The Once Upon A Time panel at NYCC was a perfectly lovely time on Saturday, with previews of this week’s episode and the Wonderland spin-off, talks with creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and a surprise appearance from Ms. Swan herself, Jennifer Morrison. And while Once has lacked in certain areas of the diversity department, questions from fans prompted some real heartwarming responses from the panel, and some musings on where the latest episode might lead us…
Kitsis, Horowitz, and Morrison were all keen to discuss fan involvement in the show, particularly the contributions made in fan fiction and fan art. They admitted bringing art to the writer’s room, and Morrison talked about the primary pairings for Emma that fans often ask her about: Swan Fire (Emma and Neal), Captain Swan (Emma and Hook), and Swan Queen (Emma and Regina).
Morrison was supportive of all ships and combinations of characters—she reported to be thrilled that fans were seeing themselves in the show, relating to the characters and casting the relationships in ways that were meaningful to them. And that included slash pairings with Henry’s gloriously evil (most of the time, it’s complicated) adoptive mother, Regina. Because Once is built on fairy tales, she pointed out, the goal is to get people to relate to them. That is where these stories exist in our consciousness. It was a refreshingly sharp response, when most actors simply laugh it off, or balk at why fans want to “make their character gay.”
“This is your show,” Horowitz said to the audience. “We are creating it, but it belongs to you.”
The trio gave us teases of what we could expect from the upcoming season: we will find out how Regina came to adopt Henry, we will see Ariel(!), and Ursula was brought up as well. “The question is—who is she?” teased Kitsis, with a grin.
But a fan with a serious question brought an important discussion to the forefront: As a queer woman, she felt the need to point out that she was not represented in the show thus far. Kitsis and Horowitz were quick to say that starting from the fairy tales gave them an older framework to begin in, but that they were supportive of all types of love, and wanted to represent them all within Once Upon A Time. They hinted that this representation would be coming up sooner rather than later...
(The following contains spoilers for the most recent episode.)
Then in this Sunday’s episode, Mulan came to terms with her romantic feelings for Aurora and went to blurt them all out as warriors are wont to do. Just as she was about to spill, Aurora told her that she and Philip were expecting a child. Mulan fled to join Robin Hood’s merry men. (Wouldn’t you at that point?)
The move was startling in part because the show had never indicated that Aurora and Philip were back together this season (more awkward for the fact that Philip had declared his love for Mulan before he “died” last season). It must make viewers curious about the future for Mulan and Aurora; with a pledge from the show’s creators to represent different types of love, is this simply the beginning of a long journey toward Mulan and Aurora coming together? Or is their intent to represent the unrequited love that can and occasionally does take place between people of different sexual orientations?
For the record, everyone on the panel was all smiles when the mention of Mulan/Aurora came up. So even if they’re planning on torturing the characters on screen, it’s pretty clear that they’re supportive of the pairing. Happy endings do take time. Whether they end up together or not will probably have much more to do with where the story goes in the next few years.
Guess I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for the next however-many seasons.... Come on, they are such a great couple!
Emily Asher-Perrin really was shipping it last season, back when she thought there was no chance, so Sunday’s episode was all kinds of vindicating. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.