a parent, you don’t know what the best course of action is… All you know is you want to do the best by your kid. And what happens to Snow and Charming is that they get into this lie where they want to keep it from her, and then it becomes like a fever, it almost takes them over [and] becomes an obsession because they want to protect her, and what happens is the opposite. And there’s consequences to that. The initial intention was a good one and a true one, but it later becomes muddled and misguided.”
The specifics of Snow and Charming’s past with Maleficent have yet to be revealed, but Dallas admitted there’s another curveball coming the couple’s way. “They were told that they could basically help change [Emma’s] outcome, determine whether she would be evil or good, but with [the Trio of Darkness’] guidance,” Dallas added. “So another facet of this story comes into play that causes them great alarm.”
After Ursula and Cruella succeeded in resurrecting Maleficent by manipulating Snow and Charming, the “Sleeping Beauty” villain informed them that she wasn’t interested in exposing their secret, only in exacting revenge, and Bauer van Straten told Variety that Maleficent intends to prolong their agony as much as she can. “One thing that I love about villains is that they have a patience — especially when you have fantastical characters like I had with Pam [on ‘True Blood’], they are immortal so they have patience, and they have thought about their revenge for so long and they have so much future, so their main concern is suffering,” she laughed. “They can take their time to exact and inflict the most torturous revenge possible and work towards that end endlessly. It never dies, their desire to pay them back. That’s the difference between a good villain and a hero; the hero will try to take the high road, the villain will patiently and purposefully, continually choose the low road. That’s why I love playing them so much, because it isn’t just a ‘let’s go out at the OK corral and we’ll meet in the street at high noon and have this out,’ that’s what heroes do… So with so many different characters all not expressing what they really want and playing this game of chess, it doesn’t always go as anybody plans, but they have the patience to continue to play the game.”
Emma has a “super power” that helps her discern when people aren’t telling her the truth, so it seems like it’s only a matter of time before her parents’ deception is revealed, which will have major ramifications for their whole family. “Right now, the two people she trusts most in her life are lying to her and she’s suppressing that, so finding that out will be a bummer,” exec producer Eddy Kitsis admitted. “I think Emma is going to have to confront her past in a lot of different ways. She’s done a lot of growing over three and-a-half seasons. What happens when you find out that the person who was helping you grow might actually be just as bad as the people you were trying to get away from?”
Dallas conceded, “It’s not gonna be good. It will affect them hugely, because Snow and Charming have grown to be her beacon of truth and people who were always striving to do the right thing, and what they do is so heinous, and so terrible, that I think it [will throw] her for a loop… It’s misguided, it’s a wrong decision that was born out of a good intention.”
The producers hope that the truth behind the secret will add more layers to the characters — not just Snow and Charming, but Maleficent as well. “Obviously, we know the curse was cast and we know a lot of the origins, but for us it’s really much more of the character motivation,” Kitsis said. “We hope that in seeing the second half of the season you will go back and look at the series in a different way. Just like at the end of [this] episode you realize Maleficent isn’t just a villain, she was a mother trying to protect her kid. If you rewatch 13 and watch everything she’s doing, hopefully it gives more depth to it.”
Bauer van Straten admitted that she’s gone back and forth over whether motherhood might have turned Maleficent away from her villainous path or whether darkness was always in her nature. “I’m torn on it. Because a motherhood for anyone should soften them, but say something goes wrong, there’s such potential and such willingness to go to a hateful place,” she pointed out. “It’s almost more animalistic, where even mother and daughter can turn on each other in the wild. So I was thinking, ‘well, obviously she would’ve been softer,’ and then have had that discussion with myself in my mind for four months here in Vancouver in my hotel room, and it’s not assured, is what I’ve come up with. There’s a lack of remorse with villains, even with their own blood… I realized at one point, Maleficent’s a dragon; she’s a reptile; she’s cold-blooded, so killing or harming doesn’t leave an aftertaste at all — it’s neither here nor there.”
Emma might have an issue with her parents in the near future, but her tumultuous relationship with Regina (Lana Parrilla) might finally find some solid ground. “Given what Emma is starting to go through, and what Regina has gone through, there is a new common ground between the two characters that will help, I think, build on that friendship,” Horowitz said. “In addition to Henry, now that’s something else that they can share and grow with.”
But Emma’s not the only one who’s growing closer to Regina in upcoming episodes. “I love the fact that Snow and Regina are friends,” Kitsis said. “Snow just confided in Regina — that’s who she went to for help. This is a woman who spent years trying to kill her.”
“Who sent Christian Gray to rip her heart out!” Horowitz agreed. “Mary Margaret goes to Regina for a reason and it’s partially what she said about, ‘you used to be a villain,’ but it’s also because Regina can walk in that world with a little bit more confidence and a little bit more safety than anyone else can.”
He added, “What we loved about it was that Snow was asked to keep a secret and couldn’t keep her mouth shut, and it’s like, ‘can Regina keep her mouth shut?’ I’d say Regina’s probably a stronger and better secret keeper than Snow White. It does create a bond between the two of them and a bond that’s gone back a really long time. She was her stepmother.”
Emma’s relationship with Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) also seems to be deepening, although it looks like he’s keeping a few things hidden from her too. “As far as [Emma] and Hook go, I think it’s exactly what Mary Margaret said in that montage, which is she’s beginning to open her heart up. For us, it’s [about] watching Emma open her heart up even though she’s about to find out some really bad information,” Kitsis previewed. “For Hook, we are going to realize that he’s got some things going on in his head that he’s concerned about.”
Some of those concerns may include Ursula, who clearly has her own dark history with the pirate. “Episode 15 will explain what he did to her,” Kitsis teased. “You’re going to see the entire flashback of what happened. You’re going to see the origin of Ursula… It is not sexual. It is, as he said, far worse. When you think about would be worse than having your heart broken, I would say it would be having your soul crushed.”
The March 8 episode also revealed that Belle (Emilie de Ravin) has become romantically involved with Will Scarlet (Michael Socha) — a relationship that came a little out of left field but, according to the producers, is in service of giving Belle a break from the recent angst of her relationship with Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle).
“Any time you have your heart broken, you look for a way to smile again. I think that we’ve hinted that Will leaving Wonderland had some heartbreak and you have Belle who has clearly had some heartbreak… they have a lot in common, they both fell in love with villains; they both hoped that these villains would be redeemed,” Kitsis explained. “He fell in love with Red Queen and she changed, and he saw the woman beneath the monster and that’s the same with Belle. And what we loved about Belle in the winter finale was, she was like, ‘it’s enough lying’ — at a certain point you have to stop giving people the benefit of the doubt and you have to say, ‘change or f— off.’ We love that strength from Belle and we love her moving on. If we look at Belle as a character, we remember she volunteered to save her town because her father wouldn’t let her be a hero and she became the maid, and then she became his wife and she hasn’t really lived. For us, it’s like, if you got married at 21 and now you’re 32, you might think, ‘maybe I want to live again.'”
The producers also promised that we’ll soon find out why Ursula and Cruella didn’t end up in Storybrooke when the first curse was enacted. “There’s an upcoming episode where all the pieces on the chess board are laid out, who wound up where and why,” Horowitz said. “That will speak to the question of why these three and how are they connected and what they’re all after together.”
“Once Upon a Time” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
Has the truth about Snow and Charming’s secret changed your opinion of them? Do you think Emma will head over to the dark side as a result? Weigh in below!