There were times when things got downright grizzly during “Once Upon A Time’s” Merida-centric episode, “The Bear and the Bow.” In the past and present, Belle helps Merida and Rumple face their demons as they struggle to become heroes in their own right. Meanwhile, Merlin casts a dire warning on the consequences of messing with Excalibur and provides insight on stopping the Darkness.
Six-ish weeks ago in Camelot
Merlin, David, Hook, and Belle free Lancelot and Merida from their cells. As they make their way through the woods, Merida hangs back with Belle and we learn a little bit more about her. Arthur imprisoned Merida for stealing one of his boats, which totally derailed her rescue mission. But it ended up working in her favor because she could really use Belle’s tactful magic skills to help save her brothers. Unfortunately, Merida doesn’t enlist Belle’s help in a sweet way.
Merida knocks Belle out and gives her no choice but to tag along for her heroic mission. When Belle awakens in the boat, Merida explains herself. She really needs Belle’s magic touch to find her brothers and create a potion that saved her people years ago. Merida is in quite a pickle. Her subjects do not take her seriously without a husband by her side. But the “Brave” princess refuses to give up everything for a man. Belle is all for girl power, so she agrees to help.
They see her brothers’ whereabouts in a cauldron and realize they need to move quickly. Merida’s enemies have the trio tied up and all set for execution. Yikes! In order to take them down and reclaim her kingdom, Merida needs a little liquid courage in the form of a transformative magic potion. Here’s the catch…
Years ago, King Fergus taught his daughter that if you remember what you’re fighting for, you’ll never miss your target. Sadly, Merida missed a crucial shot in the heat of battle and failed to save her father’s life. She blames herself and knows the clan lost faith in her ever since. The crimson-haired warrior believes the only way she can save her brothers is by transforming into a bear. With the strength of ten men, surely she can’t lose. Right?
Belle and Merida arrive on the intense scene and the princess asks for the potion. She drinks up, but nothing happens. Belle confesses that she didn’t make the potion. Merida must make her own fate and face her fears. She will win back her clan’s respect by acting as their courageous Queen, not by bearing it up.
It’s the moment of truth. Three arrows are zipping towards her little brothers when Merida takes aim and fires. Her one arrow cuts through them all and she saves her brothers with one epic shot. Now that’s a kick-arse rescue! With that one valiant and magic-free act, Merida regains the respect of her clan. Amy Manson is awesome as Merida. She is killing it this season. This was a great episode for her. Bravo! Belle sets out to return to the gang, while Merida stays behind to sort things out with her kingdom.
Elsewhere, Merlin has a chat with Emma in Granny’s Diner. It feels like déjà vu as she recalls meeting the mysterious Merlin for the first time as a child. Now, Merlin echoes that same warning: leave Excalibur alone because the fate of everyone she loves depends on it. Geesh, that doesn’t sound ominous at all. Unfortunately, Emma doesn’t listen to him.
Present day in Storybrooke
Knowing that Belle is Rumple’s weakness and the only chance they have at making him a hero, Dark Swan takes Merida’s heart and sends the warrior on a mission to assassinate his True Love. While Rumple and Belle run to hide out in Gold’s Shop, he admits that her voice kept him from letting go when he was in that coma. Awww. They really do have one the show’s most heartbreaking love stories. Robert Carlyle and Emilie de Ravin’s scenes together are always stellar. They deliver such emotional and powerful performances.
Rumple laments that his leg is a constant reminder of his cowardice, but Belle still sees the hero hidden within. Suddenly, Merida storms into the shop. She tried fighting it, but her will is no match for Emma’s magic. Rumple failed in the past because he couldn’t resist the Dark One’s power, now Belle’s fate rests in his hands. Will he stand-up and fight for her? Turns out, Belle is more than capable of saving herself. She pulls the rug out from under Merida. They gather what they need for Rumple’s spell and the two of them make a quick getaway while the princess is knocked out.
Next thing you know, Rumple is driving them to the borderline. The magic powder will keep them from turning into trees, like poor Dopey. The only way to keep her safe is to leave town, but Belle refuses to go. Their friends need help and she will not abandon them. Rumple argues that Emma will not stop until she gets what she wants and he is scared of what might happen if they stay. Belle doesn’t care. She is ready to face whatever challenges lie ahead. She gets out if the car and starts heading back when Merida suddenly appears and bears out. Uh-oh!
Rumple catches-up in the nick of time. During their tussle in the woods, Rumple pours the magic powder into the bear’s mouth, transforming Merida back into human form. Once again, Rumple thanks Belle for saving him. Of course, this doesn’t take care of their Dark Swan problem. Rumple is left with no choice. The only way Emma will leave them be is if he does her wicked bidding. However, if he is going to give Emma what she wants, then he will at least get something good out of it.
Emma is already discovering how lonely life can be when you’re the Dark One. Hook has washed his hand of her, since she isn’t even trying to be saved from the Darkness anymore. Regina hates her for breaking Henry’s heart and her precious son still stings from the bitter betrayal. Dark Swan has one person left to turn to: Zelena. She approaches the Wicked Witch with an offer. Emma will give Zelena freedom and protection in exchange for her help. She can run off to Oz and live as she pleases with her baby. Zelena turns down her offer. Wow! That’s a low blow. Even Zelena has her limits. Unlike Emma, Zelena doesn’t mind being alone. When one deal is rejected, another one presents itself.
Rumple makes a deal with Dark Swan. He will give her Excalibur in echange for Merida’s heart and brothers’ freedom. How so kind and selfless of him! Emma restores Merida’s heart and safely returns her brothers back home to their mother. Rumple regrets having to do this. He is sorry and would change everything for Belle, but he can’t undo what has been done. Rumple pulls Excalibur from the stone, hands it to Emma and leaves her with warning: Swan has made a mistake by turning Rumple into a hero. Considering all the damage he caused as villain, imagine all the good Rumple could do as hero! Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.
Meanwhile, the rest of Team Heroes has been tirelessly working on a way to contact Merlin. Since they are still unaware of Arthur’s true nature, the gang enlists his help in communicating with Merlin because they need a chosen one to make contact with the great wizard. Arthur asks for privacy and then burns the magic mushroom. Ugh! Why does Arthur have to be so terrible? Luckily, all hope is not lost.
Finally, Team Heroes realizes that Arthur is not as honorable as he seems when they discover his act of sabotage. He tried burning the mushroom, but it didn’t work because the magic mushroom doesn’t burn. Phew! Regina and Co. remember that Merlin also chose the Author, so technically Henry can communicate with him. That’s pretty sweet! The episode ends with Merlin revealing a big clue: they need Nimue to stop the Darkness.
Given how horribly other episodes have ended, at least this one leaves us with some hope. Team Heroes is making progress. Luckily, we’ll learn all about the mysterious Nimue in the next episode. Will she save Dark Swan from a life of Darkness? Will Rumple become the Savior of this season? Will Team Heroes finally get a handle on skeevy King Arthur? Is this the start of RumBelle’s Happily Ever After? Share your thoughts below!
“Once Upon A Time” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.