As the world of television continues to grow, it is no surprise that some TV shows find their stories overlapping with those of other shows; a fact that is especially concurrent in shows of the similar genres. After all, we have all heard time and time again that there are no new stories, only new ways of telling old stories. Still, some storylines are so extremely parallelled to each other that viewers might find themselves in a strange feeling of déjà vu.
That is exactly what I found myself experiencing as I watched the season 5 premiere of ABC’s fairytale drama Once Upon a Time. Fantastic in its own right, the episode seemed to echo a much familiar storyline from somewhere else on the fantasy spectrum. Why so? Well, let’s see. The season premiere picked up right where the season 4 finale had left us: Storybrooke’s beloved Savior, Emma Swan, had sacrificed herself to the Dark One in an attempt to save the town from its chaos and is transported to the Enchanted Forest. Here is where it starts to get interesting and somewhat familiar. Through the rest of the episode, we see Emma struggle immensely as the Dark One manifests itself as a Rumplestiltskin-sized devil on her shoulder to help bring her over the edge and fully embrace the darkness within. Emma, being the valiant hero that she is, continually refuses to give in to the darkness; however, that does not stop the Dark One’s power from constantly tempting her.
The Once Upon a Time showrunners, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, have shared that Emma’s struggle with the Darkness will be a season-long arc. According to Kitsis and Horowitz, we will see our heroine suffer through the conflict for the better part of the season until something inevitably causes her to tip over the edge and embrace her new dark self, as was shown in a flash-forward in the season premiere.
Now, where have we seen a character struggle through the temptation of giving into an ancient darkness tethered to them? Viewers only have to glance back at the last two seasons of CW’s horror-fantasy drama Supernatural to find the answer. The overarching plot of the latter half of Supernatural’s Season 9 and all of Season 10 was Dean Winchester’s struggle with the Mark of Cain. The older Winchester took on the Mark of Cain, which is an ancient mark of darkness given originally to Cain that, unknowing to Dean at the time, holds the key that keeps the universe’s oldest evil, the Darkness, locked away somewhere safe, in an attempt to defeat the deadly Knight of Hell, Abaddon.
The Darkness, much like the Dark One of Once Upon a Time, continually tempts Dean to give into its power and embrace his destiny as a Knight of Hell, much like his predecessor Cain had, though, sadly, there is no Rumplestiltskin manifestation here. I suppose there is only so much darkness Robert Carlyle can handle at one time. Dean continues to fight against the Mark’s temptation until his death at the hands of the angel Metatron turns him into a demon, and even after Sam cures him and restores him to his human-self.
Much of the reason that Once Upon a Time’s Emma Swan sacrificed herself and took on the mantle of the Dark One was because it can only be contained and kept from destroying all of the realms if it is tethered to a person, and once the Apprentice had freed Rumplestiltskin from the Dark One’s hold, he had unintentionally also let the Dark One loose upon the world with no tether to contain it anymore. This is also very much the reason that the Mark of Cain had been created in the first place in the Supernatural universe. As long as the Mark was tethered to a person, it could keep the Darkness locked away and keep it from destroying the world, even if that meant that the person in question would have to constantly struggle to battle the darkness’s hold. However, in an inverse of Emma Swan’s situation, the Winchesters actually set the Darkness loose on the world in an attempt to cure Dean because there is no other way from keeping Dean from giving into its allure.
Where the current storyline of Once Upon a Time is to find a cure for the Dark One’s curse to save Emma from its clutches without unleashing it on the world, the storyline of Supernatural is to find a way to defeat the now free Darkness without tethering it to a person through the Mark of Cain again. The progression of events might be directly inverse in the two shows, but the similarities and parallels of the overall plots are overwhelmingly uncanny.
Who knew that a show based on our favorite fairy tales could ever find itself crossing paths with a horror-fantasy drama about two brothers who hunt supernatural beings. I guess our Storybrooke heroes and Winchesters should team up with each other to put all the looming darkness to rest once and for all.
Jokes and parallels aside, both shows are off to an excellent start to their respective seasons. I, for one, cannot wait to experience the tremendous journeys that lie ahead of our favorite heroes and hunters.