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Once Upon a Time Recap: The Dark Swan – Emma as the Dark One, Merida Enters OUAT, and More Lost Time

Photo: ABC
Photo: ABC

The Dark Swan Recap

Welcome back to our weekly adventure into Once Upon a Time! It’s been one long summer since we last met and left the Storybrooke gang staring in awe at Emma’s (the new Dark One) dagger. At long last, season five of Once Upon a Time has started, and we can finally move forward from that deadly cliffhanger of a season finale. I, for one, want to see Emma become one of the Baddies. She’s got the moody temperament. I’m curious to see what she’s like as a villain instead of a hero. So, let’s get started and see what the show has in store for us this season.

The episode starts off showing a flashback of Emma when she was just a child. After stealing a candy bar from a theater, she is suddenly reprimanded by a seemingly normal theater employee. That is, until he gives her a warning about her future, telling her she will one day have the chance to pull Excalibur from the stone, but that she must not. He leaves her with the advice that if she does bad things, that will only cause more bad things to happen.

Present Day Enchanted Forest

Photo: ABC
Photo: ABC

The hunky Lancelot and his equally attractive comrades ride towards Excalibur with King Arthur. Arthur manages to pull the sword from the stone, but he only ends up with half of it. So, where did the other half go?


Our motley gang of heroes struggle to deal with Emma’s disappearance, particularly the lovelorn Hook. In the midst of their sorrow, however, they manage to realize that if they can’t summon Emma that must mean she isn’t in their world. And, on we go to the Enchanted Forest!

Enchanted Forest

As we all know that every evil villain is born from a cloud of evil, so we see Emma emerge from a bunch of black goo I’m assuming is tar…or perhaps the black oil from X-Files. Rumple, playing the “bad angel on her shoulder,” is there as well, and he’s apparently there to train her. Warning Emma that she “can’t just walk away” from being the Dark One, Rumple is foiled by Emma’s refusal to hurt anyone she loves. Emma forms a plan to find Merlin, whom the Apprentice said could destroy the darkness, and so our adventure begins. So far Emma is staying on the straight and narrow, but I have a feeling that things aren’t going to be this easy. This is Once Upon a Time after all. Something is bound to come along and ruin Emma’s plan.

Photo: ABC
Photo: ABC


Hook, on a mission to find and save Emma, goes to see the Apprentice, who tells him that Emma’s gone where all the Dark Ones go and conjures up the wand he was given when he first became the Apprentice to help them cross realms. Unfortunately, he’s too weak to work the magic, so Regina nobly steps in and offers her services. However, after four seasons of slowly inching towards the side of the heroes, it turns out Regina is too good to wield the wand. In order to cross the realms, they need someone who is equal parts dark and light to open the portal.

So, who can they turn to fix this bind? Why, Regina’s loony sister Zelena. After a short argument over Zelena’s lack of trustworthiness, the group ends up going to Zelena’s cell. But this doesn’t stop Regina, who understandably doesn’t trust her sister, to refuse to give the wand to Zelena and accept her help.

Growing desperate and reckless, Hook decides to enlist Henry’s help in an attempt to break Zelena out of jail so she can help them.  After getting in with ridiculous ease, Henry devises a distraction while Hook tries to take Zelena’s heart in order to force her compliance. This backfires when he finds out the Zelena has a protection spell around her heart preventing exactly that. But, Zelena has some ideas of her own about getting out, and in a move that I think shocked all of us, she cuts off her own hand (and then re-grows it) to free herself from the magic-blocking cuff Regina put on her previously.

With Hook busted, Regina is pissed and we are treated to her usual OUAT argument where eventually Snow steps in to play peacemaker. With that settled, the group sets their sights to finding the now free Zelena. And where might this one-track minded witch go? Why, straight to Robin Hood, of course. And that is precisely where our fairy tale heroes end up facing off against Zelena. Zelena claims she’ll trade Robin for the dagger, as all she wants is to return to Oz and raise her child there. Regina, after some waffling, gives in to her demand, giving up the precious dagger. However, in a clever move, Regina slaps the anti-magic cuff back on Zelena’s wrist while she is weakened from opening the portal. In one fell swoop, Zelena is taken care of and the portal is opened. Two birds with one stone. I must say, Regina is really putting her formerly evil powers to good use as a hero. And so, using Granny’s place as their ride, so to speak, the group catches a cyclone to the Enchanted Forest.

Enchanted Forest

Photo: ABC
Photo: ABC

We return to the Enchanted Forest to find Emma having to fight harder and harder to resist her dark urges. On her way to Camelot she almost kills a stranger when he refuses to give her information. And Rumple is there to comment on this “first taste of darkness.” Emma refuses to give in, though, and Rumple sulks along as Emma continues on her journey.

And along comes Merida! After running across a Whisp (a kind of fairy that can help Emma in her quest), she is lead straight to the spunky and stubborn Scottish warrior Merida. Emma manages to convince a wary Merida that she’s not evil, merely cursed, which Merida can sympathize with. After Emma refuses to fight Merida for the Whisp, which they both need, Merida decides to join her on her little adventure and lend a helping hand. And so, the pair plan on sharing the Whisp (does anyone else see the problem here of them basically enslaving another being from the Enchanted Forest?  Don’t fairies have equal rights? Where are the civil rights activists in this place?). Thus begins the duo’s journey.

While following them on their travels, we learn that it is actually Merida’s fault that her brothers were kidnapped, and that the clans do not approve of a woman, namely her, ruling. Rumple continues in his role as the devil at Emma’s shoulder when he tries to get Emma to kill Merida while she’s asleep. After Emma refuses, Rumple throws a temper tantrum, whining about Emma not behaving like a Dark One. The next morning Emma awakens to find Merida missing. Apparently, Merida figured out Emma’s true identity and decided she didn’t want to be buddies after all. Merida tries to attack and injure Emma with her bow, but it seems the newly darkened Emma is simply untouchable. Emma eventually corners Merida. With victory so close at hand, Emma has to fight tooth and nail against the urge (and Rumple’s encouragement) to rip out Merida’s heart. Emma’s resolve slowly weakens until the Storybrooke gang shows up, talking Emma down and saving the day.

It turns out that Emma’s inner battle with her dark demons made a powerful impact on Merida. It made Merida recognize the darkness she was harboring within herself when she planned to kill those who took her brothers and wage an all-out war between the clans. Seeing her own dark side, however, makes Merida decide to be merciful instead. I hope we all learned something from this, class. Don’t you just love the little moral lessons inserted into the show at the most random moments?

After Emma entrusts her dagger to Regina, refusing to take it herself, the group decides to head towards where Granny’s diner crashed. In a stroke of good luck, they are intercepted by King Arthur, who has come to bring Emma to Camelot and reunited her with Merlin, as he already knew about her arrival due to a prophecy. And thus, everyone traipses along to a happy ending at Camelot and King Arthur’s court. Or do they…


Photo: ABC
Photo: ABC

We are suddenly whisked back to Storybrooke where everyone has safely returned from the Enchanted Forest. The only problem? No one remembers how they got there, and they can’t account for the six weeks that have passed since their departure. I smell a familiar plot device coming up.

Emma also happens to be with the group. But it’s definitely not the Emma that we’ve come to know and love. She’s Gone Evil if you know what I mean (black clothes, hair in a regal but painful looking updo, and a wicked look on her face). Emma also somehow has the dagger that she previously gave to Regina for safe keeping. I think it’s time for the heroes to take a slow step backward, and then run and find someplace to hide. Emma has officially crossed over to the dark side, and she’s hell bent on punishing the Storybrooke gang for everything they’ve done to her (despite her having gone through an intense process of forgiving and healing in the last season). Emma, the moody, aggressive, and often angry woman even when she’s normal, is now the Dark One. I’m quite looking forward to watching how this unfolds in the coming weeks.

Extra Wishes

*Favorite Quote: “Put that thing down before you hurt yourself Guyliner.”

-Regina to Hook when he tries to pick up the Dark One’s dagger

*Something to Keep in Mind: According to Zelena, Robin is “the key to everything.” This is never explained in the episode, so it bears remembering. Also, I’m guessing the whole triangle…err quartet of Robin/Zelena/Regina/Zelena’s unborn baby is going to end up playing a big role in this season. It bears keeping them in the back of your mind for the future.

How did you like The Dark Swan? Did the premiere live up to your expectations? What do you think is going to happen this season? Sound off below…



Make sure to keep up with Once Upon a Time by checking out all my recaps here.

Are you a Hook and Emma fan? Check out this article.

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By on September 29th, 2015

About Rebecca Lane

Rebecca Lane grew up in the hot desert landscape of Tucson, Arizona where she decided early on she wanted to write, if only to mentally escape her blistering surroundings. She has always been enamored of the arts and literature. As a child she often wrote short stories, and rewrote the endings of novels that she simply could not abide. She received her Undergraduate degree from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, where she was lucky enough to also spend a year studying at Oxford University. While she began her journey dreaming of the day she would sing opera in a large Manhattan theater, she found in the end she could not stand waitressing and simply could not give up books and her hopes of someday writing them. She is currently working as a freelance writer/editor and earning her Masters in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

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