Happy Saturday, Dear Readers — and happy early Thanksgiving! Once Upon A Time spent this past Sunday airing a double-episode and will be on hiatus next week, which means that instead of throwing gifs and sarcasm around like confetti on this site, I will be spending next Saturday recovering from my Thanksgiving food coma in peace. But I’ll have plenty to think about while I’m lying there; ABC’s Sunday-night fantasy drama has left its fans with a lot of theories to fan out (and a lot of feels to deal with). Don’t believe me? Then come further in and find out for yourself… if you dare.
In present-day Storybrooke, the Heroes confront Arthur about burning the crimson crown, and he makes a run for it — however, he trips pathetically on a log in the woods and gives Hook time to catch up (though… not anyone else. Apparently). Arthur overpowers him and prepares to strike the killing blow. Who could possibly save Killian Jones?
Emma, of course! She shows up and defeats Arthur with the newly-remade Excalibur! Hook asks her why she needs the sword and why she’s doing all this, but she tells him it’ll all be over tomorrow… because she’s doing this for him.
Three weeks earlier in Camelot, Emma returns to Granny’s with the ember only to find that none of the other Heroes have returned. Then Merlin appears, confessing that he’s been enslaved and bound to Arthur’s sword. Under the king’s orders, Emma’s family is tied up in the forest, and she has one hour to give up the dagger and the ember… or Merlin will kill them.
Back in the present, the Heroes have put Arthur in jail, but he’s not giving them any answers. Hook is worried for Emma, but Regina is worried for everyone else and suspects that they need to stop the Dark One from getting another ingredient for her evil plot. Hook goes to find Gold and ask what’s going on inside Emma’s head. Gold, whose protective stock of squid ink has been raided by the Dark One, knows all too well: it’s not about anything that Hook did in Camelot, but about what Emma did. Hook just needs to find out what she’s atoning for.
WAIT. What if ARTHUR killed Hook in Camelot, and Dark Magic was the only way for Emma to bring him back!?
Back in Camelot, Emma is struggling to ignite the ember on her own. The voice of Rumpelstiltskin in her head suggests that it’s because she likes the Darkness… but Henry shows up and suggests instead that Emma just needs some motivation. He shows Emma a house ad in the Storybrooke paper: Hook picked it out, as a promise that they could have a future together. But now he and the rest of the Heroes are tied up and about to be executed… and Emma realizes that she needs to use the Darkness one last time.
Meanwhile in the present, Zelena suddenly feels her baby kicking wildly; something awful is happening! By the time Robin and Regina are summoned, they discover that by some Dark Magic the baby has grown to term in less than an hour, and Zelena is going into labor. Emma needs the baby for her evil plans!
Outside the hospital, Hook goes to find Emma and ask what happened between them in Storybrooke. Whatever it was, he forgives her. To prove it, he shows her all the rings he wears: each was originally a trophy from a murder he committed, and now they’re reminder that all sins can be forgiven when someone loves you. (Don't worry, though: the ring he gave her wasn't from one of his victims. It belonged to his beloved brother.)
Emma takes Hook to her house and tells him that she didn’t pick the place out: he did. She’s doing everything to keep their future alive, and they kiss passionately, but something’s wrong… and Emma pulls back. She can’t tell him everything yet or he’ll try to stop her… so she has drugged him (like every television seductress from Yosaffbridge to Agent Carter to Poison Ivy)!
Back in Camelot, Emma finds her loved ones tied up with Arthur and Merlin waiting for her. She refuses to hand over the dagger or the ember unless her family is released, but Zelena prepares to fight. However, Emma has no problem binding her with magic, and so Arthur “unleashes Merlin” to battle the Dark One a la Deathly Hallows!
Merlin manages to overpower Emma and Arthur orders him to execute Snow first, but Emma begs Merlin to resist the evil. If he can’t fight the Darkness, no one can. Merlin actually does manage to hold off Arthur’s command, but he can’t do it for long. Nearby, Hook slips out of his cuffs thanks to his gloves and punches Arthur. The would-be king fights him with Excalibur and manages to scratch his neck with the blade, but Hook overpowers him and takes the sword easily. Arthur flees to Zelena, and they poof away, leaving Emma to heal Hook’s would and free everybody. Merlin’s resistance has taken a heavy toll on him, but now all Emma has to do is light the ember.
Outside of Granny’s, Regina comes to help Emma find out why she can’t light the spark. She knows that the Darkness feels good, and to be allured by it is human… but it’s still wrong. However, when Emma won’t open up about the real reason she’s clinging to the Darkness, Regina grabs the dagger and demands the truth… but Emma’s family show up to stop Regina, and Emma storms off with the dagger (and her secrets).
Meanwhile in the present, Zelena realizes that Emma’s present of onion rings a few days back is the cause of her present misery… well, that and Doctor Whale, who has shown up with nothing but some serious sass.
Belle joins everyone and shows them a book containing the spell that Emma needs to snuff out all light: it requires the cries of a newborn child. Zelena (who is finally in actual pain) gives birth to a girl!* Regina and Robin are admiring her when Emma shows up suddenly… but she’s not after the baby, she’s after Zelena! Poof!
* This baby needs to become inseparable with baby Neal immediately. The daughter of Robin Hood/The Evil Queen and the son of Snow White/Prince Charming? PERFECTION.
Emma takes Zelena to her basement, where Hook is already chained up. Emma’s preparing to channel all Dark Magic into Zelena, and then destroy said magic by killing Zelena.
After all, Zelena killed Neal and Marian and countless others. But Hook still wants to know why Emma’s doing this now, instead of letting Merlin save her in Camelot. But Emma says Merlin can’t help anymore.
Back in Camelot, Hook comes to Emma and asks what’s really bothering her. She admits that she’s afraid of their future. Not because she doesn’t want to move in with him, but because every time she admits her true feelings for someone, she loses them (You're so close to figuring out that it's because you live in a TV drama, Emma. Inches away). But she does want to have a future with him — and when they kiss, the ember ignites.
Meanwhile in Storybrooke, Zelena tells Hook that they just need to get her magic cuff off. Her arm has been enchanted to keep her from cutting it off again, but Killian’s hook is still imbued with the magic that he meant to use to rip out her heart. He’s not sure if he can trust her, but he rips the cuff off, and she magicks away her chains… and then his.
Just above ground, the Heroes come to Emma’s house. Regina’s planning to fight the Dark One with Dark Magic, but Snow still wants to save Emma. However, Emma comes out and uses Excalibur to cast a force field around the house. She says that she doesn’t need saving at all: in fact, she’s going to help them by finally getting rid of Zelena.
Unbeknownst to her, Zelena and Hook are upstairs (because Zelena didn’t bother to poof them both out of the basement for some reason). Zelena leaves out the back door, but Hook stays to search for Gold’s squid ink and make Emma talk. He finds it just before she catches him and he casts it on her… but while Emma’s frozen, Zelena comes back for revenge and stabs Hook in the chest!
However, Hook is not in as much pain as he expected. (Did Emma steal his heart while he was unconscious!?) To show him why, Zelena shows him the dreamcatcher that she found in Emma’s garage, and the memories come flooding back…
In Camelot, all the Heroes gather in Granny’s to watch Emma unite the two blades with the spark. But, just as she’s about to re-forge the sword, Hook collapses and his neck starts bleeding where she healed him. Apparently, though her magic covered it for a while, his wound from Arthur has only gotten worse because injuries made by Excalibur can’t be healed.
But Emma refuses to let Hook die. Merlin may claim that there’s no hope, but she can release him from Excalibur’s tether and bind Hook’s life to the blade instead. It will create a new Dark One, and the copious magic will send her over to the Dark Side at last… but this is one true love that Emma is not going to lose.
She poofs Killian and herself into a field and prepares to cast the spell. Hook doesn’t want her to do this because he knows how easily he succumbed to evil in the past, but she insists that she’ll help him the way he has helped her. When he starts to fade she grabs Excalibur, unravels the magic from Merlin, and works the spell deep into Hook’s heart. POOF! The spell is complete, Emma turns completely Dark, and Hook is sent to the vault of the Dark One to begin his journey of evil.
Back in the present, Zelena removes a glamour spell from Excalibur and shows Hook that his name is on it: now he and Emma are the Dark Ones. Emma wanted to fix everything by destroying the evil in both of them, but he can’t believe that she actually turned him Dark and then planned to kill Zelena in cold blood. He’s so angry that now… he wants revenge.
The Bear King [5x09]
Back in Camelot, Zelena and Arthur convene just after narrowly escaping from Emma and the other Heroes. Arthur needs to prepare the castle for siege, and Zelena needs him to ensure that the Heroes don’t come after her baby. Fortunately, he has a plan if they can just travel north… to DunBroch. And in that kingdom, Merida is just placing roses on the grave of King Fergus.
Ruling the clans is going to be a challenge for her, and she wishes she could know how he did it. But she doesn’t have long to think on it because her mother (who is both extremely young-looking and sporting a frustratingly-fake wig) arrives to bring her back inside for her coronation.
But the two of them have no idea that several years earlier, Fergus himself rides to the witch’s hut and barges in… to ask for magic. With enemies invading from the south, he’ll pay the witch any price to ensure his kingdom’s future. The hilarious little “whittler” creates a magic helmet that will give him “exactly what he wants,” (gee, I wonder what it’ll do) but she doesn’t need anything at the moment, so he signs a blank contract for an I-O-U.
Back at Merida’s coronation, the spoiled Prince Macintosh has to bring her the crown, and he is completely and hilariously grumpy about it. However, the witch barges in (right before Merida’s crowned, of course) and demands her payment for what Fergus bought. She shows them his contract and demands a price that will bankrupt the clans unless they can return the helm in two nights. If they can’t, she’ll turn them all into bears! What a shock.
In private, Merida tells her mother that she knows where the helm is: her father was wearing it when he died, and it was stolen by his murderer. So that’s who Merida has to find.
I BET THE HELM HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH WHY MERIDA’S ARROW MISSED.
I ALSO BET THAT SAID MURDERER WAS ARTHUR.
Two years earlier, Fergus brings Merida (in some pretty swanky battle armor) to the encampment of all the clans. He gives her the war bow from his first battle and admits that he also hired a soldier to tutor her in the art of honorable warfare. Merida fights the masked soldier right away (it’s Mulan, I can tell by the armor) and gets disarmed in moments. Because yes, of course it was Mulan.
Back in the present, Arthur brings Zelena to the witch’s cottage. There’s a big wolf on guard inside, but Zelena casts a handful of sleeping powder on it. The witch shows up and tells them she doesn’t have the helm that they’re looking for — in fact, she sent someone else after it. Zelena forces the witch into admitting that this “someone else” is Merida.
Meanwhile, Mulan has made a life for herself by collecting debts for some local gangster in the Enchanted Forest, but Merida finds her and begs for help. Mulan claims that she has no honor anymore, so she’ll help only for payment and so long as Merida asks no more questions. They travel to the battlefield where Fergus fell, and Merida finds her arrow that missed her father’s murderer (but tore his cloak and snagged a scrap of cloth they can track him by). But Mulan doesn’t want to remain and help Merida mourn for Fergus, because she claims true warriors don’t let anyone hurt them.
Suddenly Arthur and Zelena show up, demanding the helm. It has the power to make other men fight your battles, however dangerous — and suddenly Merida realizes that the helm her father was wearing to muster the clans was meant to ensure that they would fight even if they went to their deaths.
Zelena summons Merida’s bow. Since it was the last gift Fergus ever gave his daughter, the Wicked Witch can use a locator spell on it to find the helm. The two villains poof away, leaving Merida in total defeat and ready to go home… whereas Mulan insists that they can still track the cloak (even though her sudden enthusiasm makes no sense). The two of them part ways.
Years earlier, Merida meets her father by the lakeside where the invaders plan to sail in. She asks how he could possibly inspire the clans to follow him into battle, especially with little hope of victory… but he just looks at the helm in silence (how does he even know what it does?). He says the only way is by showing your men that you’re the first one willing to die. And he’s certainly inspired the clans in the past by killing Mor’du and becoming the Bear King… OH HEEEY, HE’S WEARING THE SKIN OF MOR’DU!
Back in the present, Mulan comes to the witch’s hut for a tracer spell to use on the scrap of cloak, but she finds herself face to face with the wolf. However, Mulan recognizes that the wolf isn’t real (I bet it was the horrible CGI that clued her in) and tips a nearby cauldron onto it (because clearly any boiling cauldron within arm’s reach is the exact magic she needs) and the wolf turns… into RED RIDING HOOD!
(Now they don’t even need a locator spell; she can sniff the killer out!) Ruby introduces herself and explains that she knows about Mulan from the Charmings. Just after the time-travel fiasco when Neal was born and Zelena supposedly killed, Ruby confided in Snow that she wanted to find other werewolves since she was the last of her kind in Storybrooke. After helping Tiny work in his fields, she did manage to rustle up one magic bean, and Snow sent her off with a blessing to the Enchanted Forest (apparently without even telling Granny). However, Ruby’s pack has gone missing now, and the witch turned her into a guard dog… but now she can help Mulan by (of course) smelling out the killer.
Not far away in DunBroch, Merida is seriously considering giving her crown to spoiled Prince Macintosh (I think I'm going to start calling him Mack for short) if he can find the helm by the deadline… but Mulan barges in and ruins Mack's moment with news of Ruby’s plan to help.
Years earlier, Merida and Mulan are in the midst of sparring outside the camp when Merida hears the bagpipes of war and realizes that her father ordered Mulan to keep her away from the battle. Said battle, not far away, is about to erupt between Fergus and a knight with no flag, who totally looks like Arthur even if his face is hidden. The two armies charge at one another (and by ‘armies,’ I mean little teams of about fifty guys on either side… seriously, this isn’t a war: it’s a football game).
Merida reaches the crest of a nearby hill and sees the masked knight sneaking up on her father. She draws her arrow back but misses, and the king dies.
The king’s killer takes the helm for himself, and Mulan drags Merida away just before he removes his mask… oh, look: its Arthur.
Back in the present, Zelena uses her summoning spell to draw the magic helm from the lake where somebody cast it. But before Arthur can grab it, Merida and her gals show up to do battle — and Merida is especially angry when she learns that Arthur was the person who killed her father. He came looking for the helm because he never had it in the first place; the helm that Fergus wore into battle wasn’t enchanted: just polished. FERGUS THREW THE REAL HELM INTO THE LAKE AND DIDN’T USE THE MAGIC AFTER ALL.
Mulan stands between Zelena and the helmet while Ruby casts sleeping powder on her, and Merida engages Arthur in a deadly duel. However, Merida doesn’t defeat Arthur on her own; the three princes and the clans show up and hold him at arrow-point! Um… yay?
Zelena, barely conscious, poofs herself and Arthur back to Camelot. Merida thanks the men and admits that she couldn’t have gotten the helmet without them… but they say that they couldn’t let their queen fall, and then they all kneel and suddenly spoiled Prince Hunk over there is looking a lot less spoiled. When he realized that she was willing to give up her crown and life to save the kingdom, like her father, that made him realize that she’s fit to lead the clans.
They all return to DunBroch to crown Merida, and when the witch shows up they’re all waiting. Merida refuses to return the helmet — no one should have that much power, so she’s going to destroy it — and they’ll find some other way to stop the coming curse. But the witch is actually relieved; her convoluted magic and demands were all to help ensure the future of the kingdom, as Fergus originally intended! Before leaving, she gives Merida a coronation gift: magic ale, one cup of which can summon a spirit to say goodbye… from the UNDERWORLD.
The next day, Merida visits her father’s tomb and thanks Mulan and Ruby for their help. Mulan admits that her bitterness came from her broken heart, and Ruby suggests that she might be able to help. Her own search for werewolves will keep Mulan occupied, and she herself can help Mulan regain her honor.
The two go off together and leave Merida with the ale, which she tosses out before the grave (without bothering to ask whether her mother wants to be present for this). At first it doesn’t seem to work, but then suddenly she hears, “Hey don’t waste that! It’s good ale!” Yep, that’s DEFINITELY King Fergus!
Merida and her father apologize to each other for losing faith, and they hug (because apparently he’s in physical form?), and then he dissolves away… and leaves her to plot her revenge on Arthur.
Tune In NOT Tomorrow, but NEXT Sunday…
…when Merida comes to kill Hook in Storybrooke, Emma comes clean to Regina about what she did in Camelot, and Hook prepares to avenge himself on Mr. Gold and on Emma! (Because apparently even though he’s been a Dark One for a few weeks, he doesn’t turn evil until someone TELLS him he’s evil…)
Quote of the Episode:
“My father would never stoop so low.”
“Well, he did not stoop — except to get in the door…”
1. Um, where were Merida’s brothers during all the shenanigans? I DEMAND MORE OF HARRIS, HUBERT, AND HAMISH.
2. Could someone please explain to me the whole “Hook not being evil until learning he’s a Dark One” placebo effect? Honestly. He’s been fighting so hard to keep Emma good all this time since they returned to Storybrooke; why change now? Is it all just a psychological thing? Why didn’t any of his earlier temper tantrums against Arthur unleash any magic?
And why is he angry at Emma? I get that he’s because he’s evil, but think about it. He’s mad at her for cursing him with Darkness, and ergo he’s going to take revenge by embracing said Darkness.
1. It wasn’t Emma that was coming to kill Merlin in Merlin's “voicemail” potion. The Dark One that was hunting him… was Killian Jones.
2. I still think Merida's bow was cursed when she tried to shoot Arthur. Like I said before, they've been pushing her 'perfect' marksmanship too hard in this show for me to believe that she could miss THAT BADLY.
3. SO MANY UNDERWORLD REFERENCES. BRING ON THE HADES SNARK.