Guest Review Once Upon A Time

Once Upon a Time 5×01 – The Dark Swan

“There’s no saviour in this town anymore.”


Review by Panda
Another season another attempt to capitalize on an established Disney brand. Unlike last season’s Frozen takeover, it looks like this one won’t be as all consuming. It also looks like it will bring with it a new variation on the long standing flashback structure, and a few deviations away from Camelot, the backdrop of the moment. Unfortunately, the premiere brought into question the longevity of the series, which is starting to get less feasible in the face of tired plot devices, and a penchant for cheap drama.

Last year, I was one of the few who actually found the majority of the Frozen antics entertaining. Elsa was incorporated into Storybrooke really well, but it would be fair to say that the core cast ended up fading to the background as a result of how much the series bowed to the influence of such a massive Disney powerhouse. What I like about this arc is that it seems as though Regina, Emma and everyone else are very much at the centre of the plot, with the new arrivals simply adding more to the dynamic, and driving the story forward where necessary.

This premiere wasn’t without its flaws, though. While I like the idea of making Emma the big bad, and the new Camelot journey might be a lot of fun to play around with initially, I’m not sure I’m all for these guys going through yet another bout of memory loss. Watching this happen for the third/fourth (?) time just makes it all the more obvious how late we are into Once’s run, and there are only so many times you can re-use a device like this before it becomes lazy and more than a little silly.

There were a few other moments that had me rolling my eyes as well. Belle’s rose that lets her know if Rumple still lives was the most blatant attempt yet to shoehorn in a recognisable Disney movie staple for no reason at all. Merida’s introduction seemed a little unnecessary too, but it’s a relief that she’s only going to appear in doses, not all at once. It’s also nice to see that she’s being incorporated into the on-going Dark Swan arc, rather than dominating the show in a Scottish takeover all her own. I’m curious to see how she’ll play into this story later on.

I knew going into this season that the Regina/Robin/Zelena triangle would be milked for all its soapy worth, and I wasn’t wrong. It’s trashy, and all those shaded jibes really hinder Once’s family appeal, but because Lana Parilla and Rebecca Mader sell the shit out of the script I think I kind of love it. There’s also room for yet another redemption plot with the Wicked Witch, and I never get tired of watching those. And who could say no to more of Mader’s trademark manic facial expressions?


Michael Socha is no longer a part of the cast, as is the mystery surrounding his appearance in Storybrooke. It ruins the ending that the writers gave us in Wonderland. And I still don’t understand the timing of it all.

Emma giving Regina the dagger was a highlight of this episode for me.

Merida’s father has died since the events in Brave, and her three little brothers have been kidnapped. We also got a not at all subtle nod to her mother’s transformation into a bear. No mention of her fate though.

Snow and Charming have become so irrelevant to this show. They need something juicy this season, preferably something that will make Snow as interesting as she was in the season one flashbacks. I liked that Snow.

It doesn’t look like Jennifer Morrison’s dark one will be as fun as Robert Carlyle’s, but we haven’t seen enough of her to make a full judgement on that yet.

He Said, She Said

Regina: “Put that thing down before you hurt yourself guyliner.”

Right now I’m on the fence about this arc and where it might go. There’s potential for it to be either really dark and exciting or repetitive and stupid. I’m not going to lean one way or the other yet; I think I’ll just stay optimistic and hopeful that the series will remember what characters and stories are important, and which are just passing fads to draw in more viewers.

Nad Rating

Previously posted on PandaTV.

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