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This article focuses on the Season Five episode, "The Dark Swan".
For the Enchanted Forest character, see Emma Swan.
For the magical entity, see Darkness.

The fight to control my darkness has just begun.

Emma Swan

"The Dark Swan" is the first episode of Season Five of ABC's Once Upon a Time. It was written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz and directed by Ron Underwood. It is the eighty-ninth episode of the series overall, and premiered on September 27, 2015. This episode is the fifth-season premiere.


Immediately after becoming the Dark One, Emma disappears and the heroes must band together to save her, but first they have to find her, which will require the help of an unlikely ally. Meanwhile, in the Enchanted Forest, Emma struggles to resist her dark urges as she searches for Merlin in the hope that he can stop her transformation. Along the way to Camelot, she gets help from the plucky and brave warrior princess Merida, as well as King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.[2]


This section is a detailed recap of this episode. There are major spoilers. Click to expand.

In a movie theater in 1989 Minneapolis, Minnesota, a young Emma Swan watches The Sword in the Stone. She steals a woman's candy bar, and an usher approaches her and tells Emma "Don't do it". She expects him to reprimand her. He says, "When you do something that you're not supposed to do, even if you're doing it for the right reason, bad things will happen". He also mentions that she will have the opportunity to remove Excalibur from its stone and warns her not to touch it, before he disappears.

King Arthur, Sir Lancelot and Sir Percival, arrive to the location of the stone where Excalibur is embedded. Sir Kay has found it first and as he tries to pull the sword out, he turns to ash. Despite this, Arthur proceeds with his mission and manages to pull the sword out, only to discover that the tip is missing. He vows to seek out the missing piece, which is revealed to be the blade of the Dark One's Dagger.

Moments after Emma absorbes the Darkness and vanishes, leaving behind only the Dagger with her name on it, everyone is left stunned, bewildered, and angry at each other. Regina is furious over what Emma has done. Mary Margaret still believes that Emma has good in her and that she can be saved. Hook takes the Dagger to summon her back, but to no avail; as Regina explains, Emma has gone to a different world. Later, the Apprentice shares that Emma is now in the Enchanted Forest. Merlin's wand, which contains all the light magic, can help them find Emma. But, the wand can only open a portal to another realm if "two sides of the coin" wield it, the light and the dark. The Apprentice dies and drops the wand. Regina picks up the wand but cannot use it, as she no longer has darkness anymore; they need someone "wicked".

Regina and Robin Hood go to the hospital ward to see Zelena. Zelena agrees to help if she could see the wand, but needs something meaningful to Emma so the spell will work. Zelena cannot use her magic unless Regina removes the magic-restricting cuff. Regina refuses. Later, at Granny's, Hook and Henry plan to release Zelena. She escapes from the cell, after cutting off her hand to remove the magic cuff, before reattaching her hand. Zelena takes Robin captive and trades him for the wand, which she intends to use to return to Oz. Zelena opens a portal, which takes the form of a cyclone and drains her powers. Regina takes advantage of Zelena's weakened state to put the cuff back on her wrist, as well on redirect the portal to take them to the Enchanted Forest, using Emma's blanket to locate her. The cyclone heads towards Granny's Diner, and transports everyone inside to Emma's location.

Emma emerges through the Vault of the Dark One. The voice of Emma's darkness haunts her and manifests as a personification of Rumplestiltskin. She struggles to resist, and vows not to hurt her family. Then, Emma runs up to a peddler, but is angered into choking him. The Dark One tricks Emma into using a transportation spell, and she sees a will-o-the-wisp. The Dark One tells her that for the Wisp to answer her question, she will have to catch it. As she chases it, Emma comes upon a red-headed archer named Merida, who nabs the wisp and places it in her bag. Emma confronts Merida, using dark magic, and tries to convince her that she needs it to find Merlin. Merida is reluctant to trust Emma, but decides to go with her, keeping the wisp in her bag. Merida informs Emma that more wisps can are born at the Hill of Stones, so they head in that direction.

Emma learns that Merida needs the wisp to restore DunBroch and save her triplet younger brothers who were kidnapped by her country's United Clans after they refused to let her rule as queen. After they make camp for the night, the Rumplestiltskin manifestation tries to guide Emma into betraying Merida once they reach the home of the wisps. The Rumplestiltskin manifestation tells Emma that once Merida speaks into the Wisp, it will do her bidding until she dies, and thus, the only solution would then be for Emma to kill her. Merida overhears the conversation, and sneaks off to the Hill of Stones by herself. Rumplestiltskin's manifestation goads Emma, against her better judgment and good nature, to rip Merida's heart out. Before Emma can crush the heart, Hook appears with the others and talks her down from it, and she restores Merida's heart. Once everything has settled down, Merida thanks Emma for showing her that she has darkness in her, too; she was about to kill the clan leaders who kidnapped her brothers and the experience has convinced her to spare them. Mary Margaret hands Emma the dagger; but, Emma, believing that carrying the dagger would give her too much power and too much temptation to embrace the darkness, wants someone else to have it. She decides to give the dagger to Regina, due to her previous dark deeds, which makes her the only one capable of killing Emma if necessary. Moments later, King Arthur and some of his knights arrive on horseback to proclaim that they have been awaiting Emma's arrival. Arthur believes that Emma will be able to reunite them with Merlin, and everyone involved joins forces on their quest en route to Camelot.

Six weeks after the group entered Camelot, they awaken in Granny's Diner wearing Arthurian attire. They find that their memory ends with them entering Camelot. To make matters worse, Emma has embraced the darkness, acquired the Dark One's Dagger, and vows revenge against the others for failing her.

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Deleted Scenes

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The former site of Granny's Diner has been transformed into a beer garden. Mr. Clark, driving the Sheriff's car and wearing a red leather jacket similar to Emma's garment of choice, pulls up in front of the beer garden to witness a ribbon cutting ceremony with Bashful, Dopey and Walter in attendance (the dwarves who didn't leave for Camelot – note that Mig Macario and Jeffrey Kaiser are both listed in the episode's press release, even though their scene was cut).[3][4]

Wrecked Beer Garden

The beer garden in front of Granny's Diner has been wrecked, presumably due to the diner landing after being transported back to Storybrooke. Emma, fully transformed into the Dark Swan, is wearing a long black robe and can be seen near the wrecked beer garden.[4][5]



Guest Starring





Production Notes

  • As of this episode, Rebecca Mader and Sean Maguire are billed as "starring".[2]
  • Merlin was originally not set to appear in the season premiere.[10]
  • According to concept art by Keith Lau, King Arthur and his knights were going to walk down a walkway hidden behind a waterfall and find Excalibur embedded in its stone inside a grotto.[11] This idea was eventually abandoned in favor of scene where they find the legendary source in a wooded area next to a lake.
  • According to Amy Manson, Merida's storyline on Once Upon a Time takes place ten years after Brave's movie events.[12]
  • Henry mentions that Regina uses his birthday for all of her passwords, including the one for the entrance to the psychiatric ward. In "A Tale of Two Sisters", Regina types 815 as password for the psychiatric ward, meaning that Henry's birthday is August 15.
  • Zelena cutting off her own hand with a knife, was based on a sequence from the script for the Season Four episode "The Apprentice", in which Hook cut off his re-attached hand with a "meat cleaver or something". However, the network thought this would be far too dramatic. The idea was used for this episode instead.[13]
  • The scenes with Emma and Merida at the Hill of Stones was originally written as one scene, but during editing, they decided that it would play better if the scene was cut in two, with the diner scene between them.[13]
  • Originally, Emma's Dark One persona was going to have white eyebrows. Eventually, they gave up on that idea.[14]
  • During the filming of a scene between Rumplestiltskin and Emma, Robert Carlyle grabbed Jennifer Morrison's face. This take was not in the final episode, as Robert was playing Rumplestiltskin as the voice inside of Emma's head.[15]
  • In one scene in Storybrooke, the filming crew had to make the ground look wet. They brought in a city truck to spray water on the ground, which was against the rules, as the lower mainland was on a level three water restriction at the moment. They then took a pro-active approach and used ditchwater and recycled water instead, and even put up a sign on the truck saying so.[16]

Event Chronology

Episode Connections




Fairytales and Folklore

Popular Culture

Props Notes

Costume Notes

Filming Locations

International Titles



  1. Sunday Final Ratings: ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Adjusted Down, ’60 Minutes’ Adjusted Up + ‘Sunday Night Football’. TV by the Numbers (September 29, 2015). “Once Upon a Time – Premiere (...) 5.925”
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 LISTINGS: ONCE UPON A TIME. The Futon Critic. “Air Date: Sunday, September 27, 2015. Time Slot: 8:00 PM-9:00 PM EST on ABC. Episode Title: (#501) "The Dark Swan".”
  3. Once Upon A Time shoots scenes for season 5 premiere with several cast members through out the day.. Canadagraphs (August 13, 2015).
  4. 4.0 4.1 Tumblr.png freifraufischer — Season 5 Spoilers Summary on Tumblr  (July 17, 2015). "7/17/15 (Steveston filming): Granny's diner has a Bavarian style Beer Garden in front of it. • A dwarf, Sneezy, driving a sheriff’s car while wearing an Emma Swan red leather coat pulls up in front of Granny's. • The Beer Garden in front of Granny’s has been wrecked. • Emma in a Dark Swan Costume filmed near the wrecked beer garden." (screenshot)
  5. Gittins, Susan (July 1, 2015). SHOOT: ONCE UPON A TIME's Dark Swan (Jennifer Morrison) in Steveston. Hollywood North.
  6. LISTINGS: ONCE UPON A TIME: Air Date: Sunday, September 25, 2016. Time Slot: 8:00 PM-9:00 PM EST on ABC. Episode Title: (#601) "The Savior".. The Futon Critic (September 2016). “Peter Marcin as Chief”
  7. File:501Title.png
  8. Tumblr.png ONCE UPON A spoiler — Say hello to our 5x01 title. Yes, it's legit! on Tumblr  (June 30, 2015)
    Once Upon a Time - Episode 5.01 - Title Revealed. SpoilerTV (July 1, 2015).
  9. TwitterLogo.svg @AdamHorowitzLA (Adam Horowitz) on Twitter (July 7, 2015). "Tomorrow we are set to begin shooting #OnceUponATime -- hope to see ya 9/27!" (screenshot)
  10. Abrams, Natalie (July 8, 2015). The Hot Seat: 'Once Upon a Time bosses answer your burning questions. Entertainment Weekly. “Will we meet Merlin in the season premiere? Kitsis: No.”
  11. File:501ConceptArt10.jpg
  12. Gibsom, Kelsie (December 9, 2015). Once Upon a Time's Merida Reveals the Cast Member She Loves Working With the Most. PopSugar. “PS: How would you say that Merida's portrayal in the show is similar or different from her Disney character? AM: Well, it starts 10 years later. So, I've changed as a person in the last 10 years and that's what you have to think.”
  13. 13.0 13.1 Jennifer Morrison, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis on the Season Five Blu-ray/DVD Audio Commentary for "The Dark Swan"
  14. Jennifer Morrison (October 11, 2017). That moment when we thought maybe #darkswan didn't have eye brows... we changed our minds :). Instagram. Archived from the original on February 3, 2020. (archive copy)
  15. 15.0 15.1 InstagramIcon.png vfxsup (Craig Clarke). January 11, 2018. "... another bobby moment... he was supposed to be playing the voice in jmo’s head... he was not real. On one take though he decided to grab Jmo’s face, totally unscripted and as you can see the result was powerful. -" (archive copy)
  16. Once Upon A Time... Season five started filming. Leah Thom Photography (July 23, 2015).
  17. File:501Surprise.png
  18. File:501What2.png
  19. Monica (October 31, 2013). Adam Horowitz & Edward Kitsis Talk New Seasons of OUAT and OUATIW. cabletv.com. “I was a deadhead, loved The Grateful Dead.”
  20. 20.0 20.1 File:501WatchingKay.png
  21. File:501IWasJustWorried.png
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 Knights of the Round Table. Land of Legend. Retrieved on August 30, 2018.
  23. File:501ItsOtherHalf.png
  24. File:615INeedAnAnswer.png
  25. File:505Promo5.jpg
  26. File:312Promo32.jpg
  27. File:404TheSorcererHimself.png
  28. Once Upon a Time - Merida's Stunt Sword (0377). iCollector. Archived from the original on August 2, 2020. Retrieved on August 2, 2020. “This style of sword also saw use by Prince Charming (S03) and the Apprentice (S04).”
  29. File:501TellThePeople.png
  30. checky. Dictionary.com. Retrieved on August 30, 2018.
  31. File:501AllTheRealms.png
  32. File:502PercivalIsDead.png
  33. File:501ThreeTimes.png
  34. File:210YesIDo.png
  35. File:322WeDidIt2.png
  36. File:501Swan.png
  37. File:501MaybeYouLike.png
  38. 3.1 Phillip Lim FLORAL MACRAMÉ BLOUSE. Pradux. Retrieved on August 30, 2018.
  39. File:502ShesHereInStorybrooke.png
  40. File:501MaybeYouLike.png
  41. Wilfred FESTIN JACKET. Pradux. Retrieved on August 30, 2018.
  42. OPENING CEREMONY Cabbage Knit Flare Skirt. FWRD. Retrieved on August 30, 2018.
  43. Jimmy Choo Cosmic leather pumps. NET-A-PORTER. Retrieved on August 30, 2018.
  44. File:502TheBloodyCrocodile.png
  45. File:211HookCameHere2.png
  46. File:501ThatWand.png
  47. Alexis Bittar Gold Capped Crescent Pendant. Orchard Mile. Retrieved on August 30, 2018.
  48. File:502ReadyToTrustMe.png
  49. File:501FinallyGotHimToSleep.png
  50. 50.0 50.1 John Varvatos Reverse Printed Short Sleeve Henley. outfitsleuth.com. Retrieved on August 30, 2018. “Worn by: Enzo (Michael Malarkey). Featured on: 5x19 – Man on Fire. Also worn: 5x20 – What Lies Beneath, 5x21 – Promised Land.”
  51. File:511DoingThisRight.png
  52. Screenshot from The Vampire Diaries: "Man on Fire"
  53. Screenshot from The Vampire Diaries: "What Lies Beneath"
  54. Screenshot from The Vampire Diaries: "Promised Land"
  55. File:501KingArthurOfCamelot.png
  56. File:509SneakingUpOnFergus.png
  57. File:501SneezyIntoStone.png
  58. "Emma Swan" Dark Swan hooded shroud from Once Upon a Time Season 5, Episode 1.. iCollector. Retrieved on March 8, 2019. (Photograph)
  59. The L Chat's copy of the original tweet:
    Once Upon a Time 6.0. The L Chat (August 15, 2015). “Madeleine ‏@Madelxine @yvrshoots OUAT at the Dunbar theatre right now! Looks like they're between shots currently. @yvrshoots no parking signs say 5 am to 6 pm so I think they've wrapped and crew are cleaning up. Saw a trailer for young Emma”
  60. Minaty Bay. Advantage Waste. Retrieved on January 25, 2019. “Minaty Bay is a small community in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District which includes Cheekye, Coquitlam, Nanaimo, Pitt Meadows, Whistler Village, Garibaldi Highlands and Ladner. Sea Island, Lulu Island, Gabriola Island, Roberts Bank Superport, Peace Arch Park and Galiano Park, Browning Lake and Zorro Bay are also around this area.”
  61. TwitterLogo.svg @leafladygreens (Sara McCulloch) on Twitter (August 14, 2015). "Here's a few more pics of.....,. Yes it's Minaty Bay, yesterday on set" (screenshot)
  62. InstagramIcon.png vfxsup (Craig Clarke). October 8, 2015. "Minaty Bay, Bc" (archive copy)
  63. InstagramIcon.png vfxsup (Craig Clarke). August 30, 2018. "Throwing it back to when Jmo was the dark one... that’s the look of turning around to find my camera in her face 😂" (archive copy)
  64. Gittins, Susan (July 14, 2015). SHOOT: ONCE UPON A TIME's Princess Merida from Brave (Amy Manson) at Stonehenge Set in Robert Burnaby Park. Hollywood North Buzz.
  65. Gittins, Susan (September 30, 2015). SET: ONCE UPON A TIME's Granny's Diner in Camelot Forest Set in Burnaby’s Central Park. Hollywood North Buzz.
  66. FlickrIconTemplate.png Lawrence Andreutti. Once Upon A Time July 14, 2015 (July 14, 2015).  "Once Upon a Time set photos from Central Park, Burnaby, BC (Camelot) taken on July 14, 2015." (archive copy)
  67. The title is a nod to "Dark One", named "Senhor das Trevas" ("Lord of the Darkness") in Portuguese version.