In the months leading up to the premiere of Once Upon A Time Season 5, there's a lot of hype being built around the Dark Swan storyline, and for good reason — the very idea of the Savior going evil is scary, so the fact that Emma is now the Dark One is worth talking about. Her journey to cast off the Darkness and her eventual acceptance of what that burden means will form a large part of at least the first half of the season, and while I certainly have my reservations about how the plot will be handled, I'm also really excited to see how everything will play out. How will Emma eventually be restored to her former self? Wha effect will her period of darkness have on her once it's all over?
Fans already know that Jennifer Morrison has spent most of her summer hiatus preparing for Emma's new role, which should give a hint at just how bad things are going to get — especially when paired with the first Dark Swan promo, which showed our former hero ripping out and crushing the heart of her prison guard. With this in mind, it's clear viewers need to prepare themselves to see a whole new side of Emma, just as she'll see a new side to herself as she copes with the struggle to remember her goodness while fighting the darkness that's desperate to overpower the light within. It's an interesting prospect on many levels, particularly when it comes to character development.
As Morisson tells Entertainment Weekly in a new interview, "Emotionally, it’s interesting because there’s something really fun and free about Emma in the darkness, where she’s just free of the gravity of what other people think and the gravity of worrying about saving people." Indeed, Emma has struggled with her Savior status over the years, and while she's accepted her role in the universe as it exists in Storybrooke, it doesn't mean she's necessarily all that happy about it. Emma never gets a day off from being the Savior. She's expected to fulfill her duties at all costs, every second of the day, and there's never any escape from that. It makes sense that the Darkness would be seductive, particularly since it offers her an out, a weightlessness in which she can stop thinking about everyone else for a second and do what she wants.
"There’s a lightness, in a sense, in her darkness, because she doesn’t have to do the right thing and she doesn’t have to try to be the stronger, better person all the time. There’s a little bit of freedom in that that is really fun."
Of course, the grass is always greener on the other side, and while Emma might sometimes wish she could be free of the Savior shackles from time to time, she's also good deep down and knows the difference between right and wrong. She knows that there is too much on the line, that she has too much to lose in giving into evil, which is inherently desolate and lonely and never turns out quite the way you want it to. She'll need reminders of this throughout her journey, of course, but thankfully she's got enough people who love her and will give her just that.
In a sense, Emma's turn at the Dark One is perhaps the greatest opportunity the character has had to come to terms with her life. There will undoubtedly be many negative emotions that will come along with the change; Emma's feelings of abandonment and anger at her parents are a huge part of it, as is her resentment at not being given a choice in life. She's the Savior and that's that, no questions asked. But in working through those things — hopefully with as few lives lost as possible — Emma has a chance of coming out the other side with a newfound understanding of her world and where she came from, and hopefully a more complete acceptance, as well.
Unfortunately, that doesn't take into account the after-effects of her time as the Dark One once that arc inevitably comes to a close. Emma's inherent goodness will cause the evil acts she commits while under the Dark One's influence to weigh heavily on her conscience, regardless of how much responsibility her true self lacked during that time. This is why it's so important that the Dark Swan storyline is handled with great care. While redemption is possible, it's also hard-wrought and hard to come back from, as Regina herself can attest to, so it's imperative that the Darkness only goes so far. The show can't afford to lose its Savior, after all.
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