Now that the flurry of San Diego Comic-Con has settled down, we're left with plenty of Once Upon A Time Season 5 goodness to begin digesting and dissecting and speculating on while we wait for this seemingly interminable hiatus to end and the new episodes to begin at the end of September. There's been a lot of excitement over the whole Dark Swan storyline, which will dominate much of 5A, and for good reason. It's a risky move to turn your Savior into a villain, however temporarily, and I'm hoping the payoff is worth it — though it's going to be really exciting to watch, either way. But when you get down to the nitty gritty of what Emma's turn to darkness means not just for her, but the people around her, that's when things get interesting. I'm particularly referring to the fact that Emma sacrificed herself for the sake of preserving Regina's happiness, but it could possibly have quite the opposite effect, and the former Evil Queen's re-acquaintance with the darkness could complicate things even further.
As things stand, Regina is set to be Season 5's new savior, and I doubt it's a role she'll take too kindly to, given that she's never aspired to acts of heroism the way Emma has. Without a doubt, Regina will dedicate herself to the mission of banishing the Dark One for good (likely with Merlin's help) while also constantly reminding Emma of her humanity and helping her hold onto the Light she holds within. It will be an interesting juxtaposition and a complete swapping of roles for the two women, who were once enemies before becoming reluctant allies and now deeply bonded friends and partners in parenting (and beyond, let's be real). But like everything on Once, Emma's road back to redemption and Regina's continuing journey on it will be anything but simple.
One thing is for sure: Emma won't be the Dark One forever. It's a fun concept to play with and gives the character more depth and room to explore, but it's not a permanent change, nor is it meant to be. Instead, the Dark Swan storyline is a vehicle through which Emma will come face to face with the life she only so narrowly escaped because of her parents' willingness to sacrifice Lily — a life full of darkness that overshadows every scrap of light. She'll plumb the depths of evil and what that means, and this internal struggle will likely be greater than any physical battles we see her fight throughout her tenure as Rumple's replacement.
Emma being the Dark One will also provide occasions for reflection and provide perspective on Matters of the Heart for Emma's loved ones. For Snow and Charming, they'll likely have to confront the real consequences of the decisions they've made and figure out what parenting truly means as they attempt to save their daughter. For Henry, who has the Heart of the Truest Believer, his blind faith will be tested and his new role as the Author may come into play as he joins the fight to get one of his moms back. For Regina, she'll not only have to own up to the importance of her relationship with Emma — the fact that, for once in her life, someone has cared about her so selflessly and genuinely that they were willing to put her happiness first, even if it meant sacrificing their own life — and what that means in the bigger picture. Whether or not the realization that Emma is just as important to Regina will be portrayed on screen, I think it's pretty obvious to assume that Regina will indeed have that realization and it will be her motivation to return the gesture. But could things get more complicated than that?
Look, I'm all about Regina's path to redemption and I love that she's come so far from the emotionally stunted, vengeful person she used to be. I love watching her relationship with Henry continue to strengthen, as well as her relationships with the likes of Snow and Emma and pretty much everyone in Storybrooke, all of whom have seen the changes in their former queen and have gradually begun to accept her. But let's be honest, here. This is a show about fairy tales, and while Regina will never go back to being the villain, wouldn't it be fun if the temptation of that forbidden fruit which Emma will no doubt dangle in her face was just too much to resist, even for a little while? Even Lana Parrilla misses the Evil Queen, so you know what's up.
It's a difficult situation, to be sure. I can't bear the thought of undoing all the progress Regina's character has made over the past couple of seasons, and yet I'd love to see her get to have a little fun on her mission to save Emma, and to see Emma have a little fun with her new-found (and hopefully quite temporary) powers, as well. The most powerful dark magician in the world combined with the magical prowess of Regina Mills? The thought alone is both terrifying and thrilling. I don't mean that the women should go around crushing hearts for fun — though, you have to admit, that would be just a bit delicious to watch — but it's a circumstance in which Regina will really have to work to remind herself why SHE is good, and why giving into the darkness again would only undo every good part of her life she's worked to build.
At the end of the day, we don't know what's going to happen in Season 5 just yet, but I'm holding out hope for some good old fashioned dark deeds... so long as they don't last too long, that is.