TV REVIEW: Once’s Season Premiere Begins an Epic Quest
BY The Screen Spy Team
Published 7 years ago
By Meredith Loftus
After a game-changing finale (and an even longer hiatus), Once Upon A Time returned for a brand new season tonight.
The Dark Swan gave audiences an introduction to important information and some great foreshadowing for events to come all in the first five minutes, and it only got better from there. Not only am I impressed by this episode, but I am confident in and intrigued by the story that the writers are telling us this season.
Setting the Stage
We start this season in a magical place, the movies. In Minneapolis in 1989, young Emma Swan goes to the movies to see “The Sword in the Stone.” While she’s there, she steals a chocolate bar from a woman. As she sits in her seat content, an usher appears and warns her “don’t do it,” and he isn’t referring to the stolen sweets. He warns her that one day she will be the one to remove Excalibur from the stone but he instructs her not to, even if it’s for a good reason. Before she can question him about this, he disappears. Curious isn’t it?
Also many years ago, we meet Arthur and his knights, Sir Lancelot and Sir Percival. Their quest to find Excalibur is drawing to close when we see them for the first time. However, when Sir Kay tries to take Excalibur in an attempt to claim his right to rule he is proven unworthy and is promptly turned to ash after failing to pull the sword from the stone. Tough act to follow! Good thing Arthur has a prophesy on his side, one that destines him to rule Camelot with Excalibur in his possession. As he pulls out the sword, it is revealed that the tip of Excalibur is missing. With half a sword, Arthur takes his place as king of Camelot while also embarking on a new quest to find the rest of the sword. It just so happens that the missing piece is the exact same size as the Dark One's dagger. That’s right: the dagger came from Excalibur.
Transition and Tension
Finally, we see Emma Swan arise from the Dark One’s grave in the Enchanted Forest. She isn’t alone. There to help her become the Dark One is darkness in the form of the previous Dark One, Rumpelstiltskin, who is only seen by her. Emma’s sole mission is to find Merlin. However along the way, her new dark magic begins to come out as she uses her magic against a peasant and learns how to instantly travel to various places. Rumple tells Emma that the way to find Merlin is using a Will O’ the Wisp. She eventually finds one, only to have it captured first by Merida. The brave and fiery redhead tells Emma that she needs the Wisp to save her brothers who were captured by the other clan leaders to show their disapproval of Merida leading her people. Emma in turn tells her that she needs the Wisp to be free of the darkness in her, and after she refuses to fight Merida for the Wisp in fear of using dark magic against her, Merida offers her help to find a Wisp for Emma at the Hill of Stones.
However the darkness, in the form of Rumple, won’t leave her alone. He tells her that even if she does capture a Wisp, she won’t be able to command it. The darkness then tempts her to kill Merida, which Merida is awake to hear Emma verbally struggle with this. She leaves Emma to go get the Wisp for herself. Emma uses her dark magic to teleport to the Hill of Stones, but she’s too late. Merida has already used the Wisp for herself and tries to defend herself against Emma by shooting arrows at her. Emma catches each of the arrows in her hands as Rumple is telling her to rip Merida’s heart out and kill her. Emma is in a state of battle: part of her fights to maintain her goodness while the other part is tempted to give in to the darkness.
She appears to lose herself as she rips out Merida’s heart and begins to crush it. As she’s doing this, Hook and the other Storybrooke heroes show up to stop her. Snow begins to pull out the dagger to command her but Hook reminds her that Emma has to make the decision herself to choose her goodness over her darkness. Emma is so determined that killing Merida is the key to finding Merlin and saving her family, friends, and true love Hook from herself. Hook instead chooses to see the best in her and reminds her how she united the heroes together. If they could come together because of her, they can work together to help Emma now in her desperate state. It’s here we are reminded that love is strength; through an unconditional, radical love we find strength to overcome our greatest struggles. Hook’s love for Emma and belief in her goodness is what pushes through Emma’s internal struggle to remind her who she is and who she is loved by. Darkness doesn’t win the battle; Emma gives Merida her heart back. This act of mercy resonates with Merida so much that she too chooses to act in mercy towards her enemies. Seeing Emma struggle with her darkness and gain the strength to overcome it is inspiring to her.
Emma hugs and reunites with her loved ones, but she is not free from the darkness yet. It looms over her and she doesn’t trust herself to be in control of her new power. With this in mind, she gives the dagger to her friend Regina. Out of all the Storybrooke heroes, Regina won’t hesitate to do the hard thing and destroy Emma if the worst is to happen. Regina assures her it won’t come to that, but Emma is skeptical. Surprised to see Granny’s diner, Emma is even more surprised to meet Arthur and his knights who ride up to Storybrooke travelers. It seems Arthur has been expecting them because of Merlin’s prophecy about her, and perhaps also believing she is the key to finding the missing piece of Excalibur. While he does not know where Merlin is currently, he assures her that it will be their new quest to find him. Emma walks hand in hand with Hook while she and the others are being led to Camelot. Things are looking hopeful.
As the episode draws to a close, we flash forward to Storybrooke six weeks after Granny’s travels to the Enchanted Forest. Sneezy and Sleepy are acting as sheriffs while the Charmings are gone. While patrolling the town, they see a portal open in the sky and Granny’s returns with all of our heroes in Camelot clothing and no memory of the past six weeks. Emma enters in full Dark Swan mode, ready to punish them for what they did to her. She lashes out against Sneezy and turns him into stone. Regina goes to pull out the dagger to stop Emma, but Emma is now in possession of the dagger. When Hook asks her why she’s doing this, she simply replies because she is the Dark One. There is no savior in Storybrooke anymore; the Dark Swan has risen.