- “I'm the savior, right? I'm supposed to bring back all the happy endings.”
- ―Emma to Mary Margaret
Emma Swan is the main character and protagonist (and currently the main antagonist) of Once Upon a Time. She is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming and the older sister of Neal Nolan. She was sent to the real world after The Evil Queen placed a terrible curse upon the Fairytale Land. She worked at a bail bonds agency while living in Boston until her son, Henry Mills, found her and brought her to Storybrooke to break the curse. Unfortunately, she eventually becomes absorbed by a vortex of purely evil energy and becomes the new Dark One in place of Rumplestiltskin, the Dark Swan.
The dark wizard Rumplestiltskin, determined to find his wayward son no matter what, had foreseen through his dark witchcraft that Emma's birth would be a catalyst for his plans of traveling to the Land Without Magic, where his son was living. After manipulating Queen Regina, who was blinded by revenge, into enacting the Dark Curse upon the enchanted lands Rumplestiltskin tricked Cinderella into imprisoning him with good magic so he could manipulate Charming and Snow into creating a magic wardrobe that would allow Emma to escape the curse and travel to Land Without Magic.
Emma is a deeply damaged and a very conflicted woman. She is a survivor, and used to being a loner, and therefore a sucker for the underdog. Against her better judgement, she will compromise herself to fight for what is right and to help those in need. She is strong and aggressive, but her brokenness and her emotions are not buried far beneath her tough exterior. Her first reaction to most things is anger, but she has spent her life trying to manage her temper. She is both rash and calculated, and is forced to deal with her instincts to protect her child, a child she believes she is not capable of mothering. In the simplest form, Emma is a list of contrasting qualities; She is hard and soft; she is intense and easy going; she is strong and vulnerable; she is safe and dangerous; she is logical and impulsive. Emma used to be mistrustful, due to the fact that Lily, her first and only best friend lied to Emma about her being in a group home, she does not like being lied to, when she found out from her parents, that she was born with the potential for darkness, and they put her darkness in Maleficent's daughter, she was hurt by what her parents had done, but most of all she was angry, when Snow White and Prince Charming refuse to take responsibility for their actions, instead they tried to justify their actions, this enraged her, as Emma became cold towards them, despite her cold demeanor she is a forgiving person.
The Dark OneAfter letting the darkness from the previous Dark One, (Rumplestiltskin) consume her, Emma's personality has become darker, since she was born with the potential for darkness, Emma has become terrifying and ruthless,
Jennifer Morrison on playing Emma Swan:
"Emma Swan is a deeply damaged woman, and a deeply conflicted woman. She is a survivor, and used to being a loner, and therefore a sucker for the underdog. Against her better judgement, she will compromise herself to fight for what is right and to help those in need. She is strong and aggressive, but her brokenness and her emotions are not buried far beneath her tough exterior. He first reaction to most things is anger, but she has spent her life trying to manage her temper. She is both rash and calculated, and is forced to deal with her instincts to protect her child, a child she believes she is not capable of mothering. In the simplest form, Emma is a list of contrasting qualities: She is hard and soft; she is intense and easy going; she is strong and vulnerable; she is safe and dangerous; she is logical and impulsive. It is exciting to play a character that is so deeply conflicted and fiercely compelled to fight for what she believes is right."
Powers and Abilities
- Magic of True Love and Light Magic: As the result of True Love birth, Emma is capable of using magic. This magic was always with her, even though she was living in a world without magic. However when Mr. Gold brought magic to our world her magical powers were greatly enhanced, particularly within the confines of Storybrooke; she has recently been taking magical lessons from her former nemesis Regina to better harness her powers, proving to be an apt student. Her practice of the magical arts grants various mystical abilities, of which are known;
- True Love's Kiss: A magical kiss that can break any curse as long its fueled by True Love. True Love is not limited to romantic relationship but can also extend to the love of a mother for her son.
- Immunity to Heart Removal: In the universe of Once Upon a Time, witches and wizards are capable to use black magic to penetrate a person's chest and literally remove their hearts. While in possession of these hearts the witch is capable of controlling the person, which remains in a state of full health despite the removal of such a vital organ. Emma is however immune to this form of black magic and if a witch attempts to remove her heart they will be hit by an energy blast.
- Lie Detection: The power to detect if a person is lying. Emma used this power subconsciously on Earth, possibly due to the lack of magic.
- Eclipse Inducement: The power to cause an eclipse. When Peter Pan and her son Henry left to Skull Rock to "save magic", the heroes found themselves blocked by Pan's protective shield that only allows people without shadows to enter. Emma and Regina join their magics together to create an eclipse, which would take away their shadows and render the shielding spell useless.
- Telekinesis: She is capable of manipulating objects or people without physically touching. This was first seen when she had to telekinetically blast both David and Killian in order to save them from the Snow Queen.
- Pyrokinesis: She is able to create, control, and manipulate fire, often in a form of lighting a candle or a flame/fire-related spell.
- Healing: When she uses her healing powers her hand will glow with white and after having approached the wound, it will heal completely, leaving no visible sign.
- Abjuration: Emma demonstrated being able to teleport Hook's, uh, namesake implement away from him as a prank.
- Magic of the Dark One: After letting the darkness from the previous Dark One, Rumpelstiltskin consume her, she became the new Dark One, the name of Emma Swan took his place on the Dark One's Dagger and Emma has earned all of his abilities of pure evil. Her powers seems to increase when she is in possession of a magical tool, like her dagger or wand of a fairy.
- Darkness Generation and Control: As the new Dark One, Emma can freely create, control and manipulate pure darkness and shadows to her will. She is now the pure human embodiment of all evil, chaos and darkness in the world.
- Immortality: Emma has stopped aging when she gained her powers and will be immune to disease and other forms of human death. (However, may be minor damage such as being cut by a sword, will have to use her powers to heal). Apparently she doesn't feel the pain of her wounds, or at least has a great tolerance to it, and doesn't suffer from sleep deprivation.
- Teleportation: Emma can move from one place to another at will, disappearing into what looks like a black smoke formation or white, however, she can also appear without creating the smoke effect.
- Telekinesis: Emma is capable of manipulating objects or people without physically touching them. She mainly uses this power to harm others and when she uses this power, the individual does it with a hand movement that mimics the action she wants to perform.
- Pyrokinesis: Emma is able to create and manipulate fire, often in the form of a fireball, effectively using it as a weapon against her enemies.
- Accelerated Healing: When Emma uses her healing powers her hand will glow with purple and after having approached the wound, it will heal completely, leaving no visible sign.
- Transfiguration/Shapeshifter: Emma is able to spin straw into gold, turning human beings into animals or changing the physical aspect of herself or others.
- Superhuman Strength and Speed: Emma is incredibly fast and strong. She was seen being able to catch several arrows fired at her by Merida almost subconsciously and with ease.
- Arcane Knowledge: Emma has an almost infinite knowledge and understanding of spells, potions, and other topics related to magic, allowing her to do impossible things for common witches.
- Summons: Emma is able to summon objects or beings through the magic, often materializing it in one hand via a purple smoke. (It is not known if she actually creates objects or transporting them from another place, but it is possible that both options are true depending on the circumstances).
- Heart Extraction: Emma can remove the hearts of other living beings without killing them and use them to control the owner or kill them by crushing the heart.
- Extrasensory Perception: Emma seems to be able to sense when someone calls her name or when someone close to her.
- Resurrection: If Emma dies without having passed the title of Dark One to another being, Emma can be resurrected by the Dark One Vault, if another person decides to open it, giving up his/her life as a result.
- Technopathy: Emma's magic also allows her to control and manipulate technology.
- Detective Skills: Emma has an eye for detail and is very skilled at detective work. She used this skill to work as a successful bail bondsman in Boston. She later used this when she was investigating the case of Kathryn's (supposed) murder.
- Expert Markswoman: Emma has proved skilled in the use of firearms.
- Skilled Swordswoman: Emma has proved skilled in the use of the sword, however, despite being the daughter of Prince Charming, Emma was not able to defeat Captain Hook, although she did managed to hold her own against the latter for a short period of time before she was overpowered and disarmed by Hook.
- Laws of Magic: Like any witch or sorceress, Emma is subject to the laws of magic, as a result she is unable to raise the dead, create love and time travel.
- True Love kiss: Like all curses, Emma's curse of being the Dark One can be broken with a kiss of true love.
- Leave Storybrooke: If Emma leaves Storybrooke, she will lose all of her magical abilities, becoming fully mortal.
- Dark One's Dagger: Anyone who owns her dagger will be able to kill Emma, causing her to lose her status as the Dark One and the chance to rise again. In addition, anyone who owns the dagger also has full control over the actions of Emma who is unable to disobey orders if not for a very short time. However, since Emma forged Excalibur and the dagger back into one blade again, it can no longer control her, although it still bears the names of both of the current Dark Ones.
Before the First Curse
Born to Snow White and Prince Charming, Emma was the product of true love and destined to be the savior. To protect her from the Dark Curse, the Blue Fairy had Geppetto fashion a magical tree into a wardrobe which could carry Emma into A Land Without Magic and protect her from it. As only two could go, Geppetto forced the Blue Fairy to let Pinocchio go with Emma, fearing he wouldn't survive the curse and be turned back into wood.
As the plan was to take Snow into the cupboard while she was pregnant, after she gave birth, she and Charming reluctantly agreed to take Emma to the wardrobe, holding onto the hope that she will find them after the curse has been cast.
During the First Curse
As a baby Pinocchio was tasked to protecting Emma as a baby while they were both in the foster care system, however he abandons her later on.
Realizing she would never be adopted having "missed her chance" as she's too old, she runs away and meets a young girl named Lily who helps her shoplift. The two bond together after she discovers that Lily is an orphan just like her. The two break into a house and spend the night there where they enjoy each others company and Emma sees a star shaped birthmark on her wrist. Lily tells her that it makes her feel special and then draws one onto her wrist too. The girls promise to be friends no matter what until a man enters the house, Lily's father. Lily explains she was an orphan like her too, only she got adopted and feels invisible at her home. Hurt by Lily's lies, Emma rubs off the star on her wrist and walks away from Lily, who cries and repeatedly calls for Emma.
Arriving in a net foster home, she meets a carer called Ingrid. When she catches her trying to escape, Ingrid convinces her to stay and the two eventually become close until one day she tells Emma that she is going to adopt her and that even though Emma doesn't see her as a mother, she can be like her older sister. While the two are waiting for a bus, Emma thinks out loud about having magic like Harry Potter. Knowing she does, Ingrid (who is really the Snow Queen from the Enchanted Forest) tries to endanger her by forcing her in front of a car so that she can unleash her powers, however, Emma gets away from her grip at the last minute. Thinking she is crazy, Emma runs away from her.
After having been adopted by a couple, Emma grabs a sleeping bag from the garage for a camping trip, when she finds her friend Lily hiding, saying that she’s in big trouble. Lily then invokes the "friends forever" clause to get Emma’s help. Before she can decline or accept, Emma’s adopted father appears and invites Lily to stay for dinner, but when Emma's father brings up the subject of how they met, Lily lies by saying that they knew each other through foster care. Emma pulls Lily aside afterwards and tells her she doesn't want to lie to her new family, only to see a news report on television about authorities searching for shoplifters, and Lily is among the suspects identified.
The news has now made Emma furious and now wants Lily to leave immediately, but Lily says that she just can’t help it because she always does "bad" things; she then begs Emma for help with just one more thing, which is to retrieve a special necklace. Later that night, Emma follows through with getting the necklace, but Lily pulls a fast one on Emma by stealing money from Emma’s parents and runs away. When Emma returned home, Emma's parents surprised her, having called her social worker, and discovering that Lily is a known criminal. The parents are now upset with Emma for not telling them and allowing such a person into their home; the actions would result in Emma being kicked out of the house. Later that night, Lily catches up with a now furious Emma at a bus stop, and claims that no matter what she does, everything goes wrong and adding that her "whole life is darkness", but when Emma is around it gets brighter. Lily then begs Emma to stay in her life, but a bitter Emma leaves, saying she is better off alone.
Years later, Emma attempts to steal a car and breaks in, not knowing it has already been stolen by someone else called Neal. They soon start to con people and and one day decide to have a life of their own in Tallahassee, but they need the money. Neal gets Emma to retrieve some stole watches but she gets caught and sent to prison where she finds out she is pregnant. She gives birth to a boy and puts him up for adoption.
Ten years later, Emma is 28 years old and working as a bail bonds agent. She is working undercover on a date where they start talking about their lives. When she reveals to her date that she knows he skipped town when on bail, he flees, trying to get away in his car, but as he didn't realize it was towed when he got in, he is caught and arrested by Emma.
She goes home later that night, to spend her twenty-eighth birthday all alone. She brings out a cupcake, lights a blue star candle on, and blows it. Suddenly, someone knocks on the door and she finds a young boy on the other side. He tells her that his name is Henry, and he is the son she gave up for adoption ten years ago. He asks her to go home with him but she refuses to but agrees to take him back to his home town, Storybrooke, Maine.
After arriving, Henry explains to Emma that time is frozen in Storybrooke and that the Evil Queen sent the fairy-tale character from the Enchanted Forest to Storybrooke and now they are trapped and can't leave. She doesn't believe him, but the pair are soon interrupted by Archie Hopper, who is Henry's therapist. He tells Emma that Henry is they mayors child. She thanks him and Henry explains to him that he is really Jiminy Cricket. The pair head to Henry's house, where Emma meets his adoptive mother, they mayor, Regina Mills. Regina invites Emma inside for apple cider and the two talk about Henry's adoption. When she leaves, she meets the towns sheriff, Graham.
After she bonds with Henry, Regina fears that she may want him back and so repeatedly warns Emma to stay away from them, telling him that she is his mother, not Emma. However, Emma decides to stay in Storybrooke anyway, ignoring Regina's warnings.
She develops a friendship with Henry's school teacher Mary Margaret (who is really her mother Snow White) and the two move in together. She also is appointed deputy by Sheriff Graham. She develops an attraction for Graham until she sees him leaving Regina's house in the middle of the night. He kisses her and and starts to get visions of his past in the Enchanted Forest. Realizing something isn't right, he questions everything and everyone, getting more and more aware of the curse. He asks Emma for help, but the pair run into Regina. She tells Graham to come back with him but he refuses her. Regina then accuses Emma of stealing everyone away from her. Emma replies to Regina that Henry and Graham were miserable and she didn't steal anyone away from her. They came to her because they were miserable with Regina. The two start to physically fight until Graham separates them and Emma walks away with him back to the police station. He apologizes to Emma and tells her that he regrets getting involved with Regina. As he helps clear her cuts from her fight with Regina, the two kiss and Graham remembers his past life as the Queens Huntsman. He thanks Emma, but before he can explain, he dies, having his heart crushed by Regina, who had it in her possession. Emma cries over Graham's dead body.
Emma later competes against Sydney Glass for mayor and wins. Emma is later forced to arrest Mary Margaret after she has been framed for the murder of Kathryn, as she is the prime suspect, having had an affair with her husband David Nolan. Evidence stacks up and Emma has Ruby find a box which is sent for analysis. It is revealed that it is Mary Margaret's box and it contains Kathryn's heart. However, it is revealed that the DNA tests were faked and Emma is allowed to release Mary Margaret.
Fearing Henry would never be truly hers if Emma is still in the picture and knowing that if she kills her, the curse would automatically be broken, Regina tries to put Emma in a sleeping curse by feeding her an apple turnover, made with the same poisoned apple that she fed Snow White. Henry tries to stop her from eating it by telling her its cursed but, but she doesn't believe him; He eats it and falls under the sleeping curse. Emma finally opens her mind about magic and touches Henry's storybook where she gets visions about her parents, Snow White and Prince Charming and she finally believes in magic. Finally realizing the truth, she grabs Regina and starts to hurt her. The two realism that Henry is the priority and so Regina and Emma form an uneasy alliance to go find Gold who can tell them how they need to wake Henry. He tells them of a True Love Potion which can help them wake him up, however there is a catch. The potion is underneath the Storybrooke clock tower inside the belly of Maleficent, who was trapped in her dragon form when the curse hit. Emma battles the dragon with her fathers sword and eventually defeats the beast and finally obtains the golden egg which contains the True Love potion. Emma and Regina finally arrive to the hospital to give Henry the potion, but, its too late and he is pronounced dead by Dr Whale. Emma goes to Henry and tells him that she loves and gives him a kiss on the forehead. Henry is brought back to life and the curse has finally broken after 28 years.
After the First Curse
After Emma has broken the curse she is reunited with her parents. She is overwhelmed, having discovered her parents are Snow White and Prince Charming and they're the same age as her. She is sent to the Enchanted Forest with Mary Margaret where she meets Mulan and Aurora. The two meet Regina's mother Cora, the Queen of Hearts and Captain Hook. Emma and her mother face off against the two and end up back in Storybrooke. However, what they are unaware of is Cora and Hook have also arrived. Emma and Henry go with Mr. Gold to locate his long lost son Baelfire, but what she discovers when she arrives to New York is that Baelfire is non other than Neal, Henry's father. They arrive back in Storybrooke and Emma defends Gold who has been poisoned, against Cora who need to kill him to become the Dark One. However, Mary Margaret kills Cora. Emma meets Neal's fiance Tamara, and its discovered that her and another outside (Greg Mendell) are secretly working together to get rid of magic, and their employer is is non other than Peter Pan. Because Pan needs the heart of the truest believer, he gets Tamara and Greg to kidnap Henry so Emma, Regina, Mary Margaret, David and Hook all head to Neverland to rescue Henry. Emma eventually finds Henry and saves him but what she doesn't know is that Pan and him swapped bodies. After Pans body is released from a trap, he swaps it back with Henry's and Emma discovers that Pan's plan is to re enact the Dark Curse to create a "new Neverland". She her parents, Belle, Regina and Neal are all frozen and watch as Gold kills Pan and kills himself in the process. Regina then explains to Emma that everyone from the Enchanted Forest is going to return back there but because Henry was born in this world, he won't. She tells Emma that only she can escape the curse as she is the savior and all her memories of Storybrooke will be gone. Regina then gives Emma and Henry new memories of a life in which she never gave her son up. Emma than says goodbye to her parents as she leaves Storybrooke, and the curse takes everyone back to the Enchanted Forest.
Before the Second Curse
Emma and Henry leave Storybrooke and obtain false memories. They live in New York.
During the Second Curse
Hook restores Emma's memories with a potion and the two return to Storybrooke with Henry to find out there has been a new Dark Curse caused by Zelena, the Wicked Witch of the West. She finds Neal trapped within Mr. Gold's body, thus causing him to lose his mind. Neal asks for Emma to free his father by killing himself to defeat Zelena; she reluctantly agrees. Regina later helps Emma to strengthen her magical powers, though they are removed when Zelena curses Hook.
After the Second Curse
After Regina kisses Henry and breaks the second curse, everyone's memories are restored. Gold stabs Zelena and she is killed, however, her time portal is activated and Emma goes to investigate it with Hook, however, it sucks the two in.
After Emma and Hook are dragged into Zelena's time portal, she accepts Storybrooke as her home, regaining her magic to re-open the portal to the present where she begins a relationship with Hook. However, unaware to her, she also brings a previously deceased Maid Marian to the future, shattering her growing friendship with Regina, whom Emma hopes will accept her as a friend despite their differences. The two later regain their friendship to defeat the Snow Queen with Elsa, who helps Emma to finally embrace her powers fully and control them. When Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff leave Emma learns that Mr. Gold is back to his evil ways. Emma also learns that Gold has Hook's heart and she gets it back and puts it back in him. Emma later learns that Regina wants to find the writer of the book.
After Cruella De Vill kidnaps Henry, Emma, Regina, and Captain Hook had to go to rescue him. Isaac later tells Mary Margaret and David that Emma will give in to darkness as it was foretold. When Cruella has a gun to Henry's head, Emma angrily uses her abilities to push Cruella off the cliff they are on to her death. Mary Margaret and David arrive too late to see what Emma has done.
Emma is later asked by Maleficent to locate her daughter. Emma asks what her daughter's name and she reveals it to be Lillith. Emma rushes out of the room and looks through some old documents and finds out that Maleficent's daughter is her childhood friend Lily. Emma and Regina decide to leave together after they realize that Lily is in New York and Regina has to go there anyway to save Robin from Zelena. The pair head into an old apartment where Lily used to live, but another tenant reveals that she died a few years ago. Emma and Regina later drive until the car's tire is punctured, Regina tells Emma to go have some coffee while she deals with the tire. There she gets coffee served by a woman named Starla, but realizes its Lily when she recognizes the star shaped birthmark on her wrist. Lily however shrugs Emma off and tells her that she's moved with a husband and daughter, however Emma knows that she is lying and her and Regina break into Lily's house where its revealed that she knows about magic and Storybrooke. Suddenly, Lily breaks into Emma's car with the intention of getting revenge on Emma's parents who wronged her but the pair catch up in another car Emma breaks into. Emma is about to shoot Lily but Regina talks her out of it and the two than have a heart to heart, but are interrupted by Regina who tells Emma that they need to go to Robin's house as her leverage over Gold has been taken. The three travel to Robins House where Emma sees that Zelena under the disguise of Marian. Zelena reveals her true form and Robin says he still can't leave Zelena as she is pregnant.
Emma brings Lily along with Robin and Zelena back to Storybrooke, where she was reunites her with Maleficent. After Maleficent, Mary Margaret and David later encounter Lily in her dragon form, Maleficent approaches her, but Mary Margaret runs after her. David states to Mary Margaret that Lily is out of control as she knocks Mary Margaret out; Emma immediately comes to her mother's aid and uses her powers to heal her. Emma tells her parents that she forgives them for what they did.
After the Apprentice is freed, Emma tries to find the page that the Author was originally trapped in to trap him in again. However, before she and Regina can find it, everyone in Storybrooke (besides Henry) is transported to an alternate universe that the Author has written. Emma is the only trapped in this world who retains her memories. However, she is trapped in a tower by her mother who doesn't remember her and is now the Evil Queen, Snow White. She is guarded by Lily.
Henry, along with Hook, helps Emma escape and they manage to defeat a Dragon Lily on the Jolly Roger. However, when they are brought to land, they are met by the Evil Queen and her Huntsman (Prince Charming). Since Snow does not acknowledge Emma as her daughter, she plans to kill both Emma and Henry. Hook is unable to wield a sword, but tries to defend them anyway. He battles Charming, but is no match for the prince and is fatally stabbed in front of Emma.
Emma return to Regina's cave with Henry. She asks to speak with Regina alone as she believes that the curse can be undone with a true love's kiss from Regina and Robin. Emma tells her that if she tells Robin the truth about how she feels, everything will be fixed and they can both get their happy endings with the men they love, acknowledging that she never got the chance to tell Hook how she really felt before it was too late. The trio arrive at the chapel to stop the wedding, but before they can do so, Rumple suddenly appears to stop them. Emma and Henry try to distract Rumple as Regina tries to work up the nerve to interrupt the ceremony. Emma engages him in a sword fight, until he is able to knock her out temporarily.
Henry however, becomes the next author and is able to use Regina's blood to return everyone to Storybrooke. Emma runs to Hook and is relieved to find him alive, though she is still unable to admit her love for him. That night, the people of Storybrooke are all celebrating at Granny's diner and Lily tells Emma that she wants to find the identity of her father and plans on staying in Storybrooke during her search. After Belle reveals Gold is dying, Emma travels with her family and the Apprentice who uses his power to pull the darkness out of Gold and transfers it into the Sorcerer’s Hat. He then puts a pure white heart back into Gold. However, the hat is unable to contain the darkness and it is unleashed into the Apprentice. Emma then uses her light magic to pull the darkness back out of the apprentice and the dark magic disappears out of the shop. As the apprentice lays dying, he tells Emma and Hook that the darkness must be tethering to a human soul that can be controlled with the Dark One's dagger and that the only person who can prevent the darkness from destroying all the realms is a sorcerer named Merlin, who lives in a place far away. The two then meet up with Mary Margaret, David, Regina, and Robin as they scour the streets of Storybrooke for the darkness, which then appears to attack Regina. Possessing the dagger, Emma volunteers to tether herself to the darkness to prevent it from destroying everyone and everything, telling her loved ones that she trusts that they'll find a way to separate the darkness from her once again. She finally tells Hook that she loves him as he implores to her against sacrificing herself, but she ultimately does so anyway. The darkness violently surrounds Emma and when it dissipates, only the dagger is left behind. As the shot zooms onto it, it now reads the name of the new Dark One, "Emma Swan".
- Emma is the first Dark One who's appearance isn't drastically changed. While her hair turns white, and her skin grows a bit paler, she does not turn a goldish-green color like her predecessors Nimue, Zoso and Rumplestiltskin, who all seemed to change right away if not very soon after becoming the Dark One.