Wow. I think I nearly fell asleep while watching this episode. That hasn’t happened since I watched ‘Nasty Habits.’ Maybe I just generally find Rumpelstiltskin eccentric episodes boring when they’re presented more as a side story instead of advancing the overall plot.
So, in Camelot, Killian, Charming, Merlin and Belle infiltrate the dungeons, where they successfully free Lancelot. They also free Merida upon discovering she’s also being held prisoner. This prison break scene was one of the only moments in the episode where I actually felt invested in what was going on. I really love this take on Merlin. He is awesome, and I REALLY hope he’s not written out of the show after this story arc. At this point, I’d be fine if we never see what became of all the other minor storylines that the writers have forgotten about (Jefferson and Grace, the relationship between Grumpy and Nova, and Anton and the bean field to name a few) as long as Merlin can still be around when this is all over. And it would be awesome for them to have a resident magic expert in Storybrooke apart from Regina and Rumple. Although, can Gold even qualify as a magic expert now? You know, since he’s an ordinary mortal man again. I realize he remembers everything he’s done as the Dark One, but seeing as how he wasn’t the least bit magical before his name appeared on the dagger, I don’t think it would make much sense if he was able to use magic again.
Anyway, after being freed, Merida decides to thank the Nevengers by kidnapping Belle with the intent to use her book smarts to concoct the potion that will transform her into a bear. One thing I did like about this moment is when Belle actually asks Merida why she couldn’t have just asked for her help. Merida’s response was that she didn’t want to take the chance Belle would say ‘no,’ which kind of makes sense, considering Merida’s clearly desperate and doesn’t know Belle well enough. And it could possibly parallel what’s going on with Merida and Dark One Emma in the Storybrooke plotline. I’ve now got a mental image of Merida trying to chew out Emma for heart-compelling her at some point in the future, and Emma apologizing, saying she couldn’t risk Merida refusing to help her willingly. I’d love to see the look on Merida’s face if hearing that makes her remember her mini-quest with Belle, and how she more or less treated Belle the same way.
The reason why Merida wants to turn into a bear is because she believes it’s the only way she can save her brothers and convince the other clans that she is worthy to be queen. She eventually admits to Belle that the other clans began to question her ability to rule over the clans when she failed to bring down an assassin before he fatally wounded King Fergus. And I admit, that was a pretty sad story. And I can sympathize with Merida on this. If this version of Merida is anything like her animated counterpart, she prided herself on being an expert archer who never missed her target. And the one time she did miss, it cost her father’s life. I can’t imagine living with something like that hanging over my head. So it’s not just the clans losing faith in Merida that’s the problem, but Merida losing faith in herself as well. Belle obviously picks up on that, and knows that using magic to solve the problem will not help the underlying problem. Merida turning herself into a bear will only show the clans she needs magic to be strong, and without it, she’s got nothing. And it won’t help restore Merida’s confidence, either. For that reason, she switches the potion with a vial of water, preventing Merida from turning herself into a bear. However, when push comes to shove, Merida finally figures out that she doesn’t need to become a bear when she’s able to deflect the arrows that were shot at her brothers, who have obviously grown significantly. The fact that Merida can fire off her arrow in such a way that it actually snaps the other three arrows in half proves to the clans that she is indeed worthy of leading the clans. And on a deeper level, it helps Merida make peace with the fact that she couldn’t save her father’s life. Honestly, I didn’t mind this flashback story that much. It actually helped deliver a pretty mature message that you can’t let one failure or setback destroy your confidence. You just have to press on with your head held high. I can’t find fault with that.
It was the main storyline I had the problems with. Dark One Emma is still using Merida to turn Gold into a hero. When Gold manages to utilize the same method Emma used to escape her bounds in ‘The Hat Trick’ by sacrificing the chipped teacup (great, just when I was actually starting to make peace with the notion of never seeing Jefferson again, they go and remind me of his debut episode), Dark One Emma decides to up the ante by ordering Merida to go after Belle directly. In a desperate attempt to keep Belle alive, Gold plans to drive them both over the town line, relying on a bag of magic powder to protect them from the barrier spell that would turn them into trees. But Belle refuses to abide with this decision, stating that running from a problem is never the right answer. They go back and forth a bit until Gold up and admits that he’ll always be a coward that will constantly run away from danger. Belle is clearly not pleased with seeing this side of him, so she refuses to get back in the car with him. Instead, she begins to walk back to Storybrooke, where she is greeted by Merida, who ends up drinking the potion that was brewed in the episode’s flashback, prompting her to turn into Bearida. Bearida ends up attacking Belle until Gold suddenly reappears. He ends up stopping Bearida by throwing his bag of magic powder at her, which causes her to revert back to human form. Merida leads Gold and Belle back to the underground chamber where Excalibur resides, and Gold, after a brief exchange with Dark One Emma and a whole ‘if this doesn’t work, goodbye Belle’ speech, ends up pulling out Excalibur.
Okay, so now everyone is all ‘oh, Gold’s a hero now.’ I’m sorry, but… no. He’s really not. Yeah, he came back to try and save Belle, which is great. But one good deed doesn’t make you a hero, especially after you’ve spent centuries inflicting pain and suffering on a lot of people. Being a hero is a lifestyle. It’s someone choosing repeatedly to do the right thing. In addition, I’m not sure how his actions in the forest were supposed to earn him any hero points. So he saved Belle. As great as that is, it’s pretty much the same thing as when he chose to die to save her and Nealfirebagelperson from Pan at the end of the Neverland arc. No one was calling him a hero after that. So why is this any different? Was it because he threw the magic powder at Bearida? Because I fail to see how that constitutes as an act of bravery. It was more an act of self-preservation than anything. Unless the act of bravery was him finally admitting that he was a big pants-wetting coward who crippled himself in the Ogre Wars because he didn’t want to die. Because I can see how admitting that could be considered brave. Even so, just because he did good in this episode doesn’t mean he’s going to continue that pattern. He’s still got quite a lot to do before he can really prove himself worthy of being an official member of the Nevengers. For starters, does he have anything of merit to bring to the table? Charming and Killian are both skilled swordsmen, Snow and Robin are expert archers, and Emma and Regina wield formidable magic. In addition, Henry is able to come up with some pretty clever plans, and Belle has extensive book knowledge that can be hugely beneficial when they’re facing some manner of unknown. But even though Henry and Belle are more or less the thinkers/strategists of the team, they’ve also had their moments to shine in terms of being where the action is. Just look at ‘The Outsider’ flashback as well as the majority of Henry’s time in Isaac’s AU world if you don’t believe me. But what’s Gold got in the way of practical skills, now that he’s back to being a mortal man with no magical prowess? Unless something happens that will take away that self-inflicted limp of his, I can’t see him being able to hold his own too well in actual combat. And his magical knowhow might also have been directly linked to the presence of the Dark One’s essence inside him. Now that he's not the Dark One, he might not even have that knowledge anymore. In fact, his defeat of Bearida only occurred because he just happened to have a bag of magic powder within reach. So what’s Gold going to do the next time he’s called up to bat? Hope there’s another bag of magic powder nearby for him to throw? This also contradicts the message from the Flashback story. They made it a point that Merida couldn’t rely on a magical solution to her problem. And here, that’s exactly what Gold had to do to escape the ordeal with Bearida- he relied on magic to solve the problem while not doing anything on his own. Again, Gold’s still got a ways to go before he can really prove himself as an actual hero. As for the whole pulling out Excalibur thing? It’s not as impressive when you remember Arthur also managed to do so, and he’s nowhere close to being a real hero. In all honesty, I’m fully expecting Gold to do what Arthur did, in letting all this go to his head, which will result in him getting all haughty and too sure of himself. And I think we can all agree arrogance and true heroism are not good bedfellows. Besides, Gold virtually threatening Emma’s life at the end was not exactly the act of a hero. A REAL hero would actually join the Nevengers in trying to find a way to save Emma from the Darkness, not imply they plan on killing her. Not to mention Gold had a taste of being a hero before in Isaac’s AU world. And in the end, he chose to behave like a villain when he resorted to attempted murder to protect his cozy lifestyle. So, I’m really not buying this whole ‘Gold’s a hero, and the fact that he pulled out Excalibur proves it’ nonsense. There’s gotta be more to this story that we haven’t got yet.
I’m also really irritated with Belle in the main storyline. Now that the Nevengers know they managed to free Merlin in Camelot, they decide to contact him with the magic toadstool Charming re-found a few episodes ago, to figure out why Emma is still plagued by the Darkness. But Belle is all ‘no, we gotta go save Rumple first!’ Now, I completely understand that she’s worried about him. But in this scene, she just comes across as a total b-word. She’s all ‘why should we focus on helping Emma when she’s no better than Rumple?’ Seriously, Belle? Are you really reverting back to the persona you maintained before the Author arc? The one where you totally excuse every single horrible thing your wayward husband did? So much for the character growth you displayed when you finally put your foot down at the end of ‘Heroes and Villains’ and kicked him to the curb. It’s particularly disturbing that she’s actually stating Dark One Emma is equally bad as Dark One Rumpelstiltskin. Even though Emma’s only been the Dark One for roughly two months while Rumple was wreaking havoc for centuries. And so far, the stuff we’ve seen Emma do as the Dark One are actually pretty tame in comparison to what Dark One Rumpelstiltskin got up to. Top that off with the fact that Rumpelstiltskin became the Dark One after committing arson and murder and embraced the power right away, while Emma became the Dark One when she sacrificed herself to save the whole town and actually tried to resist giving into the lure of the Darkness. Of course, we thankfully had Killian to diplomatically remind Belle that she had given Dark One Rumpelstiltskin multiple chances to turn himself around, so it would be unfair of her to not give Emma at least one. But Belle just basically sniffed and sauntered off with her nose in the air. Again, I get she wants to make sure Gold gets out of this all right, since she never stopped loving the man, but her actions in this scene really made it seem like she doesn’t care about anyone else except Gold. Which makes what she later tells Gold when he’s trying to leave Storybrooke nothing short of laughable. She actually mentions the fact that there were people they cared about in town. Oh, really, Belle? You mean the same people you refused to stand with earlier? Believe me, I really do want to like Belle, but she was really inconsistent in this episode. I’m really hoping the friendship between Belle and Killian doesn’t suffer from the events of this episode. After all, Killian, despite the long and bitter vendetta between the two men, has previously made efforts to reach out to Gold for Belle’s sake. (His ‘she truly loves you’ speech comes to mind.) And Emma’s only in the state she is in now because she willingly sacrificed herself in the attempt to save Gold when the Darkness was leaching off what was left of life. But when Belle has the chance to return the favor and do the same for Killian and Emma, she turns and walks away to go back to Gold. You know, I’m starting to wonder if Belle is going to turn villain at some point in the future. While I know that the show writers are probably not going to go there, the fact that Belle continues to gravitate back to Gold’s side even after he’s constantly lied to her and virtually turned her into his mob wife does seem to mirror the way Regina kept being swayed back to her mother despite how often she saw how toxic Cora was.
On the plus side, the Nevengers have finally started figuring out (again) that they shouldn’t be trusting Arthur. When they give him the magic toadstool so he can contact Merlin, Arthur insists on doing so alone, stating that he was always alone whenever Merlin contacted him during his boyhood days. Of course, Arthur takes advantage of the fact that he’s been left alone to simply toss the magic toadstool into the fire. The Nevengers figure out his deception when Charming finds the seared toadstool in the ashes later on. Thankfully, the toadstool wasn’t completely destroyed by the fire and can still be used. Now knowing they can’t rely on Arthur, they decide to turn to the only other person known to have been chosen by Merlin- the current Author, Henry. (Also good to finally have confirmation that the Apprentice is dead, even though it is sad to hear). Henry, showing a great deal of emotional maturity, is deciding to not let what he saw occur in Violet’s trapped memory stop him from doing what he can to help free Emma from the Darkness. He knows he can’t hold whatever Emma does as the Dark One influence how he views the real Emma. On that note, I am a bit bothered with how everyone is acting like what Emma did to Violet in Camelot is the worst thing ever. While I’m not saying it was a good thing, it was nowhere near as bad as some of the stuff Regina got up to. It’s like the show is trying to say that massacring entire villages, sending countless children to their deaths in the cannibalistic Blind Witch’s house and making constant attempts on the lives of her adopted son’s biological family, among other things, is completely forgivable, but heart-compelling a girl to friend zone her crush is simply too much. As for Regina criticizing Emma for taking a young girl’s heart? Remind me again how many hearts Regina had collected throughout the years. I’m pretty sure she still has that vault of hearts in that hidden chamber of the Mills Mausoleum, meaning there’s probably quite a few people with missing hearts running around. At least Emma gave Violet her heart back, which is more than I can say for Regina. I’m sorry, but I really don’t like double standards.
When Henry uses the magic toadstool to contact Merlin, all they get is a magic automated message from the great sorcerer, instructing them to seek out someone called Nimue. Before he can go into detail, however, he’s interrupted by the fact that he’s already been found by the Dark One. Which leaves the Nevengers, and us, with the question of what happened to Merlin after he left that cryptic message. I do hope he’s not dead. I really like Merlin, and hope he’s at least a recurring character from now on.
We get a short scene with Zelena, when Dark One Emma tries to get her to agree to help her with something in exchange for the Apprentice’s wand, but Zelena is all ‘not interested.’ But if there’s anything I care less for at this point then Rumple/Belle, it’s Zelena. Although, I did roll my eyes at Zelena claiming to have killed Neal. Because she really didn’t. He killed himself through sheer stupidity. Neal KNEW perfectly well he was walking into Zelena’s trap, but he chose to do so anyway. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. It’s his own fault Neal’s dead. To her credit, Dark One Emma seemed to give off a ‘who’s Neal?’ sort of air when Zelena brought him up. Which I totally approve of, especially since this happened after Dark One Emma commented on how she can relate to Zelena in the sense that she knows the feeling of being in jail while pregnant. And we all remember who was responsible for that, right? You know, I would actually comfort hug Dark One Emma after this scene, if I wasn’t worried she’d respond by turning me into a squirrel. Come to think of it, have we seen Dark One Emma use magic at all during the Storybrooke scenes? I mean, apart from turning Sneezy into stone. Because while she has performed that whole teleportation thing, she hasn’t actively used magic since they all returned to Storybrooke after the six week gap. And that’s one more thing that seems to differentiate her from Dark One Rumpelstiltskin, who frequently used magic every chance he got.
The final Camelot scene in the episode was a short moment between Emma and Merlin, in which the former remembers their fateful encounter at the movie theater. I’d question how Emma remembers that moment from when she was six-years-old, but then again, I’m sometimes surprised by some of the stuff I remember from my childhood. Although, that moment is made even better by the fact that this is the same woman who questioned the possibility that Evil Queen Regina would recognize her upon her arrival in Storybrooke if she saw her face in the past. Obviously, you CAN recognize a glimpse of someone’s face after thirty years. Merlin once again warns Emma to leave Excalibur alone, or something bad will happen. Which once again begs the question what got Emma to seemingly ignore that warning.
All in all, this really came across as a filler episode to me. Sure, some important stuff happened, but it didn’t really advance the plot all that much. But I was kinda expecting that coming in, so I probably shouldn’t be too disappointed. But since the next episode pretty much kick starts the final five episodes of the current story arc, I expect the plot to pick back up again after this.