Once Upon a Time (2011–2018)
3 user 6 critic

The Dark Swan 

With Emma now facing the nature of the Darkness in herself, she encounters Merida. Her family and friends go to extreme measurements to find Emma and bring her home safely.


Ron Underwood


Edward Kitsis (created by), Adam Horowitz (created by) | 4 more credits »




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Ginnifer Goodwin ... Mary Margaret Blanchard
Jennifer Morrison ... Emma Swan
Lana Parrilla ... Regina Mills
Josh Dallas ... David Nolan
Emilie de Ravin ... Belle Gold
Colin O'Donoghue ... Captain Killian 'Hook' Jones
Jared Gilmore ... Henry Mills (as Jared S. Gilmore)
Rebecca Mader ... Zelena
Sean Maguire ... Robin Hood
Robert Carlyle ... Rumplestiltskin / Mr. Gold
Lee Arenberg ... Leroy
Beverley Elliott ... Granny Lucas
Liam Garrigan ... King Arthur
Andrew Jenkins ... Sir Percival
Elliot Knight ... Merlin


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. Written by tanayanaya

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


TV-PG | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


The State Theater featured at the beginning was not functional in 1989. Though a historical site, 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. Also the sign shown is the modern one and not the same as the sign that was up before 1978. See more »


Emma Swan: You brought Granny's...
Granny: Backup generator's working, but the fryers are shot.
Emma Swan: And Granny.
Leroy: [Runs out of the diner] Terrible news! No onion rings!
Emma Swan: And Leroy.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening sequence shows Granny's Diner. See more »


References Lost (2004) See more »

User Reviews

Darkness and humanity in this swan
18 June 2018 | by TheLittleSongbirdSee all my reviews

When 'Once Upon a Time' first started it was highly addictive and made the most of a truly great and creative premise. Really loved the idea of turning familiar fairy tales on their heads and putting own interpretations on them and the show early on clearly had clearly had a ball. Watched it without fail every time it came on and it was often a highlight of the week. Which was why it was sad when it ran out of ideas and lost its magic in the later seasons.

Season 5 had a lot to live up to after Season 4 being as impressive as it was. As far as Season 4's episodes go, they were all decent to brilliant with the only small dip being "Family Business" (though "Heart of Gold" was uneven) and the best being the "Smash the Mirror" two parter, "Best Laid Plans", "Mother" and the first part of "Operation Mongoose". So was expecting a good deal from Season 5 and "The Dark Swan" is only the first episode and already there is a lot of potential.

"The Dark Swan" was a brilliant season opener for Season 5, and one of 'Once Upon a Time's' best season openers. Also a high point of the season itself and certainly one of the most interesting and most emotionally investable. It basically sets things up and starts to put things into place, but does this superbly. It does so also advancing the characterisation and the story.

Particularly notable is seeing in "The Dark Swan" how the maturity and confidence has grown so much. Really loved the dark tone of the episode, definitely one of the show's darkest as far as this and the previous episodes go. Also its humanity, advancing the characterisation without softening any characters or making them standard archetypes and not losing what made them work.

Also notable is the development to Emma. Instead of the overwrought and passive character she could be in earlier episodes, the character has come on such a long way, as has the writing and the tone, the way she's written is like the episode itself, dark and human. There is a good deal of emotional investment and found myself connecting to Emma and the story. The episode wastes no time in going straight into the main story without anything padding it out or distracting.

All the acting is strong, especially from some first class work from Jennifer Morrison, giving one of her best performances of the show. She is advantaged by her material being some of her meatiest and most mature up to this point of 'Once Upon a Time' and indicative of the vast size of Emma's progression as a character.

Furthermore, "The Dark Swan" is a very handsomely mounted episode visually, the settings and costumes are both colourful and atmospheric, not too dark or garish and never cookie cutter. It is photographed beautifully too. The music is haunting, ethereal and cleverly used with a memorable theme tune.

Writing has the right balance of humour, pathos, mystery and intrigue, or corn or cheesiness here. This aspect has come on such a long way since when 'Once Upon a Time' first started, much more complexity and nuance.

Overall, brilliant. 10/10 Bethany Cox

2 of 16 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 3 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.






Release Date:

27 September 2015 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

16:9 HD
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed