Last night’s Once Upon A Time got uber meta reminding us of scenes from previous seasons, also we got a little bit of Merlin’s backstory and some inkling as to why and how Emma removed all of their memories before they returned to Storybrooke. So let’s delve into the nitty gritty of this week’s episode:
The episode begins (like most of them have lately) with a flashback to Camelot ‘many years ago’ and a young Merlin (Elliot Knight) (who I can personally say can do a spell on me annnnytime) is running through the forest. He takes out the Dark One dagger and attempts to summon the Dark One in order to kill it because it destroyed the only woman Merlin loved. The Dark One is pre-Rumple, and it’s something in a black coat wearing a mask. Merlin attempts to kill the Dark One with the dagger but is unable to do it, he breaks down, and the Dark One takes one of Merlin’s tears and uses it to turn him into a tree (hence why he is one now). They still do not explain how he managed to appear in our land in 1989 to warn a child Emma not to take the sword out of the stone. However we do see modern day Emma (Jennifer Morrison), watching all of this through a dreamcatcher in Camelot and standing next to Tree!Merlin.
Regina (Lana Parrilla), smart woman that she is, is not convinced that Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) and David (Josh Dallas) are making the right decision to give the dagger to Arthur (Liam Garrigan), and their erratic behavior is not making her feel any more comfortable with this arrangement. However, she still leads them to the tree where she had hidden the dagger, but before she is about to give it to them, Emma appears out of nowhere and freezes her parents, and tells Regina that Arthur has them under a spell. She reveals to Regina that she knows this because she saw it in a dreamcatcher, and she intends to use her dark magic to free Merlin, before Arthur gets out of hand. Regina warns her about her constant use of the dark magic but she brushes it off – desperate times call for desperate measures, and plus she ain’t no Regina (with an added ‘no offense’ to Regina, of course).
In modern day Storybrooke, things pick up from episode 3 when Arthur’s squire took that potion that killed and obliterated him. Arthur lies to the Storybrooke gang and says that the squire must have found the magic bean and used it to return home, Guinevere (Joana Metrass) says the Cameloteans need something to uplift their spirits and give them hope. Henry (Jared Gilmore) suggests a dance, and David, for the first time is quick on the uptake, and guesses that he might have suggested it so he can have an excuse to ask Violet (Olivia Steele Falconer), the girl he has the hots for, out. However, Belle (Emilie de Ravin) interrupts their whole make-fun-of-Henry moment to tell them that Rumple (Robert Carlyle) is missing.
Rumple is however, still tied up in Emma’s basement, whining about her weird plan to make him a hero. Emma is having none of that though, so she brings out Merida (Amy Manson) and orders her to take out Rumple and teach him how to be courageous. Merida throws some shade at Emma before the two of them are swooshed away. Emma goes out to a shed in her backyard, which is filled with dreamcatchers and starts crying. That’s odd.
Back in Camelot, Emma and Regina prove that they really do work the best when they work together. Emma tells Regina about seeing Merlin’s memory of being turned into a tree, and Regina works out that the missing ingredient they need in their spell to turn Merlin back would be the exact thing that turned him into a tree – a tear of lost love. Wherever will they get a thing like that?
On the other side of town, Henry and Violet were bonding over having a dead parent (hey guys, remember Neal? – he also got mentions from Rumple and Emma this week). Violet steps out for a moment and Henry (as any kid would do) starts playing with a sword he finds, he falls over and Violet’s dad walks in. He tells Henry that Violet deserves to be with one of her own kind (put your hand up if you’ve heard this before), someone who will be a knight and protect her. Okay, so I know this is medieval times and all, but geez Violet’s dad calm your horses, the kids are only 13, ain’t nobody talking about forever after already. They probably still need to go through puberty.
Interloped with these scenes are what’s happening in modern day Storybrooke, where Violet and Henry kind of remind me of Regina and Robin from Season 3: they have lost their memories of their relationship in another land, so they unconsciously repeat it in Storybrooke. Henry asks Violet to go to the dance/carnival, and she says she’s not really in the mood for events because her horse, Nicodemus is missing. Henry approaches Emma for help to find Nicodemus, because she has all her magical powers and also she was really good at tracking people down.
Back in Camelot, Emma and Regina are working on their plan to free Merlin, and they come across Henry practicing with a sword. They quickly realize he’s trying to change himself so that he has a better chance with Violet. They give him a joint pep talk about being himself, and using the fact that he is a mysterious stranger from a faraway land to his advantage. All this talk of first loves gives Regina an idea that Emma show her some
footage, I mean memories of Cora killing Daniel. This was pretty heartbreaking as Regina cried again over her mother’s heartless (no pun intended) killing of her first love.
Henry decides to take his mothers’ advice and create a very 21st century date for him and Violet. He arranges dinner at Granny’s (he warms up lasagna he finds in her freezer) and then intends to show her a film on his phone. Dinner and a movie, classic date style. However, the annoying logical side of me who should not be watching series like this has to ask, where is he charging his phone? What is the freezer and the microwave running on? Anyway back to the date, Violet however tells Henry that she just sees him as a friend, and there’s no hope for romance from her end, which is heartbreaking for Henry, also I’m sure every viewer (myself included) was reminded of that moment when their childhood crush didn’t feel the same way.
Merida, who is struggling to get Rumple to do anything, and is fearing her life, breaks into the mayor’s office to read the story book, probably to get Rumple’s backstory. She finds what she’s looking for and then goes to his store and takes something of his. Apparently locks aren’t a thing in Storybrooke.
Emma and Henry find Nicodemus at a pumpkin stand (apparently Nicodemus really likes pumpkins) that was owned by someone named Peter (Peter Peter pumpkin eater, get it?). The horse first doesn’t want to go near the Dark One, but Henry wins it over.
While Emma and Henry are trying to initiate Operation Cobra 2.0, the other usual suspects – Belle, Regina, Robin (Sean Maguire) and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) attempt to break into Emma’s house. Apparently Emma’s version of a locked door is that only Henry can enter, but that’s nothing for Regina who just gets Henry’s scarf and uses that to open the door. They go down into the basement and discover Excalibur in the stone, smart cookie that Belle is, also works out that the sword has the same markings as the Dark One dagger. They also use their Cluedo skills to surmise that the rope on the ground means that Rumple was tied up there. So they know Emma has Rumple and the sword. However, they don’t know what she’s planning to do with either. On their way out, Hook comes across a dreamcatcher on Emma’s table, Regina tells the rest of them that when dark magic is used, a dreamcatcher can read or trap memories (also I find that it’s all these memories that we see are from like the outside and not from the point of view of the person whose memories they are) and Regina guesses this is how Emma took all their memories of the missing six weeks in Camelot.
In Camelot, Emma and Regina are doing the spell to release Merlin, but it is not working, as it appears Regina’s heartbreak isn’t strong enough (apparently new love replaces old heartbreak) but luckily on cue, Henry comes running to them crying because Violet broke his heart, and she’ll never see him as a hero. Emma, however, tells him he can be a hero to his people and uses his tears for the spell. Just as they are about to cast it, Arthur stops them. Regina defends them with her weaponous fireballs while Emma completes the spell and frees Merlin. I don’t know how to describe Merlin other than [insert fire emojis here because he is hot af]. Merlin dismisses Arthur in a ‘Bye Felicia’ way, saying he’s disappointed at what Arthur has become.
Henry comes riding into the carnival on Violet’s horse, Nicodemus, and gives it to her. She’s with her father and even he’s impressed by Henry’s swagger, and heroic activities. Violet is extremely grateful and she kisses Henry on the cheek in response which shocks him. Also shocks us as the audience, so Violet what’s it about the Storybrooke air that suddenly makes you interested in Henry?
Elsewhere, not getting to enjoy the festivities of the carnival is Merida, who it appears took Rumple and Belle’s special chipped cup from his store and was threatening to break it if Rumple did not fight her for it. It seemed to work well and he appeared to rise to the occasion, as Merida says that to be brave you need to have something to fight for.
Back at the ole Mills mansion, Regina uses her magic to reveal the memories trapped in the dreamcatcher that they took from Emma. Robin and Regina witness the memories of Violet who it appears before her date with Henry in Camelot was approached by Emma who takes out Violet’s heart and makes her break Henry’s so that they can use his tears in the spell to free Merlin. That is stone cold wrong, going around ripping the heart out and manipulating teenagers. Also makes you wonder, this happened before Regina’s tears didn’t work, how did Emma know they wouldn’t? Sadly, Henry walks in as Robin and Regina are watching this and sees what Emma did. So I guess that explains Violet’s hot and cold behavior.
Back in Camelot, Merlin, the wizard rockstar that he is, is just fixing things like removing the spell from Mary Margaret and David. They ask him to remove the Dark One spell from Emma, and he says he can but only if that’s what Emma wants in her heart…
The episode ends in Storybrooke, in another enigmatic scene between Regina and Emma, as Emma tries to see Henry but Regina forbids it. She alikens Emma’s treatment to Henry to Cora’s of hers. Although I think while what Emma did was despicable, getting a girl to reject your son, isn’t the same as killing your daughter’s lover. But you know, Regina has always been one for the hyperbole. But Emma did slip out to Regina that she managed to free Merlin, so Regina knows that something is up.
My favorite scenes in the episode were the interactions between the characters – Merida and Rumple, Regina and Emma, Henry and Violet – they were interesting, refreshing and seemed to build upon each of the characters. Amy Manson is doing a brilliant job as Merida and I’m constantly intrigued by her scenes, she’s definitely one of my new favorites. Merlin was also a great addition, a new spin on the age-old character, but I’m excited to learn more about him.
I wasn’t too fond of the addition of new magic every episode, yes they are doing well with referring back to previous seasons, but with last week’s magic sand and this week’s dreamcatcher it’s all starting to seem a bit convenient.
While I have been enjoying this season, the pacing has felt a little off and tiresome, I do hope we will get some solid facts as to where the season is going, it just feels like filing in the dots at the moment.
As to Merlin and his lost love? According to legend, Merlin falls in love with a woman named Nimue, who gets him to teach her his spells before using it to trap him in a tree. As the 7th episode is titled ‘Nimue’ I’m going to take a guess that Nimue is the first Dark One, and that’s why Merlin could not kill it, also why he used the words ‘destroyed’ the woman I love instead of ‘killed’. So will Merlin’s inability to kill Nimue because of his love for her be echoed with Emma? Perhaps with Hook? Or her parents? Or Henry? Or any one of the characters that love her?