Once Upon A Time audience finally meets Merlin, the man in the tree.

The creators and writers of Once Upon A Time, Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, never cease to amaze me.

It takes true talent to mesh all of the fairy tales, old and new, into one story. They continuously produce well written scripts, though they are a bit cheesy sometimes. Once Upon A Time always keeps me guessing and has me ask, “How do people come up with this?” This episode of season five, “Dreamcatcher,” is simply brilliant. It is the best episode of Once Upon A Time that I’ve seen in awhile.

 “Dreamcatcher” kicks off many years ago in Camelot. A man dressed in purple robes possesses the Dark One’s dagger. He summons the Dark One. A masked, voiceless figure appears before the man. The man says, “You destroyed her — the only woman I ever loved. Now I must destroy you.” He goes to kill the man, but fails miserably. The Dark One removes the dagger from his hands. The man sheds a lone tear, and the Dark One touches the dagger to his face to capture it. The dagger glows a mysterious purple color. Suddenly, the man turns into a tree.

The camera shifts to Emma (Jennifer Morrison) in Camelot, five weeks before the memory loss looking through an unknown object while standing in front of Merlin’s tree. This can only mean one thing: This is the same tree that the Dark One trapped the distraught man in, the tree that holds Merlin and the answers to all of their prayers.

In Camelot, Regina (Lana Parrilla) leads David (Josh Dallas) and Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) to where the dagger is hidden. Note that David and Mary Margaret are still under the spell that Arthur (Liam Garrigan) put on them. Just as they reach the hiding spot for the dagger, Emma comes out of nowhere and freezes them. She informs Regina that Arthur has them under a spell. Regina warns Emma, yet again, about using dark magic and is curious as to how she found out that David and Mary Margaret were under the influence of an enchantment. Though reluctant at first, Emma exposes her secret. She holds up a dreamcatcher. It is not a normal dreamcatcher that you or I grew up with. Instead of catching dreams, it catches memories. Emma used one of the dreamcatchers she made to figure out why Merlin (Elliot Knight) is in the tree. She tells Regina what they saw and she has an epiphany. “Sometimes the venom is the antidote,” Regina says. “If a tear of lost love trapped him there, a tear can get him out.”

In present day Storybrooke, Guinevere (Joana Metrass) wants to lift the spirits of the townspeople. Henry (Jared Gilmore) suggests that they throw a block party. Fairy tale characters know how to have some fun too. Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) teases Henry that the only reason he wants to have a party is so he can spend some time with his girlfriend, Violet (Olivia Steele Falconer). Aw, young love!

In Emma’s dungeon, she starts to untie Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle). He doesn’t want to help Emma. Instead, he insists on seeing Belle (Emilie de Ravin). “You’re not going anywhere til you can get me this sword,” Emma says. Emma orders Merida (Amy Manson) to come in. Emma still has Merida’s heart, so she controls her. She commands her to take Rumple to the woods to begin. Emma wants Merida to instill some strength and bravery into Rumple. Emma leaves the house and goes to a storage shed full of dreamcatchers. She takes one down, encompasses it in her arms and starts crying. Emma is still human! She still cares! This is very important. The dynamic of Emma had changed dramatically, but every now and then, we see glimpses of her previous self. These moments are precious and contain a hopefulness that Emma can be saved from her darkness.

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Meanwhile, Henry meets up with Violet to invite her to the party, but Violet is too sad to go. Her horse ran off. Henry really wants her to go to the block party, so he volunteers to find it for her and suggests that he knows the perfect person who can help. He goes to Emma. Henry is Emma’s greatest weakness. The love she has for her son has not yet been touched by the darkness within. Henry asks her to help him return his friend’s “happy ending,” referring to their mission to find the people of Storybrooke their happy endings. The dynamic duo of Emma and Henry is back!

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In the meantime, Merida leads Rumple to a place in the woods and orders him to fight. He can barely stand, so how is he supposed to fight? He refuses to fight, claiming that he is helpless and incapable. “I can never be brave,” said Rumple. Merida is determined to find the one thing that motivates him and if she doesn’t, Emma will kill her.

Back in Camelot, Henry is trying to teach himself how to fight to impress Violet’s father, Sir Morgan. Regina and Emma appear to give him some motherly girl advice. Regina tells him that “changing because someone likes you never works.” Henry, taking their advice, leaves to go plan the perfect date for him and Violet. Now, it’s just Regina and Emma. They’re trying to think of a person who has had their heart broken and can offer a tear for the antidote to release Merlin. Regina suggests that she might be able to do it, for she has experienced heartbreak first hand. She lost her first love named Daniel. He was a stable boy who her power-hungry mother didn’t approve of. Her mother ripped his heart out in front of her because she thought it would be in her best interest. Emma uses a dreamcatcher to conjure this memory and Regina provides the tear that they need to complete the potion.

Back in Storybrooke, Belle, Robin, Regina and Hook break into Emma’s house. They find the excalibur in the stone. They are not sure why she needs it. If only they had their memories.


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Henry sends Regina a text informing her that Emma is on her way back from helping Henry find Violet’s horse. Before they leave, Hook spots a box laying on her kitchen table. In it is a dreamcatcher. Regina believes that this is how Emma is storing everyone’s memories from the six weeks they can’t remember. I love the concept of the dreamcatchers. It is such a brilliant idea to take something that a lot in this world have at least heard of and allow it to perform something incredible.

In Camelot, Henry sets up a romantic table for two. Shortly after he finishes, Violet arrives. Henry helps Violet with her coat and pulls out her chair for her. What a gentleman! Henry, being from the real world, uses many items that are foreign to Violet, such as soda. Violet thinks that soda is magic. “It’s like a carnival in a can,” she exclaims. Violet likes that Henry is from another world. After dinner, Henry suggest that they watch a movie afterwards, which totally confuses her. To me, it sounds a lot like he’s saying, “Netflix and chill?”

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Henry tells Violet that he likes her, but she doesn’t reciprocate the feelings. She just thought they were “hanging out as friends.” The poor guy got friend-zoned. That’s a tough blow.

Meanwhile, Emma and Regina start mixing the potion. When they add Regina’s tears, it doesn’t work.  Regina’s heartbreak wasn’t strong enough because she’s moved on. Henry shows up heartbroken. Coincident, I think not! They get one of his tears and it works!

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Arthur and his knights show up. He doesn’t want them to release Merlin. Emma uses her magic on the tree and in its place stands Merlin! He says, “I’ve been waiting for you, Emma.” I was expecting Merlin to be this old guy with a long white beard, but he is a young, fit, handsome man that resembles a Greek God. I am not disappointed at all.

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At the block party in Storybrooke, Arthur tells David, Mary Margaret and Regina that the dagger and sword together can either get rid of all light or all dark magic. If the sword ends up in the wrong hands, it could be very problematic.

Henry rides up to Violet on her horse. Sir Morgan is very happy that Violet has found a very heroic and knight-worthy man. Violet kisses him on the cheek.

While everyone is at the party, Merida sneaks into the mayor’s office to find the book that contains everyone’s stories. She uses it to find Rumple’s greatest weakness, Belle. Merida goes to Rumple who she tied up in the woods. She threatens to destroy a memento that reminds Rumple of Belle. Merida holds up the chipped tea cup. She uses it as motivation to get him to fight and he does.

In Regina’s house, her and Robin are looking at the dreamcatcher they found in Emma’s house. She enchants it to reveal the memory it holds. It shows a memory from Camelot. It shows Violet in her stables before her and Henry had dinner together. Emma comes into view. Emma rips out Violet’s heart! “I need you to break Henry’s heart,” says Emma. She needs a tear from someone who has had their heart broken recently. Emma will stop at nothing to get Merlin out of the tree. Even if it means hurting the person she loves most. But how could she do this to her own son?! As an avid fan, this scene was heartbreaking for me to watch.

Back in Camelot, Merlin breaks the spell that was on David and Mary Margaret. They want to know if they can free Emma from the darkness. He says he can, but he needs to know if her heart is truly ready to be free. Emma looks apprehensive.

In Storybrooke, Emma shows up at Regina’s house wanting to see Henry. After what she’s just seen, Regina refuses. She says that Henry, who walked in on Robin and Regina watching the memory, does not want to see Emma. In a fit of anger, Emma unveils why she did it. She did it to free Merlin. Regina then proposes an interesting question, “If we freed Merlin, why are you still the Dark One?” This is the ultimate question. Why is Emma dark? Did she not want to give up the darkness? My theory is she’s the Dark One because she was trying to protect someone. I think something happens to someone she loves and, in order to save them, she has to become fully dark. Once a savior, always a savior.

Once Upon A Time airs every Sunday at 8 p.m., on ABC.