- “No one needs to save me, I'm the Savior! I'm fighting for the people I love. Ultimately, I am a hero. I am hope. I am light. And light cannot destroy darkness, it can only create more light. I will not kill innocents. I will do what all saviors must, I will give hope. No matter what the cost.”
- ―Emma to Gideon[src]
Emma Swan is the main character and protagonist of the first six seasons 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 Enchanted Forest. 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 is absorbed into a vortex of pure evil, which makes her become the new Dark One in the place of Rumplestiltskin, acting as the main antagonist in Season 5A until the episode "Birth" when her plans and secrets are finally revealed. The darkness was then removed from her 7-8 weeks later.
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 judgment, 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 One
After letting the darkness from the previous Dark One, (Rumplestiltskin) consume her, Emma's personality has become darker. Though she was still good, she became much more isolated and secretive. She struggled with the darkness at first, even ripping out Merida's heart, but her family were able to keep her good. While she only acted dark when in Storybrooke, she still was able to hold her affection back for her son Henry or her boyfriend Killian.
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, enchanting both the heart and the victim. 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.
- Apportation: Emma demonstrated being able to teleport Hook's, uh, namesake implement away from him as a prank.
- Conjuration: Emma is able to summon objects or beings through magic, often materializing in the form of a pure white manifestation. She demonstrated this when she conjured a copy of the door illustration page that the former author was trapped inside, hoping that this would fool Mr. Gold.
- Teleportation: Emma has demonstrated to be able to move from one place to another in the form of gray smoke. She demonstrated this in the underworld when she teleported herself. Megara and Regina from the forest to the Blanchard Loft.
Dark One Powers
- Magic of the Dark One: After letting the darkness from the previous Dark One, Rumplestiltskin 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 is immune to diseases and other forms of human death. However, she was shown to be, vulnerable to minor damage, such as being cut by a sword, which she could heal with her magic. Apparently she doesn't feel the pain of her wounds, or at least has a great tolerance to it.
- Stamina: The power of the Darkness keeps the Dark One energized and thus they don't need sleep and don't suffer from sleep deprivation, and have some kind of hobby to pass the time.
- 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 is close to her.
- Resurrection: If Emma dies without having passed the title of Dark One to another being, Emma can be resurrected by the Vault of the Dark One, 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. And later uses her skills to try to find out who cast the second curse.
- 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.
- Leave Storybrooke/Land without magic: While the magic naturally inside her does give her some power beyond Storybrooke, it is severely limited to the point as to where it is barely noticeable.
- Squid Ink: Like all magical beings, she can be immobilized by squid ink.
- 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 the current Dark Ones.
- Storybrooke Town Line: If Emma leaves Storybrooke, she will lose all of her magical abilities, becoming fully mortal. When she gave up her dark powers, she was able to leave Storybrooke, since she was not part of the original Dark Curse.
Before the First Curse
- “Emma, her name is Emma”
- ―Snow White reveals her daughter's name to Rumplestiltskin
Born to Snow White and Prince Charming, Emma was the product of true love and destined to be the savior that would break the Evil Queen's curse, as prophesized by Rumplestiltskin. To protect her from the Dark Curse, the Blue Fairy had Geppetto fashion a magical tree into a wardrobe which could carry Snow White into A Land Without Magic, our world, and protect her and her unborn child from it. As only two could go, Geppetto forced the Blue Fairy to let Pinocchio go with the princess, fearing he wouldn't survive the curse and be turned back into wood.
The plan was to send Snow into the cupboard after it's completion while she was pregnant so that she would be able to protect her daughter. However Snow White began going into labor just before Geppetto had finished the cabinet. After she was born, and the curse began consuming the palace, Snow White and Prince David reluctantly agreed to take Emma to the wardrobe and send her away from the Enchanted Forest, holding onto the hope that she would 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. In 1990 Minnesota, a young Emma is told by a teenager that she has the power to change her fate.
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 does not 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
- “She saved all of us!”
- ―Snow White to Henry
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. According to their false Memories the two had moved there from Boston a little over a year ago. Emma met and began dating a man named Walsh, and over time fell in love with him. Hook however shows up on at her door one morning and informs her that Mary Margaret, David and everyone in Storybrooke needs her help. Emma, with no memories of Storybrooke or her parents, asks him to leave, which he kisses her, hoping to stir up her memories. Emma slams the door in his face, and returns to eating breakfast with Henry.
That night she meets Walsh at the place where they had their first date. Emma is surprised when he proposes. Walsh claims to love Emma and Henry, and wants them to be a family. Still deeply troubled from her abandonment issues, she tells him she needs more time. Returning home to Henry, he tells her that he's grown to think of Walsh as a part of their family. He also let's Emma know that he hasn't seen her this happy since Walsh came into their lives. Emma seriously considers Walsh's proposal, but has another run in with Hook.
During the Second Curse
Hook restores Emma's memories with a potion. Knowing now that she cannot accept Walsh's proposal, she goes to gently let him down. Walsh pleads with her to reconsider but she cannot. To her horror, however, Walsh mentions that he was starting to like her, in a sinister tone, then morphs into a Flying Monkey and attacks her. After taking care of "Walsh", she seeks out Hook and the two return to Storybrooke with Henry.
They find out there has been a new Dark Curse caused by Zelena, the Wicked Witch of the West. Reuniting with her father, David informs her that they've just recently returned and that their memories, as well as all of Storybrookes memories of what occurred after Regina reversed the first curse has been erased. They assume that it has at least been nine months since they first left, however as Mary Margaret reunites with her daughter, in the last trimester of her pregnancy. She also finds out that people have been disappearing, which they later discover is the work of Zelena. This is confirmed when Little John escapes the Witch's grasp, but to everyone's horror, violently transforms into a Flying Monkey, much like Walsh had done.
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 Hooks lips.
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".
Before the Third Curse
Emma searches for Merlin in Camelot and is helped by the Essence of The Dark One that appears as a manifestation of Rumplestiltskin. This Manifestation wants to teach her to be the Dark One, while Emma attempts to resist becoming evil at the same time. She comes across a Scottish Princess named Merida while searching for a Will O' the Wisps, claiming that she needs it to save her brothers, while Emma needs it to find her way to Camelot. The two, after some sourness, agree to help one another, in their pursuits. Shortly after her family and friends from Storybrooke arrive, having hitched a ride on Zelena's twister headed for Oz, which they redirected towards Emma to help free her from the Dagger. While alone with her, she entrust her Dagger to Regina.
King Arthur and his Knights of the Round arrive and welcome them to Camelot. Arthur announces that their arrival was foretold by Merlin and the entourage escort the residence of Storybrooke and Merida to his castle and Merlin. Thinking things are looking up for Emma regaining her light, Arthur shows that Merlin has been encased in a tree, and only the Savior can release him. Regina claims to be the Savior in Emma's stead, so that her darkness can be hidden from Arthur, Queen Guinevere and the people of Camelot.
During her time in Camelot, Emma, despite her initial resistance, begins to give in more and more to the darkness, while always finding a way to justify her actions. She begins uses her powers including chocking Merida over the Wisp, thinking it's the only way to find Camelot, saving a mortally wounded Robin, though at Regina's request, and ripping the heart and controlling Violet a young girl that had shown interest in Henry, to acquire a tear of regret from her son and immediately returning her heart afterwards. After Hook is injured, she uses some of her dark magic to heal him. Later, after freeing him Merlin encourages her to destroy the Darkness one and for all. When she does so by fusing the dagger and the sword, her healing magic is undone, causing Hook to start bleeding again. Realizing that the wound could kill him, she tethers his life to Excalibur, causing him to become another Dark One.
During the Third Curse
Six weeks later, the rest of her friends returned to Storybrooke, but with a horrifying and shocking twist, their memories were wiped out once again and wearing Arthurian attires. As it turned out Emma made an appearance as the Dark One, with her new attire. Henry asks what happened to her, and she told them that they all went to Camelot to remove the darkness from her and they failed (except Henry). Emma with her powers turned Sneezy into stone, proclaiming that there's no savior in the town. Emma surprisingly gave the Dark One dagger to Regina with the intention that if she goes too dark Regina would be the only one that would willingly "put her down". Shortly after this, Hook attempts true love's kiss with Emma in the hopes that the Dark One's curse would break, but ultimately failed, as Emma has fully embraced the darkness. Unbeknownst to the others, Emma currently has possession of the Excalibur in a locked room inside of her new house. She intends to make Excalibur and the Dark One's dagger whole again, as with it she will be able to snuff out the light forever and become invulnerable. However, she must recruit a hero to do so, as she cannot remove the sword; the hero she chooses is her predecessor Rumplestiltskin, who she tells finally has a chance to become a hero.
After everyone finds out in "Birth" that Emma had transformed Hook into a second Dark One; she planned to siphon the darkness out of both of them and put it Zelena, who she forced into an accelerated labor to avoid killing Robin's child, and slay her. She regains her memories of what Hook plans, by resurrecting all the Dark Ones as part of his revenge. At first, Emma plans to absorb all the darkness inside her and kill herself. Things do not go according to plan when Hook steals it from her. Killian orders her to kill him, taking in all the darkness and Emma slays him with Excalibur while the darkness is removed from her, reverting to her old self.
After the Third Curse
- “Hook, I will find you. I will always find you.”
- ―Emma's promise
While mourning Hook, Emma starts to hear whispers calling to her. She follows the whispers to Mr. Gold's shop, realizing that it is the dagger calling to her. Gold tells her she is imagining things, but after some further pressing from Emma, Gold reveals he has the dagger and is the Dark One again. After blackmailing Mr. Gold, she and her friends and family board the boat that will descend into the Underworld, planning to split her heart in half and share it with Hook, like her parents did during the Second Curse.
While on her way to the Underworld she has a vision of Neal. The two appear in her Yellow Bug within the Amusement Park that they would constantly break into. When she questions if she's dreaming, he tells her that she isn't and that he is reaching out to her. She finds herself overjoyed when she realizes that it really is Neal with her at this moment in time. He asks her how Henry is doing, and she mentions that he is doing very good, but still misses his father. She tells him that their son is growing up so quickly, to which Neal shares a brief moment of pride with her in their son. Neal goes on and warns her against going to the Underworld. Neal elaborates by telling her that while he knows she is doing so out of her love for Hook, that it is a dangerous endeavor, and it will be a very difficult place to leave. Emma promises Neal she would have done the same for him had she known it was possible, but Neal assuages her guilt by letting her know that she will not find him in the Underworld. Emma asks Neal if Killian is, and he somberly tells her that his soul is residing there. Emma asks Neal to help her, mentioning her plan to save Hook. He mentions that the Underworld is a place where the souls of the dead go when they have unfinished business. He also mentions this is why she won't find Neal there. Emma ask Neal where he is then, and he ensures her he's in a good place, a better place, a place that makes him happy. He tries one last time to stop her from pursuing her quest, before it's too late. She tells him she can't turn back, and realizing her mind is made up, he asserts to Emma before he goes that he still loves her, and that he always will, kissing her gently on the forehead before leaving. Emma pleads with Neal to stay with her, but she awakens in Mary Margaret and David's arms back on the boat calling out his name. At that moment, Gold alerts them all of their arrival to their destination, The Underworld.
She and the others later discover that the Underworld is, as Neal had warned, for those with unfinished business, and they decide to help others move on, while they search for Hook. With the help of Milah; Neal's mother, Hook's former lover, and Henry's paternal grandmother, Emma manages to retrieve Hook from Hades' captivity. However, she is unable to split her heart, as Hades has decided that she, Regina, and Snow are to remain behind for freeing the souls of Prince Henry, Hercules, and Megara. It is discovered that the only way they would have a chance to return to the living with Hook is by overthrowing Hades. In order to defeat Hades, Emma and Hook receive help from Hook's brother Liam; however, it is soon discovered that Liam betrayed them after being blackmailed by Hades. Fortunately, Henry agrees to help undo Liam's work by using his powers as the Author.
Emma finally learns that she cannot save Hook, and unwillingly leaves the underworld through a portal made from the fallen clock tower with the others at his insistence to stop Zelena and a now freed Hades. When they return to Storybrooke, she, Regina and Robin all attempt to un cloud Zelena's refusal at the truth due to her feelings for Hades, and rescue Robin's daughter. In the process Robin is killed and Zelena destroys Hades.
Before Robin's funeral, Emma stands at Hook's grave and cries, trying to cope with the fact that he is truly gone now. Suddenly, a wave of magic flies through the air, causing her to stumble. She hears her name called from behind her and turns around and is shocked to see Hook. She happily embraces Hook, who tells her Zeus sent him back as a reward for his prominent role in Hades' undoing. After informing him that Robin was killed, Emma decides to break the news about Hook's return to Regina as delicately as possible. However, when an earthquake occurs, Hook rushes to see if Emma is okay. It turns out the earthquake was caused by Mr. Gold tethering magic to the Olympian Crystal fragment. Emma works with Regina to find it, only to later have Gold explain that Henry used his Author power to steal the crystal to destroy magic (again). Both follow Henry to New York, where it turns out Gold got the crystal back. At the same time, Hook, David, Snow and Zelena are accidentally sucked into another realm, which they could become trapped in without any magic in the Real World. Henry succeeds in destroying magic, only to be later convinced by the Dragon to get enough belief to recharge the crystal. It works and everyone is brought home. Once back in Storybrooke, Emma shares a passionate kiss with Hook.
In Storybrooke, refugees arrive from the Land of Untold Stories. Emma experiences tremors and visions; an arrested Hyde helps her receive an oracle's vision of a hooded figure killing her. Dealing with Hyde, the hostile stories of the refugees, and Regina's evil half, Emma confesses to her family of her visions. They all decide to have faith they can change this after reuniting Jasmine with a former Savior, Aladdin. Eventually, the Evil Queen places Emma's parents in dual sleeping curse. Emma and Regina try to imprison her in the Mirror World, but end up trapped in the realm themselves. Fortunately, Henry and Hook free them before they're killed by the Dragon.
After helping Belle entrusts her and Gold's baby to the Blue Fairy, Emma discovers the sword that will kill her in Gold's shop and realizes it can kill the Evil Queen without hurting Regina. The Queen steals the lamp, holding Jasmine hostage, and wishes Emma to an alternate reality where she was never the Savior; Regina follows her. In the "wish realm", Emma lives as a meek princess before Regina manages to restore her memory. Regina frees Rumplestiltskin in exchange for a magic bean, but the portal to Storybrooke closes while Regina is distracted by the appearance of Robin Hood.
After they miss their way out of the Wish realm, Emma and Regina find another option for escape when they come across August, who agrees to help create a new portal. Emma discovers that August was the teenager she met back in Minnesota and inspires him to complete the portal. Emma, Regina, and Robin return to Storybrooke, where she's confronted by Gideon, Gold and Belle's son with intentions to kill Emma so that he can acquire her savior powers and kill the Black Fairy. Emma and Gideon do battle, but Emma manages to survive, choosing her own fate. Gideon retreats, proclaiming this far from over. In past, Snow makes a wish that grants the entire Enchanted Forest to use the gift of Song to defeat Regina, which also spreads to Oz as well. When Regina also becomes affected by the wish she finds a way to end it before the first curse takes place, but the Blue Fairy, who granted Snow the wish, tells Snow and David that the wish will be part of Emma's destiny. In Emma's past, her chance to make use of her talent is held back by being told she'll be alone. This would come back to taunt Emma in the present day, as Fiona returns to use that weakness to take Emma's heart before she unleashes a new curse on her wedding, with unlikely help from Gold by freezing her family. When Henry discovers the page in the book that reveals Emma's heart will make her stronger, not only does it embolden Emma, it stopped Fiona from crushing it, but Fiona still tells her the battle is still on. On wedding day, Emma and Hook finally marry just in time for the dark clouds to release a new curse that will set up the final battle.
- 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. Killian Jones' appearance seems to follow hers when he becomes a Dark One, with only his hair becoming a bit more unkempt, and his eyeliner becoming a bit thicker.
- It was later revealed that her skin did not change color because she did not fully succumb to the Darkness (as she did not kill anyone during her times the Dark One) and was actually trying to get rid of it.
- Emma came up with "Swan" as her last name after August (who was really Pinocchio) saw her burning pages, and before she could burn "The Ugly Duckling", August told her of how the ugly duckling finally became a beautiful swan.
- Also, her last name is Emma's Symbolic journey from having a very tough time and finally becoming a swan.
- Her last name "Swan" and her alias "Dark Swan" also refers to the Black Swan, who is Odile from the Swan Lake ballet.
- Katee Sackhoff auditioned to play Emma at least five times.
- Though it's not really proven, due to Snow White and Prince Charming's true love, Emma might be the most powerful savior/wielder of light magic.