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‘Once Upon a Time’ Recap: The Bear King

Picking up right after their defeat in the woods in the previous episode, Zelena and King Arthur return to Camelot. Down but not out, Arthur suggests they head to DunBroch.

After returning from saving her brothers, Merida puts flowers on her father’s grave before her coronation.

Several years earlier, King Fergus arrives at the hut of the Old Witch looking for magic. He needs help leading the clans against the invaders from the South.

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Drafting up a contract faster than Rumpelstiltskin, the Old Witch brews a potion which produces a helm able to command any army into battle.

At Merida’s coronation, just before the ceremony is completed, the Old Witch storms in and tells her her father owes a debt with interest of 10,000 gold sceats. Merida’s options are to pay, which would bankrupt the clans, or find and return the helm. Fail, and the Old Witch threatens to turn the whole kingdom into bears.

In an astounding moment of character building advice, the Old Witch tells her she’s got to learn to lead, then disappears into a cloud of smoke, which is the standard exit for villains.

After a search of her husband’s belongings, Merida tells Elinor that the helm isn’t in the castle, that it fell where Fergus did. Against her mother’s wishes, Merida insists on going after the knight who killed her father.

Two years earlier, Merida and her father walk through camp where the clans are preparing for battle.

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Fergus gives Merida his war bow to carry it into her first battle. He tells her he’s hired her a soldier to tutor her in the art of war. She pulls her sword on the soldier and they spar for a moment before the masked warrior flips Merida and knocks the wind out of her in front of the troops.

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The warrior pulls off her mask as she helps Merida up, and introduces herself as Mulan.

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In present day, Merida finds Mulan working as a grunt enforcer collecting debts. She is devoid of her former sense of honor and only goes with Merida after being handed a purse of gold and the agreement that Merida asks her no more questions.

Arthur and Zelena arrive at the Old Witch’s hut and are greeted with a snarling wolf, which Zelena knocks out with sleeping powder.

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The Old Witch says she doesn’t know where the helm Arthur wants is, and is forced to tell them who she sent to fetch it. Arthur recognizes Merida as a former prisoner in his dungeons, and they go after her.

Merida and Mulan arrive at the battlefield where Fergus fell. Merida recognizes an arrow she shot which tore a piece of the cloak from her father’s killer. Merida questions Mulan about her detachment from Fergus’s death, saying she’s acting like she never knew the man.

In a flashback to before the battle which killed Fergus, Mulan teaches Merida the difference between being strong and smart, and that people won’t just follow her out of fear. She suggests asking Fergus what will motivate the clans to accept her leadership.

Back on the empty battlefield, Merida says she won’t rest until her father has justice. Mulan senses someone is coming, and Zelena and Arthur appear. Arthur tells Merida he needs the helm to save his kingdom. Merida is ignorant of the helm’s power, and Arthur says the helm makes people fight your battles, no matter how dangerous they may be.

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Not wanting to believe her father wasn’t the leader she thought he was, Merida raises her bow, but Zelena magics it away from her. She plans to use a locator spell to find the helm. Mulan keeps Merida from clawing Zelena’s eyes out, and Zelena and Arthur abscond with the bow.

Merida, convinced she can’t lead without magic like her father used, gets ready to return home and give up the crown. Fired up, Mulan insists that Merida can’t give up like this, but Merida says Mulan has, so why not? Merida rides off leaving Mulan stricken.

In a flashback to before the battle which killed Fergus, Merida asks her dad how he inspires so many people despite certain death.

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He looks down at the helm but doesn’t answer. After a long pause, he replies that showing them that you’re the first one ready to lay down your life shows them what an important battle it really is. He sends her off, saying he’s got to keep an eye on the sea for the invaders, but looks back at his helm once more.

In the present, Mulan approaches the Old Witch’s hut, hoping to have her reveal who the cloak belongs to. She’s greeted by the wolf which attacks her. But Mulan recognizes that the creature isn’t really a wolf. She knocks over a cauldron and the wolf turns back into the long-absent Ruby.

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Ruby and Mulan leave together, and Ruby realizes that she’s with Mulan, who her friends in Storybrooke spoke of. She mentions that Aurora was about to have a baby when she last saw them. Mulan changes the subject by asking how Ruby got back to their realm.

We flashback to the night of Prince Neal’s naming ceremony at Granny’s. Though pleased for Snow and Charming, Ruby is melancholy and antisocial. She reveals to Mary Margaret that she’s been feeling lonely lately as she’s the only one of her kind in Storybrooke. With the help of a magic bean from the fields Tiny was working on, she plans to return to the Enchanted Forest to find her pack.

When Mulan asks her if she found them, Red says sadly no. She went to the Old Witch for help, but was turned into a guard dog instead. Mulan shares her reasons for visiting the Old Witch, then shows the cloak to Red. Red says she can help her friend.

Back at the DunBroch castle, Elinor tries to convince Merida handing the crown over is not the right thing to do, but Merida tells Lord MacIntosh the crown will go to him if he finds the helm before the deadline. Mulan and Red arrive, and Mulan says they were both wrong for giving up, and that Red can sniff the knight out.

Flashback to the morning of the battle against the Southern Invaders, Merida realizes Mulan has taken her out to train to keep her from the fight. Merida ditches Mulan to join the battle.

With a helm on his head, Fergus the Bear King leads the four clans into battle against the Southern Invaders.

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While the fight seems to be going in the clans’ favor, Fergus is taken from behind by a masked knight. Merida, arriving too late, tries to shoot the killer with an arrow, but only catches a bit of cloak. Mulan strongarms Merida away to keep her safe as the knight takes Fergus’s helm from his body. The knight reveals himself to be King Arthur.

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Presently, Arthur and Zelena stand at the edge of the same shore on which Merida last spoke to her dad. The locator spell points them to the helm underwater, and Zelena magically retrieves it. But Merida shoots it out of Arthur’s hand. Red says Arthur’s scent is all over the cloak, and an incredulous Merida draws her sword. Arthur admits to seeking the helm to aide him in finding Excalibur.

Mulan reminds Merida that her goal is to find the helm and save her people, not pursue revenge. But when Merida asks why Arthur doesn’t have the helm already, he admits that the one Fergus wore didn’t work, and the clans defeated his men in battle that day. Merida realizes that her father led them without magic.

Edified, Merida redoubles her bravery and fights Arthur for the helm. Mulan confronts Zelena, but before Zelena can throw her fireball, Red hits her with sleeping powder. Arthur and Merida continue to fight, and when Merida eyes the helm, Arthur promises to cut her down just like Fergus.

The Lords of the other three clans arrive, arrows drawn on Arthur and, finding himself with only a drowsy Zelena for backup, lowers his sword and allows her to return them to Camelot.

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Merida thanks the other clans wholeheartedly, and MacIntosh leads the others in a respectful bow, telling her they recognize her as their queen now because she was willing to give up the crown for the good of the kingdom, something her father would have done.

At the coronation ceremony, Elinor introduces her daughter as queen just as the Old Witch bursts in again.

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Merida says she’ll find a way to reverse whatever curse is set upon them, but she won’t be bullied into giving the helm back. The Old Witch reveals that the whole thing was a test, and Merida practically groans as she realizes that getting the helm back made her realize what it takes to rule. As a gift, the Old Witch gives Merida a flask with magical ale of the legend of Seonaidh, a cup of which will summon the spirit of anyone who’s passed to the underworld.

Later, at the grave of her father, Merida says thank you and goodbye to Mulan and Red. Mulan admits she was trying to get over a broken heart. Red offers Mulan a chance to come with her searching for more werewolves, and Mulan accepts.

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Merida splashes her father’s grave site with the magical ale. When he appears, Fergus confesses that it was Merida who convinced him to fight without the magic of the helm, and that he is proud of her.

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He disappears and Merida vows aloud to go after Arthur.

Honestly, ABC should have totally aired this episode BEFORE ‘Birth’, but whatever. Let us know your thoughts on the episode below!

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‘Once Upon a Time’ Recap: The Broken Kingdom

*deep breath* Ok. This episode has officially made up for what I consider a very anticlimactic Season 5 opening. I was so engrossed in the story that when it ended I said to my husband, “I thought we were at the halfway mark! It’s over already?” For me this was the least plodding episode of this season. While it was definitely a challenge to keep the heroes and villains straight this week, the effort was worth it! I felt engaged and rewarded for my time. But there was so much information in this episode that I would pretty much have to reprint the entire script here to give you a classic recap! So this week we’re going to listicle it with Five Things You Need to Know About “The Broken Kingdom.”

5. King Arthur and Guinevere, while not exactly the caliber of villains we’re used to on OUAT, are definitely the bad guys

The most important thing to know in this episode is demoted to fifth place in our list because it was just so obvious.

We discover that Arthur’s backstory (ranging from childhood to very recently) centers around his primary motivation to unite Excalibur with its missing piece, fulfilling Merlin’s prophecy of his kingship by restoring Camelot, the titular Broken Kingdom. Ok, solid. What may surprise some folks is that he used magic to deceive his subjects, control his wife, and ultimately possess the Dagger.

Narrator: That was the summer I met Winnie Cooper and knew we were destined to be together forever.

After being teased as a child for spouting on and on about how someday he would become king, Arthur quests for Excalibur, only to find that it’s incomplete. He returns to the village with it, and claims his prophesied birthright by only showing the intact portion of the sword.

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“He said something about ‘just the tip’ earlier. I sure hope he was talking about the sword…”

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He reveals to his queen (childhood BFF Guinevere) that the sword is incomplete. He becomes Ahab-and-the-whale obsessed about hunting down the missing piece in order to restore Camelot. Over time his obsession eats away at what threads of a relationship he has left with his wife.

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“I keep telling her I just want to read these for the articles, but I don’t think she believes me.”

Guin is comforted by the friendship and devotion of Arthur’s numero uno knight, Lancelot.

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Imma shower her with rose petals.
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Bitches love rose petals!

The two go on a hunt for the Dagger using Merlin’s gauntlet to guide them. This gauntlet leads them to Arthur’s weakness: the Dagger.

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Along the way, the Darkness attacks Lancelot much like it did the Apprentice, Regina, and Emma– which makes no sense because Rumple was the Dark One at the time.
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Also this awkward and predicable kiss happens.

 

The duo find the Dagger’s hiding place.

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I swear, if this is Wonderland again, we’re going to have words.

They find the Dagger….

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“Hello, IKEA? I’d like to order the ‘benstiks’ dagger holder. Yeah, does it come in white? Oh, just ‘ominously evil black’? Well… Ok.”

…but Rumpelstiltskin appears and convinces Guin to take a vial of the Sands of Avalon instead of the real Dagger. The sand will make a broken thing appear whole.

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“Do you have any idea what the street value of this is?”

Guin returns to Camelot, planning to use the sand on Excalibur to stop Arthur’s mad quest, but instead she confesses her plot to him. Arthur, who is already worried Guin and Lancelot have feelings for each other, uses the sand on Guinevere to make her broken love for him appear whole again.

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Guinevere: I can accept that you’ve come out of the closet, but the glitter is a little stereotypical! Arthur: THIS IS WHO I AM!

With Guin’s love “whole” again, he then uses the magic on his kingdom, turning the last standing tower of Camelot into a whole castle and grounds.

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Guinevere: At first I was skeptical of the Grow Your Own Kingdom Kit! But it really worked! Arthur: It saved our marriage!

This all leads up to the Storybrooke rescue party’s time there, where David is knighted, Regina is the supposed Savior, and Emma is slowly but surely going bonkersocks and seeing Rumple everywhere. Everything Arthur has told them (especially to David) is a half-truth. His deception is revealed by the end of this episode as he tries to steal the Dagger from Snow and an alive-and-well Lancelot.

Later, assisted by Guinevere and his knights, Arthur throws Lancelot in the dungeons and uses some of the last powder on Charming and Snow. To what final end, we don’t see. But I speculate it’s to enforce the illusion of their loyalty and trust to him.

4. Henry is in love, and it looks like Violet likes him back

Usually I can’t stand the overplayed and predictable “the youngest character falls in love for the first time” story line, but I do think it’s the perfect way to acknowledge the undeniable fact that Henry went from 11 to 17 years old over the summer break.

His relationship with the lovely Violet seems to be progressing normally in Camelot, and I’m interested to see if such a complicated show can handle writing a relatively “boring” romance where a boy and a girl like each other and just enjoy their time together without having to deal with ghouls and curses and whatnot.

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“I’m a courtier’s daughter, but apparently I also muck out stalls.”

Oh, no, wait, they’ve already gone through a memory curse when they returned to Storybrooke. Ok, fine, we can’t have it all. It’s interesting to note that, much to Emma’s chagrin, Henry does lie about the seriousness of his relationship with Violet, making it seem like they’re just acquaintances when really they’ve been spending an awful lot of alone time together.

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“Tell her she’s your happy ending. It worked for me! Kind of.”

Needless to say Hook is not only amused but proud of Henry for getting out there with the womenfolk.

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When your mom and almost-step-dad watch you try to score.

3. David and Mary Margaret are awesome again! But also terrible at being awesome…

After a fight about whether or not to give Arthur the Dagger to reunite it with Excalibur…

It was a very screamy scene.
It was a very screamy fight.

…the pair conspire and Snow teams up with Lancelot to lure Arthur away from Camelot to expose his true motives: to procure the Dagger by any means necessary and to use it to empower himself, fix his sword, summon Merlin, run him through, and also destroy the Dark One. Of course this doesn’t mesh with the mom and dad of the Dark One, so #conflict. After Arthur tries (and fails) to summon Emma, Charming arrives and they take Arthur into custody so they can figure out what to do with Excalibur.

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“We need somewhere secure! To the ol’ diner!”

It’s a combination of inconsistent writing and forcing complexity on to otherwise straightforward characters that has had me grumbling about David and Mary Margaret since the second half of Season 4. But in this episode I felt like Charming and Snow were back again, as husband and wife, as partners, and as heroes.

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“It took us a whole year, so I’ll be dee-dum-doodly-darned if you get in the way of us being badass heroes again!”

Err, spoiler alert, they totally fail at keeping the Dagger away from King Arthur. But they had a really great plan going for them up until a brainwashed Guin showed up with the royal posse and made the fight 12 against 3.

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“Where are the pitch forks and torches! This is the worst angry mob I’ve ever been in! Amateurs!”

After Guinevere uses the sand on them, David and Mary Margaret return to Regina and Robin to tell them Arthur is totally cool, Lancelot is a traitor, and making Excalibur whole it their best chance at helping Emma.

Well, ya can’t win ’em all, Mr. and Mrs. Charming. At least you tried.

Oh, and PS, Snow realizes the Dark One’s hiding spot for the Dagger is also the place she saw in the dream where a young Emma rips out her heart.

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“This is so weird, I totally had a dream where you — ACK!”

2. Merida’s heart is literally in Emma’s hands

Emma is still holding Rumple in the caves , as he’s the only one who can get the sword out of the stone. But he’s useless to her right now because he’s not a real hero…yet.

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This is the weirdest Annie Lennox album cover to date.

Emma has a plan to use Merida (who we find strapped to the front bumper of Emma’s yellow bug! Like… WHAT?), and she rips Merida’s heart out and tells her that she’s going to help make a coward brave (just like her).

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“Y’ken take mah heart! But ye ken nevah take mah freedom!”

Fun fact! When Lancelot is thrown into the dungeons, Merida is in the cell across from him. She tells him that any enemy of Arthur’s is a friend of hers. Hopefully soon we learn how Merida went from setting out to free her brothers to imprisoned in Camelot. Sorry there’s not more I can tell you about Merida this week; she was onscreen for about 60 seconds.

“And for 25 of them, I just looked smoldery and intense!”

1. Hook was unwavering in his devotion to Emma in Camelot

I chose this as my number one event in the episode, and you should know it’s not just because I’m a CaptainSwan shipper. This episode highlights just how bad it must have gotten for Hook to have told Emma he loved-past-tense-with-a-d her in episode 3.

Last week we saw Hook turn Emma’s offer of a relationship down despite the potential of great personal peril and wrath. This week we look back in time and see him come to Emma’s aid, thinking nothing of a magic bolt being shot at him by her (by accident), keep her secret of her visions of Rumple tormenting her, and hide her away with Henry’s help so that no one in Camelot realizes she’s going Dark.

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“If you could just stop shooting angry magic at me, maybe we can Netflix and chill?”
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“Just Netflix?”

Moreover, he basically tells her to GTFO her visions and trust that he can free her mind and heart by going hot-pirate horseback riding. I’m not even close to exaggerating that one.

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Emma: I like to try new things as much as the next girl, but that looks uncomfortable. Hook: … It’s for the horse.

He tells Emma he really believes that they can get back to normal in Storybrooke one day, if only she’d trust him.

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For a tough, cool, 200 year old pirate, he’s such a DORK for Emma.

Through all of Emma’s downward spirals in this episode, Hook looks unblinkingly into the abyss and roguishly grins as the abyss stares back. This to me solidifies Hook more and more as a hero deserving of a happy ending. It also makes Hook’s decision to fight the Dark One in episode 3 (when he asks Robin Hood for help discovering what’s in the basement of Emma’s house) all the more personal and serious. Who better to fight the Dark One than a man who has spend over 200 years hunting, calculating, and surviving the same? And spurned on by his love for the woman the Darkness inhabits? Well, let’s just say this came to mind.

Also, they might have consummated their relationship in a field of pink roses. Not sure. It may or may not be implied. ….Ok, it’s kind of implied.

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Did you like Arthur’s back story? What do you think about his use of the sand? To what end will Arthur use Charming and Snow? What do you think Emma has in store for Rumple and Merida? Let us know in the comments!

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