The March 10 episode of "Once Upon a Time," titled "The Miller's Daughter," saw Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) make a painful and uncharacteristic choice -- one that cost Cora (Barbara Hershey) her life, Regina (Lana Parrilla) her mother, and Snow a part of her soul.
Though Snow's intentions were honorable -- Cora was, after all, a complete sociopath who planned to destroy Snow's whole family -- our pure-hearted princess has now taken a life. When HuffPost TV caught up with Ginnifer Goodwin on the red carpet before the show's PaleyFest panel (which you can watch in its entirety at the bottom of this post), she told us that the decision will "shake Snow's self-confidence, her identity, her self-definition, and that will affect all of her relationships, because she may not know who she is anymore."
First and foremost, Goodwin said, it would create "a wall" between Snow and her husband, Charming (Josh Dallas). "I believe very strongly -- and therefore Snow believes very strongly -- that you really have to be happy with yourself before you can be happy with anyone else, and you have to love yourself before anyone else can love you, so that will be part of their conundrum," she said.
Still, Dallas was quick to reassure us that the damage between the two would not be irreparable. "It creates some strain, as you can imagine, and some questions that Charming has to ask of himself, and questions that he has to ask of her, but it's true love," he pointed out. "It is the most powerful magic of all, so I think he will love her unconditionally, no matter what."
Creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis previewed that Snow's actions would affect the couple in profound ways, however. "Charming's role as a leader is really put to the test," Horowitz said. "As events start to unfold in Storybrooke, he really has to start to rise to some new challenges we haven't seen yet."
"For him personally, he does want to go back [to Fairytale Land], he wants to rebuild his kingdom," Kitsis added. "He doesn't care for electricity, he likes his sword -- even though he's good with a gun. So now that Snow's going to be needing some help, it's [a question of] how does he lead this town and bring his family back together?"
Goodwin admitted that Snow and her daughter Emma (Jennifer Morrison) don't really get the chance to discuss the impact of Snow's decision in upcoming episodes, since Emma is dealing with the drama of Henry (Jared Gilmore) getting to know his father, Neal (Michael Raymond-James), who also happens to be Rumplestiltskin's (Robert Carlyle) long-lost son Baelfire. (Yikes.)
"Emma's been really busy," Goodwin laughed. "There's certain things we haven't addressed as a family because we purely haven't been in the same place at the same time. I'm itching for those moments on screen but chaos ensues and then chaos ensues and then chaos ensues, so there are certain basic things that aren't being communicated."
Morrison agreed, "I'm not sure what that's going to completely mean in the writing, because there hasn't been a lot of time for Emma to deal with that with Snow, but in terms of the direction of the show, I think it's a really good thing to know, that good people are capable of bad things just like bad people are capable of good things ... as an audience member, I love that this happens -- how long can Snow White be perfect?"
She continued, "I think that there are great motivations for her to do what she's done. They've done a lot of revealing the goodness in Rumple and the goodness in Regina, the goodness in a lot of these villainous characters. I think it's good to also flip that and go, we have these heroes that are good people, and we know them as good people, but that doesn't mean that they don't make mistakes and bad decisions. It's another very human element of the show we're now starting to explore because of that decision."
Unfortunately for Snow, she has once again planted herself firmly in Regina's crosshairs, and Parrilla pointed out that the Evil Queen now has nothing to lose. "I think she's going to go right back after Snow," she said. "It needed to happen though, and it's gonna be interesting to see what Mary Margaret does, and how this affects her. There's a really cool episode coming up, Episode 17 -- you're gonna see a lot that happens between Mary Margaret and Regina then. There's a major confrontation between them and I really like the outcome. It's a really cool episode."
Parrilla also said that Regina hasn't lost sight of her ultimate goal: regaining custody of Henry. "Everything's been taken away from her -- so she's not only going to go after Snow, she's going to continue to fight to get Henry back. Those are her two main objectives ... I think she's tired of these people and she's just going to do whatever it takes to get what she wants."
Now that Snow is responsible for the death of Regina's lover, Daniel (Noah Bean), and her mother, is there any possible chance for peace between them? According to Kitsis and Horowitz, certainly not in the foreseeable future.
"For us, [Snow's dilemma] is kind of like when Regina gives [Snow] that speech, 'What did good get me? Dinner with a bunch of people who will never forgive me.' Sometimes when you're a good person and things are getting you down, you're like, 'why am I doing the right thing? What's it getting me?' That's the question posed and in a weird way, you have Regina and Snow going through the same thing because they both want to heal their hearts. Unfortunately, what happened, Snow regrets, but now she has to restore her heart," Horowitz said. "We realize that all Regina wanted was her mother's love and her son's love and she just doesn't know how to get it, so you've got a really dysfunctional family trying to come together but nobody knows how, and the history between them is so horrible, you wonder, will they ever be able to?"
Kitsis added, "Regina's mom is responsible for Snow's mom's death, and Regina herself is responsible for Snow's dad, so I'd say they're even -- but do you think you can ever have a treaty?"
"It's gonna be a long and rocky road for them," Horowitz agreed.
"The Miller's Daughter" not only gave us insight into Cora's history, it also shed more light on the enigmatic Rumplestiltskin, showing us that before he met Belle (Emilie de Ravin), he had another brush with love. Since Rumple and Cora clearly had an intimate relationship of some kind, we couldn't resist asking Carlyle whether he thought there was any chance that Rumple might be Regina's real father, despite Cora's dismissive words at the end of the episode.
"That's really interesting, isn't it? The very last scene between them where she meets him in the forest and they're about to run away and she says 'I'm not going,' she says that [any baby she has] won't be his, which is how the scene ended. But I [asked] the director [to keep going], and what I did after that was I grabbed her by the throat and then stroked her face," Carlyle said. "And I thought that can tell you that maybe it's not over ... So who knows? I liked that to keep it a little more open, like she just might be … It explained the kiss between the elder Cora and Rumple in Gold's pawnshop, to see where they came from."
Sadly, Kitsis later shot down that conspiracy theory, telling us, "He's definitely not her father, but he has been a father-figure to her in a most corruptible way,"
Still, Rumple has more than enough to deal with from his reunion with his real child, Bae, now a grown man and a father himself. "The sad thing for Gold in relation to his son is he's got nothing to offer. I thought the saddest thing about 'Manhattan' was when I said, 'I can turn the clock back and make you 14 again.' That's all he's got," Carlyle said. "And it's very typical of Gold that whenever he gets close to some kind of resolution in his life, he messes it up. But is he messing it up because he doesn't know how to do it, or is he messing it up because he's incapable and still is holding on to this lust for power? I think it's the latter, personally, but I don't know ..."
His relationship with Belle, however, may have a glimmer of hope on the horizon, after Rumple's heartfelt phone call seemed to touch something within her. "We're at Episode 19 [in filming], and he visits her in the hospital and says to her, 'I'm sorry if I disturbed you with that call, and I know you don't remember me, but my feelings for you are true -- I needed you to know that in case I die,'" Carlyle previewed. "She says, 'I could tell your feelings were real.' He says, 'You could? You remember me?!' and she says, 'No, but I know that we knew each other.' So that's the beginning of some other part of the journey."
And de Ravin agreed, "There's no memory but there's also been the connection of him coming to see her, which has been disturbing, but she also realizes that somebody wouldn't do that unless they actually really cared about you ... I think this phone call is a bit of a change in their relationship as far as her really realizing how much he cares, and thinking, 'wow, is that really me [he's describing]?'" The actress also teased what we might see in Episode 19, saying, "You learn a lot about both of us, separately and together, and there's some really cool changes that people won't expect. And she's out of the hospital!"
Both those connections will play an important part in upcoming episodes, Kitsis promised: "Rumple has two things this year, he has his need to be a better man for Belle and his need to be a better man for his son, and he right now is dealing with his son and the repercussions of that, and Belle is unfortunately no longer remembering who she is, so he's got a lot to deal with emotionally. What happens to Belle and their relationship will be a surprise for people."
The fact that Bae/Neal now connects the Charming family to Rumplestiltskin will cause plenty of problems, as well as offering its share of character growth. As Dallas pointed out, "It creates a really interesting dynamic now, because he is The Dark One, he is the most powerful, most evil thing that could possibly walk in their land or in any universe, but now he is family. It makes it different. As David says, Thanksgiving will be very interesting."
However, as we saw in "Manhattan," the Seer's prophecy predicted that the boy who led Rumple to his son would also be Rumple's "undoing," which probably means that any grandfather/grandson bonding between Rumple and Henry is off the table.
Carlyle admitted, "It's really difficult now, because the Seer points [Henry] out, so that's what's going on in Rumple's head, thinking, 'This must be who she's talking about.' So he tries to remove himself entirely, doesn't want to go near him, actually throws him out of the room at one point. So it's very complex, that relationship. I can't say too much more about it apart from, Henry's in danger now."
"But depends if you think "undoing" means bad!" Horowitz laughed.
"For us, that was the greatest thing, because he gets that prophecy and he goes 'who cares?' But it's a big 'who cares?' when it's your grandson, and that was why we originally, when we came up with it last year, had the idea of making Bae Neal," Kitsis said, "So that gets played out this year, absolutely. This year we really wanted to use the beginning of the year to set up these big emotional stakes and dig deep into them."
Emma's aptitude for magic is another important development in that family dynamic, and Horowitz previewed that it will be "a change for her and for her perception of everything about her family and where they came from and that world. And Rumple, seeing that in her has lit a fire in him as well, and her affinity for magic will continue to play a part in how the season progresses and where she ends up this year."
Neal's arrival will naturally cause a dilemma for our guarded heroine, something that Morrison admitted she was looking forward to. "What's great about the stuff with Neal is that it always takes Emma off-guard. For me, Emma's the most interesting when she's taken by surprise because she doesn't have time to make a decision and a plan about how to keep her guard up and how to protect herself," she explained. "So you get to see little cracks in her armor and you get to see the little girl that's still inside her in those moments. He definitely brings it out in her because it's one surprise after another with him. She certainly is not looking at it like 'oh, I just want to have this big happy ending with this person.' She's probably not even being honest with herself in terms of what she really feels about [his fiancee] Tamara, she's like 'well, it was 10 years ago, why do I care?' So it's something where it's definitely going to take time for her to even start processing her own feelings about all of it."
And as we learned in "The Queen is Dead," Neal also has a past with Hook (Colin O'Donoghue), as well as experience sailing pirate ships -- which certainly explains how someone several hundred years old can look so good. "There's a history between those two and that is one that we intend to explore before the end of the season," Horowitz promised.
"It is worthy of its own story, so to us, that feels like finale time," Kitsis agreed. Just as well that the two-part season finale is titled "Second Star to the Right," "And Straight On 'Til Morning."
As for Hook, Kitsis pointed out that the pirate "goes wherever the wind blows as long as it's blowing his way ... he's out for himself, so the question is, does a man out for himself ever help anyone?" We'll have to keep watching to find out.
Watch "Once Upon a Time's" PaleyFest panel below:
"Once Upon a Time" airs Sundays at 8 p.m. EST on ABC.
What did you think of "The Miller's Daughter"? Were you surprised that Cora was the one to die? Do you think Snow's actions will change her? Weigh in below!