You ready for two hours of Once?! Good, because it happened and this might be the longest recap of my life. That being said, one of the two episodes was about 4,000 different types of crucial so it's also a very important recap. Word flood, incoming!
Let's start with episode 8, "Birth":
Storybrooke: The good gents of Storybrooke have come to visit Arthur, and Charming gets straight to the point about him lying about the Crimson Crown. Charming points a gun at him but he escapes out the back of the tent. The boys make chase after him and he trips over a big log. Hook catches up to him, but Arthur flips him over. Arthur goes to swing at Hook to kill him and Emma stops him with Excalibur. Emma and Hook have a moment.; he wants to help her but he has to know who Nimue is. He asks why she needs Excalibur and she refuses to answer. She loses her shit after he yells... “I'm doing it for you”.
Calm your tits, Emma.
Also, I don't normally note this, but it's important this week: the opening title card has a Dark One rising out of the Dark One spawner. Great. That has to be a terrible omen.
Camelot: Emma has the Spark of Prometheus and brings it to Granny's. Granny grabs her trusty crossbow and tosses the key to the restaurant to Henry... as they freeze in time. Merlin is there and is being ordered to forge the sword together. He asks Emma to not make the same mistakes as Nimue.
Storybrooke: Hook interrogates Arthur but Charming stops it. Everyone thinks Emma is gone, but Hook isn't ready to give up. He goes to speak to Gold and Belle. Gold thinks Emma made herself the Dark One on purpose just by the look on her face. Want to know what Emma is after – find out what she's atoning for. Give her a reason to come find you, Hook.
Camelot: Imaginary Rumpz pops up to talk Emma out of using the Spark. Henry catches her having a conversation with fake Rumpz; she's not cray or anything. Henry shows her that he and Hook were trying to find a house for operation Light Swan, for when they return. Emma decides to use the dark magic one last time. Evil Zelena, Arthur and Merlin are there with the good guys as hostages. Emma shows up and Arthur threatens to unleash Merlin on her.
Storybrooke: Zelena is in pain, banging on the door of her cell. Suddenly she comes out and is like, 9 months pregnant. The dark magic sped her pregnacy up. Oh god, Swan, what did you do?!
Hook is out in the town, calling out for Emaa, and she doesn't reply... so he throws himself off a roof. She poofs him to safety, saving his dumb ass. He asks her to come clean about what happened and will forgive her for anything. He understands the darkness and seeking forgiveness; he'll love her no matter what she's done. Hook tells her every ring on his finger is a sad story. She gives in and says she'll show him something, helping to reveal about what horrible thing she did.
Emma and Hook head back to her house. He looks through the telescope at the sea and reminisces about sailing. She shows him the paper clipping of the home. Everything she's done has been to keep the future alive. They kiss and I feel things in my chest region, but am still SO confused. Hook falls over... “what did you do?”
Regina and Robin rush Zelena to the hospital, where it's Dr. Whale is the one delivering her – she didn't kill him during her last visit to Storybrooke. According to the spellbook Belle has, Emma needs the eyes of a newborn. Jesus Christ, what?
Camelot: Zelena gets the Flame from Emma, and while checking if its real, the flame turns to a ribbon that ties her to a tree. Merlin and Emma have a wizard-off like in Harry Potter and Voldemort did in The Deathly Hallows... Emma fails. Merlin is ordered by Arthur to kill Snow. Emma yells at him to fight the darkness, he can do it. He fights it off for a moment, and Hook breaks free from his holdings , beating Arthur upside the head with his hook. Arthur frees Zelena (because hook cant kill him) and they poof away, leaving the broken Excalibur handle behind. This poofing away will come into play in the next episode.
Regina corners Emma back at Granny's; she tells her that she she understands why Emma's clinging to the darkness. Regina offers to help to break down those walls. Regina grabs the dagger and demands the truth of why Emma wont let go of the darkness... but Charming, Snow and Hook come up to stop Regina. They think she's being cruel, but she was just getting to the truth.
Storybrooke: Zelena gives birth to a little girl and Regina isn't totally ready to face the reality. Robin, on the other hand, is happy as can be. Emma shows up and they protect the baby... but it isn't what she's after. She wants Zelena.
Hook and Zelena wake up in Emma's evil lair. Shes not taking Zelena's magic, she's giving her magic instead. The darkness needs a vessel – Zelena – and if the vessel is killed, the dark magic is gone. Emma was never after the baby, she just sped up the pregnancy to get the child out of harm's way. Hook objects and asks for Merlin's help. What happened to Merlin in Camelot?
Camelot: Emma tells hook that the only reason she said 'I love you' before the darkness took her was because she thought he was going to lose him. But the truth is, she DOES want a future with him. He's happy as a clam and comforts the crap out of her. Their kiss ignites the Flame.
Storybrooke: Zelena convinces Hook to get her anti-magic bracelet off. He takes his hook and tears it off after she 'promises' not to be a jerk... but she points out he doesn't have a choice if they want to live. Once free from the bracelet, she poofs into her green clothing... and she actually holds up her end of the bargain. Regina arrives in front of Emma's house with the Charmings; she says the good guys need to go to war with Emma and the Charmings are like 'hell no'. Emma bursts out of the house 'I dont need saving'. She tells them her dead vessel Zelena plan and they object. Emma takes the sword and slams it into the ground, freezing them into place (seriously, does every spell freeze people??). Meanwhile, Hook and Zelena are trying to get answers but don't think its possible. Hook digs thru Emma's house and she catches him in the act. He sees a bottle of squid ink bottle on the back of a painting, tossing it at her, and it freezes her in place (AGAIN with the freezing?!). Zelena comes back and stabs Hook in the fucking chest, and my eyeballs nearly fly out of my head. But... he's not hurt, hes not dying. Zelena holds up a dream catcher and in it Hook sees what happened in Camelot...
And it's worse than you'd think. You'd better sit down for this one, Oncers.
Camelot: In Granny's, Merlin and Emma are to destroy the darkness. Emma takes the Flame and puts the sword together inside of it, when suddenly Hook starts to bleed from the neck. Merlin tells them a cut from Excalibur can't fully heal. Hook asks that she ignite the blade before he dies so he can see. Emma obviously freaks out and wants to use the flame to save Hook. Merlin warns her - if you do that, there's a chance you'll duplicate the Dark One and it'll be the final step into the dark for her. Emma will do anything to save Killian. She poofs them both to a field of really pretty flowers as his neck wound is horrendous and he is dying quickly. He says he can't push off the darkness once more, it took forever the first time.
Hook. Dies. Holy shit he dies.
Emma refuses to accept this and takes the dagger in hand. The darkness seeps from Merlin and comes back out through the broken sword. She uses Merlin to heal Hook and his body disappears. Killian Jones appears on the sword and she transforms into the Dark One.
From the portal a dark figure arises... Killian is a new Dark One.
Holy fucksticks Emma made him a dark one to save him.
Zelena holds up the sword to show both Killian and Emma's name on it. His name was hidden under a spell. There's no longer a Dark One. There's a Dark Ones. Emma has been trying to save him, not hide it from him. She was going to kill Zelena to save them both from the darkness. He gets pissed. “So much for our future, Swan.” Zelena tells him there's still more to learn from Camelot.
HOOK IS DARK. HE'S SO DARK. YOU CAN PANIC NOW.
So after that itty bitty revelation, we are on to the 2nd hour, which is episode nine and titled "The Bear King". I'm not going to lie, this was a huge let down. You can thank the American Music Awards for jacking up their scheduling and having a slow episode follow what should have been the mid-season finale (which is still a stupid concept, but one we must accept).
Camelot: From the previous episode, we see Arthur and Zelena poof back into the city, safe from the good guys. They get into a spat but even out because evil must get along. Arthur knows his knights can defeat the good guys, he just needs something from DunBroch.
Merida is paying respects to her dad, telling his grave about how she saved her brothers and is going to be queen soon. Her mom comes out to cheer her up - today is the coronation, lighten up!
Flashback to DunBroch a "few years earlier" with King Fergus bursting into the witch's hut. He needs magic from her to defend against the southern raiders. He's willing to give up whatever he has and she makes him sign a scroll that says he'll agree to a future favor. She's like a Scottish Rumpelstiltskin. She whips up a potion and out rises a helm - it has the power to control his troops to do whatever he needs them to.
Fast forward to current time where Merida is getting her crown from the cute Braveheart bro. Before the crown is on her head, the witch bursts in. She shows them the scroll he signed for the enchanted helm. She didn't receive her payment so she's here to hustle them. She asks for a buttload of gold... or the helm, which Merida doesn't have. Bring it back by sundown tomorrow or the entire kingdom is cursed. The Ginger isn't even queen yet and she's already got problems. Sheesh. Merida and her mother talk about finding the helm, which Fergus had on him when he died. A knight killed Fergus, and Merida wants to hunt him down.
Flashback to a battlecamp where Fergus shows his daughter what war is like - men writing their wills, saying their goodbyes and facing reality. Fergus gives Merida his bow, the one she rocks even now. He's hired a soldier to help her learn how to fight... Mulan! She'll teach Merida to fight and how to do it with honor.
Flashforward to an honor-less Mulan, hustling crooks for money. Ginger shows up to assist her and trying to talk her out of being a scoundrel, but ends up giving Mulan all her gold to please her. Mulan gets snappy and tells her there will be no more questions pertaining to her.
Arthur and Zelena arrive at the witches' hut and find a very angry wolf. They subdue it and the witch pops out... she doesn't have the helm and has no idea where it is. Zelena threatens her and she says Merida is after it.
Merida finds the arrow that missed her father's killer and Mulan is done with everything. Fabric on the arrow could lead to the killer but then Arthur and Zelena arrive. The witch steals Merida's bow to use a locator spell. Merida wants to rush home, not to face the witch, but to tell the other lords she can't lead - it'll save her kingdom. Gingey and Mulan part ways, since the warrior is still without a conscience.
Flashback to Merida and Mulan training and they're all giggly best friends. Some of the clansmen are watching them and think mocking them is the best idea. King Fergus is rallying his troops... while wearing the helm. Later on, Merida finds her father waiting by the water, watching for the invaders to arrive. She asks how to inspire the clans, which is ironic because he's using magic to do it. He tells her that she has to be the first one to be willing to die, to face the invaders first.
Flashforward - Mulan arrives to the witch's bungalow in the woods, where she is also met by an angry wolf. Mulan grins and realizes the wolf isn't actually a wolf... she pours a conveniently placed cauldron onto the wolf - it's Ruby! They take off in the night to escape the witch, sharing a past of knowing the other princesses. But how did Ruby make it back to fairytale land - -
At Granny's, when Prince Neil was introduced to everyone, Snow and Ruby have a talk. Ruby feels like she doesn't belong, and hasn't for a while. She's the only wolfperson in Storybrooke and feels lonely. Tiny and Ruby salvaged the fields and grew a magic bean to get back. Snow is totally on board with Ruby going back to the Enchanted Forest, if that means wolfgirl will be happy. So THAT'S where she's been. However, Ruby still doesn't belong, her pack seems to be gone. She takes the piece of fabric and uses her wolf nose to hunt it down.
Merida tells handsome Braveheart the crown will be his when Ruby and Mulan stroll in. Use that sniffer, girlfriend!
Flashback - Mulan and Merida are out in the middle of nowhere practicing when the war horns sound. King Fergus is rocking his helm and rallying his troops. They fly into battle against the invaders as Merida runs her happy ass as fast as she can, back towards the battle. A knight singles out King Fergus and goes after him. Merida is on a ridge calling out to her father, knocks an arrow in her bow and fires...
It misses, and the sword of the knight plunges right through Fergus. The knight grabs the helm.
The knight was Arthur. OF COURSE IT WAS. Dick.
Flashforward - Zelena and Arthur find the helm in a pond, but Merida, Mulan and Ruby show up to interrupt. Merida rages with revenge, but finds out that the helm her dad had on was a fake one. He didn't use magic, his troops actually followed because they believed in him.
Merida and Arthur swing their swords, one must die. Zelena tries to run off and the dynamite duo of Ruby and Mulan knock her green ass out. Arthur is crazy (duh) to get that helm, which is lying on the ground between him and Ginger. The other leaders of the clans show up and aim at Arthur. Good wins! Zelena wakes up just in time to poof her and King Crazy out. Merida thanks her people, and they still want her to be the queen because of the sacrifice she was willing to make. D'awww.
Back at the castle, Merida rocks her crown and becomes the rightful queen. On time, the witch shows up. Merida refuses to hand the helm back, but wants to destroy it instead. Her boldness stands up to the witch... it was all a test. The witch really did help Merida in the end, making the Ginger find her strength. The witch gives Gingey a cup of magic dead person mojo, so she can talk to her dad one last time.
Merida, Mulan and Ruby all say goodbye, with Mulan and Ruby running off to find adventures together. Mulan lost the love of her life and Ruby offers her a soul-searching quest. 99% sure this is the same-sex couple that ABC planned for this season and I'm on board. Also, it's about DAMN TIME.
Merida takes the dead person mojo and her dad appears. They have a lovely heart-to-heart, with him telling her how proud he is of her accomplishments. She apologizes for losing faith in him but they are squared away. It was Merida who changed his mind about using the helm. They hug (he's a ghost with a body? how does this even work?) and he fades away. Past her grief, Merida is now absolutely hellbent on destroying Arthur. Go get him, girl.
We've got two weeks until the next episode. While "Birth" was fantastic, "The Bear King" was weak, so I'm hoping for a strong comeback before the mid-season break. What are you guys looking to see? Spill it in the comments - and see you in two weeks!