Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Once Upon a Time, Season 5, Episode 6: The Bear and the Bow

In Camelot, Merlin, Killian, David and Belle break into the dungeon and free Lancelot and Merida because Merlin is kind of like having a pocket nuclear weapon (making Killian and David pointless but Belle’s brains still useful). They have to convince Merida to leave without her wisps and her key to finding her brothers

As they leave Merida knocks Bell unconscious and kidnaps her so she can use her book smarts and magic to find her brothers. Merida reminds us of her motivation – she’s not going to give up her thrown or marry someone she doesn’t want to simply because they don’t think a woman can rule.

First step is to go visit the witch’s house to use her cauldron for a little scrying for her brothers and the three men determined to marry Merida. They learn that the men intend to kill her brother’s by the end of the day. Merida seizes on changing their fate – which is a spell which will change her into a bear. Belle rejects that, having seen Merida’s supernaturally awesome skill with a bow, she doesn’t see why Merida needs to become a bear.

Merida explains she doesn’t trust her archery because she missed the shot that would have saved her father’s life in battle so, like every hero everywhere in the history of fiction, totally blames herself. She blames that moment for the clans losing faith in her as well.

Merida confronts the clans and drinks the bear potion – which doesn’t work because Belle swatched the potion with water – to make Merida face him as a Queen.

As the clans men shoot her brothers she shoots their arrows out of the air with her own arrow. One arrow to hit all three of theirs. Duly intimidated everyone backs down and kneels to the Queen.

Back to Merlin and Emma, Merlin reminds Emma that he saw her when she was a young child. He reminds her of his warning not to draw Excalibur.

To the present! Rumple smashes the teacup to get a shard of porcelain to cut through his ropes. He escapes and is gone when Merida brings Emma to the camp. Emma’s happy though – it proves to her that Rumple is willing to fight for Belle (does it? I’d interpret it as him willing to smash his memories of Belle if he can get his own chance to escape). Anyway her plan is to order Merida to kill Belle, forcing Rumple to protect her

Rumple finds Belle and after some cowering they are reunited with Rumple acknowledging how much he totally doesn’t deserve Belle standing by him. He also tells Belle Emma’s plan – and is smart enough to realise how Emma plans to make him into a hero.

Clearly to fight Emma they need access to the magical gubbins in the shop – which is just across the road. But Rumple is far too afraid (do I make a joke about a chicken not crossing a road here?). Belle doesn’t buy this level of cowardice – but it’s because of shame over his leg. Rumple broke his foot in the ogre wars so he wouldn’t be forced to fight – then walked home on a broken foot, leaving him with his pronounced limp now. Belle sees no shame at all in him taking such an injury to be with his son and reminds him that she’s always “seen the man behind the Beast.”

They reach the shop and Meirda attacks, unable to resist the compulsion – while she begs Rumple to stop her. Pfft, Belle isn’t a damsel, she trips Merida with the carpet and knock her out, after which they tie her up like sensible people and maybe call some of their many friends to help guard her run away with a magical bag.

Rumple’s plan is to flea out of town, away from magic. Belle refuses to agree to this and forces him to stop the car or she’ll throw herself out while it was moving. She insists he can be brave – and he admitted he broke his foot not for his son, but because he was afraid. Belle refuses to go with him and let him pretend his cowardice is to protect her.

Belle walks back into town and runs into Merida – who has bene forced to drink the bear-change potion. And this one works.

Of course Rumple returns to confront the bear to save Belle. Thankfully he has some convenient woo-woo nearby to use on Merida and turn her back into an unconscious human.

They return to Emma and as a newly brave man, Rumple uses his knowledge of the Dark One to insist on a deal – he’ll pull Excalibur so long as Merida gets her heart back. Emma agrees. Rumple goes to take the sword after a pretty speech to Belle. Rumple draws the sword, successfully. He gives it to Emma, but warns her of her mistake – she made Rumple into a hero.

Zelena is still imprisoned and being tortured with organic green veggies when Emma decides to visit, spring her from prison and offer her onion rings. I’ll do a lot for onion rings as well. She needs Zelena’s help with Merlin’s magic while Zelena praises her on super dark evilness and how Henry will totally never ever forgive her. Zelena refuses to join the Dark One – Zelena tinks she holds the cards because, as she says, she doesn’t mind being alone.

Meanwhile to the main storyline we have a fair bit of recapping to them deciding to try and communicate with Merlin – only they decide they need Arthur to do it since he was chosen by Merlin. Belle also speaks up for Rumple – after all he knows what it’s like to be seduced by darkness and everyone may hate him but ultimately his crime is the same as Emma’s – being seduced by the naughty dark evil of Dark One-ness. Alas for Belle, no-one else cares about Rumple – but Belle’s not just going to write him off.

Unwisely the do bring in Arthur and he insists on being alone for his part of the spell. Of course he sabotages it – throwing the magic mushroom into the fire. Regina & co realise this because the toadstool didn’t burn up and they see Arthur threw it in the fire. So now they need someone else who was chosen by Merlin

That would be the Author – Henry. They contact Merlin – and get his “voice mail”. He warns them that things are bad, is apparently being menaced by the Dark One, and urges them to find Nimue

On Rumple and Belle. Belle does make an interesting point – if we’re accepting that the Dark One is an extreme lure towards naughty/bad/wrongness then it follows that holding Rumple responsible for all that the Dark One did is flawed. If Emma gets a pass, then sure Rumple deserves one as well

Except that’s grossly simplistic. From what we’ve seen, the Dark One provides temptation but not complete compulsion. On top of that, Emma’s crimes are but a fraction of Rumple’s – and her history of good much much higher as well. I worry that this argument is going to be used to get Rumple a first class ticket on the Redemption Train. Especially since Regina had such a laborious journey.

There is one element I think it missing from many of these heroic depictions – can Rumple be a hero? Well… maybe not? I mean, not everyone is a hero, not everyone is brave, not everyone is great with physical conflict for a range of reasons. I’d actually be quite interested to see he depiction of someone who was strong and capable and skilled and valuable (especially a man, since women ARE cast in this role, but usually as objects to protect or vulnerabilities to exploit) – and NOT a hero. No, not even the plucky little guy who stands up to the enemy but knows he can’t win. And if Belle loves the man behind the Beast why not the man he is – a coward?

Just the idea of a man who is AFRAID and, no, not able to conquer and overcome that fear is still a worthy person and a worthy character would be quite revolutionary I think. Besides, can’t Belle look after herself at least as well as Rumple?