There have been plenty of baddies to contend with over the past four years on Once Upon a Time, but in its fifth season there will be a new Dark One: Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison)—and EW has the exclusive first look at her transformation!
After sacrificing herself in last season’s finale to save Regina (Lana Parrilla) and her family, Emma is now trapped with the powers of an ancient evil. “Every part of her is fighting her dark urges,” executive producer Edward Kitsis says. “What happens when [the darkness] mixes with the lightest magic of all, and will Emma have the strength to fight it?”
The real question is how the powers of the Dark Swan — yes, that’s what they’re calling her! — will differ from Rumplestiltskin’s (Robert Carlyle). “How a Dark One manifests is specific to each person who takes on the mantle,” says EP Adam Horowitz. “Emma will have her own unique spin on what it means to be a Dark One.”
Becoming the Dark One “allows you to have the freedom to have no inhibitions,” Kitsis adds, which could play a role in exactly how Emma uses her powers. “We are going to be exploring love and what happens when you use it as a weapon and what are the things that it makes you do. In the past, we’ve said love is the most powerful magic of all. It makes you do many things you normally wouldn’t think you would.”
But there is hope. “The quest for Merlin is the quest to free Emma,” Kitsis says. Twist: That quest will require a new savior to come forward. Perhaps it’s time for Regina to step into the light?
Once Upon a Time returns Sunday, Sept. 27, at 8 a.m. ET on ABC.