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Once Upon a Time - The Dark Swan - Review: "Off to a good start!"

Once Upon a Time is a show that, to my eyes, works the best when it balances its silly elements with comedy and the character development and quest with grace; the show has always been the most entertaining when it has its characters break the ice with their sass (like Regina does often enough) or the characters undergo believable growth showing new sides of them (like many characters have done over season 4). The season premiere of Once manages all this elements to make an almost amazing start of the season.

Engulfed by darkness, Emma disappears to the Enchanted Forest (which I find strange she didn’t recognize at first glance) and discovers that she has turned into the dark one, having the image of Rumpelstiltskin trying to turn her into the dark one she should be. It’s an interesting place for Emma to be since she has always been the recognizable look of good, and honestly that was getting bland. Exploring her darkness on season 4 builds up this premiere that show us how Emma struggles with the darkness within.

Emma’s quest clashes with Merida’s, who is trying to save her kingdom. By face value Merida doesn’t add up too much to the story yet aside from being Emma’s first test of overcoming darkness; the character is merely presented and while I adore roles of strong women, I just felt that Merida could have shown more character traits to make her feel more fleshed out, but that’s not that big of a complaint, though it is something that could have been developed better.

Back on Storybrooke, everyone is trying to find out the way to bring Emma back. Hook is the one who falls into despair mode and go to any means necessary to get her back, to the point where he becomes a little bit annoying; his bit with Henry to break Zelena out isn’t something to write home about, but the next scene with Regina asking “You let her out?!” and Hook replying “Technically, I let her escape” made me laugh; those are the bits of levity that I love on the show and that makes me able to withstand moments that usually I’m not much of a fan.

Zelena’s story over the episode was carried on well; I like that her motivation is to get to Oz by all means to live alone with the one person who could love her, her baby. It’s in tone with her character and Rebecca Mader, as usual, does an outstanding job portraying Zelena’s craziness and desperate need for love.

One of the things I was absolutely delighted about was finding out that the dagger of the dark one comes from a piece of Excalibur, connecting the Camelot storyline with what was going on: it’s an interesting development and a promise of developing the Dark One storyline, knowing about his origin and even more.

One aspect that is a real winner for me during the episode are the characters interaction: OUAT can easily be inconsistent when it comes to have characters interact with each other, sometimes meeting plots demands instead of acting on natural ways, but this week everything just flew the way it was supposed to, I didn’t feel anything particularly forced aside from one moment or two, and that would be nitpicking.

Emma’s relationship with both Hook and Regina feel very honest; by the end of the episode when they meet I’m just happy to see how much she connects with both of them, as lover and friend, and how much trust she displays to both of them. It’s on track with everything we’ve seen thus far, and it puts both characters in interesting positions, since Hook is finally let by Emma to help her when needed, and Regina is trusted enough to make the right call if worst comes to worst.

When we have the six week jump to the future and everyone loses their memory again I’m slightly mad because those are story devices the show has used before and it is starting to feel repetitive, and even with Snow acknowledging the issue by saying “Again?” it doesn’t fix the problem of feeling like we’ve been here before, and as such we know how they arc is going to be treated narrative wise, exploring the missed six weeks and going forward, missing the novelty of using those devices for the first time.

Still, the episode sets up a lot of interesting ways to develop as the seasons goes on: it allows the secondary characters to have their moment in the sun, it makes promises on developing interesting storylines and it set ups new dynamics that make up for a feeling of a revitalized show, even though it is entering its fifth season.

Everything is looking up right now for the show: coming off from one of its strongest seasons, Once Upon a Time feels like a show that knows how to proceed: by being interesting and keep showing us sides of these characters that we were previously unaware off.

Grade: B+

Stray Observations:

-This episode was also filled with lots and lots of Disney easter eggs, from the king arthur’s movie to the flower in the glass to many other that are around there. I don’t remember seeing an OUAT episode being that big on easter eggs as this one, but that’s something I truly like, it so I hope following episodes keep on that trend, they are always fun to spot.

-I think Henry would have been more interesting this season if he was allowed to keep the pen and be tested with it instead of breaking it: wouldn’t have been more appealing for us to see him go through with dilemmas rather than just being plainly good?

-David/Charming had next to no dialogue in this episode. As someone who isn’t very much of a fan of his character, I was rather pleased, I must admit.

-Leroy: “Twister!”
Snow: “It’s ok, we summoned it.”

-There were plenty lines that I loved on the episode, but sadly I don’t have much time to put them all up, but let’s say that anything Regina says is something I love.

About the Author - Pablo
I'm currently studying Psychology while also writing fantasy books (one already published in my home country, Chile, you can check it out on the facebook icon). I watch many different types of shows, including my favorites Revenge, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time and about 23 more. Currently writing reviews for Once Upon a Time, The 100 and the upcoming Supergirl
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