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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 absorbs 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 as that is only how she would not respond to the explicit call of the Dagger's current user. 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 wisps 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 enroute 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[3][4] (the dwarves who didn't leave for Camelot – note that Mig Macario and Jeffrey Kaiser are both listed in the episode's press release,[2] even though their scene was cut).

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

  • CAST NOTES: As of this episode, Rebecca Mader and Sean Maguire are billed as "starring".[2]
  • ABANDONED IDEAS: Merlin was originally not set to appear in the season premiere.[10]
  • ABANDONED IDEAS: 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 sword in a wooded area next to a lake.
  • 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.[12]
  • According to Amy Manson, Merida's storyline on Once Upon a Time takes place ten years after Brave's movie events.[13]
  • HIDDEN DETAILS: 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.
  • ABANDONED IDEAS: 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.[14]
  • ABANDONED IDEAS: 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.[14]
  • During the filming of a scene between Rumplestiltskin and Emma, Robert Carlyle grabbed Jennifer Morrison's face, which was not in the script. This take was not in the final episode, as Robert was playing Rumplestiltskin as the voice inside of Emma's head.[15]
  • ABANDONED IDEAS: Originally, Emma's Dark One persona was going to have white eyebrows. Eventually, they gave up on that idea.[16]

Event Chronology

Episode Connections




Fairytales and Folklore

Popular Culture

Props Notes

  • HERALDRY: King Arthur's coat of arms is traditionally depicted as blue (azure) or red (gules) with three yellow (or) crowns (in thirteenth century manuscripts), or blue with thirteen crowns (in later texts).[27] On the show, Arthur's coat of arms is red with a yellow crown surround by four yellow sea-wyverns, the sea-dwelling variant of the dragon-creature known as a wyvern. There is also a yellow version with a red crown and red sea-wyverns.[19]

Costume Notes

  • Lancelot's coat of arms is traditionally depicted as a silver (argent) shield with three red (gules) bands running from the bearer's right side corner of the shield to the bearer's left side (these are known as bends).[27] On the show, however, Lancelot's coat of arms[33] is almost identical to that of Sir Bors, who is Lancelot's cousin in the legend. In Arthurian heraldry, Sir Bors' coat of arms is similar to Lancelot's, but is emblazoned with ermines,[27] a pattern of black shapes representing the winter coat of a stoat.
  • Sir Percival's coat of arms is traditionally depicted as blue (azure) fenced with yellow (or) crosses.[27] On Once Upon a Time, Percival's coat of arms (a lightning bolt against a red and blue background)[25] is from the cover of the Grateful Dead double live album Steal Your Face (1976).
  • Sir Kay's coat of arms is traditionally depicted as blue with two silver keys placed back to back. On Once Upon a Time, his coat of arms is similar to that of Sir Safir. Safir's crest is vair (a set of patterns which represents a kind of fur common in the Middle Ages) blue and silver, and divided into several rows of squares of two alternating tinctures (this is known as checky),[34] green (vert) and gold or).[27] However, the show's version is all vair, and the colors are green and silver.[35]
  • Interestingly, in "The Price", black and white versions of both Kay and Percival's actual coats of arms from the legend, are hanging on two of the seats around the Round Table.[36]
  • HIDDEN DETAILS: The sleeves on Emma's cloak have swan-like feathers.[40]
  • BRAND INFO: Regina's necklace[50] is an Alexis Bittar Gold Capped Crescent Pendant[51] (at the time of August 30, 2018, the exact color is no longer available).
  • USE IT AGAIN: This pendant is also worn by her in "The Price".[52]

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 2.3 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 The Last East Germany WAG Stan (@freifraufischer) on Tumblr: Season 5 Spoilers Summary (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." (archive screenshot) (backup link – note that the link and the screenshot were created before the blog was given the name "The Last East Germany WAG Stan")
  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 ONCE UPON A spoiler (@uponaspoiler) on Tumblr: Say hello to our 5x01 title. Yes, it's legit! (June 30, 2015). (backup link)
    Once Upon a Time - Episode 5.01 - Title Revealed. SpoilerTV (July 1, 2015).
  9. TwitterLogo Adam Horowitz (@AdamHorowitzLA) on X, formerly Twitter: Tomorrow we are set to begin shooting #OnceUponATime -- hope to see ya 9/27! (July 7, 2015). (backup link) (archive 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. Once Upon A Time... Season five started filming. Leah Thom Photography (July 23, 2015). “In one of the scenes, they had to make the ground look wet. This meant bringing in a city truck to spray water on the ground. The lower mainland is currently on a level three water restriction, but before anyone could complain about the city not following their own rules, they took a pro-active approach and used ditch/recycled water instead (and put signs on their truck saying so).”
  13. 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.”
  14. 14.0 14.1 Jennifer Morrison, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis on the Season Five Blu-ray/DVD Audio Commentary for "The Dark Swan"
  15. 15.0 15.1 InstagramIcon Craig Clarke (@vfxsup) on Instagram: #tbt ... another bobby moment... he was supposed to be playing the voice in jmo's head... he was not real. (Vancouver, British Columbia) (January 11, 2018). "On one take though he decided to grab Jmo's face, totally unscripted and as you can see the result was powerful. -" (backup link) (archive screenshot)
  16. InstagramIcon Jennifer Morrison (@jennifermorrison) on Instagram: That moment when we thought maybe #darkswan didn't have eye brows... we changed our minds :) (October 11, 2017) (backup link; original post has been deleted) (archive screenshot)
  17. File:501Surprise.png
  18. File:501What2.png
  19. 19.0 19.1 File:501ItsOtherHalf.png
  20. Wyverns. Comic Vine. Retrieved on October 13, 2021.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Schwartz, Terri (December 26, 2018). Fans Are Debating Whether Game of Thrones' and Skyrim's Dragons Are Actually Wyverns. IGN. “This debate over the accurate term for the winged beasts in Game of Thrones (and Skyrim) stems from the distinction that a dragon is technically a creature with four legs and two wings, while a wyvern has two legs and two wings, and uses its wings as additional legs.”
  22. 22.0 22.1 Difference Between Wyvern and Dragon. Difference Between. Retrieved on January 1, 2019. “Some depictions show dragons as having legs whereas others show them without legs and having one head or more. (...) Wyverns are depicted to be less poisonous they are sometimes believed to be able to breathe poison through their mouth. Dragons on the other hand are known have a fervent breath as one of their strongest and most dreaded weapon.”
  23. Abrams, Natalie (March 13, 2015). 'Once Upon a Time' bosses answer Yes/No/Can't Say (or a little more) to your Twitter Q's. Entertainment Weekly. “If Emma goes evil, does that make her the Black Swan? KITSIS: Yes.”

    TwitterLogo Melissa Hastings (@MelissaIsUberA) on X, formerly Twitter: Can you confirm? Was Dark Swan inspired at all by Swan Lake? (December 28, 2017). (backup link; the user's account and the original post have been deleted) (archive screenshot)

    TwitterLogo Jane Espenson (@JaneEspenson) on X, formerly Twitter: At all? Well, we did notice the name, so I guess... yes? (December 28, 2017). (backup link) (archive screenshot)
  24. Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis (August 7, 2012). Once Upon a Times Adam Horowitz's and Edward Kitsis's Weeks in Pop-Culture Consumption. Vulture. “Long day in the room and I need to let my mind wander. Tonight's playlist is all Grateful Dead. Yes, I'm a Deadhead. I look for something from my favorite year, 1973, when they were gooey and jazzy and just all around in the zone.”

    Monica (October 21, 2013). Adam Horowitz & Edward Kitsis Talk New Seasons of OUAT and OUATIW. CableTV.com. Archived from the original on July 17, 2019. “I was a deadhead, loved The Grateful Dead. When you are a deadhead it becomes less about the music and more about the community…”
  25. 25.0 25.1 File:501WatchingKay.png
  26. File:501IWasJustWorried.png
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 27.4 Knights of the Round Table. Land of Legend. Retrieved on August 30, 2018.
  28. File:615INeedAnAnswer.png
  29. File:505Promo5.jpg
  30. File:312Promo32.jpg
  31. File:404TheSorcererHimself.png
  32. 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).”
  33. File:501TellThePeople.png
  34. checky. Dictionary.com. Retrieved on August 30, 2018.
  35. File:501AllTheRealms.png
  36. File:502PercivalIsDead.png
  37. File:501ThreeTimes.png
  38. File:210YesIDo.png
  39. File:322WeDidIt2.png
  40. File:501Swan.png
  41. File:501MaybeYouLike.png
  42. 3.1 Phillip Lim FLORAL MACRAMÉ BLOUSE. Pradux. Retrieved on August 30, 2018.
  43. File:502ShesHereInStorybrooke.png
  44. File:501MaybeYouLike.png
  45. Wilfred FESTIN JACKET. Pradux. Retrieved on August 30, 2018.
  46. OPENING CEREMONY Cabbage Knit Flare Skirt. FWRD. Retrieved on August 30, 2018.
  47. Jimmy Choo Cosmic leather pumps. NET-A-PORTER. Retrieved on August 30, 2018.
  48. File:502TheBloodyCrocodile.png
  49. File:211HookCameHere2.png
  50. File:501ThatWand.png
  51. Alexis Bittar Gold Capped Crescent Pendant. Orchard Mile. Retrieved on August 30, 2018.
  52. File:502ReadyToTrustMe.png
  53. File:501FinallyGotHimToSleep.png
  54. 54.0 54.1 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.”
  55. File:511DoingThisRight.png
  56. Screenshot from The Vampire Diaries: "Man on Fire"
  57. Screenshot from The Vampire Diaries: "What Lies Beneath"
  58. Screenshot from The Vampire Diaries: "Promised Land"
  59. File:501KingArthurOfCamelot.png
  60. File:509SneakingUpOnFergus.png
  61. File:501SneezyIntoStone.png
  62. "Emma Swan" Dark Swan hooded shroud from Once Upon a Time Season 5, Episode 1.. iCollector. Archived from the original on December 1, 2018. Retrieved on March 8, 2019. (Photograph)
  63. 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”
  64. 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.”
  65. TwitterLogo Sara McCulloch (@leafladygreens) on X, formerly Twitter: Here's a few more pics of.....,. Yes it's Minaty Bay, yesterday on set (August 14, 2015). (backup link) (archive screenshot)
  66. InstagramIcon Craig Clarke (@vfxsup) on Instagram: #yvrshoots #vancouver #vancity yvrshoots #iphoneonly #iphonegraphy #iphonephotography #vancouver_official (Minaty Bay, Bc) (October 8, 2015). (backup link) (archive screenshot)
  67. InstagramIcon Craig Clarke (@vfxsup) on Instagram: Throwing it back to when Jmo was the dark one... that's the look of turning around to find my camera in her face 😂 (Upper Coquitlam River Park) (August 30, 2018). (backup link) (archive screenshot)
  68. 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.
  69. 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.
  70. FlickrIconTemplate 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)
  71. File:501RunsTowardZelena.png
  72. File:501DocExitsDiner.png
  73. The title is a nod to "Dark One", named "Senhor das Trevas" ("Lord of the Darkness") in Portuguese version.