Once Upon A Time S05E06 “The Bear And The Bow” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on Netflix, new episodes every Wednesday
Writers: Andrew Chambliss & Tze Chun
Director: Ralph Hemecker
Essential Plot Points:
- Merida is forced to take more drastic measures to turn Rumple into a hero.
- Merida (along with an involuntary Belle) recuses her brothers from the clans.
- Regina finishes the communication potion to speak to Merlin.
- Emma gets Excalibur.
As you could probably tell by the Essential Plot Points above, this episode is heavily Merida focused. From her scenes training Rumple in the present to further extending her story with the flashbacks, Merida is proving herself a great character and could quickly establish herself as one of the fan favourites.
Much as with the Frozen characters, the writers have asked themselves what could have happened after the movie; after the happy ending. However, while the Frozen arc was an enjoyable and cleverly written story within OUAT series, the events that occurred between the end of the movie and the beginning of their appearance felt a little contrived to set up the events in the TV series. Yet with Brave, you can fully believe the backstory that they’ve given us. It’s a darker and more adult-oriented problem for an older and more mature Merida.
The episode begins with Merlin, Hook, David and Belle busting Lancelot out of the dungeon where they just so happen to also come across Merida. Merlin also reveals that he can see bits and pieces of the future, which does sound like the events leading up the curse had been foreseen by Merlin but we’ll have to see where the writers will go with that. On a side note, Elliot Knight is fantastic as Merlin;every scene he’s in is just a joy to watch, and if he becomes a regular character like Hook did it would be a brilliant move for the show.
As a way of saying thanks, Merida decides to knock Belle unconscious. She needs Belle’s help, and doesn’t want to risk no as an answer, or risk wasting time explaining things. Either way we have an exciting side adventure to enjoy. Belle wakes up on a canoe and Merida informs her that her brothers were kidnapped by the rivalling clans as a means to get Merida to surrender the crown. They soon arrive at the witch’s cabin from the film and discover the triplet’s location but also that they’ll be executed by dawn.
In the present day story, we discover that Rumple has escaped the training grounds. Dark Emma therefore forces Merida to do what is necessary to bring him out of hiding and force him to be a hero: kill Belle.
There is a second subplot in this episode in which Regina manages to craft the communication spell to speak to the Merlin but requires that someone chosen by Merlin adds the magic mushroom. Of course, Arthur is the obvious choice but instead of adding the mushroom he throws it into the fire when no one’s looking. Regina later discovers the mushroom in the fire because Arthur failed to realise that the mushroom can’t be burned. Once again, Arthur proves to be a rubbish villain – he could have waited a few seconds to check that the mushroom was burnt but thought he knew best. So now our heroes realise (again) that Arthur is the villain, but luckily Henry was also chosen by Merlin when he became the author (which they haven’t done anything with since). So Henry communicates with Merlin instead, only to find that he’s left a magical “voicemail” message informing them if they’re hearing it that means everything’s gone wrong and only one person can stop Dark Emma: Nimue.
Merida is both the villain and the hero of the episode, as she’s forced to act against her will to track and kill Belle. It’s a great way of highlighting Belle and Rumple’s differences; Belle stays and fights while Rumple just wants to run away. This ultimately leads to the return of the fate potion and a pretty intense action scene with Merida in bear form chasing Belle through the forest. Luckily Rumple find his courage just in time to confront Merida-bear but thanks to a deus ex machina in the form of a transformation spell that the writers very unsubtly remind us exists, he manages to turn Merida back to a human, thus claiming his title as a hero.
It’s Merida’s skills with a bow and arrow that ultimately saves her brothers from execution when she shoots the arrows flying towards her brothers out of the air. In fact it’s so impressive that the clans immediately surrender to her. While this does feel like an easy resolve to the story it would be difficult to find someone unimpressed with her skills.
The episode ends with Emma claiming Excalibur after Rumple strikes a deal for Merida’s heart to be returned to her in exchange for pulling the sword out of the stone. Rumple says he’s going to stop her but doesn’t this mean that Emma just won? She has both the sword and the dagger now; it should be a straight-forward win for her. Though the writers will more than likely find a way to make things more complicated for her.
Merida is perhaps the best female role-model Disney have ever created. Not because she can fight, rejects the feminine lifestyle or doesn’t need a man, but because she has flaws. If you compare her to the classic Disney princesses, she has far more character and strength than nearly (if not all) of them. It’s her flaws that make her a great character: she’s stubborn, hot-blooded, dismissive of any authority figure and, most importantly, she makes mistakes. Though she’s also strong-willed, family-focused, does what she believes is right and not only accepts power and responsibility but fights for it. Because of this she far more relatable and feels real, and this episode really showcases that side of her. OUAT is known for having great, strong and well-developed female characters which is why it’s so surprising that it took them this long to bring in Merida.
- Merida, just Merida. Everything was spot on. The casting, the backstory, her dialogue and motivation. They nailed it.
- Rumple and Belle’s relationship really have stood up to many tests throughout the series, and this was probably one of the toughest. Rumple’s cowardliness showed its true form but managing to overcome it because of Belle was a touching scene.
- The bear scene was very fun and a great throwback to Brave.
- Merida – you can’t just knock people unconscious! Especially when you need their help. If you had asked she would have helped anyway. Instead you risked potential brain damage. Also no one noticed that Belle went missing?! Seriously, both her and Merida were right behind Merlin and Hook and neither one seemed to question that they went off.
- The triplets are a little creepy looking, mostly due to the fact that they don’t speak or do anything. It would have been nice to see the triplets have the same energy and fun from the film but could you have imagined what a nightmare it would have been to find triplets who could also act.
- Rumple’s turn-around was Hollywood-style sudden and when it was most dramatic.
- Are they going to add an important character to defeat Emma this late in the season? Couldn’t they built it up a bit better with the flashbacks?
- The title card features an arrow hitting the logo.
- Nimue is an alternative name given to the Lady Of The Lake.
- The episode title “The Bear And Ehe Bow” was the original title for Brave.
- The Apollo chocolate bar that Emma stole as a child is yet another reference to ABC’s Lost (Hurley liked them).
Review by Sam Halford