Once Upon a Time kicks off season 5 with a premiere that includes a little bit of Oz, Camelot, Brave and Beauty and the Beast, all as Emma tries to fight the darkness inside her and her friends and family try to figure out what happened to her after she disappeared, with only the dagger with her name inscribed on it left behind.
However, it’s not going to be an easy journey because as everyone discovers, finding Emma and her first days of fighting to not become the Dark One are just the beginning. Instead, by the end of “The Dark Swan,” the residents of Storybrooke find themselves in a somewhat familiar place, with Who, What, Why and How questions that need answers.
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So, About Excalibur…
If an usher caught you taking a candy bar from someone in a movie theater, what would they do? Probably not what one does when he catches Emma doing just that in Minneapolis in 1989. Instead, he sits next to her in a showing of The Sword in the Stone and offers her some advice: “I know many things, and I’m here to tell you, don’t do it. … When you do something that you’re not supposed to do, even if you do it for the right reasons, bad things will happen, Emma. Bad things. One day, you will have the opportunity to remove Excalibur from its stone, and you mustn’t. Leave the sword alone.”
Elsewhere, in Camelot, Arthur, Lancelot and Percival find Excalibur, only for another knight, Kay, to decide that he wants the throne for himself. The only problem? When he tries to pull the sword from the stone, he turns to dust. Arthur succeeds where he fails, but there’s one problem: the sword is not whole. So where’s the rest of it?
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They Need Someone Wicked
Well, it just so happens that the rest of Excalibur is the dagger, and while Hook tries to use it to summon Emma back to them in Storybrooke, it doesn’t work because she’s no longer in their world. “She is where all Darkness is born, in your realm,” the Apprentice explains, offering them a wand (a gift from Merlin) that will help get them there. However, it must be wielded as it was forged (with both light and dark magic), and Regina has done too much good. They need someone “wicked,” and yes, that means Zelena, even though Regina is completely against it.
To their surprise, Zelena agrees to help, claiming that pregnancy has changed her. (Show of hands for those who believe her. No one? Good.) While she can tell them that they need something meaningful of Emma’s to guide the portal, she can’t make it work, with the bracelet around her wrist making her powerless. Regina refuses to remove the bracelet, so Hook enlists Henry to help with a bit of subterfuge to break Zelena out. No one should be surprised by how that goes. (Poorly. Very poorly.) Zelena cuts off her hand to free herself from the bracelet before reattaching her hand and disappearing in green smoke.
Zelena disguises herself as Regina and tricks Robin Hood long enough — he knows she’s not really Regina after kissing her — to capture him and broker a deal with her sister: Robin Hood for the wand so she can return home to Oz, where no one can try to take her baby from her or turn it against her. Fortunately, Regina has a plan, and once Zelena is weakened from opening the portal, she puts the bracelet back on her, making her powerless once more. They’re going to take the portal to Emma.
Though Belle wants to be with Mr. Gold just in case, Mother Superior gives her a rose, linked to her beast. As long as it still has petals, he lives. She joins the others in Granny’s as the twister approaches, as do a few dwarves. “We’ve been on the sidelines too long, sister, missed too many adventures,” Leroy explains to Mary Margaret. “How do you think it feels when everyone asks you how the adventure was and you’ve got to say no one asked you to go along, that you weren’t needed?” And so the twister picks up Granny’s and takes them away.
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Follow the Will O’ the Wisp
As for Emma in the Enchanted Forest, she is joined almost immediately by none other than … Rumplestiltskin? Not quite, as he explains: “I’m many things. I’m the voice in your head, the Dark One’s powers inside you, inside all the Dark Ones.” He’s there to serve as her guide, even as she insists that she’ll never be the Dark One. She’s determined to find Merlin, but it’s that determination that leads to her unintentionally using her powers on a peddler who wants silver in exchange for directions to Camelot. “Did you enjoy it, your first taste of darkness?” the Dark One asks as the peddler runs away once she lets him go.
But even as she tells the Dark One that she won’t use magic, he tricks her into doing just that to find the Will O’ the Wisp, which she can use to find Merlin. That’s when she comes across Merida, also looking for the Wisp and, as she tells her, experienced in witches and curses. “Just be glad you’re not a bear,” she says when Emma explains that she wants to rid herself of her curse. Though Emma tells her to leave rather than fight her for the Wisp because that would be giving in to the darkness, the archer invites her along; once she gets her help from the Wisp, Emma can get hers.
Along the way, Merida tells Emma her story. Her brothers were kidnapped by the clans because, after her father died, they didn’t approve of her as their queen. She’s going to use the Wisp to find her brothers and save them, whatever the cost. However, any good will between the women comes to an end when Emma spends the night arguing with the Dark One about killing Merida since the Wisp can’t be shared … and Merida overhears. The next morning, she’s gone when Emma returns to their camp.
When Emma catches up to her, she’s already whispered to the Wisp, and the Dark One urges her to kill her, to rip her heart out. Emma tries to resist, stopping Merida’s arrows, but then she gives in and rips out her heart. That’s when the others show up, and she tries to justify her actions by telling them she’s doing it to protect them so she can find Merlin and stop the Darkness. But to stop it, she’ll let it consume her, Regina argues. Mary Margaret wants to use the dagger, but Hook stops her. It has to be Emma’s choice. “Look at us, heroes and villains together for you, because of you,” Hook tells her. “If we can overcome our demons, then so can you.” Emma puts Merida’s heart back in her chest, and when she looks over her shoulder, the Dark One is gone.
Merida then goes off to find her brothers, but her mission has changed after her experience with Emma. After seeing her darkness, she has decided to show the people who took her brothers mercy, in hopes that it can heal her divided land, rather than kill them.
Mary Margaret offers Emma the dagger so she can control herself, but Emma knows that it’s too much power for her to have. Instead, she needs someone to watch her: Regina. “I saved you. Now save me,” she tells her. She’s the only one who will get past her feelings to do what’s necessary if it comes to it: destroy her.
Moments after everyone gathers outside where Granny’s crash-landed, King Arthur rides up with his knights. Merlin prophesized, among other things, their arrival a long time ago. He may still be missing, but according to the prophecy, “You’re destined to reunite him with us,” Arthur explains. He leads them to Camelot where…
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Welcome to Camelot … Just Kidding
Six weeks later, Granny’s returns to Storybrooke, and everyone inside is dressed for the Enchanted Forest, but to them, they were just walking into Camelot. Yes, their memories are once again gone — and so is Emma, they realize, before the Dark Swan joins them. “You went to Camelot to get the Darkness out of me,” she informs them. “You failed.” When Sneezy attracts her attention by sneezing, she turns him into stone.
Regina reaches for the dagger to do what must be done, but she doesn’t have it. Emma does. “Now, for what you all did to me, you’re about to be punished,” she continues. The Dark Swan is cold. When Hook asks why she’s doing this, she tells him, “Because I’m the Dark One,” before disappearing in black smoke.
Once Upon a Time season 5 airs Sundays at 8pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)