“Dreamcatcher” delivers more insights on Emma’s struggle to resist the darkness. Flashbacks to Team Heroes’ time in Camelot reveal how Emma keeps trying to find a loop-hole when it comes to using dark magic. Despite the warnings, she strives to overcome the odds of turning evil and uses her magic to get the results they desperately need. Perhaps freeing Merlin is worth taking a risk with dark magic, but how far is Emma really willing to go to vanquish the Dark One? In present day Storybrooke, we discover how Dark Swan has kept everyone’s memories of Camelot in dreamcatchers. Unfortunately, one of those memories exposes a secret that may make Henry lose faith in his mom.
Many years ago in Camelot
Merlin confronts the masked Dark One and blames this mystery man for destroying the woman he loved. For some reason, Merlin cannot kill the Dark One. As a tear rolls down his cheek, the Dark One catches the tear on the dagger and then uses it to imprison Merlin in the tree. This flashback certainly leaves us with a lot of questions: Who is the first Dark One? How did the Dark One destroy the love of Merlin’s life? Why didn’t Merlin kill the Dark One and eliminate this horrible threat from causing more darkness and destruction? Sadly, we’ll have to wait a while longer for those answers.
Six-ish weeks ago in Camelot
Emma tempts fate and uses her dark magic to view history in a dreamcatcher. Although using dark magic is bad and can lead to her ultimate demise, Emma is doing this for the right reasons. Team Heroes needs all the help they can get to free Merlin. Plus, he’s supposed to be able to remove the curse from Emma anyway, so why not use it and lose? She uses the dreamcatcher, sees the Charmings are under Arthur’s and immediately tells Regina about the King’s plans for the dagger. Regina chastises her, warning Emma not to use dark magic. Regina knows it is a slippery slope into darkness and argues a very valid case. Emma cattily replies, “I’m not you.”
Despite the jarring role reversal, Emma still has the Savior complex and overconfidently believes she can resist all temptation, even with imaginary Rumple’s relentless nagging. Since the damage is done and the dreamcatcher proved to be useful, they take another look and discover that a tear of lost love is the key to releasing Merlin from the tree. They just need to find a fresh one. Speaking of love, Henry is falling for Violet.
Henry and Violet are spending a lot of time together, especially in the stables. They bond over the loss of a parent and care for her horse, Nicodemus. Everything seems to be going smoothly, until Violet’s father, Sir Morgan, voices his disapproval. He thinks Henry is weak and unworthy since he is not a valiant knight in training. If only Morgan knew how many times Henry has been the hero of this epic story.
Henry confides in his moms and they encourage him to be himself. Violet finds Henry appealing because he is a mysterious stranger in this land. He has much more to offer her than any of the other boys. Regina explains that she fell in love with Daniel although the odds were stacked against them because he loved her for who she truly was. Light bulbs illuminate overhead and they split up to take care of their respective objectives.
Henry sets up an adorable date at Granny’s Diner and shows Violet things she’s never seen, like an iPhone and a movie. Sadly, once Violet realizes they’re on an official date, she breaks Henry’s heart and tells him she just wants to be friends. Ouch! Poor Henry. Back at the castle, Regina channels the loss of her first love to conjure a tear that can free Merlin.
Emma uses the dreamcatcher again and witnesses how Cora callously killed Daniel before Regina’s eyes. She can even feel the depths of Regina’s heartbreak and begins to understand her motives more than ever before. A tear trickles down Regina’s cheek. They capture the tear and add to a potion that should do the trick. Unfortunately, Regina’s old heartbreak is not strong enough to break the spell and free Merlin. As they realize this, Henry arrives with tears streaming down his face. Henry’s fresh tears of heartbreak over his first lost love are exactly what they need. Suddenly, Arthur appears and interrupts this vital moment.
While Arthur demands to be given the dagger, Emma quickly completes the spell using Henry’s tear and frees Merlin. The wizard appears and instantly gets to the point. He says, “I’ve been waiting for you, Emma.” Then he gravely expresses his disappointment in Arthur. Camelot’s King is not the hero he was destined to be. Arthur is enraged and lashes out at Merlin for giving him false prophecies and impossible quests since childhood. Yikes. The King is peeved and will not go down without a fight, but this isn’t the time.
Merlin meets Team Heroes and breaks Arthur’s spell over the Charmings. Phew! Now everybody can be on the same page again. Everyone is eager for Merlin to free Emma from the Dark One’s curse. Like everything else on “Once Upon A Time,” Merlin says discarding the Dark One won’t be easy. Plus, it isn’t only up to him. Merlin asks if Emma’s heart is truly ready to be free from darkness. Ultimately, Emma is the only one who can really free herself. Given Emma’s fate as Dark Swan and her current actions in Storybrooke, it looks like the former Savior has no intention of freeing herself from the darkness.
Present day in Storybrooke
Team Heroes thinks Arthur’s squire has escaped and no one suspects the King of any foul play. This is annoying. Also, is there no security footage in the sheriff’s department? You know Arthur wouldn’t even think of covering his tracks by fixing that. Anyway, that’s not the main focus. Everyone is concerned about what Emma is hiding in her basement. They also need to boost the town’s morale, so Henry suggests throwing a dance. So cute! In the middle of their plotting, Belle bursts in with news that Rumple is missing.
As you recall, Emma has Rumple tied up in her basement. She plans on using Merida to make him brave, so that he will be worthy enough to pull Excalibur from the stone. Rumple tries reasoning with her. He speaks from experience and makes an excellent point. He says the more she justifies what she’s doing, the more she’s pushing her loved ones away. Rumple warns, “You will lose the ones you love.” But Emma isn’t hearing it. She sends Merida and Rumple to the woods, where the redheaded warrior can make a hero out of the cowardly Ogre War dodger. Once they’re gone, Emma enters her garage. She looks at all the dreamcatchers hanging from the ceiling and she bursts into tears. Oh dear, Dark Swan, what have you done?
Everyone is scheming in Storybrooke. When Violet’s horse goes missing, Henry enlists Emma’s help to track him down. While Henry distracts Emma with Operation Cobra 2.0, Team Heroes breaks into her house.
Regina uses Henry’s scarf to get past Emma’s protection spell. Once inside, they find Excalibur and realize how it is connected to the Dark One’s dagger. As they’re leaving, Hook finds a dreamcatcher on Emma’s table and Regina knows how Dark Swan took their memories. Yup! This is way worse than thought. Elsewhere, Emma thinks she is beginning to bond with Henry again as they track down Nicodemus. The horse loves pumpkins, so they find him chowing down at Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater’s shop. Cute allusion, “Once.”
Henry achieves both of his goals. He distracts Emma long enough to give Team Heroes a fighting chance in this war against darkness and he becomes Violet’s valiant hero. Henry makes a grand entrance at the carnival, riding in on Nicodemus. Unlike what happened in Camelot, Sir Morgan praises young Henry for his bravery and skill. He believes the boy is heroic and humble. Henry would make a fine knight, without question. Of course, Henry’s greatest reward is a kiss on the cheek from Violet. Awww. While Henry gets his flirt on, Team Heroes takes care business.
The gang confronts Arthur about Excalibur and demands to know the story about its connection to the Dark One’s dagger. Arthur explains how once Excalibur is made whole again, the sword can destroy all light or dark magic. Now they know Emma is out to vanquish all the light, but they still have no idea how awful King Arthur really is. Ugh, there really is no aspect of this episode that doesn’t get under our skin at some point. At least Team Heroes made a major discovery because Emma is really close to getting what she wants.
Merida needs to find the right motivation for Rumple to be brave. A true warrior always thinks of what or who they are fighting for. That’s what gives them the kind of courage Rumple needs now. She reads about RumBelle’s love story in the book and realizes that Belle is Rumple’s greatest weakness. She returns to the woods with Chip. Merida forces him to take up arms and when he refuses to swing, she reminds Rumple what he has to fight for. Once Rumple starts thinking of Belle, he starts fighting for her. With the right motivation, Merida has set Rumple on the path to bravery. But will it be enough for Rumple to pull the sword from the stone? We’ll have to wait and see.
Now for the shocking and heartbreaking twist. Regina and Robin view the memory captured in the dreamcatcher they found at Emma’s. They watch as Emma takes Violet’s heart and commands her to break Henry’s heart so that she can use his fresh tear of his first lost love to free Merlin. Unfortunately, Henry oversees all of this and he is rightfully devastated. Later that night Emma comes to see Henry, thinking that they can do so more mother-son bonding.
Regina rips Emma a new one, as any Mama Bear would. Regina has been on the receiving and giving end of this kind of cruelty. She doesn’t care if Emma did it to free Merlin. Clearly freeing Merlin hasn’t made a difference since Emma inevitably became Dark Swan. Emma even tried making amends for her actions by setting Henry up to be Violet’s hero this time around by “relocating” Nicodemus. But that could never reverse the damage she has caused. Henry had faith in his mom, but this changes everything. He isn’t going to forgive her anytime soon, if ever. Poor Henry!
Whoa! This is a low blow, Oncers. How do you feel about Emma’s actions? Did she go too far? Do you give her benefit of the doubt since she was doing a bad thing for a good reason? Rumple and Merlin warned Emma that using dark magic for the right reasons doesn’t make it any better. Is there anyway Dark Swan can be saved after stooping so low? Will Henry ever be able to forgive her? How will Hook react when he discovers what Emma has done? How can Team Heroes help Emma if she isn’t willing to save herself? Share your thoughts below!
“Once Upon A Time” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
I have an insatiable passion for TV, Film, Music & Entertainment news (which is really a fancy way of saying I'm a TV addicted couch potato). I'm currently a National Examiner for "Galavant," "Once Upon A Time," "Saving Hope," and "Sleepy Hollow" on Examiner.com. I provide detailed, thoughtful, witty, and occasionally saucy recaps/reviews, as well as some fun and interesting interviews. You'll frequently see me tweeting away about my favorite shows. If you love chatting about TV as much I do, then join the fun and Talk TV with Tiffany!