Once Upon A Time S05E08 “Birth” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Netflix, new episodes every Wednesday
Writer: David H Goodman, Jerome Schwartz
Director: Eagle Egilsson
Essential Plot Points:
- Arthur demands the dagger and the flame in exchange for Emma’s family.
- Emma battles with letting go of the Darkness.
- Zelena goes into labour. Clues suggest Emma is after her baby.
- Emma must make a huge decision to save Hook’s life.
In the previous episode Arthur was being built up as competent and newly powerful villain. Unfortunately this doesn’t last long into this episode. Within the first five minutes he’s captured by David, Hook and Robin. He even has a chance to kill Hook but wastes time making quips instead of actually stabbing him. This gives Emma enough time to jump in with her recently-reforged Excalibur. She was probably waiting for just such a chance to show it off.
In Camelot the situation looks far more promising for Arthur. He has Emma’s family hostage and uses Merlin to deliver to her the ultimatum: the dagger and the flame in exchange for their lives. Yet he still finds a way to mess that up. If you had control of the most powerful wizard in the world you’d probably use force him to use his powers rather than just threatening to do so all the time.
Emma places a trap inside the amber box to restrain Zelena when she opens it. This leads to a magical fight between Emma and Merlin, that looks suspiciously like someone on the production team scribbled “can it be a bit like the Harry/Voldemort fight in Deadly Hallows?” in the margins of the script. Merlin easily defeats her (which is odd considering the scene with Nimue last week) and this would probably be the most opportune moment for Arthur to order Merlin to kill Emma, his biggest obstacle, instead of (slowly) killing his mother. Emma begs for Merlin to fight against it, which surprisingly works. This gives Hook time to uncuff his well, hook, and give Arthur a right… hook.
Back in Storybrooke, Zelena is given a monumental shock when she finds herself nine months pregnant after just three months and ready to go into labour. They realise dark magic is involved and Belle discovers that Emma needs the cries of a newborn to destroy light magic. However, in a twist Emma kidnaps Zelena instead along with Hook. It’s revealed that Emma plans to transfer the darkness into Zelena and kill her to destroy the darkness forever.
Fortunately Regina comes to rescue them, giving Hook and Zelena time to escape. Although Hook can’t leave without answers. He finds the squid ink that was previously used to trap Rumple and freezes Emma in place. Just as he does this Zelena finds the dreamcatcher and shows Hook his memories from Camelot. In a twist Hook was unable to be healed from the cut he got from Excalibur when he punched Arthur, so Emma transfers Merlin’s powers to him in order to save his life, creating a new Dark one.
There’s many things to like about this episode, but the best is the relationship between Hook and Emma. They begin to plan their future together as Hook sees a house they could live in; this both gives Emma strength but also worries her about giving up the Darkness. It’s a great insight into the romance between them and makes the whole relationship feel far more real. It’s interesting to see that Emma didn’t want to give up the darkness, but not for the reasons we’d expect, showcasing how much of a strong character she really is. While in the present Hook tries desperately to connect with Emma and help her, it’s only at the end we discover that Hook needed to be kept in the dark.
The only problem with this set-up is that they’ve made it clear in the past that Hook used to be a very dark and violent person. The clear implication is that when he becomes the Dark One he’ll be overcome by temptation. Yet it also seems obvious that they’re setting up his relationship with Emma as a kinda “life raft” to pull Hook back from being completely lost. If this is what happens then all well and good, but if we’ve seen it coming then surely a huge proportion of the rest of the audience will too. It’s the obvious route to go down.
Since Emma is no longer the villain, another problem inherent in this season is that it doesn’t have any memorable villains (unless Dark Hook turns out to be a great addition). Arthur has proved time and time again that he’s an awful adversary; that’s nothing against Liam Garrigan, who is as good as he can be in the role, but unfortunately Arthur hasn’t been given anything interesting to do. Ultimately it appears that Arthur will almost instantly be forgotten about after the season ends unless the writers can find something for him to do other than being obstacle.
Another minor problem is that there were a few unexplained situations this episode. Hook left Mr Gold’s shop with the snow globe that Rumple was inspecting, which was explained in a scene that was cut out. Emma performed a light show for Regina, but we’re never told what that actually did, and Zelena randomly stumbled upon Emma’s Dreamcatcher despite the fact that Regina already removed it. It’s also not something Emma would leave lying around anywat..
Bonus points, though, for David Ander’s scene, that was all kinds of fun.
- We see why Hook and Emma work so well together.
- Great twist with Hook, and Emma’s motivation the whole time.
- Zelena reminds us once again why she must never be trusted.
- Dark Hook promises to be an interesting development.
- Arthur has fallen back down the ladder of competent villains; everything he did was wrong and having Merlin under your control should have led to an easy victory.
- Having Emma’s soul corrupt because she turned Hook into The Dark One doesn’t make a lot of sense. With Nimue it worked because she had murdered and thus convinced that murder was an acceptable act, whereas Emma’s actions were done to save a life.
- The title card features a figure rising out of the Vault of the Dark One.
- David Anders had his hair dyed blonde because of his role on the show iZombies. So when Dr Whale enters with blonde hair the other characters can’t help but notice the difference.
- When Hook leaves the pawn shop he’s carrying the snow globe that Rumple was inspecting earlier; however the reasoning behind was cut out of the show.
- The Dreamcatcher that Zelena uses to show Hook his memories was already taken home by Regina in an earlier episode.
- “Birth” and “The Bear King” were filmed at the same time.
- During the scene where Jenifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue are lying in a meadow blue screen had to be used. Both actors are lying in a small patch of flowers and the blue-screen was used to make the meadow look a lot larger. The blue screen crew member had to drill in between Colin’s legs as he lay perfectly still. Which made him, understandably, very nervous.
Review by Sam Halford
• Read our other Once Upon A Time Season Five reviews
• Once Upon a Time panel with Victoria Smurfit and Merrin Dungey at MCM Birmingham Comic Con
• INTERVIEW Once Upon A Time’s Merrin Dungey and Victoria Smurfit MCM Birmingham