This review contains spoilers! Proceed with caution.
This episode was very much about first love – the highs and the heartbreak. It also took a little trip down memory lane, with some old names being mentioned again. These threads all tied in to ultimately showcase Emma’s transition into becoming the Dark Swan.
We’ve seen before that dreamcatchers hold a certain significance for Emma. In ‘Tallahassee’, they were a reminder of her past with Neal. Now they’re being used to symbolise her descent into darkness. I have to say that the change in her personality this episode felt too drastic. Last week’s Camelot flashback indicated that she had her dark magic under control. ‘Dreamcatcher’ showed us a very different Emma, one who willingly embraced her villainous side. She’s adopted a harmful ‘greater good’ mentality that has obviously warped her moral compass. Manipulating her son in order to obtain the ‘tear of a lost first love’ needed to free Merlin was a seriously low moment. Regina compared Emma’s reasoning to her mother’s, and although Emma didn’t go so far as to kill Violet like Cora did Daniel, I have to agree with her. ‘The more you justify what you’re doing, the more you push them away’, as Gold so sagely put it. Although we did see a moment of remorse from Emma in her dreamcatcher shed, it felt like too little, too late.
Speaking of Henry, his love life seems to be back on track despite Emma’s interferences. Violet has inexplicably acquired a phone as well as becoming fluent in text slang, and that’s how the two have been keeping in contact. One thing I did find irksome was that Henry only seems to know one song. I know that it was a reference to Neal’s fatherly teachings, but this is already the third time ‘Only You’ has been played. I wish they’d mix it up a little bit (Taylor Swift’s ‘Love Story’ is perfectly applicable to their relationship, for instance). Ignoring the repetitive soundtrack, their date night was the sweetest thing (before Violet was forced to break Henry’s heart, that is). The cheek kiss at the Storybrooke Fair was adorable, too. I’m looking forward to the awkwardness and hand-holding that is sure to accompany their future interactions.
Elliot Knight finally got to demonstrate his acting talents after spending most of this season as a tree. I’m really liking Merlin’s character so far. He has a few things in common with fellow sassmaster Killian, considering they’ve both had love ripped away from them by the Dark One. It’s a fair bet that these parallels aren’t a mere coincidence. Since Merlin hasn’t appeared in Storybrooke yet, maybe the responsibility will fall on Hook to free Emma from the darkness.
‘Dreamcatcher’ was well-executed in terms of plot. The switches between different storylines were almost seamless, and the theme of love was woven throughout. Emma’s sudden transformation didn’t quite ring true, but it’s understandable that the writers wanted to advance the action. They certainly achieved that with this fast-paced yet cohesive episode.