The Dark Swan
Season 5, Episode 1
The Dark Swan Once Upon A Time
Airdate September 27, 2015
Written by Edward Kitsis
Adam Horowitz
Directed by Ron Underwood
Episode Guide
Operation Mongoose
The Price
The Dark Swan is the first episode of the fifth season of the American fantasy drama series Once Upon a Time, which aired on September 27, 2015.

In this episode, the events of Emma Swan being consumed by the Darkness have left the residents of Storybrooke without "The Savior," leaving Regina, Mary Margaret, Hook, David, Henry, Robin Hood, and Belle to find a way to save her, even if it means turning to an unlikely individual that they cannot trust. Meanwhile, Emma finds herself in the Enchanted Forest where she encounters Merida en route to Camelot in her search for Merlin before the darkness consumes her for good.

Commentators gave the episode positive reviews, citing the episode's dark and more human tone following the events of the fourth season finale.

View the The Dark Swan Gallery.


Opening sequence

Granny's Diner is shown in the forest.

Event chronology

The Land Without Magic flashbacks take place in 1989, a few years after the events of "The Stranger" and a few years before "Snow Drifts". The Camelot flashbacks take place immediately before the scene where King Arthur shows Excalibur to his subjects in "The Broken Kingdom" and before Lancelot's banishment in the same episode. The Enchanted Forest events take place after "Fall" and before "The Broken Kingdom". The Storybrooke events take place after "Operation Mongoose Part 2" and the present Camelot events take place years after Lancelot's banishment, and before "The Price".

In the Characters' Past

In a movie theater in 1989 Minneapolis, Minnesota, a young Emma is watching The Sword in the Stone. She steals a woman's candy bar, and is approached by an usher, who tells Emma "Don't do it". She expects him to reprimand her, but he instead offers her advice by saying, "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, just before he disappears.

In Camelot, before Emma's Arrival

King Arthur and two of his knights, Sir Lancelot and Sir Percival, arrive to the location of the stone in which Excalibur is embedded. Sir Kay has found it first and as he tries to pull the sword out, he is turned to ash. Despite this, Arthur proceeds with his mission and manages to successfully 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.

In Storybrooke

Just moments after Emma harnessed the powers of the Dark One and vanished, leaving behind only the dagger with her name on it, everyone is left stunned, bewildered, and angry at each other. While 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, they learn from the Apprentice that Emma is now in the Enchanted Forest and he has a wand that was given to him by Merlin, which contains all of the light magic, which can help them find Emma, but open a portal to another realm if it is wielded with "two sides of the coin", the light and the dark. The Apprentice dies and drops the wand;[note 1] 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. She also cannot use her magic unless Regina removes the cuff that is restricting Zelena's magic. Regina refuses. Later, at Granny's, Hook and Henry formulate a plan to release Zelena. However, their plan backfires, and Zelena breaks free from the cell after cutting off her hand to remove the magic cuff. Zelena takes Robin captive and trades him for the wand, which she intends to use to return to Oz. As Zelena opens a portal, which takes the form of a cyclone and substantially drains her powers, Regina takes advantage of Zelena's weakened powers to put the cuff back on her wrist, as well as to redirect the portal to take them to the Enchanted Forest, using Emma's blanket to locate her. The cyclone immediately heads towards Granny's diner, and transports everyone in the establishment to the location of Emma's whereabouts.

In the Enchanted Forest

Emma emerges in the Enchanted Forest through the Vault of the Dark One, and finds herself haunted by the voice of the darkness inside of her, which has manifested as a personification of Rumplestiltskin. She struggles to resist, and vows not to hurt her family. Then, Emma runs up to a peddler, only to become consumed by Rumplestiltskin's guidance, to the point of nearly using her dark magic to kill the peddler. The Dark One guides Emma through 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, accidentally 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 in order to find out what happened to her triplet younger brothers and restore her family's kingdom. After they make camp for the night, the manifestation of Rumplestiltskin tries to guide Emma into betraying Merida once they reach the home of the wisps. The manifestation of Rumplestiltskin tells Emma that once Merida speaks into the Wisp, it will continue to 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. Emma catches up with her in the morning and is goaded by Rumplestiltskin's manifestation, 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 stops her. Once everything has settled down, Mary Margaret hands Emma the dagger; however, Emma, believing that carrying the dagger would give her too much power, wants someone else to possess it. She decides to give the dagger to Regina, since she would be the only one capable of killing Emma if necessary. Moments later, King Arthur and some of his knights arrive on horseback in order 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.

In Storybrooke (Six Weeks Later)

Six weeks after the group entered Camelot, they awaken in Granny's Diner, back in Storybrooke, where they are wearing Arthurian attire. However, they also 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.


This episode officially marked the additions of Rebecca Mader and Sean Maguire to series regulars after spending the past two seasons in recurring roles.


  • The 'voice' of Rumplestiltskin in Emma's head makes a comment about the incomprehensibility of Merida's thick Scottish accent. Robert Carlyle is Scottish himself and has his own heavy Glasgow accent.
  • Henry calls the nurse in the hospital where Zelena is being held "Nurse Ratched", the name of the nurse in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and the patient mopping the floor is similar to the character of "Chief" Bromden in that movie (and book).
  • The dwarf acting as sheriff while everyone was in Camelot has the same red leather jacket and same beanie/hat as Emma.
  • The candy bar Emma steals is an "Apollo". This candy bars also makes several appearances in "Lost".
  • The object/animal/person in this episode is Granny's Diner.
  • The State Theater featured at the beginning was not functional in 1989. Though a historical sight the theater was the home of Jesus People Church from 1978-1989 and the sign had been removed. It didn't reopen as a theater until 1991. On top of that the sign shown is the modern one and not the same as the sign that was up before 1978.
  • Merida is the first Disney-Pixar character to be featured on the show.
  • The first pictures of Emma as the "Dark Swan" were released by Entertainment Weekly on July 3, 2015.
  • The new Dark One (Dark Swan) will make her first ever appearance.
  • The hand that Zelena cuts off of herself is a mold of a man's hand.
Season 1
PilotThe Thing You Love MostSnow FallsThe Price of GoldThat Still Small VoiceThe ShepherdThe Heart Is a Lonely HunterDesperate SoulsTrue North7:15 A.M.Fruit of the Poisonous TreeSkin DeepWhat Happened to FrederickDreamyRed-HandedHeart of DarknessHat TrickThe Stable BoyThe ReturnThe StrangerAn Apple Red as BloodA Land Without Magic
Season 2
BrokenWe Are BothLady of the LakeThe CrocodileThe DoctorTallahasseeChild of the MoonInto the DeepQueen of HeartsThe Cricket GameThe OutsiderIn the Name of the BrotherTinyManhattanThe Queen Is DeadThe Miller's DaughterWelcome to StorybrookeSelfless, Brave and TrueLaceyThe Evil QueenSecond Star to the RightAnd Straight On 'til Morning
Season 3
The Heart of the Truest BelieverLost GirlQuite a Common FairyNasty HabitsGood FormAriel (Episode)Dark HollowThink Lovely ThoughtsSave HenryThe New NeverlandGoing HomeNew York City SerenadeWitch HuntThe TowerQuiet MindsIt's Not Easy Being GreenThe Jolly RogerBleeding ThroughA Curious ThingKansasSnow DriftsThere's No Place Like Home
Season 4
A Tale of Two SistersWhite OutRocky RoadThe ApprenticeBreaking GlassFamily BusinessThe Snow QueenSmash the MirrorFallShattered SightHeroes and VillainsDarkness on the Edge of TownUnforgivenEnter the DragonPoor Unfortunate SoulBest Laid PlansHeart of GoldSympathy for the De VilLilyMotherOperation Mongoose
Season 5
The Dark SwanThe PriceSiege PerilousThe Broken KingdomDreamcatcherThe Bear and the BowNimueBirthThe Bear KingBroken HeartSwan SongSouls of the DepartedLabor of LoveDevil's DueThe Brothers JonesOur DecayHer Handsome HeroRuby SlippersSistersFirebirdLast RitesOnly YouAn Untold Story
Season 6
The SaviorA Bitter DraughtThe Other ShoeStrange CaseStreet RatsDark WatersHeartlessI'll Be Your MirrorChangelingsWish You Were HereTougher Than the RestMurder Most FoulIll-Boding PatternsPage 23A Wondrous PlaceMother's Little HelperAwakeWhere Bluebirds FlyThe Black FairyThe Song in Your HeartThe Final Battle
Season 7
Hyperion HeightsA Pirate's LifeThe Garden of Forking PathsBeautyGreenbacksWake Up CallEloise GardenerPretty in BlueOne Little TearThe Eighth WitchSecret GardenA Taste of the HeightsKnightfallThe Girl in the TowerSisterhoodBreadcrumbsChosenThe GuardianFlower ChildIs This Henry Mills?HomecomingLeaving Storybrooke
Down the Rabbit HoleTrust MeForget Me NotThe SerpentHeart of StoneWho's AliceBad BloodHomeNothing to FearDirty Little SecretsHeart of the MatterTo Catch a ThiefAnd They Lived...
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