The latest episode of Once Upon A Time left a lot to be desired. It’s not that “The Bear and the Bow” was a bad episode per se…more like a dull one. Not a lot happened over the course of the hour and much of the focus centered on Merida. Again, that’s not a bad thing because she’s a fun character, but when we’re reaching the midway point of the first arc of the season, we need more than just an okay episode.
Let’s hit the important moments, starting with the flashback. The BAMF team of Hook, Charming, Merlin, and Belle stormed the castle and freed Lancelot and Merida. The latter needed to save her brothers from the clans trying to overthrow her as queen, but Merlin warned her not to worry about the wisps because it would lead to her death. Instead, she teamed up with Belle, and by “teamed up” I mean hit her over the head and took her hostage to force her to do a spell. But Belle’s pretty tough and likes to do the right thing so she stayed around to help even after the concussion.
Merida wanted the magic potion to turn her into a bear so she could fight the clan, but Belle tried to talk her out of it. She thought the people needed to see her be a queen. Plus, she’s got the awesome archery skills. But Merida’s fear for her brothers won out and she took the potion, except it didn’t work because Belle switched it out for water. Merida managed to stop three arrows with one and then the people finally took her seriously, even if she didn’t have a husband (is anyone else thinking about Princess Diaries 2?). These scenes were fun because I am always here for strong females being awesome and I love Belle for always seeing the best in people and encouraging them to do the same.
Back in Storybrooke, Rumple freed himself by breaking the chipped cup and using the pieces to cut his ties (that hurt a lot, show). Dark Swan ordered Merida to kill Belle in order to force Rumple to save her. Rumple and Belle reunited in the library and he was rating around 1000 on the coward scale even as Belle continued to have faith in him. His plan was to leave town, but Belle made him stop the car and she ran off to stay and fight like a hero. This time, Merida did turn herself into a bear and chased Belle through the woods. Rumple did the right thing and fought the bear, managing to turn Merida back into a human in the process (by accident).
Merida, Rumple and Belle headed back to the Dark Swan’s lair and Merida assured Emma Rumple beat her fair and square. Before he agreed to pull the sword from the stone, he wanted to make a deal with the Dark Swan: he wanted Merida’s heart back and she wanted to know if her brothers were safe. Emma said she was done with the heart anyway, shoved it back in her chest, and told her the brothers were with her mother. Rumple pulled the sword from the stone, tossed it on the ground, and told Emma she made a mistake by making him a hero. Emma remained unimpressed since the whole town is full of heroes, but Rumple warned her none of them were him.
Here’s the thing. I am all for redemption. I believe almost any television character can be redeemed with good writing. But this feels a little too fast and too easy considering all the terrible things Rumple did last season. One good deed does not make a man a hero, especially when it concerns saving the woman he loves. We’ve seen Rumple sacrifice himself before (3×11) and still return to his dark ways. Considering the legend surrounding Excalibur, shouldn’t it have taken more than that to free the sword? Then again, Arthur did it and he’s the worst so maybe it’s not all that selective.
On the other hand, once upon a time (sorry, couldn’t resist), Rumple and Belle were my favorite couple on the show so I can appreciate a lot of their scenes tonight. Rumple telling Belle he wanted to let go, but he heard her by his side when he was in the coma. Belle understood how much of a coward he was back in the day, but she still thought he can change (and yes, we can be cynical and say that’s naïve, but would she really be Belle if she didn’t hold onto that belief?) and finally, Rumple’s declaration before he pulled the sword from the stone, knowing it could turn him to dust: if he could do it over again, he’d be the man Belle deserved. Now is the chance to step up and prove it. Don’t let this be like every other time Rumple does good and then throws it out the window ten seconds later.
A few more bits and pieces to talk about before we wrap this up: Zelena was back this week! Emma sprung her from her cell and offered up the onion rings she was craving (Regina has her on a healthy green diet) because she needs her to wield Merlin’s wand. She offered to protect her from Regina and the others if Zelena would join Team Dark Swan. But Zelena rejected her. She lectured Emma on the way she treated Henry and how he’d never get over it and then insisted she’d rather be alone. Oh, Emma. You know it’s time to rethink your life choices when the Wicked Witch is judging you. Emma sent Zelena away with a warning that she’d change her mind. I hope she does just because I love Zelena having things to do.
Finally, Team Hero gathered the ingredients they needed to use the magic toadstool to contact Merlin. But they made the mistake of calling Arthur to do the communicating since it had to be someone Merlin trusted. Naturally, since he’s the worst, Arthur threw the toadstool in the fire and then lied to the group about not getting any reception. But our heroes found the burned toadstool, realized he played them, and then they remembered they had another person who had been chosen by Merlin: the author! Regina brought Henry into the mix and he insisted he wanted to help because he believed Emma could still be saved. Merlin appeared, but it was a recording (“I don’t believe this. We’re getting Merlin’s voicemail?” wins as the best line of the night, Regina). He said things were worse than he feared, he was running out of time because the Dark One was coming, and he said the only way to help Emma now was to find Nimue. Once his image faded, Hook asked the question everyone was thinking: What did Emma do to Merlin?