There was a time when Once Upon A Time might have been my absolute favorite TV show on broadcast. The show had (and still has) fantastic writers, an amazing cast, and characters that made me very curious.
Of course, once you get to nearly 90 episodes, certain beats are going to start to feel very familiar.
The fifth season premiere for Once airs tonight (September 27) at 8PM (ET/PT) on ABC. As teased at the end of last season, Emma is the new “Dark One.” As per usual with this show, there are some very clever notions and twists on familiar mythology, the best of all being the actress they got to play Merida from Brave (Amy Manson). But, I will admit, there’s a certain point in tonight’s premiere where I felt I’d seen it all before. While, yes, the show subverts some of those tropes, and the root of it all is in fairy tales, I have to wonder if the show is starting to hit the same story beats again and again.
Spoiler warning, which should be obvious to those who have seen the end of the Season 4 premiere: Emma has been transported somewhere else, away from her family. How many times now have we seen characters separated from one another in different realms? Inevitably, that always leaves some characters out… which is actually lampshaded cleverly by Grumpy in the premiere. While Emma’s separation might not be a long-term thing, it gave me a feeling of sameness, and I didn’t like that much. I know “I will always find you” is a recurring theme for this show, but it doesn’t need to be returned to on an annual basis.
What I did like: The effects of Regina’s doing good are being felt, and it may have affected the way that she can do magic. The time in Storybrooke and these adventures are changing the characters, and I really like that. The other characters are treating Regina with more respect, and Lana Parrilla plays every aspect of the character perfectly. I also really liked Robert Carlyle’s performance in his scenes with Emma. And, going back to Merida, I liked that she didn’t overpower the feeling of the show the way some previous half-season guest stars did. She very much seems to be a part of Emma’s story but does not distract from it.
I will say that even though the season premiere felt familiar, I’m curious as to what happens next, and I could have a completely different opinion next week… especially considering the cliffhanger they leave us with, which makes me hopeful. Once Upon A Time is a show that felt so innovative when we first saw it, and I hope to return to that feeling.
Once Upon A Time “The Dark Swan” airs tonight on ABC. See some photos below:
ONCE UPON A TIME - "The Dark Swan" - 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, in the adventure-filled season five premiere of "Once Upon a Time," SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 27 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Jack Rowand)SINQUA WALLS, LIAM GARRIGAN