Once Upon a Time “Birth” & “The Bear King” Review (Season 5 Episodes 8 & 9)

Once Upon a Time  Birth

You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have this week’s 2-hour Once Upon a Time. In the first hour, every moment was full of revelations, schemes, and relationship hurdles that will blow apart Storybrooke as we know it. The second episode was a schmaltzy trip to the Highlands with my least favorite redhead.

The Good

Dark Swan proves this week what a complete badass she is when she stops Arthur from killing Hook. Note to irritating evil King, don’t mess with a Dark One’s soulmate. After the encounter, Emma drops a major bomb that she’s re-forging Excalibur for Hook. We can all share in his confusion on this one.

Back in Camelot, we see just how bad Arthur is. He wants to re-forge Excalibur and holds Emma’s family hostage to get her help. So far, there isn’t a redeeming quality in Arthur. It’s hard to root for anything other than his demise at this point. It’s only gotten worse since he’s recruited Zelena to help him. I love that she is back in full witch garb. She still remains the best character. She’s kind of even eclipsing Regina this season, who seems to have faded almost completely into the background.

In a shocking twist back in Storybrooke, Zelena goes from being kinda pregnant to ready to burst pregnant. She gives birth to a little girl and everyone is afraid Emma is going to do something to the baby. But it’s not the baby she’s after. The birth scene gave us so many funny one-liners, but my favorite was Zelena yelling, “Shut up, I was a fake midwife, I know the drill!” It was also pretty funny that Dr. Whale ends up thrown against the wall, yet again.

We learn next that Emma’s house was supposed to be her home with Hook. That would have been the happy ending viewers deserve to see. But I’m starting to worry that’s never going to happen. Hook’s words to Emma, “All sins can be forgiven when someone loves you,” are about to be put to the test.

It’s a complete shock that Emma’s true reason for becoming the Dark One is that she was trying to save Hook’s life. That would be devastating enough, but then the writers twist the dagger in our hearts. Emma’s big secret is that in an effort to save Hook’s life back in Camelot, she had to bind him to the sword and transfer the powers of the Dark One. So now there are two Dark Ones. When Hook learns his fate, he is furious.

If they actually killed Hook, I would stop watching the show. Emma’s already lost too many men in her life. I’m worried that may be the direction we’re heading in, though. Perhaps the idea is that they’ll kill Hook and then his brother, Liam, will show up in town and they just so happen to look exactly alike. I’m not kidding—kill Hook and I’m done with the show.

There were a couple other moments that were surprising in the episode. I liked when Regina said, “No one hurts my sister, but me.” I support the sisterly sentiment, but I still was surprised that she turned on Emma. I was also shocked when Snow was the first person to suggest that “Emma” was gone. Fortunately, she didn’t give up on her daughter in the end.

The Bad

In the second hour, Arthur and Zelena go to DunBroch to search for an enchanted helm. Merida is about to become Queen when she discovers she also has to track down the same item. I found this episode incredibly boring and heavy handed with the moralism. Merida is a completely unlikeable character who lacks the charm of her animated counterpart. She has to find the helm before, yawn, boring, more bears, witch, etc. What she needs to do is go on a quest for a hairbrush.

There was all sorts of talk online about a romance between Mulan and Merida, but that didn’t materialize in this episode. I kept wondering why Mulan was roaming the Highlands and her presence in the story felt completely forced.

We did get the return of Ruby in this episode, but it’s unclear how long she’s going to be staying. I always liked her character, so hopefully she has a more interesting storyline going forward. If Mulan is going to stick around, she needs to get her mood swings under control.

I was disappointed that all of the good stuff that happened in the first hour didn’t continue into the second. But that’s kind of the deal with this show: it never seems like it’s living up to my dreams.