Snark Tank; Recap

Bad Blood: Recap of Once Upon a Time's The Dark Swan

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We begin in 1989…. because this is Once Upon a Time (and also because Taylor Swift has infiltrated our psyches to such a degree that she owns an entire year.) Little Emma Swan had a ticket to see Sword in the Stone in a theater somewhere out there when she was between horrible foster homes. But did little Emma Swan also get to see An American Tail three years earlier in 1986? I guess since American Tail is owned by Universal, we probably won’t be getting Fivel‘s backstory any time soon. So much for Somewhere Out There: Emma Swan Goes West!

After stealing a candy bar, Emma gets shushed by an usher in the theater, who tells her if she gets the chance to pull the sword from the stone, don’t do it. The usher’s identity is not known to viewers so we won’t spoil it even though it’s pretty obvious. Meanwhile in the Enchanted Forest, some knights (including Lancelot) wandered away from the set of Galavant in order to try to pull a sword from the stone (our first magical object of the season!) Turns out it has been split in half already and someone has the other half.

Cut to the Dark One’s Dagger! Ah, I see what you did there, show. (Magical object 2). Well nobody ever said that Once Upon a Time doesn’t know how to begin a season. It’s the middle and end parts that are hardest.

Knowing that Emma had yet another run-in with a magical character during her childhood brings up an issue we always have trouble with on our podcast, which is that we wanted Emma’s life to have been untouched by magic until Henry brought her to Storybrook, rather than being shaped by magical forces all along. But One Upon a Time is telling us for the umpteenth time to Let it Go.

The Dark One’s Disney Backlot Tour

Actually, Elsa can hold off for now, because this issue is addressed later. Rumple, who is alive and leading Emma on a tour of the Disney backlot at Hollywood Studios, sadly tells Emma that she can’t stop herself from being the Dark One. She can only be stopped. This has been a source of tension between the two since season 2, when Emma returns from the Enchanted Forest and realizes that she’s been manipulated for her entire life. What Rumple views as fate, Emma sees as a lack of free will. This thread has been dropped by the show more often than it’s been pursued, but we could write one hell of an awful dissertation on Once’s notion of free will.

Now Emma is back in the Enchanted Forest and Rumple is in her head, along with every other beast who has inherited the mantle, such as Gorgon the Invincible. Can I just say that so far darkness is like a vitamin C facial on Emma? Because her skin is totally glowing this episode.


When we catch up with the Storybrook crew, they are all shocked about Emma’s sacrifice and trying to keep it together. Hook immediately picks up the dagger and commands Emma to come hither. Nice try, and that should’ve worked, except that only works if the Dark One is in this realm. Regina tells him to “put the dagger down, guyliner” because Emma is somewhere else.


That brings us to Once Upon a Time‘s hottest love triangle, Emma/Hook/Regina. These two have been arguing about Emma since Neverland and Regina has made it quite clear that she thinks Hook is not good enough for Emma. But this was the first episode that we’ve seen Hook this incensed at Regina. Understandable, since Emma sacrificed herself for Regina when some people would have assumed she would put Hook first.

You’re Fired

The Squad heads over to visit The Apprentice and he tells them his wand will totally fix the situation. Then he dies. All that effort during part two of season 4 and it’s come down to this: here, take my wand.


At least his death gave us a glamor shot of Regina holding the wand aloft and totally looking like the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. If Regina is Snape, that makes Emma Harry Potter, right? Also: the wand is magical object #3.

Hook wants Regina to unleash the power of Zelena to fix the situation. Regina is like “no, that bitch be too crazy,” but Hook is like “but crazy is needed!” I’ll say this about Captain Swan  – it’s better to watch Hook fighting to bring Emma home than Hook falling on the the floor. And Hook is in love with Emma, of that I have no doubt. Also we are reminded that Zelena has a magic-killing bracelet (magical object 4).

Days of Our Knives

And what of Zelena? Bex Mader is now a full cast member and (unless she gets treated like the Knave or Red Riding Hood) that spells trouble for Regina and Robin. But not the kind of trouble that is fatal. It’s fair to assume that for canon purposes, none of these couples are breaking up, and certainly not Outlaw Queen, who are destined to go through as many challenges as any Days of Our Lives Super Couple (and probably more than a few of the same plots. Regina is going to be buried alive at least once, I just know it.)


Robin gets to say that he didn’t consent to sex with Zelena. It was overdue and important for Once to acknowledge that Zelena raped Robin. I’m not going to say that storytellers can’t use these kind of plots, but if you are going to tell that story, then it’s crucial to say what happened between them is wrong. The Zelena is pregnant-vindictive-and-evil storyline still has plenty of squicky overtones.

Regina isn’t going along with Plan Z, since she doesn’t trust her big sis. Hook enlists Henry by asking him to do something that his other mom wouldn’t want him to do. Yeah, so this made us angry. But somebody had to get Zelena out of jail, and also Hook is desperate, so it made sense for the character. It’s not like Regina (manipulation, erased memory) or Emma (“your dad was a nice fireman”) have been perfect parents, either, as internet commenters will no doubt inform me.

So yeah that plan falls apart about five seconds after Henry and Hook visit Zelena. First of all Hook whips out the heart-taking potion that Regina gave him way back four score and 300 years ago when he was supposed to kill Cora. (Really?) It is only notable as another magical object (#5), which Z totally destroys because magic. Zelena is on the loose and there’s a big showdown and Zelena is going to get Robin if Regina doesn’t give her the magic wand so that Z can Return to Oz and James Franco.

Meridaaaa…. My Aim is True

Emma is at a loss to return to her family, so Rumple encourages her to make a vision board and see how that turns out. And it totally works! Emma runs smack into Disney’s Brave, another exceptionally well cast actress in a Disney All Grown Up role. Emma and Merida fight over will o’ the wisps (magical object 6), which Rumple has informed Emma is The Only Way she can get whatever it is that she wants. Merida wants to fight Emma for it fair and square, MMA-style, since she needs to save her kidnapped brothers.

Emma totally doesn’t want to hurt Merida, who hasn’t slept in days, so they just decide to just camp out for the night. What is this, Xena? Does that make Rumple Joxer? He was also a coward, you know.

ONCE UPON A TIME - Saturday, August 15, 6-7pm, Stage 23 - "Once Upon a Time: An Evening with Snow White & the Evil Queen" - "Once Upon a Time's" savior has gone dark! As Emma Swan transitions into her role as the Dark One, join the resident fairy tale characters as they cope with Emma's new role and begin the search for Merlin. This is a journey that will take our heroes from the Enchanted Forest to Camelot and along the way bring many surprises, including Merida from "Brave," as "Once Upon a Time" introduces its first Pixar character. Join co-creators and executive producers Edward Kitsis ("Lost") and Adam Horowitz ("Lost") along with series stars Ginnifer Goodwin and Lana Parrilla as they discuss the upcoming season of unexpected twists, evolving characters, new adventures and new rivalries. This panel is sure to bring some surprises you don't want to miss and an exclusive sneak peek at the upcoming season premiere!  The Q&A with this fairy tale team will be moderated by D23's Jeffrey Epstein. "Once Upon a Time" returns for its fifth season on Sunday, September 27 at 8pm ET/PT on ABC. (ABC/Jack Rowand) AMY MANSON

Rumple does what he does, which is manipulate and encourage Emma to kill Merida, since the wisp can’t be used by two people. She fights the impulse to do this, because Emma is the hero of this show and she’s consistently avoided taking a life.

Merida says her kingdom isn’t far from here, which in Enchanted Forest parlance means it’s about two minutes away.

All The Feels

Regina pretends to go along with Z’s plan and then outwits her with some random magic. A green tornado is beginning to form, so they all run to Granny’s to batten down the hatches. Hook suggests Regina redirect the tornado to find Emma. As we know, someone’s personal object can lead you to them with a tracking spell. Regina shows Snow White that she brought Emma’s baby blanket (magical object 7) since she couldn’t bring the yellow bug.

Invocation of the crazy history between Snow, Regina and Emma never fails to make fangirls flail.

Instead of the giant Oz-cloud taking them all off to Oz for a re-do of the Oz story, Granny’s tavern and everyone in it are dropped into the Enchanted Forest. Even the dwarves are along for the ride. They intervene just in time to stop Emma from crushing Merida’s heart. Hook has a genuinely nice moment where he reminds her that yes she really can stop herself from committing murder.

The Charmings want to give Emma the dagger so she can control herself (nice gesture, bad plan). But instead Emma gives the dagger to Regina. She’s saved Regina, now Regina can save her. Regina is the only one Emma trusts to kill her if it comes down to that.

Wow, all the feels.

Then the Galavant knights arrive and shepherd everyone into a big CGI Camelot. Everything seems cool until we flash forward to Storybrook, where everyone shows back up with missing memories. We learn that Dark Swan got so out of control that she wiped their memories and brought them back to Storybrook for a little fun punishment.

punish   yep


Ah yes, the Recycled Plot. You had to know it was coming.

What About Belle

Predictably, Belle doesn’t have a story that doesn’t involve keeping candlelight vigil over Poor Rumple. She’s going to stand guard by his bedside in case he dies, but the Blue Fairy gives her a magical blooming rose under glass which will keep him alive. (Magical object 8). A bloomin’ onion from Outback Steakhouse would do Belle more good at this point.

This Episode By the Numbers:

Dead: 1 (The Apprentice)

Magically Undead: 1 (Lancelot)

Magical encounters by pre-Storybrook Emma: 5 (August, The Dairy Queen, Lily Daughter of Dragons, “I Know You’re Baelfire”, and That Guy in the Theater Who is Totally Merlin)

Magical Objects: 8

Cora’d – 1

Alex is a lawyer and opinionated.


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