By Meredith Loftus
Now that was a roller-coaster television ride! In the first hour on ABC’s Once Upon a Time Zelena gives birth a baby girl and a new Dark One is born.
Then in the second hour, we get caught up with Merida in DunBroch in addition to finding out what Zelena and Arthur did after they escaped from their battle with Emma in Camelot.
Each hour was significantly different, mainly due to the fact that these two largely unrelated episodes were aired together because of the scheduling of American Music Awards next week.
However, both “Birth” and “The Bear King” had sufficient plot points to play well to the current arc, and with only two episodes left until the mid-season finale, there’s plenty to speculate about.
The Most Powerful Motivator
After Merlin warns her about Arthur’s threat to her family and friends, Emma is left contemplating her next course of action.
Always a fighter, Emma wants to protect the people she loves most. However when Merlin, the most powerful wizard and shining symbol of light, begs her to accept defeat, she begins to believe that giving up would be easier. Henry, her son and biggest believer, gives Emma another reason to take a stand against Arthur and Zelena. During Emma and Killian’s retreat to the middlemist meadow, she questioned whether they could have a future in Storybrooke, one with a house and a white picket fence. After returning from the meadow, Killian recruited Henry to join Operation Light Swan, a plan to find Emma a home in Storybrooke where she, Killian, and Henry could be a family. Henry and Killian found a winner, and Henry shows it to Emma. This house is that promise of a happy future together. With this future within grasp, it gives Emma the motivation not surrender to Arthur, to help Merlin overcome Arthur’s control, and to save her family.
However it’s also this future that holds Emma back. With Arthur and Zelena retreated, Emma now can put Excalibur back together again. She can light the Promethean flame, as long as she is willing to give up the darkness. However Emma holds onto the darkness because she is now willing to admit her fear; she is afraid of a happy future because she’s never had one. Emma has always been so close to having a happy life only to have it taken away from her. Now her happy future in Storybrooke with her family and Killian are in reach, she is afraid of losing it all.
Killian finds her following Regina’s attempts to force the truth from her, and at first Killian is hurt, thinking Emma does not want that future with him. However, she opens her heart to him, revealing her innermost fear of losing their happy future and he finally understands just how much she wants this future with him. Emma loves Killian, and it’s this love that finally ignites the flame and motivates her to give up the darkness once and for all.
Emma’s greatest fears are realized when she begins to reattach Excalibur with the dagger. During this process, Killian’s wound from Excalibur earlier is reopened and turns fatal. Emma frantically tries to figure out a way to save him knowing all the same that a wound from Excalibur can’t truly be healed. Previous promises of surviving begin to slip away as he lies dying. Killian tells her that their future is now and he can die knowing that she will have a future free from darkness. Devastated and determined not to allow death to claim another love of her life, Emma takes matters into her own hands. She whisks Killian back to middlemist meadow, a romantic place of pure love between the couple. Killian tells her not to save him. He explains that he is not as strong as her, that he will not be able to overcome the darkness the way Emma has. Killian dies in her arms knowing that she has a future.
Emma Swan’s love for him runs deeper than death, and it’s not enough for her to have a future without him. With her love for him as the ultimate motivation, Emma saves Killian’s life by tethering his life to Excalibur, making him a new Dark One.
In this process, she fully embraced the darkness and became the Dark Swan.