It’s been a mystery since the Season 5 premiere of “Once Upon a Time” of how Emma (Jennifer Morrison) gave into the darkness, but now that becomes clear. To free Merlin (Elliot Knight) from the tree she betrays her truest love — Henry (Jared Gilmore).
Merlin was incased in the tree by the first Dark One with the tear of lost love, and Emma and Regina (Lana Parrilla) realize that’s exactly what they need to free him. Even though Regina volunteers to relive the loss of her first love to get them the tear, Emma takes it upon herself to get one from Henry.
She rips out the heart of Violet (Olivia Steele Falconer) and forces her to break Henry’s heart. Emma then uses Henry’s tears from the breakup to free Merlin — which is all fine and dandy until everyone returns to Storybrooke and Henry finds out from a dreamcatcher what his own mother did to him.
It’s important to note that the true love that broke Regina’s curse in Season 1 was the love between Emma and her son Henry — making the love of a mother and son trump any other. The fact that she was willing to hurt Henry (granted, she didn’t crush Violet’s heart so she has a leg up on Regina’s mother) is something we’ve never seen from Emma before.
Emma feels justified in what she did, but Henry doesn’t and it will take a lot more than helping him impress Violet in Storybrooke to make up for the fact that she was so easily willing to hurt him for her own needs.
It’s new level of darkness that we haven’t seen for Emma, and it may be a clue as to why her heart wasn’t ready to let go of the darkness when Merlin offered to free her. If betraying Henry was only the beginning of what made Emma accept the darkness, then there’s a lot more to fear from the memories of their remaining time in Camelot.
“Once Upon a Time” continues Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.