Once Upon a Time 5x01 The Dark Swan

Once Upon a Time: 5×01 “The Dark Swan” Review

“Put that thing down before you hurt yourself, guy-liner.” – Regina

Remember, dearie, all spoilers come at a price~

Man, it is good to be back! I did not realize how much I missed my weekly dose of witty one-liners and fairy tale shenanigans until I heard that opening sequence. And there is just so much to look forward to this season! Camelot looks like it will play a large role, Merida showed up, and Meghan Ory is going to be reprising her role as Red (my favorite character). And, of course, Emma Swan is the new Dark One.

Last season left us with Emma sacrificing herself to the forces of evil so that she could save Regina. Upon realizing that Emma has done something heroically stupid and was transported to the Enchanted Forest, the usual gang sets out to find a way to save her. But of course the Enchanted Forest is a ridiculously difficult place to travel. It involves a wand that requires equal parts dark and light magic, family drama between the Evil(?) Queen and the Wicked Witch of the West, a jailbreak staged by Captain Hook, and a Wizard of Oz-style tornado transporting a modern-day diner to the fairy tale realm… Which is all more or less normal for the world of Once Upon a Time.

But while the Charming Softball Team, their Pirate Mascot, the leader of the Men in Tights, and the Evil(?) Queen were having their usual showdown in front of the town clock tower, Emma was being reborn from a well of darkness in the Enchanted Forest. Which was actually a really interesting effect. A platform lowered to allow this dark goo to seep in through holes in the walls, and then the platform rose as that darkness formed Emma. It gave this illusion that the darkness was seeping from the depths of the earth and raising up to bring forth a new evil. And I thoroughly enjoy small details like that, so props to whoever worked on that sequence.

Once she is born Emma decides that the best thing to do is seek out Merlin and get the darkness ripped from her as soon as possible. First she needs to get to Camelot, which seems like a pretty simple task. Of course we must remember that Emma is now overflowing with dark magic, and unintentionally strangling people is not the best way to ask for directions. On top of that she had to deal with a hallucination of Rumplestiltskin, a manifestation of the darkness within her, urging her to accept her role. So when Emma is not performing evil acts she is arguing with a hallucination about whether or not to kill people. Great way to make friends.

Though she does end up becoming a somewhat friend to Merida. You know Merida, right? The totally badass princess from the amazing Pixar movie Brave? She accidentally turned her mom into a bear? Decided to choose her own fate? That princess? Well, turns out things have not been going great for her. Her father died, causing her to ascend the throne as the realm’s new queen. However the clans were not exactly fond of having a female ruler. (Insert well-timed comment that people in the real world are not willing to accept women rulers either.) When the clans went to war, Merida’s three brothers were kidnapped. Desperate for guidance Merida decided to turn to the Will o’ the Wisps.

Well, Emma also needs guidance. Quite desperately. And for whatever reason there is only one wisp in the entirety of the Enchanted Forest. But Merida is kind and decides to “share” the Wisp with Emma. Once the new queen knows where her brothers are, then Emma can find out where Merlin is. Of course Wisps are not toys to be shared, as they become the owner of whomever they serve first. So Emma is faced with the issue of allowing Merida to have the Wisp, or killing her for it.

With the voice of the previous Dark One urging her to act, Emma rips out Merida’s heart and threatens to kill her… Just in time for the “Protect Emma 2015” squad to arrive. Emma is convinced not to give in to the darkness, and decides to find Merlin using other means. Those means conveniently arrive on the doorstep of Granny’s transported diner in the form of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Apparently Merlin predicted that the Storybrooke crew would arrive, and Camelot is counting on them to find the missing wizard.

At this point all seems well. The group is being escorted into beautiful Camelot, the sun is shining down on them, and things are looking great. And then… it is six weeks in the future, and Granny’s diner has been transported back to Storybooke. But what happened in those six weeks? Well, no one can remember.

Seriously? Seriously?! You are pulling this tired plot twist again?! This is the third time that these characters have been transported somewhere with absolutely no memory of the events leading up to that event. And then all of a sudden Emma walks in, dressed head-to-toe in leather, and starts wrecking the place? Because at some point in those six weeks she decided, “Ah, screw it,” and accepted her role as the Dark One?

I really feel like the writers had this whole Enchanted Forest plot written where Emma progressively gives into the darkness, only for someone to kick the office door down and shout that the fans want to see Emma as the Dark One. Surveys, or some other analytical thing, showed that unless Emma appeared as the full-fledged Dark One in the first episode ratings and viewers would drop dramatically. So they decided that the back story could be told almost exclusively in flashbacks, which really need to be reigned back in this show, and have the plot roll forward as quickly as the ratings needed.

And I honestly cannot blame them. I was losing interest in the show until I saw Emma was set to be the new Dark One. Going into this episode I was expecting for some time to have passed so that they could show Emma in all her evil glory. But I really have come to despise the memory loss card in this show, because it feels so cheap. The first time it was used was relevant to the overall story, the second time was a bit strained, and this time it feels like a cry for help.

But setting that criticism aside, it is interesting to see some elements pulled over from last season. Season 4b began with villains trying to turn Emma evil, but she ended up becoming evil in order to do the heroic thing. Meanwhile Regina was trying desperately to fight off the evil, and in the end became good thanks to Emma. The preview for next week’s episode shows Dark Emma calling Regina the new savior, which is a complete role reversal from when we first met these characters. And I must say that I am all for watching Regina tackle things as a hero, all the while retaining the sass of an Evil Queen.

All in all, aside from the memory-loss plot point, it was a pretty entertaining season premiere. I cannot wait to see Emma strutting her stuff as the new Dark One in clothes she no doubt raided from Regina’s closet.

More Stories
Male and Female Cosplayers
The Must-Have Skincare Guide for Cosplayers