Once Upon a Time: Dark Swan Rises

the dark oneSeason Four of Once Upon a Time was a low point for me. After absolutely loving the twists of Season Three – loving our time spent in both Neverland and Oz – I was pretty disappointed with how things continued. The Frozen arc was okay, but coming just so quickly on the heels of the movie – and adhering to so much of it when it came to characters and costumes – left it lacking in authenticity. So much of it just came across as forced and false and I could just never get over that. And then the whole Author things and the fact that everyone lost all of their agency and none of their actions were theirs anymore just…I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it and it left a bad taste in my mouth and I wasn’t all that excited for the start of the new season. There were a few things that were intriguing, I guess, and I was certainly going to keep watching, but I was far from excited.

And with just one episode, all that changed. Season Four has been forgotten and I’m pretty pumped.

The first episode of a new season is always a little difficult to talk about I think because we haven’t gotten anywhere yet. We’re not answering any questions and finding anything out. We’re not resolving anything or making any bold statements. Instead, all we’re really doing in the first episode of the season is asking questions. We’re setting up where we’re going to go and what we’re going to find out. And all we’re left with in the end is questions.

So with that in mind, these are the questions I want answered in the upcoming season (or at least half a season).

  1. Camelot: Just like every other season, Season Five has introduced to us to a new story. This time it’s the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table. And so obviously, the first question that arises is…what’s their story? What’s their history and how does it intersect with our heroes? We know that Emma met Merlin oh so long ago as a child and that there’s a prophesy surrounding her. Merlin warned her not to take Excalibur. It’s not hers to take. So…will she heed his warning or will we see her take it? And just where is Merlin? He’s been missing, but apparently Emma is the one to bring him back, so where has he been? And lastly, I want to know how they’ve dealt with Lancelot’s death. Do they know he died at the hands of Cora? Why was he with them? Is Camelot a part of the Enchanted Forest or it’s own realm a la Wonderland or Neverland?
  2. Merida: It seems Camelot is not the only story we’re dealing with and hers is one I think I’m interested in. With Merida, I hope that we’ve learned something from the failings of the Frozen crew. I’ve seen Brave, so I don’t need everything about her and her story to just be a repeat of that. The fun of bringing in elements from the movies is when it’s done deftly. When it’s occasional. When it’s something iconic that has been re-purposed into something new. With the Frozen arc it was “let’s see how much of this movie we can shove into the show” whereas elements from Beauty and Beast, for example, have been sprinkled in throughout four whole seasons. Merida doesn’t have to be a walking advertisement for her movie, and just from the episode, it doesn’t look too bad. She made reference to her movie – to her mother turning into a bear and using the assistance of the will-o-the-whisp – but she seemed to be more than that. So I guess my questions for her are
  3. The Dark One: I sometimes have trouble with things that are simply labeled as Evil. Especially when it’s a force and not a person. Not always – seeing as I was able to get so on board with Cruella DeVil – but when you have an unstoppable evil machine, there’s so often not enough for me to really latch onto. For me to be invested or interested in. So I’m…hesitant when it comes to this Darkness. At the moment, I’m interested. Interested in where it comes from and what its purpose is. Interested in if it has human characteristics, like motives and desires. Interested in how it will manifest itself within Emma as opposed to within Rumpelstiltskin. And I’m interested in what it will take to defeat it. But I worry that Evil will end up being its only defining characteristic. Which gets boring.
  4. Regina: Regina is probably my favorite character on the show. She’s the one I find to have the most depth and to have had the most movement within herself. And her relationships – with her friends, lovers, foes, family, whatever – are often the most richly complex. She has, as Hook said, gone soft. She’s still prickly Regina, but she’s on the side of good. So I’m interested to see how she will combat Emma’s darkness and what her role will be in the town as Emma’s darkness is unleashed. There’s no savior now, Emma says. But is that true? With Emma’s wickedness emerging, will Regina have to step up and take her place as Storybrooke’s savior? And I want to know if more will come of the burden Emma placed in Regina’s hands. Even if the dagger has already made its way back to Emma, that was a heavy thing to lay at Regina’s door: the responsibility to control and ultimately destroy her. I wonder if there will be fallout.
  5. Rumplestiltskin: We saw who he was before the darkness: the cowardly man who loved his son. But who will he be now? He can’t simply revert to who he was before, not after living with the darkness inside of him for so long. Being the Dark One must have taken its toll on Rumpelstiltskin, must have done something to the man he was. Does he want the darkness back? Is he able to be a better man, someone who can reconcile both the coward and the power hungry demon into someone decent? Will Belle be able to love this man as much as she loved the Dark One?
  6. And of course there’s the usual beginning of the season curse: 6 weeks have been magicked out of our heroes heads and Emma has gone from a woman desperately fighting off the darkness to someone who has fully embraced it. So what happened in that time? And where do we go from here?

All in all, it was a good start to the season. We’ve gotten far enough into the show that some elements are going to become repetitive (how many times can these characters lose their memory without going completely crazy?), but at this point for me it’s more homey and familiar than boring and been and done. I’m still ready for the magic.

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