Jennifer Morrison. Image courtesy ABC Studios
Recap by Zach Van Norman (@TheZachVan)
The fifth episode of Once Upon A Time’s fifth season was full of dreamcatchers; rather appropriate, given its title. But instead of warding off bad dreams, they actually brought nightmares to characters and changed one of the show’s most enduring relationships. Let's discuss what happened.
Once upon a time in Camelot, Merlin confronted the anonymous first Dark One and attempted to destroy them, but could not bring himself to do so and dropped the dagger, leading to the Dark One using his tear over his lost love to imprison him in a tree. (This memory is provided by Emma in the six-weeks-past timeline using a dreamcatcher.) Emma reveals her discovery to Regina in Merlin's tower, who realizes they can use a tear of lost love in a potion to free him, and the two of them set off to do so.
Lana Parrilla and Jennifer Morrison. Image courtesy ABC Studios
The two mothers meet with Henry and discuss his romantic interest in Violet, encouraging him to pursue her. Later, Emma uses a dreamcatcher to show Regina what happened to Daniel and make her cry; she is shocked by what Cora did, and Regina tells her that her mother did what she thought was best, though it was horrible.
Evening falls and Henry arranges a date with Violet at Granny’s but she turns him down, breaking his heart. Emma and Regina’s attempt to create the potion to free Merlin fails, since she has found new love with Robin Hood, and Henry arrives immediately after. When he tells his mothers what happened, he begins to cry and Regina adds his tears to the potion; while Arthur tries to stop them, he is unsuccessful and Emma uses a combination of light and dark magic to free Merlin. He removes Arthur’s spell from Snowing and explains that Emma can only freed from the Darkness if she wants it to happen.
Jennifer Morrison, Elliot Knight. Images courtesy ABC Studios.
Meanwhile in Storybrooke, Emma forces Merida to teach Mr. Gold how to be brave so that he can remove Excalibur from the stone and fulfill her plans. Though she appears heartless (like Merida), her softer side is revealed when she goes to her garage and holds a dreamcatcher to her chest, one of many dreamcatchers which hang above. At the sheriff’s station, Henry suggests holding a dance to lift the spirits of their Arthurian guests and then meets with Violet, learning that her horse Nicodemus has escaped. In the forest, Merida tries to get Gold to be brave but he resists, so she knocks him and steals something from his shop. Henry goes to Emma’s house, asks for her help in finding Violet’s steed, and the two of them find him at a pumpkin patch.
Jennifer Morrison, Jared Gilmore. Image courtesy ABC Studios
OutlawQueen, Belle and Hook break into Emma’s house using Henry’s scarf to break the protection spell, and discover Excalibur in the caverns below; Hook finds a dreamcatcher in the living room and Regina takes it when they leave. That evening, Storybrooke holds a carnival and Snowing, Belle and Hook discuss the history of Excalibur with Arthur while Henry returns Nicodemus to Violet. While this occurs, Merida goes to Gold in the forest and reveals she stole the chipped cup, leading to Gold asserting some courage and fighting her for it.
Robert Carlyle. Image courtesy ABC Studios.
At home, Regina uses magic on the stolen dreamcatcher to find out what happened in Camelot and discovers Emma’s dark secret: Emma took Violet’s heart and forced her to break Henry’s heart in order to break Henry’s heart and get his tear. Henry sees it and is heartbroken all over again. Emma arrives at Regina’s to see Henry and Regina confronts her over what happened to Violet, Emma explains that she did what she thought was right to free Merlin (just like Cora did to Regina), but Regina tells her that Henry is devastated and will not see her; as Emma leaves, Henry looks down on her from his bedroom window and then closes the curtains, shutting her out.
This episode was essential to Emma’s journey as the Dark One by revealing her first step into darkness as she broke Henry’s heart. This was a devastating move for her and went against everything we’ve come to know about the Savior. Though she has been through many tests in the past, none were as severe as ripping out two teenagers’ hearts (Violet literally, Henry figuratively) and her choice finally gave her a shade of grey found in nearly every other character on the show, emphasizing the theme that good and evil are not black and white. It also changed her relationship with Henry in a nearly irreparable way, estranging her son from her for the first time, and also lead to a role-reversal with Regina. In the first season it was Emma in the red jacket telling Regina how she was doing Henry wrong, and now it is Regina who has the moral high ground.
The Savior has fallen quite far, indeed.