After what seemed like an eternity of a summer without Once Upon a Time, the first half of Season 5 has blown by! And while I haven’t been this season’s biggest fan, I still remain committed to seeing my friends in Storybrooke through, no matter how ridiculous their adventures may be.
We had a double episode this week, so let’s just get right to it! Here are some things we learned in the first episode, “Birth.” A recap of the second episode of the evening, “BAERS!” “The Bear King” can be found here. (No, seriously, every other word in that episode was “bear.”)
And then Hook slap Arthur so hard he got blurry for a minute.
Everyone returns to Granny’s and Emma tries to get the Prometheus flame to spark. Regina tries to get Emma to let her guard down by gently and lovingly using the Dagger to force her to confront her fears.
Mary Margaret’s enduring optimism has no chill.
In Storybrooke, Zelena’s baby is coming, ready or not.
Shoving all the dark magic into Zelena and then cutting her down with Excalibur is the simplest way the Dark One can think of to fix what’s wrong.
In yet ANOTHER flashback…
Outside of Emma’s house, a discussion Regina and Mary Margaret should have had weeks ago is happening.
Not having many options, Hook agrees to remove Zelena’s power-sucking bracelet so they can magic themselves out of Fort Nutzy-Kookoo.
Zelena and Hook escape the basement, but Hook stays behind to search for the squid ink to use against Emma to make her tell him the truth about her plan.
Hook splashes Emma with the squid ink and begs her to tell him what she’s up to. But before they get anywhere, Zelena comes in and —
Zelena asks a not-dead Hook if he’d like to see what Emma’s been hiding all this time.
Back in Camelot, Emma is set to reunite Excalibur and the Dagger.
But when she does, Hook keels over.
Merlin doesn’t bother to tell Emma the wound Killian received by Excalibur earlier will kill him once Excalibur is made whole. Because… Why would that even happen?
But apparently she can reunite the blades to also save him?
So she magics him out of the diner to do the dirty work.
Out in a field of Meadow Mist(™) Roses, Killian sports a dollar store Halloween make up kit gash on the side of his neck. Hook begs Emma to let him die rather let the Darkness save him.
Emma does not listen.
At least Arthur is ok.
So… there are two Dark Ones?
How do you not know the Darkness is in you? Even if you lose your memory, how do you not feel it?
PHEW! What a ride! I didn’t understand half of it, and I took notes! But there you have it, the big reveal about what Emma’s motives have been.
I’m sick of hearing my own voice, so now it’s your turn. Tell us in the comments what you thought of the show.
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.
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.
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.
The warrior pulls off her mask as she helps Merida up, and introduces herself as Mulan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
After some sword fondling in Emma’s basement, Rumple’s image tells her that the blades represent history, and that Excalibur’s promise was born “eons ago,” and that its promise is about to be fulfilled.
1000 years before the time of Arthur, in what looks like biblical wear that even a leper would sneer at, Merlin and a companion struggle through the desert, apparently fleeing from some soldiers.
In the distance, something shiny catches Merlin’s eye and he limps towards it. The supposed Holy Grail sits atop a rock, and, upon drinking from it, Merlin discovers he now has magic. The desert transforms into the lush woods of Camelot.
Oh and no big deal, but Merlin’s bro tries to drink from it without asking nicely, and he bursts into smoke.
Cue the title card with poppies a totally innocent looking field of flowers.
In Camelot, Mary Margaret, David, Hook, Regina, Robin, and a silenced Zelena confer with Arthur as they hammer out a plan to save Emma, who is outside fashioning dream catchers with childlike innocence.
Merlin says it’s his and Emma’s job to procure the magic to reunite the Dagger and Excalibur. Hook is super annoyed with how “fuzzy” the plan to get the blades back from Arthur is.
He confirms that Emma doesn’t sleep anymore and instead fashions dream catchers meant to steal people’s memories all night. Arthur assures Hook that he knows what it’s like to lose a loved one to the Dark One.
500 years after drinking from the Grail, and 200 years previous to the age of Arthur, Merlin is out by a well healing people a la Jesus.
His apprentice, then a young boy, is with him. Merlin speaks to the last woman in the queue who tells him she escaped her town, which was being ransacked by a masked man named Vordigan. Though the town was destroyed, she saved Middlemist flower seeds, which she then presents to Merlin. She asks for revenge in the form of allowing the flowers to live on, a reminder that Vordigan did not destroy everything. Merlin lets her plant them, then magics them to bloom immediately, much to her joy and at the expense of some terrible CGI. He suggests that she come to visit them whenever she likes, but is unable to read her future to tell if she will. The woman introduces herself as Nimue.
Merlin approaches Emma (who is still fashioning dream catchers) about collecting a spark from Prometheus to forge the blades back together. The first Dark One is still around, and they’ll have to face him. Merlin foresees two outcomes: 1) Emma chooses to resist the Darkness, and they return, or, 2) Emma succumbs to the Darkness, and Merlin dies, confirming that “a” Dark One does have the power to kill him. Emma is obviously not excited about that, nor is she happy about the idea of facing Darkness Prime when she’s just gotten Rumple out of her head. To add insult to injury, Emma realizes that if “a Dark One” kills Merlin, it would be her that does it.
As Emma prepares to leave with Merlin, Hook says goodbye to her with a kiss, then hands her a ring that he says is the reason he’s still alive… well, probably – he was kind of vague. He reminds her that the Dark One is immortal, but Emma isn’t, so to bring her back to him. They share some cuteness and Emma looks and acts more human in this brief scene than she has all season.
She slips the ring necklace over her head as Merlin tells her it’s time to leave.
Back in the day, Merlin and Niume, who have obviously been in a relationship for a while, discuss what is standing between them and a life together. On one hand, Merlin’s immortality means he will live on after Niume dies, which he can’t bear to think about. On the other, if he fashions the Grail into a sword, it will cut away his magic, leaving him mortal again. They could live their lives out normally until a natural end. Niume, moved that Merlin would give us so much for her, happily accepts the ring he fashions out of a stem-turned-to-gold.
OH BTW SKETCHY CREEPY DARK ONE PRIME IS LIKE RIGHT THERE WATCHING THEM.
As Mary Margaret, David, Regina, Robin, and Hook work out how to infiltrate Camelot, Zelena silently scoffs and mimes derision at each of their suggestions.
Entering head on, using a diversion, and magicking in will all get them killed, explains Zelena once Regina removes her silencing hex. Zelena informs them that while she was in the castle she formulated a way to excape, and if she knows a way out, she knows a way in. She’ll help them, in exchange for her magic back of course.
Outside a super convenient back door to the bowels of the castle, B Squad gathers. Mary Margaret stands guard with Zelena as Regina magics away the grate, and the boys draw their swords.
Upstairs, Arthur is rummaging around Merlin’s lab like a meth head looking for quarters.
Guinevere warns him about the strong magic he is working with, but Arthur is adamant that they need protection from the people “from the sky.” So, you know, totally not paranoid. Arthur calls the guards to reinforce the castle and grounds, and then gives them the potion he’s concocted. He demonstrates the acidic like powers of the brew, and instructs them to throw it on any stranger they meet. A creepily intense Arthur tells Guin that it’s war now.
Emma tells Merlin that she’s worried that not seeing Rumple means she has embraced the Darkness. She confesses that she hurt Henry, and she’s worried that the Darkness may be winning. Merlin says that there is hope, and they head up the steep hill before them.
200 years previous, Niume and Arthur walk the ruins of Niume’s village. There is rubble and bone all around, and Niume is overcome with the want for revenge. Merlin steadies her and they note that there are cups in the street.
Merlin realizes Vortigan demanded to see their cups because he was questing for the Grail. Merlin performs a detection spell and sees Vortigan not far.
He hastens Nimue to leave, but she reminds him that he could strike down the Dark One with one magic word. Merlin, though, insists he cannot, as then the darkness will take root in him, and he is not willing to risk that.
B Squad stands in a really obvious doorway while the guards carry their bubble bubble through the courtyard. They engage in some very cliche talk about waiting for the other shoe to drop and how Zelena hasn’t betrayed them…YET.
Outside, Zelena is in tears about how unfair it is that she’s just trying to help and no one believes her. She doubles over in pain as she cries about Regina taking her baby. Mary Margaret, who has been aloof to her whining, approaches Zelena and is double gut kicked and knocked out. Zelena ties her up.
Merlin and Nimue approach the Altar of Prometheus. Merlin takes the grail and places the cup near the fire. He magics the cup into the sword we know as Excalibur, whole, with the Dagger piece fully intact. Nimue turns to find Vordigan behind them. Merlin clutches Excalibur, and Vortigan grabs Nimue. Merlin warns Vortigan that the sword will bring him no joy. Nimue fights back against Vortigan, ripping his mask away, exposing Anakin Skywalker his pale, scarred face.
Vortigan slices open Nimue’s stomach, and she dies in Merlin’s arms.
Merlin and Emma arrive at a dilapidated and overgrown Altar of Prometheus. The flame is extinguished now, and Merlin tells Emma the first Dark One possesses it as a single ember. This is the spark they will need to forge the blades back together. Emma is ready to kick some ass, so Merlin hands her the Dagger. He confesses pragmatically that he didn’t ask permission to take it. He tells her to call on the spirit of all the previous Dark Ones, to reach back to the origin of dark magic, and Emma clutches the ring that Hook gave her. “Take the right path,” she reminds herself.
A slot machine of names appear on the inscription of the Dagger as the Dark One appears before them. Merlin warns that it’s not a “him,” and Emma sees the name “Nimue” on the Dagger as the figure removes its mask revealing a sparkly, scary-as-whoa Nimue.
Flasssssshbaaaaaack to Merlin about to avenge Nimue’s death at the altar. In a poof of purple smoke, Merlin cuts off Vortigan as he walks away with Excalibur. But before they can fight, Nimue rises and pulls Vortigan’s heart from his chest. She reveals that she drank from the Grail and revels in the power of immortality. She says that she had to play dead to remind Merlin what death looks like. He tells her that she holds a man’s heart in her hand, and that if she kills Vortigan, she will go down a dark path that she can’t return from.
Nimue chooses to crush the heart of Vortigan and becomes the first Dark One. She grabs Excalibur and strikes the altar, extinguishing the flame and severing the blade, dooming Merlin to immortality.
Flashback over! Nimue approaches Emma, the first Dark One and the newest Dark One, together. Emma realizes that Merlin blames “the Dark One” for killing Nimue because she killed the woman she used to be, the woman he loved. As Nimue attacks, so does Emma, and Emma is mortified to see that she is working in synch with Niume. But Nimue insists that she’s got to be who she is, to claim what’s hers, to stand up for what she wants, and to kill anyone who tries to stop her.
With her hands on Merlin’s neck, Emma tries to resist, but Nimue infiltrates her mind, telling her they are one, that Merlin is trying to make a sword to destroy them.
If Emma doesn’t kill him know, Nimue warns, then she’ll go back to being powerless, to being nothing.
In a move that actually surprised me, Emma resists and screams that she “was never nothing!”
Her name appears on the Dagger again. She holds it towards Nimue and tells her she’s going to take the ember and leave. She magics the ember out of Nimue’s bra, I guess? and holds it in her hand.
Nimue says the sword has more than one use, and she’s not dead yet. When Emma wants her again, she’ll be *points to Emma’s head*
Alive and relieved, Merlin asks how Emma feels to have take the right path. Emma replies it feels “damn good.”
As they head home, Merlin explains how he and his apprentice kept Excalibur and the Dagger safe. Merlin encased the sword in the stone, and used a tethering spell to bind the Dark One to the Dagger to have some control over her, but Nimue got it away from him. She then imprisoned him in the tree. Nimue wore the mask of Vortigan, dressing up her darkness as vengeance. Emma tells Merlin that Nimue still loves him, and though she’s twisted and evil, that love is still real.
In a flashback, the Apprentice says it’s too bad that Merlin couldn’t see her future and just avoid her to begin with. But Merlin, echoing something David has said before, tells him that “life is made of moments,” and he had some of the best with Nimue.
Emma wonders to Merlin if it’s possible to have the Darkness, but use it to protect people. (Hmm, foreshadoing? Or… or is it hindsight? Or… wait, where are we in the time line?) Merlin says there may be a person capable of such a thing, but if they reunite Excalibur and the Dagger, they can wipe out the Darkness forever.
In Arthur’s round table room, B Squad bursts in, and Regina petrificus totaluses incapacitates Arthur.
Just as Regina is gloating about her upper hand, Zelena comes in with a tied up Mary Margaret and no magic-dampening brace, which Arthur removed apparently?? Yeah, I was a bit lost on that one, too.
Robin prevents Regina from blasting Zelena to hell because #baby, and Zelena takes 3 seconds to read, decipher, and use Merlin’s cookbook.
She tethers Excalibur to Merlin and puts Arthur in control of it. Once Arthur summons Merlin, he makes the wizard magic B Squad away, then gets all kinds of grumpy on him for treating him like a pawn. Merlin says Arthur was like a son to him, someone he put all his faith in to save him. But Arthur is too hardhearted to believe him. Merlin says Emma has passed her test and all Arthur has to do to fulfil the prophecy that he will banish darkness from the land if he would just give Merlin the sword. But Arthur feels slighted and wants for greatness.
Back where we began in Storybrooke, Emma stands over the broken pieces and Rumple goads her to reunite them. Nimue appears, saying now Emma can douse the light. Then about a hundred Jawas Dark Ones Previous appear, chanting chug chug “take the power.”
Emma practically rolls her eyes and gets on with pulling the ember from its storage and doing some kind of funky dance moves that even Drake would question as she forges the two halves back together.
As Emma is about to reach up for the sword, she remembers that Merlin told her not to touch the sword. But both Niume and Rumple encourage her to do it. Emma grabs the sword and looks fierce.
Did I miss something? When did Arthur get a chance to remove Zelena’s brace? And why didn’t Emma use her power of foresight to anticipate the Nimue reveal? Also, why could Nimue drink from the Grail when we were very blatantly shown that one had to be worthy to drink from it? How could someone motivated by revenge be deemed worthy? What do you think? Tell us in the comments?