Title The Bear and the Bow
Two-Sentence Summary Emma’s quest to turn Rumplestiltskin into a hero takes a dangerous turn when she sends Merida after Belle. In flashbacks, we see a better side of Merida and Belle’s relationship, as Belle helps Merida believe in her own ability to save her brothers and take back her place on the throne.
Favorite Line “You can make your own fate.” (Belle)
My Thoughts Heroism takes many forms. Sometimes, it’s a brave woman with a bow and arrow fighting for her family and her right to rule her people. Sometimes, it’s a group of people who will never stop fighting for the person they love—even when it seems she’s stopped fighting for herself. Sometimes, it’s a brilliant woman with a gift for seeing the best in people and a heart that’s always ready to forgive. And sometimes, it’s a man who spent his whole life running and hiding who finally chooses to stand up and believe that he—even with all his past misdeeds—can change his fate.
There are so many ways a person can be strong, and Once Upon a Time has always embraced the idea that emotional, inner strength is just as important as the kind of strength it takes to shoot an arrow or wield a sword. “The Bear and the Bow” was all about different kinds of strength and how they all contribute to different kinds of heroism. The bravery it takes to face down a bear or a group of warriors is important, but just as important (if not more so) is the bravery it takes to admit your faults and failings without trying to justify them and to apologize to those you’ve hurt.
Taking ownership of your actions and your choices is such an important theme on Once Upon a Time. But it doesn’t stop at just admitting the bad things you’ve done. You also have to believe that you have the strength within yourself to be better than those bad choices. You have to believe, as Belle told Merida, that you can make your own fate. You can define yourself on your own terms by believing you can be worthy, brave, and strong enough just as you are. Regina learned that last season. Killian learned it, too. Merida and Rumplestiltskin both learned it in this episode. And it’s a theme that’s been at the heart of Emma’s character since she first told us all the way back in Season One:
People are going to tell you who you are your whole life. You just gotta punch back and say, ‘No, this is who I am.’ You want people to look at you differently? Make them. You want to change things? You’re gonna have to go out there and change them yourself…
Emma seems to have twisted that beautiful sentiment into punching back and telling people she’s the Dark One now. But that’s not Emma talking; it’s the Dark One talking through her. The darkness convinced Emma that she needed it, that she was stronger and better with it than without it. And she let it creep into her heart and define her, to the point where she’s now trying so hard to convince everyone that this is who she is now, when we know Emma is still there underneath the darkness. But that little bit of Emma seems resigned to the idea that she’s fated to be the Dark One and live the lonely life that comes with that identity.
How a person decides to change their fate and the fate of those they love has always been an important theme on Once Upon a Time, and the stories of both Merida and Rumplestiltskin might prove to foreshadow what made Emma fully embrace the darkness back in Camelot. Both Merida and Rumplestiltskin believed they had to use magic to make themselves stronger to change their fate and the fate of those they loved. They wanted to use dangerous magic to protect their loved ones because they believed they weren’t strong enough to save them from almost certain death on their own. While Rumplestiltskin made the choice to become the Dark One to protect Bae hundreds of years before Merida tried to turn herself into a bear to save her brothers, both of them were fueled by desperation to save the people they loved. Could that be what pushed Emma to fully embrace the darkness? My gut says yes.
And is a desire to protect the people she loves still fueling Emma’s actions? My gut says yes to that, too. As Emma said near the end of the episode, there are heroes all over Storybrooke; she had plenty of people she could have used to pull the sword from the stone. So why did she use Rumplestiltskin? I think the lack of emotional entanglements between them was a big motivating factor; Rumplestiltskin doesn’t love her, and she doesn’t really care about him. She didn’t have to worry about him making her vulnerable like Killian, Henry, her parents, and probably even Regina would have made her feel. And if it didn’t work and he turned to dust, she wouldn’t have killed someone she cared about as deeply as she cared about others.
So while it did feel a little quick and easy to have Rumplestiltskin pull the sword out of the stone as a hero after only a couple of episodes of struggling while other characters have been working on earning their hero status for seasons, it made sense from a story perspective—and it led to some great character growth for a character who really needed to move beyond who he once was. It’s also important to remember that, in this universe, the removal of Excalibur doesn’t seem to be as crucial as the re-forging of it with the dagger. Arthur was able to remove it, but he couldn’t reunite it or wield it with any power. I wonder if Rumplestiltskin was simply the Dark One’s Chosen One like Arthur was for Merlin. But there’s still much more to learn about Excalibur, including why it was so important for Emma not to remove it. (I loved that little moment of remembering between Emma and Merlin.)
The actual act of removing Excalibur was important for plot purposes, but what I liked about this episode was the way it balanced moving the plot forward (once again at a much quicker pace than I was expecting) with giving different characters room to develop and interact in meaningful ways. And I especially liked that the character at the center of those meaningful interactions was a character who doesn’t ever get enough love on this show: Belle.
While it was cute to see Merlin acknowledge Belle’s intellect and have her reply that it was about time someone noticed, it actually hinted at something much deeper: Belle is often stuck on the sidelines. She’s not magical or great with a weapon or physically strong. But there are so many ways women can be strong, and you can be a hero by using your brain just as you can be one by using a sword. And you can save the day by encouraging someone just as someone else can save the day by shooting an arrow.
It was wonderful to see Merida and Belle interact because they’re such different women but so strong in their own ways. Amy Manson is absolutely wonderful as Merida. It’s easy to gush about how perfectly she captures the essence of the animated character, but there’s also a depth and a maturity to her version of Merida that fits with the new chapter in her story the show is telling. This Merida has known true loss, and it’s changed her. But it hasn’t taken away her fighting spirit; it’s only made that spirit stronger. And Emilie de Ravin took her character’s time in the spotlight and ran with it, turning in some of her best work on the show to date.
Belle was the perfect character to help Merida find her bravery again, because Belle knows the dangers of using magic to solve your problems when you feel too scared to handle them on your own. My heart broke for Merida when she talked about not being able to save her father (Manson was incredible and very realistically vulnerable in that scene), but Belle was right; she needed to forgive herself in order to find the strength to save her brothers. She couldn’t be a true hero and a queen without believing in herself, and her desire to use magic proved that she didn’t believe she could be more than her past failure.
Merida thought she was destined to fail without using magic to help her change her fate. But Belle knew better; she knew that Merida had the power to change her own fate and the fate of her brothers. It took extreme measures to convince Merida of that (giving her water instead of the potion, which was explained adorably by de Ravin), but it worked. It forced Merida to believe in her strengths instead of magic, and, as such, she proved herself to be a true hero—not just to those watching but to herself.
By believing in Merida, Belle didn’t just help someone become a hero; she proved to be a hero herself, too. Heroes don’t always fight armies; they often help others fight their own insecurities and fears in order to help them be their best self. That’s who Belle is; she’s a hero whose true strength isn’t just in her mind—it’s in her heart.
Belle’s heroic heart came into play again in her interactions with Rumplestiltskin in Storybrooke. I appreciated the fact that she was the first (and only) one to defend him when talking to the other heroes, but once she was alone with him, there was understandable tension between them. She loves him, she’ll fight for him, and she believes in him—but that doesn’t mean everything is perfect between them. There was a lovely layering of emotion between Belle and Rumplestiltskin in this episode (kudos to de Ravin and Robert Carlyle—one of Once Upon a Time’s most dynamic duos) that showed that these two characters love each other but can’t ignore all that’s happened between them. Their dynamic is messy and complicated, but, God help me, I can’t help but root for them again because of the sincerity de Ravin and Carlyle give to every moment they share.
I was especially proud of Belle for being able to walk away when Rumplestiltskin showed that maybe he couldn’t ever be the kind of man she deserves or even the kind of man he deserves to try to be. I don’t know what it is about those two characters at the town line, but that location has made for some of the most compelling dramatic moments in the history of Once Upon a Time.
By walking away, Belle essentially did to Rumplestiltskin what Henry and Killian have done to Emma—showing that if you refuse to be your best self and instead act resigned to a fate you could choose to change, you’ll lose the people you love. Belle gave him a choice: He could continue to cling to his fear and his identity as a coward, or he could choose to create a new path for himself with her by his side. But she was done letting him have both. She deserves to be chosen above fears and the need to run away or get power from magic, and I’m so proud of her for knowing that and sticking to that belief now.
Rumplestiltskin has always struggled with believing he could choose his own fate and define himself. He thought he always had to be a coward. Then, he thought he always had to be a villain. He thought he could use the darkness to control his fate, when it really controlled him. And he thought he could use the Author to write him a new destiny, but he couldn’t choose to let go of his fears even then. Ultimately, the only thing that proved to be stronger than his fear was love. It was his love for Belle and his desire to protect her that allowed him to finally punch back and tell the world—including himself—that he wasn’t a coward anymore; he could be brave. He finally stopped taking the easy way out, which is so important for his character.
While coming back and saving Belle from Merida in bear form was a true act of bravery, perhaps an even greater act of bravery came before it, when Rumplestiltskin told Belle the real reason why he crippled himself. It takes guts to admit to moments when you weren’t your best self. And a true hero does exactly that: They don’t justify their actions; they take ownership of them. And only in doing that can they move beyond their worst moments and become truly better people. For so long, Rumplestiltskin wasn’t able to do that; he made excuses and resigned himself to life as a coward or a villain (or both). But Belle finally helped him choose to change the path he felt he was fated to remain on forever. She inspired bravery in his actions, but she also inspired bravery in his heart, which is even more crucial to becoming a hero than facing down a bear. His path toward true heroism doesn’t stop at pulling out Excalibur, but it’s a start—and it’s a good start.
Rumplestiltskin chose to let love be greater than fear, and, as such, he was able to let Belle in instead of pushing her away or keeping her in the dark like he did so many times before. On the opposite side, we saw Emma more alone than ever because she’s pushed away everyone who loves her at this point. In fact, she couldn’t even get Zelena to ally with her; that’s how far she’s fallen.
I could have watched Zelena and Emma talk all day; Rebecca Mader and Jennifer Morrison are perfect scene partners right now, as Mader’s unbridled enthusiasm contrasts perfectly with the controlled edge Morrison has while playing the Dark Swan. It was interesting to see Emma trying to manipulate Zelena with her lines about knowing what it’s like to be pregnant behind bars and her offer of onion rings, but the scene was about something deeper than just two very different kinds of villains (and strong women) matching wits. Zelena was able to touch on Emma’s weakness: her love for Henry. And by hitting that nerve (with her comments about “next level darkness” and more comparisons to Cora), Zelena reached the humanity under Emma’s darkness and was able to bring it to the surface again when she called her out for not wanting to be alone.
That’s always been the deepest desire of Emma Swan’s heart. It was the wish that brought her to Storybrooke—a wish not to be alone. And after fighting so hard for that wish to come true, we see her alone in her kitchen again. That shot of Emma at the table by herself (complete with Morrison’s chillingly perfect posture) said so much about the price of her choice to accept her identity as the Dark One. But if Rumplestiltskin’s story showed us anything in this episode, it’s that you can change your fate by believing you can be more than who you feel destined to be. Emma still has the power to punch back and define herself on her own terms by choosing to let go of the darkness; she just needs to believe that she doesn’t have to be the Dark One to be a stronger version of herself. She can be enough just by being herself—just as Rumplestiltskin and Merida both learned in this episode.
However, it seems that choice won’t be an easy one for Emma to make, as she might be more entrenched in the darkness than anyone realized. When Henry’s attempt to contact Merlin led to Merlin’s “voicemail” (a perfectly executed nod to Princess Leia’s message in A New Hope), my first thought was that Merlin is dead and Emma killed him. His heart might have been the one crushed to cast this latest curse, especially since I have a strong feeling that Nimue was both the first Dark One and Merlin’s one true love—so she could crush his heart through Emma.
Whatever answers we get in the coming weeks about Nimue, Excalibur, curses, and Dark Ones, the answer we’re all looking for is what happened to Emma in Camelot to make her believe she needed to fully embrace the darkness. Whatever happened, she believes it so strongly that she’s allowed it to completely alter the way she defines herself. But if Rumplestiltskin could choose to be brave, there’s still hope for Emma. She just needs to remember that there is always a choice, and it’s never too late to change your fate.
• Because Charming was gullible and made everyone leave Arthur alone in the vault, we were deprived of the great comedic potential of Arthur trying to contact Merlin but failing with everyone watching. But thankfully everyone knows again that Arthur is a lying liar who lies.
• Once again, Jared Gilmore did a great job of selling me on Henry’s heartbreak but also his resolve to fight for his mom. In addition, I loved the heartwarming moment of Killian encouraging Henry before he talked to Merlin and Regina asking him if he was okay. Without Emma, Henry is going to need support more than ever, and it’s nice to know he has that.
• The casting for all the Brave characters could not have been better.
• I’m excited to see Rumplestiltskin fight against Emma now. Will he do it on his own, or will he team up with everyone else?
• The opening scene of Charming, Killian, and Merlin disarming all the guards in the Camelot dungeons was so fun to watch. A little bit of fairytale action and a trio of handsome men are the perfect way to start an episode.
• Did anyone else love that the food Regina was giving Zelena was all green? I also have to wonder who on the writing staff loves onion rings, because they are a staple of these characters’ diets. (And now I want onion rings…)
• Carlyle’s performance in this episode deserves to be singled out with a bullet. I don’t think I would ever feel as deeply as I feel for Rumplestiltskin if another actor played him. There’s nothing like watching an actor deliver masterful work week in and week out for years, and that’s exactly what Carlyle has done and continues to do on Once Upon a Time.
As much as I love to watch Emma being the Dark One, it’s getting a little annoying that we don’t know what her end game is. Ambiguity is good, is realistic, but it’s starting to get a bit tiresome, especially because I don’t buy that Emma wants to get rid of her light magic but, if she wants to do the opposite, to get rid of her dark magic, she’s using the wrong means (trying to manipulate Hook, breaking Henry’s heart, playing with Belle’s life to make Rumple a hero…). I just hope we can get some answers next week.
Since we’ll get to know the first Dark One (probably Nimue), I wanted to share a theory I have about the origins of the Dark One since the end of season 4, based on Lost. The Dark One seems to be a little similar to the Man in Black/Smoke Monster and I’ve been wondering if Merlin is the equivalent to Jacob: the one tasked to keep the Dark One essence under control. After the Broken Kingdom, I think Arthur is playing the role of Ben Linus here: he’s the leader of a community, claims to be the only one who speaks to Merlin (but apparently he’s lying about it) but ends up resenting Merlin (remember Ben Linus killed Jacob), and he’s pretty ruthless when it comes to keeping his power. And since we’re assuming Nimue was the first Dark One and the woman Merlin loved, it’s still consistent with my theory since the Man in Black used to be Jacob’s brother and was also destroyed by the Smoke Monster. I’ve been quite eager to learn about the origins of the Dark One to confirm this theory.
That is a very cool theory, and I can’t wait to see how everything with Nimue plays out.
I also totally understand your frustration with not knowing Emma’s endgame. I’m still okay with the ambiguity for now, but even I’ll have my limit if they keep us completely in the dark for much longer. However, I think they have done a successful job of creating a mystery we actually care about and keeping us guessing when for a lot of arcs people have been able to guess what was coming every step of the way. It’s hard to watch a character we all love do things we can’t understand, but I have a feeling when all the pieces finally come together it’ll be amazing.
I am with you Sofia, without knowing Emma’s motive, its really hard to talk about what her actions actually mean in regards to her characters evolution. I mean, does she really not care if anyone gets killed during this whole scheme of hers, or is she like secretly following Merida around making sure Rumple and Belle dont actually die? I honestly have no idea. I just know I want to be able to talk about Emma again!
Nicely done on the recap.
I really loved your points comparing Merida and Rumple regarding their reliance on magic (and interestingly, on Belle) and the fear that drives them. These two characters are opposites in so many ways, yet when it comes down to it, they both feel the need for magic. Both are driven by the fear of not being good enough. That fear can lead the best and the worst of us to do all level of craziness.
I loved Merida’s willingness to fight for her dream. Would you give up everything you have ever dreamed of just because some man told you you didn’t deserve it? In some cases, we’re the ones telling ourselves we don’t deserve it. Of course, I hope she’s learned to a be a wee more thoughtful how she goes about it . . . Merida is always going at a dead run. It’s as if she’s afraid of what will happen if she stops. Just stop and think — especially before bopping Belle over the head.
I can never say enough about Belle’s type of strength and bravery. I’ve said before that she has an under-rated, long-haul type of heroism. Her bravery isn’t flashy. (But thank you, Merlin, for noticing.) I love that she has the strength to stand by Rumple, but also the strength to walk away. Who doesn’t love a girl who loves books??
They saved each other. *sniffle*
The Zelena/Dark Swan scene was marvelous. Zelena knows how the Dark One operates, and how to push Emma’s buttons. Zelena’s bubbliness was entirely too much fun. She’ll take the lovely noshes, thank you, and then gleefully trounce on the idea of a deal. Part of me wondered if Zelena turned it down now just because she was having fun messing with the Dark One. I’m a bit suspicious of Zelena turning over a new leaf.
Rumple’s “hero arc” did seemed rather rushed. (Rumple, dearie, you’ve been heroic once. I’m not sure that really qualifies you as a hero –although Excalibur may disagree. You’re going to have to be consistent on this.) However, if he was going to fight for anything, it would be Belle. I think what makes me most excited is Rumple’s assertion that as a former Dark One, he’s got a better chance of defeating the current Dark One. Now THAT is an intriguing thought.
— For completely shallow reasons, I would really like more Killian/Charming/Merlin fight scenes. That opening really should have been longer . . .
— Speaking of shallow . . . I do love watching Killian being supportive of Henry, whether it’s this week’s “You can do this, lad” or last week’s offer of help with the ladies (and Regina’s horrified shutting down of the same).
— Please tell me someone noticed Belle was missing. (I can imagine a scene where the men show up sans Belle, completely oblivious of the fact until Snow points it out . . .)
— Arthur is even deader to me now. (I’m using Princess Bride levels of deadness. Even Miracle Max can’t bring Arthur back. He is DEAD to me.) I’m just glad everyone’s figured out his deviousness.
— Yes! Loved all the green food for Zelena. I don’t blame her munchkin for wanting onion rings.
First of all, bring on the shallow thoughts! 😉 That opening scene could have been 45 minutes long and it still would have been too short.
It makes me so happy to read your thoughts on Belle because I love her for the exact reasons you wrote: Her bravery isn’t flashy, but it endures. And she’s always been a role model for us bookworms. It’s nice to see my favorite Disney princess get some time in the spotlight on this show.
I’m with you on thinking Zelena was just enjoying messing with Emma. I don’t trust her at all, and I have no reason to believe she’s serious about turning over a new leaf. And I’m also with you on being very intrigued by a former Dark One working to take down the current one. The last moments Emma and Rumple shared onscreen were SO GOOD and I can’t wait for more of that antagonistic dynamic.
Great recap as always!
Merida has been such a great addition to the Once mythology, especially because she comes with themes tailor made to fit the redemption arcs of our villains-turned-heroes. The idea of changing your fate is so crucial on this show and it’s so rewarding to finally see Rumple on that path. Hopefully it sticks this time.
I rewatched Once over the summer and it was amazing how much season 4 soured me on the character. I still think Robert Carlyle is the most talented actor on this show but seeing him regress to full-villainy was discouraging, so much so that I found it hard to get invested in the character and the Rumbelle romance in the early seasons again. Knowing that he made a promise at Nealfire’s grave only to be immediately seduced by power again in the same episode, knowing that his promises to Belle to be a better version of himself would end with him banished over the townline, knowing that he would always choose power made it extremely hard to watch his tentative steps towards change in the early seasons and not feel cynical about the character. The winter finale in season 3 was such a high point for Rumple and it felt like everything since then had been huge steps backwards. It was easier to root for Belle to kick Rumple to the curb than to root for them to be together and I don’t think that’s ideal for shipping.
But WOW I take it all back! Like you said, only Robert Carlyle can play this character in a way that is sympathetic. Who else could deliver a turnaround that convincing in a single episode?? Hopefully his hero arc continues to be as emotionally layered and convincing as this episode because it’s high time Rumple learn to change his ways. If Robert Carlyle and Emilie de Ravin continue to kill it as they did in this episode, Rumple’s transformation to the side of the angels will be worth the wait.
Thank you so much!
I totally agree with your assessment of how Merida fits in to this show’s themes. There’s been so much talk from almost the beginning of the show about choosing your own path and changing your fate that it seems like such a natural fit for her to join this cast of characters.
I also strongly relate to everything you said about Rumplestiltskin’s arc. It was so hard to watch his descent into total villainy last season, especially after his heroic sacrifice at the end of 3A. It took some of the dimension away from his character, but now I feel like he’s getting those layers back, which is fun to watch. This episode really showed what Carlyle can do, and it made me sincerely root for Rumple for the first time in a long time.
Once is such a hard show when it comes to balancing all the screen time of the characters since there are so many great stories than can be told for each member of the main cast. As happy as I would be if my favorites were the main focus every week, its just not going to happen, and the selfless part of me is actually thankful for it. Because there are so many different types of characters on this show, I think it makes the show more appealing to a wide variety of people. Personally I am really happy that fans of both Belle and Rumple got a meaty episode this week, they deserve it! And this is why I love your reviews to much. Because you are here to talk about the show and its themes as a whole, and you understand the patience that is required to enjoy watching a large ensemble show.
I cannot tell you how much I LOVED the scene where Belle gets out of Rumple’s car and walks away. I actually yelled “You go Belle!” at my TV. I was so proud of her. When you love someone with serious personal issues they need to overcome, it can be really hard to find that line between being supportive while also respecting your own needs. Belle has been taken advantage of far too many times, and I loved seeing her finally stand up for what she wanted. This is the headstrong Belle we saw make the decision to go with Rumple in the first place in exchange for the safety of her kingdom, and I am glad we are seeing her again.
I love how gorgeous this episode was. When ONCE actually films on location instead of the studio this show can be breathtakingly gorgeous. Belle has been in some of the most gorgeous scenes the show has had. I still think that scene in the snow at the dark one vault in 3B is my all time favorite as far as scenery goes, but the lake in this episode is a close second (The pilot had some amazing moments too).
As much as I have enjoyed the mystery surrounding Emma this season, its been so hard to analyze Dark Swan’s character because we just dont know her motive. I just find myself waiting to see how this all plays out before I decide how I feel about everything. Once we finally figure out what her motive is, I am going to have to go back and re-watch all of the episodes we have seen so far. I said after the premiere that I was going to side-eye pretty much everything happening in present day Storybrooke, and I still am. I am so skeptical at this point I cant even trust that the excalibur that Rumple pulled is the REAL excalibur. Its apparently super easy to make a replica dagger, why not a replica excalibur? Its hard to analyze things when you dont trust anything you are seeing!! All we saw was Emma try to pull the sword and be thrown back…but she didnt disintegrate like the other failure in Camelot. Seemed more like a protection spell to me. All of this could have just been done to make Rumple THINK that he is a hero now, but again, we dont really know. So far we have seen Emma challenge Killian, Regina, Henry, and now Rumple. Will it be her parents turn eventually? Regardless, this season is giving me major trust issues!!!
-Yes, the whole “make Rumple a hero” thing seemed super fast, but I think either A) Becoming a great Hero is easy when you have no baggage attached or B) That wasn’t really excalibur. Either way the logic seems sound.
-I am dying to see what the Killian/Rumple dynamic is going to be now. Talk about awkward.
-It was weird not seeing Robin at all this episode. I assume he was on babysitting duty. I guess him and Belle take turns depending on who is more important to the plot that week.
-I love how much Zelena loves her jail cell. She considers it her home and she is perfectly content just chilling and reading (although less content eating steamed broccoli, and I dont blame her for that).
-I loved the opening scene with the dungeon raid! I am going to assume that when the group realized that Belle and Merida were missing, Merlin assured the group that they were fine and not to worry about them.
-Oh Arthur, you sad pathetic man. Pretty soon you wont have anyone left to sit with you at the lunch table.
Ways this post makes me feel good:
— I love knowing I’m not the only one yelling at my tv. I have found my people!
— I’m not alone in feeling weird about Dark Swan motivations. I’ve either got waaaay too many theories going. Or, I just decide to put my brain in analytical cruise control until the arc is over. And then, I go back to the theories. (I wonder if we’re all flopping around on Emma’s motivations because it’s Emma. We just want so badly for her to be in control and not go completely dark.)
— I’m having fun contemplating Rumple/Killian relations as well as the possibility that Rumple pulled a fake Excalibur.
— I may have laughed too hard at the notion of Arthur (who is dead to me) sitting alone at the lunch table . . .
“analytical cruise control”! I am definitely on that setting! And I fully acknowledge that I could be giving Emma too much credit simply because I love her too much, but I am so ready to know if its just my character bias or if these feelings are valid, haha.
For some reason this episode caused me to get “Already Gone” from the Eagles stuck in my head…hence where the lunch table thing came from, haha. Bonus lyric: “So often times it happens, that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key”
The image of Arthur sitting alone in a high school cafeteria is making me so happy, in a Mean Girls kind of way: “YOU CAN’T SIT WITH US!”
I definitely clapped on my couch when Belle walked away from the car. It was such a great moment for her character to find her voice and her strength and to use it to inspire heroism in someone who sorely needed another wake-up call. And I’m just so happy he actually listened to that wake-up call this time.
And I’m with you on feeling weird analyzing Dark Swan right now because we don’t know her motives. It’s making writing very tricky, and it’s actually part of the reason I was glad to write about this episode—because I didn’t have to talk about her all that much. I’m still working under the belief that she feels like she had to take on the darkness completely to protect someone (or everyone), and she’s still trying to do that in Storybrooke. But who knows? I love that the mystery is actually mysterious this season, but I’m starting to get antsy for answers. And I’m hoping we’ll start to get some with this week’s episode.
Finally, thanks for the kind words about my posts. I know not everyone is interested in talking about episodes that don’t feature their favorite characters, but I really appreciate those episodes because they allow me to step back and think about the show as a whole and how every character is impacted by the show’s themes. And episodes like this one give me a chance to analyze characters I don’t often get to write about (like Belle), so it’s nice to have that change of pace. I’m so glad you and the other commenters on this week’s post were interested in talking about this episode—because I had so much fun writing about it.
That first paragraph you wrote about heroism is terrific. I love all the different ways people are brave on this show and the emphasis it places on making the choice to do the right thing and to do the hard, brave thing. It was so important that Belle encouraged Rumple but walked away when he couldn’t be the man she knew he could be. That’s a strong woman, right there. I was so happy to see a story about Belle this week!
There were lots of fun things – the guys charging in to rescue Lancelot (wait, where did he go after that?) and being heroic and hot, and then realizing that Belle was with them too :), the Merlin voicemail thing, shady Arthur being exposed again, Zelena and her greens which I totally did not get at the time! and then the onion rings… I saw that Zelena left an onion ring behind and I was sad that Emma wasn’t being her true self because she would have grabbed that last onion ring if she was, and then the next shot showed us her sitting all upright and tense and that just cemented that feeling that everything is wrong. (Zelena appealed to me much more this episode than any other. She’s definitely growing on me.)
I haven’t seen Brave (I know! what’s wrong with me??!) but I enjoyed all of the Merida stuff. I like that you don’t even need much knowledge of the stories to appreciate the guest characters and their stories, although I’m sure that knowing more gets you more enjoyment. I know I felt that way about the Frozen story, which I was familiar with.
I enjoyed this episode, even though it wasn’t focused on my favorites. I felt like this story was what we needed right now. And like I said, Belle! She has been shoved off into a corner babysitting too much lately. I needed her to be the focus and I wanted her to address her relationship with Rumple after all the crap she’s been through. I hope that Rumple continues to make brave choices and stops taking the easy way out.
Thanks for the nice words on my first paragraph! I worked hard to get it just right—not gonna lie. 😉
I agree that this was an episode we needed. It was time for Belle and this new version of Rumple to have their moment in the spotlight, and I thought it was executed really well. As someone who’s been critical in the past of how this show has treated my favorite Disney princess, I have to say I could’t have been happier with how she was portrayed this week.
And how did I miss Emma not eating the leftover onion ring?! That’s when you know things are bad; when Emma Swan—who spent so much of her life stealing food and being hungry—leaves food untouched (especially onion rings!). It’s details like that one that make her scenes ones I want to watch again and again—even when they break my heart because I miss my Emma.
btw I’m going on a little trip in a few days which will mean I’m going to be awol from fandom for a while. I’m letting go of the idea of catching up on the blog for now because it was paralyzing me. But letting go might be the thing I need to actually allow myself the time to catch up. But yeah, I’ll be several days behind on watching next week, so hopefully nothing too important happens! lol. as if.
Have fun on your trip!
thank you! 🙂
Enjoy your trip, and don’t worry at all about catching up! We’ll be here if you watch something and need to gush about it. Otherwise, we’ll be waiting to welcome you back with open arms and virtual hugs whenever you have the time/energy to get back to fandom business.
Have fun! 🙂
thank you, Katie 🙂
Being honest I didn’t particularly like this episode but I still love reading your reviews because you always find something positive to say about each character. I am not a Rumbelle fan, and I prefer Belle when she’s not interacting with Rumple so as you can imagine this was not my favourite episode of the season! That being said I did like the Belle/Merida adventure in Camelot and I pretty much loved everything else bar the Rumbelle scenes in Storybrooke. I never knew I wanted an Emma/Zelena scene until this episode – Zelena is as crazy as ever and I loved that she wasn’t afraid of Dark Emma, and her comment about Emma not wanting to be alone hit the nail on the head. Also loved that Henry was still fighting to free Emma from the darkness, and I am very happy that everyone in Storybrooke now knows that Arthur is up to no good. I read a very interesting theory online that in Merlin’s message he says the Dark One (and not Emma) is coming, so perhaps he is referring to the first Dark One who I also think is Nimue. I expect during next weeks episode we’ll find out who the first Dark One was.
I know a lot of people aren’t buying that after 1 episode Rumple is suddenly a hero – I’m not buying it either but there’s a long way left to go yet. Rumple has admitted on multiple occasions that he’s addicted to magic and power, and at the end of S4 he didn’t voluntarily give up his magic/power so I’m very interested to see how he copes without magic over the rest of the season. He’s only awake from his coma a couple of days at most so he hasn’t had a chance to miss his magic too much yet. I know he didn’t have any magic during the 28yrs of the curse, but he was still the most powerful man in town and now he doesn’t have magic or power. I also want to see if Belle will struggle with their new dynamic – in all the time she’s known/loved Rumple he’s been the Dark One so I want to see if it changes their relationship now that he’s plain old Rumple again.
Thanks for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment. I can see why this episode wouldn’t be a favorite of people who don’t particularly like Rumple. But, as you said, I don’t really think this episode was supposed to confirm him as a hero on par with Charming or any of the other heroes on this show. He’s got a long way to go to earn that. But this was an episode that showed he can start on that path by continuing to choose love over fear and need for power. I think this was the start of his arc rather than its heroic end; the pulling of the sword was just a plot point. I think it has more to do with the person pulling it believing they can be a hero than anything else. And they needed to have Rumple start believing he can be a hero.
Like you, I’m excited to see Rumple deal with his magical withdrawal and navigate this new dynamic with Belle. It opens up some interesting new storytelling potential, if nothing else!
I understand that this was a crucial episode for Rumple and I’m starting to understand why Adam and Eddy took away his magic forcibly (he would not have given it up willingly,) but I disagree that Rumple resigned himself to darkness. I think there were many times, especially last season where he chose magic over his love for Belle.
I’ve had 24 hours to think about this episode and it could be a fresh new start for Rumple, to realize after 300 years, he doesn’t need magic to be strong. It’s only one episode. We still have a couple more to see if he is truly done with magic altogether.
Killian was right that Rumple had many chances to change before and he never really did. Now, that Rumple doesn’t have magic, it’ll be interesting to see if he can truly change and live without it. Or otherwise, go back to eating Ramon noodles.
It will also be interesting how this new version of Rumple will affect the Rumbelle relationship. Honesty has never worked with Rumple. He’s lied and twisted truths before and I don’t want to see Belle to continue to be manipulated by his lies. She’s so much stronger than that.
But I liked that Belle understood that there are issues they need to work on their relationship before they can truly be happy together. And Rumple understood this too. Rumple just hasn’t done a lot of bad things to other people, he hurt Belle too. He has a lot to atone for.
The thing that will truly make Rumple a hero going forward is what he does next.
I like that we’re all so interested to see what this means for Rumple now. I agree with you that he was given many chances to choose love over magic but always chose wrong. And I’m not sure I’ve ever thought he was resigned to the darkness; I think he embraced it in a much different way than Emma has. While Emma feels resigned to it, Rumple took pride in it and glee in it. And that makes watching him live without it even more fascinating. Like you said, his heroism will be proven not by pulling Excalibur but by what he does after that. After all, this show has always been about what happens after the climactic moment in the fairytale.
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