This Sunday's "Once Upon a Time" (Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. EST on ABC) promises to be a truly spectacular hour, as Emma (Jennifer Morrison) and Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) face off against Cora (Barbara Hershey) and Hook (Colin O'Donoghue) in a desperate race to secure the compass that could return them to Storybrooke. Meanwhile, in an attempt to keep Cora out of our world, Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle) put a plan into action that would kill anyone entering the portal -- including our favorite mother-daughter duo.
The Huffington Post visited the "Once Upon A Time" set in early November, and we spoke to the cast about what to expect from the this week's Season 2 midseason finale, titled "Queen of Hearts."
One of the most intriguing (and potentially catastrophic) developments in last week's episode was the uneasy alliance that formed between Regina and Rumple after they learned of Cora's return. Since the pair's relationship has been antagonistic at best thus far, Robert Carlyle pointed out that their partnership should be proof of just how big a threat Cora poses.
"There was one scene that I played in the diner with Belle [in last week's episode] ... Regina has to come and ask me for help and when he mentions that it’s Cora, that’s the reaction. It’s like 'Shit, this is really serious,'" Carlyle teased. "To show you how big the potential problem with Cora or Hook is, he’s willing to let [Emma and Snow] die, which is pretty big. That’s one of these moments that [the writers] kind of throw me with Rumple, pulling out the wife’s heart in front of him and stuff like that. That’s really taking the character to the absolute edge of likeability and they do that with Gold as well in [Episode] 9, I think, by saying fuck it, let him go."
As for why Cora's such a threat -- especially to someone with as much power as Rumplestiltskin -- Carlyle mused, "I think she’s just bad news. She’s bad news to have around. She’s nasty. I think that Rumple is about himself, but I don’t think he’s necessarily world-domination nasty, and I think that Cora probably is."
Lana Parrilla offered further insight into Regina and Rumple's tumultuous history. "Those two characters -- and Bobby [Carlyle] and I talk about it all the time -- I think they just genuinely don’t have anyone else but each other at the end of the day, and I think they know that. It’s nothing that they would ever admit to one another, but it’s true. And so it’s almost like a rivalry, but it’s so ancient. It’s their game that they’ve been playing for hundreds of years," Parilla pointed out. "I don’t know how old we are ... but there’s all these years of trying to trump one another.
"[In the season premiere] the first time I walked into Mr. Gold’s shop as Regina to get the book from him, there was no talk about the Wraith, like, 'Well, you just tried to kill me' ... there was absolutely no talk about it, like it never happened, and that was big deal -- this thing tried to suck her soul out ... And so I had to go, 'Well what is that about?' And maybe they just don’t talk about those things and it’s kind of like they’re always just trying to one-up one another and they find themselves now in a position where they actually have to work together. It’s that saying, 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend,' so it’s kind of how I looked at it."
Back in the Enchanted Forest, Emma and Snow are still searching for an escape route, unaware of the turmoil that's going on in Storybrooke. After briefly reuniting with Charming -- and having to leave him behind in the fiery Netherworld -- Ginnifer Goodwin admitted that Snow won't quite be her ass-kicking self, as we saw at the end of the last episode.
"The dynamic between Emma and Snow actually shifts a bit because of that experience and Snow needs a bit of caretaking after coming face to face with Charming and thinking that they were going to be able to be together even if it was in this sort of hallucinatory dream state," Goodwin said. "I had not quite realized until we were filming the scene that there is the shift in the dynamic between Emma and Snow and that Emma has to really get Snow under control and take over as leader."
In that new leadership role, Emma will come face to face with Hook, and despite their undeniable chemistry, Jennifer Morrison promised a "confrontation," not a romantic interlude. "They come face-to-face and ... I think it’s very honest. I think it’s what it would be. Unfortunately, Emma’s put in a situation where she now needs something and he has the upper hand, and so there’s a constant ping-pong, back and forth, of the power shift with them. It’s like he needs something and uses her and then she needs something and uses him, and then they’re always trying to rely on their abilities to charm and manipulate to get each other to do things."
Will that confrontation result in a return trip to Storybrooke for Emma and Snow? You'll have to tune in Sunday at 8 p.m. EST on ABC to find out.