by: Emily Konopka
Once Upon a Time returned for its fifth season with an hour full of adventure and angst as Emma’s quest to fight the darkness began.
The premiere began with a flashback to Emma as a small child in Minnesota. She snuck into the movie theater to see what else but the Sword in the Stone. An employee appears to seemingly throw her out, but he instead calls Emma by name and warns her not to do it. Do what exactly? He tells her that one day she will have the opportunity to pull the Excalibur from the stone, and she should not do it. If my eyes don’t deceive me, mystery movie theater man appears to be Elliot Knight, aka Merlin. My, my, Mr. Merlin what are you doing all the way in Minnesota?
From the screen to the Enchanted Forest, we see Once’s version of Arthur along with Lancelot arriving at the stone to free Excalibur. Another knight takes a stab at it, but apparently wasn’t worthy because he turns to ash. When Arthur steps up to the plate he pulls out the sword with ease. But wait, there’s something missing. The tip of the sword has been broken off. That won’t stop Arthur from claiming his place as king however. He vows to find the piece that completes the sword. And the shape that completes it? Why it’s the Dark One’s dagger of course.
Jump ahead to moments after the season four finale left off. Emma has disappeared in a flutter of darkness, and Hook is hell bent on bringing her back. However using the dagger to summon her doesn’t seem to do the trick. So to the apprentice they go. He tells them that Emma has been transported to the Enchanted Forest, the place were all Dark Ones have been made. He gifts them with the wand Merlin gave him when he became his apprentice so they can summon a portal. The catch, however, is they need someone consumed with Darkness to wield it and Regina doesn’t fit the bill any longer. They need someone Wicked. Regina is not on board with the plan, but Killian is not going to take no for an answer. After all asking her sister for a favor is the least Regina could do for Emma after she risked her life to ensure her happy ending, right?
Speaking of Emma, she rises from the vault of the Dark One in a feathery gray cloak; clearly a nod to the fact that she’s transforming from the white swan into the black swan. And who should greet her but the former Dark One himself, Rumplestiltskin. Hold your horses gang, our dear Rumple is still knocked out in a coma back in Storybrooke. The evil little voice in the Savior’s head is simply manifesting itself as Rumple. As he tries to convince Emma to give in to the darkness, she is focused on trying to find Merlin. She happens upon a kind man on the road, but when he won’t give her directions to Camelot, she looses control of her magic and nearly kills him.
Enter the Will-O-The-Wisp. Emma’s inner Dark One tells her that if she wants to find Merlin, the little blue flicker is her only way. Queue the Merida and Emma meet cute. Merida snatches the wisp before Emma can reach it, and she’s not willing to give it up without a fight. But Emma knows fighting is giving into the darkness, and she says Merida is free to take the wisp. She’ll just have find another way to reach Merlin. The brave princess tells Emma that she can accompany her to the hill of stones where the wisps reside. Once she uses to wisp for herself, Emma can use it for whatever she needs.
Merida and Emma head off for the hill of stones, and we learn that Merida’s brothers were taken. Some of the clansmen aren’t happy with the fact that a woman has assumed the throne. Looks like gender problems transcend realms. When the two lasses make camp, the voices in Emma’s head try to convince her to kill Merida. She’s refuses, but when she wakes up the princess is gone.
Back in Storybrooke, Regina isn’t about to let her sister have access to magic again, so they simply ask her how to get the wand to work. They need something Emma holds near and dear to her heart. Hook, however, thinks they need to dance with the devil to get the deed done. He enlists Henry to sneak into the asylum with him. Hook has a plan to ensure Zelena does as she’s told, or so he thinks. He tries to take her heart, but instead all he gets is an express trip into the wall and a dose of déjà vu. Zelena snatches his blade and lobs off her left hand, freeing herself from the magic blocking cuff.
Now that she’s sprung from the brig, her first stop is entrapping Robin. She sees their bun in the oven as her ticket to a better life with someone who will actually love her. She plans on spending it far away from Storybrooke. She offers Regina Robin’s safety in exchange for the wand. She’s going to use it to poof herself back over the rainbow. To the displeasure of the rest of the group, Regina takes the bait. But wait, she has a trick up her sleeve. She knew using the wand would weaken Zelena, so she slaps the cuff right back on her wrist. It’s time to reroute this twister to the Enchanted Forest.
Their vessel of choice is Granny’s Diner, and this time around Granny and the dwarves are coming along for the adventure. The diner lands in the Enchanted Forest just in time because Emma is about to succumb to the darkness.
Emma has found her way to the hill of stones where Merida is whispering her question to the wisp. Emma tries to convince Merida that she isn’t evil, but the Princess overheard her talking to herself in her sleep. “Rumple” continues to egg her on, saying the only way to get to Merlin is killing Merida and taking the wisp for herself. After catching every arrow the master archer sends her way, Emma gives in to the darkness and snatches Merida’s heart.
As she wrestles with crushing the princess’s heart, Hook, the Charmings, and company arrive in the knick of time. Killian implores with his love to resist the darkness. However, Emma is so desperate to rid herself of it because she doesn’t want to hurt her loved ones the way Gold did. Hook reminds her that the heroes and villains united because of her, and they are all there to help save her. They will find another way together. Snow considers using the dagger on her daughter, but Hook insists resisting the darkness has to be her decision. Emma finally steps back into the light and returns Merida’s heart.
After a few loving embraces, the gang returns to Granny’s, which aside from the fryers is in tip top shape. Not long after, the welcome wagon arrives. Enter Arthur and the Camelot crew. They have been waiting for their arrival since Merlin himself prophesied it. The gang gets escorted to Camelot, but before we can see what life in Arthur’s castle is like the timeline jumps ahead 6 weeks.
Granny’s has crash-landed back in Storybrooke with the people inside decked out in fairytale garb. But why are they back? As far as anyone knows they were just walking into Camelot. Looks like they’ve lost their memories, again, and Emma is nowhere to be found. That is until the door blasts open and in walks Emma in all her Dark Swan glory. Dolled up in black leather, she lets them know that they failed her in Camelot. After she turns Dopey into a statue for good measure, Killian asks Emma why she is acting this way. Her chilling response? “I’m the Dark One.”
And there she is ladies and gents, the Dark Swan has officially risen! But how did she get to this point? It seems that her journey into the darkness will be told throughout flashbacks this season. Can’t wait to see the Dark Swan tearing up the streets of Storybrooke!
Facebook: Variety Radio Online
Tumblr: Variety Radio Online