If you're still reeling from the Once Upon A Time Season 4 finale and desperately waiting for Season 5 to begin, unfortunately I don't have any good news for you. We won't find out what happens now that Emma's the new Dark One until later this fall, which means we've got nothing but time on our hands to sit around theorizing about how everything's going to pan out for the residents of Storybrooke. Given how little we have to go on, it's safe to say that Season 5 will be full of surprises — and likely some new locales, if this hunt for Merlin kicks off.
Here's the deal: Merlin is the only wizard powerful enough to banish the darkness that's now tethered in Emma for good, and if what the Apprentice told them is true, the Sorcerer is far, far away from Storybrooke. Where exactly, we've got no idea — it could be a foreign but familiar land like the Enchanted Forest or it could be somewhere we've never set foot before. The point is, if we want any hope at all of restoring Emma to her former self as the Savior, then we've gotta find Merlin and we've gotta do it quickly, so we've gotta get out of Maine.
Given this fact, not to mention the fact that Dark!Emma will be the central focus of at least the first half of Once's fifth season, means that we'll likely be visiting some new territory later this year, both literally and figuratively. This turn is probably one of the smartest in the show's history, as it opens Once's world to a whole slew of new storylines that will no doubt refresh and invigorate the series while keeping it from getting stale. The same core of characters we know and love will also be the central focus, of course, but the quest for Merlin provides a seamless opportunity to bring in new heroes and villains and create new trials and tribulations for our old favorites to face. Oh, and a change of scenery, too.
There's an added complication to the voyage to wherever Merlin happens to be hiding out: how to get there. The idea that other realms exist won't come as any shock to the residents of Storybrooke, but making the journey is a whole other issue. Magic beans aren't just growing on trees, and opening a portal is dangerous and next to impossible (at least when they need it most). Wherever they're going, they'll have to be creative about their travel options or else all hope will be lost before we even get started.
Of course, we've yet to open the can of worms of whether or not Merlin will even be interested in helping them to begin with. There's a reason no one's seen him for years, and probably an even better reason as to why he's so far away to begin with. We've seen what power can do to even the most well-intentioned among us, so being a wizard with more power than anyone else in any realm isn't necessary a recipe for being the most altruistic individual. While we don't know anything about Merlin as he'll appear on Once, we can't automatically assume that he'll take on eternal Darkness for the sake of helping a bunch of people he's never met. The Darkness is contained, as far as he's concerned. Why should he bother to get involved?
Everything so far is just conjecture and we won't know what fate will befall Emma, Regina and the rest of the town for a while longer, but it's still worth thinking about if you like driving yourself crazy. You do, right? You love Once Upon A Time, after all.
Images: Jack Rowdan/ABC (1); sgtmac7/Tumblr (2)