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Saturday, November 7, 2015

"The Bear" of Watching ONCE UPON A TIME

Article originally written for Seat42F.


 This week’s ONCE UPON A TIME, “The Bear and the Bow,” goes easy on the Dark Swan (Jennifer Morrison) plot and gives more screen time to Rumple (Robert Carlyle), Bell (Emilie de Ravin), and Merida (Amy Manson). What does it take to make someone a hero is a question where the answer depends on the individual, and throughout the hour, we get to see each of the three confront it.

Back in Camelot, Merida kidnaps Belle to have Belle use magic to save Merdia’s brothers from rival clansmen who seek to steal away Merida’s power. Belle thinks Merida has it in her to help herself, and with Belle having seen the steep price that magic extols on a person, she shies away from giving Merida the sort of help Merida requests. This does make for a dangerous situation, but as Belle predicts, Merida rises to the occasion and saves the day, finding the hero within herself.

It’s too bad Merida doesn’t remember this. In Storybrooke, she tries to kill Belle in order to make Rumple step up and be a hero. Merida isn’t confident that Rumple will do so, but feels she has no chance of defeating Dark Swan herself. If only Merida remembered the lesson that Belle taught her, she would probably be able to fight back. Whether she could win or not is debatable, but she should try.

Rumple also wavers in his own heroism. With the Dark One removed from him, Rumple reverts back to the coward he was oh so long ago. Belle reminds him that he overcame the Dark One’s negative influence in order to be a hero, but Rumple doesn’t see it that way. Without the power that the Dark One gives him, he can’t find anything inside of him that allows him to be a hero.

That is, until Belle is in danger, of course. Rumple does everything he possibly can do to run away, but when Belle refuses and Merida (as a badly animated bear) goes after Belle, Rumple steps up, just as he has done in the past for his son. Rumple’s love is what makes him great, just as others in ONCE UPON A TIME have found their best sides because of love.

The greatest hero in “The Bear and the Bow” is Belle. She doesn’t slay any beasts or overcome her own doubts, but instead inspires the best in others. She is brave and true and does what’s right, having faith that others will come along and do the same. It takes someone with a very strong sense of courage and certainty to this, and because Belle can see the good in people, she possesses this in spades. She is the real protagonist of the hour, and I think that’s pretty obvious to most people paying attention.

Despite all of these efforts, Dark Swan does get Rumple to pull Excalibur from the stone, despite Merlin’s (Elliot Knight) warning and presumably dire fate. What Emma will do with it remains to be seen, but one can assume that it’s not good if Dark Swan was willing to do something horrible to Merlin in order to get to it.

But it gives me great hope that Belle and Rumple will now be firmly joining the rest of the good guys in Storybrooke. I still think Rumple’s arc these past couple of seasons has been shaky. He earned heroic status halfway through season three, and as awful as it was that story veered off for him these past two years, it suddenly no longer feels earned that he has it again now, considering where he was very recently (almost as bad writing as Arthur (Liam Garrigan) trying to dispose of the mushroom in the fire). Despite that, I look forward to seeing Rumple face off against Dark Swan, and his knowledge of the Dark One might just be what the team needs to defeat the evil spirit once and for all.

ONCE UPON A TIME airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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