ONCE UPON A TIME Recap: Rumplestiltskin Is Finally Brave

once upon a time

Last night’s ONCE UPON A TIME presented a tale of how to get one to overcome their fears. Both in Storybrooke and back in Camelot and Merida’s lands, we saw Rumplestiltskin and Merida face their deep fears head on and conquer them, but it took a long journey to get them both in a place where they could do that.

“The Bear and the Bow” kicks off with Hook, Charming, Merlin and Belle breaking into Arthur’s dungeons in a mission to free Lancelot. To their surprise, however, they find that Merida is a prisoner there as well, so they free her too. What intrigued me about this scene, though – besides Belle being able to quickly find whatever it was Merlin needed in a book so fast – was the fact that Lancelot and Merlin seemed to know each other. Correct me if I’m wrong, but unless I missed something, Merlin had been stuck inside a tree for over a thousand years and, as far as I know, he would only reveal himself in prophecy to Arthur. So how exactly do they know each other again?

Anyway, mission accomplished and they go on their merry way. Belle trails behind the group with Merida, who was pretty impressed with Belle’s skills with a book. Just imagine what she would be able to do if there was a magical Google kind of thing. Merida decides Belle is the key for her to free her brothers and, instead of asking for her help like a normal person, she promptly knocks her out with a rock to the head and kidnaps her. So when Belle comes to, she is already far away from her friends and in a boat, where Merida says she is “a hit first, ask questions later sort of lass”, but that she would greatly appreciate it if Belle could help her, after explaining the situation about how she needs to save her little brothers and reclaim her position as Queen.

During their journey, Merida reveals that she feels incredibly guilty for her father’s death. Despite being an excellent archer, when her father needed her the most, she missed the target and the enemy ran her father through with a sword. Belle tries to convince her that she has all the skills she needs to save her brothers and that magic is not at all necessary, but Merida is determined to take this potion that will make her turn into a bear, so she can get her brothers back and defeat the clansmen who want to take her throne. When they get there, she asks for the potion and Belle gives it to her, not saying she has just switched the real potion with water. So, Merida goes forward and confronts the clansmen, who are about to execute her brothers, and takes the potion. When nothing happens for obvious reasons, Belle confesses to having switched the vials and tells she can do this.

With Belle’s pep talk, Merida saves her brothers, by shooting an arrow that stops the three arrows that were going to kill the boys. Showing this act of bravery and that she is an excellent archer earns her the respect of the clansmen, who all bow down to their Queen.

Back in Storybrooke, Emma has Merida doing her dirty work. When Rumplestiltskin escapes – by breaking Belle’s beloved chipped cup (!!!) and cutting through the rope that was tied around his hands – the Dark Swan sees this as a perfect opportunity for him to show he is a hero, so she tasks Merida to go and try to kill Belle, so Rumple can save her. It takes a while for him to overcome his fear and let go of his cowardice, and it’s only when Belle really is in mortal danger – because Emma gave Merida the real potion that would turn her into a pissed off giant bear – that he steps up and offers himself up in Belle’s place. When he is about to become the bear’s dinner, he throws a pouch of magic dust into its mouth, effectively reversing the spell.

They tie Merida up and take her back to the Dark Swan’s dungeon, where Rumple cuts them a deal with Emma. He will pull Excalibur out of the stone, but she needs to return Merida’s heart. Emma takes it, Merida gets her heart back and Rumple pulls Excalibur out. Now, what really interests me in this scene was that it took Rumple only one act of bravery for him to be worthy of the sword. Really? That smells really fishy to me. This is supposed to be the ultimate hero’s sword and super mythical and all that. Was that really all it took to get it out of the stone? I don’t think so.

Bonus points for seeing Zelena being her delightful evil self when Emma tries to ask for her help, by bribing her with delicious food. That entire exchange was brilliant and I think Zelena is totally right. It will take a while for Henry to forgive Emma, when all of this is said and done.

So what did you think? Hit the comments below or come talk to me on Twitter.

ONCE UPON A TIME returns with an all new on November 8 at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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