The Yaoguai was an interesting addition...another take on 'Beauty and the Beast', yes?
(I confess, it was a little disappointing to find it was a curse - I suppose there wasn't much plot-wise the writers could find for an intelligent fire-maned lion to do)
It should be interesting to see how Phillip and Mulan go from "I'm sorry I was hunting you down to kill you" to their relationship in 2.01. (and if they don't at least hint at it by the s2 season finale, I'm going to make it a request at the Once Upon A Wish comm's thread for requests). But, much as I fear it, I suspect that that little detail is going to be swept under the carpet & never addressed.
Aaaand without realizing she was doing so, Belle kept Mulan and Phillip from being attacked by Regina's forces (the capture scene)...is it sacrifice if one doesn't realize one is doing it, except in hindsight?
That said, I think Belle and Mulan and Phillip would have made great traveling companions. Could they have avoided capture? Maybe, but as the other characters have demonstrated, capture is never the end of the story. More importantly, we could have seen more conversations with Belle and Mulan, comparing and contrasting what is important to each & their similarities and their differences. (did I hear that right, that Mulan considers Belle a younger Mulan?)
Though Phillip says he is in debt to Belle for her saving him. I wonder...does Mulan (and Aurora) inherit that debt to Belle? I wonder if the debt was part of why Belle left - she didn't want anyone to owe her anything.
This episode makes me think Phillip is like Belle...that is, a bookworm thrust into the dangerous world. My primary evidence, for this, is that Yaoguai!Phillip wrote out the words "Help Me." Wrote it in a written language that even people from neighboring lands* can't read, but Belle could. I realize this may be stretching comparison/analogy very thin, but still.
(yes, my assumption is that he was not lying when he said Maleficient sent him to a far-off land and turned him into the Yaoguai. Granted, he might have come back from the far-off land, and that's when he ran into Mulan and Belle)
* = unless Belle was on that wagon more than a day or ten. Then again, those mercs didn't seem like they would be able to read something in the written language of their hometowns, either.