Once Upon a Time Merida

Once Upon a Time: 5.06 “The Bear and the Bow” Review

Remember, dearie, all spoilers come at a price~

I would like to take a moment to point out the name of this episode, “The Bear and The Bow.” For a long while that was the working title for the movie Brave, and seems a fitting name for this Merida-based episode. Just a fun fact for you all.

You know, I feel bad for Merida. I have had sympathy for her character since I first saw the movie Brave, and it continues on in Once Upon a Time. All she ever wants to do is prove herself to her parents or the clans, showing that being a woman does not make her any less capable of a leader. She should not have to marry someone she does not love simply to fit into tradition when she can rule a kingdom on her own! However, this episode we learn there is a bit more behind the clans’ rejection of her than her gender.

While Merida was on her way to find her brothers, she stole a boat. Unfortunately she happened to steal King Arthur’s boat, and was thrown into prison. Once Merlin is free and the Charmings out of Arthur’s grasp, the group stages a prison break where both Lancelot and Merida are freed. Belle (that wonderful, neglected character) plays a major role in this prison break, allowing Merida to see her as useful. And since no one in this show knows how to simply ask for help, Merida kidnaps Belle so she can use her knowledge to make Merida a potion to get her brothers back. Guess what that potion does? Turns Merida into a bear!

Or, it is supposed to. Belle, being Belle, seeks to show Merida the good in herself and have her realize she is strong enough without magic. Merida lost faith in herself when she could not save her father from being killed, and when she lost faith in herself the clans lost faith in her. So the clans rebelling was not entirely because she is a female leader, but you know that did play a part in it. Still, magic was never going to fix that. So Belle replaces the potion with water, and creates a scenario where Merida must face her fears, saving her brothers and proving herself as a capable leader.

There was this friendship built between Merida and Belle that I really enjoy, but of course due to everyone’s memory loss it does not carry over into the present. Instead Merida is being forced to kill Belle in an attempt to make Rumplestiltskin into a hero. Which works, of course, but only after Rumple pouts about it for half an episode. Turns out he can actually care about someone more than himself, which is a big step for him. And his show of heroics enables him to pull Excalibur from the stone.

This would seem like a huge problem, if it were not clearly stated that Dark Swan made the worst possible move by turning him into a hero. Now you have someone who knows all the tricks of the Dark One, and is not afraid to stand up for themselves and others. So even with a bum leg, limited magic, and faltering courage, Rumple is suddenly the largest threat in Storybrooke.

While all of this was happening the usual band of lovable fairy tale characters, that tends to lack common sense when it means plot progression, rope Arthur into trying to make contact with Merlin. Of course Arthur purposefully botches the spell, but claims that he could not get in contact with Merlin. And then did not bother to make sure his tracks were covered, outing him as an untrustworthy character. Arthur also did not anticipate that Henry, the Author chosen by Merlin, could make contact with the wizard. Not that it helped much, since all he achieved was getting Merlin’s voicemail.

All in all, the best part of this episode was Belle. She is such an interesting character, who is very earnest. When she believes in people they can begin to see the good in themselves. Also, her research skills are kick ass! I really hope that continues to be more than a character who runs Rumple’s shop while everyone else is out on adventures.

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