NYCC 2015: Once Upon a Time Panel

Michael Moccio ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor-in-Chief
Official Description:  Once Upon a Time’s savior has gone dark! As Emma Swan transitions into her role as the Dark One, join the resident fairy-tale characters as they cope with Emma’s new role and begin the search for Merlin. This is a journey that will take our heroes from the Enchanted Forest to Camelot and along the way bring many surprises, including Merida from Brave, as Once Upon a Time introduces its first Pixar character. Co-creators and executive producers Edward Kitsis (Lost) and Adam Horowitz (Lost) invite you to an exclusive screening of an upcoming episode of Once Upon a Time. Following the screening, they will be joined by series star Jennifer Morrison for a discussion of the new season of unexpected twists, evolving characters and new adventures as this panel is sure to bring some surprises you won’t want to miss! The panel will be moderated by TVLine‘s Matt Mitovich.
For anyone who hasn’t been keeping up with the television show, Emma’s gone dark! After sacrificing herself at the end of last season, she became the new Dark One and saved the day. But at what cost? The panel room is packed for this once, fully at capacity with standing room included. The panel hasn’t even started and the energy in the room is charged.
The moderator came out onto the stage, TVLine’s Matt Mitovitch. He came out onto the stage and revealed they’d show next week’s episode. I’ll be updating with a spoiler-free review.
Emma’s Dark One performance sends chills throughout the audience. She has a perfect blend of being familiar and creepy. A shout out is fully due to the costume designers of the show, as they’ve created elegant and character-fitting garb for everyone. For a fantasy piece, that’s one of the most important aspects: to have the aesthetics ring true with the atmosphere of the show.
The line between family duty and position is something really well explored. With David’s position as the sheriff, more pressure gets laid on him to reign Emma in. The way David and Mary Margaret react perfectly show the frustration of being parents without any capability of helping. These are the moments where Once Upon a Time is absolutely heart wrenching. Despite the plot being out there sometimes, with some dialogue over played, there are scenes—especially between those two characters—that just elevate the show completely. Another shout out is deserved for the composer, who perfectly captures the heated emotion they’re feeling.
One of the best scenes of the entire episode came between Regina and Zalena, playing on both of their insecurities to make them feel real. For anyone who has siblings, this won’t come as any surprise. Regina, as always, commands a powerful force whenever she’s in a scene; when she’s aggressive and shows her Evil Queen-side, even more so.
The preview scene between Emma and Hook on the ship more than lives up to expectations. The tension between the two of them is more than palpable, especially with—again—the music. It’s eerie and sinister; paired with the facial expressions and subtle acting from Emma and Hook, it feels more like Hook’s entered into a trap than a date. The crows in the panel room are eating it up, to no surprise.
As always, there’s at least one overacted scene. This episode features Arthur and David going after toadstool and catching a thief from Camelot’s camp. In both instances, their interactions get a little too campy for how emotionally charged previous scenes leading up to them are, which is more so the fault of the writing than anything else. At the very least, they’re both just incredibly nice to look at.
The show succeeds at tying its themes together nicely. Anything that’s introduced in the first scene of the episode is explored in depth in a way that doesn’t feel forced. David ultimately gets his moment in the limelight and its well earned, despite the overblown scenes. There’s something inherently right about seeing Prince Charming get the recognition deserved because he tries so hard to be good and to protect his family.
By the end of the episode, another mystery presents itself where not all is as it seems. They lay enough hints in the episode so that when the twist is revealed, it feels empowering to the viewer. The worst part of it, is this new twist feels noble and just, because what the protagonists for Once Upon a Time sometimes do unjust things. That’s one of the major strengths of the writers: this is a war, where each side is just. And the atrocities committed are tragic, but understandable, which adds so many other levels to the narrative.
With that, the episode ended to thunderous applause. It was a great one, and will definitely be worth the wait until Sunday. After, Mitovitch introduced the panelists. Eddie Kitsis and Adam Horowitz came out first, followed by Jennifer Morrison, who the crowd freaked out about.
“It’s been awhile that we wanted to turn Emma dark,” said Horowitze.
“This season is about your struggle,” added Kitsis.
“It’s been really fun,” said Morrison about being dark. “It felt like I was starting over, a little bit. You can tell how much talking I’ve been doing based on my gravelly voice. The struggle she’s going through is very intense, and as an actor it’s been great to go through.”
“I’ve never felt so trusted by my bosses to participate collaboratively,” said Morrison on creating the aesthetic look on the Dark One. “We spent a lot of time going back and forth on images, poems, articles, and fairy tales. We picked out the things we love and built Dark Swan.”
“At first she wanted to do leather overalls,” joked Kitsis.
“Dark Emma is complicated,” said Morrison. “She’s still the savior with darkness in her. Emma is a constant cauldron of conflict. She’s in a constant battle with the light and dark within her. Sometimes she does things for the right reasons, but does them in a dark way.”
“It’s like when Rumple was the Dark One,” added Horowitz. “There was a lot of evil, but he loved too.”
“Merlin is..” said Kitsis. “We know Merlin is the sorcerer. What we’ve seen through the past with the Apprentice, he’s been a really good force.”
“They’re being intentionally vague,” joked Emma.
“We’ll find out in Camelot whose heart was crushed to make this new curse,” revealed Kitsis.
“Stuff,” Horowitz said when asked what Robin Hood would be up to in the next few episodes. “Hook and Regina work with Robin to break behind Emma’s locked door.”
To clarify things, Horowitz talked about Lancelot and went over what happened in Season 2. “In Season 2, we saw Cora pretended to be Lancelot. Apparently, he wasn’t dead. We’ll learn more about him and the iconic love triangle about Camelot.”
“We’re not going to see Morgan le Fay,” said Kitsis.
“We’re telling our spin on the story, but it’s really about our core Once Upon a Time characters,” said Horowitz.
“We’re going to meet the very first Dark One,” revealed Kitsis.
“Henry’s romance is going to break your heart,” said Kitsis with a smile when asked about relationships that are in for a tough times. “Merida is really exciting, too.”
“We’re doing a special two hour episode in November,” said Horowitz. “Part of that episode is going to be an adventure with her and Mulan.”
In casting news, Horowitz said they’re looking to bring on Hook as a little boy. And we’ll see an adventure with him and Regina. With that, they turned it over to audience questions.

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