The Dark Swan
Recap by Zach Van Norman--@TheZachVan
Emma's reign as the Queen of Darkness began in the Season Five premiere of Once Upon A Time. Dark times ahead? Oh yeah. Mystery and intrigue? Check. Awesome costumes? Always. Here's what happened when "The Dark Swan" landed in Storybrooke.
Picture this: Minneapolis, 1989. Young Emma (wearing red plaid) goes to a showing of The Sword in the Stone. After she steals Apollo candy bars from a nearby patron, a young man in a red blazer appears; he says she will one day have the chance to remove Excalibur from the stone, but she must leave it alone. In Camelot, Arthur and Lancelot ride to Excalibur, its location the subject of a prophecy made by Merlin. Arthur removes the sword and the tip is missing, but the blade carries the beginnings of a familiar serpentine shape: the Dark dagger is made from the end of Excalibur.
Meanwhile, our heroes in Storybrooke, shocked over Emma’s sacrifice, attempt to summon Emma with the dagger but she does not appear. Regina realizes that she’s in another world. The Apprentice tells them she has gone to the Enchanted Forest and gives them a wand that will open a portal. Next we see Emma emerge from the Vault of the Dark One. The Darkness manifests itself in Emma’s head as the form of Rumplestiltskin, attempting to trick Emma into using Dark magic, so she leaves to find Merlin. Along the way Darknesstiltskin succeeds in getting Emma to use Dark magic and she meets Merida, who is chasing a will o’ the wisp which can lead Emma to Merlin.
Merida agrees to take Emma to the Hill of Stones to catch another wisp. After Merida hears Emma speaking to the Rumple in her head, she escapes to the Hill alone and Emma uses Dark magic to follow her, eventually ripping out Merida’s heart. In Storybrooke, Blue conjures the enchanted rose as a life monitor for Mr. Gold and gives it to Belle before telling her to join the others and help Emma. Regina attempts to use the wand but is unsuccessful, and Hook realizes they need someone wicked. Regina, Robin and Hook approach Zelena for help but she will only get them to the Enchanted Forest if they remove the anti-magic cuff. After Regina refuses, Hook and Henry try again and Zelena escapes, capturing Robin Hood and trading him to Regina for the Apprentice’s wand. She creates a tornado to go to Oz but is overpowered by Regina, who uses Emma’s baby blanket to draw the cyclone to Granny’s; the diner is picked up and transported to the edge of Camelot.
The Charming Brigade arrives at the Hill of Stones in time to stop Emma from crushing Merida’s heart and take her to Granny’s, where they are met by Arthur and his knights. Arthur reveals that though Merlin has been missing for many years, he once made a prophecy (among others) that says Emma will one day reunite them. The group travels to Camelot. Six weeks later, Sleepy and red-jacket-adorned Sneezy are driving when there is a flash of light in the distance. They get back into town and discover that Granny’s has returned; our heroes are wearing clothes from Camelot but do not remember what happened there, and Emma is missing. As they wonder about the fate of the Savior, Emma reveals herself in the doorway: dressed head-to-toe in black, she tells them they failed to rid her of the Darkness before turning Sneezy (and her jacket) into stone and warning that they are all about to be punished. The Dark Swan has arrived.
Ok, so this episode goes by so fast that it’s hard to believe it's only an hour. Emma's personality completely changed as she struggled against the Darkness, losing more and more of herself before culminating in the moment when she ripped Merida’s heart from her chest (WHOA on that one). But the moment in the diner when the Dark Swan arrives was even more powerful and set up the mystery of the season: discovering what happened in Camelot that drove Emma evil. This episode really connects to the pilot and the season one finale, because it's all about Emma and her destiny and defeating evil. Cool. I can dig it.
Whatever the secrets of Camelot are, they're probably going to include Merlin since he dropped in on Emma's trip to the movies and warned her about Excalibur. And now that we know that the dagger Merlin created is also the missing piece of Excalibur's blade (which, ya know, is completely brilliant, by the way) it means he's going to be heavily involved in Emma's trek into darkness.
My guess is that making Excalibur whole means the Darkness has to be vanquished, and it's not going to surrender willingly. As the Charming Brigade tries to save Emma it's going to tighten its grip on her, telling her lies and feeding into her insecurities until she becomes the Dark Swan. But, as she so kindly reminded us in There's No Place Like Home, nobody saves Emma but Emma.