"Dreamcatcher" is the 93rd episode of Once Upon a Time.
In Camelot, with Mary Margaret and David attempting to retrieve the Dark One's dagger, Emma uses a dreamcatcher to look into the past to see how Merlin was transformed into a tree. Together with Regina, she figures out the critical ingredient they must acquire to free him, but it's a race against Arthur, who doesn't want the Sorcerer released. Tangential to this, with a little encouragement from his moms, Henry finally musters up the courage to ask Violet out on a date while, back in Storybrooke, the heroes break into the Dark Swan's house hoping to locate Gold; what they find instead, however, will give them a glimpse of her ultimate endgame plan. At the same time, far from prying eyes, Merida sets about the mission she's been tasked with and begins molding a well-known coward into the kind of hero that's needed to draw Excalibur.
Previously on Once Upon a Time...
Merlin tells a young Emma to leave "the sword" alone. ("The Dark Swan") Grif tells King Arthur he'd do anything for Camelot, so Arthur asks him to drink some poison. ("Siege Perilous") Snow warns Charming that they cannot trust King Arthur. Later, Guinevere brainwashes them with Sands of Avalon. Even later, the brainwashes couple assure Regina that Arthur can be trusted. ("The Broken Kingdom") A captive Rumple asks Emma to set him free, but she tells him he's the only one who can pull Excalibur for her; he tells her he can't. ("The Broken Kingdom")
Many Years Ago
Merlin faces the first Dark One.
On a dark and misty night, Merlin walks through the woods as a mysterious figure follows him around. He calls out for the Dark One numerous times before entering an opening in the woods, where he finally grows impatient and pulls out the Dark One's dagger, commanding the beast to stop. The Dark One, who is dressed in black robes and wearing a golden mask, suddenly halts right in front of him, standing perfectly still. "You destroyed her..." Merlin angrily tells the Dark One, pointing the dagger at it, "The only woman I ever loved" continues, starting to tear up. He grabs the dagger with both hands and holds it above his head, stating he'll now destroy the Dark One. However, as he stares at the masked face of the person before him, he finds himself unable to kill it, "I can't" he says, dropping to the floor, letting go of the dagger with him. The Dark One instantly picks up the dagger and grabs Merlin by his head, holding the dagger at him. "I miss her" the sorcerer grieves. He lets out a tear and the Dark One catches it with the dagger, causing it to glow purple. It proceeds to step away from Merlin and points the dagger at him. Suddenly vines begin to wrap around the young sorcerer, and in a matter of seconds, he turns into a huge tree. The Dark One is left watching the tree.
We suddenly see Emma Swan, during the missing six weeks in Camelot, watching this event in history through a magically enchanted dream catcher which glows bright yellow. She darkly stares at the dream catcher for a moment after watching this memory before taking her attention to the tree where Merlin is still trapped.
ONCE UPON A TIME
The brainwashed Snow and David are not subtle.
As Regina, Snow and Charming walk through the woods of Camelot (the latter two still under Arthur's control), the former asks if they really think giving Arthur the dagger is the best idea. Snow assures her they trust him and David adds "Implicitly". Regina sarcastically asks if he learned that word at "shepherd's school" before asking how they know they can trust him. Charming explains that they're good judges of character and they'd never act against Emma's best interest. As they stop at a hollow tree trunk, Snow eagerly asks if the dagger is inside. Regina pulls out the wrapped up dagger, but becomes hesitant before she hands it over to the couple, asking if they're sure handing the one thing that can control their daughter over to Arthur is the right thing to do. A frustrated Snow asks Regina if she's lost the power of comprehension, "Hand over the da-" she yells before being cut off, frozen by magic. A confused Regina looks over to see Emma as the source of magic before angrily asking when she became so liberal with dark magic.
Emma exposes Arthur's wickedness.
Emma tells her she had no choice because Arthur has them under a spell because he wants them to bring him the dagger so he can reunite it with Excalibur. "Unite it?" Regina asks, leading Emma to explain it was once one blade but broken in half a long time ago. The brunette asks what happens when they're together, so the blonde answers that he wants to kill Merlin with it, pointing out that'd be bad for them all. Regina asks how she knows this, questioning how she knows this isn't just the darkness inside her rearing it's head. Emma insists its true before saying they don't have a lot of time as Arthur is expecting them soon. Regina stops her, pointing out that Arthur is the king, "So you wanna take on all of Camelot?" she asks. Emma states that she wants to free Merlin first so she can help her parents and stop Arthur. Regina comments that it's a great plan, but they have no idea how to get him out of the tree, "You already said it. Dark magic" Emma suggests, but Regina refuses, telling her she cannot keep using it. Emma tells the brunette it's a risk she's willing to take, but Regina warns her that she's been on "that slippery slope", pointing out she knows where it got her, "All due respect, I'm not you" Emma replies.
Henry suggests having a dance.
"So he just vanished?" Hook asks the group with him in the sheriff's station, talking about the missing Grif. Robin questions if the squire had magic, but Arthur claims he never saw that he did. David points out that there's no signs of tampering, so Arthur claims that he must've lied about having the bean and used it to leave for Camelot. Guinevere asks how he could be so selfish, for they could all be home by now, "Desperate time" the king comments. Guinevere goes on to say that their people really want to go home so they must do something to raise their spirits because the despair of "all this" caused this trouble so more could follow. Snow agrees and offers to provide it, for they're their hosts. As David watches Henry texting Violet, Regina asks Snow what she has in mind. Henry suggests a dance, so David asks if that's just an excuse to ask his "girlfriend" on a date. A confused Regina begins asking who this girlfriend is while Snow agrees a dance sounds like a great idea. Hook offers to give dating advice to Henry, but Regina refuses. Snow then ushers the blind-sighted Regina away so they can start planning.
A while later, as the group walk down the streets of Storybrooke, Regina asks Snow what she knows about "this girlfriend", but Belle comes rushing up to them before anyone can answer. Snow asks her what's wrong, so Belle informs that group that it's about Rumple, "He's missing".
Rumplestiltskin pleads to be let go.
Meanwhile, underneath the Swan House, Rumple is tied to a metal wall as Emma tells him he'll need his strength if he's going to remove the sword. With the wave of her hand, the ropes holding Rumple are loosened, leading him to tell the Dark One he won't be able to do what she wants, "You should really just let me go...please? I need to see Belle" he tells her, terrified. Emma leans on Excalibur and tells him he's not going anywhere until he gets her the sword. Confused, he points out that she has so much power, "Why do you need Excalibur?" he wonders, leading her to question if he advertised his plans when he was the Dark One. He admits that his plans were always hidden, but his reasons weren't, explaining that every time he used magic he told himself it was all for his son and to protect him. "How noble" Emma comments, leading Rumple to point that despite his best intentions, he still lost him.
Emma reminds Merida to comply.
Emma tells her prisoner she's stronger than he was, so he steps forward, almost falling due to his limp, "That really doesn't matter. The more you justify what you're doing, the more you push them away" he tells her, warning her you always lose the ones you love the most. Emma stares at Rumple for a moment before calling out "Merida". The redhead comes out from behind her and Emma instructs her to take him out to the woods and "begin". Merida angrily asks how long she thinks she can hold her heart and threaten her, so Emma tells her she'll do it as long as it takes her to get what she wants. "Maybe, but I'm thinking I can break your spell" she says before charging at the Dark One. Emma turns around, with Merida's heart in her hand and she squeezes it tightly. Merida stops in her tracks as Emma tells her to take Rumple to the woods and make him into a hero. Obliging to her master's request, Merida walks towards the coward and grabs his arm. Emma sends them away with her magic, leaving her alone.
The Dark Swan gets emotional.
A few moments later, after returning to the upstairs of her house, Emma exits out the back door and heads down some white stairs which lead to her garden. She walks across the grass and pavement towards a large wooden shed which is locked by a metal lock. She uses her magic to effortlessly open it and then she makes her way inside. Inside the shed are dozens of dream catchers hanging from the roof and a small desk in the center of the shed with a lamp and dream catcher materials on it. Emma has been making them since becoming the Dark One and not being able to sleep. She takes one of the dream catchers from the roof and then looks at it sadly before hugging it tightly against her chest. As she hugs the dream catcher she becomes emotional and begins crying.
Regina is given an idea by Emma.
Back in Camelot during the missing six weeks, in Merlin's tower, Emma places a book onto a surface as she explains to Regina they need to find out how the potion they've been working on will react to her dark magic before asking her to bring a vial. Regina states she's not doing a thing until she tells her how she knew David and Snow were under a spell. "We don't have time for this" Emma mutters, but Regina demands she make time. Emma picks up a dream catcher and reveals she saw from it, leading Regina to point out it is dark magic, "I know" Emma says. Regina adds that they also catch more than dreams, "I know" Emma repeats, leading Regina to explain you have to wave it over someone to capture a memory, "I don't" Emma reveals, explaining that the dark magic is strong and more unpredictable than any she's ever used, "The image just appeared. It showed me what Arthur did to them" she tells the brunette before assuring her it'll be okay because it also showed her a memory that's going to help them. She tells Regina she saw Merlin's memory, and in it, he wept for the loss of the only woman he ever loved moments before the Dark One trapped him in the tree using one of the tears. Regina suddenly gets an idea and tells the blonde that spells are sometimes like snake bites, "You can make the anti venom with the venom". She theorizes that if a tear of lost love was able to trap Merlin, then another one might be able to get him out, "So what do you say? Let's go get ourselves a tear".
Violet and Henry bond over lost parents.
Violet and Henry are in the former's stables brushing a horse when the latter asks how long she's had Nicodemus. She explains her mother gave him for her seventh birthday, explaining she was a champion rider. She suddenly becomes quiet and sadly reveals her mother passed away soon after. Henry confides in her that his dad died before he got to know him, saying there's so much he wishes he could tell him. An upset Violet agrees and tells him she's never met anyone she could talk to about this before. The two kids share a comforting smile before Violet leaves to put away the horse's saddle away. Once alone, Henry heads over to a sword rested on a nearby table and picks it up and begins role-playing, asking a pretend Violet if he pulls Excalibur from the stone he'll forever be her hero. As he picks up the sword, it hits the ground as he struggles to hold the weight of it.
Henry encounters Violet's father.
Henry swings the sword around for a while and then when he lifts it over his head, it pulls him backwards into a wooden fence, smashing it. As he lays on the ground in pain, a man shouts out, asking what's going on. The man comes across the boy and asks if he's one of the visitors from the other land. He then effortlessly picks up the sword Henry dropped and suddenly realizes he's the one who's been running around with his daughter. Henry nervously introduces himself and then asks if he's Violet's father. The man sternly tells the boy to call him Sir Morgan before asking how old he is. Henry answers that he's thirteen, shocking Morgan, for he has no skills with a sword or horse, "What sort of a squire are you?". Henry tells him he's not a squire, but a writer. Morgan becomes angry and asks Henry how he'd protect Violet with a pen when Ogre's attack the kingdom before stating she belongs with someone who will become a knight, "Now get out of here before you cause any more damage".
Henry offers to help Violet.
Back in Storybrooke, in the present, Henry approaches Violet, who is sitting at a bench, and asks if she got his text about the party. She tells him he did, but seems distracted by something, so Henry asks if everything's okay. She explains that she's not in the mood for parties because her horse ran off that morning. Henry wonders if she checked the stables, but Violet assures him that he's gone and her father is out trying to lure him in with pumpkin, his favorite treat. Henry comforts her by explaining the town isn't that big so he'll come back and then supposes tonight will help get her mind off of it. A worried Violet tells him she won't be able to go to a party or dance while he's still out there, so he assures her that he'll find her horse and he knows just the person that can help.
A favor is asked of Emma.
A short while later, there's a knock at the Swan House door. Emma answers to see Henry waiting on the porch, leaning against a pillar. As she approaches him, he asks if she remembers why he first brought her to Storybrooke. "Of course. Operation Cobra: Bring back all the happy endings" she confirms, leading her son to explain her mission isn't over. She puts her hand on his arm and explains things are different now, but he stands up and tells her they don't have to be, "Show me that the mom I know is still in there somewhere". Emma promises that she is, "This is me". He tells her to prove it by helping bring back his friend's happy ending. She lets out a warm smile for her son, seemingly agreeing.
Merida begins training Rumple.
Meanwhile, out in the woods, Merida throws the weak Rumple a sword, warning him not to run with his limp because he wouldn't make it ten feet, "Pick up the bloody sword and let's make a hero of you". She draws her sword, but Rumple explains he can barely stand, let alone fight someone. The redhead thinks for a moment and then finds a large stick which she snaps and gives him to use as a cane, explaining that all a man needs is a sword and one good hand, "You've got both so pick it up". He goes to pick up the sword, struggling to do so with his limp, but when he grabs it, Merida knocks it from his grip with hers. A frustrated Rumple comments that this is useless and claims Emma should just let him try pulling Excalibur and when he fails she can move on. Merida points out that when he fails he turns to dust, so he asks why she cares what happens to him. She tells him she doesn't, but she cares about what happens to her, her brothers and her kingdom, none of which she can help while this goes on, "So whether you like it or not, you're going to get me home". Rumple shakes his head and tells her he can never be brave. Merida becomes angry that her fate rests in the hands of a coward before telling him he will be brave, for he has to. He tells her she has the wrong man, so the redhead approaches him and says if words won't drive him then they'll have to find another way, "There has to be something and I'm gonna find it" she promises before hitting him in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious.
Henry tells Emma he's missed spending time with her.
As Emma and Henry leave the Swan House and head towards the yellow bug, the former asks if the horse likes pumpkin, leading the latter to explain Violet's dad is out trying to lure it in with some. Recalling her time as a bail bond, Emma tells him she once caught a guy because he loved pizza, but she didn't go walking around with a slice of pepperoni, "There is a better way". Just as they're about to get in the car, Henry tells his mother that he's missed this, "Us. Operation Cobra". Emma smiles and tells him she has too. They both enter the car and then Emma asks about him and Violet. The boy claims she's okay and they like some of the same stuff. Emma wonders what, so he tells her he played music she liked. She asks what he played, so he tells her it was Yaz. She then asks which song, so he explains he played Only You. She wonders if his father taught him that move, so Henry recalls he said it always works, "It did with me" Emma confesses before remembering how much Neal loved that song. "It's a good song..." Henry sadly comments, to which Emma agrees. Emma suddenly puts on a happy face to change the mood of the car and she starts the engine ready to go find the horse. She explains she has a good idea where to start before driving away.
Emma and Regina co-parent their son.
Back in Camelot during the missing six weeks, Henry is in the middle of the woods practicing his sword fighting when his two mothers walk up to him. He drops the sword so Regina warns him to be careful. The boy greets his two mothers and explains he's trying to get into the "Camelot spirit" and trying to understand the world. Emma wonders why he's swordfighting, so he explains that Violet's father advised him to fit in. He begins worrying that he'll never be good at it, so Emma assures him it's fine if he isn't and changing so someone likes you never works, adding that she liked his Neal because he was always himself. Henry supposes if he tried he could maybe be something better than he is, pointing out if Regina didn't change for the better then she wouldn't be with Robin. Regina says that's true, but then asks if he thinks Violet would be interested in a boy who is like all the others from Camelot. She asks if he remembers when she told him about Daniel, so he recalls he was her first love. She comments that she fell for him because he was so different and unique from the others. Emma tells Henry that in Camelot he's a mysterious stranger from an exotic land, which is a good thing. Henry smiles says he can work with that and then rushes off to go make a few arrangements. Once alone, an idea suddenly hits Regina and she tells the blonde she knows where they can get their missing ingredient to free Merlin, "From me". Emma gives her an interested look.
Regina relives the death of her first love.
A short while later, inside the castle of Camelot, Emma, who is holding a dreamcatcher tells Regina that "this" will be intense, but the queen assures her she can take it. She hands Regina the dreamcatcher and instructs her to look into the circle before using her magic to show her memory of the night Cora killed Daniel. Within the memory, Cora asks if this is Regina's final decision and if it will make her happy. Regina tells her mother it already has, so Cora asks herself who she is to stop them. Regina hugs and then thanks her mother for understanding. Cora then steps away from Regina and moves towards Daniel, taking him aside. She tells Daniel that if he wants a life and a family together with Regina, then there's one lesson she can import on him, what it means to be a parent; you always have to do what's best for your children. Cora suddenly thrusts her hand into his chest. He groans with pain and Regina cries with horror. She pulls out Daniel's heart, which has now been enchanted with magic and he falls to the floor, weak. Regina runs to his aid in horror, but it's too late, her mother has already crushed his heart to dust, killing him. Back in Camelot, Regina cries as she watches this memory and Emma is left horrified by what she's seen. Emma apologizes for Regina, who comments that it was like it was happening all over again. As a tear falls down Regina's cheek, Emma catches it in a vial and then thanks her before telling her she didn't know how things were for her, leading a puzzled Regina asks if she could see the memory too. Emma tells the brunette she didn't know a mother could do something like that. Regina explains that her mother thought it was for the best before taking a sigh of sadness.
Belle comes up with an idea on how to break inside Emma's house.
Back in Storybrooke, in the present, Regina tells Hook, Robin and Belle that it's "showtime" as Henry has Emma occupied. As they approach the Swan House, Hook questions if she's told her son what she's doing, so she tells him she hasn't, but he'll let them know when Emma heads back. Ready, she reaches for the door, but a magical spell repels her, leading Robin to ask if she's okay. She points out that there's a protection spell and Hook notes Emma doesn't want her trespassing. Regina asks him if he wants to try, but he assures her he knows she won't want him to. Belle realizes that Emma would let Henry in and asks Regina if she's got anything of his on her. She instantly summons her son's scarf with magic, commenting that she does now. She covers her hand with the scarf and then attempts to open the door again, this time it works. Regina smile and quietly thanks Henry, calling him their hero.
The date begins with a smile...
Back in Camelot during the missing six weeks, Only You by Yazoo plays inside Granny's Diner as Henry sets up a table for two. After placing a vase of flowers on the table, Violet enters the diner with a smile, grabbing Henry's attention. "Uh, hi milady...I mean Violet" he awkwardly stutters before inviting her to sit down. She sits down and thanks Henry, who stands and takes her cloak off. He then sits opposite her as she tells him she was excited to get his note because she was worried after he vanished from the stables. "You were?" he asks with a smile, leading Violet to ask if he wanted her to be worried. "Yes" he responds, quickly changing his answer to "No" before awkwardly asking if she's thirsty. He grabs a can of soda and cracks it open, causing it to hiss. Violet excitedly asks if it's magic, but he explains that it's soda before asking her to try some. She takes a sip and comments that it's like a "carnival in a can". An awkward silence follows and the two kids stare at each other before Henry suddenly speaks, explaining that they're in Granny's, adding that it's "pretty great".
...and ends with a broken heart.
Henry tells Violet there was some lasagna in the fridge that didn't go bad, so he was able to heat it up. Due to the fact he's talking about weird stuff so casually, she tells him "You really are from another world". He asks if that's okay and she confirms it is. He tells her that after dinner he thought they could watch a movie, but Violet gives him a puzzled look. He pulls out his phone and says it's better if he shows her. He comments that if he knew he was coming he'd have downloaded more movies, but he has Commando and Harold and Maude, the latter of which he thinks is a good date movie. Violet asks what a date is, but Henry awkwardly tells her it doesn't matter. Suddenly realizing what is happening, she asks if he is courting her, to which he replies "Maybe". Violet suddenly becomes awkward and tells him he's sweet, but she doesn't feel the same way. Henry realizes her father must have talked to her, but she assures him that's not it. A heartbroken boy tells Violet her father doesn't think he's a hero, "But I am". The young girl tells him she thought they were just spending time together as friends and she liked it better that way. After she apologizes, Henry sits back into his chair, devastated.
Merida looks for something useful.
Back in Storybrooke, over at the Town Hall within the mayor's office, Merida, after having broken into the office, places Henry's storybook, which she stole, onto the desk. She flips through the pages to get to the stories on Rumplestiltskin, and then she eventually comes across a page that has a picture of him holding the chipped cup in front of Belle. She taps the page with her finger and smiles, having been given an idea.
A short while later, the door to Mr. Gold's pawnshop is forcefully opened by an arrow show from Merida's bow. The redhead makes it through the shop and into the back room before looking in a cupboard. While searching through the items, something catches her attention, so she grabs it, stating "That'll do".
Henry finds Nicodemus.
Meanwhile, having reached their destination, Emma and Henry get out the yellow bug as the latter comments "This is genius". As they approach a pumpkin farm, Emma explains that after the first curse ended a guy named Peter opened it, and she wouldn't have known about it if it wasn't for the noise complaints, "Because Peter Peter likes his parties". After claiming she hadn't thought of this place until he mentioned pumpkins, the sound of a horse is heard and soon Nicodemus gallops towards the mother and son. Emma approaches the horse, but it begins neighing and jumping on its hind legs in terror. She tells Henry to stay back, but when the horse continues to be frightened, Henry suggests she step back and let him handle it. Emma insists she didn't do anything, but Henry points out that she's the Dark One before telling her to get back. She reluctantly complies, but Henry assures her it's fine as he grabs a slice of pumpkin and approaches the horse. He slowly approaches the horse and successfully manages to calm it down with the pumpkin. He grabs it's reins and walks past his mother, smugly telling her he told her so. "Now you've got your girl's horse don't you have a dance to get to?" Emma smiles.
Excalibur is discovered.
Over at the Swan House, Regina, Hook, Belle and Robin make their way down into the basement where they find Excalibur in it's stone, so Regina comments they now know why Emma didn't want the pirate down here. He points out that he thinks she doesn't want anyone to see it and he knows why, "Take a gander. Excalibur looks quite familiar". Belle examines the sword and points out that it has the same design and edges as the Dark One's dagger. Regina asks what she wants with the sword and Gold, leading Robin to point out that whatever it is, it's probably not good. Wanting to take a better look, Hook moves to pull the sword out, but Regina warns him that it may be booby trapped. As Regina and Hook argue over her caring, Belle finds some rope on the floor and points out to the group that Rumple was there. Robin suggests searching the rest of the house, but Regina receives a text message and tells the group there's no time because Emma is on her way back. The four of them rush upstairs, but just as they're about to leave the house, Hook notices something sitting on a table. He walks towards a box sat and opens it, finding a dreamcatcher inside. Robin asks what it is, so Hook explains it's a dreamcatcher. He explains that Baelfire gave her one similar to it a long time ago, "But this...it's different". Belle asks why she'd have it, so Regina explains that they can be more than just objects of folklore, for when they're imbued with magic they can be quite powerful. She tells the group that she thinks she knows how Emma took their memories.
A fresh tear is collected from Henry.
Back in Camelot during the missing six weeks, Emma and Regina are stood in the courtyard near the Merlin tree with a several potions sat in front of them for a small ritual. Regina tells the blonde to hurry, for Arthur could turn up any minute. She places several potions in a pot before adding the final ingredient, the tear. Once it enters the pot, a cloud of smoke appears, but soon dissipates. A confused Regina claims it should have worked, but Emma points out that her heartbreak wasn't strong enough. She explains to a shocked Regina that she's with Robin now, so she's moved on and healed. Henry suddenly approaches his mother's, apologizing for being late. Noticing something is wrong with him, Emma asks if he's okay, but Regina doesn't believe him when he claims to be fine. Getting upset, he tells them he doesn't want to talk about it, so Emma assures him that he can tell them anything. The heartbroken boy explains that he tried acting like himself for Violet, but she didn't want anything to do with him. He cries that he'll never be a hero in this world. Regina catches his tear with a handkerchief and she tells him that even though he might not be a hero in Violet's world, he'll be one in theirs.
Merlin is finally rescued.
Emma explains that this tear will work, leading Henry to ask if she can free Merlin. Emma tells her son that they can save him and then they smile at each other. However, King Arthur suddenly yells for them to stop. As he approaches the family with his knights, he angrily warns them to stay away from the tree, stating he won't ask twice. "You and your people have done nothing but lie to me ever since you got here, you're no savior, you're a fraud" he hisses at Regina, who threatens him in return. The king points out that they welcomed and celebrated them, and in return they brought the Dark One into the heart of the kingdom. He demands that they give him the dagger, but Regina creates a fireball in order to distract the king while she slips Emma the tear. The blonde places the ingredient in the pot, successfully enacting the spell. Light and dark magic surround Emma, so Arthur orders his knights to charge. Regina throws fireballs at the king, distracting him long enough for Emma to harness the magic, which she uses to blast at the tree. When the magic dissipates, a hooded man is left in the place of where the tree once was. Merlin removes his hood, revealing his face to everyone in the courtyard, before smiling and saying "I've been waiting for you...Emma".
King Arthur confronts Merlin.
Everyone stands motionless in the courtyard of Camelot's castle as Merlin turns to Arthur, the boy who would be king, and tells him he had great hope...but he's disappointed him. "I disappointed you?" a furious Arthur asks, yelling that the sorcerer gave him false prophecies, sent him on an impossible quest and ruined his life. The king half draws Excalibur, but Merlin rolls his eyes and tells him to put it away, for they both know it can't hurt him. Arthur stares at Merlin for a few moments before giving in, and putting Excalibur away, "This is not finished" he warns the sorcerer before leaving with his knights.
Arthur explains the power that Excalibur possesses.
Back in Storybrooke, in the present, as the party being thrown for the people of Camelot goes on, Arthur, Guinevere, Hook, Snow, David and Belle sit at a table as the pirate explains they found Excalibur in Emma's basement. Arthur insists that they get it back at once, for it would be disastrous if the Dark One gained possession of it. Hook asks if that's anything to do with its resemblance to the Dark One's dagger and the royal couple seem shocked at his knowledge. After being asked how he knows of the dagger, Hook explains that he spent a lifetime trying to end the Dark One's existence, so he knows much about it, but what he doesn't know about is Excalibur. Arthur explains that the dagger and Excalibur were forged as one weapon and then broken in two, so he's spent years trying to reunite them. Snow realizes that's why he was so interested in the dagger when he arrived, so Arthur apologizes, claiming he needed to know if he could trust them. He goes on to explain that the restored weapon has great power that can eradicate all dark magic forever. David says that's a good thing, but Arthur further explains that in the wrong hands it can also destroy all light magic. Hook realizes that's Emma's plan, "To snuff out the light forever". A devastated Snow asks what happened in Camelot, "How did Emma fall so far?" she sighs before looking at the ground sadly.
Second first impressions.
Meanwhile, a sad Violet walks through the party with her father through the party, who asks her to try and have some fun. Around them, everyone else enjoys the event, including Doc and Bashful, who play on the amusements. Suddenly, a horse's neigh is heard, catching Violet's attention. Henry rides Nicodemus through the center of the party and approaches the girl, getting off once he reaches her. A happy Violet tells him he did it and Sir Morgan thanks the boy. Violet introduces her father to Henry, and the knight tells the boy he's made his daughter very happy, so they owe him a great deal of thanks. Henry insists it was nothing, so Morgan comments that he's heroic and humble, "You're a good man, Henry. You'll make a fine knight some day". Henry thanks Sir Morgan, who tells the two children to enjoy the festivities. He then walks away with Nicodemus, leaving them alone. Once alone, Violet thanks Henry and gives him a peck on the cheek, causing them both to smile. They then walk off to enjoy the party.
Merida reminds Rumple what he has to fight for.
In the woods, Merida kicks Rumple to wake him up, and he sees the redhead standing over him holding her sword, "Glad to see the bears didn't get ya" she comments before swinging the blade at the ropes that are tying him to a tree. As he removes the ropes from himself, he pleads with Merida, claiming he can't fight. She tells him he "won't" fight, which is a big difference. She recalls how her father told her if she wants a "lad" to fight, then she has to give him something to fight for. She puts the sword against his neck, so he asks what she's doing. She pulls out the chipped cup and explains she's reminding him what he has to fight for. She walks away, taunting him with it as it hangs from her finger. He asks where she got it, but she points out it means something to him. Rumple stands himself up using his makeshift cane and the redhead tells him if he wants the cup then he has to fight her for it. She throws him her sword and he catches it, but throws it to the ground and tries to grab the cup instead. Merida knocks Rumple to the floor and taunts him further, noting that the cup must be fragile since it's chipped, "We wouldn't want to drop it now, would we?". He begs her not to, but she whips him with another sword before asking what happened with Belle and if she saw the "yellow belly man" he really is. She continues to taunt Rumple about Belle, but this time it finally gets to him, and he grabs the other sword, taking a swing at her. She deflects his strike and asks if he "felt it". She explains when he made that swing he wasn't thinking about himself or the limp, he was thinking about "her". She tells him it was an act of true bravery and ask if he's ready to try again. She makes small swings at him and he deflects them, pleasing her. Merida then tells him they've got a long way to go before they can take on Emma.
Emma's dark secret is discovered.
A while later, at the Mills House, Regina holds the dreamcatcher they found in Emma's house in front of Robin and herself. She supposes if Emma used it to take their memories then it can maybe show them what happened in Camelot. Robin asks what they're waiting for, but noticing Regina's reluctance, he realizes she's afraid of what she might see. She points out that Emma claims to have good reason for what she's done, so who knows what happened there. Robin tells her there's only one way to find out, so Regina agrees and then uses her magic to activate the dreamcatcher. They watch as the dreamcatcher shows the time Henry met Violet, so Robin asks if they're the boy's memories. When the memory switches to just Violet alone in the stables, Regina realizes it's hers. With that, Henry silently approaches the doorway and watches as his mother watches the memories. In the memory, Violet finds a note left by Henry asking her to meet him at Granny's Diner for a surprise; she smiles. Emma suddenly appears beside her and asks if she can keep a secret. The young girl promises she can, so Emma, who takes Violet's hands, explains that Henry can never know about "this". She thrusts her hand into the young girl's chest and rips out her heart. She assures the frightened girl that she will get her heart back, but she needs her help first. She asks what she needs, so Emma explains that she needs a fresh tear of a lost first love, "I need you to break Henry's heart". Regina and Robin are mortified at what they just witnessed, but they're soon distracted by the sound of something hitting the floor behind them. They turn to see a distraught and speechless Henry standing in the doorway. "Henry..." Regina says sadly as she watches her heartbroken son.
Merlin asks Emma if she's ready to be free of the darkness.
In Camelot during the missing six weeks, at Granny's Diner in the middle of the woods, Merlin uses his magic on the frozen Snow and David, releasing them from King Arthur's spell. Once done, Emma nods to thank him before turning to her confused parents, who instantly apologize, claiming they'd never have confronted Arthur alone if they knew how bad he was. She assures them it's okay, telling them she's glad Merlin could help. "Merlin? You're Merlin" a shocked David asks the sorcerer, "Expecting someone..." Merlin asks, leading David to finish with "Older". He jokes that being a tree is good for your skin. Hook interrupts and asks the sorcerer if he can do what his apprentice said and free Emma from the darkness. "Sure" Merlin replies, pleasing everyone before he goes on to explain that darkness takes hold of a person and digs deep where no one else can see, so if he's to free her from its grasp then he must know one thing, "Emma, is your heart truly ready to be free? Because it is as much up to you as me" he asks. Emma stares back at the sorcerer.
Emma comes to see Henry.
Back in Storybrooke, a knock is heard at the Mills House and Regina opens the door to find Emma on the other side. She asks the Dark One, in a frustrated tone, what's going on, so she explains she's here to see Henry. Regina tells her that's not what she means before pointing out she took their memories and now Gold, "What are you trying to do?" she asks, although Emma remains silent. Growing desperate, Regina tells Emma there's nothing she can't come back from if she just tells them. Emma claims that what she's doing is her business and it's for the best, "Trust me". Regina tells her she did, and like Henry she was seeing the good in her, but she was wrong. She goes on to say that she thought Emma could be different and escape the darkness, "But then you had to go and rip a thirteen year old girl's heart out". "What?" an angry Emma asks, stepping forward, leading Regina to show her the dreamcatcher they found, "Now you're breaking and entering?" Emma asks, infuriating Regina, who claims she doesn't get to be self righteous after what she's done.
Regina pities what Emma has become.
Regina reveals that Henry saw what she did and he's devastated, but Emma explains she was trying to make it up to him. Regina asks if that was by reuniting a girl and her horse before supposing she probably let the animal out in the first place. She reminds Emma that she has experience with Dark Ones and she knows everything is a manipulation. Turning away, Emma claims it would have been fine if she stayed out of it, "Maybe you're the one causing pain". "Wow, listen to you trying to justify everything" Regina says with disappointment, "If I'm the one on the moral high ground you've fallen quite a ways, Miss Swan" she adds. Emma tells Regina not to "Miss Swan" her before pointing out to Regina that she knows she'd have never done that to Henry if she didn't have good reason. "Good reason?" Regina asks before recalling that's what her mother said to justify killing Daniel.
Emma pays the price for her wrong doings.
Emma defends that what she did was to protect Henry, but Regina points out that Cora thought she was protecting her too. Emma then claims she didn't have a choice, but Regina tells Emma there's always a choice, as she's said that herself a thousand times. Emma then reveals they were running out of time and it was the only way to free Merlin. Regina is suddenly shocked, "Merlin? We freed Merlin in Camelot?" she asks, but Emma remains silent. The brunette asks if that's true then why is she still the Dark One. Emma tells her this is a waste of time and demands to see her son, but Regina explains he doesn't want to see her, "Goodbye, Miss Swan" she says before returning to her house and closing the front door. Once alone, Emma rushes down the path and looks up at a window to see Henry looking down at her. After a moment, he leaves and closes the curtains behind him, upsetting Emma, who gives up and walks away from the house.
- The title card of this episode features a pumpkin.
- Although credited, Rebecca Mader (Zelena/Wicked Witch) is absent from this episode.
- With this episode, Olivia Steele Falconer (Violet) is credited as a guest star, after previously having been credited as a co-star.
- The title of this episode was officially confirmed by executive producer/co-creator Adam Horowitz, via his Twitter account, on August 22, 2015.
The episode's numbers remained steady for a fourth week with a 1.6/5 among 18-49s, but saw a slight increase with 5.12 million viewers tuning in.
The episode received positive reviews, especially for the character dynamics of the episode, along with praise for the acting, and surprising plotline.
- Andrea Towers of Entertainment Weekly notes in her assessment of the review, "I’ve said this over and over, but one of my favorite things this season are the Camelot outfits. I also love how Regina is dressed routinely in red while Emma is dressed in white: similar to how their wardrobe choices reflected their intentions back in the first season."
- In a review from Rickey.org, Nick Roman said, "Once Upon A Time thrived for four seasons on the notion that Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) was the be all, end all hero of the storybook worlds, and ours. Season 5, however, is an exploration into what happens when the best of heroes turn evil, even if the intentions behind the turn were good. To this end, “Dreamcatcher” is a compelling depiction of the corruption of a hero. After all, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions."
- Christine Orlando of TV Fanatic gave the episode a 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Gallery of photographic stills released to promote the episode.
- ↑ Adam Horowitz tweet.
- ↑ "Once Upon a Time recap: Dreamcatcher" from Entertainment Weekly (October 25, 2015)
- ↑ "‘Once Upon A Time’ Review: Compelling ‘Dreamcatcher’ Depicts the Corruption of a Hero" from Rickey.org (October 25, 2015)
- ↑ "Once Upon a Time Season 5 Episode 5 Review: Dreamcatcher" from TV Fanatic (October 25, 2015)