Recap: “Once Upon a Time” 5×01 Dark Swan Rises and a New Savior Takes the Lead

ONCE UPON A TIME - "The Dark Swan" - Immediately after becoming the Dark One, Emma disappears and the heroes must band together to save her, but first they have to find her, which will require the help of an unlikely ally. Meanwhile, in the Enchanted Forest, Emma struggles to resist her dark urges as she searches for Merlin in the hope that he can stop her transformation. Along the way to Camelot, she gets help from the plucky and brave warrior princess Merida, as well as King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, in the adventure-filled season five premiere of "Once Upon a Time," SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Jack Rowand) JENNIFER MORRISON

ONCE UPON A TIME – “The Dark Swan” – ABC Television Network. (ABC/Jack Rowand)

Once Upon a Time Season 5 has begun! We find our favorite fairy tale characters back in Storybrooke right where we left off at the end of Season 4. Emma has just sacrificed herself to save Regina from the darkness securing her place as the new Dark One. But where did Emma go? How does Camelot come in to play this season? How badass is Merida? These questions and so much more are answered in the season premiere!

We open in modern day Minneapolis 1989 with a young Emma heading into a movie theater to watch The Sword in the Stone when she spots a woman at the concession stand buying tasty snacks. Once Emma enters the theater to be seated she sees the same woman sitting enjoying her popcorn with a box of candy hanging out of her pocket. She of course can’t resist grabbing the candy and making her way to her seat when a young man dressed as an usher approaches Emma telling her with an important warning. He sits down next to Emma telling her not to do it so of course Emma thinks he’s talking about eating the stolen candy. She apologizes but the man corrects her explaining she that even when we do the wrong thing for the right reason it can have dire consequences. He explains that she will one day have the chance to take the sword Excalibur from it’s stone but she should resist taking the sword. Emma’s distracted by a noise in the theater and when she turns around the mystery man is gone.


Jump to sweeping hills and men on horseback roaming the countryside on a mission. It’s Lancelot and Arthur on their quest to locate the sword in the stone a.k.a Excalibur. The men fear they have arrived too late because another Knight is already there waiting to lay claim on the sword. He refuses to accept Merlin’s prophecy that Arthur will retrieve the sword from the stone ensure him as King. Despite Arthur’s warning, the man attempts to pull Excalibur from the stone instantly incinerating him leaving only ash in his place.

Arthur takes his place in front of the stone successfully pulling Excalibur from within only to discover the tip of the sword is missing. Both Arthur and Lancelot are confused by their discovery and vow to return to Camelot as planned telling no one of the broken sword so Arthurs is able to fulfill the Merlin’s prophecy to become King. Arthur must now begin a quest to make Excalibur whole again all the while a full view of the sword is shown to reveal the ornate design of the sword is in fact the same design as the Dark One’s dagger and the missing piece of Excalibur is in fact the dagger itself.

We return to Storybrooke where we left off at the end of Season 4 with Charming, Hook, Robin and Regina standing in the middle of the street dumbfounded by what has just taken place, Emma has sacrificed herself for Regina by becoming the Dark One vanishing into thin air. The Dark One’s dagger is laying on the ground now with Emma Swan inscribed into it solidifying her new role. Regina is enraged by Emma’s choice to sacrifice herself to save Regina’s happiness insistent there had to be another way only to be reminded by Mary Margaret that Emma saved Regina’s life and there was no other way.

Regina is aware that Emma saved her life but is devastated by the outcome none the less. Henry arrives realizing what just happened that one of his mothers has become the new Dark One and Regina reminds them that Emma’s new role is a big problem for all of them. Mary Margaret insists that Emma is still good and Regina hopes that to be true but reminds them that Emma didn’t just take off on a road trip, she was magically enveloped in a whirlwind of dark magic. Not knowing where she went but scared and confused by the enormity of it all, an angry Hook steps forward to retrieve the dagger attempting to summon Emma to appear before them.

After Hooks several failed attempts an irritated Regina approaches him insisting Hook put down the dagger. She explains that Emma isn’t going to appear because even though the rules of the dagger state the Dark One must appear when summoned that Emma is most likely not in their current realm making it impossible to return.


We are brought to the Enchanted Forested back to the place where Rumple was reborn as the Dark One. The circular metal disk opens and begins to fill with a dark liquid twirling around to form the figure of a person. It’s Emma, dressed in a tattered peasants dress and cloak looking terrified and confused as to her current surroundings. Hearing someone approach from behind Emma turns to discover Rumpelstiltskin in all his Enchanted Forested glittery green glory waiting for her. It isn’t actually Rumple though. He is still in Storybrooke in a coma.

We quickly realize that this vision of Rumple is a manifestation in Emma’s head of the voices in her head, the voice of the Dark One, the voice of darkness and evil she is desperate to eliminate. He becomes her guide in a sense in being the Dark One as she realizes she’s in the Enchanted Forest and must find a way to locate Merlin if she has any hope at all of resisting the darkness taking over.

The gang back in Storybrooke lead by Hook rush to Gold’s shop to question the Apprentice about finding Emma. While laying weakly on a cot in the back room, the Apprentice explains that Emma is where all the Dark One’s have begun back in the Enchanted Forest. Hook insists that the Apprentice take them to Emma but he is unable to do so in his current state. He provides them with a special wand given to the Apprentice by Merlin himself.


The wand contains all light magic that will assist them in their journey to the Enchanted Forest but must be wielded by both light and dark magic. Regina steps forward believing as they all do that she will have the dark magic to combine with the wands light magic to transport them.

Unfortunately Regina is unsuccessful in her attempts to transport them. Bitterly, Hook stops Regina from continuing her futile attempts reminding her in no uncertain terms that she isn’t full of the dark magic she once held. She’s come too far in changing her ways making her unable to successfully wield the wand. Hook insists that the only one capable of such darkness is none other than Regina’s wicked sister Zelena. Regina refuses to approach Zelena for help but Hook sees fit to remind Regina that Emma sacrificed herself for Regina making the risk of dealing with a homicidal Zelena worth it in the end.


Back in the Enchanted Forest we find Emma racing down a country road stumbling across a man pushing his cart. She begs the man to assist her in finding Camelot which the man agrees to for a price. Emma is without money so the greedy man ups the anty with each protest. A frantic and frustrated Emma inadvertently with her now dark magic grabs the man by the throat lifting him into the air choking him. A vision of Rumple appears explaining to Emma she is in fact the one responsible for the man flailing in the air. She’s of course horrified as the man drops to the ground running away as fast as he can. Rumple eggs her on wondering if she enjoyed her first real taste of dark magic.

In the back room of Gold’s store we find a solemn Belle sitting with Gold as he lay quietly in a coma. The Blue Fairy encourages Belle to leave Gold’s side in order to help the others find Emma. Belle is hesitant to leave Gold fearing he might die while she’s gone so the Blue Fairy presents her with one of the most icon images in Disney history, an enchanted rose in a glass case. As long as the rose has petals it remains alive and so does Gold.

Regina, Robin and hook enter the hospital cell where they find a meditating Zelena not wanting to be disturbed. Hook explains they need her help which excites Zelena as she jumps up to taunt Robin only to be stopped by Regina who reminds her to back off her man.

Meanwhile, Emma continues her trek through the woods in search of Merlin annoyed by the vision of Rumple pointing out that Emma is now lost and could use his help by using magic. Emma refuses to use dark magic but is tricked into doing just that by listening to Rumples instructions of imagining the place she needs to go therefore taking her by way of her dark magic. They stumble upon a wisp, a magical being that once caught will answer whatever question you ask it. At this point the wisp is the only way Emma will locate Merlin so she takes off after it.

Back in Zelena’s cell Robin pleads with her to help the group to eliminate the darkness as a disgusted Regina looks on. Robin unsuccessfully tries to appeal to Zelena’s impending motherhood hoping she’ll want to help for the sake of their baby when Zelena corrects Robin as she sees the child as hers, Robin was just a means to an end. After some quipy back and forth banter between Zelena, Regina and Robin Hook steps in wanting to know where they stand.

Will Zelena help them or not? She agrees to help because pregnancy has changed her, she just needs the wand given to them by the Apprentice. Zelena tries to assure a skeptical Regina that the magic blocking bracelet she placed on Zelena will keep her from harming them. A reluctant Regina hands over the wand allowing Zelena to inspect it. She informs them they will need something of Emma’s to guide them to her through the portal.

Thinking they have what they need Regina retrieves the wand preparing to leave when Zelena informs them Regina’s magic isnt powerful enough. Hook asks if Zelena is capable of doing it which she tells him she can but she’ll need her magic in order to do it. Regina refuses and storms out of the cell leaving Zelena to taunt Hook about being his only way to make it to Emma.


As Emma races through the forest attempting to catch the wisp, a hooded young woman with curly red hair carrying a bow and arrow reaches the for the wisp just ahead of her. Once again an out of control Emma uses her dark magic to stop the young woman in her tracks forcing her to the ground. Quick on her feet the young woman jumps up to aim her bow and arrow directly at Emma warning her to back off. Emma tries to assure her that she wasn’t trying to hurt the young woman.

The raven haired woman isn’t buying it and insists Emma is a witch. Emma once again tries to explain she isn’t a witch but has in fact been cursed with dark magic that she is anxious to be rid of but the only way to do so is with the wisp the young woman now possesses. The young woman believes Emma’s story understanding the position she is in not having many options. The young woman can relate to Emma’s plight offering to fight her for the wisp as long as Emma doesn’t use magic to win.

Suddenly Rumple appears praising the young woman’s enthusiasm but tries to convince Emma the only way to get what she wants, what she needs is by killing the young woman. Emma refuses to fight the young woman afraid that by doing so she would be giving in to the darkness. She tells the girl to take wisp and go. The young woman thanks Emma and introduces herself as Merida. Realizing Emma is up a creek without a paddle, Merida asks Emma to tag along in the hopes of maybe catching the wisp a second time allowing Emma the chance once Merida has taken her own.


A sullen Henry sits at the count of Granny’s diner sipping a soda when a determined Hook enters. He makes his way to Henry insisting Henry use the authors pen to rewrite the story changing Emma’s fate. Henry informs Hook that he broke the pen because nobody should have that kind of power explaining that’s how the last author screwed things up by changing history instead of recording it. Emma wouldn’t want Henry to break the rules she would want him to honor the rules of the pen.

Visibly irritated by Henry’s explanation, Hook decides to manipulate him into going behind Regina’s back to help him accomplish plan B…breaking in to Zelena’s cell. Hook plays on Henry’s desire to help Emma and ego of believing he’s grown up enough to make his own decisions therefore allowing Henry to assist in Hook half-cocked plan to break Zelena out of jail.

Like a bat out of hell, Merida chops her way through the forest trying to reach their destination. Emma suggest they slow down but Merida is insistent they continue one because she hasn’t a moment to waste. She explains to Emma that her brothers were kidnapped by a rival clan not wanting to accept Merida as their Queen after the death of her father the King.

Determined to get her brothers back, Merida fiercely continues her trek only to trip on a rock in her haste to push forward. Emma convinced Merida to rest until morning when they can begin again. In the dead of night as Merida sleeps Emma tosses and turns wide away.

Rumple returns to inform her that the Dark One doesn’t need to sleep. She tries to avoid him but he appears at each turn explaining that he began spinning straw into gold to pass time through the night and she might want to find a hobby as well to keep mind off the evil things she’s going to do as the Dark One. Emma argues that she’s actually do ok not using dark magic and by befriending Merida she will have a chance to use the wisp to find Merlin. Rumple assures Emma that once Merida uses the wisp she becomes it owner and the only way Emma will have a chance to use it is to kill Merida.

Needless to say Emma’s little conversation with Rumple is out loud and not in her head and is loud enough to wake a sleeping Merida who hears the entire conversation, at least of what Emma has said, and is terrified.

Soda in hand, Henry enters the code to the mental ward of the hospital where Zelena is being held. Apparently Regina uses the same password for everything allowing Henry and Hook to entry with ease. Hook relies on Henry to come up with a master plan to sneak Hook past Nurse Ratchet at the front desk so he can enter Zelena’s room undetected. Looking for his mother, Henry walks up to the nurses desk clumsily spilling his soda all over Nurse Ratchet allowing Hook the chance to slip by. Zelena’s irritated by Hook’s arrival and wants to know why he’s there.

It’s clear Hook wants Zelena’s help with the wand and she realizes that he is doing this on his own behind everyone else’s back so she agrees to help him once he removes the magic blocking bracelet. Hook is willing to oblige but needs to be sure Zelena won’t screw him over and kill everyone once the bracelet has been removed. He pulls out a vile with a potion given to him a long time ago by Regina intended for Cora to drink allowing him to remove her heart. He explains that if he has Zelena’s heart she won’t be able to go rogue with her magic. Hook attempts to pull Zelena’s heart from her chest when he is thrown back by a pulse of green magic.

Zelena cackles in exciting at his stupidity. She explains to Hook that she protected her heart a long time ago. Hook is stunned on floor after being tossed against the wall by the magic protecting Zelena’s heart allowing Zelena to grab a knife from his belt where she quickly cuts off her own hand above the point where the bracelet ends therefore freeing her magic. Removing the bracelet from her now decapitated hand, Zelena is able to reattach her missing appendage to its rightful place and making her escape.

In the Mayor’s office a furious Regina is chewing out Hook and Henry for going behind everyone’s back and allowing Zelena to escape. An irrate Hook accuses Regina of not doing enough to save Emma insinuating Regina’s intentionally dragging her feet in order to have more time with Henry enabling her not to have to share him with Emma. Mary Margaret rains in their bickering reminding them of the task at hand. They decide to search for Zelena realizing she’s most likely on her way to Robin.

After putting Roland down for a nap Robin goes downstairs to find a frantic Regina warning him of Zelena’s escape. As they begin to kiss Robin instantly realizes that he isn’t kissing Regina but is in fact kissing a glamored Zelena who has a plan that includes an unwilling Robin.

Wand in hand and fire in her eyes, Regina and her band of merry men rush off to the center of town in search for Zelena and Robin for a standoff. Zelena has Robin trapped in a field of magic threatening to kill him if Regina doesn’t give her the wand. Mary Margaret and Hook protest but Regina is forced to turn over the wand in order to save Robin.

Zelena goes on a tirade about needing the wand to trigger a tornado enabling her to start a new life in Oz with her child, someone that will love her. Once she has the wand Zelena summons a tornado in the distance but the use of magic weakens her so Regina is able to grab the wand and force the magic blocking bracelet back on to Zelena’s wrist taking control of the tornado portal. Regina explains that she anticipated Zelena’s plan and intended all along to go after Emma.

In the Enchanted Forest Emma returns to the campsite with food to share with Merida only to find her new friend has taken off alone with the wisp. Rumple appears to Emma once again trying to seduce her into using of dark magic to get what she wants. Frustrated and desparate, Emma asks Rumple what the Hill of Stones look like so she can poof herself there beating Merida to the punch. Emma’s too late when she arrives at the Hill of Stones.

Merida has already used the wisp. In a fit of anger Emma approaches Merida asking her if she understands what she’s just done and Merida assures her she does as she raises her bow and arrow towards Emma trying to protect herself. Merida tells Emma she heard the crazy conversation from the night before and warns Emma to back off. Emma tries to assure Merida she doesn’t understand the situation only wanting to explain it to her. Merida doesn’t believe Emma telling her she’s going to get her brothers back and the wisp is the only way to do it.

Meanwhile Rumple is off to the side tempting Emma with lies enticing the use of her darkness to get what she wants pushing Emma to kill Merida by taking her heart and crushing it.

Outside Granny’s diner we see a green tunnel approaching twisting through town. Team Emma is inside preparing to be carried to the Enchanted Forest ala Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Hook badgers Regina about her grand plan of controlling the tornado making it take them to Emma when Regina pulls from her bag something precious to Emma, her baby blanket. Getting the go ahead from a hopeful Mary Margaret Regina uses the wand and the blanket to cast the spell. The tornado engulfs the diner as everyone inside holds on for dear life being whisked away back to the Enchanted Forest.


Struggling to hold on to her sanity, Emma tries to resist Rumples temptation to kill Merida verbally expressing she won’t kill her. Merida doesn’t wait to see what happens and lets her arrow pointed directly at Emma fly only to be cause single handedly by Emma instantly. Rumple continues to barrage Emma with encouragement to use her darkness as a freaked out bewildered Merida moves in circles trying over and over unsuccessfully to hit Emma with an arrow further enraging the new Dark One. Emma struggles to contain her power but can’t resist the temptation. She forces Merida to her and pulls her heart from her chest. Just before she crushes Merida’s heart her family and friends arrive to try and stop her.

Hook calls out to Emma begging her to stop but Emma explains that this is the only way to get to Merlin, the only way to protect all of them. Regina steps forward reminding Emma that this is how the darkness takes hold of her but Emma tries to dismiss Regina saying she doesn’t know that for sure even though they both know Regina has been there and lived it. Rumple continues to play on Emma’s insecurities in her head. Hook tries to reason with her to let them find another way. Emma forcefully plunges Merida’s heart back into her chest and collapses into Hooks arms.

Merida watches as the wisp circles the stones as Emma approaches to see how she’s doing. Merida quips that considering she just had her heart in someone elses hands she’s pretty good. Emma thanks her for being somewhat understanding of the entire mess only to have Merida thank Emma for showing Merida Emma’s darkness which reminded her that she has her own darkness to deal with.

As Merida takes off after the wisp Emma approaches her family warning them of the danger they are in coming after her but Snow and Charming remind Emma that she’s their daughter and they had to come. Hook jokes about Emma not looking like a crocodile as Snow presents the Dark One’s dagger to Emma explaining they agreed she should have control over her own powers. At first Emma refuses to take it confesses that if she takes it she’ll have too much power and the darkness begins to control her.


While looking at Regina Emma states that someone needs to watch her. Emma takes the dagger and hands it to Regina. Regina can’t believe Emma has just given her such a responsibility. Emma reminds Regina that she saved Regina so now Regina needs to save her but if she can’t save Emma then Regina needs to make that impossible choice that no one else will be capable of doing.

Trying to lighten the mood Emma asks how her family ended up in the Enchanted Forest but instead of telling her the group walks back to Granny’s Diner just beyond the trees. Just as they reach the front door Emma hears horses approaching from the distance. King Arthur and his Knights arrive to welcome Emma and the rest of the Storybrooke crew to Camelot. Arthur explains they have been expecting them to arrive because of a prophecy made by Merlin.


They follow King Arthur to his castle in Camelot and just as they reach the golden doors of his castle about to enter his kingdom we jump back to Storybrooke six weeks from that very moment at the castle gates. Everyone wakes up in Granny’s Diner back in it’s rightful place in Storybrooke with no memory of the last six weeks they spent in Camelot and confused as to what is going on.

At first no one sees Emma amongst them. David asks where Emma is and sure enough she appears as the Dark Swan and she is pissed. Henry asked what happened and Emma explained that even though they went to Camelot to rid her of the darkness, they failed. She informs them there isn’t a savior in Storybrooke as she turns a red leather jacket wearing sneezy into a stone statue.

Regina approaches Emma tell her to stop what she’s doing or she’ll do what Emma asked back in the Enchanted Forest and reaches for the dagger only to discover it missing from her belt. Emma raises the dagger in front of Regina taunting her with it. Emma makes it clear she will be the only to take possession of the dagger and it’s time for all of them to be punished for what they did to her. Hook begs Emma for an explanation why she’s doing this and Emma simply states because she’s the Dark One, disappearing in a cloud of black smoke.

Once Upon a Time airs Sundays 8/7c on ABC!