Midseason Report Card: Was ‘Once Upon a Time,’ the Dark Swan story dark enough?

As we start to dive into our new Midseason Report Card feature on “Once Upon a Time” season 5, we feel like there is one question that you really have to ask yourselves: Did the show give us what we bought into in the Dark Swan, and if not, was the show still enjoyable? There were certainly great moments of storytelling throughout, but as we look back at the first batch of episodes overall we’d say that they do not amount altogether to some of the show’s best.

What worked – Let’s start with the final couple of episodes, which we feel did a good job setting up the story of the Underworld, and the epic journey that Emma Swan will now go on in order to save Captain Hook. While a little convoluted, it emphasized that this is a show really about love and relationships, whether it be between a romantic partner, and parent and child, or any member of the family. It kept things grounded.

Also, some of the characters proved to be rather fun to watch. We appreciated the twist on King Arthur, and while we’re not sure that most of what Mulan and Red did was all that relevant, we did appreciate the opportunity to have Jamie Chung and Meghan Ory on the show once more.

What didn’t – The biggest issue with the first half of the season is that it doesn’t quite feel like one consistent story. Instead, it’s more akin to a series of puzzle pieces that don’t fit together that well. The structure made Camelot a little boring since we knew already the end result of it, and we don’t think Merida was sometimes used all that well.

Also, we just can’t wrap our head around some of the big twists when it comes to the Dark One. First, we were told that Emma had the capacity for more Darkness than almost anyone before her, only to have Captain Hook be more consumed by it. The show explained this by more or less saying that because he’s been bad before, it impacted him more. Still, why give us all of that Emma hype last season to only have her Morally Conflicted Swan in a new outfit?

From here, making Rumpelstiltskin into the Dark One yet again feels, while necessary for the Underworld story, a little bit of dipping back into the same well we’ve had time and time again. He’s lying to Belle, has some mysterious / evil agenda, and we didn’t really get anywhere with him.

Overall – Probably our least-favorite half-season since the show moved to its split-season format in season 3. We tried to be optimistic while watching the individual episodes, since most of them were at least entertaining. However, in looking back at them nothing feels altogether consistent or easy to follow in comparison to what we’ve had in the past. Grade: C+.

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