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The "Once Upon a Time" season premiere is a great start to Season Five, incorporating Camelot and "Brave" into the mix as Emma Swan attempts to fight off the growing darkness inside her.

TV Review: ‘Once Upon a Time’ Season Five Premiere – ‘The Dark Swan’

As you may recall from last season’s Once Upon a Time finale, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) had made the ultimate sacrifice to save a life and as a result became The Dark One, wresting that title from the dying Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle). But all that is left of Emma as we enter season five (premiering tonight on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET)  is the Dark One dagger, no longer emblazoned with “Rumplestiltskin,” and now bearing Emma’s name. Emma has vanished.

Once Upon a Time
“Once Upon a Time: An Evening with Snow White & the Evil Queen” – (ABC/Jack Rowand)
ROBERT CARLYLE, JENNIFER MORRISON
Emma’s parents (who, last year, revealed quite a dark side, themselves) Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) are beside themselves with worry, as is love-of-her-life Killian (Colin O’Donghue). And with the help of the entire town try to find a way to get to Emma before the Darkness completely takes control (if they’re not too late!)
It was great to see the Seven Dwarves, headed by Lee Arenberg’s Grumpy insert themselves into the battle, as Grumpy declares, “We’re tired of being on the sidelines!” It’s a sentiment, I’m sure, shared by lots of Once Upon a Time fans who felt that last year cheated them of the dwarves and other Storybrooke “townies.”
But how to start? Why, consult the Apprentice (Timothy Webber) as the Apprentice, of course! And then, conjure some rather “wicked” (and clever) magic to follow Emma to the place she has gone, which is not over the rainbow (although there are some visual Oz-like cues, to be sure), but to Camelot and Merlin (the only one who can cure her of the Dark One curse). All the while, Rumple’s alter ego, Mr. Gold, continues to hover between life and death in a coma as Belle watches over him.
And although Mr. Gold is still as a ghost, Rumple is far from it, and in fine form. His role, it appears, is as Emma’s muse, egging her on, encouraging her to give in to the dark side. He is like the devil on her shoulder in one of those old Disney (or Warner Brothers) cartoons. But is he real or all in her head? Or is he an effect of Emma’s taking on the Dark One mantle?
I have to say, I really loved the way series creators Adam Horowitz and Eddy Kitsis have merged bits of Arthurian legend into the Once Upon a Time landscape. From the Sword in the Stone to the introduction of Arthur and Lancelot, I think this just might work–and be far more integrated into the series narrative than Frozen had been. And for that I cheer!!
I also liked the introduction of Brave’s Merida, which sets up Emma’s first test in her struggle against the Dark One Curse. It’s a clever set up, and a test of will for Emma especially with a very persistent muse cheering for her to make the bad choices.
There is a real contrast between how Emma is handling her early Dark One-ness and what we know of Rumple’s own struggle with becoming the Dark One. Emma has always been tough and confident (at least as an adult), while Rumple had become the Dark One from a place of being brutalized and victimized (and at the time, had the singular mission of saving his son from the certain death of conscription).
We have seen how the Dark Curse can take a mild-mannered (but admittedly weak) man and corrupt him, eat away at him. How will the curse affect the strong, and strong-willed Miss Swan? Unlike Rumple, Emma is surrounded by love. She has parents, a lover, and a son (as had Rumple) who, if they find her, can perhaps keep her from being consumed.
I’m looking forward to this season of Once Upon a Time (much more than I was this time last year). The story has great potential, and if the first episode is any gauge, season five will be a great ride!
Once Upon a Time airs Sunday nights on ABC.
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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is Publisher/Executive Editor of Blogcritics, (blogcritics.org). Her Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel, called “Anne Rice meets Michael Crichton,” The Apothecary’s Curse The Apothecary’s Curse is now out from Pyr, an imprint of Prometheus Books.

Her book on the TV series House, M.D., Chasing Zebras is a quintessential guide to the themes, characters and episodes of the hit show. Barnett is an accomplished speaker, an annual favorite at MENSA’s HalloWEEM convention, where she has spoken to standing room crowds on subjects as diverse as “The Byronic Hero in Pop Culture,” “The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes,” “The Hidden History of Science Fiction,” and “Our Passion for Disaster (Movies).”

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