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'Once Upon a Time' recap: 'Birth' / 'The Bear King'

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Jack Rowand/ABC

Once Upon a Time

type:
TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
tvpgr:
TV-PG
seasons:
5
run date:
10/23/11
performer:
Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla
broadcaster:
ABC
genre:
Fantasy, Drama

Once Upon a Time super-sized itself tonight (you can thank next week’s American Music Awards for that one), and so did the Dark One — yes, we have spent most of the season so far focused on the fact that Emma was the Dark One, but what we didn’t know until tonight was that there are apparently two Dark Ones. And that other Dark One? None other than Hook.

While the two back-to-back episodes didn’t make too much sense meshed together, we still learned a lot of important things. Namely, we got a lot more intel on the missing Camelot weeks (and it seems we’re getting closer and closer to the present day) and also some more background on why no one should trust King Arthur. Ever. And that’s where we start at the beginning of the night, when Charming arrives at Arthur’s tent, interrupting his wine date with Guinevere to confront him about destroying the Crimson Crown. He asks about Nimue because, if you remember, Merlin showed up saying her name but no one in present day Storybrooke knows who she is. Arthur attempts to get away but is stopped by Hook, and both of them are stopped by Emma, who still appears to show some sort of genuine compassion for Hook. When Hook tries to press her about why she needs Excalibur (which is now whole again), Emma refuses to answer, only telling him that “I’m doing this all for you.”

Three weeks earlier, outside Camelot, Emma holds the Flame of Prometheus that will help her put Excalibur back together. She meets Henry at Granny’s, confused at what happened to Merlin, who disappeared randomly on their trek last week when he was summoned by Arthur, who used Zelena’s magic to put his name on half of the sword. As if on cue, Merlin shows up asking for the flame, wanting to make a trade on behalf of Arthur. If Emma doesn’t give him what he wants, her whole family (including Regina) will die. Merlin implores her not to seek the same vengeance that destroyed Nimue, but somehow I don’t think Emma’s going to listen.

But Emma is actually quite cunning. She goes to where Arthur and Zelena (who has changed into super classy Wicked Witch garb, naturally) are holding her friends and family and offers up the box with the flame, which release magical vines that capture Zelena against a tree. Merlin again tells her this is a battle she can’t win, and the two go at it with their powers like Harry Potter and Voldemort, and look, I know I make a lot of references to Harry Potter in these recaps sometimes, but it’s the only thing I can think of when I’m watching. Arthur gets pissed off enough that he attempts to have Merlin kill Snow, but Emma forces him to fight the darkness while Hook gets free and attacks Arthur, who eventually disappears with Zelena. Hook gets mildly hurt in the scuffle, but Emma quickly hand waves the injury away with her new dark magic skills. Huzzah? Anyway, the good news is Emma now has the other half of the sword and realizes they can use the flame to put the sword together, destroy the darkness, and go home! Except…that’s obviously not what happened.

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But the Scooby Gang does make it safely back to Granny’s, with Merlin in tow, and Emma still is having trouble figuring out why she doesn’t want to give up the darkness. Regina meets her outside because “I thought you could use a friend,” and the two share a quiet, genuine moment in what is actually one of my favorite moments in the whole season so far. Regina appeals to her about the darkness. She tries to (gently) force Emma into admitting why she’s so hesitant to give up the darkness because she rightfully realizes it’s not because she wants to protect her family. Regina is, for the first time, actually doing something good (albeit the slightly aggressive Regina way), but she’s interrupted by the rest of her friends who immediately chastise her for making Emma uncomfortable. And, well, sorry, guys. I gotta agree with the former Dark Queen here: “I was getting to the truth; it’s not my fault that it’s painful.” (I have a feeling if Emma ever tried therapy, it wouldn’t be a good fit for her.) When Hook finds her, Emma shows him the paper because Henry is pretty much the worst secret keeper ever. She admits she wants a future with him, but she’s also afraid. Oh, Emma.

NEXT: How to become a Dark One in three easy steps (or more)

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Hook finds Rumple in his shop looking forlornly at a snow globe, and Rumple offers some former Dark One advice (always nice to have those in town.) According to Rumple, he recognizes Emma’s behavior as regret. He realizes Emma’s atoning for something because when you make a deal to become the Dark One, it’s usually at a cost and it never works out the way you think it will. So how does Hook go about finding her and getting that answer? Rumple says he has to give her a reason. Apparently, that reason is calling Emma three times like Beetlejuice and then taking the extra precaution of throwing himself off the roof when Emma doesn’t immediately show herself. He asks again what happened in Camelot and tells her that he loves her, no matter what. He wants to know the truth, no matter how awful it is, because when you love someone, you forgive them! He can take it! Emma tells him she needs to show him something and then brings him inside and shows him the newspaper she’s kept with the house that he had wanted to get together. “This was our future together,” she says desperately before she kisses him…and drugs him. Man, I can’t decide whether Emma is the best or worst girlfriend ever.

Back in Camelot, Vision!Rumple visits a confused Emma and tells her not to remake the dagger. Henry shows up and interrupts their conversation, and Emma admits she doesn’t want to give up the darkness. Well, Henry can help because there’s an “operation” for that — Operation Light Swan, that is. (Get it?) He’s found a piece of newspaper with a listing for a house that Hook has been looking at because he wants to ask Emma to move in with him. This conversation spurs Emma to realize she needs to use her magic one last time because it all comes back to Hook. Meanwhile, in present day, Zelena is currently winning a contest for fastest accelerated pregnancy ever. (And, I mean, I watch a lot of TV, guys. This was really the fastest.) Zelena’s in pain, and she’s sure it’s caused by dark magic, and even though Regina is slow to help, she does eventually give in and bring her sister to the hospital. And hello, Dr. Whale! Welcome back to the show! It’s been awhile. He’s gotten the Emma Swan platinum-blond treatment, though no one really cares (seriously, Regina is SO over this). But Zelena has her baby (it’s a girl!), and somehow, no one is actually hurt or injured in the process, though Emma does show up and mom-jack Zelena because it’s apparently her she’s after, not her kid. She takes her to her batcave (props to Once Upon a Podcast for that gem) where she’s got Hook already captured because apparently Emma plans to transfer the darkness into a new vessel: Zelena (hence the accelerated pregnancy). After that, she’ll use Excalibur to kill Zelena once and for all, and the darkness will be forever destroyed. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this plan except that it’s really inherently evil…right?

A pissed off Regina shows up at the house with Snow and Charming in tow, and while Regina and Snow are arguing about Emma, the Dark One shows up with her awesome new sword, which I’m pretty sure she’s now just flinging around for fun. She says she’s ready to repay Regina for the favor she helped her with in Camelot, claiming, “I am Emma!” (What is it with random evil leaders proclaiming their terribleness?) Hook uses his magical hook to free Zelena of her magic-restricting cuff, prompting Zelena to change into something a little more stylish (of course). After Zelena keeps her part of the deal and frees Hook, she sneaks out while Hook remains in the house and finds squid ink, which he uses to freeze Emma when she comes back inside. Finally, a chance to get some answers! And just in time for Zelena to return and help push things along by reminding Hook what really happened in those missing weeks he can’t remember, thanks to a dreamcatcher…

Apparently, when Hook was wounded in his fight with Arthur, it was a mortal wound since it came from Excalibur. Although Emma healed it, when she attempted to put the sword back together, that magic undid itself, causing Hook to collapse and die. A distraught Emma vows to save him, even at the risk of terrible things…and so she tethers Hook to the sword, making him the Dark One, which means…yep. There are TWO names on that sword. How very Romeo and Juliet. Unfortunately, unlike the star-crossed lovers, Hook’s none too happy that Emma made that decision for him and gave him to a life of darkness…which should make for an interesting situation when we return.

NEXT: The three amig(a)s

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The episode immediately following, “The Bear King,” was what would have probably been a filler episode next week. It had its merits, namely, all the awesome girl moments and the return of Mulan and Ruby, but it essentially was a filler episode for this week, especially in light of everything that happened in the previous hour. As the title implies, “The Bear King” was all about Merida and served as sort of a backstory for how Arthur ties in to these characters’ lives more than we realize.

As Merida puts flowers on her father’s grave, we flash back to the good King Fergus (Glenn Keogh) going to visit the witch who gave Merida the spell of Mor’du because he wants help in leading his kingdom. The witch gives him a bewitched helm, and we soon return to the day of Merida’s coronation, when the witch interrupts the ceremony and claims that her father never paid up for the favor he asked before he died. And if Merida doesn’t find and return that helm? Well, the entire kingdom will be turned into bears. (Sidenote: Once has never been the greatest about following fairytales, and normally, I don’t mind the small detours they take, even if they’re pretty different than what we know from the Disney films. But I think you’ll agree with me that the Brave story line right now really kind of went off the rails in terms of being a complete 360 from the story we know.)

Fortunately, there’s a silver lining here: Fergus was wearing the helm when he was killed, which means his killer might still have it. Merida sets off to find it (against her mother’s wishes) and finds an old friend, instead — none other than Mulan (Jamie Chung), who is bargaining with some thugs because apparently two years have left the girl kind of lost. Mulan doesn’t really want to bother helping Merida, who’s confused at how her once-strong friend can be so blasé about the situation. But Mulan does end up going with her because, well, no one can resist a cute little Scottish redhead, right?

Two years earlier finds Merida’s father gifting her with a bow to use in battle. He wants her to fight, but because her mother is a bit of a worrywart, he’s also hired a soldier to keep her safe. This soldier isn’t a man, though: It’s Mulan. And don’t worry, Merida — she’ll make a man out of you. The two actually get along quite well, and it’s fun to see this bit of female friendship growing out of what is an otherwise slow-moving episode. Meanwhile, Camelot’s two new villains, Zelena and Arthur have come to DunBroch, because Zelena has surmised that there’s something here that can help them: the helm. While walking through the forest, they come to the witch’s house, which is guarded by a wolf that Zelena basically subdues easily with magic. The witch claims she doesn’t know where the helm is, but Zelena threatens her into admitting that Merida would have it.

Merida and Mulan find an arrow in the battlefield that Merida recognizes belongs to her father’s killer, and eventually, Zelena and Arthur catch up to them. Arthur reveals the helm’s true powers and why he needs it to fight against Merlin (it makes everyone obey the wearer and has the power to make other men fight you back), which shocks Merida once she realizes her father used magic instead of his own bravery to get his army to fight for him. This revelation is only second to Zelena stealing Merida’s precious bow, and third to Merida parting ways with Mulan. She’s discouraged and ready to return home and give up her crown to another clan.

NEXT: Our fate lives within us, you only have to be brave enough to see it

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Mulan doesn’t return home, though, and instead finds herself back at the witch’s house, where she’s attacked by the guard wolf — who, surprise! Is really Ruby (Meghan Ory). When Mulan realizes she’s not a wolf, Ruby changes back into human form with the help of some magic potion, and the two join forces while Ruby talks about traveling between worlds. How did Ruby end up back in the Enchanted Forest, you ask? Funny story. Back at Neal’s baby naming, after defeating Zelena, Snow noticed a closed-off Ruby hanging back from the festivities and urged her to talk about what was wrong. Ruby admitted that she hasn’t felt like she belonged since the curse was lifted because she’s the only one of her kind here. She grew a magic bean and planned to use it to return to the Enchanted Forest. Only, when she got here, she couldn’t find many of her people, either. So she went to the witch for help, who turned into her a guard wolf. Mulan reveals that she was at the witch’s house because she thought the witch might have some magic that would help her track down the person who killed Merida’s dad. And here’s where friends come in handy: Ruby may not have magic, but she does have a nose…and she can sniff him out. What are friends for? (Sidenote: Everyone in Storybrooke knows Mulan! I love that Mulan gets around.)

Back a few years ago, while Merida and Mulan are fighting, Merida realizes that Mulan brought her out here to keep her away from the impending battle her dad was leading. She abandons their session and runs to the fight, just in time to see her father lead his army into battle…and get killed. Merida sees the mystery man coming from behind and tries to warn her father by shooting the attacker down, but her shot misses. As King Fergus dies, we find out that the person who killed Merida’s dad was none other than…King Arthur. Man, how shady is this guy? So much for being a legend.

Ruby’s expert wolf senses lead them back to Zelena and Arthur, and Merida finds out that Arthur killed her father, which Arthur doesn’t deny: He was on one of his many searches for the missing pieces of Excalibur, after all. He does tell Merida that the helm he took from her father wasn’t the bewitched one, though he found the actual one in the river. They engage in a duel, while Mulan goes after Zelena, and it’s kind of a lame fight as far as Once is concerned. Ruby knocks Zelena out with sleeping powder, and Merida’s clan shows up to show that they’ve got her back — even if she doesn’t have the helm. Recognizing their defeat, Zelena and Arthur flee in a puff of smoke, while we return to Merida’s crowning…for real, this time. Except, maybe not, because the witch interrupts them again. The witch reveals that the helm was never bewitched at all; it was simply a trick to ensure that she would learn to lead, just like her father wanted. She then gives her a magic potion that will allow her to talk to her dad, and we flash to the present day, where Merida is still standing at her father’s grave.

The three friends finally open up to each other, and Mulan reveals that the reason she’s been so angry and closed off is because she’s suffering from a broken heart. (Damn that Aurora!) Fortunately, Ruby (who isn’t much help in the love department, having killed her own) offers to take her on a journey to help her heal. Again, what are friends for? Merida finally uses the potion to talk to her dad, who tells her that he didn’t use the helm after all — he was inspired by his daughter’s bravery and fought of his own free mind and got his army to fight because they believed in him. Merida learns she made her father proud and sheds some emotional tears…before vowing to make Arthur pay for what he’s done.

I swear, if Arthur survives this season, it’ll be a miracle.

Stray Odds & Ends:

  • “Do we really need another doctor in this town?” Again with the one-liners. If there was an award for best snark of the season, Regina would have four of them already.
  • Robin Hood wins the award for best father. He’s handsome, he shoots with a bow and arrow, he’s genuine and loving, AND he can hold your newborn with one hand and draw a sword with the other. Seriously. Sign me up now. (Tell my boyfriend I’m sorry.)
  • I’m sorry, let me be superficial here and say that Killian makes a really hot Dark One. We only got a second in that cloak, but I’m into it.
  • “Wolfing out is kind of my thing,” a.k.a. things you might put in a dating profile if you were in the Enchanted Forest. Speaking of dating profiles, I am all for Ruby and Mulan getting a little close on their new journey together…if you know what I mean.

Thoughts? Feelings? Anything these two hours didn’t cover? The floor is yours, Oncers.

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