Two and a half weeks remain until the March 9 mid-season premiere of ABC's "Once Upon a Time" (entitled "New York Serenade"), and a lot of new info has come out in the interim that hints towards a magical smackdown in the Enchanted Forest.
To recap the winter finale: Storybrooke is gone (supposedly) as the curse that brought the storybook characters into this world was reversed by the evil Peter Pan, played ably and creepily by Robbie Kay.
Peter Pan was stopped by Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) before he could kill everyone in Storybrooke. Evil Queen Regina said that everyone could be saved, but she'd have to give up what was dearest to her. That was Henry, her adopted son, and she let him go with his biirth mom, Emma Swan -- daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming -- back into the real world with no memory of her or the magical happenings of Storybrooke.
Everyone was sent back to the Enchanted Forest, except for Emma and Henry, who were living it up in New York. In the epilogue of the battle, the enigmatic Captain Hook somehow found his way back to the real world, only to warn Emma that her family is facing a grave threat and needed her help.
So now you're caught up.
The creators of the show, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, recently dropped some hints about what to expect this season. By now it's well-known that the Wicked Witch of the West, who's name was revealed as Zelena and is played by actress Rebecca Mader, will be making her presence felt in the Enchanted Forest. She may have done some redecorating since both Evil Queen Regina and princess Snow White last wrestled to rule the kingdom.
When last we left Emma, she and Henry were living in New York, free of any memories of their time in Storybrooke and the existence of fairy tale characters. How and if she gets her memory back will be something to watch out for, as well as fairy tale influences on her life that she may be completely unaware of while in the Big Apple. What could be more interesting is getting Henry, who has 'the heart of the truest believer,' to actually believe that there is a world outside of his urban, video-game-and-pancakes existence that involves magic.
"Emma has a lot to deal with," said Horowitz. "Her heart is all over the place, and things will happen that force Emma to choose sides."
In terms of the new, we were all teased by the image of the green-hued Wicked Witch of the West at the end of the winter finale. Since Zelena is involved, Kitsis and Horowitz said that fans should expect to see other denizens from Oz, whether in flashbacks or in present day.
It's already been announced that Glinda the Good Witch (actress Sunny Mabrey) will also be making an appearance or two, though she will be coming in through the "OUAT" prism, so don't expect a whole lot of giddiness and fluttery voices most likely. And of course, there'll be a nod to the yellow brick road.
For current characters, Kitsis and Horowitz did mention that Robbie Kay's Peter Pan would not be returning this season. Robert Carlyle's Rumpelstiltskin sacrificed himself to take out the never-aging big bad (who the creators say they have "frozen" somewhere), and who knows what that means for our beloved Mr. Gold.
Favorites like the Huntsman (Jamie Dornan, cast in "50 Shades of Grey") and Red Riding Hood (Megan Ory, now on CBS' "Intelligence") have moved on, and now Mulan (Jamie Chung, starting on NBC's "Believe") will be scaling back. Kitsis and Horowitz say they always keep "an open-door policy. We wish all of them well." Mulan in particular should be returning a few times this season.
It wouldn't be "Once Upon a Time" if new characters were not introduced, though, and a weird Rapunzelle (Alexandra Metz), a dashing Lumiere (Henri Lubatti) and the pirate's pirate Blackbeard will be just some of the story book blending that will be occurring this season.
But with Princess Aurora and Prince Philip, Snow and Prince Charming, the Evil Queen, Baelfire, Belle, Dr. Frankenstein, Robin Hood, dwarves and even Tinkerbell, there will be more than enough to keep track of.