TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.08/5.09


Source: ABC/Jack Rowand

Title Birth/The Bear King

Two-Sentence Summary In “Birth,” Killian’s desperation to learn the truth about what happened in Camelot leads to a surprising revelation not just about why Emma fully embraced the darkness but what happened once she did. In “The Bear King,” Merida’s quest to find her father’s killer and retrieve his lost magical helmet brings her, Mulan, and Red together.

Favorite Lines
Emma: But our future…
Killian: I’ll just be happy to know that you have one.
Emma: That’s not enough for me!

My Thoughts “Birth” and “The Bear King” highlighted so many of the things that make Once Upon a Time special: its ability to be both intimate and sweeping, its darkness and its light, its focus on creating beautiful romantic love stories and its focus on the bonds of family and friendship, and—most of all—the talents of its cast. From a thematic or even a plot perspective, there was very little tying these two episodes together, but their different elements helped create a comprehensive picture of all the things fans have come to love about Once Upon a Time. And, let’s face it; we needed an episode like “The Bear King” to give us time to process everything that happened in “Birth” without worrying that we’d missed anything too important for the main characters.


“Birth” was a perfect one-hour tragedy. Everything about it was carefully crafted and expertly acted to inflict maximum heartbreak. But it wasn’t just heartbreak for heartbreak’s sake; it wasn’t just for shock value. Every decision and every line made sense for the characters, and that’s where the best angst comes from. Even if I didn’t agree with certain choices or the actions of certain characters throughout the hour, I understood why they all acted the way they did, and that’s a sign of writing that reflects complex and well-developed characters. And even though I know the road ahead will be rocky and perhaps even more heartbreaking than this episode, I still believe that all hope is not lost. “Birth” might have been a tragedy, but it’s just one tragic chapter in a larger story—a story that has always been about the power of love and light to defeat darkness, even when things look bleak.

Let’s not put off the pain any longer: The title of “Birth” referred to so much more than just the birth of Zelena’s baby girl. (I need one second to say how adorable Sean Maguire looked holding that baby before I continue to talk about sad things.) It also referred to the birth of a second Dark One—none other than Killian Jones himself, the man who spent centuries trying to destroy the Dark One. The way the episode built to that reveal, amplifying the sense of dread with each scene, was nothing short of brilliant. It used the contrast between the bright daytime scenes in Camelot and the midnight scenes in Storybrooke so well, visually creating a captivating tension between the past and the present. And Colin O’Donoghue’s increasingly desperate performance as the hour went on was some of his best work on the show to date, painting a picture of a man rapidly coming apart at the seams until he reached a chilling depth of pain, hopelessness, and simmering rage in the episode’s final moments.

What made the revelation of Killian’s fate even more painful was the way it was preceded by incredible moments of faith, hope, and love in both Camelot and even in Storybrooke. This was the saddest chapter in Killian and Emma’s love story so far, but there were still so many reminders throughout the episode that their love is a powerful force against the darkness and something worth fighting for. Besides, what’s a good fairytale without darkness to overcome? In this case, that darkness is something Killian and Emma will have to fight within themselves and not something an outside villain has set upon them—and that reinforces the idea that this is a new fairytale romance with relatable roots. And that’s what makes it so special.

From almost the very start of the episode, the ending was foreshadowed. In Storybrooke, we saw Emma save Killian from Arthur with Excalibur. While Emma didn’t actually need to save Killian (She was, instead, keeping him from finding out about his immortality.), it was still important to see her race to save his life with the sword, since she used it to save him back in Camelot, too. And during their conversation in the woods, it was bittersweet to see Emma emerge from behind the façade of the Dark One when Killian admitted he could see the real her when she saved him. But little did he know then that saving him was actually the very act that pushed Emma fully into the darkness. Watching O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison dance around each other in that first scene was incredible, especially now knowing what she was trying to keep from him. But just like when Regina managed to get Emma to admit they freed Merlin, Killian’s persistence and appeal to Emma and not the Dark One made Emma come to the surface and reveal something she wasn’t supposed to: She was doing everything for him.

Understandably, hearing that drove Killian to new depths of desperation. It’s one thing to think the woman you love lost her soul to darkness and you couldn’t save her. It’s another thing to know she did it for you. For a man who’s always put Emma first, that’s a tough pill to swallow, especially without further answers, and the lengths Killian went to in order to get them gave us a good look at his deteriorating mental state. No one in their right mind would jump off a building to get answers from a loved one, but Killian was in no way, shape, or form in his right mind. We can now surmise that he hasn’t slept (Kudos to the hair and makeup team for making someone as dashing as O’Donoghue look like hell during the episode.), and he has all this darkness in him without any outlet because he doesn’t know it’s there. So when he decided jumping off a building was the best way to get Emma’s attention, it was both an act of faith and an act of total desperation shrouded in the madness of unknown darkness.

It wasn’t Killian jumping off the building that really got through to Emma (because she recognized it as the dangerous, desperate act it was—even if he can’t die); it was what he told her afterward that touched the woman beneath the darkness. I never expected we’d get to learn the story behind Killian’s rings in such a meaningful way, but seeing him list the terrible things he’d done to explain each ring was such a powerful moment. Those rings represented his fight to believe that love is more powerful than darkness. They started as symbols of the dark things he did in his past (which also served as reminders of how dangerous giving him the darkness will be), but they became symbols of forgiveness. Because when someone loves you, forgiveness is possible—not just them forgiving you but you forgiving yourself. As Killian said, no matter what Emma did, he still loves her. He might hate the darkness, but he believes Emma is more than the darkness. And so is he. I know their ability to find each other through the darkness and love each other despite the influence of the Dark One will be what brings them both to a place of forgiveness in the end.

(As a side note, don’t even get me started on the fact that Liam is the one who gave Killian the ring he gave to Emma. I might start crying all over again…)

Even in Camelot, the seeds were sown early on for the pain that was to come. When Emma went to save her family using her new powers, it showed there are things that matter more to Emma than giving up the darkness. The showdown with Merlin/Arthur/Zelena was appropriately tense (I almost started to cry when I saw the desperation on Josh Dallas’s face as Charming watched Snow choking.), but the best part was seeing Merlin find the strength in himself to fight back against the darkness controlling him—with Emma’s help, of course. That moment built on last week’s theme: You can fight back against people trying to tell you who to be—but you have to believe you can do it, and sometimes you need help.

With Emma and Killian now firmly in the grip of the darkness, it’s important to remember that there’s hope; Merlin saved himself, so it’s possible that one or both of them will be able to fight back like he did. And once Merlin did break free of Excalibur’s control, Emma was able to use her magic to heal the small cut on Killian’s neck (or so she thought). It was such a simple, sweet gesture of light and love (even the cinematography showed the warm glow between them), and it’s so hard to look back at their happiness in that moment, knowing what happened the next time she healed that cut on his neck.

Before that happened, though, there was the tiny matter of freeing Emma from the darkness to attend to. And some small part of Emma’s heart was still unwilling to let go of the darkness to light the Promethean flame that would reunite Excalibur. What could have possibly been holding her back? Only the sweetest “Operation” in the show’s history: Operation Light Swan. I was waiting for this Dark Swan arc to get its own “Operation,” and this did not disappoint. Discovering that Killian had been working to find the perfect house to live in with Emma was beautiful; discovering that he and Henry worked together to find a house made it even more wonderful. Henry’s gone from a boy who wasn’t sure if he was okay with his mom dating a pirate to a boy who was willing to help that aforementioned pirate create a future with his mom, which means a future with him, too. Both Killian and Henry know how important having a home is for Emma since she spent so much time without a permanent one, which made offering her a home to call her own one of the most meaningful gestures imaginable. It spoke of family, stability, and the kind of happy future Killian and Henry want for Emma—which is also the kind of future Emma has a tendency to be afraid of.

And Emma was definitely afraid of it. It took Regina’s pushing to get her to admit it, though. That scene between Emma and Regina was the best they’ve shared in ages; it was complex and layered and brought out both characters’ strengths and flaws in fascinating ways. I loved watching Regina admit that it’s fun to give in to the darkness but it’s still wrong. Honest Regina is the best Regina, and that’s exactly who she was in this scene. But then the tone shifted when Regina used the dagger to get Emma to reveal what she was really afraid of. While I understand Regina’s reasons for using it, I don’t like seeing anyone use the dagger to control whoever is under its influence. That moment showcased Regina and Emma’s flaws so well: Regina is pragmatic to a fault; she gets the job done but often does it without any regard for other people’s feelings. And Emma will hide her feelings even from herself until she’s forced to open up. Their actions were so consistent with who we know their characters to be, and I love that kind of character continuity.

When Emma admitted to Killian that the thought of building a real future scared her and made her cling to the darkness, I wanted to reach through the TV and hug her. Being afraid of taking the next step toward something you really want is terrifying for anyone. It’s even more terrifying for someone like Emma who’s taught herself not to get attached to the idea of a happy future, because it can get taken from you without warning. What happens if you finally let yourself really plan for the future and it all falls apart? Emma let herself hope for a home with a man she loved once before, and it was taken from her before they could ever build that home together. It’s understandable for her to fear it happening again.

But Killian has the magic ingredient to making a happy ending a reality: belief. He believed so strongly in their future that it allowed her to finally believe, too. The future is nothing to be afraid of when you have hope, and that’s what he’s always given to her. That hope—sealed with a kiss—sparked the Promethean flame, proving that Emma was finally ready to get rid of the darkness. She did what no Dark One before her was able to do: She chose to believe that love was stronger than fear, that an uncertain future with the right person by her side was better than a future she knew she could control with her dark magic. The love between Emma and Killian lit the flame that could destroy the darkness once and for all; it doesn’t get much more romantic than that.

That would have been a beautiful ending to the story: Killian and Emma’s love allowing her to reunite Excalibur and destroy the darkness forever, ensuring their happy future in a big house with a white picket fence. But as we flashed to Storybrooke again, we were reminded that nothing is ever that simple. Emma had the big house with the white picket fence, and she finally showed Killian that he’d chosen that house for them back in Camelot. But she still didn’t have the happy future that went along with the house. She was alone, Killian was clueless, and she had to keep him that way until her plan could be enacted. Therefore, she chained him up (which was a nice callback to both their first meeting and their meeting in New York City) and went to enact the final stage of her plan—because, much like Rumplestiltskin before her, Emma is a Dark One on a mission.

That mission initially seemed to involve the classic Once Upon a Time villain move of newborn baby snatching. Zelena’s accelerated pregnancy was an interesting twist, and it allowed us to see David Anders’s deliciously smarmy Dr. Whale again. It also gave us some nice moments of internal conflict and amazing growth for Regina, who chose to see the beauty of the moment and instead of the pain. (Lana Parrilla ripped my heart out in just a few seconds of screen time.) However, it turned out that Emma didn’t actually need a baby—because she wasn’t actually trying to snuff out the light. She needed Zelena—because she wanted to destroy the darkness. And that meant putting the darkness in a human vessel and destroying the vessel.

Throughout the episode, there were so many flashes of Emma’s true self under the darkness that it was easy to believe she was trying to do the right thing. But she was still the Dark One. Destroying the darkness by murdering another person—even one as bad as Zelena—wasn’t what Emma in her right mind would have done. But the darkness twisted Emma into thinking she was helping Regina by killing Zelena and avenging Neal and Marion’s deaths by murdering the woman responsible—and all in order to rid the world of the darkness. This version of Emma felt a lot like the version of Emma in Camelot who was willing to do dark things in order to rid herself of the darkness. It was a painful reminder that this wasn’t the same Emma who lit the Promethean flame.

That Emma disappeared because the hope that lit the Promethean flame disappeared. Watching the scene in which Emma started to reunite Excalibur made me so nervous, because we knew that the sword was still in pieces when they first got to Storybrooke. And I knew it would be Killian almost dying that would push Emma over the edge, but I didn’t expect it to play out like it did. Watching him bleed out from Excalibur’s wound was tough to take, and it was all because of O’Donoghue and especially Morrison. Both actors were so vulnerable in that scene. I was a mess when Killian was telling Emma it was alright as she broke down. He was bleeding out on the floor of Granny’s but what mattered was comforting her, because he was now going to be another person she lost.

And that’s when the pain really hit me. Morrison made every single one of Emma’s pleas resonate with a fierce desperation. (I still can’t even think of her telling him, “You have to stay!” without crying.) In order for Emma’s choices in this scene to be understandable, we needed to feel just how deeply she loved him, and Morrison made that painfully clear. Because Killian—as she said in this scene—is someone she can’t lose. All the way back after Season Four’s “Rocky Road,” I wrote about the important distinction between “don’t want to lose” and “can’t lose” when it comes to Emma’s feelings for Killian:

…perhaps the most beautiful part of that confession [at the end of “Rocky Road”] was the moment she looked at Hook and told him, “I can’t lose you, too.” The fact that she said “can’t” instead of “don’t want to” is so important. Emma has lost so many people, but Hook is the one man she feels like she can’t lose.

And that’s the very reason she did something so extreme to save him. Because she can’t lose him. She held other men she loved or could grow to love in her arms as they died, but with Killian, something snapped. He was the one who was supposed to be different. He was the one who didn’t leave; he was her survivor. And she’d finally let herself believe she could start to build a happy future with him, only to have that future taken from her such a short time after she’d finally started to hope again. Emma had finally stopped waiting for the other shoe to drop, and that’s exactly the moment when it dropped with the most painful thud ever. I’m not sure there’s anything more tragic than that.

So despite the rational, logical, and protective words of her parents and Regina (who Emma had every right to snap at, since Regina pushed her one big step closer to the darkness by having her save Robin), I understood why Emma made the choice to take the darkness out of Merlin, tether Killian’s life to Excalibur, and create a new Dark One in order to save his life. And in the moment, it was hard for me to argue against that choice because Morrison was so devastatingly good at making me believe that Emma literally couldn’t lose Killian. Lost love drives people to do drastic things on this show.

When Emma whisked Killian away from prying eyes to their field of Middlemist flowers in order to save him, that’s when the tears became sobs. Because that field was where he promised to help her by sharing her burden, and now he was going to be doing that in a way that didn’t erase the darkness; it multiplied it. And it was a way he didn’t choose. That was the saddest part of all—watching Killian beg Emma to let him die because he didn’t want a life of darkness for them. That wasn’t the future he wanted, but she thought that future was better than none at all. And the amazing thing was I didn’t see either of them as right or wrong in that moment; I just let myself get swept up in the emotions O’Donoghue and Morrison brought out of me. I didn’t think; I just felt. I felt for him when he told her he wasn’t strong enough to fight the darkness the way she did. I felt for her when she told him they’d fight it together. I felt for him when he told her he’d die happy if he knew she had a bright future. And I felt for her when she said that wasn’t enough for her.

That was it—a life without his love wasn’t enough for Emma. Morrison’s delivery of that line was filled with so much anguish, and it reminded me of how far Emma has come from a person who wouldn’t open her heart to love to a person who literally couldn’t face the idea of life without love. For Emma’s entire life, the greater good came before her happiness, but this was Emma making the selfish choice to keep something that was hers no matter the cost. This was Emma changing her fate to always lose the people she loved—but she was also changing Killian’s fate without giving him a choice. Agency has always been such an important aspect of Emma’s character and her relationship with Killian, so it was hard to see the way the darkness used Emma’s desperation to make her believe the right choice was to take away his choice.

That action—taking away Killian’s agency in order to turn him into the very thing he spent lifetimes trying to destroy—was what Killian focused on as Zelena gave him his memories back. Watching the darkness settle on O’Donoghue’s face was frightening. Throughout the episode, we saw Killian at his best—his most openhearted, supportive, loving, and heroic. And that contrasted so perfectly with those images of him emerging from the Dark One’s vault and then, in Storybrooke, coming to grips with what Emma did to him.

How did Killian not know he was a Dark One? My guess is that he didn’t see a vision of Rumplestiltskin because those visions come from a person’s own thoughts. Since he had no memory of being a Dark One, he had no need to give his dark thoughts a personification. Or maybe he’s so familiar with the darkness that he was able to push it down as he pushed down his darkness after years as a vengeful pirate, or Emma did something to abate his darkness once they returned home. So many options! Also, was he just playing Zelena, or does he really want to team up with her against Emma? I think he might be justifiably angry at Emma for a while and driven by a desire to know the truth, but I could never see him joining forces with Zelena to truly hurt Emma. The Dark One lies; the Dark One tricks, after all.

I don’t doubt that he’ll be angry, though, and he has a right to be. I understood his anger just as I understood why Emma made the choice she made. I don’t want to watch television with a mindset of “Who’s wrong, and who’s right?” Life is more complicated than that, and I want the media I consume to be more complicated than that, too. All I want to do is understand why the characters believe what they do, and I certainly understood both Emma and Killian’s motivations and emotions.

Watching this all play out is going to break our hearts. Because Killian Jones—a man who spent so long hating himself for his own dark deeds—has now become the thing he hates the most. And Emma Swan—a woman who gave in to the darkness and brought him into it with her to secure their future together—has seemingly lost that future because of her actions. She paid the price for bringing him back using darkness, and that price is losing him despite having him physically present.

Emma was wrong; she can’t help him through the darkness while she’s still making dark choices like trying to kill Zelena. It’s like one addict thinking they can help another through their addiction. The only way for them to destroy the darkness altogether as heroes is for one of them to serve as the vessel that’s destroyed. And my guess is that’s going to be Killian. He spent lifetimes trying to destroy the Dark One from the outside as a villain, but now he’s going to have to destroy it from within as a hero.

In order to do that, Killian is going to need to believe he’s strong enough to fight back against the darkness. And right now, he doesn’t believe that. He believes he’s not strong enough to defeat the darkness in himself. But he will be—that’s how this story has to end. (She says as she desperately reminds herself that this is a show about hope.) The love between Killian and Emma lit the flame that would allow them to defeat the darkness, but that flame could also be used to snuff out the light. Like a flame, their love could either bring about destruction or light; it’s about choosing how to use it. Their love led her to make a dark choice, but I think it will also ultimately lead them to realize they have to make the choice to destroy the darkness as a heroes. (Cue the Underworld arc that’s all but inevitable for Season 5B!)

“The Bear King”

Belief is so important in this universe. Emma allowing herself to believe in a happy future lit the Promethean flame. Emma believing she couldn’t lose Killian pushed her to create a new Dark One. Killian believing he can’t fight the darkness makes it all but certain he’ll be even more tempted by it than Emma. And in “The Bear King,” belief was also front and center in the storytelling.

Merida, her father, Mulan, and Red all struggled with belief in this episode. Upon discovering that her father sought magic to make him a better leader, Merida stopped believing in him and in herself. Mulan stopped believing that honor mattered after she was left with a broken heart. And Red believed she couldn’t be truly happy unless she was with her own kind.

Seeing Mulan and Red again was so exciting. I’ve loved watching Jamie Chung grow into the role of Mulan, and it’s always a joy to see Meghan Ory again as Red. I thought their first meeting (with Red pinning Mulan down) seemed to foreshadow more than just friendship in their future (since it paralleled Snow and Charming’s first meeting—and we already know the show will be introducing an LGBT pairing), and I could definitely watch something between those two develop—even if it just ends up being friendship. They’re both women who feel different from those around them, and I’d love seeing them find a sense of belonging with someone who understands.

Friendship was a huge part of this episode, which nicely balanced the romance that took center stage in “Birth.” We saw one of the show’s first and most beautiful friendships again in the scene between Snow and Red. And we also saw three friends (Mulan, Red, and Merida) come together to help and support one another. It’s not a secret that ladies supporting other ladies is one of my favorite things to see in fiction, so this was the perfect storyline to bring joy back into my heart after the end of “Birth.”

Ultimately, the plot didn’t advance much in “The Bear King.” We leaned that Arthur killed Merida’s father, we learned where Red and Mulan had been, and we discovered that Arthur was still trying to find magical objects to get people to do his bidding. But what mattered more than specific plot points was the way the episode highlighted the idea that you need to believe in yourself before you can inspire belief in others. That’s where Arthur failed and Fergus didn’t. Merida’s belief in Fergus helped him believe in himself, and that inspired his army (in a very cool battle sequence, perhaps the grandest I’ve ever seen on this show). Then, upon learning that Fergus didn’t use magic to take the easy way out (another common Once Upon a Time theme), Merida was able to believe in herself as a leader once again.

There were a lot of cool details and moments in this episode: The costumes were incredible. (I especially loved Merida’s armor.) The acting was excellent. (Amy Manson isn’t just great at imitating the Pixar princess; she’s a strong actor who managed to put tears in my eyes more than once.) The casting of the Brave characters continued to be spot-on. And the episode left us with an interesting new magical means of communication.

The magical ale used to allow Merida to communicate with her father in the Underworld led to the episode’s most poignant moment. Wouldn’t we all like a bit of magic to allow us just one more moment with a lost loved on—to hear their voice and feel their embrace when we need them the most? It was such a powerful scene, and I have a feeling that ale will be used again if Season 5B is really going to be about the Underworld. (Side note: Did anyone else pick up on the blue smoke around Fergus—perhaps a nod to Disney’s interpretation of Hades?)

Many questions were answered and many were raised in this pair of episodes. But I think the one we’re all left asking is: Why do we have to wait so long for the next episode?!

60 thoughts on “TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.08/5.09

  1. Thanks for this…I needed it, but I sense you are still as anxious and sort of raw about “Birth” as the rest of us. 🙂 We’ll get through this hard part together, I’m sure.

    I have to admit that I wondered at the beginning of this season, if Killian would offer to take at least all or partial darkness to save Emma. But I honestly thought he would WANT to have it because he is the only one who knows exactly how the Darkness works and when it starts talking to him in his head, he wouldn’t fall for it’s tricks. Plus, especially if he “shared” it with it, I hoped it would be less potent in both of them making it easier to deal with…I even thought that it may end with both of them having both light and darkness in them and just “managing it”. But I obviously failed to consider that instead the darkness would multiply not be “diluted” as I had hoped. I also failed to consider how insecure Killian is about his “hero” status and his journey into the light. I think because the fandom and even the other characters (well Emma and Henry anyway) feel like he’s already redeemed himself, the most important person that needs to believe that is Killian himself. And then as he rattled off the bad things he’s done in his past, it reminded all of us, that it’s just this general “oh I was a bad guy” before. And he was more of a villain than the Disney version of Captain Hook for sure. At that moment I realized he was going to have to face these demons and destroy them once and for all as a hero…and he’s going to have to do it himself. Just like Emma has always “rescued herself” and had to fight the darkness alone (mostly), he is going to have to do the same thing.

    Another thing I thought of is he cannot be THAT mad at Emma. After all, he made a promise to her that he was a survivor. He’s made that promise to her over and over again because he knows it is the one major wall that she has yet to let come down. Her fear of being alone and not having a family is obviously her biggest flaw because it is the main think the Darkness exploited. For Hook, it’s fairly obvious his main flaw is seeking revenge and I suspect his darkness will include a lot of that. But just as Emma’s actions as the Dark One were to protect the ones she loves, I believe his actions will be to protect Emma (with a healthy dose of revenge on the side). In the sneak peek when he fights Rumple, I don’t think it is to destroy Rumple but to have Rumple destroy the Darkness so he can be the Dark One again. This won’t work of course, because obviously a big sacrifice is going to be made.

    You mention the loss of agency which is a big deal. How many times did Killian insist on letting Emma chose the right path. If you aren’t choosing your own path, and it’s being made for you it’s meaningless. I know that she took away his agency but I think if she had the time, she would have convinced him that he IS strong enough, that he WILL honor his promise to be a survivor and I really think she could have changed his mind so it would be his choice. But she didn’t have time to do that…it was either take away his agency and save him or let him die without the opportunity to convince him he could do it. I know what choice I would have made, which is the same as Emma’s.

    In any case, I was excited to see him emerge from that goo because I love villains in general and love to get to watch Hook be Hook again…even if I only want a very small dose of it. But I was really hoping they would work together. However, you pointed out very wisely that one addict can’t help cure another, so that was probably my naive wishful thinking.

    Finally, regarding giving the other choice, someone posted somewhere on social media the idea that the enchanted ale that Merida used to see her father may be used by Emma to talk to Killian in the Under World. Before she goes to storm the gates of hell to save her true love, she will contact him and ask him if he wants to be saved. Hopefully at that moment she will have the opportunity to convince him that their happy ending IS worth fighting for and he will of course, agree and allow her to come get him. Or he’ll say no, he doesn’t want her to risk her life and she’ll do it anyway. 🙂

    • I’m glad this post helped you when you needed it!

      To be honest, I’m really not that anxious about all this. In the moment, I was of course emotional and stressed out and worried about where this was all heading, but writing this really helped me see that I am nothing but excited and hopeful for what’s to come. I’m a worrier by nature, so it’s kind of awesome for me to not feel worried about what’s coming for Emma and Killian. There’s so much good storytelling still to come—for all the reasons you mentioned. And I think there’s still time for the two Dark Ones to work together, even if it takes a little bit of time for Killian to work through his justifiable anger. I don’t think they’d end this season with the two of them at odds (especially considering what’s coming), so I’m excited to see what happens to allow Killian to move beyond his anger and remember his promise to love Emma even amid the darkness.

      • “I don’t think they’d end this season with the two of them at odds (especially considering what’s coming),..” Did you mean season or half season? I’m assuming the former. I don’t know how I’ll deal with another half season of them at odds. I’m hoping it will be a few episodes and the rest of the season is them fighting for each other again.

  2. Katie, once again, kudos for putting together a thoughtful post on an episode that had most of us doing the Kermit flail.

    Soooo, I may have gotten carried away with the words . . . and most of this is about “Birth” and working through that last scene . . .

    Oh, Regina. I really do think she’s trying to be a good friend to Emma. I loved her “it’s human” line. Yes, Emma probably does need to be pushed, but this is not the way to go about it. I loved your point, Katie, that Regina is pragmatic to a fault. That really sums up Regina’s strength and weakness.

    Ok, that ending scene with Killian. My first reaction was that he must be putting on a show for Zelena’s sake . . . He loves Emma; he wouldn’t react like that to her. Then there was that promo. Now, I try not to put too much stock in promos . . . you never know what some exec is going to decide to emphasize or take out of context for a flashy ad. Plus there’s the very ambiguous “take care of” which can mean sooo many things. However, let’s go with the idea of an Angry Hook for a moment. I realized that it does make sense for him to be angry at her. First of all, the Dark One has been Hook’s greatest enemy. The thing he hunted for hundreds of years and hated for just as long. Emma’s just turned him into the thing he’s hated most. Of course, he’s going to be angry – to feel betrayed.

    Killian has been the one person to consistently make sure Emma is in control of her choices. He’s kept Snow and Regina from using the dagger on Emma. He doesn’t manipulate her using the information that he sacrificed his ship for her. He doesn’t tell her until he’s directly asked. He told Charming that whatever they are is as much up to her as it is to him. No one else in Emma’s life has given her control to that extent. Obviously, he knows the value of choice . . . and his was taken away from him. By Emma. As far as we’ve seen, everyone else has chosen to be a Dark One. Killian didn’t.

    Here on NGN, we’ve used the addict metaphor for the Dark One — and great line, Katie, about one addict trying to help another. If we extend that to darkness in general, Emma’s just given a shot of morphine to a recovering drug addict. So, yeah, Killian’s going to be angry, but he’s not just Killian. He’s Hook, the Pirate. Dark, Angry Hook. Looking back, it makes sense that he’s been a Dark One – he was so very angry in this episode. We also need to remember that his anger and his love for Emma aren’t mutually exclusive. He can have both.

    I completely understand Emma’s motivations. As she pointed out, the others have gone to great lengths to save the ones they love. Snow shared her heart. Regina pushed Emma to use dark magic to save Robin. Emma’s just been able to acknowledge that she wants a future with Killian. She is not letting him go now – not when she knows there is something she can do to save him. He’s pulled her back from Darkness; she obviously doesn’t see any reason she can’t do the same for him.

    I also understand the Dark Swan impetus to try and fix it before he realizes what she’s done. I keep thinking of Emma’s comment to Merlin about Nimue: She still loves you, but it’s all twisted up inside. I think that could apply to Emma as well – the Dark One is twisting Emma’s love. Emma would never sacrifice Zelena to get rid of the darkness, but DarkSwan sees it as a win/win/win. This gets rid of the Darkness, saves Killian, and bonus, makes Regina’s life easier. Boom! Win! (It’s that twisted logic that makes Dark Ones so scary.)

    I’ll probably have more later . . . we do have a nice chunk of time to process . . . and good grief, we are going to need it. (Yes, we need a decompression episode, but ummm, was I really expected to focus???)

    Random thoughts (many of which are shallow, but everyone seems to be ok with that):

    — Meaghan Ory is just impossibly gorgeous.

    — Wow, Zelena, is baiting a duo of Dark Ones really your smartest move?

    — Glad to see the clans come around and back Merida. Yes, it would have been nice earlier, but after she’s clearly shown her commitment, I’m glad that was acknowledged and valued.

    — What are we still missing? Why did Emma accuse everyone of failing her when they arrived back in Storybrooke? Is she just referring to the overall chain of events?

    — Can we have more scenes with Rumple and Killian just talking? With Rumple doing the occasional Merlin imitation?

    — Please tell me I’m not alone in thinking Colin O’Donoghue had the sexy dialed up to 11.

    — Killian and Henry are just so cute together. Operation Light Swan . . a left hook

    — Oh, Dr. Whale, how I have missed you and your snark and seeing you get thrown against walls.

    • We still have what 2-weeks left of Camelot drama? There is still plenty of time for everyone to screw things up even more. And this is why I think there is still room to address the whole savior business and community responsibility.

    • According the ‘The Price’: 1. Henry didnt fail her, everyone else did. 2. Emma asks Regina if shes afraid Henry will find out what Regina did in Camelot (I have a feeling we haven’t seen whatever shes alluding to yet?) 3. Killian’s “Sorry Swan, this may be who you think you are, but this isnt who I am” has a whole new irony to it now. :::maniacal laugh followed by crying:::

      • Thanks!. . . my sense was she seemed to blame everyone but Killian and Henry, but I probably should go back and watch. So evidently the others did something she isn’t pleased with that we still don’t know about. I’m assuming that this was more directed at Snow, Charming, and Regina . . . or, that’s how it seemed to me . . . Am I forgetting anything?
        Perhaps Granny somehow pushed her over the edge — I would imagine a lack of grilled cheese would be involved . . .

        *pats Shauna*
        We can have a group meltdown . . . with chocolate. 🙂

      • I suspect something happened between Hook and Regina after he came out of the goo. Maybe he convinced Regina to take matters into her own hands and try and kill him to pay the price to get the darkness out of him. But now that Emma is dark at this point too, she becomes even more selfish and stops Regina from following through. Or something.

    • First of all, thank you for your kindness and generosity (you know what for—and I’m going to use it tomorrow, by the way). And thank you for sharing these wonderful thoughts with us.

      First, I’ll start with the shallow thoughts: Yes, Meghan Ory is ridiculously beautiful. In a cast full of beautiful people, she stands out, which is saying something. And, yes, somehow Colin O’Donoghue manages to get better looking with seemingly every passing day. How is that possible?

      And as far as what we’re missing, I think we still have a few big twists/reveals ahead in Camelot. There’s still the matter of Merlin’s fate to discover, the curse, how the sword got back in the stone (Did Emma put it there so no one could get it and control Killian?), and how everyone “failed” her. I’m wondering if people treating Killian as the Dark One differently than they treated her will be an issue, because I could see that happening. And in failing him, they failed her? I might be reaching, but I could see that as a possibility.

      I now need to point out my favorite line in this comment, my favorite thing I’ve read about this storyline yet, and something I so wish I’d written myself because it’s PERFECT:

      “We also need to remember that his anger and his love for Emma aren’t mutually exclusive. He can have both.”

      YES. I don’t understand this idea that people who love each other can’t get angry with each other. Killian and Emma are two halves of a pretty amazing partnership, but they’re also two complex individuals. And to protect their partnership, Emma betrayed Killian as an individual by refusing to honor his wishes and choices. He’s allowed to be mad about that, and that doesn’t mean he stops loving her just because he’s mad. If someone you love does something that hurts you, you’re allowed to be mad about it. It doesn’t destroy or cheapen your love. It makes it something real and human and honest.

    • I had to come back and comment on your thoughts again because you said something here that I think is really important for people to remember, and that is the fact that Emma’s love HAS been twisted. We arent supposed to see Emma’s actions as healthy, and I dont think the show is suggesting that we should.

      Like you said, her love is all twisted up inside. Her actions might be rooted in love, but its not a healthy love anymore, as you so perfectly point out by her actions in Storybrooke. Sadly I think that is freaking a lot of people out (obviously it doesnt help that there are people that like to jump on any excuse to bash a character) but I also don’t think that CS is ruined forever. They are being possessed by evil. Its not going to be healthy, and its not supposed to be healthy. We arent supposed to want the Dark Ones to live happily ever after (although where is this fanfiction because I will read it!!). They have to untwist their love until it is healthy again, thats the challenge. Emma has to accept what she did was wrong and make amends for it. I dont know how long it will take until they get back to where they were when they lit the flame, but they will.

      Man, why all of a sudden am I disappointed we dont get a season of The Dark Ones terrorizing the seas? I could handle it, but apparently I have a higher f-up tolerance than a lot of people. Where do I start my “Let fictional characters f-up in 2016” campaign?

      But I digress, In the end, its all about balance. What I love so much about Emma’s journey is how we are being shown both extremes. Emma went from being completely shut off from relationships (mistrust), to a point now where she is being completely possessive (fear). Its exactly how I would expect the darkness to express itself in her. We have watched Emma do the wrong thing by shutting people out, and now we are watching her do the wrong thing by being controlling. This is also why I dont think her character is “backsliding”, because she is messing up in a different way. Only once she is able to find that balance between fear (of losing those she loves) and trust (that others have her best intentions at heart) will she get her happy ending. Lets just let her mess up a little longer, yes?

      • I just need to say that you articulated EXACTLY what my problem is with a lot of the negativity being directed at Emma, her relationship with Killian, and the show in general right now. People keep saying that this is “problematic” (my least favorite word, by the way), and I just want to yell “THAT IS THE POINT!” Nowhere are the writers saying that what’s going on is something perfectly healthy or good. Emma is the Dark One. Now Killian is, too. There’s nothing healthy about that. They love each other, but that love is “twisted,” as you both have said so well. And eventually we’ll see them defeat the darkness, work through what happened, and get back to the place of healthy, stable love that we’ve seen them display throughout every step of their relationship before the darkness took over (including when their love lit the flame in this episode). But right now, what’s going on between them isn’t supposed to be seen as healthy, because they’re not healthy. They’re Dark Ones.

        Thanks for giving me an outlet to express what I’ve been trying to say on Twitter but can’t fit into 140 characters. I’m so tried of people acting like if these characters and their relationship aren’t perfect and totally pure, it’s automatically something that’s ruined. Who wants to watch perfect people making zero mistakes? Not me. “Let fictional characters f-up in 2016,” indeed, because that’s the only way they really grow—as individuals and together.

  3. This episode was fantastic. It was emotional and heartbreaking and the choices the characters made were understandable but more than anything, it left me excited to see the remainder of this arc and season. That’s what I want from a show, I want the twists to make me excited rather than angry.

    I can’t say that Emma made the right choice because it was so against what Killian wanted but I can say that I would have made the exact same choice in her shoes. It was absolutely the selfish choice but it came out of a place of love. There wasn’t a right or easy choice in this situation and there shouldn’t be. So I want Killian to be mad. I want him to be frustrated that what he wanted and was willing to give up for Emma wasn’t considered. Because no matter how strong a relationship is (and this one has been shown over and over again this season to be strong), it is still comprised of two distinct people who each have their own needs and desires. And sometimes those needs conflict with the other person’s and neither party is wrong for feeling the way they do but that doesn’t make those conflicts any easier to sort through. It is incredibly exciting to me as a viewer and I also know it’ll be worked through eventually so I want him to be mad and then I want them to come to a place of understanding what the other needed and wanted in that moment and they can go on with their relationship even stronger than before.

    Once again, Jennifer Morrison was AMAZING. She made us feel her fear and determination and love that led her to embrace the darkness (for both herself and Killian) and that was so crucial to the scene. It hurt to watch but in the best way.

    I also really loved Regina’s scene with Emma. I don’t necessarily love that she used the dagger to take away Emma’s role in the situation but I’m also not bothered by the reason she did it. Regina tends to fill more of the “tough love” role in this show and she knows that Emma can take it. Emma sometimes needs someone to force her to look inside herself and see what is really driving her feelings and anxieties. Confronting herself makes Emma incredibly uncomfortable, as it is for a lot of people. Being vulnerable, even to ourselves, isn’t a strong point and realizing your own destructive thought patterns just isn’t always very comfortable. But it’s only after we do that we are able to show a more full and true picture of ourselves to those we love, as Emma did with Hook afterward. So my ever pragmatic side has a hard time being upset with Regina in situations like this. Her choice wasn’t made out of cruelty, it was made out of a place of caring and understanding and a genuine desire to help.

    I love that these characters make tough choices and are willing to cross some lines and not others all while staying true to who they are. That’s what makes them so incredibly compelling and why I think Regina and Hook’s redemptions (along with Emma’s brush with darkness) have worked so well. These aren’t easy characters who exist to do good or evil. They have the capacity for both parts inside them and are all willing to accept that both parts in their combination and presentation are what have made them they people they are and will continue to influence them going forward.

    Onto “The Bear King”. I didn’t get a chance to watch it until this morning but I kind of appreciated the break between episodes. It was always going to be in a tough spot, airing after “Birth” regardless of whether there was a week separating the episodes or not. The first episode sucked you in to the main arc so much that being pulled out of it felt a little frustrating. But when taken on it’s own, I really enjoyed watching it.

    Red was my original favorite character on this show and I am so excited to have her back. I haven’t stopped missing her in her absence and I’m glad the timing and story finally worked out. So starting with the shallow thoughts, Meghan Ory is gorgeous and her hair looked fabulous. In less shallow thoughts, I cannot wait for her story in the midseason arc. I want to see her find her place and her pack and if all of our speculations are true, find love and acceptance along the way. She exudes this warmth and kindness but there is now also a loneliness there as she’s spent this time searching without any real progress before being turned into a guard wolf. That same loneliness is also present in Mulan after being by herself for so long so I’d like to see those two help each other heal, regardless of the outcome.

    Merida’s final scene with Fergus was so well done. She had so much faith in her father’s abilities and I’m glad that none of it was misplaced. Seeing the other clan leaders bow before her and compare her to her father was another truly great moment. Amy Manson has done such a good job with this character and I’ve loved her a lot even though I’ve never seen Brave.

    • I love everything about this comment, but let’s start with your love for Red. She’s just such a wonderful character and I want only wonderful things for her. I’m so excited to see where this journey is going to take both her and Mulan, and it’s nice to know that neither of them will have to feel like they’re struggling to face the world on their own anymore.

      And now onto your thoughts about character complexity. All I want to say is one big AMEN. As you said, there was no simple answer for what Emma should have done in that situation, and that’s how it should be. All we can do is understand where she’s coming from and where Killian was and is coming from. And, like you, I know Emma’s choice is the one I would have made, too. But, also like you, I want Killian to have a chance to be angry about it. I want him to tell Emma how upset he is that she took away his agency in such a big way, when he’s always fought for her ability to choose even the smallest things.

      And I think the fact that we both want Killian to get mad speaks to how much hope we have that things will be handled well and will turn out okay in the end. I really have doubt that this story is going to allow both characters and their relationship to grow in truly meaningful ways. This whole season has handled every beat so well, and I can’t imagine that changing with its two most important episodes yet to come. I’m just so excited for what’s to come, and I love knowing you are, too!

  4. I will definitely be back later with my “reasons why this storyline is awesome” list, but first, I wanted to say how much I loved your review! I love that this is a show that can make us an emotional wreck yet we are still completely optimistic about how things are going to turn out. There aren’t a lot of shows you can say that about, which is why this one is so special to me.

    “Birth” might have been a tragedy, but it’s just one tragic chapter in a larger story—a story that has always been about the power of love and light to defeat darkness, even when things look bleak.” ‘Once’ has always been more Shakespearian Comedy than Tragedy in my mind. The plot only makes a little bit of sense, there will be super crazy drama somewhere in there (mostly likely with a fake death), but in the end, there will be a wedding damn it!!

  5. Wow, you’ve completely encompassed what this show is about once again Katie! I may have cried again reading this review. Colin O’Donoghue and Jennifer Morrison just destroyed me. AGAIN.

    I loved what you said about “addicts helping each other”. It’s such an apt analogy for the all-consuming Darkness. Hook and Emma had both been able to fight off the Darkness. Hook began to believe that he could fight against the Darkness and be a hero again when Emma urged into him to believe in something bigger at the end of season 2. He became a hero in large part because of Emma’s belief that he could. In this season so far, we’ve seen the reverse of that, Emma choosing to let go of the Darkness because of Hook’s steady belief. It makes Emma’s (completely understandable) decision to drag Hook down in to the Darkness that much more tragic because they had always been each other’s life lines against the Darkness.

    But what a twist that was! Most of us had seen the spoilers about Hook’s name on the sword but I don’t think anyone could have possibly called what it meant. I got as far as Hook possibly taking on Merlin’s magic after Zelena tethered Merlin to the sword but I never, ever would have guessed that meant Dark Magic. Actually, I may need to watch the episodes again because I am a bit confused about this…Merlin and Nimue both got magic from the Holy Grail. Merlin’s magic has stayed light because he has never used magic for evil but Nimue’s magic because Dark almost immediately because she used it to kill and get revenge. Merlin chose to tether Nimue to the dagger so that her evil could be checked…but the act of tethering doesn’t make the magic evil. I had assumed that Merlin’s magic was Dark because Arthur was forcing him to use Dark Magic, not because Merlin had essentially become a new Dark One. And that presumably once Merlin had been released from Arthur’s control, he could have used light magic again. Am I wrong? Why does the act of tethering Hook automatically make his magic Dark? Because it was born out of a dark act? Does Merlin no longer have magic?? Is that why he can’t help them anymore (besides the probability that he’s dead)?

    ALSO…did anyone notice that Merlin’s message before said that the Dark One was coming for him, and we all assumed he meant Emma….but what if he means Hook?? Still not sure why he told them to search for Nimue but I’d be willing to bet that was deliberate foreshadowing of the twist.

    I’m not going to lie…I was really disappointed by the second half of the episode. Before the episode aired, I was super excited for Ruby and Mulan to return but once that twist was out there, I didn’t want to spend any time away from Storybrooke. I cannot believe that they followed up a series highlight episode with filler that featured zero time in Storybrooke. My roommates and I were all watching the episodes together and by the in the first hour, you could practically feel the electricity and excitement in the room as the Dark Ones were revealed…and it didn’t take long into the second hour for that feeling to entirely dissipate. I don’t think it was a bad episode by any means, but an episode that focused exclusively on side characters was not done any favors by having to immediately follow a twist that epic. On the other hand, I’m really glad that’s NOT the episode I would have spent all week waiting for, because that would have been such a let down. Now we can all look forward to some major game changing action and fantastic angst as the 5A arc winds down!

    –Did anyone else get a Christine Daae vibe when Red first emerged from the wolf? Something about her gorgeous hair and that white peasant top.

    –I was a little surprised not to see more of Mulan having a romantic interest in one of the girls. I know we’ve been promised an LGBT storyline…maybe they wanted to put the cap on Mulan’s interest in Aurora before they bring her back in a future episode?

    –I really don’t need more reasons to hate Arthur but the list of characters who have it out for him keeps growing. I know Merida wants a shot at him, but I really hope Guinevere or Lancelot ultimately brings him down (speaking of, where is Lancelot??).

    –Still holding out hope that Merlin isn’t dead. I need Eliot Knight to stick around.

    –That ale is coming back for sure. As soon as they specifically stated that it brings people back from the Underworld, I knew. And then Fergus told her not to waste it. Oh, that’s coming back in a big way. The question is…who will they use it to speak to? (SPOILERS: We already know that they are bringing back several major characters who have already died and any one of them could be who gets called up, but it could also be whichever character *coughkilliancough* dies at end of 5A).

    –Dr. Whale!! I love David Anders and I’m always so excited to see him! I still feel robbed of a Frankenwolf friendship and seeing Red feeling so lost without any of her kind around reminded me of their connection over being “monsters” and it just made me sad. There was a great opportunity there for Red to have a friend who understood what it meant to have killed loved ones out of the best intentions. It’s a shame the writers never figured out what to do with Red, there was so much potential in her character.

    • Thank you so much for the kind words about this post and for sharing such wonderful and articulate observations and questions with us!

      To address your question about Merlin’s magic, tethering, and Killian’s darkness, I’m still trying to work through all that and figure out the details myself. Like you, I don’t think Merlin’s magic became inherently dark because of Arthur tethering him to Excalibur but because Arthur commanded him to use magic to harm others. However, I wonder if the reason Killian automatically became a Dark One is because a Dark One used magic to tether him to the sword. I’m still not 100% sure, but that’s my best guess. Also, I still think Merlin has his magic now that he’s not under Arthur’s control. But I suppose we’ll see for sure in the upcoming episodes. And yes, I do have a feeling that Merlin’s reference to the Dark One finding him actually refers to Killian and not Emma. Because that’s too good a twist to pass up.

      I also really loved your analysis of why it’s so tragic that Emma and Killian are now struggling in the darkness together. We’ve seen both of them help each other believe in their ability to be stronger than darkness, and now that’s going to be challenged like never before. Because their relationship was always a balance—when one felt weak, the other helped them find their strength. And now they’re both struggling with this weakness. It’s going to be fascinating to watch them overcome it (because we all know they will—thank God this is the kind of show where we know that).

  6. I’m sure the ale will come back, especially because Merida is somewhere in Storybrooke. Probably at Granny’s telling the dwarves they’d better be glad they’re not bears. Seriously, get over bears already! I’m interested to see who they’ll use the ale to talk to. Killian would be the likely choice, but part of me wants to see Liam or even Neal, though I know I won’t be able to take it emotionally! I also heard somewhere that Barbara Hershey (Cora) will be back for an episode too, so my hands are up in surrender! I’m so excited to see what’s in store for us at the end of 5A and in 5B! (And yes, Tempest, Killian was super sexy in this episode. The scenes of Morrison and O’Donoghue together were electric!)

    • It’s going to be interesting to see who they use the ale to talk to. As you said, Killian is a likely choice, but there are so many options. (A LOT of people have died on this show!) No matter who it ends up being, I’m sure it’ll make me ridiculously emotional, just like Merida’s scene with her dad did.

  7. Man, I did not see this coming. It is pain, but I am so excited about it! Why? Let me tell you!

    1. Its completely in character for Emma. Sometimes on this show characters have revelations that seem rushed or to come out of nowhere, but everything we have seen this season in Camelot made Emma’s decision believable. She was at her happiest we have probably ever seen her, and then it was immediately taken away. Her fear became a reality not 10 minutes after making the decision to stop being afraid of her future. But despite it being understandable, Emma was wrong to save Killian Jones. In a moment of extreme weakness she made a selfish decision and has betrayed Killian and endangered everyone. But you know what? It doesn’t make me love Emma Swan any less. I don’t want or expect my favorite characters to be perfect. Emma screwed up, big time. She made the wrong choice, but it was an incredibly human and very Emma mistake. Last week when Emma faced Nimue, we rejoiced over her success, but compared to this week, that test was easy. Emma could resist the darkness because she didn’t need it. She had her family and Killian. “The power you have, I don’t need”. This week’s test was much harder, because she did feel like she needed it. There was something Emma wanted and the darkness could give it to her, and this time, she couldn’t resist. Every feeling of abandonment and loss came rushing back to her in that moment and the grief was just too much for her to accept. The power seduced her. Is it hard to watch Emma fail? Yes. But now we get to watch her learn and do things the right way. And I am here for it.

    2. Emma has to face the consequences of her decisions. This isn’t the first time Emma has saved a life with negative consequences. It was harder to fault Emma for her previous questionable decisions since she was acting out of selflessness, but she has had a tendency to mess with the order of things and others getting hurt in the process. And now we have Emma making a 100% selfish choice to save the man she loves. Everyone is once again left with the consequences, but she is also facing the fallout now with Killian. She then thought she could fix things on her own (another wrong move) and now she has made things worse. I think Emma probably needed something this drastic to happen in order to learn this lesson, and now is that time. I also think this is why it had to be Killian. If she was faced with having to save anyone else (Snow, David, Henry) she would have had others invested that would help make that decision with her, and she could tell herself it was partly for someone else. This was all about what Emma wanted (and why she was so bitter about it. You can definitely see the resentment of sacrificing her own happiness to be the savior of others here). Dark Swan keeps saying “I didn’t have a choice”. To Regina. To Killian. To herself. But she is not going to be able to come back from this until she accepts that she did have a choice. A choice to choose the hard path and let Killian go. But she chose the easier, magical path. Team Dark One: 2 Team Real World: 0

    3. Rumple gets to literally fight his inner demon. How awesome is that?! I am kinda geeking out over it. I do think this scenario is more of a Killian wanting Rumple to kill him than anything else. Also, if Rumple killed Killian, would he become a dark one again? That’s a pretty big test for reformed Rumple right there to resist the opportunity to once again take that power, especially if Killian offers it to him. Bring it on.

    4. I like the romance. You can argue that the show has lost the focus on family and other types of love, but its Season 5. Emma’s has already come to terms with being a mother and a daughter and a friend and knowing where her home is. Now she is ready and wants to share all that with someone she loves. So I am going to enjoy the over the top angsty romance and not feel bad about it or feel like it cheapens everything that came before, because it doesn’t. Its built off of it. It took both Emma and Killian a long time to get here, and while it may feel like Killian and Emma have been on this journey forever, its only been a few months since the end of S3 and their time travel adventure. This is all still pretty new for them. I am totally fine if the rest of the seasons focus on completely different characters because we got this. We can move forward and focus on other things once this part of Emma’s journey is over. But for now, this is Emma’s journey, and it is important.

    5. Killian gets the chance to once again choose love over revenge. I can understand why people are having a hard time with Killian as a Dark One, but I just LOVE the story possibilities (I mean, Dark One Hook vs Hero Rumple!). It is possible they are going for off the rails evil Hook here, but it seems wrong that they would spend so much time on Killian accepting that his past actions were wrong to lose it now. Not only did we have the story of the rings in this episode to remind of us of his past, we had the cutlass story from his conversation with Emma on the Jolly regarding his fight with Rumple. Killian didn’t choose this dark path for himself, which is why I feel like Dark One Hook is going to be much more about the intense self hatred than wanting to actually hurt others. Even though he didn’t choose to be a dark one, I think it would be awesome if he was able to choose NOT to be the dark one in the end. Also, if 5B plans to focus on Killian’s past, a trip to the underworld would provide a great opportunity for Killian to atone for these past evil deeds that still haunt him. If that is the case, this story twist has the potential to be even more brilliant. And bonus points if it’s actually not Emma who pulls Killian out of his self loathing spiral, but Henry. It would be a nice call back to when Hook turned his ship around in Season 2 in honor of Bae.

    6. I am invested. This is not how I saw this season going at all, but I enjoy where it has gone. We still have time in Camelot left to account for, so there is still room for the rest of the Storybrooke crew to mess things up more, along with the potential to accept community responsibility and expect less of the savior in the present. Even though we probably all know where this is ultimately headed, I have absolutely no idea how we are going to get there, and I am looking forward to finding out!

    • I don’t even know what to say to this besides bravo, Shauna. You did such a great job of breaking down why this storyline is awesome and fascinating and exactly right for these characters and this show.

      I, for one, am so happy that Emma screws up, has flaws, and makes the wrong choice sometimes. Because her choices felt true to her character, and that means her character is allowed to mess up and be human. It also means we get to see her face the consequences of her actions, figure out that what she did was wrong, and choose a different path instead of the one that led her into the darkness. I love watching my favorite characters make mistakes, because it makes them feel human. And Emma Swan has always felt human to me, which is why I adore her so much.

      I’m also really REALLY excited to see what this all means for Rumple and Killian. It’s going to be amazing watching a former Dark One fight a current Dark One. That’s never happened before, and I’m sure the temptation to kill Killian and become the Dark One again is going to be strong for Rumple. I’m also with you on thinking that Killian is doing that to goad Rumple into killing him or breaking the sword or something that will allow him to destroy the darkness. (I reserve the right to change that opinion, but that’s what I’m leaning toward right now.) It’s basically Killian Jones turning his self-loathing up to 11, and it’s going to make for great television while also breaking all our hearts.

      I’ve got to tell you, I had the same thought about Henry being the one to get through to Killian. I feel like they made a real point of showing their dynamic in this episode, and I’d love it if Henry did for Killian what he did in the AU last season: reminded him of who he truly is and the hero he knows he can be. I know I saw a spoiler a while back about Henry getting to be a hero again for reasons not connected to his Author role; this would be a great opportunity for it. And you know I love a good Captain Cobra moment! 🙂

  8. I love reading your reviews because you’re a Oncer that “gets” it. You put into words what a lot of us feel/think during the episode(s). My anticipation was high for this review and it was worth the wait. Thanks for taking the time to write it.

  9. Beautiful review as always, you made me cry.

    My replay will only be about ‘Birth’ because to be honest, after watching that ep I could not bring myself to watch another, I was and still am an emotional mess by it

    First thing is First, Colin O’Donoghue & Jennifer Morrison THANK YOU! They were super, every acting choice was on the spot, with the exact amount of emotions, they bring so much, they add layers to Hook and Emma that are beyond the writing, we couldn’t have recieved better actors, a better understand of each other’s craft, just brilliant!

    In 3.21 Hook said he will go to the end of the world and time for Emma but that he didn’t know if she will do the same for him, well now he knows, Yes that knowledge is wrapped around pain and suffer but he knows. Will start before the climax revelation

    My heart squeezed when Henry talked about ‘Operation Light Swan’, I love it’s something Hook shared with Henry and has his acceptance. Home as a promise for the future, he knows her so much, he knows that the thing Emma lacked her entire life was home so he decided to give it to her, I get why Emma was scared by it and I love that his faith made her believe as well and light the flame, and in Storybrooke she bought his house (specifically I used ‘house’ and not ‘home’), she designed it (the little that is there) for him but even though we now know that everything she has been doing is for him, she is still not Emma and he came out and told her, I love that he stood his ground, killing Zelena is murder and something Emma wouldn’t think to do.

    The meaning behind his rings was something I didn’t see coming, I didn’t think he will be that blunt about his past killings and again him sharing a deep regret from his past is in order to help her, this is who he is- he always puts her first, always making her feel stronger and giving her hope, believe and faith in herself and them, and this made the revelation scene so much harder, DS being paralyzed was interesting touch and I would have liked it to be just them without Zelena picking them apart, it was painful enough.

    My shipper heart is broken, I understand both of them and I believe despite the anger Hook feels now both of them eventually will understand the other.

    Hook has every right to be angry, feel betrayed, abundant, and alone. His dying wish was to go out as a hero, to see his Emma returning to be Emma and she took it from him. For 200 years he was searching to feel something more than hate and revenge inside, he found that with Emma, she was his anchor, his life saver. If anyone knew how hard it was for him to fight the darkness it’s her, more so she has been fighting it as well and he witness the burden it was on her soul, for him Emma is the purest and strongest person, she is above everything and everyone and if it was this hard for her, how can it not for him?!? Yes she believes together they can do it but he is legitimately scared, terrified even and despite begging her not to, his person just betrayed him, took his agency and turned him to the thing he hates the most.

    During the episode he saw a glimpse of his Emma in Storybrooke when she saved his life twice, he has been searching for her since they came back from Camelot, seeing that glimpse is what made him change his mind about her, it’s all he needed – to know she is still there, it’s was his driving force to discover the truth and now he finds out that *even* that was selfish and basically she didn’t want him to find out the truth so that adds to his devastation and pain

    during DS arc they’ve been really careful not to have Emma go too far that she can’t come back, I fear they won’t do the same with him cos him coming to the darkness is very different, If when Emma became the DO she had support from him, Henry and her family he has no one, as of now she is lost to him. The darkness will feed on that feeling, I am really scared for him, that he will go too far that coming back won’t be easy, it will ruin 3 years of redemption arc, he is different from any DarkOne before, it was forced on him so I hope the writers will do him justice, he deserves it.

    For Emma, he is to her exactly like she is to him- her life saver and if anything the Camelot arc showed us is just how much, Hook is the person she can’t be without (loved you going back to 4.03 with won’t versus can’t). After all the loss Emma had in her life, she can’t bare the thought of losing him, it’s so beautiful, it’s poetic tragedy. It broke her on levels I don’t think we saw before, the echo of her crying ‘it’s not enough for me’ is still in my head, I could see her heart literally breaking into million pieces

    I think Hook would have done the same thing if he were on Emma’s shoes. Their love is so much powerful, this is what will save them both, now their destiny is bound together, Last week Emma fought to save herself and she succeeded in it, this time their love is literally the weapon against the darkness, my guess is exactly like yours, in 4.22 Emma asked her parents to bring her back to the light the hero’s way, now they need to do the same for each other and he will sacrifice his life in the process, Still I have no doubt that CS is here to stay, I even go far and say that their love is stronger than snowing, no doubt they fought harder for themselves and each other, They are epic love story and they will overcome it. The road will surely be painful, but with that I am glad CS are getting the focus they deserve.

    I didn’t get a few things that maybe you can help,
    Did Merlin lose his powers? If Emma only un-tethered him to the sword (meaning no one can control him) why did dark smoke came out?

    It feels like Hook became Dark automatically, why? did he get what is inside Emma or Merlin? or neither and it depends what he does with the power like Nimue?

    Like you I didn’t understand why Hook didn’t feel the darkness inside him, my guess is that his personality was altered under the dark curse, making him feel like old Hook and not new DarkHook, why else come back with a dark curse when there are other ways?
    Waiting two weeks will be hard

    • I’m curious about how Hook’s Dark One-ness works and why he didn’t realize what had happened. I feel fairly confident this will be addressed . .. In fact I can hear Regina, “How could he not know?” In the mean time, it’s fun to speculate.

      I wonder if it has something to do with the fact that he didn’t choose the Darkness . . . that somehow it doesn’t manifest the same? He may have just assumed he was fighting his natural darkness that was in overdrive due to what was going on with Emma.

      And I am sooooo with you on the waiting . . . On the one hand we really need time to process. On the other hand, I want answers. Now. (Because I really am just a small child inside.)

      • I am pretty sure Rumple had no idea he was the Dark One in the very first episode when he didnt have his memories, but there was the added level of there being no magic in Storybrooke either, so who knows. I agree we will probably get one of the characters asking the same question.

        A part of me would love to see Killian straight up refuse to use magic because he hates it so much, but logistically I just dont see them not using the poof travel, because its super convenient and dramatic. Can you imagine? “Crocodile! lets finish what we started!” [slides cutlass across the floor] [Hook and Rumple casually walk side by side to deck of Jolly Roger before commencing epic swordfight]. Yeah, not gonna happen. There will be poofing. Thus ends argument against my own head-cannon.

        • Ok, maybe it’s not going to happen, but it is really fun to imagine . . . the two of them casually strolling over to their epic fight.

          It’s going to be interesting to see Killian grapple with magic. He’s not a fan of it per se, but he has accepted it in Emma.

          I also think we need t-shirts that say, “There will be poofing.” We can wear them while we drink out of doctoberfest mugs. 🙂

        • Mr. Gold may not have known, but he acted like a Dark One. He was the one person Storybrooke feared more than Mayor Mills. Hook hasn’t been acting dark at all. I’m sure there will be some fanwankery explanation, but I also suspect it will require us all to actively pretend it makes sense (which I will if required, because I liked the emotional impact of the twist).

    • In regards to how far Dark Hook will go, from the beginning of this arc, I had wondered if Hook would be BETTER at handling the Darkness inside him. No one knows how it works better, and I always thought he would not be as easily fooled as Emma has been at listening to those dark voices. But I think I underestimated his self-hatred and his overall inability to forgive himself. Obviously the darkness will feed on that. But I’m still wondering if ultimately all he will be focused on is getting the darkness out of Emma…and he will want to sacrifice himself to do that. Can I just say? I will likely watch this season about 100 times over the summer. But I so hope season 6 will give all the angst to another couple. CS can just be together and working together to help the others. I want them to argue about where to put the couch in the living room and leaving the toilet seat up. THAT.IS.IT. I cannot take another season of angst for them.

    • Thank you for the compliments and for sharing such passionate thoughts with us!

      I’ll address your questions first:

      I’m not sure if Merlin has lost his magic. I’m sure that will be answered early on in the next episode, though. And as far as the black smoke goes, I assumed it was because Emma was calling upon dark magic to save Killian’s life that it was dark. But I could very well be wrong about that.

      I’m very interested to see what’s going to happen with Killian in Camelot because that should answer whether or not he was dark from the start or if he wanted to fight it like Emma. His wardrobe suggests he’s dark from the start (he’s in black unlike Emma’s gray dress), and I wonder if that’s because he never once believed he could fight off the darkness if it was given to him. Emma took on the darkness believing she could fight it with the help of her loved ones. He became a Dark One with the idea in his heart that he would be lost to the darkness because he’s not strong enough to fight it. Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy thing. He thinks he’s not strong enough, so he’s not.

      And as far as your concern about them taking Killian to a place he can’t come back from—I don’t think they’ll go that far. They have been so careful with Emma in this arc, and I can’t see them being any less careful with Killian. I do think we’re going to see him indulge his pirate side and his need for vengeance because he’s a bit like a wounded animal now. But I don’t think they’ll have him do something that would ruin his character development. They have to take him to the brink of his darkness to make his ultimate choice to choose to fight and destroy it (because we all know he will) more impactful. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, but the payoff is going to be incredible. Of that I have no doubt.

  10. Now that I’m not a fangirling mess (okay just a little), I can properly respond to this. I love the structure you used to put this review together because I feel it’s exactly what the fandom, especially the negative side that refuses to see flaws as a part of human nature can understand. No one wants to see their favorite doing something questionable, and I get that, but I think what people tend to forget is that this is what makes these characters so relatable. It’s what makes them feel real. You spoke so eloquently about Killian and Emma and that’s exactly what’ll help people see that this isn’t a debate of right or wrong, it’s complicated, it’s messy, but it’s understandable. It’s completely 100% in character for Emma especially after everything she’s been through. It’s in character for Killian to be angry. It’s all in character which is so important and you did the most excellent job of analyzing that. I felt like I was reading a well conducted research paper to be honest. I love that you pointed out the fact that no dark one has ever done this before. No one’s chosen love the way Emma has.

    And most importantly, I love that you talked about the fact that this was an episode you let yourself feel because the actors made it so. It’s what this episode was meant to do, it was meant to evoke so much in us and you put it out there that it’s what’s so important — getting caught up in this beautiful love story that’s so meticulously written and played with. Just perfection. I seriously love everything about this. And not to mention the whole thing on friendships in “The Bear King”. This didn’t just feel like a post written by a fellow fangirl, it felt like a professional, fantastic analysis on a TV show with emotions woven in perfectly. Again, I seriously felt like I was reading a research paper on a TV show, so A+ for that.

    • This means so much to me coming from you, my dear!

      Having my writing compared to a research paper is honestly the best compliment anyone could ever give me. I basically started NGN because I missed the kind of analysis I did while writing research papers in college, so I love that you could see the roots of NGN in my writing about this episode. Nothing makes me happier than really digging in and analyzing a piece of media that I loved, and I so hoped that showed in this piece. I’m glad it did for you.

  11. Thank you for your review, I really enjoyed it and love sharing the pain & great scenes with other oncers. My heart is so broken, I never thought I could be so emotionally involved with a tv couple but I am. I so adore Killian & Emma and find their love story is one of the sweetest, beautiful, heartfelt love stories ever and that chemistry is beyond amazing so I shouldn’t be surprised I was brought to tears over this episode. Kudos to the writers for creating this beautiful relationship that makes fans so emotionally involved and just as important so much accolade needs to go to Jennifer & Colin for their portrayal of this relationship, their acting is amazing.

    Agree with you totally regarding operation Light Swan, have always loved Henry & Hook together, they have had some great moments together loved when Killian took Henry sailing when Neal died in S3 to their saving Emma in S4 final to the stables this season, it’s a lovely relationship.

    The moment Emma admitted she wanted a future with Killian had my heart melting even though I knew pain was coming, same with him admitting he loved her no matter what she did – I love these beautiful moments that they have, they are truly an exquisite couple, so romantic, for me I’ve always loved those small things like the hand holding and looks, I’m glad the writers have given us some happiness in all the pain.

    Was so glad Emma told Killian she did it all for him, how anyone out there can think Emma doesn’t love Hook or love him as much as he loves her – I’ll never understand that point of view. Am also glad that he got his Camelot good memories back & hope it will help him forgive his love.

    I’m so glad you mentioned Rocky Road S4, this was so pivotal to their relationship I’ve always felt this was when Emma really let herself go, dropped those walls and accepted her feelings for Killian (even though they were there from when they met), this is why my heart really broke for her. I actually think it was mean of the writers to take away her greatest love, I understand that its never going to be smooth sailing for any couple but couldn’t they have come up with some other way to keep them apart other than death?

    I am totally behind Emma’s decision to save Killian – how could she not save her soul mate? I was a little annoyed with David, Mary Margaret & especially Regina, its nothing any of them wouldn’t have done for their soul mate so why shouldn’t Emma save her OTL?. Emma has always worked to give everyone their happy ending putting them first, she is entitled to try for her own happy ending, she has lost so much she was a broken soul who was so closed until she met Killian & he broke her walls down. She finally opened up, accepted that someone could put her first and love her for who she is – so she is so very entitled to be selfish for once & fight for her happy ending, for the picket fence life with her love.

    I know Killian was angry with Emma but I hope he comes around & I think he will. After all, he would have done the same to save Emma, he would have been as desperate as she was. I wholeheartedly believe he will come around, after all this is the same man who would go to the end of the world or time for her, who risked his life for her, who died for her in th AU who told her he would never stop fighting for them, who told her “that all sins can be forgiven if someone loves you and I was absolutely wrong before I love you Emma Swan no matter what you’ve done”. My heart tells me he will eventually forgive her.

    Having said all that and even though my heart is broken for them, I’ve decided to follow Emma’s quote in S4 “I’m going to choose to see the best in you” well I’m going to choose to enjoy all the sweet wonderful Captain Swan moments we have had in Camelot in S5, look forward to more moments (could not watch OUAT if there were no Colin/Jen magical moments) and believe that they will find their way back to each other.

    This reminds me of a quote I have seen many fans attach to Captain Swan that is perfect for them

    “I’d choose you:
    in a hundred lifetimes;
    In a hundred worlds;
    In any version of reality;
    I’d find you and I choose you.

    Fingers crossed Captain Swan fans will be rewarded for all the pain we have gone through and more to come in 5B with something magical in the season finale like maybe an engagement and a wedding in S6 (well a girl can hope).

    Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.

    • Feel free to get your feelings off your chest anytime here at NGN—I loved reading your thoughts!

      I truly do believe fans will be rewarded with a beautiful happy ending after the pain we’re watching (and going through) right now. That’s what this show is all about. There’s heartbreak and challenges, but love and hope win out in the end. It wouldn’t be Once Upon a Time if that wasn’t true. And, as you said, they’ve given us happiness in all the pain, and that’s all I ever ask for when stories get sad—just give me something to hold on to, something to hope for. And that’s what all that happy talk of Emma, Killian, Henry, and their future was about. It’s a reminder of what they’re working toward—both the characters and the story. They gave us those moments because that’s what everyone has to look forward to in the end—a bright, happy future.

      And I know it seems cruel to kill Emma’s love, but all the “True Love” couples on this show have had that moment: Rumple died, Charming died, Robin came dangerously close to dying. It’s kind of thing at this point. 😉 But that’s what all those other characters are going to have to realize: They did drastic things when faced with the death of their love. Nothing might have been as drastic as what Emma did, and they had a right to try to talk her out to creating a second Dark One. But they’ll need to show some empathy, since none of them are exactly great at letting their loved ones go. And I think they will.

  12. I have to appreciate an episode that gives us answers to theories and questions we’ve had for awhile since this season began.

    I remember a popular theory that Emma was pulling a long con against the darkness and she really was. She didn’t want Excalibur whole to snuff out the light. She wanted to snuff out the darkness.

    It was also interesting to see more on how Emma’s parents and Regina failed her in Camelot and I completely understand why she’s mad at them. It’s the little things that have consequences. This past episode, it was Regina taking the dagger and abusing its power over Emma. I’m like seriously, it’s not a toy!

    And I understand Emma’s frustration too when Killian was laying dying on the floor of Granny’s, that it was okay for her parents to use Emma’s magic when it suits their needs but it’s not okay to save the one person she cannot be without? That’s damn hypocritical.

    I also understand why Emma chose to fight back against losing her pirate. It’s like she said early in season four, everyone she’s ever loved has died. Killians superpower has been–until he gave Emma Liam’s ring–is that he is a survivor and Emma being with Killian has helped her believe she could have a happy ending herself. With him and it is something she wants no matter the cost.

    And Emma believed whole heartedly that things were going to be okay. She was going to help Killian adjust to being the dark one and they could have a normal life together. She decorated their house with things that would help ease the transition for him. I mean, I honestly cannot think of a more romantic gesture than that. Not to mention how many times the Captain Swan theme played in “Birth,” made everything so beautiful.

    We really need to a new volume of that soundtrack with the Captain Swan theme.

    • I really hope we get a new volume of the soundtrack, too! There’s been so much good music added since the last one was released!

      I loved seeing your passion and love for these characters come out in this comment. It’s going to be interesting to see how the other characters deal with what Emma did and why she did it. Emma confronted Regina about her hypocrisy, but do we know if she even knows what her parents did with sharing a heart? (I honestly can’t remember if they addressed it at all.) If she does know, I’d like her to confront her mother, too, about the fact that she was willing to possibly die (and possibly kill baby Neal) just for the chance of saving the man she loves. It’s not quite the same as unleashing a second Dark One on the world, but I do hope they show more empathy in the coming episodes. It’s a complicated situation for everyone involved, though, and I love that the show is showing it for the messy situation it is. It makes it feel all the more real.

  13. [“Throughout the episode, there were so many flashes of Emma’s true self under the darkness that it was easy to believe she was trying to do the right thing.”]

    Has it ever occurred to anyone that Emma’s true self isn’t good OR evil? That it is both? Which is why she has always been capable of both, despite the Apprentice’s spell or her becoming “the Dark One”?

    This is the same about everyone. Back in early Season Four, Snow finally admitted to Regina that she has both good and evil within her and that she is capable of both. I get the feeling that many fans missed this moment, because Snow was not only describing herself, but everyone. Even as “the Dark One”, Rumpelstiltskin was capable of kindness, admitting to himself of the wrong he had done, and even making the wiser choice. At the same time, he did a lot of terrible stuff.

    This is what everyone is about – the potential or willingness to do either good or evil. To make the right or wrong choice. Sometimes, we make the right choice for the wrong reason. Sometimes, we make the wrong choice for the right reason. Or it’s vice versa.

    Humans are a part of nature. And nature has always been an ambiguous force – regardless of whether something positive, negative, or both result from it. This is Emma. This is Snow, This is Regina. THIS IS EVERYONE.

    • To be honest, your comment stated everything I was trying to say in my whole post about character complexity , so I’m sorry if that didn’t come across to you. Trying to box things into concepts of “right” and “wrong” isn’t how I want to interpret anything—especially this storyline. And I know Emma’s true self isn’t 100% good or evil; no one is. That’s what I love about this show. No one is perfect. And that allows us to believe that people can make mistakes and still grow and become better versions of themselves through learning from those mistakes.

  14. Can someone explain something for me? I re-watched the “Birth” episode and noticed that when Killian jumped in to take Excalibur away from Arthur, Arthur swung his sword but it missed Killian entirely. There is no way that cut could have been made on his neck. I hit rewind and watched it again, and still Killian dodged Arthur’s swing. Also, Killian’s neck was fine beforehand so it couldn’t have been cut prior to that moment. And the cut didn’t even look as deep as it did when he bled to death at the end of the episode. It was just a scratch! Any thoughts about this or am I over analyzing this minor point?

    • As far as the cut being worse than it was initially, I noticed that, too, but I just thought that had to do with the deadly power of Excalibur. Since a wound from it can never heal, I would only imagine it would keep getting worse. And there might be something to Killian seemingly dodging the sword but still getting cut anyway, but my guess is it was just stage fighting and you being able to see the imperfections of it. However, there’s always a chance something more nefarious could have happened. You never know with this show.

      • That might be the case – he dodged but was cut anyway because of it being magical. And it does make sense that it would never heal but worsen with time. Ha! I keep forgetting that this is show hardly ever makes logical sense! Thanks!

      • I assumed that the wound kicking in again was initiated by Emma trying to reforge Excalibur . . . that somehow trying to change Excalibur is what undid Emma’s previous magical healing of Killian.

        • I read it as the healing being more like a glamour. Emma thought she had healed him but really the wound had been getting worse without any of them knowing. If the darkness being destroyed undid her dark magic, they could have made Robin drop as well.

  15. I’ve been doing some re-watching, and I am so impressed that right now we have no idea if Merlin’s message is “the Dark One’s found me already” or “the Dark Ones found me already”. Never has punctuation been so important. Bravo to the writing team for using spoken dialogue to have potentially two different meanings (I am assuming it was done intentionally or else that was one lucky accident). Closed captioning went with Dark One’s, singular…yes, I checked, haha.

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  17. So I finally read the second half of your review about “The Bear King.” I think there are two things about this episode that leave me confused. I’ve watched ‘Brave’ at least twice and Fergus, to me, in the movie, is a strong leader. That’s why it struck as odd that he felt he needed to go to the witch and ask her for something to help him lead his people. Between Arthur and Fergus, Fergus was the stronger leader and I’m proud of him for throwing away that stupid helmet.

    And then there’s Arthur. I understand he’s obsessed with uniting Excalibur, but he really didn’t appear to me to have a hard time getting his people to follow him. I mean, if the Sands of Avalon are still doing its job, he didn’t need to go on a quest to find this plot device magical helmet.

    It was sort of nice to know where Ruby disappeared too after we first saw her in 3×22, but yeah, not really that relevant to the ongoing plot in Storybrooke. Adam and Eddy like to give us these episodes that explain why we don’t see these characters, but I frankly, really don’t need them.

    If the short answer in real life, is that they’re busy on other projects, I completely understand that. I don’t need a backstory to tell me where character “A” has been all this time. Adam and Eddy did this last season with “Heart of Gold,” trying to explain why the Robin’s looked different. While their reasoning was clever, I also understand how recasts work and availability of actors too.

    Probably if I rewatch at a later date, there will be something I can appreciate about this episode but not right now.

    • I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t find anything to appreciate about “The Bear King” because I’m finding myself liking it more and more as each day goes by since it aired. It was certainly a departure from “Birth,” but it had some strengths on its own, in my opinion.

      As far as your confusion about Fergus goes, I think it was meant to show us that even those we think have all the confidence in the world have doubts about their abilities, which is actually something I really related to. And I can see where you saw Arthur’s quest as just a plot device to work him into the story (because it was), but I also saw it as a way to show that those obsessed with having power and influence will always want more. And maybe he got scared since Emma undid the effects of the Sands on her parents; he might have thought she’d do the same to all of Camelot eventually. Just my two cents.

      I actually really like the this show works to explain what happened to characters instead of just asking us to suspend even more disbelief. It makes me feel like they’re really putting in the effort to fill in gaps, which I appreciate. But I can understand why you might see it as heavy-handed. However, just because those of us active in fandom understand what the actors have been doing in the meantime doesn’t mean a lot of viewers do. Sometimes I have to remind myself that a lot of families watch the show, and kids don’t understand actor schedules and recasts.

  18. I also think, the climax from 5×08, left me wanting more to know what happens next there, that the second hour, slowed down the momentum of what was going on in Storybrooke. The second hour threw off the pacing, and it is a side story too.

    I understand needing a breather sometimes when there’s a lot of action, but this was the same problem back in season one with the winter finale, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

    That was a very action heavy episode too and it ended on a cliffhanger too like Birth, and then we had this long hiatus and when we came back, Once started the second half in a slower, quiet episode, Desperate Souls.

    To this day, I still can’t really enjoy Desperate Souls, because the action is too slow for me. I almost feel like Once would heavily benefit from having a shorter season, 10-13 episodes to tell the story, like what the BBC does. Writers’ write 10-13 (sometimes fewer) episodes for the season, leaving very little room for filler episodes and from what I’ve seen, the story moves very fluidly and works better. Once Upon a Time in Wonderland is a good example, defined beginning, middle and end and no filler in between. I wish Once was like that.

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  21. One cannot destroy evil or “darkness” (if you want to use such a racist term). It is as natural as good. Two, I had no problems with condemning Emma for her actions, regardless of her intentions. Or was her intentions really that “good”? I doubt it. Her intentions were tainted by her own selfishness,. Just as Regina’s actions to keep Henry for herself in Seasons 1 and 2 . . . or Rumple’s manipulations of others in order to set in motion his reunion with Bae/Neal.

  22. Throughout the episode, there were so many flashes of Emma’s true self under the darkness that it was easy to believe she was trying to do the right thing.

    Emma’s true self is like everyone else’s . . . a combination of good and evil. She was never some epitome of goodness. No one was. And Emma has done some pretty shady and terrible stuff before she became “the Dark One”.

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