Once Upon a Time Season 5 Episodes 8 and 9 – TV Review
Ah, the dreaded Once Upon a Time double episode.
I’m gonna need some long-forgotten character cameos to get through this one.
TL;DR Emma tries to turn Zelena into the Dark One so she can destroy her with Excalibur; to save Hook (and herself), because she was forced to Dark One-ify Hook back in Camelot to save his life; Zelena births her rape baby; the flashbacks aren’t over, as Zelena and Arthur manage to get away.
We will see more of them in the second episode.
So my suspicions were right, and Emma does need one more thing to enact her plan for Excalibur in Storybrooke. When Zelena’s pregnancy becomes rapidly accelerated, Regina and the gang assume she wants the baby. But it turns out she just wanted to get the innocent baby out of Zelena, because what Emma really wants is to transfer her darkness to Zelena, and then use Excalibur on Zelena to destroy dark magic forever. All this dovetails nicely into the Camelot flashbacks, wherein Emma has to face the fears keeping her from being pure enough to activate the spark of Prometheus, and gather the courage to rescue Regina and the gang from Arthur, Zelena, and an under-duress Merlin’s clutches. She does, and admits her trepidation is from the fear of finally getting the happy life she’s dreamed of with Hook and Henry. Just before she’s able to reforge Excalibur with all her goodness mustered, Hook collapses and nearly dies from a cut he received earlier from Arthur. Torn between letting her love die and completing the plan, or tethering Hook to Excalibur and creating a second Dark One just to keep him alive, Emma makes the selfish choice. As she explains to a now-in-the-know Hook in Storybrooke: everything she’s done has been to save him from the darkness. But with Emma’s deception fresh on his mind, and the realisation of dark magic in his veins, Hook isn’t sympathetic to her cause.
Having Zelena whispering evil nothings in his ear doesn’t help, either.
Well, talk about revelations. I mourn for the erosion of Emma’s meanness with the whole “I was doing it for Hook” excuse, but doing something for love is hardly a surprise in the world of Once Upon a Time.
And with two Dark Ones around, that means double the chance of Gold getting it back.
That’s a victory.
Why I hate this episode:
This episode cemented something that had been bothering me this season, but that I had been having trouble putting my finger on: there’s no proper Regina plot. She’s mostly just been playing best friend to Emma, or wringing her hands over Zelena’s rape baby. We need Regina back on the front lines, people.
Everyone is still all sugar and sweets about this baby, too. Zelena raped it out of Robin. The characters may not remember, but I do.
The cut that nearly kills Hook doesn’t really make sense. It’s the most superficial of scratches, and isn’t even bleeding much when Emma heals it. Merlin later explains that “Excalibur was forged to cut immortal ties.” I don’t remember Hook being immortal? And apparently a cut from Excalibur cannot actually be healed, but that doesn’t explain why a little scratch is suddenly a free-flowing gash of doom. Hook should have merely had a papercut-level wound on him for eternity. Yeah, it would have stung, but he could have lived with it.
And Arthur has never once accidentally scratched himself while handling Excalibur? Yeah, right.
Merlin is able to overcome Arthur’s commands using the power of “Emma telling me to try really hard.” What good is command magic if it doesn’t work at plot-critical moments?
Oh, and the reason why nobody has been able to see Hook’s name on Excalibur since he became the Dark One is because Emma used magic to hide it. “A wizard did it” is not satisfying storytelling.
But it’s not all bad:
My only reservation in saying that two Dark Ones are better than one is that Gold isn’t one of them.
Hook takes quickly to the news of his omnipotence, though. To reveal his power, Zelena, having already escaped Emma’s basement and fled the house, returns with a knife and a dreamcatcher she’s found. She uses the knife to stab Hook in the chest, which to his surprise, does nothing. She then uses the dreamcatcher to show him the memory of Emma making him the Dark One. His response? To team up with Zelena to “take care” of Emma. I don’t care, I love it.
Zelena’s choice to stab Hook rather than just tell him he’s impervious is delightful. In fact, Zelena is a hoot the whole episode. She gets to don her full Wicked Witch regalia in the Camelot flashbacks, and is fairly posh-tacular with her choice of clothes in Storybrooke once she’s free.
Her choice moment is her reaction to seeing a returning Dr Whale, which earns her the episode’s best line: “Didn’t I kill you the last time I was here?” No, he’s just a zombie. Well, he was a zombie.
Dr Whale seems more Blaine-esque than I recall. Which is a good thing. Regina even mocks his bleach blonde hair.
Merlin almost kills Snow at Arthur’s command in the flashbacks. Aww, so close.
Emma’s plan to use Zelena as a sacrificial lamb is refreshingly pragmatic. I don’t think she even particularly hates Zelena; Zelena is simply the most despicable person available. That, or there’s something else Zelena has done to Emma in the flashbacks that we’re yet to see.
Regina is largely ignored, but she does make the smart choice of using the dagger in Camelot to try to compel the truth about Emma’s doubts out of Emma. Snow, David, and Hook intervene, but it was a solid plan. And Emma then does quickly come clean to Hook about how she’s nervous about her future being so wonderfully bright. I get it.
Oh, and during his search for the truth in Storybrooke, Hook throws himself off a roof to summon Emma. Maybe he sensed the episode to follow?
TL;DR Ruby and Mulan join Dr Whale on the “hey, remember that character who vanished?” roster; Merida finds out her dad was a sneaky coward, but then finds out he wasn’t; Arthur killed her dad; Zelena and Arthur fail to acquire a magic item to help defeat Emma.
Keep up the good fight, you two. Don’t let the irrefutable evidence of your failure in present day Storybrooke deter you.
So we’ve had our big revelations and plot-forward episode, so it’s time for aimless flashbacking with third and fourth tier characters. Merida takes her turn again, and this episode sees her trying to find a magical helm that her father borrowed from the Witch a couple of years ago, as the Witch now wants it back. Or else she’ll turn the entire kingdom into bears. That’s kind of her thing. Merida teams up with old pal Mulan, who isn’t as bubbly as she was back when she taught Merida how to fight. They are later joined by Ruby, and they discover that the man who has the helm, her father’s killer from the battlefield a couple of years ago, is Arthur. The helm, as it turns out, is able to inspire men to fight your battles for you, which shakes Merida’s fond memories of her father. But happy twist: he didn’t actually use the helm in the battle. Which means Arthur never took it. The opposing parties converge on the helm’s actual location, but a little help from the Three Stooges of Merida’s warring clans turns the tide in her favour, and she returns to her coronation ceremony with the helm, her lady friends, and the support of the clans. And double happy twist: the helm was only granted to Merida’s dad in the first place as a secret test of character for Merida to complete later, which she has passed.
Merida passing a test of character? The same Merida from Brave? Hahaha.
There’s nothing really remarkable about this episode. I got a mini rush seeing formerly important characters Ruby and Mulan, but they don’t offer anything new. Ruby uses her werewolf sense of smell to track Arthur, and Mulan is good at fighting. That’s it.
But I am glad we got another Merida episode so soon. I was aching for it.
Why I hate this episode:
That was sarcastic. I was not aching for it.
It is especially disappointing to endure an episode like this immediately after the last one, which was so valuable to the season arcs. Who cares that Merida’s dad wasn’t an arsehole? Hell, it would have been more interesting if he had been a helmet-flaunting coward. But Once Upon a Time ain’t got room for moral ambiguity.
Mulan is the biggest disappointment of the episode. We haven’t seen her in so, so long, and her contribution is frustratingly minimal. She admits to Merida that she has been broken by an unrequited love, but we already knew that. Unless we’re going to get more Mulan this season, and unless she actually finds a woman to love, then her reappearance here is simply a waste.
Ruby, too. She doesn’t do anything she hasn’t done before. And I can’t believe OUaT tries to retroactively add in the fact that the magic bean farm produced a bean, and she willingly returned to the Enchanted Forest after the season 3 finale so she could seek out other werewolves. Boo.
And with Mulan and Ruby leaving on an adventure together, that could result in only two possibilities: 1) they’re not important enough to be seen again; or 2) we have to endure a fucking Ruby/Mulan episode.
Oh, and Arthur’s need for the Fight For Me Helm is arbitrary. It seemed like his knights were quite willing to fight off the Dark One and her cohorts. He doesn’t need it.
But it’s not all bad:
Zelena and Arthur make for a delicious villain team. They’re both so gleefully awful.
The best thing about the episode is the tingle of excitement when Mulan shows up. Her little spiel about unrequited love is beyond the homosexual teasing point now, so I believe Once Upon a Time is confirming that she loved Sleeping Beauty. It would be too offensive to the fans to pull the “it was Phillip all along” card.
Ruby, too, picks her words unusually enough to give off some gay vibes. She tells Snow back in Storybrooke that she wants to find more of her “kind,” and that’s why she wants to return to the Enchanted Forest. While there are no werewolf love interests for her in Storybrooke, there are also no lesbians. I see what’s happening.
And the ladies set off on a journey together at the end of the episode. A journey of sexual discovery?
The secret test of character, while hideously improbable, is cute. The Witch plays her typical Literal Genie self when Merida’s dad asks her for “magic to ensure the future of his kingdom.” What he wants is something to win the battle against Arthur’s invasion, but what he gets is an impetus for Merida to prove to herself and to her subjects that she can rule the clans. I can dig it.
Arthur claims that his killing of Merida’s dad was just a Tuesday for him. He was only invading the lands in search of the missing piece of Excalibur. I lol’d.
Merida resolves to get revenge on Arthur to close out the episode. Go on.
Oh, and shirtless Blue Armed Guy is back in all his furry glory.