Once Upon A Time – Dark Swan – Review

ONCE UPON A TIME - Saturday, August 15, 6-7pm, Stage 23 - "Once Upon a Time: An Evening with Snow White & the Evil Queen" - "Once Upon a Time's" savior has gone dark! As Emma Swan transitions into her role as the Dark One, join the resident fairy tale characters as they cope with Emma's new role and begin the search for Merlin. This is a journey that will take our heroes from the Enchanted Forest to Camelot and along the way bring many surprises, including Merida from "Brave," as "Once Upon a Time" introduces its first Pixar character. Join co-creators and executive producers Edward Kitsis ("Lost") and Adam Horowitz ("Lost") along with series stars Ginnifer Goodwin and Lana Parrilla as they discuss the upcoming season of unexpected twists, evolving characters, new adventures and new rivalries. This panel is sure to bring some surprises you don't want to miss and an exclusive sneak peek at the upcoming season premiere!  The Q&A with this fairy tale team will be moderated by D23's Jeffrey Epstein. "Once Upon a Time" returns for its fifth season on Sunday, September 27 at 8pm ET/PT on ABC. (ABC/Jack Rowand) ROBERT CARLYLE, JENNIFER MORRISON

One of the most anticipated season premiers is Once Upon A Time’s “Dark Swan.”  Hopefully this doesn’t spoil things for people (the spoilers will come later in this post) but the season finale had Emma Swan taking the essence of the Dark One to prevent it from taking over Regina/Evil Queen.  This Dark One is the same dark magic being that Rumplestiltskin once had inside of him that was also slowly killing him.

The last season left on the cliffhanger of Emma disappearing as the new Dark One.

And now some spoilers of the season opener….

The episode starts with a few knights approaching a sword in a stone.  It’s revealed that they are knights from Camelot, including Lancelot (that we’ve seen before) and King Arthur.  They come upon the famed Excalibur, and Arthur knows he is the one that must pull the sword out of the stone.  When he does, a good sized chunk of the sword toward the tip seems to be broken off.  It’s revealed that this piece missing makes up the Dark One dagger that is used to control the avatar of the dark magic.

meridaCutting to Storybrooke, Emma’s family and friends are in panic over what has just transpired with her taking the Dark One in her.  She’s not present, but the dagger is left.  Hook tries to command her over, but she is not anywhere in the town.  The Sorcerer’s Apprentice points out that she is back in the Enchanted Forest, and tells them to also seek Merlin who can destroy the Dark One.  He gives the group a magic wand that can help transport them to the Enchanted Forest if used by someone with light and darkness in them.  When Regina tries to use it she is unable to make anything happen, and everyone realizes she has done too much good to have darkness in her.

Now the group goes to Zelena/Wicked Witch of Oz, who is locked away still pregnant with Robin Hood’s child (I could go into it but I suggest watching the last season to find out why).  Zelena’s powers are hindered by a band that Regina has put on her wrist, and says she’ll help if she can take the band off.  It’s not agreed upon and the group seeks another solution.

Hook employs Henry, Emma’s son, to help in freeing Zelena to use the wand to transport them.  It ends up being Hook and Henry that are tricked and Zelena is free with the wand.  Eventually she holds Robin Hood hostage in order to ensure her escape back to Oz, but Regina gets the best of her.  All go to Granny’s as a tornado portal approaches to transport them to the Forest.

So, what’s Emma doing during all this?  She appears in the Forest, struggling to not give into the dark magic.  Rumplestiltskin appears, but he says he’s really the voice of the Dark One, only appearing to Emma.  He’s trying to get her to use dark magic and fully become the Dark One.  Emma wants to find Merlin to rid the darkness from her.

Merida (of Brave fame) stumbles upon Emma as a wisp flies around.  The wisp can help either one of them with their respective problems.  The temptation for Emma is to use force to get the wisp from Merida.  Merida wants to help Emma after she gets her problem solved of getting back her kidnapped brothers.  In Emma’s inner voice struggle, Merida overhears Emma arguing with the Dark One to not kill Merida.  The red haired girl hears it all though trying to sleep, and in the morning tries to evade and even fight Emma.

once-upon-a-timeEmma nearly gives into the Dark One and rips out Merida’s heart almost crushing it, but her family and friends arrive just in time to stop her.  She puts the heart back into Merida, and lets Merida get the help from the wisp.  But, the wisp now belongs to Merida and cannot help Emma find Merlin.

As the group gets to Granny’s, the knights of Camelot ride toward them.  Arthur says Merlin prophesied their appearance, and wants to escort them to Camelot.  It turns out that Emma is to help find Merlin, as he has now gone missing.

A sudden 6 week later cut is made and Granny’s is returned to Storybrooke with everyone inside having Camelot attire on.  All of them have their memories erased of the last 6 weeks.  Something’s wrong: Emma is not among them.  Suddenly she appears in much darker attire and appearance.  She turns Sneezy into stone saying that there is no more savior in Storybrooke and they failed to eradicate the darkness.  Vowing to punish them all, she disappears.  End season opener.

Once Upon A Time has been a fun view of twisted fairy tales.  Though taking a cue from Disney versions of them all, the show has become its own thing now.  Emma is an original character, and viewers have been heavily invested into her story as much as the others.  To have at least half a season wrapped around an original character shows the maturity of the show.  It’s become its own mythology fully.

A large switch in a character can be quite jarring, but OUAT has done an outstanding job at having many anticipate this change.  And it’s not only Emma, but Regina has greatly changed too.  At first the Evil Queen was the main villain, but her transformation over time is putting her in the hero role this season.  Emma, having the Dark One possess her, has become the main villain.  And the opener makes it seem like there is no hope of her going back to good.

That’s about where the season is headed and how it’s set up to be great, but what about this episode?

Jennifer Morrison did an outstanding job in so many different tones and emotions of her character.  She portrayed the struggle inside Emma, and the very eery calmness to her Dark One self.  It was creepy, yet asking for sympathy.  Lana Parrilla kept Regina’s tough as nails attitude, while playing it good now.  In all, this episode was a refreshing opener where ones the last two seasons were a bit lackluster.

The episode was a roller coaster, especially of dealing with so many twists with characters.  There is a bit of mystery answered from last season, but kept things going where it looks like this season will keep us on a ride.  My only complaint isn’t really one.  It has to do with how three of the dwarves come along for the ride to Enchanted Forest.  They yell at Snow White about not going on any of the adventures, and want to come along.  Snow just smiles and says “OK.”  But, it’s so quick and still doesn’t give much screen time for these secondary characters.  It felt a little forced.  But, the part that isn’t a complaint is where it’s nice to have some of these other characters have more appearances in the show.  I’m glad there getting screen time, just wish it wasn’t executed the way it was.

Other than that, I’m looking forward to seeing the revealing of what happened over the missing 6 weeks, and how the crew will find Merlin.  Well, that’s my guess.  Or could it be that Emma’s villain role will be permanent….