The background symbolism begins to coalesce. Swan Queens get a whole episode all for them. And Merlin is too hot to ship with anybody but yourself.
Michael’s “Always… no, no… never… forget to check your references.”
The Fisher King
Rumple’s being set up for this and surrounded by its imagery. He fits so well that this has probably been part of the plan from the beginning. He’s got the requisite leg wound that metaphorically suggests his impotence (cowardice) and his son’s gone (a mark of broken fertility). What this episode did was collect the four hallows around him.
- The broken sword: Excalibur and the Wavy Knife
- The lance: Merida’s hastily crafted walking staff.
- The grail: The chipped teacup, symbolically representing love (Belle) and literally his motivation to fight.
- The dish: the eponymous dreamcatcher.
Morgan le Fey
Violet’s father is Sir Morgan. Given the research the writers have done, that’s no accident. It probably doesn’t mean much for him, but it sets her up as a Mordred figure. While that particular variation is a later one, Disney loves it. Think Gargoyles.
The Secret of NIMH
Nicodemus is back.
“Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater”
And Henry and Emma find him at Peter Peter’s Pumpkin Patch. Happy Halloween. See. Hallows.
File this under speculation, but in the same way Darth Vader killed Luke’s father, the first dark one destroyed Merlin’s love.
Bonus: Harry Potter – the Dark One looks like a Death Eater.
101 Dalmatians (Queens of Darkness)
The Panther De Ville’s for sale. Remember how Emma killed Cruella?
In the same way they called out Frozen last year, they’re title dropping this with abandon.
Rumplestiltskin: I can never be BRAVE.
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist
“Only You” by Yazoo plays over Henry and Violet’s “date.”
Henry’s got two movies on his phone. The first is a 1985 excuse for an action hero to go on a killing spree. Plot elements include returning a dictator to power and rescuing a child. But that seems coincidental.
Harold and Maude
The second is cult comedy from 1971 about a relationship between a teenager and a septaugenarian. Whether this has a bearing on who or what Violet is or simply foreshadows Emma’s control of her, it’s quite provocative. “It’s a good date movie, I think,” indeed.
The Sword in the Stone
Merlin refers to Arthur as the boy who would be king, recalling the child of this film rather than the more mature versions of the story.
“It’s like a carnival in a can”
Once Upon a Time
Merida gets a look in the book to find Rumple’s weakness.
They’re leaning pretty hard on 4×04 and have done so over and over again.”Love is a weapon,” was quoted and the tear of heartbreak bracketed “Dreamcatcher.”
Emma’s mission is still to bring everyone’s happy ending. Regina will be the savior. Rumple will be a hero.
Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments
Purple Prose comes to the fore! The return of Rumpbelle!
Purple Prose (Henry + Violet)
This is their episode. There are two storylines to their budding romance. The elements of each are interwoven to keep the big reveals for extra special heart-tugging at the end.
In Storybrooke, Henry suggests a dance to give people hope (read: to have an excuse to ask Violet out on a date). Unfortunately for him, she’s in no mood to dance: her horse is lost. Henry vows to find her horse. He figures he can be a hero for Violet, get her to the dance, AND reach the good part still buried somewhere in Emma.
In Camelot, Violet and Henry groom horse and chill, bonding over lost parents. Violet: “I never met anyone I could talk to about this before.” While she’s away for a bit, Henry picks up one of her father’s swords and swings it around a bit pretending to be a knight. To his utter horror, he is discovered by Violet’s father, Sir Morgan, who goes on to condescend to him–how will being a writer protect his daughter against ogres? (AU fantasy: Henry sics his moms on Sir Morgan.)
Back in Storybrooke, Henry tells Emma about how he connected with Violet over the Yaz song. Emma explains how that was Baelfire’s wooing go-to; subtext also explains why Henry would be nuts over an obscure 80’s song. They find the horse at a pumpkin patch.
Back in Camelot, Sir Morgan has effectively shaken Henry’s confidence. His moms build him back up, convince him to use his mysterious other-worlder status to hook her.
So Henry sends her a note to meet him at Granny’s diner where he’s set up a dinner date over leftover lasagne. His ace-in-the-hole: Pepsi. Just when things seem to be heading towards romance, Violet says she just wants to be friends. Henry’s tear of lost love is fresh and powerful enough to free Merlin.
But in Storybrooke, his heroic return of the horse grants him the approval of Sir Morgan and the kiss-on-the-cheek of gratitude from Violet. It seems the second chance granted by the curse’s amnesia brings him romantic success.
The great reveal: this is all Emma’s machinations. In Camelot, she took Violet’s heart to make her break Henry’s. In Storybrooke, she attempts to right that wrong by rigging up the lost horse scenario. At least, that’s what Regina suggests, and it rings with truth.
These last few episodes have been great for reminding us why the OTP’s are what they are. Many of us were so done with Rumpbelle, until Rumpel was freed of the darkness, and now he arrests our sympathies again. He immediately tells Emma, upon her freeing him to transform into a pure-hearted hero, that he needs to see Belle. Later, when he keeps saying he can’t fight, Merida reads his story in the in-town history book and uses the chipped cup to motivate Rumpel to fight. That symbol of the flawed Rumpbelle relationship is so precious to him, he’ll risk his life and overcome his cowardice to protect it–and by extension, Belle.
Meanwhile, Belle leads the Storybrooke Scooby Gang in hunting down where Emma had been keeping Rumpel. She’s on a mission and firing on all cylinders to get ‘er done. It’s pretty hawt.
Speaking of hot, Swan Queen was on fire this episode. Regina even fires off a fireball to protect Emma’s ability to free Merlin. But prior to that, Regina relived her most painful memory–her mother killing Daniel–to get the true love’s tear needed to break the spell encasing Merlin. Emma was emotionally touched learning it, but then also used it for inspiration with Henry. The two fought side-by-side as magical soulmates against Arthur.
Back in Storybrooke, however, things are more complicated. Emma is at a distance, not opening up to anyone. But Regina has been keeping the hope alive. “There’s nothing you can’t come back from if you just tell us.” Emma remains closed-lipped. Then Regina reveals they’ve seen the dreamcatcher’s memory. Emma attempts to justify it: she broke Henry’s heart “to protect him.” Regina’s having none of it–that’s what her mother said when she killed Daniel. She has to distance herself, going back to calling Emma “Miss Swan” and shutting the door in her face.
Killian continues to devote himself to freeing Emma from the darkness, though Merlin, when he comes, warns that she must be willing to be free of it. And we already know she’s got mixed feeling about that.
Notably, Killian is so gung-ho, he goes to pull the sword from the stone. Regina stops him because he could turn to dust (and because it’s not 5×10 yet).