Once Upon A Time Recap: Season 5 Episode 9 'The Bear King'

*All of our episode recaps contain spoilers*

King Fergus & The Helm

It’s safe to say that the previous episode left us all with a whole lot of questions, but unfortunately the answers aren’t to be found in ‘The Bear King’. The latest episode focuses on new addition Merida and her relationship with her father King Fergus.

In a flashback to several years ago we see Merida’s homeland of DunBroch under threat due to invaders from the south. Merida’s father seeks out the help of a witch in order to ensure that his people will follow him into battle. The witch presents Fergus with an enchanted helmet, stating that if he wears it into battle the people of DunBroch will be willing to follow his lead. When Merida asks her father how he manages to inspire the clans to follow him into such dangerous battles he neglects to tell her about the helm, instead telling her that you must be the first to show them that you are willing to put your own life on the line.

With Merida having now united the clans (during the group’s time in Camelot) and set to rule over DunBroch she is about to be crowned Queen when the witch bursts in uninvited. She tells Merida and her mother all about Fergus’ deal and how he failed to pay for the helm before he passed away, meaning that the debt is now Merida’s responsibility. When Merida is unable to hand over the amount of gold demanded by the witch a new deal is struck. If she wants to save her kingdom from being cursed, and all her subjects being turned into bears (!), Merida must find the helm.

The Return Of Mulan & Ruby

Two years earlier we see Merida’s father present her with her first bow. He also tells her that he has hired a soldier to help her train up in ‘the art of war’ in preparation for her reign, to which Merida responds ‘You think I need a man to babysit me, to teach me how to fight?’. As it turns out Fergus knows his daughter well and we see the face hidden beneath the soldier’s mask belongs to none other than Mulan!

As Merida recalls her father was wearing the helm on the battlefield when he was killed she knows that the Knight responsible must still be in possession of it. Despite her mother’s objections, Merida heads out in search of the Knight and naturally, she turns to Mulan for help. When the pair arrive at the place where Merida’s father was killed they retrieve the arrow she fired that day and discover a scrap of the Knight’s cloak still attached. If they can find a weaver then they will be able to figure out the identity of the killer and locate the helm.

Unfortunately, there’s someone else after the helm too. Believing that it will save Camelot by allowing him to destroy both the Dark One and Merlin, Arthur is keen to get his hands on the enchanted helmet and has brought Zelena and her dark magic along to help him retrieve it. Zelena steals Merida’s bow, planning to use it to locate the helm and the pair disappear off leaving Merida and Mulan back at square one. Realising that if what Arthur says about the helm is true then her father must have used dark magic and lied to her about it, Merida is ready to give up on locating the helm. Luckily for her Mulan isn’t.

Alone after Merida decides to head home, Mulan travels to the witch’s house, still determined to figure out the identity of the mysterious Knight. When she arrives she is not greeted by the witch but by an angry wolf. Mulan quickly realises that the creature is not really a wolf and just needs a little help to remember who they truly are. She knocks a potion onto the wolf, transforming it into a familiar face; Ruby! Since we last saw her in Storybrooke Ruby has been out in the Enchanted Forest (thanks to one of Tiny’s magic beans!) searching for others of her kind but was trapped in her wolf form by the witch when she went to ask for help. When Mulan explains why she was seeking the witch’s assistance, Ruby is keen to use her wolf powers to help out and the pair go to Merida with their new plan; Ruby will use the cloak scrap to sniff out the Knight.

The Knight

In another flashback we see Mulan and Merida training together early one morning when Merida realises it is all just a ruse to keep her away from the real battle happening elsewhere. It turns out that the invaders have arrived and we join the pair as they watch across the battlefield from afar. As Merida looks over at her father, she sees a Knight come up behind him and tries to shout out a warning. In an attempt to save her father Merida fires an arrow directed at the Knight and sadly misses her target as the Knight kills her father and takes the helm.

Back in the ‘Camelot days’ we see Zelena successfully retrieve the helm from the river, ready to hand it over to Arthur. Luckily Merida and Ruby show up just in time and Ruby reveals that the Knight responsible for King Fergus’ death was in fact Arthur. Appearing to feel no remorse, Arthur explains that the invasion was all part of his quest to retrieve the missing part of Excalibur, after hearing that there was magic to be found in DunBroch. Merida also learns that the helm her father was wearing during that fateful battle was not actually the enchanted one, restoring her belief in her father’s ability to lead as well as her determination to stop Arthur.

The Test

After all of the drama by the water we then see Merida back at her coronation ceremony where she is crowned Queen of DunBroch. Once again the witch shows up looking for her payment, only this time Merida stands up to her, revealing her intentions to destroy the helm. To Merida’s surprise the witch is pleased by this response, saying it was exactly what she was hoping to hear – this was all a test. The witch recalls King Fergus’ original request for magic that would ‘ensure the future of his kingdom’, believing that she has given him exactly that by testing Merida and teaching her how to rule. She hasn’t turned up empty handed either, and has a special gift for the newly crowned Queen.

The witch’s gift to Merida is magical ale, a liquid that will allow her to summon a spirit from the underworld, and of course Merida chooses to use it to speak with her father. Before she does so, she says a farewell to her friends both old and new, as Mulan and Ruby decide to team up and work together to search for Ruby’s wolf pack.

Once alone Merida uses the magical ale and has an emotional conversation with her father. She apologises for losing faith in him but he is quick to explain that she is the reason he decided not to use the helm that day. The night before the battle Merida made him realise that he couldn’t use magic if he wanted to show his daughter how to be a true leader. Keen to get justice for her beloved father, Merida is determined to get revenge on his killer – it looks like Arthur better watch his back.

What did you think of ‘The Bear King’?

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