Admit it, Once-ers: All this jumping back and forth between timelines is getting a little confusing. The costumes help a little, but are we in Camelot or are we in Storybrooke, and who knows what and how do they know it?

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Take, for instance, poor Rumplestiltskin. He’s spent the past four episodes languishing on a daybed in some sort of magical coma. Then Emma wakes him up and, since she says he’s a blank canvas, she’s trying to make him a hero. But how can he be a blank canvas if he still remembers everything he’s done in life, even if he doesn’t have dark powers anymore? In theory, all the sadness he’s caused could help him become a more righteous do-gooder, but couldn’t it also just make him crack? That’s kind of what we’re seeing already, especially in the preview for next week’s show, but it’s honestly more sad that bravery inspiring. I never bought Rumple as a coward, and Robert Carlyle and Emilie De Ravin don’t bring the same spark to Rumple and Belle that all the other canon pairs have, so I have to admit this episode—and his whole new storyline, really—have left me a bit cold.

Lana Parilla, on the other hand, really brought it this week as the once evil Regina. The fire she brings to problem solving is fairly infectious, especially when she teams up with the other members of the do-gooder hero crew. She’s been wronged, and she’s got every reason to try to redeem herself. Her character’s arc is believable, especially when it’s helped along by a few elements of grown up realism. She and Robin like whiskey! She’s sassy! She’s only using her magic for good now, mostly! Everything’s looking up for Regina, if only she could figure out what old Emma Swan is up to.

Speaking of Emma Swan, what is she up to? Is she really trying to steal all the light magic from the world, or is she still good and working some sort of alternate plan that only she can pull off to turn herself good again? (My money’s on the latter.) She keeps telling people to trust her, and she seems to at least care a little when she hurts Henry, even if it’s for a good cause. (Don’t even get me started on what went on a couple episodes back with her and Hook. Crushing.) The show’s trying to trick us into thinking maybe she’s gone too far and that maybe something traumatic happened in Camelot. Hell, maybe it did. Maybe Merlin’s not all that. I’d buy it. But we’re still talking about the Disney-vetted G-rated Once Upon A Time here, and they’re not going to let their beloved main character go full dark side, even if it would make a hell of a Star Wars tie in.

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And poor Henry. Well, not poor Henry, because it was for a good reason, but he doesn’t know that in either reality. He went and pulled out the Yaz and the Harold And Maude (an admittedly odd choice for a 13 year old, not that I’m buying Jared Gilmore as a 13-year-old in any way), and bland, easily wooed Violet just broke his heart. He even gave her soda, which she described as “a carnival in a can,” a descriptor I will use to obscurely annoy everyone I know going forward in my life. (“Oh, 7Up 10! How wonderful! It’s like a carnival in a can!”) Poor guy. Not that it could have ever really worked anyway, because she’s from Camelot and he’s from Storybrooke, and we all know that, come the mid-season break, this storyline’s going to be over and she’s going home and blah blah blah. He’ll just have to find someone in Maine to love. I wonder if that Peter Peter guy has a daughter?

Ultimately, depending on what you want from your Once, “Dreamcatcher” was a bit of a let down. It moved the plot along, but at a feverish pace and with built in leaps in faith and storyline that just haven’t been explained enough. (How, for instance, did Emma learn that she could capture memories in dreamcatchers? And why is that the craft she chose now that she doesn’t need to sleep?) Maybe all those assumptions and conclusions will be eventually explained in one of those “ohhhhh, I get it now” summations a couple of episodes down the road, but maybe not. Once’s writers and creators have a tendency to play fast and loose with their storylines, knowing their audience will just kind of accept it and move on. Thus, these kinds of leaps aren’t really out of the question for them. (You can’t blame them, really. We’re already watching a show about fairy tales, for crying out loud.) But I didn’t really get “Dreamcatcher.” I’m not sure that I’m supposed to yet, and down the road I might change my mind and say, “you know, that was the episode I need to go back and watch now that I know what I know.” But for now, it just left me a little cold.

Stray observations:

  • You know what doesn’t leave me cold? Emma Swan’s clothing this season. Her white cape might look like a shabby chic bedspread, but I’m feeling it. And while I could live without the tulle broom hanging off her Dark One outfit, when it’s not there and she’s just catting around town in that little crocodile number, I’ve got major coat envy.
  • I would totally go to the Storybrooke fall festival—provided that there was a lot of beer.
  • Are we ever going to get to meet some of these characters, like Peter Peter the pumpkin eater? Only if they serve the storylines, I suppose, but sometimes it just seems like such a tease. I want a glimpse, god dammit.

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