I went from hating this episode to appreciating it, but I can’t say I loved it. Let’s just get to it. If I think about it too much, I start writing fanfic to make myself feel better.
Merlin’s has been de-treed! And we meet the first Dark One
In what starts as a showdown between Merlin and the first Dark One turns into a horticulture nightmare.
Merlin, the Dagger in hand, is all set to destroy evil incarnate.
Apparently the Dark One is responsible for destruction of the only woman Arthur has ever loved. Whether this is Nimue of Merlin mythology or another character, is not made clear. But in his grief, Arthur fails to kill the Dark One and makes the rookie mistake of dropping the Dagger. The Dark One collects a tear of heartbroken grief from the wizard and then roots Merlin to where he stands, creating the tree we find to still be in the courtyard of Camelot.
It’s important to know that we learn all this from Emma, who is viewing it from tree-Merlin’s memories. Last episode we saw her amassing a small (but growing) collection of dreamcatchers in her quarters in Camelot. While this may be her version of Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold to combat his insomnia, this hobby seems to have a more practical use. As we learned in The Cricket Game back in Season 2, dream catchers are powerful in memory magic, even working on Pongo the dog. So waving one over a sentient tree doesn’t seem out of the realm of believability. This won’t be the last time we see Emma using a dream catcher, as the title suggests.
Oh, and no big deal or anything, but the mightiest wizard outside of the Harry Potter ‘Verse is back in human form and offering Emma a chance to un-Dark One herself.
By the end of the episode, Merlin confirms that he can save Emma from being the Dark One. But, he adds, she must be completely honest and be sure her heart is truly ready to be free. This unanswered question on Emma’s part leads us to believe that either her dishonesty or the repercussions of such somehow put her on the path that sets her up as Storybrooke’s latest villain.
Emma and Regina team up
I’m a platonic QueenSwan shipper, so I always enjoy seeing Regina and Emma doing anything that isn’t them glaring at each other on Regina’s porch. (More on that later)
Regina reluctantly leads Snow and Charming to the Dagger’s hiding place in the woods. She questions their judgement in handing the Dagger over to King Arthur, and that gets Snow into a snotty mode. As Regina recoils, Snow and Charming are magically immobilized by Emma’s dark magic.
Emma explains to Regina Arthur’s plan to reunite the Dagger with Excalibur and how the king plans on killing Merlin with the blade. Though initially disbelieving, Regina hears Emma out. Regina’s on board until Emma says it’s time to get down to business and use her dark magic to bust Merlin out. Regina is worried Emma will end up like her.
In Merlin’s study, Emma explains that she used a dream catcher to see Merlin’s memories and found out that David and Mary Margaret were put under a spell to serve Arthur. Emma reveals she doesn’t need to wave it over people to use it. When viewing Merlin’s memories, she saw that Merlin wept, and his tear was used to transfigure him. Regina suggests that if a tear of lost love trapped Merlin, then perhaps another tear could free him.
Though they know it will be difficult, Regina pulls up the memory of Cora ripping out Daniel’s heart.
This easily induces a tear from Regina, which Emma bottles. Emma admits she never realized how terrible Regina had it when she was younger and understands better why Regina was driven to darkness.
It’s no mystery why we see and hear Cora tell Daniel about sacrifice and doing what’s best for your children. There’s some heavy foreshadowing coming up, and given that Emma has the power of foresight, she probably knows all too well what she’s going ot have to do.
That night, out in Merlin’s courtyard, Emma breaks out the mini bar and they add Regina’s tear to the potion. But the potion fizzles.
Emma realizes that Regina’s heartbreak has healed because she’s moved on and is with Robin now. Henry comes up, late as usual to midnight potion making parties, and his moms see he’s visibly upset. Henry admits that despite his best efforts, Violet wanted nothing to do with him, then sheds a tear born of love’s first heartbreak. Regina quickly grabs it with a cloth and tells Henry that he’s going to be a hero.
They are interrupted by Arthur and his knights, who threaten death if they proceed. Regina hands the tear stained cloth off to Emma and holds the knights off with a fireball or seven.
The potion turns into a frightening spaghetti monster of light and dark magic, which Emma channels towards the tree, enveloping it.
When the smoke clears, Merlin rises from his roots. He recognizes Emma at once. Merlin tells Arthur he’s disappointed him, and Arthur accuses Merlin of sending him on an impossible quest full of false prophecies. Arthur pulls his sword, but Merlin scoffs, saying that broken thing can’t harm him.
Emma is terrible and Henry is ruined for life
Okay, maybe not ruined for life… But definitely heartbroken for a while. And his mom caused it. Not, not the one that usually does it! This time Regina isn’t the cause of Henry’s woes. In a flip-upside-down from the first season, Emma is now the one using Henry for self-serving reasons, and Regina is standing up to the Dark One for him.
In her stable, Violet and Henry bond over dead parents and horses. We see Henry make a total ass out of himself in front of Violet’s father, Sir Morgan.
Their initial meeting doesn’t go well at all, and Henry leaves thinking he must change and better himself to win the affection of Violet and the approval of her father. Regina and Emma find Henry practicing his sword skills out in the woods and remind him that who he is is just as exciting, interesting, and worthy as who he thinks he needs to be.
Though Henry still feels he ought to change some things to grow and be a better person, he embraces what he does has going for him, his mysterious-visitor-from-a-strange-landness, and sets up a dinner date at Granny’s.
Henry plays “their song,” Only You by Yazoo, and woos Violet with the old soda-in-a-wine-glass routine.
Then he wins any sane girl’s heart over with the promise of lasagna. And when a dude offers me lasagna, I assume he’s trying to court me too. Unfortunately Violet veers off course and defines friendzoning to Henry without the aide of urbandictionary. I mean, OUCH.
But back in Storybrooke, Violet is disheartened by the loss of her beloved horse. Henry promises to help her find Nicodemus and approaches Emma to help find him. In a throwback to their buddy cop Operation Cobra days, Emma and Henry set off in the yellow bug to start their search. After questioning Henry about Violet, she learns that Henry played the girl a song that Neal used to play for her.
Knowing that Nic has a liking for pumpkin, Emma drives to Peter Peter’s, a side-of-the-road fruit and veggie stand that specializes in pumpkins.
Nicodemus appears and starts freaking out around the Dark One.
Henry later finds his moms at the Merlin-tree. Their previous attempts at potion making have failed and they need a new tear. Oh, how convenient, teenager Henry has experienced his first heartbreak, and he’s crying! Blah, blah, blah, tear goes in the potion, potion works, Merlin is de-treed.
Back in Storybrooke, Henry rides Nicodemus through the fair and up to Violet who is walking with her father.
Sir Morgan is impressed with Henry’s accomplishment and humility, compliments him thusly, then takes Nic so the two can have fun together. Violet kisses Henry’s cheek in thanks, and the two head off to enjoy the fair.
Back in Regina’s house, she and Robin ponder the dream catcher. Regina hesitates to uncover what memories it holds, but Robin says the only way to find out what happened is to look. Regina magics the thing and they realize they are watching Violet’s memories from back in the stable. Emma appears in the stable and says Henry can never know about this, then pulls out the girl’s heart. She needs the fresh tear of a lost first love, and she needs her to break Henry’s heart. Unbeknownst to them, Henry has come in and is standing behind Regina and Robin.
Emma comes to Regina’s house to see Henry, but Regina is pissed, knowing full well that Emma has broken their son’s heart on purpose, took their memories, and Gold. She insists that there’s nothing Emma couldn’t come back from, thought Emma would be different. Regina shows Emma the stolen dream catcher and tells her Henry is devastated.
She guesses that Emma set Nicodemus free just so Henry could reunite him with Violet to make up for breaking up the two in Camelot. Regina knows how Dark Ones think, after all. Emma says she had good reason, and Regina realizes that Cora said the same things to her before doing dastardly things. Emma slips up and says it was the only way to free Merlin. Regina wonders why Emma is still the Dark One. In a balls-in-a-wheel-barrow move, Regina denies the Dark One a visit with Henry and slams the door in her face.
From his window, Henry looks down at his mom, then closes the curtains on her.
It doesn’t matter the reasons. Henry knows Emma purposefully hurt him to further an agenda. And at Henry’s (dubious) age, that’s gonna leave a mark.
Rumple just might get to be brave afterall
It only took him 300 years, but, hey.
Rumple is still captive in Emma’s basement, which is not a sentence I ever thought I was going to type. Emma tells him he’s going to get her the sword. He tries to explain that the more dark magic Emma uses, no matter what the reason, will just push away the ones she loves the most.
This seems to resonate with Emma, but she ignores him and calls Merida out of the shadows, telling her to take Rumple to the woods to begin his training. Considering he can barely stand without falling over, this should be interesting. Merida tries to defy Emma, but Emma still holds the Scot’s heart. She magics Merida and Rumple to the woods.
The Dark One heads to a garage out back. Inside, it’s filled with hundreds of dream catchers handing from the rafters. She takes one down and begins to cry in earnest.
Out in the woods Merida is all business despite Rumple’s mangled foot. Rumple, though, keeps insisting he’s not a hero and that he can never be brave.
In massive frustration, Merida knocks Rumple unconscious, promising to find his motivation.
Merida breaks into Gold’s shop and hunts for some kind of insight to his motivations. She returns to the woods and tells Rumple that if he won’t fight, she’ll give him something to fight for. She dangles his beloved chipped cup above him, then throws him a sword.
He fails at sparring with her, but she goads him with memories of Belle, and he swings. She is much pleased and encourages him, saying that swing was an act of bravery because it was for Belle. She goads him further and he doesn’t back down. Merida says they have a long way to go before they can take on Emma.
The Scooby Gang finally breaches Emma’s basement
After investigating the disappearance of Gryf from the holding cell in Storybrooke, the conversation totally naturally leads to discussing the morale of Camelot’s citizens. Mary Margaret, with the suggestion from Henry, decides to put on a dance/
bike safety street fair because she and David are the town’s leaders and ambassadors of fun! Because in a crisis the only logical course of action and use of time and resources is to put on a damn party.
Also, Henry and Violet are texting, because apparently Storybrooke has a cellphones for curse victims program. These people have been here for about a week, and already the teenagers have mastered technology.
Regina, Robin, Hook, and Belle go searching for Rumple, or some kind of clues, in Emma’s home while Henry has Emma distracted. Despite protection spells, the gang breach the home and head straight for the basement. Sidenote, I kinda feel like Hook’s asking Robin to help him get into the house last episode was kinda cast aside. Robin doesn’t even come up with a suggestion as to how to get into the place, leaving that to Belle.
Down in the basement, they discover Excalibur in the rock, and immediately note that it bears a striking resemblance to the Dagger.
Robin finally utters a throwaway line, and Hook makes a move to pull the sword from the stone. Regina stops him before he can be turned into dust. Belle finds ropes that she assumes once held Rumple, and they decide to search the rest of the house. But Regina receives a text from Henry that Emma is headed back.
As they make their escape, Hook’s attention is caught by the only decoration in the room, a fancy box on the table. Inside Hook finds a the dream catcher Emma was crying over in her creepy shed of memories. Regina recognizes it as a magical object that most likely was used to take their memories.
At the street fair, Hook, Regina, Robin, Belle, tell Arthur and Guinevere, joined by Mary Margaret and David, that they found Excalibur in the Dark One’s basement.
Hook presses Arthur on why the blade resembles the Dagger, and Arthur admits he wanted to make sure he could trust them before telling them the pieces are one in the same. The restored sword can eradicate all dark magic forever, but in the wrong hands, the sword can wipe out all light magic too.
I didn’t want to end on that terrifying note, so let’s just go back and ask ourselves how and why Storybrooke has a large and varied supply of carnie games, ticket booths, prizes, and decorations.
What did you think of Emma’s betrayal of Henry? Tell us in the comments below!