Once Upon a Time “The Dark Swan” Review (Season 5 Episode 1)

Once Upon a Time The Dark Swan Season 5 Premiere 2015 1

No one knows how to hype a season premiere better than ABC’s Once Upon a Time. The Dark Swan finally made her debut in the season five opener, along with a whole mountain of breadcrumbs for what’s ahead. OUAT has a terrible of habit of trying to shove in too many characters and storylines, so hopefully the Dark Swan arc will provide some much needed structure.

The Good
At the beginning of the episode, we have a nice tie-in with the Disney classic film The Sword in the Stone, which makes the integration of a Camelot storyline feel more cohesive. I am not sure that we needed a flashback to a candy-thieving Emma. It was an unnecessary diversion and a slow way to start the episode. It’s a clever twist that the Dark One’s blade is actually the broken off tip of Excalibur. This is another effective way to bring the Storybrooke together with Camelot.

The episode did a great job of building the suspense of Emma’s conversion from light to dark, especially in the moment when Rumple tries to convince her to kill Merida. This new Emma feels completely unpredictable and I wasn’t sure if she would let her live. We certainly know that Emma is capable of taking a life, as we saw last season with Cruella. Even after Hook appeared, I wasn’t sure he’d be able to talk her out of crushing Merida’s heart.

I love that Regina could not wield the power of darkness/light with Merlin’s wand. Who would’ve thought Regina could ever be accused of being “too good”? Her transformation to hero status appears to be complete. I think what would make me the most happy is if Regina is the person who ultimately saves Emma—not the Charmings, not Hook, and not Henry. The friendship between Emma and Regina has become a highlight of the show and I’d like for it to continue to grow.

Visually, this episode felt more sophisticated than previous seasons. In the past, there have been several cringe-worthy CGI sets and some outrageously tacky costumes. Not the case so far. The CGI of Camelot at the end was very beautiful. It also felt like the costumes tied in with the characters. Emma rocks a crone-ho chic look that feels like a physical deconstruction of the Emma Swan we know. Her transformation at the end into the Dark Swan leaves no doubt that this is an entirely new person. Even the costumes of the town people looked great – both their normal and their Camelot clothes.

Marginal to Not So Good
I’m not sure about Amy Manson as Merida. She seemed like a Disneyland parade cast member. She doesn’t embody the character like Rebecca Mader does with Zelena, who continues to be one of my favorite villains. How hardcore was that when she chopped off her hand? But it is just the first episode, so maybe Manson will grow on me.

The dwarves barging in and demanding to tag along felt weird and forced. This may be another point where OUAT could have gone with a less is more strategy, rather than pack half of Storybrooke into Granny’s. In fact, I would argue that this episode would’ve been better with one or the other – the introduction of Merida and Camelot – but not both. I hate it when they try to shove too much stuff in because that’s when the show becomes a gimmicky variety show instead of a show focused on telling the best story.

Things That Made Me Go “Huh”
There were a couple of Star Wars-esque moments that made me wonder if it’s only a matter of time before we see an Ewok run through the Enchanted Forest. When the Apprentice died, it was similar to Yoda’s death scene and Emma’s choking power had a definite Darth Vader quality.

The fifth season is off to a good start, I just hope they can keep the focus on Emma and not go off onto a bunch of random tangents. I also hope that Emma and Hook continue to grow closer. I’m starting to think a fairy tale wedding is in order once they’re able to bring Emma back to the good side. How fantastic would a Hook/Emma wedding be?