The Bear and the Bow Review | Once Upon a Time Season 5 Episode 6

I would change everything for you.


Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, Sean Maguire, and Robert Carlyle.

Season 5
Episode 6: The Bear and the Bow

In an ensemble show such as Once, it is inevitable that some characters are going to get more focus than others. Hell, this season there are a whole ten members of the regular cast. There always seems to be one cast member each season that gets the raw end of the deal. For example: Archie, in Season 1, Ruby, in Season 2, Neal, in Season 3 (though at least he actually got a proper exit) and Will in Season 4 (does anybody miss him? No). Throughout all of that, Belle has been wallowing somewhat in the background since being made a season regular in Season 2. Pretty much all of her storylines revolve around being Rumple’s girlfriend, and that fact alone is probably why she’s still sticking around instead of subtly shuffling off to whatever those other characters are doing these days.

Generally, our action revolves around Regina and Emma, with secondary focus to Rumple, as these are the characters who have undergone the most character development. Unfortunately, Henry, Hook, Snow and Charming have had little to sink their teeth into for quite some time, and Belle has never really had the focus she so sorely deserves. So, here is Emilie de Ravin’s contractually stipulated one-episode-a-season that is all about her.

Well, technically, this episode isn’t really about Belle. It’s more about how Belle helps both Merida and Rumple is achieving their full, heroic selves, which, in turn, reflects upon her character. In Camelot, Merida, having seen how Belle helped Merlin open the prison cells, makes the rational decision to kidnap her so that she can help liberate her three brothers from the clutches of the other clans who seek to depose Merida, and the DunBroch Clan, as the leader. Merida’s instinct is to use magic to earn the respect of the other clans by transforming herself into a bear, appropriately enough. However, Belle can see the hero within Merida, and encourages her to demonstrate that to the clans, otherwise they will never view her as Queen. Long story short, Merida saves her brothers from execution and wins back her position as Queen.

In Storybrooke, Belle assists Rumple in becoming a hero. Well, she protects him while also running away from a murderous Merida, who is acting upon Emma’s orders. Rumple knows that Emma won’t stop until she gets him to pull Excalibur out of the stone, but believes he is too much of a coward to be a proper hero. Belle, thankfully, stands up to Rumple and refuses to leave town while they can do something to help, telling him that she always saw the man behind the beast, and now she can see the hero within him too. In saving Belle from Merida in bear form, Rumple finally completes his transformation into a brave hero, allowing him to pull the sword from the stone and give it to Emma, but not before giving her a dire warning that, now that he’s a hero, he will defeat her.

She doesn’t exactly steal the spotlight, but one of Belle’s most brilliant traits is her ability to believe in others, and to bring out the best in them. Though her unshakable faith in Rumple is endlessly frustrating, it’s ultimately the key to him achieving his heroic potential, and she also sees the brilliant leader in Merida, even when she can’t see it herself. It’s a lovely performance from Emilie de Ravin, and hopefully Belle continues to get as much to do in future as she has so far in Season 5. What’s more, you can see glimpses of character development in her. While she’s always been plucky and independent, Belle was always much more placid around Rumple than she’s seen being here. The Belle of Season 2 or 3 would never have stood up to Rumple the way that she does here by refusing to cross the town line, and it’s important that she’s, at last, found her own voice in their relationship.

Merida’s story was a nice addition to this episode. Though it removed us from the action in Camelot, such that we are no closer to finding out how Merlin failed to remove Emma’s darkness, it was an interesting next chapter in the Brave story. To see her self doubt at becoming Queen is a logical next step, and it’s nice to continue the themes of trying to prove herself with the added section that she no longer has the self belief after failing to save her father. Not to mention that Amy Manson’s portrayal here is uncannily similar to that of the Pixar film. Rehashing the film’s plot would have been a poor move, especially considering how recent it is. Once just can’t pull off their traditional “twist to well known tales” with a film that hasn’t quite got the same mythology behind it that Snow White or Sleeping Beauty have, so it makes sense to give it a sequel feel instead.

However, I found Rumple’s storyline wholly frustrating this week. It makes sense that it would be his love for Belle that would make him step up and become a hero. Until that point, though, he was sort of unbearable. I also don’t like the way they have sort of retconned his character, either. It was established that Rumple wasn’t really a coward, but rather he crippled himself so that he could be there for Bae, and I feel like they’re rewriting that just to make it as tricky as possible for him to become a hero. Not to mention that, I feel like stopping Belle from being killed shouldn’t be enough for him to be a pure hero to take Excalibur out of the stone. If that’s all that it took, then any number of the residents of Storybrooke could pull it out. Hell, Belle probably could; the worst thing she did was accidentally let Anna fall down a mountain. It just feels too easy for something as iconic as Excalibur to be pulled out of the stone just because he did one nice deed after multiple lifetimes of practically being the Devil incarnate.

Elsewhere, the heroes continue to demonstrate why they are nowhere close to defeating Emma, when they allow Arthur time alone with the Crimson Crown to talk to Merlin, despite the fact that the security footage in the sheriff’s station would have proved him villainous if only they’d bothered to check. Fortunately enough for our merry band, magical toadstools can’t burn in a fire. Why Arthur didn’t just use the actual potion so that they couldn’t see Merlin’s voicemail is an entirely separate matter, but there’s no cure for stupidity, I suppose. So, fortunately, Henry can speak to Merlin and they discover that the Dark One – presumably Emma – has done something to dispose of him.

While it didn’t advance the plot too much, seeing Belle and Merida banding together in Camelot was an absolute treat. Merida’s portrayal has been consistently good, and engaging, and Belle stepping forward into a hero role always makes a brilliant episode. However, I’m still not buying Rumple’s abrupt transformation into a hero, regardless of how much he threatens Emma, and I’m honestly not all that engaged in what happened to Merlin yet, either. With Once it’s never what it seems, so it’s almost exhausting to bother guessing at this point!

Once Upon an Additional Brainthought

  • I really wish that everybody would stop going on about Emma making Violet break up with Henry. It’s really not that bad, and he can’t even remember the situation, so why all the heartbreak?
  • I’m disappointed that Zelena didn’t ally herself with Emma, not least because I want someone for Emma to talk through her villainous plans with. Zelena is just so acerbic and delightful to watch though, so any time she’s on screen is a highlight.
  • I feel like we haven’t seen much from Hook this season yet. Can this change please?

You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Serena says:

    This episode started out very promising, with Hook, Charming, Merlin, and Belle storming the dungeon to free Lancelot and Merida. But it was completely unbelievable that Merlin needed Belle’s book knowledge to undo the spells on the bars, so I guess this is the writers’ clumsy attempt show that Belle isn’t completely useless.

    Then the writers have Belle defend Gold by claiming Emma is just as bad, and any hope of Belle coming across as intelligent goes right out the window.

    As for Merida, I have never agreed with holding her up as a role model. In the Disney movie “Brave”, she is the one who cursed her own mother — undoing the curse is the least she can do. It is wrong to call her brave and heroic for simply atoning for a selfish and petty act that harmed another.

    Here, Merida gives Belle a head injury for no reason. She kidnaps Belle when all she would have had to do was ask — this complete disregard for the well-being of others is actually villainous.

    Sadly, most of the episode was taken up by Merida’s lame plot, and Gold implausibly being turning into a “hero”. Ugh. Both parts were so contrived and unconvincing that they did not interest me in the slightest.

    I absolutely agree that the writers really stumble trying to make Gold into an instant hero. I also agree that Hook and the Charmings have been pushed way into the background (Henry can’t act, so I don’t mind less of him). And Merlin, the greatest sorcerer that ever lived, is being horribly underused. The time wasted on Merida and Gold could have been better allocated on good characters that the audience actually cares about.


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