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ONCE UPON A TIME Review: Births, Deaths and a New Dark One Arises

BY The Screen Spy Team

Published 7 years ago

ONCE UPON A TIME Review: Births, Deaths and a New Dark One Arises

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.

Dark Swan’s Plans

Before Killian discovers his fate in Camelot, he becomes very determined to find out Emma’s plans. Everything she’s done has been because of him and he wants to know why. After Emma saves him from Arthur, it becomes clear to him that his Emma is actively in there. He goes to great lengths to talk with the real Emma, even to the point of jumping off the roof of the library to get her attention. Once she saves him, he again asks for answers. Killian assures her that no matter what she’s done, he loves her. He opens up more of his dark past with her, explaining the significance of the rings he wears. These rings were once trophies of his conquest, and one ring that represented what he’s lost, Liam. However since meeting Emma, these rings have become a reminder that his shortcomings can be redeemed. Killian tries to remind Emma that even in her dark time, she is still loved and can be forgiven for her actions, no matter how bad things seem. He is making good on his promise of choosing to see the best in her.

Of course this forgiveness might take a moment to receive. Zelena stabs Killian in his chest and nothing happens, which of course is a huge red flag that something has happened. Killian, tired of playing Emma’s games, watches his dreamcatcher and gets his memories back. As he does, he finds out he is now a Dark One, the very thing he has hated and sought to destroy for centuries. This is another scenario in which Emma was doing the right thing but executed it with dark magic, and then attempted to fix the problem before he ever found out. That doesn’t lessen the initial anger Killian has. He feels betrayed that Emma did the exact opposite of what he asked for in Camelot. He’s become his greatest enemy. At the same time, he can’t wrap his head around the idea that Emma loves him so much that she couldn’t bear the idea of a day without him. Again, it’s going to take him some time for forgiveness to heal their relationship. It’s like Killian said earlier: all sins can be forgiven when someone loves you.

Merida’s Test

On to a lighter topic! In the second hour, “The Bear King” was strictly about Merida discovering the truth about her father’s death as well as proving her to be the rightful ruler of DunBroch. After she just earned the respect of the other clans, her kingdom is threatened when the witch interrupts her coronation. Her confidence is shaken by the idea that her father would use magic to lead his people, when she always held him in such high regard. Regardless, that doesn’t stop her from teaming up with Mulan to find a magical helmet that can make others fight the wearer’s battles.

After crossing paths with Arthur and Zelena, Merida would rather give her kingdom its best chance of escaping the bear curse than leaving her people to chance, just in case she can’t find the helmet in time. Merida proves to the other clans that she can lead their kingdom. However giving up would be too easy. Mulan found her honor after meeting up with Ruby, and together, they work together to find the helmet and the truth about King Fergus’ death. It was Arthur who killed Fergus on the battlefield, but Fergus died a leader worth following into battle without the use of the helmet, making him truly honorable. Arthur tries to take the helmet for himself so he can lead his army into battle against the Storybrooke heroes. Merida, with the aid of Ruby, Mulan, and the other clans, retrieve the helmet to save her kingdom, while Arthur and Zelena retreat back to Camelot.

What Merida chooses to do with the helmet really makes her worthy of the crown she now wears on her head. Instead of simply just exchanging the helmet for her kingdom’s safety, Merida wants to destroy it knowing true loyalty and leadership don’t come from magic but  from bravery and honor. This is makes Arthur the antithesis to Merida. He is a ruler who is seeking to find another magical way to force loyalty, much as he used the sands of Avalon on Guinevere. Merida has proven herself to her subjects and former enemies that she is the leader who is willing to lay her life on the line for her people. Her honor passes the test and the witch lets DunBroch survive. The witch also gives Merida a precious gift: the chance to talk with her father one more time. Fergus tells Merida that he’s so proud of her, and that he was the reason he gave up the helmet. Her bravery and honor is an inspiration to her father and to her kingdom, and now she is taking the battle to Arthur. Look out King Arthur, Queen Merida is coming for you!


Worth Mentioning

  • One of the lighter moments of “Birth” featured the brief return of Dr. Whale. From seeing Zelena again to responding with sass about his new hair color, it was the right amount of humor needed for such an intense moment of Zelena’s pregnancy being sped into labor.
  • Speaking of returns, Mulan and Ruby made their returns in “The Bear King” and it is wonderful having these strong female characters back on the show. They are back for more action and I can’t wait to see what adventures they go on next.
  • The new evil power team up is King Arthur and the Wicked Witch of the West. This was not a pairing I ever imagined but it makes so much sense. Again, not sure how long the alliance will last when their goals begin to deviate from each other.
  • The line of the night belongs to Zelena in “The Bear King”: “No one outwitches me!”
  • In the last scene of “The Bear King” Merida uses magical ale that allows her to communicate with the dead who are in the Underworld. If the second half of the season is really about Hades and the Underworld (spoilers), then I have a feeling this potion will come back and be very important.
  • What is the significance of the snow globe Gold was holding in the store, then Killian holding in the streets when he was looking for Emma?
  • Thank you writers for keeping the Brave characters true to their depictions in the Pixar movie.
  • I believe congratulations are in order for Robin and Zelena’s new baby girl. The interesting part will be what they decide to name her. Names matter on this show.
  • Did anyone else jump a bit when Charming pulled out his gun on Arthur? For a moment I really thought he was going to shoot him, which would’ve been crazy!
  • The dark horse and loose cannon of the show is Zelena. Not only has her pregnancy (now birth of her daughter) thrown off everyone’s plans, now she was the one to reveal to Killian his past in Camelot. Her newborn daughter is out there, but she likes stirring trouble. She wants to seek revenge against Emma for separating her from her baby. What will the Wicked Witch of the West do next? We will find out in two weeks. Hang in there fans!
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