“Birth” – aired 11/15/2015 – *****stars
Written by David H. Goodman and Jerome Schwartz
Directed by Eagle Egilsson
*Spoilers contained within*
By Joe Grodensky
At the conclusion of “Nimue”, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) had used the Spark of Prometheus to re-forge Excalibur, revealing a host of Dark Ones including Nimue (Caroline Ford) and Rumplestiltskin (Robert Carlyle). We also saw a glimpse into the life of Merlin (Elliott Knight) who was then bound to Excalibur through Zelena’s (Rebecca Mader) potion and is at the will of King Arthur (Liam Garrigan). “Birth” treated viewers to a double dose of magic as Once Upon a Time ran two consecutive brand new episodes, which will be reviewed separately. The first episode, “Birth” starts with a brief call back to an earlier episode when Arthur burns a magic mushroom that would have put our heroes in touch with Merlin. David (Josh Dallas), Robin (Sean Maguire) and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) drive to Arthur’s Storybrooke encampment to question Arthur as to why he burned the mushroom. David reveals they know everything about Nimue, Merlin and Excalibur so Arthur, rather than give a straight answer, decides to run where he is eventually found by Hook. A struggle ensues and Arthur is ready to kill Hook when Emma jumps in with Excalibur to save him. This one scene sets the tone for the entire episode.
Before continuing, we must go to Camelot, the place where it all started. Merlin is still controlled by Arthur so he is forced to take the gang hostage in exchange for Emma re-forging Excalibur. While Emma is practicing her control over the Spark of Prometheus, Henry (Jared S. Gilmore) shows her a classified ad with a picture of a house circled. He tells Emma it was another one of Hook’s promises to motivate her to defeat the darkness. Hook bought the house so that when everything went back to normal, Emma, himself and Henry would all live together. This motivates Emma to keep trying her magic to defeat the darkness. The time comes for Emma to confront Arthur and save her loved ones, but things do not go very smoothly. Arthur orders Merlin to kill Emma but she fights back long enough to buy our heroes time. Arthur had seen enough and orders Merlin to kill Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin). However, Merlin overcomes the spell of Excalibur and frees himself from Arthur. Hook frees himself from his bindings and knocks Arthur down, but doesn’t realize he has been badly cut. Emma uses her magic to heal him, or at least she thinks she’s healed him.
“Birth” is an episode filled with moments of positive motivation for our characters. We’ve seen Henry with the newspaper ad and Emma helping Merlin set himself free. However, this does not apply when it comes to Regina (Lana Parilla). Regina uses the dagger to control Emma in an attempt to get her to reveal everything about the dark magic, Excalibur and how it can be stopped. Hook and David snatch the dagger away and tell Regina to leave Emma alone. Regina pleads her case saying it was the only way to get definite answers about everything that’s going on. Hook and Emma get a moment alone to discuss what is going on as they grow more affectionate, the spark glows brighter. Emma now has what she needs to re-forge Excalibur and defeat the darkness.
Back in Storybrooke, Regina suggests magic and potions to combat Emma, but Hook is not convinced. He believes the real Emma is still in there so he asks Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) for his opinion on what’s going on with Emma. Mr. Gold tells Hook Emma is using the dark magic to make up for an action she regretted taking. He used himself as an example saying how he was a coward during the Ogre Wars and then used the dark magic to be a better father to his son and make up for his mistakes, but that his problems only got worse. He tells Hook to confess himself to Emma and maybe it’ll help her reveal her motives and sins too. Hook does just that and names everyone he has ever wronged, apologizes for everything he said since Emma became the dark one, tells her he still loves her and wants to help her. Emma then brings him to the house from the ad and tells him if he knew what she was planning to do, he would never let her.
In order to reveal what Emma’s plan is, we must include Zelena (Rebecca Mader). Zelena’s story begins when she is shown in massive pain while in her cell in the basement of the hospital. When Robin and Regina arrive to her aid, they discover the pain was her pregnancy accelerating to the point where she was going into the labor. As Zelena is giving birth, Belle (Emilie de Ravin) and Mary Margaret rush in with a protection spell to save the new baby girl from Emma. However, they are too late as Emma appears in the hospital room. To everyone’s surprise, she leaves the baby and takes Zelena prisoner instead. Hook and Zelena, not the best of friends, are now trapped together in the basement where Excalibur was hidden. They decide to work together for the sake of self-preservation and free each other from their shackles. Emma confronts them and reveals she was planning on transferring her power to Zelena only then to kill her, therefore destroying the darkness. Regina gets wind of this and despite being at odds with Zelena, stands up for her sister by threatening to use her own dark magic. Hook and Zelena then snoop around the house to find anything they can use against Emma.
Hook does find squid ink, which Mr. Gold told him about back when Hook asked for Gold’s advice. Hook splashes Emma with it, freezing her in place only to have Zelena appear and stab him in the heart. Hook and Emma are not only shocked he was stabbed, but also at the fact he was still alive. Zelena casts a dreamcatcher spell and shows Hook everything that happened since he was cut in the neck by Arthur. When Emma re-forged Excalibur, Merlin tells her any previous magic would be undone. Hook’s wound not only re-opened, but it got worse to the point he was dying. Emma takes Excalibur, teleports Hook to a meadow and binds Hook and Excalibur together. This turns out to be a problem because Hook absorbed any dark magic Excalibur had, creating two Dark Ones.
“Birth” was great because we see loose ends being tied up and we finally get an episode concentrating on Hook trying to save Emma any way he can. We even get to see dark Emma fully express her feelings and emotions for Hook which is great and thickens the story line. There was no shortage of shock value provided by Zelena as she went from being 2-months pregnant to going into labor only then to reveal everything that Hook ever wanted to know about Emma. As much as I don’t want this season to end, I really want to see the outcome of the dark Emma story line. It started off iffy, especially when it wasn’t immediately revealed what happened in Camelot that turned her. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait two weeks to see what comes of Zelena’s revelations to Hook.
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays 8pm eastern/7pm central on ABC. Check your local listings.