"Dreamcatcher" is the fifth episode of Season Five of ABC's Once Upon a Time. It was written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz, and directed by Romeo Tirone. It is the ninety-third episode of the series overall, and premiered on October 25, 2015.
In Camelot, as Mary Margaret and David attempt to retrieve the Dark One dagger, Emma uses a Dreamcatcher to look into the past to see how Merlin was transformed into a tree. Together, Emma and Regina figure out the critical ingredient they must acquire to free Merlin, but it's a race against Arthur, who does not want Merlin released. Meanwhile, with encouragement from his moms, Henry musters up the courage to ask Violet on a date. Back in Storybrooke, the heroes break into Emma's house hoping to locate Gold, but what they find will give them a glimpse of Emma's end game. Far from prying eyes, Merida sets about the mission Emma has tasked her with and begins molding Gold into the hero they need to draw Excalibur.
The episode starts off in a flashback, a distraught Merlin summons the Dark One for a confrontation. Merlin exclaims that the Dark One has killed the only woman he has ever loved, and attempts to kill the Dark One, but simply can't bring himself to do so. In this moment of vulnerability, Merlin drops the Dark One's Dagger and falls to his knees. The Dark One quickly steals the dagger and uses Merlin's tears in an effort to transform him into a tree, and traps him. In Camelot, Emma is seen watching these events through an enchanted Dreamcatcher.
Elsewhere in Camelot, Regina, Mary Margaret, and David are walking through the forest towards the dagger's hiding place. Mary Margaret and David, under Arthur's Spell, try to convince Regina to give the Dagger to Arthur. Regina has her doubts and continues to question Mary Margaret and David about being able to trust Arthur. Emma suddenly appears and freezes Mary Margaret and David, while also revealing to Regina Arthur's plans to reunite the Dagger with Excalibur. Emma knows they have to free Merlin in order to free Emma of the Darkness, but Regina is hesitant about this idea because Emma needs to use Dark Magic in order to free Merlin.
Back in present-day Storybrooke, Mary Margaret, David, Regina, Hook, Henry, Guinevere, and Arthur can be seen inside the Sheriff's office. A prisoner accused of stealing a magic bean has mysteriously disappeared from his jail cell, but unbeknownst to everyone, Arthur has killed the prisoner in order to hide his secret plans. In the midst of the confusion, Henry proposes an idea for a town "Dance" to cheer everyone up. David quickly realizes that Henry is texting a new friend of his, Violet, and everyone teases Henry about having a new "girlfriend". Regina becomes agitated about her son having a girlfriend, but Hook seems to embrace this idea. When the group exits the station, Belle runs up to them and reveals that Gold is missing.
Elsewhere, in Emma's basement, Emma can be seen confronting a tied up Gold. Emma releases Gold, but Gold attempts to talk Emma out of her evil plans. Emma pays no attention to Gold, and summons Merida from out of the shadows. It is then revealed that Emma has taken Merida's heart. Emma tells Merida to take Gold to the woods and to "begin", but does not reveal her plans. After these events, Emma walks into a shed filled with dreamcatchers, but begins to cry when she pulls one down from the ceiling.
Back in Camelot, Regina and Emma are seen talking in Merlin's tower. Emma shows Regina the dreamcatcher, while also revealing that Dark Magic is stronger, which caused her to see what happened to Merlin. Regina, hearing what happened to Merlin, realizes what trapped Merlin can also be used to free him, a tear of lost love.
Henry and Violet are talking in the stables. In the middle of the conversation, Violet reveals her previous horse had died. Henry relates to this by revealing his father, Baelfire, also died when Henry was young. They bond over this moment, and Violet says Henry is the first person she can talk about her life with. Violet leaves, and Henry tries his hand at swordplay but miserably fails. Sir Morgan, Violet's father, walks in and tells Henry he prefers for his daughter to be with a Knight.
Henry then catches up with Emma in the forest, but Emma says that Henry shouldn't change who he really is to impress others. Emma suggests for Henry to be himself.
In an effort to free Merlin, Regina tells Emma to use the Dreamcatcher on her to recall the time Cora crushed Daniel's Heart. Emma captures Regina's tear of lost love, and tells Regina that she also saw what happened in the Dreamcatcher. Emma feels sorry for Regina and says she didn't know that event was so painful.
Back in Storybrooke, Violet tells Henry that her horse has ran away. She also reveals that her horse has an unusual craving for pumpkins. Henry goes to Emma and seeks her help in order to find Violet's lost horse. Emma excitedly accepts Henry's offer and they speed away in Emma's yellow buggie. Unbeknownst to Emma, Henry also wanted Emma away from the house for Regina and the others to break in and reveal her secrets. However, Emma enchanted the house so no one can get in. Belle realizes that Henry was able to enter the house, so Regina opens the door successfully with Henry's scarf.
In Camelot, Henry takes Emma's advice and sets up a "date" with Violet. Henry brings Violet to Granny's, and pours her her first drink of soda. Violet is delighted by the taste, but then realizes that Henry is attempting to court her. Violet seems to be flattered, but tells Henry that she prefers for them to just be friends.
In present-day Storybrooke, Merida has broken in to the Mayor's office and goes through Henry's fairy tale book. She turns to the page where Belle accidentally chipped Rumplestiltskin's teacup. She uses this as leverage for Gold to become a "hero".
Emma and Henry continue their mission to locate Violet's horse. Emma, remembering Henry telling her the that the horse likes pumpkins, brings Henry to Peter Peter's Pumpkin Patch. The two find the horse there, and Emma attempts to lure the horse back to her. Henry says the horse can sense the darkness in Emma, then uses a piece of pumpkin to gain the horse's trust.
Regina, Belle, Hook, and Robin, having successfully broken into Emma's house, travel down into the locked basement. They see the sword in stone, Excalibur, but then realize the sword has the same design as the Dark One's dagger. The group is confused, but Hook grows impatient and attempts to pull the sword from the stone. Regina abruptly stops Hook, believing Emma to have booby-trapped the sword. Belle then sees ropes tied around the back fence of the basement. She believes that Emma has been keeping Gold trapped there, so Robin suggests for them to search the rest of the house. Before the group can take action, Henry texts Regina that Emma is returning to the house.
While exiting, Hook notices a mysterious object near the entrance of the house. Hooks tells the group that it is a Dreamcatcher, but it is different from any he has ever seen. Regina reveals that Dreamcatchers can be imbued with magic, then says she knows how Emma took their memories.
Back in Camelot, Emma and Regina begin creating the potion, and add Regina's tear of lost love. However, a cloud of smoke rises from the cauldron, but quickly fizzles out. Emma reveals that Regina's tear was not strong enough, stating that Regina has healed, moved on, and is now with Robin. The two are then dumbfounded, but Henry appears and says that Violet broke his heart, then sheds a tear. Regina quickly captures his tear on a tissue and tells Henry he will be a hero in their world, even if he can't be one for Violet.
Before Regina can add Henry's tear to the cauldron, Arthur and his men show up and demand for them to step away from the tree. Arthur tells Regina to give him the Dagger, but Regina does not listen and quickly gives Emma the tear while holding off Arthur and his men. Emma adds the tear to the cauldron, and a cloud of black and white magic appears and surrounds Emma. She exclaims "It's Working!" while attempting to free Merlin from the tree. A weak, cloaked figure appears and beings to stand up. The cloaked figure unveils his hood, then tells an exhausted Emma that he has been waiting for her.
The mysterious figure is revealed to be Merlin. Merlin turns towards Arthur and says he is disappointed in what he has become. An angry Arthur tells Merlin he gave him false prophecies, sent him on an impossible quest, and ruined his life. Arthur threatens Merlin with Excalibur, but Merlin already knows the broken sword won't harm him.
Back in Storybrooke, Mary Margaret, David, Hook, and Belle tell Arthur and Guinevere what they found in Emma basement, Excalibur. Hook questions Arthur about what he wants with the sword and its capabilities. Arthur reveals the sword can eradicate all dark magic, but in the wrong hands, all light magic also. The group then assumes Emma wants to snuff out all light magic forever.
At the planned carnival, Henry rides up to Violet on her lost horse. Sir Morgan, Violet's father, is also in their presence. Violet is happy and Sir Morgan is impressed with Henry, saying that Henry will become a fine knight some day. Sir Morgan leaves them to enjoy the festivities, and Violet kisses Henry on the cheek.
Elsewhere, Emma wants Merida to turn Gold into a hero. Gold, being a coward, sits down and exclaims he can't be a hero. Merida then taunts Gold with the chipped cup, and Gold becomes angry then attacks Merida. Merida is pleased with Gold's actions, stating that the training has begun, but they still have a long way to go.
Later, Robin and Regina use the Dreamcatcher to find out what really happened in Camelot, but only Violet can be seen in the memory. Henry, secretly standing behind Robin and Regina, watches the memory from afar. The memory reveals that Emma forced Violet to break Henry's heart, by stealing her heart and having complete control over her. Robin and Regina are confused by Emma's actions, but then realize Henry has seen the entire thing.
Back at Granny's diner in Camelot, Merlin removes the spell that has been cast on David and Mary Margaret. They apologize to Emma for their actions, but Emma tells them she is just glad that Merlin could help. Mary Margaret and David expected Merlin to be older, but he says that's what happens when you're stuck in a tree for hundred of years. Merlin then tells Emma he can free her from the Darkness, but with a caveat. In order to free her from the Darkness, her heart needs to be truly ready.
Back in Storybrooke, Emma shows up at Regina's house so she can see Henry. Regina confronts her about she did to Henry in Camelot, but Emma says she shouldn't be breaking and entering into her house. Regina then realizes that Emma let out Violet's horse in the first place, exclaiming Dark One's are always manipulating people. Emma tries to justify her actions then turns everything back on Regina. Regina continues to irritate Emma then says Emma is just like her mother, Cora. Emma begins to grow annoyed and impatient, and accidentally tells Regina that Henry's heartbreak was the only way to free Merlin.
Emma tells Regina she just wants to see her son, but Regina says Henry does not want to see her. Emma begins to leave, but makes eye contact with Henry in the upstairs bedroom. They stare at each other before Henry quickly closes the curtains.
- The title card features a pumpkin.
- The title of this episode was announced by Adam Horowitz via his Twitter account on August 22, 2015.
- Writer Brigitte Hales described this episode as "a heartbreaker".
- Just before Merida is about to look through Henry's storybook, there is a shot of the streets of Storybrooke. The exact same shot is reused when everyone returns to Storybrooke in "An Untold Story". The only difference is the color hue and the time on the CGI clock tower.
- The Storybrooke events take place after "The Broken Kingdom" and before "The Bear and the Bow". (For more details, see the Land Without Magic timeline)
- The Camelot opening scene takes place after "Nimue". (For more details, see the Camelot timeline)
- The rest of Camelot events take place after "The Broken Kingdom" and before "The Bear and the Bow".
- The Enchanted Forest scenes at Granny's Diner take place after "The Broken Kingdom" and before "The Bear and the Bow". (For more details, see the Enchanted Forest timeline)
- Tears were last used to empower the Dark One's Dagger in "The Apprentice".
- Emma first used a Dreamcatcher to capture memories in "The Cricket Game".
- Merida succeeds in turning Mr. Gold into a hero in "The Bear and the Bow".
- The location where Merida is sparring with Mr. Gold is the same location where Emma had a date with August in "What Happened to Frederick" (note that the Storybrooke Wishing Well appears by this tree in this episode; in later episodes, the well appears in a different location), and where Lily transforms back into a human and reconciles with her mother in "Mother".
- Regina mentions David's life as a shepherd, which was seen in "The Shepherd" and "White Out".
- The last time one of Regina's tears was used for a spell, was in "Second Star to the Right".
- Daniel was killed by Cora in "The Stable Boy".
- Mary Margaret and David came under the affects of the Sands of Avalon in "The Broken Kingdom".
- Henry plays "Only You" again for Violet. He first did this in "The Price".
- Granny's lasagna is also referred to in "Child of the Moon", "Tiny", "Lacey", "The New Neverland", "It's Not Easy Being Green" and "An Untold Story".
- Violet's horse is scared of the Dark One, just like the horse that Hook "borrowed" in "The Broken Kingdom".
- Hook mentions the dreamcatcher that Neal "gave" to Emma (it was actually the other way around) in "Tallahassee".
- Regina says "Goodbye, Miss Swan." right in front her house and closes the door. She said and did exactly the same in "Pilot".
- Emma looks up at Henry through his window is reminiscent of the same scene in "Pilot".
- This episode features Merida from the movie Brave.
- Just before Merida is about to look through Henry's storybook, an advertisement for computers with the Encom logo from the movie Tron can be seen on the street.
Fairytales and Folklore
- This episode features King Arthur, Merlin, Nimue and Guinevere from the Arthurian Legend, Captain Hook from the Peter Pan story, the Miller's Daughter from the Rumpelstiltskin fairytale, Robin Hood from the ballad, and Hank Morgan and his daughter from the novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
- The pumpkin stand where Emma and Henry find Violet's horse is run by Peter Peter. This is a reference to the nursery rhyme "Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater".
- The music played by Henry in Granny's Diner is "Only You" by Yazoo.
- During his date with Violet, Henry suggests that they watch a movie together, and says that he only has two movies on his phone: Commando and Harold and Maude.
- Harold and Maude, which Henry thinks might be a "good date movie", is in fact a dark romantic comedy about a love story between a teenager and an old lady, which is known for its dark and twisted humor.
- Understandably, however, Henry picks Harold and Maude over Commando, which is an ultra violent R rated action movie about a man who launches a one-man war against a group criminals.
- One of Merlin's Books, the one that Emma opens in Merlin's tower (seen upside-down), is a facsimile two pages from Foxe's Book of Martyrs, a work of Protestant history and martyrology by the sixteenth century English historian and martyrologist John Foxe, published in 1563.
- When Merida opens Henry's storybook, the page she skims though is a retelling of a scene from "Desperate Souls":
mannered and curiously
unremarkable man who lived a
rather unremarkable life.
Along with his wife and
young son, Baelfire, he lived
in a modest wooden hut on
the outskirts of the village, making his living by
spinning wool into the thread that he would barter
or sell to the people thereabouts.
Rumplestiltskin's fortunes were to change that
beautiful day that the Duke’s soldiers rode into the
village They were rounding up all men and children
of a serviceable age, garnering recruits to fight in
terrible, never-ending Ogre Wars.
Young Baelfire saw a young girl, a cherished
childhood companion being wrestled from her
parents. Not [obscured] he ran home to
tell his father.
"Papa, Papa," Baelfire gasped, out of breath,
[obscured] come to take Morraine away!"
[obscured] rose from the spinning stool;
[obscured] he limped outside.There
stable. The soldiers were dragging a young girl from
the arms of her distraught and pleading parents.
"Please do not take our Morraine," the
mother beseeched, her arms outstretched.
The guard was unshakable. "Your daughter is
strong and will make a fine soldier!"
"But there must be a mistake," her father
responded. "She is only thirteen…"
"I am under orders from the Duke", replied
the guard. "The wars have taken a turn-for-the
worst and the age of those we seek has been
lowered – by decree!"
As the guard was about to hoist the young girl
onto his horse, her father pulled out a knife from his
[illegible word]. "Stop! You cannot have her!" he bellowed,
thrusting the blade aimlessly into the air.
All of a sudden, the father ceased wavering
and [illegible word] motionless, like a statue, bound as if by
some [illegible word] and abysmal power. Everyone gathered
thereabouts gaped and looked towards to the
[two illegible words] over to where a dark hooded man
on a black horse was enacting a diabolical spell.
- When a the party being thrown for the people of Camelot, Lyly's Kettle Corn, a real food stand in Steveston Village, can be seen in the street.