Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Once Upon a Time Episode Analysis (Dreamcatcher)

When I first saw the title of this episode, I inwardly groaned, fully expecting this episode to be a virtual love letter to Nealfirebagelperson who I’ve made clear I was never a fan of.  But then I remembered something.  Back in ‘The Cricket Game,’ they were able to use a dreamcatcher to extract memories.  So that’s when I started to speculate that someone would try to use a dreamcatcher to replay their memories of the missing time in Camelot.  And it was revealed in the last episode that Emma had been making quite a few dreamcatchers during her time in Camelot in the hopes that they could help keep the voices in her head away.   Well, it turns out I was right on both counts.  And I’m actually pretty cool with that.  With one small exception, which I’ll get to.

In Camelot, Emma somehow is able to figure stuff out.  Not sure how she got to that point.  The last time we saw her in the Camelot storyline, things seemed to be on a high note for her.  But now, bam, she suddenly has figured out her parents are under the control of Arthur’s magic powder, and is also able to access Merlin’s memories within a dreamcatcher.  Is there going to be a deleted scene that explains the sudden change in Emma’s demeanor?  Because this really bugs me.  Last episode left us with a sense of hope that Emma would be freed from the Darkness because of the strength of the love between her and Killian.  But now, we suddenly open to Emma, seemingly standing on the brink of the abyss.  For that matter, where exactly were Killian and Robin during the majority of the Camelot scenes?  There was absolutely no explanation where they were during the episode that primarily featured Emma and Regina working together.  The last time we had one of those episodes was in ‘Breaking Glass,’ and that episode was able to spare 15 seconds to say Killian was taking Henry sailing, so there was an explanation for his absence during the majority of the episode.  Why wasn’t there a similar effort to explain the whereabouts of Emma and Regina’s boyfriends while the two women were busy making the potion to free Merlin?  Did someone skip a line or two?

Anyway, by accessing his memories in her dreamcatcher, Emma learns Merlin was trapped in the tree by the very first Dark One, who was responsible for the loss of the woman Merlin loved.  (Just calling it right now- the first Dark One WAS the woman Merlin loved.)  Regina and Emma figure out that if Merlin’s heartbroken tear could be used to trap him in the tree, perhaps another tear of heartbreak can free him.   Regina ends up offering one of her own tears, using the memory of Daniel’s death.  With her tear, they concoct a potion, but because the heartbreak of Daniel’s death wasn’t’ fresh, and the pain of that loss has been lessened by the presence of Robin, the potion failed.  However, they can use Henry’s tear instead.  There was a subplot with Henry in Camelot, as he tries to impress Violet, especially after Violet’s father voices his disapproval with Henry, on the grounds that he can’t wield a sword or ride a horse.   (I guess they’ve forgotten that Henry had been getting sword fighting lessons during season 2, and that Grandpa Charming had also gifted him his own horse.)  But when Henry tries to arrange a date night for him and Violet, following the advice of his two mothers, she ends up friend zoning him.  Thanks to the heartbroken Henry’s tears, Emma and Regina are able to finish the potion they need.  Even though Arthur chooses that moment to barge in, he is ultimately unable to stop Emma from freeing Merlin, who promptly reads Arthur the riot act, resulting in the disgraced king to effectively sulk off with his tail between his legs.  But of course, we know that it’s not going to be that easy to deal with Arthur, and that he’ll be back once he puts some ice on his metaphysical burn.

With Merlin’s help, the Nevengers are able to reverse the effects of the magical powder, thus freeing Snow and Charming from Arthur’s control (which answers one of my questions from last episode).  Once that’s done, Merlin agrees to help free Emma from the Darkness.  However, he states that he can only help if Emma is completely ready and willing to give up the Dark One’s power.

Now this leads me to my first real question of this episode.  If they succeeded in freeing Merlin in Camelot, where is he now?  Come to think of it, where’s Lancelot?  The last we saw of him, he was in Camelot’s dungeon.  But so was Merida, and she’s clearly out and about now.  So why isn’t the same true for Lancelot?

In Storybrooke, the Nevengers have discovered the disappearance of Griff and automatically assume he must have used a magic bean to whisk himself away.  (Why no one thought to check the stinking SECURITY FOOTAGE to confirm that suspicion, I can’t quite understand.)  To try and raise the spirits of the Camelot crowd, Snow and Charming, on Henry’s suggestion, decide to throw a block party.  Which brings me to my current grievance with Snow and Charming.  They’re really putting a lot of effort into catering to Arthur and the Camelot crowd.  Instead of bending over backwards for people they can’t currently remember knowing too well, shouldn’t they be more focused on helping or talking to their daughter?!?  We haven’t seen them try to reach out to her ONCE since the mind wipe happened.  And I know it’s not because they’re still under the effects of the magic powder, because the Camelot storyline revealed Merlin freed them from that stuff.  (Also, I notice Baby Neal is once again MIA.  Where do they keep stashing that poor kid?)

Before the block party could begin, Henry finds out Violet’s beloved horse has gone missing.  Wanting to help her, Henry goes to Dark One Emma, asking for her help in reopening Operation Cobra so Violet could get her happy ending.  They end up finding the horse at Peter Pumpkin Eater’s pumpkin patch (ha, so he’s real, too?), allowing Henry to return the horse to Violet at the block party.  While Henry and Dark One Emma are off, Killian, Belle, Robin and Regina take advantage of her absence to sneak into Emma’s house, to find out what’s behind the Mystery Door and to locate the missing Gold, who they realize Dark One Emma has abducted.  As a result, they find Excalibur, and immediately take note of how similar the blade is to the Dark One’s dagger.  Killian moves to pull out the sword so they can get a better look at it, but Regina stops him before he could do so, on the grounds that it may be booby trapped somehow.  (For those of you who have heard about the current fan theory going around, you know why seeing Killian reaching for the sword was such a big deal.)  When they begin to leave the house, upon being notified by Henry that Dark One Emma is returning, Killian notices a dreamcatcher sitting on a nearby table.  Regina, figuring out the dreamcatcher might hold their missing memories, activates it once she returns home.  The memories trapped inside the dreamcatcher are revealed to be Violet’s.  These memories reveal Emma had actually forced Violet via heart-possession to break Henry’s heart in Camelot, so they’d be able use his tear to free Merlin.  Unfortunately, Henry was present when this memory was revealed, so he was able to witness that moment as well.  And because no one remembers that they needed his tear to free Merlin, Henry ends up shutting Emma out. 

So, yeah, this episode didn’t exactly end on a positive note, with them suggesting Henry might have joined the group that has pretty much washed their hands of Emma.  Now, I completely understand why Henry and Regina are so put out with Emma after they witness that particular moment.  After all, all they’ve seen is that one moment, so unlike the viewers, they have nothing else to go on.  They don’t remember what was going on in Camelot at the time.  While I’m sure there are some people out there who will disagree with me on this, I can’t completely vilify Emma for what she did.  Mostly because I understand where she was coming from.  She’d recently found out Arthur was Shady McShady, and was plotting some sinister stuff.  Snow and Charming had already fallen victim to Arthur’s magic Avalon powder, and Arthur was most likely going to figure out that the Nevengers were onto him at any moment, which would undoubtedly lead to him moving against them at full force.  Obviously, they were running out of time, and needed to free Merlin before Arthur could stop them.  And to get Merlin out of that tree, they needed the tear of someone who’d just gotten their heart broken.  I’m sure if there hadn’t been a deadline, Emma wouldn’t have felt the need to resort to the method she ended up utilizing.  But because of that deadline, they really didn’t have the luxury of looking for an alternative way of getting that tear.   And it wasn’t as if Emma was unaffected or apathetic about heart-commanding Violet.  On the contrary, she was practically near tears herself.  Clearly, this wasn’t what she wanted to do at all.  But she felt it had to be done in order to free Merlin before Arthur had the chance to stop them.  Was Emma’s actions in this episode wrong?  Probably.  But again, because I understand where she was coming from, I cannot bring myself to be that angry at her, especially after letting the shock of that reveal wear off.  Like with Killian’s actions in ‘The Jolly Roger’ flashback, the fact that I understand the reasons why a character behaves in a questionable way makes it hard for me to be all that angry with them, especially when the questionable action not only has no real lasting repercussions, but ultimately leads to something beneficial.

In all honesty, the thing that disturbed me the most was the show’s attempt at comparing what Emma did in Camelot to what Cora did in pre-curse Enchanted Forest.   I might be alone, but I’m just not seeing the similarity.  Cora was a cold, heartless social climber who had a long history of putting herself first.  And when she killed Daniel, it was because she couldn’t tolerate or respect the fact that her daughter didn’t share her agenda.  As I mentioned in the last paragraph, Emma was in a rather tight spot at the moment.  If she didn’t force Violet to break Henry’s heart, they might never have been able to free Merlin.  And without Merlin, not only would Emma be doomed to spend the rest of her life as the Dark One, but they also might not have been able to free Snow and Charming from the magic Avalon powder, let alone stop Arthur from his own diabolical schemes.  And to be completely honest, even after taking a few days to process things, I cannot for the life of me think of any alternatives to the method she used, especially considering if she hadn’t taken the steps to obtain Henry’s tear, Arthur might very well have captured them before they could complete the potion.  So on the one hand, we have a woman who frequently abused her daughter emotionally and resorted to murder when the daughter in question tried to stand up for herself and her agency.  On the other, we have a desperate woman who, with great reluctance, chose to put her child’s happiness on hold in order to do something that would ultimately lead to the benefit of all.  Emma’s actions in the Camelot flashback reminded me of someone, all right.  But it certainly wasn’t Cora.  You know who it did remind me of?  Snow and Charming- the couple who chose to send their newborn baby daughter through a magical wardrobe, knowing they were sentencing her to a life where she would grow up without the love of her parents, but that doing so was the only way to ensure Evil Queen Regina’s curse would be broken.  Since the show has made it clear Emma has long since forgiven her parents for that, I’ll be very disappointed if Henry doesn’t forgive Emma once he remembers why his tear of heartbreak was needed.   And unlike Cora, Dark One Emma showed genuine remorse for what she did to Henry.  And she even made a successful effort at making it up to him, by helping Henry find Violet’s missing horse, which led to them being able to pick up on crushing on each other again.  And even if Dark One Emma had to resort to manipulative ways to achieve that, Henry was manipulating her right back in this episode.   When he got Dark One Emma to come with him in the search for Violet’s horse so they could spend time together while reminiscing about the days of Operation Cobra, he was also making sure she was out of the way so the Nevengers could have free reign to search her house.  Really, you can’t tell me it’s okay for Henry to manipulate Emma, but it’s not okay for Emma to use manipulation herself.  You can’t have it both ways, show.

I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but even though Dark One Emma is resorting to things that she wouldn’t normally do, like willingly hurt the people she loves, I have yet to see her do something all that evil.  For starters, we haven’t seen her kill anyone, have we?  In fact, the stuff we do see her do is stuff that Regina does on a regular basis.  And no one ever calls Regina out on that.  I suppose it’s possible people are simply setting the bar much lower for Regina than they do Emma.  But even so, it’s still bordering on hypocritical of them to get mad at Emma for the stuff she’s doing while possessed by an ancient evil entity but simply shrug it off when Regina resorts to questionable stuff when she’s supposed to be currently classified as a hero.  The only one Dark One Emma seems to be particularly cruel to at present is Merida, and there might very well be a story behind that that we have yet to learn.  As for her bullying Gold?   After everything Gold did to her and the people she loved during the last four seasons, the guy really could use a taste of his own medicine, so I have no problem with this.  Long story short, even though Emma has supposedly given into the Darkness, she still seems to be toeing the line.  Which makes me suspect she’s only holding on to her Dark One status because it’s necessary for her to complete some sort of plan, and once that plan is complete, she’ll be more than willing to cast the Darkness aside again.

The subplot with Gold and Merida was rather short in this episode.  Basically, Merida begins her task of molding Gold into a hero, but when his cowardly nature gets in the way, Merida decides to use his love for Belle to force him into action, by waving around the symbolic chipped teacup a few times.  However, if the promo for next week’s episode is any indication, we’re going to be given an entire episode dedicated to Belle and Gold.  Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about that, as I’m currently indifferent to this particular pairing.

There was a bit of possible subtle foreshadowing at the block party, when the Nevengers tell Arthur that Dark One Emma has Excalibur.  It could just be me making a mountain out of a molehill, but Killian seemed to be giving Arthur the stink eye when they discussed the connection between Excalibur and the Dark One’s dagger.  I’m just remembering that this isn’t the first time Killian has encountered a corrupted king.  It was such a person that cost him his brother’s life centuries ago.  Perhaps Killian will be the one who realizes Arthur can’t be trusted during the Storybrooke storyline, which will lead to him saving everyone from this corrupt king, the way he hadn’t been able to save Liam from that corrupt king of the past.  He certainly had his perceptiveness on overdrive in this episode, considering he was the one who first noticed the similarity between Excalibur’s blade and the Dark One’s Dagger, and he was the one who spotted the dreamcatcher sitting on the table.

Now, can I just say, could we please ease up on the Neal talk?  I know there is a small group among the viewing audience who actually liked the guy for reasons I can’t quite fathom, but the way they kept bringing him up in this episode seemed a bit forced.  Okay, I was fine with Henry mentioning him with Violet when she said her mother had passed away.  It was something for them to bond over.  And I was even fine with Killian mentioning him when they found the dreamcatcher in Dark One Emma’s house, mostly because it once again indicated that Emma had confided in him about her past.  (We saw a hint of this before in the Wizard of Oz arc, when Emma brought up the fact that Neal had sent her to jail during one of her conversations with Killian.)  I’m fairly certain that Emma has confided more in Killian than anyone else in Storybrooke.  But why was Emma speaking of Neal so positively when Henry was trying to think of ways to impress Violet in Camelot?  Seriously, I know he was her first love, and they were trying to play up the whole first love thing in this episode, but she actually states she liked Neal because he was always himself when they were together.  The guy didn’t even tell her his REAL NAME!  Or where he was really from.  How can you be yourself if you can’t even be completely honest about your past?  Also, was it really necessary to praise his ‘signature move?’ You know, considering he used these ‘signature moves’ on someone who wasn’t even a legal adult at the time?  Seriously, show, stop trying to canonize Neal like he was some kind of saint.  He was anything but.

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