Summary: Emma nearly rids herself of the darkness once and for all, Hook finally learns what happened in Camelot, and Merida, Mulan, and Ruby team up to save Merida’s kingdom.
Best Scene: Hook tells Emma the stories behind each of his rings and why he still wears them today.
Best Line: “All sins can be forgiven when someone loves you.”
My Review: I think I’m with approximately 99% of the fandom when I say that I loved these episodes. The first one may go down as my favorite ever for Hook and Emma, deepening their relationship more than any single episode ever has, while simultaneously giving them a huge obstacle to overcome. The second had the difficult task of shifting the audience’s attention to a completely different story, one that it completed quite nicely. It didn’t pack as big of a punch as the first (and I don’t think it was supposed to), but was still a great episode in its own right, giving us another great Merida quest (my favorite newbie this season), as well as some much-needed Ruby and Mulan time.
Most of my favorite scenes in “Birth” focused on Hook and Emma (probably not surprising, since this was such a huge episode for them), but there were a couple of other moments that stood out as well.
One, Emma saving her family from Arthur and Zelena. It’s a small thing, but I love that each time they were simply called her “family”, a family that now comfortably includes Hook and Regina, both of whom were beyond proud of her when she came up with a plan to save them. My favorite part of that scene was Emma’s fight with Merlin; their battle was visually stunning (and gave me major Deathly Hallows flashbacks) and I love that Emma helped Merlin fight off the darkness that Arthur forced on him. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed this arc so much is because, despite what she’s done and what she’s battling inside, Emma has still remained the Savior in a lot of ways, and her ability to get through to Merlin was just another instance of that.
Another standout moment was Emma and Regina’s scene outside of Granny’s. This was another in a long line of great conversations between the two of them in the last couple of seasons, and I liked this one especially for how well it represented their relationship. One reason their friendship works so well (and I love that Regina confidently referred to herself as a friend) is also the reason that they hated each other for so long, and that’s their brutal honesty. They’re unafraid to call each other out when they’re hiding behind something: their fear, their quest for power, their unwillingness to let themselves be happy. Or, as Regina helped Emma see here, some combination of the three.
I appreciated the frank way that Regina spoke of the darkness in that moment, assuring Emma that she understood why she enjoys possessing it, why she’s hiding behind it, as it’s something that Regina has often done herself. But, she also let Emma know how much she admires her strength to resist the power, a strength that Regina is fully aware she lacked as the Evil Queen.
She knows that power has consumed her far more than it ever has Emma, and nothing showed that better than when she said “As your friend, I command you.” Let’s be honest: there’s nothing friendly about commanding someone to do something. But that’s Regina in a nutshell, doing the wrong thing for the right reason, getting the job done the easy way, the way she has often favored in the past. However, she meant it when she said “As your friend”, and the desperation on her face was evident when Emma refused to admit what she was really afraid of. Desperation to have her friend and Henry’s mother back for real. And a little selfishly, but like Emma’s enjoyment of the darkness, humanly, desperation to relieve some of the guilt she feels for Emma taking her place when the darkness came to town, as well as for asking Emma to save Robin Hood despite knowing the price, something that Emma was all too happy to remind Regina of in this episode.
And with that, let’s talk about the Hook and Emma of it all. Words cannot express how much I loved what went down between them here. The twist that Emma turned Hook into a Dark One to save him is what I like to call “good angst”. It hurts like hell, but you just know that it’s going to make their relationship even stronger in the long run. And really, it’s hard to complain when Emma did what she did for the most romantic reason ever: because she couldn’t bear a future without Hook, because loving him and letting him go, leaving with only her memories of him, simply wasn’t enough.
In retrospect, Hook’s death in the Author’s book last season was a heartbreaking bit of foreshadowing for this episode, as well as a cautionary tale for Emma. Because of that experience, Emma knows what it feels like to lose Hook, knows what it’s like to feel that pain, and her actions in this episode showed that she couldn’t stand to feel that again.
That moment where Emma made her choice also revealed something interesting about Hook: how utterly afraid he is of being consumed by darkness again, this time as an actual Dark One, rather than just someone willing to do whatever it took to stop one. He outright pleaded with Emma to let him go, terrified as he was of becoming someone he hated, someone he’s ashamed he once was. He also expressed concern that even his love for Emma wouldn’t be enough to bring him back, saying “I’m not as strong as you.”(a nice parallel to Regina essentially saying the same).
However, Hook showed in this episode what both viewers and Emma have known for a long time, that he does have that strength, that he’s overcome the darkness in his past and can do it again, especially with someone waiting for him on the other side. It’s why telling Emma about his rings was such an important moment; not only did it show how much he trusts her, it also gave Emma a way to lure him back from the darkness, by reminding him that “All sins can be forgiven when someone loves you.” And really, that line is this show in a nutshell. No one is irredeemable and no actions are unforgivable, so long as a person is willing to feel remorse for what they’ve done, to allow the people they love to pick them back up again.
That’s exactly what I hope happens with Hook and Emma, that, when this is all over, they’re able to forgive each other for what they both did in their quest to escape the darkness and find their way back to one another and their future. And, bonus, now they’ve got somewhere to live when they do!
Other thoughts from the first hour: I was kind of cracking up at the guys trying to confront Arthur so ineffectively. I can’t help but think that any of the ladies could have come up with a better plan than “We’ll all run into the front of the tent, surely he won’t escape!” Though the moment with Charming and the gun was interesting; they’ve done a nice job of showing his desperation to get Emma back in a number of small moments like that.
I also liked the scene with Snow, Charming, and Regina outside of Emma’s house; it’s been neat to see Regina and Snow kind of flip flop with each other all season over who has Emma’s best interests at heart. Also, typically when one of them has given up hope on her the other has found it, which has added an interesting dynamic to their relationship.
Dr. Whale’s return was exactly what I never knew I needed. Regina insulting his hair was hilarious, and I loved the meta reference to Emma’s own dye job, since the other characters have completely ignored it.
Though Emma has been commanding Hook to forget about his darkness while in Storybrooke (I’m assuming), I’m surprised that he didn’t notice any dark urges or anything, especially with how frequently he interacted with Dark Emma. It seems like there would have been a pull there, but that may be something that’s explained in the next episode.
In “The Bear King”, we were treated to another adventure with Merida, this time featuring her parents, as well as Mulan and Ruby. Since I went so in depth with the first one (whoops), just a few quick hits on this hour.
I liked Merida’s parents a lot, her dad especially was basically the cartoon character come to life. She and Fergus had a very believable father-daughter relationship, and I liked that he obviously respected her worth as a soldier and a leader, even though it’s pretty clear that, before Merida got through to them, Dunbroch didn’t think much of women in positions of power. However, I also totally understood why her dad didn’t want her there during what ended up being his last battle: no one wants their child in a situation that dangerous, regardless of their gender. Plus, he was probably feeling a little unsure of himself without the helmet.
Speaking of the helm, Arthur and Zelena telling Merida about its power and her instantly believing them is something that happens a lot on this show. Why are people always so willing to believe a complete stranger when they tell them something terrible about a family member or friend? I was glad that it turned out that Fergus hadn’t used the helm, but I was a little surprised that Merida didn’t insist on her dad’s innocence beforehand.
Zelena and Arthur were really the only connector from the first episode, and I think it was a good move to have the killer be a familiar face. Though, honestly, Arthur still isn’t all that compelling of a villain to me. He’s done a lot of really terrible things, yet I don’t find him all that scary or his motivations all that interesting. I think part of the problem is that he hasn’t really had a clear arc of his own yet; at this point he’s basically just a roadblock for the heroes. Hopefully we’ll dive back into his triangle with Guinevere and Lancelot before this arc is over, which could do a lot to make me feel something for his character.
I talked a little bit about Zelena and Arthur’s team up in last week’s review, but it made even more sense to me in this episode, because it became clear that the two of them could make one very effective villain together. While Arthur is fairly good at evil deeds, he hasn’t entertained me all that much. In contrast, Zelena is thwarted by the heroes fairly often, largely because she’s too invested in entertaining, in gloating about her deliciously evil plans, and in making time for wardrobe changes. I’m curious to see if that pairing continues, because it definitely seems like a mutually beneficial one.
The big draw of this episode was the Merida, Mulan, Ruby collaboration, and, while the three didn’t actually have as many scenes together as I anticipated, I still liked the roles that Mulan and Ruby played. It was interesting that they both had kind of similar reasons for why they’d been gone so long: Ruby because she was looking for a place to belong, Mulan because she found one with someone who couldn’t return her feelings.
Ruby’s explanation was especially nice since it led to that scene with Snow (though it’s always trippy to me when shows go back and insert scenes into past episodes), a great reminder of how close the two of them were in season one. I also would have loved a Ruby/Granny scene, but if Ruby and Mulan come back during the second half of the season, then I’m sure we’ll get one then. I also thought I noticed a few sparks between Ruby and Mulan (the scene where they met was a total Once-style meet-cute, right?), but it’s possible I was reading too much into their scenes together.
Like I said, I liked the role that both of them played in supporting Merida (ladies helping ladies!), and really, it was just nice to have two of the show’s most badass gals back for an episode, the perfect example of forgetting how much I like a character (or characters) until they’re back on my screen.
What are your thoughts on these episodes? Hit up the comments section and let me know!