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Once Upon a Time - Birth & The Bear King - Review: "The reveal and the filler"

20 Nov 2015

Mini Reviews for past episodes

First, I want to apologize for not bringing regular reviews of these episodes. I had some stuff to attend on my life and it wasn’t possible to bring the reviews on time, not even as a double review as I have done this season. In order to keep you from reading too much, I’m just going to quickly glance over my thoughts of episodes 6 and 7.

The Bear and The Bow
This was a decent episode. I like Merida, but her story with Belle felt slow paced and its conclusion was a bit anticlimactic and simplistic. Back in Storybrooke it was nice seeing Rumple’s arc of becoming a hero, facing off his own cowardice, but just like on Merida’s flashback story, the conclusion is quick and fair simplistic.
All in all, it was a decent episode, but one that kept me sighing a bit.
Grade: B-

Now Nimue was the episode that should have been bundled together with “Birth” for the 2 hour special OUAT. It’s an amazing episode that showcase how likeable Merlin is as a character and brings forth the origin story of the Dark One. There’s really good inventive explanations for everything that has happened thus far and Emma had a great character moment when she yelled at Nimue “I was never nothing!”. It had a quick pace, interesting development and the kind of dynamics that I love on the show, with a very ominous ending when Emma stares at Excalibur and the dark ones tell her they are proud of her. It leaves you wanting more.

My only complaint would be that, once again, the show is proving how useless the Charmings are, by letting Zelena easily escape from Snow and David doing next to nothing. This trend needs to stop, give Emma’s parents importance please.
Grade: A-

Now onto this week’s episodes.

"Birth" is an amazing episode filled with tension, discoveries, fun and twists. It’s everything you can hope for an OUAT episode, showcasing some of the best qualities of the show. Once Upon a Time works when it uses its silliness to deliver great comedy beats, but it also works when the drama spawns from character dynamics rather than plot demands. This episode features the latter and manages to merge both plot reveals and characters relationships in a manner makes a memorable episode.

First off, thankfully Arthur has been stopped on Storybrooke (though I’m sure Zelena will break him out or something). There’s nothing more annoying that characters being oblivious to what he is scheming, so it’s a relief to see him behind bars, essentially stopped, and seeing his shock when Emma stops him with a reunited Excalibur is all the more satisfying.

One of the biggest wins of the season so far is how the show has portrayed Emma and Hook’s relationship. I don’t consider myself a shipper (I could live without Emma and Hook being a couple), but I do like how the show has built their relationship as one in which they really love each other and show it. It is seen in Hook’s desperation to save Emma from going dark and on the flashbacks on how he supports her. With that kind of love, it is no wonder that Emma is not ready to give it up and do what she does.

But I am getting ahead of myself; the way the episode leads to the reveal is amazing, with Emma using the darkness to her advantage to free her family and friends. OUAT has gotten much better with CGI, and it’s great to see how Emma traps Zelena and faces off Merlin; she may be more powerful than him, but it is clear that experience played a big role in him beating her, but it’s the same experience that allowed him to break free, allowing Hook to escape and hit Arthur, giving our heroes a short victory.

After that Emma is trying to ignite the spark, but she can’t.
You know that I am going to go nuts with Regina trying to help Emma break down the walls; she is a bit rough by controlling her to say what it is going on, but it really comes from a place of friendship. I love how she can easily read Emma and tell her what’s going on with her, and ultimately is because of Regina that Emma is able to see why she is not ready to give up the darkness.

Turns out she is scared of her future with Hook will start once they get rid of the darkness. That is in line with the character we know, the Emma that is so afraid of stability because it has always been pulled away from her once she got it. As Hook says, it makes sense, but it is best to just embrace the future and enjoy every moment of it that you get.

Back in Storybrooke things get very interesting with Zelena’s accelerated pregnancy. Belle thinks Emma will use the cry of a newborn baby to get rid of all light magic, so everyone barricades around Zelena to protect the baby, which brings a moment of self reflection for Regina, nervous as she is about to meet the newest member of her family. But her face seeing her niece says everything: she knows she can be happy regardless of the circumstances, and she can love her niece.

Emma, however, didn’t want the baby at all, she wanted Zelena all along. From here, things get more interesting as we start revealing the truth.
Hook helps Zelena escape so Emma won’t go too far by killing her; Emma’s plan was a good one, get rid of dark magic by killing off a villain, but not what heroes do, so Hook in trying to protect the good on Emma, takes the choice of freeing Zelena and in doing so, it sets up the chain of events leading up to the reveal.

First off, we learnt that Emma wanted to get rid of dark magic all along, but now comes the biggest reveal, after Hook paralyzes Emma with squid’s ink and Zelena reveals the truth with a dream catcher. Turns out that Emma was about to reunite Excalibur when Hook collapsed due to the injury he suffered from the same sword; it is meant to cut inmortal ties, so even a small cut is lethal enough to kill Hook.

Unable to let go, Emma decides to do the unthinkable and creates a new dark one to save Hook, killing Merlin in the process. It is a moment of shock, but one that also makes sense, Emma wasn’t going to lose another loved one, and it makes sense how she pretended to be evil and save Hook at every turn to keep him from finding out the truth. The only thing that doesn’t make sense is why the voices kept insisting on “Nimue” that they were proud of Emma when she was planning to get rid of dark magic, but that’s a small niptick.

Now I’m really eager to see what Hook will do upon learning the truth, how everyone will react and overall, how everything will develop on Storybrooke. This anxiety to find out makes the next episode really disappointing in comparison.

Grade: A

The Bear King
I don’t think there could be a bigger cooler off from the amazing reveal of Hook’s being a dark one than this episode. It’s not like I don’t care for Merida (I like her character), but having an episode that is an entire flashback after progressing so much with the story makes it look worse than it is. At that point all we want to know is what Hook is going to do, but instead we have no answers up until November 29.

Honestly, I don’t care at all for what’s going on on Merida’s kingdom (maybe the fact that I never watched “Brave” plays a big part on it), but I honestly wouldn’t care if everyone turned into a bear.

For me the episode is mostly about following the stories of Merida, Mulan and Red. They are a power trio of secondary characters that make for interesting dynamics. I love the fact that it is Mulan who teaches Merida how to fight, but aside from that the flashback with Merida’s father and the war weren’t really compelling either besides from having Mulan teach Merida how to fight.

I like how Merida tries to call out some sense on Mulan, and that upon seeing Merida willing to give up, Mulan finally snaps from her self pity and tries to do the right thing by finding the witch to find where the helmet is and put an end to all this and in turns finds Red, whom the witch has kept as a guard dog.

We finally learn what happened with Red after all this time; she went back to the Enchanted Forest to find others like her. It’s nice to see her getting the support of Snow to go back and do what makes her happy, and we learn that she actually found a pack, others like her, promising a storyline for later on that could be very promising and interesting.

Mulan takes Red to Merida so they can all go find the lost helmet and on the way find Arthur and Zelena and they are forced into a fight. It’s nice to see for once the non magical characters (Red turning into a wolf notwithstanding) taking up on someone who has magic, but honestly it wasn’t the best fight scene we’ve seen.

In the end everything works out: Arthur and Zelena are forced to flee, the witch merely set up a test for Merida and was never going to curse the kingdom, Merida reunites with his dead father and Mulan and Red go on an adventure together. All is good, everyone is happy, and honestly it is too much saccharine flavor for my taste.

It wasn’t a bad episode, but it wasn’t a good episode either, and it was pretty much a cooler down from the outstanding episode we had before.
Merida, Mulan and Red carried the episode, but sadly the plot wasn’t there. If they made it somewhat more interesting, maybe this episode could have been better, or maybe it could look better if it wasn’t bundled with “Birth”

Grade: C+

About the Author - Pablo
I'm currently studying Psychology while also writing fantasy books (one already published in my home country, Chile, you can check it out on the facebook icon). I watch many different types of shows, including my favorites Revenge, Game of Thrones, Once Upon a Time and about 23 more. Currently writing reviews for Once Upon a Time, The 100 and the upcoming Supergirl
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