Once Upon A Time 5×01 “The Dark Swan” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

Here we go again with glitches in our memories, new places, and the fight to make sure good always wins. In other words: the recipe which makes Once Upon A Time, well, Once Upon A Time.

Due to the fact that the episode wasn’t shown in its usual flashback/present-day form, we’ll just dive straight into covering matters we feel are most important. First things first, we’d be lying if we said we were excited for Emma Swan to turn dark, in fact, what we’re most excited about is Jennifer Morrison’s inimitable performances. We like savior/sheriff Emma a lot — she’s our favorite. However, even though we aren’t exactly a fan of what’s going on, count on these impeccable groups of writers to make sure we’re intrigued from beginning to end. “The Dark Swan” was a solid, excellent premiere that left us on the edge of our seats for the rest of the season.

The episode opens up with a flashback of a 5/6-year-old Emma Swan sneaking into a theatre to watch Disney’s The Sword in the Stone in 1989. After she steals a snack from a woman sitting around her, she’s approached a man who tells her that no matter what happens, even if she’s tempted to do something bad for the right reasons, she should stop herself. He then reveals that she’ll one day have the opportunity to remove Excalibur’s sword from the stone but she shouldn’t do it. As the audience we can safely assume that the man is Merlin, however, what’s most interesting is the fact that essentially becoming the Dark Swan has been prophesied for her.

Upon saving the entire town from the darkness, Emma sacrifices herself because it’s the right thing to do, but we all know it was a bad idea. However, if season four has taught us anything, it’s that we make our own destinies. The author can write something, but it’s ultimately up to a person to pave their own road. There will indeed be terrible things happening this season, but we can be certain that in the end, Emma Swan is going to fight through the darkness because it’s who she’s always been. Curses or no curses, she’s always saved herself.

Apart from the fact that we’re convinced series creators show us flashbacks of Emma Swan to make us cry, we’re also certain that these flashbacks are meant to show she’s a survivor. Neal may have taught Emma how to pick a lock, but long before the two of them even met, she’s always been skilled in the art of taking care of herself. Obligatory mention that the casting department has once again floored us with their choice of actresses, Mckenna Grace looks so much like a younger version of Jennifer Morrison it’s remarkable.

We then meet King Arthur (Liam Garrigan) and his men including the incredible Lancelot (Sinqua Wells) as they’re about to remove the Excalibur’s sword from the stone. After they successfully do so, they learn the end of the sword is missing. The Dark Swan’s dagger is the remaining part of Excalibur. WHAT!? It is then that we reunite with our broken heroes as they attempt to summon Emma back to them only to then learn it’s impossible because she isn’t in the world we know. As if little Emma’s loneliness wasn’t enough to make us cry, the pain in Killian, Henry, Snow, and Charming sent us off into a world of tears. As Charming holds Snow in disbelief, a distraught Killian holds up the dagger and commands Emma to appear.

As always, Killian showcases the fact that he’d go to the ends of the earth or time for Emma Swan by disregarding his own safety just to insure hers. Up until we found Emma, O’Donoghue played Killian’s anger marvelously reminding us of the fact that he’s a Captain who will not stand back or allow anyone else to control the situation especially since the woman he loves is involved. He needs to be quick. He needs to be efficient. No time should be wasted. When their first attempt doesn’t work, he jumps to the second, and when that doesn’t work, he doesn’t stop until a way is found. Ultimately, it’s going to be so nice to see him restore humanity in Emma again — we know his love for her is stronger than anything else in the world and we know that it’s the same love that’s brought her home before. It’s also going to be so nice to see Henry and Killian work together because from what we’ve seen this week, they’re the two who’d consider even the most dangerous measures in order to bring their favorite girl home.

We wish Charming was involved in this, and we’re sure he’ll play a massive role later on; however, he cannot take on as dangerous missions because while Emma’s his little girl, he and Snow still have another baby to raise. After freeing Zelena because she’s currently the only one with the most darkness in her, they get her to create a portal, and using Emma’s baby blanket, they latch themselves onto Granny’s diner and go off to where Emma is.

Before we get into discussing Emma Swan and the dark voice inside her head, we need to cover the momentary sadness we actually felt for Zelena. It’s no surprise that she’s taken advantage of Robin and essentially forced something upon him without him realizing who she is. However, she’s so insanely twisted that she’d stop at nothing for love. At the moment, it doesn’t even matter that she gets back at Regina because all she wants is to go to Oz with her child because it’ll be the first person to truly love her for who she is. She’s convinced of this and it’s a bit heartbreaking that she wants love so desperately, she doesn’t know where to stop. We cannot wait to see more of her this season and how her crazy character fits into the storyline.

As Emma Swan rises from the dark one’s well looking as gorgeous as ever (at least she doesn’t have scales!), she’s approached by Rumplestilskin’s dark one who’s actually the little voice inside her head. It’s so interesting that they’ve chosen to do it this way — it’ll be nice to still have Robert Carlyle on our screens even while Mr. Gold remains comatose. There are moments when the darkness begins to take over, but for the most part, it was great to watch her fight through it.

We’ve seen Emma Swan in very vulnerable situations, but what we got to see in this week’s episode was a different kind of vulnerability that Morrison delivered wonderfully. There’s confusion, disbelief, heartbreak, and persistence all within Emma Swan and Morrison did an astounding job of showcasing each of those individually and simultaneously. Her heart and mind are racing far too quickly for her to catch up and it’s a roller coaster of emotions no one would be able to handle. Rumple then tells her that she can find Merlin as long as she finds a wisp.

As Emma finds one and attempts to catch it, Merida (Amy Manson) appears and snatches it. As she’s trying to stop her, Emma unconsciously uses the darker side of her magic to knock Merida down. And when Merida rises and holds an arrow to Emma’s head calling her a witch, Emma fearfully explains that she was cursed with a dark form of magic she wants to get rid of. It’s at this moment that Merida begins to question the truth and asks her to tag along to a place where they can both find their answers. As they’re resting and Emma can’t sleep, Rumple begins talking again and Merida’s faith in her alters once more for she hears all these conversations of Emma basically talking to herself. When Emma realizes she’s run off, after she finds her, Rumple convinces her to kill her because it’s the only way to find Merlin. As she takes her heart in her hand as is on the verge of crushing it, her loved ones find her.

And here in this brief moment as they’re all reunited things get truly interesting. We cannot even articulate just how much we loved hearing Killian say the words “it must be her choice” when Snow tried to command Emma to stop. It’ll be interesting to see how the dagger’s used in the future, but it’s amazing to know that it’ll never be used to control each and every one of her steps — perhaps only to summon her? At the end of the day, author or no author, prophesy or no prophesy, as human beings we’re all capable of making our own decisions, and we love the fact that this will continue to be an enormous theme within the series. Even as darkness is consuming Emma, at the end of the day, she’s still thinking of those she loves. Her memories are still intact: she remembers what Rumple’s dark one has done, she remembers the fact that it even destroys loved ones, and that’s where her fight really begins. If she had managed to crush Merida’s heart, her intentions would’ve been in the right place, but it would’ve been the dark path to choose because there are tons of other ways to find Merlin. It’ll be so fascinating to see the outcomes that are a result of our feelings. As Merlin tells Emma, it doesn’t matter how right the wrong thing may be, you must not do it. And it’ll be most riveting to see just how closely Emma’s actions light up with her heart’s true desires.

Killian’s speech was without a doubt pretty close to perfect. And for him to deliver it especially is most fitting because he’s truly the one villain who’s changed his ways most honorably. When he met Emma and fell for her, he wanted to be worthy of her, and no matter how many times his demons told him otherwise, he continuously chose the right path toward goodness. He knows how tempting the fight is and he knows how quickly it could consume. However, he always knows that the people you love are worth the fight. He sided with his sworn enemies when he could’ve easily killed them.

At the end of the day, life’s a fight. There will always be demons and there will always be darkness, but the most important thing to do is to fight through it honorably. Reminding Emma of the fact that she’s the reason all this has been possible is so appropriate because her goodness and steadfast dedication to doing the right thing has inspired everyone around her. And now it’s their turn to inspire her, but it also must come from her. She has to let herself be inspired. She has to let love consume her — she has to choose it over and over again. Emma has never once told Killian to change, she’s never forced him to do anything. All she’s done in the past is remind him of the fact that he could be a part of something through honor, and it’s now his turn to inspire her heart with the same goodness that’s inspired him.

Reunions on Once Upon A Time always tug on our heartstrings and count on an embrace from Daddy Charming to bring happiness to everyone. It doesn’t matter how dangerous this journey is and it doesn’t matter how old Emma is, she’s their little girl and they’ll protect her until their final breath. We loved watching Snow tell Emma that she should be the only one allowed to control herself. They don’t want to change her. They don’t want to put anyone’s life in danger, but most importantly they’re trusting their daughter and the goodness inside of her during this fight. And that’s exactly how loving parents should be. They’re going to help as much as they can, but choosing to trust her is something that’ll definitely inspire Emma.

After she placed Merida’s heart back into place it was both heartbreaking and a bit overwhelming to watch her fall into Killian’s arms. There was such desperation to hold onto him during their embrace — he’s so good and she loves him so ardently that it was painful to see her so defenseless. He’s someone that can bring her serenity. The whirlwind of light and dark emotions inside of her is so exhausting, and control within her isn’t as strong as it used to be. It’s wonderful to see her finally have someone she could safely lean on without the fear of judgment. She has someone that’ll hold her as tight as he can in order to make sure she feels protected, cherished, and loved — someone who’ll continuously remind her of the fact that she’s the brightest light around. And that’s what makes Morrison’s performances so astounding to watch — she’s truly doing a prestigious job of conveying each and every one of Emma’s struggles. It gives so much depth to scenes like this because she’s never been so vulnerable and perplexed all at the same time.

Furthermore, the relationship development we’re looking forward to most is the one between Emma and Henry. They haven’t had as much screen time lately, and we know he’ll be the biggest emotional trigger for her. Henry’s love for her and Emma’s love for him is stronger than any bond in this series. There’s no love compared to that of a parent and a child and when it comes to Emma Swan, there’s nothing in the world she wouldn’t do to protect her kid. There’s no one who believes in Emma’s goodness the way Henry does. She’s not just the town’s savior, but she’s his as well. And from the very beginning, all we’ve seen from him is unwavering faith. It’s that same faith that could play the biggest role in inspiring Emma as she goes full-on, Dark Swan. She could potentially hurt everyone, but there’s no doubt in our minds that Henry is the only exception. He’s already 110% certain that it won’t get to a point where she’ll have to be fully destroyed and that’s perhaps the most magical aspect of the series — a child’s steadfast belief in goodness specifically, his mother’s. 

We really love the fact that the dagger was given to Regina for numerous reasons. While the ladies no longer hate each other as they used to, they still aren’t the best friends in the entire world. Snow and Charming would surely never kill their own daughter no matter how bad things got. They’d fight to the moon and back or they’d sacrifice themselves. This isn’t some Sophie’s Choice type of drama: no good parent could ever kill their child willingly. It’s just not possible — especially for the Charmings. And Killian loves Emma more than anything in the world, he’d rather die than let anything happen to her. Henry’s too young to be burdened with such a decision but even if he was responsible, he’d never be able to kill his mom. Regina is the only person that could make the right decision for the safety of everyone involved. She’s the only person who could destroy Emma if it came down to it.

And it’s not to say that she doesn’t care for her, but she’s just not attached the way everyone else is therefore, for the safety of everyone involved, she’d be able to do what’s right. Regina may not be the villain she used to be, but Emma’s also not her enemy — she is in a sense her step-granddaughter anyway. However, for the sake of everyone involved, she’s capable of doing it. It would hurt her undoubtedly, but she’d know it was for the right reasons and she could live with that.

Even as there is darkness inside of her, Emma Swan’s goodness could still inspire and it was so beautiful to hear Merida talking about the fact that she’s considering showing mercy to those who took her brothers. It’ll be very interesting to watch as both their stories develop and just how Merida’s character will fit in with the rest. Guest stars on Once Upon A Time always leave a lasting impression, and we don’t doubt that this fiery feminist redhead will do the same. Amy Manson’s performances are already on point so we can’t wait to see where it goes.

Granny’s Diner is now in the Enchanted Forest and good heavens, this series never fails to make us crack up in the midst of all the dkfajsdlfajlfkd! (You all understand this right?) Granny, Leroy, and Belle have all joined as well because truthfully, who can forget all that Emma Swan’s done for them? Here’s the thing, one of our favorite lines she’s ever said has been “no one saves me but me”, and we have full confidence in the fact that this is going to be a massive theme throughout this season. However, even the strongest, boldest, and most level-headed people need help from time to time. And it takes just as much bravery to accept help from those who are offering as it does to be strong. They’re all going to inspire Emma in ways she could’ve never imagined.

A lost little girl with no family now has an entire town backing her up. A lost little girl who’d sneak into movie theaters by herself now has an entire town with an outpouring of faith in her. We have a feeling there will be lots of crying this season and we’re all for that.

Even in the midst of all the chaos and uncertainties, it’s always lovely to see Emma embrace quiet moments. In the past, she would’ve waited until all the trouble was behind to give in love, but today, she makes sure that during a brief stroll she’ll spend time with the man she loves. The camera sure does love to zoom into Killian and Emma intertwining their hands together and it’s a gorgeous reminder of the fact that no matter what happens, their love will always be strong. Individually they’re strong, but together they’re unstoppable — their partnership and loyalty to one another are unalterable.

It’s going to be an absolute ball to see everyone back at the Enchanted Forest this season, but we cannot wait to see what’s changed Emma Swan to the Dark Swan. 

The final scene blew us away, plainly simply, with chills everywhere. We’ve had trouble describing Jennifer Morrison’s groundbreaking performances in the past and now we’re certain that this season, we’re going to be even more speechless than ever. Morrison took us from wanting to give a confused and broken Emma Swan a hug, to slowly backing away from the screens because the Dark Swan is genuinely frightening. Brava — no other words.

Jennifer Morrison is without a doubt having the greatest time filming these episodes and because we know how much research she’s done prior to this season, we’re thrilled to see how her performances reveal the struggles within. She’s excellent when it comes to manifesting her emotions through expressiveness, but this fight is also giving her the opportunity to show a lot more through her body language as well. The Dark Swan is going to walk with a poise we’ve never seen before and the real Emma Swan may be more unsure of herself. There will be differences in her voice and the way she engages with people.  The point is, we’ll be given lots of material to gush over, and then hopefully, the world sees just how talented Jennifer Morrison is because we’re still waiting for her Emmy.

This season’s going to be a tough one, but it’s most definitely going to be an engaging one. It’s not easy to watch your favorite character go down a dark consuming path, but as mentioned above, no one saves Emma Swan the way she does. She’s grown up in a world that’s torn her apart because of how cruel it’s been. Foster homes that have abandoned her, families that hae taken food away from her, people that swore they’d love her forever but traded her off when things got easy. And in the midst of all that even though she’s made questionable choices, her heart’s always been in the right place. All she’s ever wanted was a home. All she’s ever known is how to protect the good people around her.

The darkness could only consume her for so long before the light within her gets brighter and brighter. At the end of the day, however, Emma Swan is who she is because of the decisions she’s made. She’s trusted her heart all this time and even though the darkness is now louder, with the help of her loved ones reminding her of who she’s been, she’ll be able to tap back into the light and save herself. And we can’t wait to see her prove that all we have is our choices — they make us who we are. They showcase our strength in ways nothing else can.

What are your thoughts on the episode? Let us know in the comments below

One comment

  1. I also LOVED the cute little hand swinging that happened between Killian and Emma after she gave Merida her heart back as they were walking to Granny’s. Just so much fluff in such an emotionally torturous episode. <3

Leave a Reply