It’s a Once Upon a Time two-hour event, with “Birth” and “The Bear King.” In the first hour, Hook finds out something big that happened in Camelot: what led to Emma becoming the Dark Swan and his role in it.
In the second episode, Merida is about to take her rightful place on the throne when the Witch shows up to collect an “I owe you” from King Fergus. With her father dead, it’s one that Merida must pay — or the entire kingdom will suffer.
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What’s Behind Emma’s Walls?
Three weeks earlier in Camelot, Emma returns with the spark to Granny’s, where only Granny and Henry are waiting. Merlin shows up, freezes the other two and tells Emma what Arthur did. He’s willing to trade — her family for the dagger and flame. Unwilling to risk her family’s lives, she tries to ignite the spark, but, with the Dark One’s voice in her head again, taunting her that she’s not ready to give up the darkness yet, she can’t.
Henry’s the one who offers up a bit of motivation: Operation Light Swan. It’s a project he and Hook had been working on, a house she would like in Storybrooke, so that she and Hook could move in together upon returning home. That motivation leads to Emma admitting that the voice in her head is right, that she doesn’t want to give up the darkness yet, not until she saves her family.
Once Emma reaches where Arthur and Zelena are holding her family captive, tied to trees, she hands over the spark, but when the Wicked Witch opens it, she ends up tied to a tree, out of the picture for the time being. That leaves Arthur to order Merlin to fight her, and it’s his magic against Emma’s. She falls back. Arthur then has Merlin turn to Mary Margaret to kill her, and Emma pleads with the sorcerer to fight it, that if he, the greatest sorcerer that has ever lived, can’t fight the darkness, no one can. Merlin does and Mary Margaret is free. As Merlin fights the darkness, Hook frees himself and goes after Arthur, disarming him. Arthur frees Zelena and they escape. As everyone is freed, Emma thanks Hook and heals a cut on his neck from Excalibur with her magic.
But it’s not going to be so easy to just reunite the two blades, not when Emma can’t ignite the spark. Regina, who understands the lure of dark magic, tries to use the dagger to force Emma into telling her what she’s so afraid of, but the most she gets out of Emma is that once she lets it go, she can’t protect her family before Hook intervenes.
Hook follows Emma, and she admits that she’s afraid of the future and not just moving in with him. When she told him she loved him, she explains, she thought she’d never see him again. It’s a pattern of hers, admitting her true feelings when it seems she’ll lose someone. She did the same thing with Neal. She’s afraid because she does want a future with him. And admitting that is what it takes for the spark to ignite.
There’s still one thing standing in the way of destroying dark magic once and for all, however, and that’s the wound on Hook’s neck. Even though Emma healed it, it’s from Excalibur and it cannot be truly healed. There’s only one way for Emma to save his life: to use the Prolethean flame to release Merlin from Excalibur and then to tether Hook’s life to it. Doing so will create another Dark One, and the price to destroy that kind of darkness will be steep. But Emma doesn’t care, and even as the others (including Hook) try to plead with her to stop, she takes Killian away and does just that. And with that, Emma becomes the Dark Swan — and Killian becomes Dark Hook? The Dark Pirate?
What Does Emma Have to Do for Her Plan?
As for present-day Storybrooke, now that David knows that Arthur is not his friend, he goes after him for answers. Arthur runs from his tent into the woods, with Hook taking chase, but when Hook loses his sword, it’s Emma who intervenes. Hook tries to get answers out of her, but she just tells him that it will all be over tomorrow. When he pushes, she leaves him with one clue: “I’m doing it for you.”
Since Arthur also had his memories taken, he can’t really answer their questions, so all they can do is leave him locked up in a cell while they focus on what they do know: Emma has Excalibur, and since she hasn’t done anything yet, she needs something else. They have to stop her from getting whatever that is.
If nothing else tells you how serious this situation is, Hook actually goes to Mr. Gold and takes his advice. The former Dark One knows that this is about something Emma did, recognizing the regret on her face. Since Emma won’t come to him, Hook needs to give her a reason to find him, Mr. Gold recommends, and Hook does just that, jumping off a roof so that Emma saves him. He offers his forgiveness, arguing that nothing she’s done could be worse than the things he’s done as a pirate, and he does still love her. If he wants to know the truth, she has something to show him. And she takes him to her house, revealing that it’s actually a house he picked out for them. Everything she’s done has been to keep their future alive, she promises before kissing him, after which he collapses. She had to take him out of the equation because if he knew what she was really after, he’d do everything he could to stop her.
So what is Emma after? Well, she speeds up Zelena’s pregnancy so that she’s about to pop. Enter Dr. Whale (because this town has no other doctors), who delivers her baby. While everyone thinks that Emma’s after the baby (it’s a girl!), the Dark Swan shows up and surprises them when, instead, she takes Zelena and leaves the baby behind with Robin Hood and Regina.
See, the plan is for Emma to give her dark magic to Zelena and then to use Excalibur to kill her and vanquish the darkness forever. She sped up Zelena’s pregnancy so that no one would get hurt who doesn’t have to. When Emma leaves Hook and Zelena shackled in her basement, Hook makes a deal with the Wicked Witch: he’ll use the magic in his hook to free her from her cuff, if she frees him. She does, but he refuses to leave without getting answers from Emma first.
Zelena doesn’t go far, however. She returns and stabs Hook in the chest, but he doesn’t feel it. She also has a dreamcatcher — specifically the dreamcatcher holding Hook’s memories — with her, and so as Emma (frozen in place thanks to squid ink) watches, Hook sees what went down in Camelot. She didn’t have a choice, she protests. He realizes that she saved him twice to try to keep him from finding out the truth. Emma was trying to fix it so that she would destroy the darkness in both of them. Everything she has done is to try to save him, she insists. So much for their future. And with that knowledge, Hook turns to Zelena, ready to take care of Emma. Uh-oh.
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How Merida Learns the Art of War
In “The Bear King,” several years earlier, King Fergus pays the Witch a visit in her hut, looking for her magical help facing invaders from the south, something to ensure the future of his kingdom. She agrees to help, making him sign a contract. After he does so, she forges him a helm and tells him to wear it into battle and he’ll get exactly what he wants.
As Fergus and Merida join the clans for the battle, she’s introduced to the realities of war, namely soldiers writing their wills beforehand. He gives her the bow he carried into his first battle and reveals that he has hired a soldier to tutor her in the art of war. Merida takes offense at having to learn from a man, but after the soldier takes her down, she sees that it’s not a man, but a woman: Mulan. And so Mulan and Merida meet. Mulan’s going to teach her to fight better than any man there, and the most important thing she needs is honor.
While Mulan can train Merida in fighting with a sword and the importance of being smarter, not necessarily stronger, she can’t teach her how to lead. That’s something that has to come from her father. Merida goes to Fergus and asks him how he inspired everyone to follow him into a battle during which so many know they’ll die. Looking down at the helm in his hands, he tells her that the only way to get men to follow is to show them you’re the first one willing to die. If the king is willing to lay down his life, the others will know how important winning the battle is.
But when it comes time for the battle, Mulan has brought Merida away from it under the guise of training. Merida returns in time to see the battle from a hill and to see a knight approaching her father from behind. Her arrow misses, slicing through the knight’s cloak, and Mulan pulls her away before she can see that the knight is Arthur.
What Merida Must Do to Save DunBroch
Two years later, Merida is moments away from being crowned queen when the Witch shows up to collect Fergus’ payment. Since the clans cannot afford it, the Witch will accept the helm’s return — or she’ll curse the entire kingdom to be bears for the rest of their lives. Since he was wearing it when he was killed, Merida knows she has to find his killer to get it back.
First, she needs help, so she finds Mulan, who no longer cares about honor but is instead working for whoever will pay her. Merida pays her, and Mulan only agrees to join her on one condition: no more questions about what happened to her. They returns to where Fergus was killed and Merida finds her arrow in the ground, with a piece of the cloak of his killer. They can use it to find that knight.
However, that’s when Arthur and Zelena, also looking for that helm, show up. Arthur wants it to get his knights to join him against Merlin and the others because, as he reveals to Merida, the helm has the power to make other men fight your battles, no matter what. Zelena takes Merida’s bow (as it was formerly Fergus’) to use it in a spell to locate another one of his possessions (aka the helm). Having learned what the helm truly does, Merida loses hope and refuses to let her kingdom suffer after her father led men to their deaths. Instead, she’s ready to return home and let Macintosh and the other lords set out to find the helm because she thinks they stand a better chance of doing so than she does. Though Mulan tries to stop her from giving up, Merida argues that she has and rides off.
Mulan then heads to the Witch’s hut to find out who the cloak belongs to and runs into her guard dog. However, a tip of a cauldron and the wolf is human again. Welcome back, Ruby. Ruby knows who Mulan is (and no, not from Philip and Aurora, as she assumes, but from Mary Margaret and Emma). A flashback to Granny’s the night that Mary Margaret and David introduced everyone to baby Neal shows Mary Margaret finding Ruby in the back. Ruby admitted that she didn’t feel like she fit in, and yes, it was because she was the only one of her kind there. She returned to the Enchanted Forest (thanks to a magical bean) to find her pack. However, as she tells Mulan, there’s no trace of them.
With Ruby around, they don’t need magic to hunt down the knight using that piece of cloak. She’s going to sniff him out, as she tells Merida upon her and Mulan’s arrival to the kingdom, just as Merida’s ready to send Macintosh off to find the helm and hand over the crown if he does so.
The three of them arrive just in time for Merida to shoot the helm out of Arthur’s hand after Zelena finds it in the sea. Ruby identifies Arthur as Fergus’ killer, so why didn’t he already have the helm? Because Fergus wasn’t wearing it when he died; he threw it in the sea before the battle. He led them into battle without magic, and his people followed him because they believed in him. Ruby takes Zelena out of the fight with some sleeping powder, while Merida fights Arthur. As Arthur warns her that he’ll cut her down like her father, Lords Macintosh, Dingwall and MacGuffin show up, leaving him no choice but to surrender. Arthur and Zelena leave, off to find some other means of retrieving Excalibur. Merida is left with the helm, and the Lords and other soldiers with them bow down to her, their queen. Yes, they still want her as their queen because she showed what she was willing to do for the kingdom. If she’s not fit to the lead the clans, Macintosh tells her, no one is.
Then it is time for Merida to be crowned Queen of DunBroch (again), and yet again, the Witch interrupts. However, this time, when Merida refuses to hand over the crown, choosing instead to destroy it, the Witch essentially congratulates her on passing the test. It was all about her, not about the helm. The Witch also has a gift for her: magical ale that can be used to summon the spirit of anyone who’s passed into the underworld. (Again with the underworld. Will anyone else be disappointed if season 5B isn’t about the underworld?)
Queen Merida sees Mulan and Ruby off at her father’s grave. Mulan finally reveals that she’s trying to get over a broken heart, and Ruby offers her a chance to find her path by helping someone else, by helping her find her pack. Once alone, Merida uses the ale to summon her father’s spirit. She apologizes for losing faith in him, for thinking he’d used the helm to the lead the troops into battle. He admits that he lost faith in himself when he turned to the Witch in the first place, but after speaking to Merida, he’d realized that he wanted to show her what it took to be a leader and he couldn’t use magic to do that. She’s always made him proud, he assures her before his spirit leaves. With that chapter of her life closed, Merida can now focus on her new enemy, Arthur; she gives him a warning: “You have no idea what’s coming for you.”
Once Upon a Time season 5 airs Sundays at 8pm on ABC.
(Image courtesy of ABC)