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Once Upon a Time recap: The Bear and the Bow

Belle helps Rumple discover his hidden hero, and Merida becomes ‘Brave.’

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Ed Araquel/ABC

Once Upon a Time

TV Show
Fantasy, Drama
run date:
Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla
Current Status:
In Season

Bravery was given out in spades tonight on Once Upon A Time, and while Arthur continued to prove he wasn’t the world’s most trustworthy member of the Scooby gang, two of Once’s most underused characters — as well as a relationship that hasn’t been fully explored since last season — got some time to shine. In Camelot, we finally figured out what happened to Merida after she split from Emma in the season premiere: She was captured and brought to Arthur’s dungeon, which is where Merlin and the Storybrooke gang find her when they break in to rescue Lancelot. Turns out, just like technology, magic changes through the years, and though the bars of the jail cell have some strange powers, they manage to work past it thanks to a spell book and some smart thinking by Belle (always a clever one…what a puzzle to the rest of us is Belle). Merlin might have been a tree for a bunch of years, but that hasn’t stopped his power OR his looks. Maybe it’s good to be a tree, after all. Meanwhile, Merida doesn’t want to leave because she’s still upset that Arthur took her wisp, and she needs to save her brothers. Too bad the Scooby Gang couldn’t care less.

So Merida takes matters into her own hands, as one does, first bonding with Belle over Merida’s journey and then distracting her and cutting her off from the group. She knocks her out and drags her along to the Shores of DunBroch on a boat. See, Merida’s just as clever as Belle and picks up on the fact that Belle knows spells and how to work magic. She wants Belle to help her save her brothers, but why ask questions when she might get denied? “I’m more of a hit first, ask questions later kind of person.” Once Upon a Time, teaching kids all the important lessons: Instead of asking nicely for help from an innocent person, hit them over the head and kidnap them!

Fortunately, Belle is forgiving and at least a little understanding and listens as Merida describes her plight. She wants to show the clans that she deserves to be queen because she refuses to give it up for a man. Go, Merida! They find a witch’s house with a conveniently abandoned cauldron, where Merida realizes they can use magic to help her find her brothers. Belle concocts a potion that allows them to see what Merida is dealing with: her three brothers targeted for execution to pay for Merida’s treachery. Merida realizes that in order to save her brothers, she needs to change her fate — but she needs Belle’s help because the potion doesn’t just involve giving someone magical powers. It involves Merida turning into a bear. (A nice nod to the Disney fairytale, which had the witch giving Merida a cake that turned her mother into a bear. Unfortunately, her mother didn’t get the nice choices Merida did in this episode.)

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Belle sees Merida practicing archery and is surprised by her skill. Merida tells Belle about her father, how he was supportive of his daughter picking up a bow and arrow and taught her how to fight. But more importantly, he gave her emotional motivation in addition to physical motivation — and that’s part of what makes Merida brave. Merida still doesn’t think she’s strong enough to take on the clans by herself, however, which is why she needs to become something greater. Belle’s convinced she doesn’t need magic, that the bravery is there inside her. Like all Disney heroes, all she has to do is believe in herself, and she can make her own fate with her own strength. Isn’t that a better way to prove yourself? (10/10 Disney films say yes.)

NEXT: Don’t trust the knight of the Round Table