While too early to tell for sure, the Dark Swan arc has the potential to be the best storyline in Once Upon a Time history. It certainly has reinvigorated the show presenting a terrible threat that involves all the show’s cast and a stellar performance by the leading lady, Jennifer Morrison. ABC’s Once Upon a Time has done so many things right with Dark Swan, but there’s always room for improvement. So what could make this arc better? Emma killing one of her loved ones.
Just so we’re clear, I’m not wishing that a Once Upon a Time character does die. I have some measure of affection for the entire extended cast. OK maybe not all of them, looking at you Grumpy. Still, I don’t want to see the last of any of them. I just think it can only improve the Dark Swan story and Once Upon a Time as whole if the Dark Swan embraces the murderous part of her Dark One powers.
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Raising the Stakes
There’s not enough good things to be said about Jennifer Morrison’s performance in season 5. She’s chilling and magnetic. Dark Swan’s dye job is suspect, but in all other avenues she is a terrifying villain. However, she hasn’t really done anything, or appear to be planning anything, real sinister. She has wiped the memories of the whole town but that’s basically a requirement for every Once Upon a Time season. Someone has to forget something otherwise the flashbacks can’t exist as a concept. In other words, it’s not very impressive as a villainous act.
She has designs to reunite the dagger with the rest of its sword, Excalibur, but that doesn’t seem like a particularly bloody plan. Even though season 5 has just began, it still feels like Dark Swan is holding back quite a bit. Dark Swan really isn’t involved as much as she could be in the day to day life of Storybrooke, terrorizing the citizenry. If her mission is revenge she is taking a very hands-off approach for now. Dark Swan shouldn’t be murdering people left and right from the start because that’s a very different show. Dark Swan’s scheming and planning should lead to something big. There’s nothing bigger than the death of a beloved character.
Rumple basically set up theme for the season in episode two, “The Prince.” When he told Dark Swan that no other Dark One has been able to separate themselves from their family, Rumple gave her a mission statement for the year. However, this ends (probably with a mostly happy ending) Dark Swan’s goal to be the strongest Dark One ever and to eliminate those she once loved. Death is a pretty permanent elimination, even on Once Upon a Time. The season opened with Emma (mostly in control) debating killing Merida. Perhaps the season will close with Dark Swan actually killing someone Emma used to love.
Snow, Mary Margaret if you’re nasty, told David that no matter who wins this fight against Dark Swan, Emma loses. This will certainly be true if Dark Swan does something Emma can’t take back. Dark Swan’s plan to reunite the Dark One dagger and Excalibur sword will certainly fail because it’s far too easy and simple even for Once Upon a Time. I can easily see Dark Swan growing so frustrated and angry that she feels she has no other choice but to take the life of one of Storybrooke’s residents. If you think Jennifer Morrison has been great playing Dark Swan, imagine what a strong and emotive scene that would be if she turned her ire on the people she used to protect. Not to mention the grief that Emma would have to go through when she is eventually “cured”.
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While maybe not the only way to ensure the Dark Swan arc isn’t a flop, Swan killing someone is the best way to ensure the arc has a satisfying, albeit horrifying, conclusion. Otherwise Dark Swan is a woman in a leather onesie with a lot of bark and very little bite. But what do you think? Should season 5 end with a death of Storybrooke resident? Is there a way Dark Swan can seem threatening without murder? Is there anyone you think would be a good candidate for fictional slaughter?
Once Upon a Time season 5 airs Sundays at 8pm on ABC
(Images courtesy of ABC)