Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep5 – Dreamcatcher

“The more you justify what you’re doing, the more you push them away. Take it from me, you’ll always lose the ones you love the most.”

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep5 - Dreamcatcher“Dreamcatcher” followed Emma and Regina helping Henry navigating his first romance (aww), Merida training Rumple to be brave, and Emma making a harsh decision that could ruin her relationship with Henry forever. Another eventful episode which didn’t always make sense and which skipped over some plot points. But it was was nevertheless entertaining because a lot of screen time was devoted to the Emma-Regina-Henry family dynamic, which has always been at the heart of the show. Some of the best moments of the episode involved this dynamic trio, from the triumph of their finally freeing Merlin from the tree to the heartbreak of Henry finding out how Emma had manipulated him to make that happen.

Emma looked through a magic dreamcatcher and conveniently discovered how Arthur had brainwashed her parents. So she uses her magic to freeze them right before Regina hands over the dagger to them. The dreamcatcher also reveals how Merlin ended up in the tree: he was put there by the original Dark One whom he blamed for ruining the only woman he ever loved. I’m fairly sure this masked Dark One IS that woman, so we’re going to see more about her soon.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep5 - DreamcatcherEmma also used the dreamcatcher to make Regina relive a past traumatic event – Cora killing Daniel – so that she could shed a tear of lost love. Lana Parrilla gave an excellent performance, as usual, and seeing the pain on her face as she watched her first heartbreak made all our hearts break over again. And judging by Emma’s shocked expression, she also felt for Regina and this act, while futile in terms of what they were trying to achieve, was still a major bonding moment for them as Emma came to better understand some of Regina’s past suffering.

In present day Storybrooke, Emma has a whole collection of dreamcatchers stored away where she apparently has stored the memories of individual citizens. Regina and the others break into Emma’s new house and discover a dreamcatcher that contains Violet’s memories of when Emma forced her to break Henry’s heart, so that she could get a tear of lost love. A pretty nasty move considering Emma wasn’t even full Dark One yet and one that she will find impossible to justify to her son, who has always believed in her and trusted her.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep5 - DreamcatcherWhat bugs me the most about this episode, though, is where did Emma find these dreamcatchers? Or even just the first one that she used in Camelot? Sure, it saved us going through the motions of seeing the Charmings brainwashed, but the show never really explained how Emma suddenly became so knowledgeable about this particular magical object. It holds sentimental value, sure, but why did she suddenly remember dreamcatchers? But let’s not dwell on that too much. It’s not worth it. Just go with the flow.

There were a lot of references to Neal/Baelfire (poor Neal) and I almost feel like he got more attention in this episode than he did when he was still alive. From Emma’s using a dreamcatcher because of her happier memories with him, to Rumple’s mentioning him as the reason for his becoming the Dark One, and Henry’s using his playlist to woo the girl he loves, Neal really played a crucial part in this episode, even more so than a lot of the background characters. I always felt that his character had a lot of potential and could really add something to the story so I was sad to see him go (and sadder to keep hearing characters like the sorcerer’s apprentice confirm that there is no way to bring him back.) He may be gone but he lives on in the characters’ fond memories of him.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep5 - DreamcatcherSpeaking of someone who will never forget him, Rumplestiltskin got an amusing training session with Merida, who was tasked with making the cowardly weakling into hero material. She goaded him and taunted him but still he refused to pick up a sword and face her. Robert Carlyle was fantastic as always, showing a truly vulnerable and pitiable Rumple while Merida came across as practically a bully. But she had no choice and when other methods failed, she shot arrows at doors and discovered the most effective motivator: Belle. And she was right, because as soon as Rumple began thinking of Belle’s safety more than his own, he was able to stand up and fight. And all the Rumbelle shippers cheered.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep5 - DreamcatcherAfter Emma’s deceit is discovered, she shows up at Regina’s door and tries to talk to Henry. But Regina gives her a stern talking to, calling her out on her trying to justify how she hurt Henry. She even compared Emma’s actions to Cora’s, arguing that people think “good reason” can justify bad deeds. The best line has to be:

“If I’m the one on the moral high ground, you’ve fallen quite a ways, Miss Swan.”

Screen shot 2015-10-28 at 4.01.19 PMThis episode also marked the arrival of Merlin in full powerful wizard mode, as opposed to his dapper cinema usher look from the season premiere. He releases the Charmings from Arthur’s brainwashing and greets Emma like an old friend. To everyone’s delight, he says he can release Emma from the grip of darkness but… only if she wants him to.

And the hesitation on her face tells us a lot, but not enough. When did Emma suddenly become obsessed with power? Was she really so desperate to free Merlin that she was willing to control a young girl and emotionally manipulate her own son? If this is the turning point where she becomes the Dark Swan, what made her take the next step? Am I missing something?

Anyway, next week on Once Upon a Time: we have a bear!