Dark Swan
Television & Film

ONCE UPON A TIME Emma Became the Dark One

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Episode 501 “The Dark Swan”

In this week’s episode, there were a sword in a stone, a red haired archer, a sibling rivalry, and a savior turned Dark One!

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Coming off the cliffhanger from the end of last season, Emma is no longer the savior but rather the Dark One, and she was sucked through a vortex to somewhere else. Although Killian has her dagger, it won’t do any good. (The new episode kindly replayed that scene for us.) What followed, as usual, takes the show’s put-soap-operas-to-shame complexity to the next level.

So it started with a young Emma going to the movies in 1989 to see Disney’s The Sword In The Stone. While sitting and watching, a phantom usher told her that she would have the opportunity to pull the sword from the stone. While a nice, cryptic way to start the episode, it seems odd that all these kinds of things happened throughout Emma’s life. But back in season 1, she seemed a bit more normal. Wouldn’t you think these things might have been a clue to her that she’s a bit inexplicably different? Oh, well. I can forgive a bit of hand-of-the-writers, as long as it pays off in the end.

Next up came King Arthur and Excalibur in the stone. Only Arthur was able to pull the sword from the rock. Sir Kay’s attempt turned him into ash. Because magic, that’s why. But it’s Once Upon A Time. Death on this show roughly equates to a comic book death. Perhaps Kay still lives? And Excalibur only had a partial blade. So the quest began to find the end of the sword’s blade. The transition sort of implied that the end might be the blade of the Dark One’s dagger. Interesting tie-in. Both Arthur and Merlin fit into the picture, Emma looking for Merlin to reverse her Dark One curse and Arthur looking for the rest of his sword.

He pulled Excalibur, but there was no point to it. (ABC/Jack Rowand) LIAM GARRIGAN
He pulled Excalibur, but there was no point to it. (ABC/Jack Rowand)
LIAM GARRIGAN

We found out that Emma was teleported to the Enchanted Forest. She began her quest to find Merlin, who was supposed to be able to take the darkness out of her. There, she began to discover her powers via a Rumpelstiltskin … hallucination? Well, only she could see him. (Mr. Gold was still in a coma in Storybrooke.) And he encouraged her to become pure evil. Her “dark side” really showed up when she Force-choked (albeit inadvertently) a man who simply wanted some silver in exchange for information about where Camelot was.

Then she met Merida. There was a bit of a subplot involving a magical wisp and ripping Merida’s heart out. But unless Merida is going to make another appearance in a later episode, then the entire encounter was pointless and mostly irrelevant to the story, except as a plot device to influence Emma’s interaction with the Rumpel vision and a chance to include another Disney reference.

Although it didn’t drag the story along at all and took up a bit of the episode, in the end, it just seemed like a throwaway encounter. It did help show the struggle Emma had with her darkness, especially with the ghostly Rumpelstiltskin telling her to kill Merida and Emma refusing. But that’s about it.

Obligatory modern Disney reference. (ABC/Jack Rowand) AMY MANSON
Obligatory modern Disney reference. (ABC/Jack Rowand)
AMY MANSON

Back in Storybrooke, our gang of intrepid heroes set out to retrieve Emma. They went to the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, who was laying on his death bed. He said he didn’t have the strength to send them, but he did have the Sorcerer’s wand which could be used to open a portal. Then he died. Sadly, there was so much they could have done with that character. That was a bit of a waste.

The spell would require someone capable of dark magic. But Regina had done too much good and it wouldn’t work for her. The solution was Zelena, who was locked in an asylum with a magic-negating band on her arm. Zelena claimed that her being pregnant had changed her outlook on life. Regina didn’t go for it or agree to any terms. So Hook and Henry went behind everyone’s backs to bust out Zelena, take her heart, and force her to open a portal to the Enchanted Forest. It didn’t go as planned. She got out, regained her magic, and kept her heart.

Zelena then captured Robin Hood and held him hostage to get Regina to turn over the wand. Regina relented. Zelena opened a portal (created a green tornado) to go back to Oz. Then while she was weakened from casting the spell, Regina slapped a new anti-magic band on her arm and took the wand. The intrepid gang then used the tornado as a portal to find Emma. They used Granny’s Diner as a vehicle to ride the tornado. Dorothy couldn’t have done it any better.

The group of them arrived just in time to stop Emma from crushing Merida’s heart and killing her. This show tends to be built on “just the right time”. Sometimes it seems just a bit forced. But they stopped it, Emma and Merida said their goodbyes, and the group took Emma back to Granny’s diner. Then King Arthur and his knights conveniently (again!) rode up. They said that Merlin prophesied that Emma would come and reunite him with the court of Camelot. And they took the gang to the legendary castle. One thing I really liked about this part is when Emma gave her dagger over to Regina for safe keeping, and to be used against her if necessary. It showed the level of trust Emma truly had in Regina.

Dark Temptations ...
Dark Temptations … (ABC/Jack Rowand)

Fast forward to six weeks later, and Granny’s Diner reappeared in Storybrooke. The interior was a mess and the entire gang was dressed in medieval clothing. Nobody could remember what happened after they walked into Camelot. Then Emma in full evil mode showed up and turned Sneezy into stone. Regina went for the dagger only to find that Emma had it. And Emma is now the full Dark One.

The idea of everyone’s memories being wiped has been done to death on this show. (“What happened?” “I don’t remember.” “Let’s go find out.”) It’s not always dramatically effective. But in this case, it was. I’m intrigued to find out what they have next.

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Daniel C. Handley

Dan Handley was raised a Trekkie, fell in love with "Star Wars" at an early age, and became obsessed with comic book superheroes. He spent his youth dreaming of how to get real superpowers, starships, and so on.

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