Once Upon a Time mingles happily ever after with Neverland

Once Upon a Time spins its second-season finale towards the boy who wouldn't grow up in Neverland.

The malleability of fairy tales to adapt to their times has kept them as vibrant as pixie dust for centuries, so it comes as no surprise that Once Upon a Time is still swinging its magic wand like a Louisville Slugger bat as the second season draws to a close with a special, two-part finale.

Shows such as Grimm, where mythology fuses with police procedural, demonstrate how readily the fairy tale can meld into a hybrid, while the youth fuelled CW network's new foray into the genre, Beauty and the Beast, casts a female detective as the beauty. Cynics take note; all three shows have already been renewed for the 2013-2014 seasons.

Whereas the origins of fairy tales are bathed in dark curses, cautionary tales, death, lost love and spilt blood — the “Disneyfication” of all of the above, with its de rigueur happy ending, has brought positive messages of hope, inner beauty, romance and self-empowerment to shine more warmly over the magical firmament in the 21st century.

"These fairy tales always have an element of darkness and, for us, there's a big distinction between darkness and unpleasantness," Adam Horowitz, who co-created Once Upon a Time with Edward Kitsis, tells Entertainment Weekly.

“And we never want to go there. We’re never going to be a serial-killer show. We want to touch on the darkness and the scariness that are inherent in these stories. We also try to never lose sight of one of the guiding principles of this show, which is hope.”

We’ve witnessed this through the second season as the Evil Queen/Regina (Lana Parrilla) – who ripped out the Huntsman’s chest and killed her own father in season one – now reveals hints of inner goodness and random acts of kindness as she fights to save Storybrooke from the doom of the encroaching forest. (In old-school fairy tales, an Evil Queen would cackle and scoff at such a Scrooge-like transformation)

What’s really special about the season’s two-part finale is the show’s capacity to merge mythologies. Once Upon a Time easily reimagines Neverland here and whips up a story feast for Peter Pan lovers.

Expect a dramatic kidnapping as well as an unexpected journey for a sextet of major Storybrooke characters to the supernatural realm of Neverland. Is Henry (Jared Gilmore) the kidnap target?

Another question you might ask yourself: Who will producers pick to play the boy who wouldn’t grow up, Peter Pan? Will he be sunny or downright sinister? And might he be someone you’ve “known” all along?

And the magic just keeps on coming – from Neverland to Wonderland. While a UAE broadcast date has yet to be confirmed, this autumn in North America, the Once Upon a Time franchise will spin off an Alice in Wonderland series to be called, you guessed it, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland. While the two series will maintain separate identities for the most part, viewers can still expect many crossover moments between the characters of Storybrooke and Wonderland, also adapted for television by Kitsis and Horowitz.

Its premise? In Victorian England, doctors are about to “cure” the insane, troubled Alice in a way that will make her forget everything about the rabbit hole, shisha-smoking caterpillar and playing cards that talk. But in her heart, Alice knows this world is real. In the nick of time, the Knave of Hearts and the White Rabbit rescue her from her doom, as the trio tumble down the rabbit hole to Wonderland – where anything is possible.

• Part one of the second-season finale of Once Upon a Time will be broadcast at 10pm on July 22, while part two will be broadcast at 10pm on July 29

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