What Are You Watching? Fall 2017 Edition

Even though we’re in the midst of a crazy heat wave here in Western New York, it’s still the official first day of fall. And although I love all the same cliche things about the season as everyone else—the pumpkin spice lattes, the clothes, the apple cider—my favorite thing about fall is that it brings some much-needed renewal to my fangirl soul. My favorite sports (football and hockey) are back, the fall movie season begins with blockbusters mixed in with early Oscar contenders, and, of course, new television shows and seasons are found everywhere you look.

The return of this most wonderful time of the year means the return of our longest-running feature here at NGN. Whether this is your first time visiting this post or your sixth (Time flies when you’re writing about good TV!), very little has changed. Below you’ll find my fall TV viewing schedule with premiere dates (or next episode dates for shows that returned early), times, and networks included to help make your scheduling easier. And as always, new pilots I’m checking out will be highlighted in pink (because of course they will be). I’m also going to stick to scripted shows and leave out reality TV and variety shows because there’s just too many of those to keep track of!

After you finish perusing my picks, tell me what your fall in TV Land looks like in the comments. I always love comparing viewing schedules with my fellow fans!

Monday
The Gifted (9 p.m. on FOX)
The X-Men were my first favorite group of superheroes (I learned all about them from my comics-loving cousins as a kid.), so media about mutants and young people with special powers will always be a kind of catnip for me. For being someone who adores superhero movies, I haven’t found a ride-or-die superhero show yet (especially after The Flash disappointed me in Seasons 2 and 3), so I’m trying a couple of new ones this season and hoping one will stick. This one looks like it has a great cast (Amy Acker!) and an intriguing premise (What happened to the X-Men?), which might finally be enough to satisfy my superhero-loving heart.
Series Premiere October 2

Tuesday
black-ish (9 p.m. on ABC)
This is one of the returning shows I’m most excited about. The way this incredible cast blends humor, real conversations about real issues, and just enough sincerity to tug at your heartstrings is unlike anything else on television, and I can’t wait to see where this next season takes one of my favorite TV families.
Season Premiere October 3

This Is Us (9 p.m. on NBC)
I’ve stocked up on plenty of tissues in preparation for this season premiere. Although I’m ready to put the focus on Jack’s death behind us (the uncertainty surrounding it made me incredibly anxious last season) and I know the show is certainly not, I’m still looking forward to seeing what this incredible cast brings to the table every week. With two-time Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown leading the way, my emotions are certainly going to get a workout.
Season Premiere September 26

Brooklyn Nine-Nine (9:30 p.m. on FOX)
I feel like I start every season of this show wondering how the writers are going to work their way out of the corner they backed their characters into, and they have yet to disappoint me in how they do it. In fact, I have loved every season opener of this show, and I expect this premiere to be no different. The Nine-Nine has been my TV “happy place” for years now, and I’m read to be back there among one of the funniest casts on television and a writing crew who has managed to outdo their own brilliance year after year.
Season Premiere September 26

The Mayor (9:30 p.m. on ABC)
This is the new show I’m most looking forward to trying out this season. First and foremost, my love for Lea Michele and the characters she plays is well-documented around these parts, so even though I still wish she’d return to Broadway, I’m excited to see what she does in this role. But even more than my support of former Glee cast members, what drew me to this show was the heart the trailer showed. This seems like more than a satire; it seems like a show about someone who learns to become a part of something bigger than themselves, which is my favorite kind of story. There’s a real story to be told here about neglected communities, civic engagement, and what it takes to make real change—and I’m hopeful that this show will be brave enough to tell those stories with laughter and love.
Series Premiere October 3

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Game of Thrones Moment of the Week: “Dragonstone”

Welcome (or welcome back) to a feature that used to be a staple here at NGN: our weekly discussion of my favorite moment in each episode of Game of Thrones! I took some time off from this feature because the show itself had become too violent for me to handle on a week-to-week basis, but I have returned from that hiatus feeling more excited than ever before to talk about the world (and especially the women) of Westeros with all of you!

The Moment: A call for equality in the North

Setting the Scene: As Jon settles into his role as King in the North, he makes a proclamation that all Northerners—including girls and women—should be trained to defend themselves and their lands. When his judgment in this matter is called into question, Lyanna Mormont makes the case for the women of the North to be trained to fight for what’s theirs.

Why It’s Awesome: “Dragonstone” was a reminder that Game of Thrones is at its best when its female characters are allowed to be women of action—exactly the kind of women Jon calls them to be in this moment. This scene was the perfect example of the fact that this world may have its rigid gender norms, but it is also populated by women who defy those norms outright or use those norms to change the game from the inside.

The three main women in this scene—Lyanna, Brienne, and Sansa—all represent women who are willing to fight for what matters to them. As Lyanna made her case, I was once again struck by the thought that I’d follow that girl into battle today if she asked me. The confidence and strength she possesses are so clear that no man—no matter how old or how powerful—would dare challenge her. And I loved the way the camera cut to Brienne during her speech. The slight smile on Gwendoline Christie’s face said it all; in this girl, Brienne sees a kindred spirit, and in this place, she has finally found somewhere to belong. She’s no longer a freak; she’s exactly who Jon wants the women of Winterfell to aspire to be as they train. The affectionate pride Christie showed in her reaction to Lyanna’s speech was such a small but powerful nod to the fact that Brienne may be a warrior, but she has a gentle and kind heart—a heart that is devoted to protecting and serving other strong women.

I also liked that the camera cut to Sansa when Lyanna talked about not letting other people fight for her. Just because Sansa isn’t skilled with a sword, that doesn’t mean she’s not a fighter. She uses a different skill set—words and appearances, courtesy and strategy—but she is every bit as fierce as Lyanna and Brienne. And as she proved by bringing the Knights of the Vale to the Battle of the Bastards, she’s not one to sit around and let other people fight her battles, either. She may not hold a sword or a bow, but she is still a force to be reckoned with.

It makes sense for Winterfell—under the watchful eye of Jon—to be a place where women are treated as equals in combat. Jon has always been a champion of strong women—even as far back as his close relationship with Arya before everything went to hell. And once he fell in love with Ygritte, he became even more convinced that women could fight just as fiercely in battle—and die just as bravely—as men. Jon’s time with Ygritte changed him forever, and it changed him for the better. Her spirit was in that room with Jon when he promised to put a sword or a spear into the hands of every person in the North, and she would have been proud of him in that moment.

“Dragonstone” allowed the women of Westeros to shine in all their complex, fierce, and frightening glory. Just as Lyanna, Brienne, and Sansa are all strong women but none show their strength in exactly the same way, the other prominent female characters in this world are also uniquely strong and powerful, and this episode focused on each of them as women with an incredible amount of agency who now face the question of what to do with it. Jon gave all the Northern women a kind of agency by proclaiming that they will learn to fight for themselves, but the main female players in this episode didn’t need any kind of proclamation to do so. From Cersei and Sansa to Arya and Daenerys, these women play the game on their own terms and won’t back down when challenged—whether it’s by an enemy (Arya slaying all the Freys in the episode’s most badass moment) or by someone who they believe means well but doesn’t know the world the way they do (both Cersei and Sansa dealing with brothers who disagree with their methods of trying to protect their worlds). These women are fighters in every way a person can be—using their swords, their wits, their sexuality, and any other weapon at their disposal to get the job done and done their way. And when one achieves a victory (like Daenerys finally coming home in one of the single most emotionally satisfying and cinematically beautiful scenes in the series), it’s her victory—not anyone else’s.

As the final battlefields are set and the final chess pieces are moved into play, one thing has become crystal clear: The women of Westeros will fight for what’s theirs, and they’re not to be underestimated.

Honorable Mentions: Arya takes out all the male Freys, Sansa shuts down Littlefinger, Euron pledges his two good hands to Cersei, Sandor deals with his guilt, Daenerys finally comes home

TV Time: The Americans 5.01

Welcome back to our weekly discussion of the best show on television, comrades! I can’t wait to spend this season talking about mothers, grain supplies, my deep love for Paige Jennings, and wigs with all of you!

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Source: Uproxx.com

Title: Amber Waves

Episode M.V.P.: The hole
You didn’t think I was going to discuss this episode without singling out the hole, did you? Everything about that scene was made for digging into deep analysis (pun intended), and it set up the season in such a revelatory way that I’ve found myself unable to think of much else when I look back on this episode. “Amber Waves” didn’t spend a lot of time with one character or actor, which made it difficult for me to pick an actor for M.V.P., but it did spend a lot of time with the hole—so much time, in fact, that I could see why it might have bothered other people. Devoting the final 10 or so minutes of your penultimate season’s premiere to a mostly wordless scene involving digging in the darkness is something no other show on television today would even attempt. The scene called for a mixture of storytelling patience, actors who can convey huge amounts of thoughts and emotions without words, and an audience comfortable with long periods of silence—and The Americans has proven that it has all three of those things in spades.

The scene also called for an incredible amount of confidence from the writers and director—confidence in both the moment they were creating and confidence in their audience to appreciate it. The entire scene was a ballsy move, especially in a season premiere, and the risk paid off. It showed the relative monotony of realistic spy work while still leaving viewers on edge, and then it reminded us brutally that no one is safe in this world and that we can never let ourselves be lulled into a false sense of security by the show’s moments of silence and methodical spycraft.

Yes, the scene was gutsy in its monotony and shocking in its conclusion, but that’s not why I think it was the most valuable part of the episode. It was the way it set up what appears to be some of this season’s major themes that made me believe it’s going to be one of the most valuable scenes of the entire season when all is said and done. Philip and Elizabeth keep digging themselves in deeper; that’s a metaphor that was hard to miss. They’ve been digging a hole for years that could very well be their grave. But it was Hans’s fate in the hole they dug that struck me the most in terms of what it means for the future of this show. Philip and Elizabeth made it out of the hole they dug, but Hans didn’t—sweet, idealistic, young Hans who trusted them (especially Elizabeth) almost as parental figures; this was especially evident in the way Elizabeth reassured him in a motherly tone that things were going to be okay before she shot him. Literally one misstep was all it took for Hans to fall into the hole they dug and become exposed to something deadly and dangerous. And once he was exposed to it, there was no way out; there was only one way for his story to end. Elizabeth being the one to shoot Hans was the perfect choice; for her, practicality has always come before emotional ties. But the look she and Philip shared afterward showed that these kinds of choices and sacrifices aren’t easy for either of them.

Philip and Elizabeth were aware of the risks they faced in that hole, but Hans was supposed to be relatively safe from his place above it. It reminded both of them—and us as viewers—that even simply being around the hole Philip and Elizabeth have dug and the deadly possibility at the center of it is dangerous.

If you just read all of that and somehow managed to not be terrified for Paige and Henry (especially Paige), you must have nerves of steel. This season seems to be about children (both real and stand-in) and their parents, and ending the premiere with the image of Elizabeth and Philip’s wide eyes after she shot the agent who was like a spy son to her seems to point to dark and dangerous moments and difficult choices ahead for Philip, Elizabeth, and their children.

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TV Time: Once Upon a Time 6.01

Welcome back, fellow Oncers! I can’t wait to spend another season discussing all the fairytale fun and feelings with you, so don’t hesitate to jump in and start a conversation in the comments. Just remember, we like to keep things as positive and respectful as we can here at NGN!

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Source: ibtimes.com

Title The Savior

Two-Sentence Summary As Hyde and the others from the Land of Untold Stories arrive in Storybrooke, Emma struggles with side effects of being a Savior, including visions of her death. Meanwhile, Rumplestiltskin attempts to wake Belle, and Regina tries to work through her grief after losing Robin.

Favorite Line “I choose to believe that this story will have a better ending.” (Regina)

My Thoughts If Once Upon a Time has taught us anything, it’s this: We have the power to choose how our stories end. We have the power to push back against the forces that try to tell us what our story will be. And that power comes from belief—belief in our own strength, belief in those who love us and want to help us, and belief that light and love is stronger than fear and darkness.

In “The Savior,” that lesson—that the only way we can get a happy ending is by believing we can have a happy ending—was at the center of its three main storylines: Rumplestiltskin’s quest to wake Belle, Regina’s difficulty working through her grief, and Emma’s discovery of her decidedly unhappy fate.

Like most Once Upon a Time season premieres, this one spent a fair amount of time setting up conflicts for this season. However, it also featured a surprising number of emotional moments for a season premiere, especially for a show that tends to favor plot over prolonged character beats. The return to a Storybrooke setting certainly helped: Less world building means more time can be spent on the characters and relationships we already know and love. And it seems that this season is going to explore the benefits of characters actually dealing with what has happened to them in a healthy way, which is a wonderfully realistic approach to emotional health for a story about fairytale characters.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (9/18 – 9/25)

The fall 2016 television season kicked into high gear this week, starting with Sunday’s Emmy Awards, which featured some nice surprises (Tatiana Maslany) and beautifully sincere speeches (Jeffrey Tambor, Sterling K. Brown, Sarah Paulson, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus). On Monday, Dancing with the Stars gave us “TV Night,” and little did we all know how empty our lives had been before we saw Laurie Hernandez dancing to the theme from DuckTales. Also on Monday (and Thursday), The Good Place proved to be the smart, funny, and emotionally engaging comedy I was hoping it would be. On Tuesday, Brooklyn Nine-Nine returned with a hilarious look at Jake and Captain Holt’s life in the Witness Protection Program; New Girl reminded me why I fell in love with the show years ago, thanks to a stellar season premiere; and the pilot of This Is Us lived up to every expectation I had for it. Wednesday’s ABC comedies were all excellent, with a perfect Breakfast Club tribute on The Goldbergs; a fantastic pilot episode of Speechless; an entertaining return for Modern Family; and a fun Walt Disney World trip on black-ish. On Thursday, the pilot of Pitch showed enough heart, style, and substance to hook me from the start. And Friday’s episode of Girl Meets World reminded us all of a very important lesson: You can’t control every aspect of your life; you can only control how you react to what happens in your life.

Overall, this was the best week of television I’ve watched in a very long time. I wasn’t disappointed with anything I watched, which is impressive because I often have unrealistically high expectations for premieres and pilots. I enjoyed every minute of television I watched this week, and I watched many minutes of television.

Grouped together, I loved the three big twists that new shows served up this week, which shouldn’t be a shock to anyone given how much I love when television shows can still pleasantly surprise me.

SPOILERS FOR THE GOOD PLACE, THIS IS US, AND PITCH AHEAD!

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What Are You Watching? Fall 2016 Edition

To me, fall has always felt like a season of new beginnings—from first days of school to season premieres of favorite television shows. The long hiatuses are finally over, and we can finally reconnect with our favorite stories and characters as if they were friends from school we’d missed during summer break. And there’s always the hope that a new show will come in to steal your heart just like a cute new kid walking in to your homeroom on the first day of class.

This is now my fifth of breaking down my list of must-watch season and series premieres to share with all of you, and it has continued to bring me joy year after year. This is NGN’s longest running feature, and I think it’s had staying power because it’s filled with the one thing that has kept this site going since the beginning: excitement. It’s been fun to see how this list has changed (and grown!) over the years, with shows that are now some of my favorites showing up as pilots I wanted to check out back when I first started this list. This year—with many of my favorite shows saying their goodbyes in the last couple of years and others not starting until the winter—I have a large number of new pilots I want to watch, and I’m hopeful that at least one of those will join the ranks of Nashville, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and black-ish as shows that started as possibilities on this list and have since stuck around on it for years.

To kick off our fifth TV season at NGN, here are the shows I’ll be watching this year, along with their season or series premiere dates. This doesn’t include reality TV shows like Dancing with the Stars or variety shows like Saturday Night Live. New pilots I’ll be checking out will be highlighted in pink. And don’t forget to share what you’ll be watching this season in the comments!

MONDAYS
Jane the Virgin (9 p.m. on The CW)
This show was one of my TV happy places last season. It always felt like coming home when I spent an hour with the Villanueva family. No matter what kind of crazy drama was happening, I always found myself laughing, crying, and often doing both in the same hour. After the intense cliffhanger that ended last season’s finale, I’ve been waiting all summer to see what’s next for Jane, Michael, Petra, and the rest of this amazing cast of characters.
Season Premiere October 17

Conviction (10 p.m. on ABC)
Part of me wants to be angry with this show, since the day it was announced was the day I knew Agent Carter was a goner, but once I saw the trailer, it was love at first sight. Shows featuring complex female characters who learn to let themselves care and become a part of something bigger than themselves are my ultimate weakness, and that’s exactly what this show seems to be about. Add in the fact that its supporting cast includes Merrin Dungey (who I’ve been a fan of for more than a decade) and it stars one of my favorite actors on television (Hayley Atwell), and there is no doubt that this is one of the new shows I’m most looking forward to adding to my viewing schedule.
Series Premiere October 3

Timeless (10 p.m. on NBC)
I have a soft spot for time travel, and the trailer for this show hooked me immediately by including World War II-era scenes, which has always been one of my favorite historical periods. This show seems like it could strike a great balance between action, drama, science fiction, and romance, and that is a winning combination in my book. Also, if the success of this show means the excellent Abigail Spencer won’t show up on Suits anymore to ruin my Donna/Harvery shipper dreams, then that’s even more of a reason to watch it.
Series Premiere October 3

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TV Time: The Americans 4.01

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Source: blogs.wsj.com

Welcome back (or welcome to any newcomers!) to our weekly discussions of The Americans here at NGN! I can’t wait to write about another season of this incredible show and to discuss it with all of you. After you finish reading, remember to share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Title: Glanders

Episode M.V.P.: Alison Wright
“Glanders” was an episode that arranged the chessboard for the season to come, but in the middle of all the plot setup, there were still moments of startling emotion. I didn’t expect to cry during this season premiere. But two little words from Martha, delivered multiple times with such devastating grief and panic from Alison Wright, sent my tear ducts into overdrive.

“Oh no…”

While Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell deserve every word of praise sent their way (Rhys, in particular, was outstanding in this episode—a portrait of a rubber band pulled so tightly that it could snap at any moment.), Wright has become this show’s secret weapon. Martha is one of its most tragic characters, and so much of that comes from how realistic Wright has made her feel. And in the moment Philip revealed to Martha that he killed her coworker to protect her, I felt Martha’s fear and loss so acutely it was almost oppressive. Wright was at the center of a storm of emotions in that scene, and she grounded them all in a sincere vulnerability that was best reflected in that broken refrain of “Oh no…”

In that scene, I also felt Martha’s guilt, as she asked “What have I done?” with such heartbreaking horror. “Glanders” spent a lot of time dealing with characters wondering what their choices say about who they really are. Many of its main players were wracked with guilt, but perhaps none more than Martha in that moment. However, the most heartbreaking part of “Glanders” wasn’t Martha wondering what she’d done; it was Martha making the choice to continue doing it—to continue helping Philip despite knowing what he’s done. Wright broke me with her breakdown earlier in the episode, but what’s still haunting me today was her stoic acceptance of her continued role as Philip’s link to the FBI (which I’m sure was connected to the gut-wrenching gratitude she showed him when he opened up to her in such a small way about his past).

For so long, I wondered if Martha was going to have to die, but this—choosing to keep helping Philip even with the knowledge that he killed her coworker—might be worse. It’s like watching someone lose their soul in an effort to keep a relationship that’s not even real, and Wright is making every moment of that tragedy resonate with me on a visceral level.

Favorite Scene: Paige can’t say the Pledge of Allegiance
It’s not easy being a teenage girl and trying to carve out your own identity. It’s even harder when you’re a teenage girl who found out her entire life—and her parents’ lives as she knew them—is a lie. Just as Philip and Elizabeth’s story addresses universal questions about marriage and parenthood, Paige’s story addresses questions we all have as we grow up: Who am I? How am I different from my parents? What do I really care about? And it’s so heartbreakingly clear that Paige doesn’t know the answers to any of those questions anymore, which is such a change from the girl who was so strong in her convictions and her sense of self until she learned the truth about her parents last season.

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Agent Carter Life Lesson of the Week: The Lady of the Lake/A View in the Dark

Welcome, fellow Peggy Carter fans, to the first of my weekly Agent Carter posts for this season! Instead of doing a traditional episode review/analysis, I’m going to take a different path with these posts. Each week, I’m going to focus on something I learned from Peggy (or any of these fantastic characters) and explain how that lesson manifested itself throughout the episode (or pair of episodes, in this week’s case). I can’t wait to discuss what looks to be an excellent second season of this wonderful show with all of you, so don’t be shy—dive right into the comments section as soon as you’re done reading! And if you’re looking for more thoughts on this show, I highly recommend checking out MGcircles

Agent Carter s2

Kindness is power.

The Marvel Universe is filled with so many powerful people that it’s easy for us to focus only on the flashiest powers and stereotypically strongest people. But, in doing that, we lose sight of the beauty that comes from finding strength and power in unexpected places and people. There are so many different ways a person can be strong, and perhaps one of the most underappreciated powers a person can possess is the power to openly show kindness toward another human being. Agent Carter has always taken great pains to show strength in all its many forms, and that continued in this second season premiere with poignant examples of the value of kindness and the power of those who offer it to others.

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The Best Thing I Saw on TV This Week (9/27 – 10/4)

This week in television brought us more returns of beloved shows, which started on Sunday night, with Once Upon a Time‘s season premiere jumping right into the quest to save Emma from the darkness; Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s season premiere giving us a look at Jake and Amy’s new dynamic after their game-changing kiss; and Quantico‘s pilot providing us with plenty of questions to keep us coming back next week. Monday’s Dancing with the Stars honored classic TV theme songs, and it was followed by a controversial episode of Castle that shook things up for the show’s central marriage. On Tuesday, The Muppets introduced a new love interest for Miss Piggy (Josh Groban), and The Mindy Project tackled the topic of new parenthood. Wednesday’s Nashville was filled with heartbreaking drama—from Juliette’s deteriorating mental state and Luke’s decision to cut Will from his label to its fatal final moments. Finally, Saturday gave us the return of Saturday Night Live, which will be remembered for Hillary Clinton’s impression of Donald Trump and her sing-along with Kate McKinnon.

In a week filled with captivating moments, none made me hold my breath like the climactic scene in Once Upon a Time‘s season premiere in which Emma’s loved ones reached her just as she was about to crush Merida’s heart. There were plenty of reasons to love that scene: Jennifer Morrison’s brilliant performance, Colin O’Donoghue’s ability to emotionally destroy us all with his sincerity, the way the scene made Emma’s inner darkness feel visceral and exhausting and real rather than some overly dramatic struggle against evil…

But the thing I loved most about this scene was that it was all about Emma’s ability to save herself. As Hook said, fighting the darkness has to be Emma’s choice. Only she can save herself, but that doesn’t mean she has to do it alone. Watching Hook get through to Emma and support her ability to choose to overcome the darkness in her was beautiful, and it seemed like a great piece of foreshadowing for how this whole arc could play out. Hook didn’t force Emma to do anything; he simply reminded her that everyone has demons that can be overcome, and she’s strong enough to overcome hers. The decision to put Merida’s heart back was Emma’s; she saved herself in that moment, with the support of someone who loves her helping her find the strength to save herself. That’s something I hope we see play out as this arc reaches what we all hope will be a happy conclusion. That scene (including the fact that the darkness seemed to disappear when Emma hugged Hook and Henry) gave me so much hope for the rest of the season, and that’s exactly what I needed in what was a very heavy and sad week for a lot of the other shows I watch.

What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?

TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.01

Welcome (or welcome back) to our weekly Once Upon a Time discussions here at NGN! I can’t wait to watch this season unfold, and I especially can’t wait to talk about it with all of you! And remember, if you’re interested, this would be a great time to start writing a letter to Emma, Regina, Snow, and any other favorite female characters for my book!

Title The Dark Swan

Two-Sentence Summary As Emma struggles with fighting against the darkness she’s continually tempted by after becoming the Dark One, her loved ones search for the best way to get to her. However, even after they find her, it appears their mission to save her didn’t go as planned, since six weeks later, Emma is the only one who can remember what happened in Camelot—and whatever it was that led to her fully embracing the darkness.

Favorite Line “It has to be her choice.” (Hook)

My Thoughts Once Upon a Time has always been a show about belief. On the surface, it’s a show about believing in fairytales and magic. But it’s really about the power of knowing someone believes in you and how that helps you believe in yourself. From the pilot through this Season Five premiere, Once Upon a Time has showed us that belief is power and love is strength. Those themes have woven themselves through every storyline and every character’s journey, and they were at the heart of “The Dark Swan.” By taking the core themes of the show and bringing them to light in a fresh way, “The Dark Swan” became my favorite Once Upon a Time season premiere since the show’s pilot episode.

Fighting to be your best self when you feel like no one cares about you is exhausting. It’s easier to just give in to your darker impulses, and sometimes we just want to do what’s easy instead of what’s right. I think that’s been something Emma’s struggled with at different times in her life. It was something we saw right from this episode’s first moments—with little Emma (How is the casting department so good at casting younger versions of the show’s actors?) stealing the woman’s candy bar because it was easy. Emma has always had those darker impulses; she spent a formative portion of her life as a thief, and she never had anyone to encourage her to make better choices when she was younger. (She had Neal, who was also a thief.)

Emma has also struggled at times with doing wrong things for the right reasons. (Changing the timeline by bringing “Marian” back from the past is a prime example.) And in the opening flashback, we saw one person give Emma a very important bit of advice about the choices she’ll make in the future concerning this idea. I don’t know how many of you follow casting spoilers, but the shots to the movie screen while the usher was talking pretty much gave it away anyway: He’s Merlin, and he knew Emma was going to be tempted at some point to do something wrong for the right reason. I’m intrigued by the prophecy that she’ll want to pull Excalibur from the stone, because for all we know Excalibur is now with Arthur. However, he could be talking about the dagger as part of Excalibur and “pulling it from the stone” as willingly taking on its power. No matter what comes of this prophecy and advice he gave young Emma, it’s clear Merlin knew of her importance long before our present timeline. I liked the idea that the Apprentice went to see Lily and Merlin went to see Emma when they were young, because I was upset last season that the Apprentice never sought out Emma to help her as a child. That small flashback set up what I’m sure will be an interesting dynamic in the future between Merlin and Emma, and it further emphasized the idea that choice is going to play a huge role in this Dark Swan arc.

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