Hello, dearies! Just as the mantle of the Dark One has been passed from Rumple to Emma, the job of Once Upon A Time recaps has been passed to me. In Rumple’s words, “think of me as your guide” — because if the season premiere is any indication, we’re just getting started.
And that start begins where all good Once things like to start, season premiere or not: with flashbacks, and a young Emma visiting a movie theater in Minneapolis in 1989. (The movie that’s being shown? The Sword and the Stone, of course.) Emma pick-pockets an Apollo candy bar, but before she can settle in and enjoy the film, she’s interrupted by a theater employee who not only calls her by name, but also cautions her about her actions. Is he referring she might go to a magical, time-traveling island if she eats the LOST candy bar? Nope. He’s apparently giving a thinly veiled warning about her future by telling her if she does bad things, then more bad things will happen. As Arthur pulls the sword from the stone on the movie screen, the mystery man tells Emma that one day, she’ll have the opportunity to remove Excalibur — but that she shouldn’t do it.
In present day Enchanted Forest times, Lancelot and his knights ride toward their prize: the real sword in the stone. Their worries about the prophecy are forgotten when another knight who is hungry for power attempts to take it, only to get poofed away in the process, because apparently the sword is temperamental. Fortunately, it seems Arthur is the actual master, as he steps up to remove it with no problem… only to find out that he’s in possession of half of it. As for the other half… hey, anyone got a spare Dark One dagger lying around??
Back in Storybrooke, we find our intrepid group of heroes still reeling from Emma’s sacrifice and transformation. Regina’s pissed, Snow is concerned, and Hook is pretty much the embodiment of a boyfriend who has just lost his true love. He attempts to use the dagger to call her back, earning him a well-placed dose of snark from Regina (and our first beautiful jab of the season: “Put that thing down before you hurt yourself, Guyliner.” Somewhere, Richard Alpert is super jealous that his nickname was given to a pirate.) Regina smartly assesses the situation by pointing out the dagger’s rules: You can summon anyone from any corner of the world, and the fact that Emma isn’t responding means that wherever she is, she’s not in this one. Instead, she’s shockingly (okay, not so shockingly) in the Enchanted Forest. At least, that’s where we find her when she emerges from some black goo that looks like X-Files-esque black oil. Or Venom. Or maybe the smoke monster.
Anyway, because every Big Bad is born from a Cloud of Evil, Emma rises from the black tar, though she looks more like a homeless woman than the Dark One. As we’ll later learn, this is because despite giving herself over to Rumple’s power, she’s not really the Dark One. Not yet. But not to fear: Rumple is here! And it seems that this “bad angel on the shoulder” deal is how we’re going to deal with the fact that in Storybrooke, Rumple is still lying in a coma. (The Disney nerd in me did very much enjoy the Beauty and the Beast Easter egg of Belle being gifted the iconic rose in a jar, a symbol of “the Beast” and his life.)
This Rumple, however, the one that finds Emma in the forest, is apparently many things. He’s also looking less like Mr. Gold and more like his spiffy Enchanted Forest self. He tells Emma he’s here to train her. “You can’t just walk away from it!” Rumple warns her when she tries to tell him that she won’t hurt the people she loves. Emma quickly realizes that if she’s in the Enchanted Forest, it means that Merlin, a.k.a. The Sorcerer, is also here — and remembers that the Apprentice told her that Merlin can destroy the darkness. Onward!
NEXT: Storybrooke’s band of merry men (and women)