ONCE UPON A TIME Review: Lessons in Bravery in “The Bear and the Bow”
By Meredith Loftus
In the latest episode of Once Upon A Time, Dark Swan succeeds in creating the hero she needs to get Excalibur out of the stone. Arthur’s web of lies begins to unravel, and the heroes are one step closer to finding a way to save Emma. While “The Bear and the Bow” continued to move the plot forward, at it’s heart was the character development of the Brave queen and a powerless Rumple. The audience was reminded that we find moments of true bravery, not just believing in ourselves, but in having someone else believe in us too.
The feisty redhead Merida sets forth on her own adventure in the Enchanted Forest, in hopes of using magic to free her brothers from the clans threatening to take control of her kingdom. Though she acts without thinking, she couldn’t have picked a better partner in her endeavors than the brilliant Belle, who will later offer her wise counsel. Just like in 2012 Pixar movie Brave, Merida decides the best way to save her brothers is to change her fate: taking a potion that will turn her into bear. Belle reminds her that magic isn’t required to change your fate; it’s our choices that can change the course of our lives, and in Merida’s case, her wit and a bow, are all that are required to save her brothers. Merida is operating out of fear. It takes Belle’s clever switch of the potions to make Merida realize that she holds the power to save her brothers and rule the clans of DunBroch. She just needed to be brave enough to see it. Merida then remembers Emma’s act of mercy on her life and chooses to spare the lives of her former suitors in favor of peace and unity with the clans. Merida could have easily executed the rebellious men and sentenced her kingdom to a fate full of war and hostility, but she doesn’t. Changing the destiny of your life does not require a magic potion; it only takes a decision to lead you down a path towards the light or into darkness — a decision to be brave or to give into fear.
I Need a Hero
Rumple faced his own set of choices in this episode as well: become the hero Dark Swan needs him to be or let his cowardice get the better of him, and in doing so, allow his true love to die. Prior to Rumple’s stint as the Dark One, he wasn’t brave, but rather lived in fear of losing his son, which through his actions caused him to lose him anyway. Crippled physically and emotionally, Rumple used magic to change his fate, finally becoming free from his fear because he became the fear. However, his dependence on magic drove the very people he loved away. In the Season 4 finale, he lost that crutch. This season, and especially in this episode, he is finally given the opportunity to become the hero Belle believes him to be — a hero built by character not magic.
Yes, Rumple was quick to want to cross the town line with Belle and go on with their lives without having to face the threat of Dark Swan’s demands but I would argue that most people’s first reaction to a threat of that nature would also be to run. It certainly seems easier than having to face the pain head on, and the potential to fail. However before we act on those impulses, there is the second option, to be brave and face our fears and/or demons. Courage runs deeper than simply being brave. To quote Ambrose Redmoon, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” Rumple was terrified, but his love for Belle, which runs deeper than anything he could face, is more important. He turns back and saves Belle from Merida in bear form. Through this act of true bravery he has deemed himself worthy enough to pull Excalibur from the stone. Rumple is finally becoming a hero that we can all believe in. A man who was once corrupted with darkness is now able to face his fears for the love in his life. What’s more, Rumple will be a force to be reckoned with because he has the experience of being the Dark One with which to anticipate Emma’s actions. In addition, he managed to make a deal with Emma in exchange for Merida’s heart. Rumple may have drawn Excalibur, but he became a hero in the process. Tim McInnerny said it best: “Courage is facing our deepest fears; heroism is facing them again and again.”