Once Upon a Time has returned and we were all waiting to see what’s happening with our favorite Storybrook residents. Emma has become The Dark One, Rumplestiltskin is in a coma and The Apprentice does not look like he’s long for this world. In the first episode of season 5, the Dark Swan will emerge.
We open with a young Emma Swan in 1989 at the movies watching Disney’s The Sword in the Stone. In typical Once fashion they give a little wink and a nod to the cartoons. An usher approaches Emma and tells her she will have the opportunity to remove the sword from the stone one day. He advises her not to do it. When you do something wrong, even for the right reasons, bad things will happen.
After the opening credits we see Arthur riding in with a couple knights. Merlin’s prophecy about Excalibur, the sword in the stone has set them on a quest. Only a true hero can pull the sword from the stone. If you are not a true hero you are vaporized into dust. As Arthur pulls the sword out we see a very familiar pattern to the blade. The end is broken and the scene dissolves to reveal the broken tip is The Dark One’s dagger.
Last season ended with Emma taking in the power of The Dark One to protect everyone she loved. She disappears and the dagger is left on the ground with her name one it. Emma is no longer in this world, The Apprentice informs them she has been taken to a place where all darkness is born. He is too weak to take them to her but conjures a wand to help them. A team from Storybrook open a portal and are setting out to help Emma find her way back.
We have Emma in a forrest with the Rumplestiltskin version of The Dark One. He’s there trying to teach her to embrace her dark powers but she is trying to resist. Accidentally using magic gives her a taste of the darkness deep within and she’s learning how easy it would be to give in to the darkness. Snow, Charming, Regina and Hook get to her just before she does something so terrible she would never recover. Snow gives Emma the dagger but Emma says she needs someone two watch her. She gives Regina the dagger because she knows she will do what no one else would, destroy her if the darkness consumes her. As they walk to Granny’s Diner, now in the middle of the woods because of the portal, King Arthur rides up with his knights telling them Merlin’s prophecy of their arrival and escorts them to Camelot.
Six weeks later we’re back in Storybrook. With a flash of light Granny’s Diner reappears with everyone inside except Emma. They’re all dressed in medieval clothing and have no memories of anything after walking in to Camelot. When Emma does appear, she’s full blown Dark One and she is angry. She turns Sneezy to stone and declares “There is no savior in this town anymore.” When Regina tries to stop her Emma reveals she now holds the dagger and that she will punish them for what they did. When Hook asks her why she says because she’s The Dark One.
This episode was very well done. We see the beginning of Emma’s struggle with good and evil while the darkness begins to consume her. Seeing her at the end, so angry and completely embracing her darkness while no one remembers the past 6 weeks makes us all wonder what happened in Camelot. Emma is known for her pure goodness so seeing her portray pure evil will make for an interesting season. We got to see Merida and the wisps. The vague mention to magic and bears was a fun nod to Brave. Some might not appreciate the subtle references to the Disney movies but it’s ABC and these stories have all been told by Disney. Me being a Disney fanatic, I absolutely love the references. The only down side is how many times can their minds be wiped before they begin to suffer permanent damage? It’s happened so many times that I now expect at least 1 mind wipe every season. The villains need a new side effect to go with their curses. Other than that, it was a very good episode and a nice start to season 5. The next episode is entitled “The Price” and as Rumplestiltskin has said, “All magic comes with a price, Dearie”.