This review contains spoilers! Proceed with caution.
The Dark Swan plot took a backseat this week in favour of some character building. Belle finally got a spot in the limelight, and Gold had the chance to be truly heroic.
Belle is one of the most underappreciated characters on the show, and it’s so great that she had her own storyline for once. We saw her interact a lot with Merida, both in Camelot and Storybrooke. It was sort of ironic that the plot alternated between them being allies in the past and Merida (albeit unwillingly) trying to kill Belle in present-day. The events in Camelot were more interesting for me, if only because ‘two kickass ladies on a quest’ is one of my favourite television tropes. The duo hammered home the message that there are different ways to fight your battles: Belle used her smarts while Merida used her archery skills. Both methods were equally effective, and in the end it was a combination of the two that saved Merida’s brothers. This was such a nice example of feminism from the show – bravo to the writers!
After that heartbreaking but necessary breakup in ‘Heroes and Villains’, Belle and Rumple are slowly finding their way back to each other. This episode showed the cracks still present in their relationship, but gave us hope for a brighter future. It was honestly a relief that things weren’t patched up so easily. They may be True Love, but the lies Rumple has told over the years can’t be overlooked. Belle finally got an apology near the end of the episode, and I couldn’t be happier about that. Her refusal to run away with Rumple was the first step towards not only repairing their relationship, but also renewing it. Belle is through with settling for less than she deserves, and this time Rumple seems genuine in saying he’ll change his ways. Rumbelle shippers can be sure that this is the beginning of a better chapter for both of them.
Gold’s transformation into a hero was heavily emphasised throughout. I have some issues with this plotline, mainly because it feels like the writers are fast-tracking his redemption arc. His new status as one of the ‘good guys’ basically absolves him of any guilt for his past actions. He’s made amends to Belle, but there are so many other things left to atone for (bringing the Queens of Darkness to Storybrooke just last season, for one). Both Killian and Regina underwent seasons-long redemption storylines before finally being accepted by the hero crew. Rumple shouldn’t be treated any differently. It all feels too easy at the moment, and I’m hoping some complications arise to challenge him.
Emma is the protagonist of the show, but it’s nice to have the focus shifted to other characters on occasion. ‘The Bear and the Bow’ delved into this season’s side plots in a way that wasn’t too filler-y, and deserves props for that.