Secrets, and the lure of love versus the lust for power. These themes remain the heart of ABC’s fairytale series’ season five of Once Upon a Time. With the series’ return set for March 6th at 8PM EST with the episode Souls of the Departed, the time has come for a quick overview of the interactions and highlights from the earlier season.
The great magician Merlin (Elliot Knight), disguised as a movie theater usher, delivers an important message to a young Emma Swan (McKenna Grace). “Do not remove Excalibur from the stone.” However, a time-traveling, disappearing, good-looking man’s message left no apparently lasting memory on Storybrook’s savior turned Dark One. As an adult, Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) traveled to Camelot to seek a way to break the curse of the Dark One before its full effect claimed her. A phantom Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) tempted Emma to use magic and succumb to the allure of the dark power. She met Merida (Amy Manson), a Scottish princess on her own quest – to save her triplet brothers from clansmen contesting her right to rule.
The Storybrook gang used trickery and Oz magic from the pregnant-with-Robin Hood’s-baby-through-deception Wicked Witch Zalena (Rebecca Mader) to land Granny’s Diner and a handful of Storybrook residents in Camelot. King Arthur (Liam Garrigan) and Queen Guinevere (Joana Metrass) hosted a ball in honor of the people they believe were to release Merlin from his prison. (The first Dark One turned him into a tree flourishing in Camelot’s courtyard.) While at the ball, Emma’s son Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) fell in love with a knight’s daughter, Violet (Olivia Steele Falconer), and Sir Percival (Andrew Jenkins) used an enchanted sword to attempt to murder Regina/Wicked Queen (Lana Parrilla).
Robin (Sean Maguire) took the blow, and David/Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) slayed the attacker. Since Regina/Wicked Queen could not heal the mortal wound, Emma used magic to heal Robin. The Phantom Rumpelstiltskin reminded “all magic comes at a price.” When Arthur pulled Excalibur from the stone, it was broken. The tip was used to make the Dark One Dagger. His obsession with restoring the sword to its intended shape grew into an obsession. Guinevere and Lancelot had quested for the Dark One to help the king. The Dark One/Rumpelstiltskin gave them a “fixing powder” instead of the dagger. The couple intended to use it to give the appearance of wholeness to the magical sword, but Arthur instead used the dust on his wife and kingdom. Lancelot had left.
In Storybrook, the residents returned six weeks after their departure for Camelot, unable to recall their time in Camelot. Emma’s appearance altered to reflect her new status as the Dark One. A fury tried to drag Robin into the underworld, but Regina/Wicked Queen, assisted by Mary Margaret/Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), David/Charming, Leroy/Grumpy (Lee Arenberg), and Killian/Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) fought it off. Emma took Hook to her new home. They kissed, but true love’s kiss did not cure her of her Dark One-ness. While the Camelot refugees set up camp, their king reported a magical item was stolen. David/Charming, acting as Sheriff of Storybrook, weeded out the thief, Arthur’s squire. From his bag fell a distinctive red-capped mushroom called the Crimson Crown. Arthur covertly convinced the squire to disappear.While the others were occupied, Emma tried to free Excalibur, which is inexplicably trapped in yet another stone. However, she needed a hero to do so. She hosted a dinner on the Jolly Roger with Hook, but left when he pried into her intentions. Belle (Emilie de Ravin) tried to return the comatose Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin to health, but Emma abducted him. She coerced Merida to force the cowardly Gold into bravery. He would be her hero and extract Excalibur.
Six weeks previously in Camelot, David/Prince Charming and Arthur quested for the Crimson Crown mushroom, but Arthur claimed it was lost in a scuffle in a swamp. David was named a knight of the round table. Mary Margaret/Snow White left the noisy hall and found Lancelot (Sinqua Walls), who not only was not dead as suspected, but also conveyed a warning. Arthur was a villain. What Lancelot did not realize was Guinevere’s involvement. Arthur revealed his villainy. Emma and Regina/Wicked Queen used Henry’s tears of loss to magically free Merlin. Merlin revealed the source of his magical abilities – many years in the past, he drank from the grail. Then, he reformed it into Excalibur – and the Dark One dagger. His protégé, Nimue, had tricked him by first drinking from the grail, to exact revenge for her murdered village mates. Her misuse of magic transformed her into the first Dark One. Merlin broke the sword to bind the Dark One, but could not kill her. She then had trapped him in the Camelot courtyard tree.
The Storybrook gang freed prisoners from Camelot’s prison, including Merida. The Scottish clanswoman then kidnapped Belle to force her to craft a spell to help her free her brothers. Although, with Belle’s help, Merida realized she did not need magic to be a good leader. She also learned her deceased father was given a magic helm that controlled men’s wills by the local witch (Lily Knight), but he did not use it. He had employed Mulan (Jamie Chung) to train his daughter in war craft. Merida had missed a shot and Arthur, who sought the magical helm, killed Merida’s father, Fergus. Riddled with guilt, Merida sought a way to redeem herself. Zelena and Arthur turn up in Dun Broch to take the helm again, but Merida, Mulan, and Ruby/Red the Werewolf (Meghan Ory) thwart the attempt. The clansmen accepted Merida as their queen.
Emma and Merlin attempted to free Emma of her Dark One Curse, but she holds on to it a little longer. Oz’s Witch was in league with Arthur, and double crossed them. She bound Merlin to the sword in the same way the Dark One was bound to the dagger. Arthur captured those dear to Emma and threatened their lives. He cut Hook, an incurable wound, and to save him, she made Hook into a Dark One, an immortal. Hook killed Merlin. Emma trapped everyone’s memories in dreamcatchers, and they returned to present-day Storybrook.
Hook recalled his childhood and his interactions with his father. He challenged Gold/Rumple to a duel, but lost. Gold/Rumple proposed to Belle, but she refused his offer. He gave her a gift to explore the world. Emma made Zelena’s pregnancy accelerate so that she could spare the innocent baby in her plan. Emma intended to trap all the evil in Hook and herself in Zelena, and then kill her. Instead, a portal to the underworld opened and released all the previous Dark Ones on Storybrook. They poured over the town and its citizens like a dark fog, marking the people with whom they come in contact. Rumpelstiltskin gave into the darkness again; his name carved into the dagger. Hook took over for Emma and sacrificed himself for the town and for Emma. Emma stabbed him with Excalibur, and the ferryman claimed Hook. She called, “I’ll find you, Hook. I’ll always find you;” leading to the next season, a romp through the underworld.
It will be interested to see where season of Once Upon a Time goes from here with ten more episodes on tap through. There are bound to be more twists and turns along the way which fans can look forward to. To this point, CrypticRock gives season 5 3.5 out of 5 stars.