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ONCE UPON A TIME The Focus Shifted To DunBroch


Episode 509 “The Bear King”


Okay, let’s cut to the chase. This was not a good episode. It’s not that it wasn’t good to watch. But the premise was cliché, it had no bearing on the season storyline whatsoever, and the characters seemed to be shoehorned in. It’s too bad that it showed right after one of the best episodes they’ve ever done. It was good to see Mulan and Ruby (aka Little Bad Riding Wolf) again, even if they were shoehorned in. But unless they have some way of figuring out how to tie it in to the rest of the season’s story, it was a waste of an episode.


Here’s the premise:

Merida is the daughter of the de facto king who was killed in battle. At her coronation, the witch who gave her the bear potion announces to her that her father went to her for magic and still owes the debt. Either she returns the enchanted helmet within two days, the witch would turn them all into bears. (Seriously, doesn’t she have ANY other tricks up her sleeve?) Arthur and Zelena (the only real tie-in to the existing season story) were looking for the helmet as well.

The only real tie-in.
The only real tie-in. (ABC/Jack Rowland)

We got flashbacks of Merida being trained to fight by Mulan. Merida wasn’t respected by the other clans, or even her own. Her father was killed in battle by someone she now wants to hunt down and exact revenge on. Surprise, surprise, it was Arthur. She got Mulan, who was no longer the passionate warrior but rather a cold mercenary, to help her hunt him down.

We also got flashbacks of Merida’s insecurity and losing faith in her father when she learned he got a magic helmet. In the end, it turned out King Fargus didn’t use it because it wouldn’t have made him a good leader, and he wanted to set a good example for Merida. After offering to give up her crown to one of the sons of one of the other clans, Merida got reassurance of the other clans’ loyalty when the others helped her defeat Arthur and Zelena. When the witch returned for the helmet, Merida said she would destroy it instead of handing it back. The witch told her it wasn’t about the helmet, that she was just testing Merida. As a reward, she gave Merida the chance to see her father one last time.

Cliché, cliché, cliché.

Are they being reintroduced? Or just shoehorned in?
Are they being reintroduced? Or just shoehorned in? (ABC/Jack Rowland)

Ruby was there, too. She was confined to wolf form by the witch until Mulan freed her. Ruby then sniffed out Arthur and identified him as Fargus’ killer and used sleeping powder against Zelena, enabling Merida and Mulan to take the helmet. At least we got to see why she left Storybrooke and went back to the Enchanted Forest. She felt out of place and wanted to find more of her kind. There were none that she could find.

A Scot, an Asian, a Brit, and someone from Oz in a Mexican standoff. (ABC/Jack Rowland)
A Scot, an Asian, a Brit, and someone from Oz in a Mexican standoff. (ABC/Jack Rowland)

Either Merida’s ire toward Arthur is fueled by his killing her father, or the episode serves as a way for Mulan and/or Ruby to come back into the fold, in which case then it was a waste of an episode. Merida’s vow to go after Arthur at the end is the only way it would seem to have any bearing on the rest of the season’s story at all. I didn’t find this to be a worthwhile episode. The fact that it aired immediately following one of the best episodes of the series certainly didn’t help it any.


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.