Once Upon A Time S05E05 “Dreamcatcher” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Netflix, new episodes every Wednesday
Writers: Edward Kitsis, Adam Horowitz
Director: Romeo Tirone
Essential Plot Points
- Merlin is freed.
- Merida trains Rumpelstiltskin.
- Henry starts dating.
- Dark Emma and Henry bond.
- Regina discovers secrets of the past.
This episode wastes no time, opening by answering a question we’ve been pondering since the first episode of the season: how did Merlin get stuck inside that tree anyway? By a Dark One’s magic it turns out! Merlin’s love has been killed by said Dark One (off-screen) and he/she (they’re wearing a mask, so we don’t know) uses Merlin’s tear of sorrow to trap him inside a tree.
Okay, so Merlin could have just wiped his face dry a bit quicker rather than just letting the Dark One make off with his tear and save himself a lot of trouble. But he seem literally petrified by the situation; pretty much a plank of wood before he’s turned into a tree.
We learn all of this thanks to Emma’s nifty little dreamercatcher, which will continue to advance the plot all throughout this episode.
Last week we saw how King Arthur had turned David and Snow White into his willing slaves using the magic sand. At the start of this episode they’re within reaching distance of the dagger Arthur desires when Emma magically freezes them in one of the most anti-climactic moments of this season. Emma, y’see, knows that David and Snow are under Arthur’s spell and tells Regina. And bang goes any tension that particular plotline may have held. With that taken care of Emma and Regina begin their quest to free Merlin from the tree.
Meanwhile in the “real” world, Dark Emma frees Rumple and orders Merida to begin training him to be a hero. This becomes all the more difficult as Rumple’s limp has returned and he’s still basically a huge coward. Merida finds teaching him like screaming at a brick wall.
We also get a dual story of Henry romancing Violet in both the present day and the past. In the present he promises to locate her horse which has gone missing which wins him the affections of the young girl. In the past, however, it doesn’t go so well. Firstly he accidentally breaks a fence in her family’s stable when playing a sword (don’t play with medieval swords, kids) and is berated by her father who tells him he’s not fit to court his daughter.
In the present he asks his mother, Dark Emma, for help reinstating Operation Mongoose. She agrees and this does lead to a sweet bonding moment between them that actually feels real. Regina and crew decide to take this opportunity to scoop around Emma’s house, which only requires a simple magic trick to enter – it’s surprisingly poor home security for a Dark One’s home. They discover that Emma has been keeping Excalibur realise that the dagger and Excalibur were once one sword. They also find that she’s been keeping Rumple captive but can’t find trace of him. Henry warns them that she’s on her way back but Hook finds the Dreamcatcher from earlier, just lying on the table: one of the most useful items she’s used recently, just lying in a box on her living room table. Emma needs better security and actual hiding places.
Merida’s training isn’t going so well, so she resorts to some extreme measures. Merida steals the chipped tea cup and threatens to break it if Rumple doesn’t start fighting, which does get a rise out of him and see some actual fighting spirit from mortal Rumple.
Switching to the past, Emma tells Regina the method of which Merlin was imprisoned and Regina works out that a potion to free Merlin from the tree, all that is required is a tear from heartbreak. Regina decides to put herself through utter emotional turmoil and uses the dreamcatcher to rewatch the moment in her past when her mother casually murdered her lover. Emma harvests one of the resulting tears.
Henry (still in Camelot) takes his chance to wine and dine Violet in Granny’s dinner, with heated up lasagne and Pepsi in wine glasses. This kid is classy and we like it. Unfortunately it doesn’t plan out so well. When Henry admits that he’s trying to dare – or “court” – her , Violet up and friend-zones him.
Emma and Regina get to work crafting the potion by the Merlin tree adding Regina’s tear to the mix, but it doesn’t seem to do the trick. Emma tells her that her heartbreak wasn’t strong enough as now Regina has Robin she’s moved on and healed, which does make logical sense to give the show credit.
Luckily Henry arrives fresh from having his feelings rejected and forming a heartbroken tear. Just in time too, as Arthur and his knights arrive to stop them. Emma makes the potion just in time and Merlin is freed from his tree prison!
Merlin’s instantly a great addition to the cast. Not only does he radiate charm, but he also puts Arthur down with a single line. Go Merlin!
Present day Henry returns the horse and takes Violet to the festival the town has put on. He even gets the approval of Violet’s father (which is a bit of a change of character even with Henry having saved a horse, but it’s a nice scene so we’ll let it slide). However poor Henry is soon back to being heartbroken as Regina using the dreamcatcher to see into the past revealing that Emma stole Violet’s heart and made her reject Henry. Oh wow, that is cold.
- Seeing Merida again is great! Even if we don’t (or at least not yet) get to visit her homeland.
- However we do get to see more of what grown-up Merida is like as a character, and she does stay very true to what made Merida a great character in Brave.
- Henry’s character gets a lot of attention in this episode and it expands him to great effect. Trying to better himself and be a hero is an admirable trait, it makes him a far more likable character, especially considering that in the first few seasons he was rather annoying.
- Dark Emma and Henry’s bonding mission actually comes across really well – it’s nice to see Emma try to keep Henry in her life even if we do learn the secrets of her motivation.
- Merlin is a fun character; unlike Arthur he leaves an impression from his first scene.
- Regina continues to be a strong heroine figure; she’s an all-round enjoyable character.
- Dark Emma is finally acting like The Dark One.
- The sand spell on Snow and Charming that was built-up to be something major in the last episode was very easily dealt with at the start of the episode. Really anti-climactic.
- Like the sand, the dreamcatcher’s MO is left quite vague and it seems to be multipurpose as the writers require.
- In the previous episode King Arthur seemed to be the main villain, but in this episode he’s just in the background mostly.
- Yazoo’s “Only You” is a brilliant song that accompanies the romance scenes well, but that doesn’t mean they should keep playing the song at every opportunity.
- Merlin doesn’t have a Welsh accent after all (see previous episode’s Random section).
- Regina’s tear not working does make sense, but surely rewatching an old love die would be a stronger emotional heartbreak than getting your feelings rejected on a first date? Being rejected sucks, but surely that’s a better alternative to watching a loved one die. Even if you’ve moved on that’s still someone you cared about dying in front of you. Henry’s about what 14, 15? He’ll move on quickly, but Regina was left with some deep emotional scars.
- The title card features a pumpkin (happy Halloween!)
- On a bench in the street is an Advert for Encom, the fictional computer company from Tron. Products and adverts for Encom have appeared before so keep an eye out for them!
- When Emma and Henry track down Violet’s horse they visit a pumpkin stand. The stand is called Peter’s Peter, a reference to the nursery rhyme Peter Peter the Pumpkin Eater.
- Henry had the movies Commando and Harold And Maude on his phone. He says that Harold And Maude must be more of a “date movie” which is true because seeing Commando as your first ever film with no idea what films are would probably terrify the poor girl.
Review by Sam Halford