As much as I’ve been enjoying this season of Once Upon a Time—the medieval intrigue, the repetitious content—both myself and other viewers have been anxious to get to a meatier, more engaging episode. Ladies and gents, welcome to “Dreamcatcher.”
Spoilers ahead, dearies.
Many years ago
A man we can only assume is Merlin wanders through the forest, calling for the Dark One. He clutches the Dark One’s dagger in his hand and appears determined to kill the creature. But at the last moment, he realizes that he can’t do it, and drops the blade. The Dark One, whose face is completely covered, catches one of Merlin’s tears on the tip of the dagger…and turns the sorcerer into a tree.
Currently—or…6 weeks before Storybrooke? Take your pick.
Using a dreamcatcher, Emma sees how Merlin was trapped. She also sees that Mary Margaret and David are under the control of the sands of Avalon, and, therefore, the somewhat treacherous Arthur and Guinevere. She and Regina decide to free Merlin on their own in the hopes that he can then free Emma’s parents. They realize that to create the proper spells, they must find a tear of lost love. They use a dreamcatcher to spark Regina’s memory of when her mother killed Daniel. Seeing the heart-wrenching memory alongside Regina, Emma realizes that Regina’s tear won’t be enough, and conspires to use Violet to break Henry’s heart. She believes that this is for the best—for both freeing Merlin, and for Henry himself. Emma takes Violet’s heart, forcing the young maiden to break things off with Henry.
When Regina’s tear isn’t powerful enough, thanks to her recent love of Robin Hood, they use Henry’s instead. They are nearly stopped by Arthur and his knights, who call Emma and Regina liars and forbid them from releasing Merlin. Arthur, apparently, doesn’t want the sorcerer free until Excalibur is whole and he can use it against him…when this became his motivation, I’m not entirely sure. This falls in with several other leaps of faith required of viewers during this episode, such as Emma’s sudden ability to use dreamcatchers so unconventionally. One can only hope that things will be further explained in other episodes. At any rate, Merlin is freed and Emma’s parents released from the power of the sands of Avalon. Hook immediately asks Merlin if he can help Emma to be rid of the Darkness. Merlin says that he can, but that he requires one thing of Emma—in order to stop being the Dark One, her heart must be ready. It is as much her decision as his to return to the way things were.
In the present, Emma transports Merida and Rumple to the woods so that the young queen can train the former Dark One. Under Emma’s power, Merida attempts to force him to fight her using a sword. Rumple refuses time and time again, until Merida reappears with the chipped teacup. This spurs him momentarily into fighting for Belle’s memory and honor, and Merida sees that there is indeed heroic potential within him.
Meanwhile, Emma helps Henry to find Violet’s missing horse, and for just a while it feels like Henry has his mother back. It is obvious that Emma, even as the Dark One, still loves her son and will do anything to protect him and make him happy. What she doesn’t know is that while they’re away, Hook, Robin, and Regina break into her house in order to see what she’s been hiding in the basement. Aside from discovering Excalibur’s location, Regina sees a dreamcatcher and realizes that Emma used it to steal everyone’s memories. That particular dreamcatcher holds a specific person’s memories from Camelot, and they see the moment in which Emma takes Violet’s heart from her chest and orders her to break Henry’s. Henry finds out and is incredibly hurt that his mother would do such a thing, even as the Dark One. Regina confronts Emma about their stolen memories, and warns her to stay away from Henry.
1.) Oh, the parallels. What Emma once loathed in season-one-Regina is what she herself has become. Just as Regina unwittingly wandered down the same malevolent path as Cora, Emma is copying Regina. Regina has warned her now, repeatedly, about her actions, reminding her that she’s been there. If anyone knows what it’s like to be dark and turn away from it, it’s Regina! Right, Emma?
2.) To what else is Emma still emotionally attached? This is not the first time we’ve seen dreamcatchers on OUAT. They are tied in with the recently deceased Neal in a big way. We also glimpsed Emma surrounded by hundreds of dreamcatchers, and for a moment, she appeared sentimental. Is this simply indicative of the captured memories of the citizens of Storybrooke? Or will we see Neal again?
3.) What do we not yet know about Merlin? There must be a wealth of backstory here. Obviously, this Merlin is not the old, witty, curmudgeonly wizard from The Sword in the Stone. He’s a young, handsome man who had his heart broken when the Dark One destroyed the only woman he ever loved. Which woman? Which Dark One? Only time will tell.
Until next Sunday, dearies.
-The Collected Mutineer