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ONCE UPON A TIME Merida Hunted Belle

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Episode 506 “The Bear and the Bow”

In this episode, there was new found heroism, a broken teacup, and a magic bear!

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It opened on Camelot as the castle experienced a power outage. In a castle lit by candles and torches. Then a door gets kicked in by David and Killian … followed by Merlin. Merlin would explain the power outage. As they fought their way through a series of guards, Merlin said that his magic was like riding a bike. Apparently his prophesies, while sporadic, were pretty genuine.

"We've got a Merlin."
“We’ve got a Merlin.” (ABC/Ed Araquel)

They made their way to the jail cell with Lancelot, who was thrilled to see Merlin. Merida made her presence known from the opposite cell and asked to be freed as well. But the bars were protected by magic he had not encountered before. Belle, who had gone in with them, opened a book and pointed out a spell that prompted Merlin to praise her cleverness. Then he made the bars disappear with a wave of his hands. The part about Belle giving the right spell to the greatest wizard who found using magic to be like riding a bike seemed a bit awkward and forced. But with the events to transpire later, I guess the writers thought she needed a “save the cat” moment (a common technique in screenwriting).

As they were walking away through the woods, Merida related a story about why she was thrown into the dungeon (stole a boat from Arthur to go get her brothers back). It was actually just a ruse to let the others get out of sight so that she could clunk Belle over the head and knock her out. When Belle came to, she was in a rowboat being rowed by Merida. Merida didn’t have access to her wisps, so she needed another way to find and rescue her brothers. So she needed Belle and the magic book. Merida talked Belle into helping her, and they set off on a buddy adventure.

They came up on a witch’s cottage and went in to use the cauldron. They opened up a visual portal to see the three sons of the other clans preparing to kill Merida’s brothers in order to punish her for not relinquishing her throne. Then Merida grabbed a parchment from a table and gave it to Belle to change her brothers’ fate. As Merida practiced splitting arrows on a bullseye (she could probably teach Robin Hood a few things), Belle warned her that the potion would turn her into a bear. Although it’s what Merida wanted to be able to fight for her brothers, Belle tried to talk her out of it, citing her archery skills. Merida was undeterred.

Belle and Merida arrived at where Merida’s brothers were being held. She said her failure caused her father’s death and the clans lost faith in her. Belle tried to convince her it wasn’t her fault. But when Merida demanded the potion, Belle handed it to her. Merida approached them and warned them to let her brothers go. They refused, so she drank the potion. Nothing happened. Belle had mixed the potion, then replaced it with water in order to force Merida to stand up to them as a queen.

Not quite William Wallace.
Not quite William Wallace. (ABC/Ed Araquel)

The sons of the other clans fired arrows at the brothers, and Merida fired an arrow that broke all the other arrows in flight. Now I can accept unrealistic. But this was a bit over the top. It was cool to watch, sure. But it was just too unbelievable. (Plus, the arrows flying looked more realistic in the animated movie Brave.) The sons pulled their swords, and Merida drew hers. She said that she’s good with a bow, just as she’s good with a sword. Everyone surrendered and her brothers were freed. Belle and Merida said their goodbyes and hoped they would meet again. (It would happen, nearly disastrously.)

Back at Granny’s Diner, Merlin revealed to Emma that he was the usher in the theatre when Emma was a child. He reiterated to her that even though Excalibur was pulled, it would return to where it came, and she should not remove it. Everyone she loves would be in danger if she does.

Back in Storybrooke, our intrepid heroes were gathered in Regina’s office. They were shocked when Regina informed them that Merlin had been freed in Camelot. Although Merlin wasn’t present, Regina had figured out how to make the communication spell work with the Crimson Crown to speak to him. But it would require someone whom Merlin had chosen for pretty much any purpose to cast the spell. Belle thought Rumpel would be able to do it. None of them would have that. So Belle stormed out. And they decided to try to get Arthur.

Rumpel was tied up out in the woods with the chipped teacup close by. He hoped Belle would forgive him as he smashed the teacup and used one of the pieces to cut the rope around his wrists. Later, Merida and Emma showed up and found him missing and the teacup broken. Merida was ready to give up and let Emma crush her heart rather than carry out her dirty work. But Emma figured it showed that he was still willing to fight for Belle. So she ordered Merida to hunt down Belle and put an arrow through her heart.

Belle went to the library and was startled by the sound of a massive set of steampunk-looking doors beginning to open. When the gears and bicycle chains finished turning and the door opened, it revealed Rumpelstiltskin cowering. He thanked Belle for giving him strength to live while he was in a coma and wanted to let go. Belle wanted to run from Emma, but Rumpel said that she clearly wanted him to escape and he would be coming for Belle. So they decided to go to his shop to look for magic that would help them.

And in this closet is where we keep our Rumpelstiltskins.
And in this closet is where we keep our Rumpelstiltskins. (ABC/Ed Araquel)

Belle looked out and saw that the coast was clear to get to Rumpel’s shop. Traffic on that street tends to be conveniently sporadic. People walk around at one time and then it’s desolate another time. But anyway, Belle said that it was clear to go. But Rumpel couldn’t bring himself to go because he was too afraid. She convinced him that deep down, she saw a hero in him and talked him into going.

Just as soon as they got into the shop and Belle handed him a cane, an arrow flew through the front window. In came Merida. As Belle and Rumpel took shelter in the back room and closed the door, an arrow penetrated through. The whole Rumpel-is-a-coward bit seemed way too overdone, almost to the level of cheesiness. Luckily, they have Robert Carlyle brilliantly executing the role which saved it. Would somebody give the guy an Emmy already?

Merida barged in to the back room and found Rumpel and Belle curled up in a corner. She took aim with her bow and told Rumpel to save Belle and be the hero they all needed. But he was frozen and couldn’t. So Belle yanked the rug out from under Merida, and she fell to the floor and was knocked out. Rumpel grabbed a small bag out of a wall safe and they left.

The two of them were driving toward the town line to leave. Inside that small bag was magic dust that would keep them safe from the effects of leaving. Between the scenes in the library and the shop (daytime) and leaving town (nighttime), it seems there is some confusion as to where the sun is supposed to be. But there they were driving for the border. Belle decided she was having nothing of it and forced Rumpel to stop and let her out. She wanted him to stand up and be a hero. He was too much of a coward. So Belle walked away and Rumpel drove out of town. Strangely enough, there was no Dopey tree in the road. (Continuity, people!)

Belle ended up running into Merida who was forced to drink a potion and turn into a bear. The bear then chased Belle through the woods of Vancouver Maine. Belle tried to plead with Bearida, but to no avail. Then just before Bearida could finish off Belle, Rumpel showed up and faced the bear. He got tossed to the ground by Bearida. He then picked up the small bag of magic dust and threw it at the bear, turning it back into Merida. Belle was happy that Rumpel saved her. He was happy that she saved him.

The three returned to Emma’s basement. Rumpel made a deal with Emma. He would pull the sword in exchange for her returning Merida’s heart. Emma indignantly did so. Rumpel was able to pull the sword. But then he warned Emma that she made one big mistake. She turned him into a hero. Emma said that the town was full of heroes. But, he noted, that none of them were him.

Pretty, pretty sword. (ABC/Ed Araquel)
Pretty, pretty sword. (ABC/Ed Araquel)

Zelena was sitting in her cell reading when food was brought in. She wanted onion rings, but was given only organic, locally-grown produce, which she declined. Then Emma appeared and wanted to speak with her. She wasn’t interested. Nonetheless, the two disappeared in a cloud of smoke and reappeared at Emma’s house. Emma gave Zelena onion rings. Then she was open to whatever trouble Emma wanted to get into. Emma offered a deal that if Zelena would provide assistance when needed, she would get Emma’s protection. Zelena turned down the proposal in quite the sassy fashion. Emma said that soon, she would need an ally and would want to take the deal. Then in a cloud of smoke, returned Zelena to her cell.

Our intrepid heroes were in Regina’s vault with a cauldron cooking up the spell to contact Merlin. Arthur asked to be left alone to speak to Merlin. Everyone left. Then instead of dropping the Crimson Crown into the cauldron, he tossed it into the fire underneath. Then he walked out and told the others the spell just fizzled out and it didn’t work.

So our intrepid heroes went back in to investigate what went wrong. David found the magic toadstool in the fire pit and realized that Arthur lied to them. So they needed someone else chosen by Merlin … the Author! Enter Henry. He dropped the Crimson Crown into the mix and they saw Merlin … in a pre-recorded message. He said there was only one person who could help them defeat the Dark One, named Nimue. And he was stopped by the Dark One before he could give any more information.

Although a few niggles, such as continuity issues and a bit of less-than-stellar writing in one part (which was brilliantly saved by a wonderful actor) as well as an overly unbelievable moment, it was a pretty good episode. Although there were two different storylines with Belle being a damsel in distress, she was never a helpless damsel in distress. The episode also set up a subplot for Zelena who has been underutilized so far this season, an upcoming confrontation between Rumpelstiltskin and Emma, and a new character who right now I assume will be a hero (though you never can tell on this show). I like where this is going.

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Daniel C. Handley

Dan Handley was raised a Trekkie, fell in love with "Star Wars" at an early age, and became obsessed with comic book superheroes. He spent his youth dreaming of how to get real superpowers, starships, and so on.

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