Wednesday, September 23, 2015

5 Great Things From The 'Once Upon A Time' Season 5 Premiere

Once Upon A Time, "The Dark Swan"
Season premiere: September 27, 2015

Yesterday, I noticed that the season premiere for Once Upon A Time was available for press and I jumped on that opportunity to watch. After having seen the cast’s panel at San Diego Comic-Con, my interest in the show was piqued (again), for two major reasons: 1) Dark Swan and 2) Merida. Neither of those elements disappointed me in the season five premiere, and I doubt they’ll disappoint you either. But there were more than just those two elements that worked for me in the premiere – an episode that is a lot stronger and more cohesive than most of the episodes from the last season were combined. Every character gets the chance to shine (with the exception of Charming who pretty much just stands in the background the entire time) and there are some great little surprises thrown in there too.

So I’ve decided to make a little list of five things I really loved from the season premiere and that you might as well. I don’t want to spoil any major plot points for you because that’s part of the fun of watching television. But this is just a little taste of what you can expect when “The Dark Swan” debuts this Sunday:

5. The sass level has never been stronger.

There are a lot of scenes in the Enchanted Forest between Not-Really-Rumple-But-Rumple and Emma Swan that are just loaded with sass. At one point, he tells Emma – who can’t fall asleep – that she’s going to find that being the Dark One affords her little rest. “You need a hobby,” he says. “Something to take your mind off the terrible things you’re gonna do. Do you like knitting?”

Not to be outdone, though, back in Storybrooke, literal sass queen Regina Mills is whipping out zinger after zinger – most of them directed at Hook. “It’s not like she rode off on a unicorn!” she snaps at those who wonder where Emma went after she let the darkness embrace her. “She got sucked off into a vortex of evil.” Regina and Hook spend a majority of the episode clashing and it’s rather wonderful to witness. She, at one point, calls him “guyliner” and he may or may not bite back.

Zelena has some great one-liners in the season premiere as well, which include: “Please go. You’re ruining my chi.”

The season premiere is chock full of great little comedic moments like these, which definitely help balance out the melodrama and magical elements that pepper it as well.

4. The character pairings – both old and new – are varied and great.

As I mentioned above, Regina and Hook get quite a few scenes together in which they clash. It’s wonderful to see them verbally spar, but Hook also gets a storyline with Henry (which ends badly for the both of them, but while occurring is rather delightful). Also, Colin O’Donoghue gets to say “Wookiee” and it is the most wonderful thing ever. The choice to pair Dark Emma with Not-Really-Rumple-But-Rumple is excellent as he is essentially the voice of the Dark One in her head that she battles the entirety of the episode.

But there are some wonderful new pairings that we get the chance to see unfold – King Arthur and his comrades for one – in the Enchanted Forest, but none are as great as the new relationship between Dark Emma and Merida. There’s a particularly compelling scene toward the episode’s end where the two characters forge a new understanding of one another. And that actually brings us to…


I was skeptical of the series’ decision to include Merida when I found out she would be the next princess to appear during a teaser at San Diego Comic-Con. Sometimes I think that Once Upon A Time just really loves to include any and every kind of Disney character or fairytale character. Occasionally, they add layers and depth to the story and illuminate our characters. Unfortunately, sometimes they just feel extraneous (did we really need Ursula and Cruella last season to add to the story?).

Not so with Merida.

Merida is a perfect character to illuminate the darkness within Emma’s heart. She’s also amazing. Amy Manson does a truly fantastic job of making the character her own and not relying on the movie version of the princess solely. You’ll get to know a little bit more about her journey and where we pick up her story in the premiere. But she’s tough and fearless… and yet also extremely vulnerable. There is one scene in particular with Emma and Merida that really captures how vulnerable and scared Merida can be. Overall, I’m really pleased with how they integrated her character. It felt organic, natural, and right.

2. Emma’s transition to the Dark One is believable.

Beginning the episode with a flashback and ending it with a six week flash forward was an interesting way for the show to frame the narrative of Emma’s transition into the Dark One. While most of the characters throughout the episode struggle to believe Emma could even have an ounce of darkness within her – that she is still THEIR Emma – Emma is struggling with exactly the same thing. She spends a vast majority of the episode fighting tooth and nail against the darkness within her. She is defiant and insistent that she will NEVER become the kind of person who hurts others – hurts the people she loves and who love her – like Rumple did.

But subtly that shifts. Again, I won’t spoil anything for you but the reunion between Hook and Emma is one of the most important aspects of the episode because it is the thing Emma needs to pull her away from the edge. The gentle honesty and love with which Hook speaks to Emma during an extremely pivotal moment is absolutely wonderful acting from both Colin and Jennifer. The two have a really tender hug in the moments that follow but the slight hint of something more that is bubbling beneath the surface of each of their characters – shades of concern and worry – are evident.

Emma and Regina have a really great moment in the Enchanted Forest where Emma instructs Regina to save her. And if Regina cannot save her soul from the darkness… she is the only one who will be able to do what is absolutely necessary: kill her instead.

Oh, and you’ll definitely want to stay tuned to the last few moments of the episode because they’re quite important. And by “quite” I mean “very.”

1. A few surprises and special things happen along the way.

Without spoiling anything for you, here are a few little notable moments:

  • There’s a parallelism early on between a movie young Emma watches in the theatres and what happens in the Enchanted Forest.
  • The Dark One’s dagger is not exactly what you think it is.
  • A famous Beauty and the Beast item debuts in this episode courtesy of the Blue Fairy.
  • An unexpected character steps up to the plate and wants to help save Emma.
  • You’ll get to see a glimpse of this wardrobe at the end of the episode.

There you go, friends! Check out the Once Upon A Time season five premiere on Sunday, September 27 at 8 PM on ABC. We hope you enjoy :)


  1. finally, a OUAT s5 premiere review that is unlike the rest! i've read plenty of reviews of the premiere and this one just became my favorite. it's different, and very insightful. You stayed away from the cliche spoilers we've been getting and i loved it. thanks for the spoilers! :)

    1. Thanks so much, anon! It's hard to give teasers without teasing TOO much. Trust me, the fun will be in watching the episode and then realizing what we all meant when we said certain things. ;) So glad you found this one helpful and different from the rest!