The much awaited season premiere of Once Upon A Time finally arrived on Sunday September 27th. Last season left off with Emma, the savior, becoming the Dark One to save Regina from being consumed by that darkness. Now her family and loved ones are obviously very concerned and determined to save Emma.
The newest episode picked up at a flashback actually of a young Emma in a movie theater, watching The Sword and the Stone. She sneakily pickpockets a candy bar but is caught by one of the theater employees. However his warning that her doing something bad, even with good intentions, will only lead to more consequences seems to foreshadow her decision to save Regina. During the exact scene where Arthur pulls the sword from the stone, the mysterious employee tells her that she too will have the opportunity to remove the sword but she mustn’t do it. After this scene it moves to the actual Arthur and his Knights in the Enchanted Forest heading to the real sword in the stone. They are beaten there by another knight though. But when he attempts to pull the sword free, he literally dissolves into ashes. Of course Arthur is the real master of the sword and has no trouble with it. Once he pulls it out thought he sees that there’s only half of the sword there. He vows to find it and just then we flash back to Storybrooke with a scene with the Dark Ones dagger. That dagger matches the design of Arthur’s sword and presumably that means the dagger is the other half. This foreshadows a possible encounter between Emma and Arthur.
Now returning back to Storybrooke, we see Snow, Charming, Hook, Regina, and Robin (who are back together) are still comprehending Emma’s decision. They’re all shocked and devastated, even angry. Hook is upset by the loss of his true love but is beyond determined to save her. He immediately grabs the Dark Ones dagger and attempts to summon Emma. She doesn’t show, confusing him as that’s supposed to summon the Dark One from anywhere in the world. Regina points out that this means Emma is not in this world, instead somewhere else. The heroes are left with the conundrum of how to proceed then, with the dagger virtually ineffective.
For the first time in the premiere, we see the newly dark Emma, in the Enchanted Forest. She rises from a literal dark, black Cloud of Evil, just like every Dark One. She doesn’t look particularly evil, just rather bedraggled and disheveled. Her appearance is due to the fact that Emma is not truly dark quite yet, as pointed out by her “guide” of sorts to being the Dark One, Rumplestiltskin. She’s adamant that she will never hurt those she loves and those who love her. Upon realizing that she’s in the Enchanted Forest and therefore near Merlin, the only one who can undo the darkness, Emma sets out to find him.
While Emma begins her quest, those still in Storybrooke are seeking to start theirs. They go visit the Apprentice, who is too weak to physically help, but does provide assistance. He tells them that Emma is indeed in the Enchanted Forest and gives them a wand. It will help them cross the realms to reach Emma, but it needs dark magic to wield it to balance its pure light. Regina attempts to use it but it appears the irony of all ironies prevents it from working: the Evil Queen is now too much a hero. That leaves only one option, Regina’s wicked sister and most bitter enemy, Zelena. Regina is more against this idea than usual, given the fact that Zelena is pregnant with Robins baby from her time masquerading as Robin’s wife, the Maid Marian. The band on Zelena’s wrist prevents her from doing magic and after she taunts Regina, she refuses to remove it. This leaves Hook very agitated because he cannot reach Emma without getting to the Enchanted Forest and now he must find another way to reach there.
Despite this setback, Hook is nowhere near giving up. Emma is his happy ending and there’s no way he’s letting her become dark. He goes to Henry, the new author, hoping he can rewrite what had happened. However last season Henry had broken the authors pen. With that option no longer viable, Hook asks Henry to help him break our Zelena. Henry gets into the cell area because he knows Regina’s pass codes and then distracts the secretary so Hook can sneak by. He gets into her cell and threatens to take out her heart. However she’s put a protection spell on her heart so Hook is at another dead end. Things get even more complicated though when Zelena cuts off her hand to get rid of the magic-binding bracelet and vanishes from the cell.
Zelena busting out causes major distress for Regina, especially when she realizes that her sisters first move would be against Robin. Of course, Regina is right and then we flash over to where Robin is putting his son down for a nap. Regina comes in, but then poof, it’s actually Zelena. She takes Robin hostage and tells Regina and the others that the only way she’ll free him is if they give her the dagger. It seems that Zelena wants to use the dagger to open a portal back to Oz so she can raise her baby there. Regina gives in, unable to let Robin get hurt or worse, and Zelena opens a portal. But Regina knew that opening the portal would weaken Zelena and managed to get the magic-blocking band back on Zelena’s wrist. Now the portal, shaped like a tornado, can be used to take the heroes to Emma. So Snow, Charming, Hook, Regina, and Robin take shelter in Granny’s to wait for the portal to take them. Zelena is brought along though, and the dwarfs insist on accompanying them on their journey as well.
Meanwhile back in the Enchanted Forest Emma is desperately trying to find her way to Camelot, to Merlin. It’s getting harder to resist dark magic, especially when the stranger she asks for directions doesn’t help her. Rumplestiltskin, as the voice in her head meant to guide her to darkness, continues to tell her the benefits of her newfound power. This includes teleporting, as he shows her how. They end up near a beautiful lake where he gives her the next step to actually finding Merlin. She must find a whisp, the fancy blue light that was featured in the movie Brave, and bring it to the Hill of Stones. There the whisp will tell her how to reach home. As Emma chases down the first whisp she sees Merida, from Brave. Merida takes the whisp Emma was after, saying she needs it urgently. She’s wary of Emma’s need for the whisp, so Emma clarifies that she needs it to lift a curse of dark magic on her. While Merida can sympathize she needs the whisp to save her three brothers, who’ve been kidnapped. Merida challenges Emma to fight for the whisp but Emma refuses. Merida then suggests that they team up and journey the the Hill together. Once Merida finds how to save her brothers Emma can take her turn with the whisp. They start their trip but Emma soon tells Merida they should stop for the night and make camp. As soon they’re settled Rimple appears to Emma again and tells her some bad news: Merida can’t give Emma the whisp once she’s dive because it becomes the property of the first one who whispers to it. Rumple’s solution to this though is to kill Merida, which again, Emma refuses to do.
Unfortunately Merida overhead Emma’s conversation with Rumple, which to her seems like Emma talking to a voice in her head, like she’s crazy. She leaves, and Emma doesn’t realize this till too late. She teleports to the Hill and sees Merida about to whisper to the whisp. Merida grabs her bow and shoots an arrow at Emma, only to see Emma catch the arrow. She continues to shoot arrows at Emma, but it proved futile as Emma caught every one. As this happens Rumple is telling Emma to just do it, rip out Merida’s heart to get the whisp. All Emma’s insistence she wouldn’t is tested and it seems she’ll fail. Her priority is to save herself but before she can crush Merida’s heart her loved ones appear. They convince her to stop, and she she gives Merida back her heart. Merida departs, even thanking Emma for showing her the darkness that can be inside people. Emma’s happy to see her friend and family, she even hugs Hook. Snow offers her the Dark Ones dagger but Emma doesn’t trust herself to keep it. Instead she offers it to Regina, saying that she would be able to do what’s necessary should Emma fail to control her darkness. It’s an important symbol of their friendship that Emma would put so much trust in Regina.
The heroes bring her back to Granny’s, which was picked up in the tornado. They’re found by King Arthur though who had heard from Merlin the prophecy that Emma would arrive there eventually. He offers to guide them all to Camelot, which is exactly what they want. However things don’t go according to plan.
The next scene is back in Storybrooke where Granny’s crash lands back in its usual spot. We see Snow, Charming, Robin, Regina, and Hook (Emma’s not there), all dressed up in fancy clothes. When the others left behind come in to check on them the heroes realize they’ve been gone six whole weeks. They also have absolutely no memory of anything beyond Arthur leader them to his castle. And to make the scene more dramatic Emma walks in. She’s all decked out in a Dark One outfit and she tells them that clearly, they’d failed in saving her from darkness. That leaves us waiting for next Sunday’s episode to see how the heroes will deal with Emma’s transformation.