At some point I should really stop expressing surprise at the fact that Once Upon a Time can churn out one good episode after another. If I’m amazed, however, it’s because it’s been at least a few seasons since this show has managed to do in a consistent basis, what it’s achieved in the first four episodes of season five – one outstanding hour of television after another.
This week’s episode, titled “The Broken Kingdom” was no exception.
We began this particular hour in Camelot, many years ago (I’m serious – that’s exactly what the little letters on the screen say), with young Arthur and Guinevere. If this scene is supposed to make both of them seem sympathetic, it mostly fails. We know too much about Arthur already to like him, and we’re not yet buying into Guinevere’s goodness.
The scene, however, does serve to make the point that bullies are everywhere: In Camelot, in our world…everywhere. And bullies are always, always wrong.
We then see Arthur pulling the sword out of the stone again, and at this point, he still looks like a hyper-focused good guy. The sword is not complete; he wants to make it so. Nothing bad there. He comes back and lies to the people, which, not great, but expected. He kisses the girl. This is still the Arthur we thought we were getting.
Even in the next scene, when we see him asking Charming for help making the sword whole, he seems to be a guy who’s only trying to fulfill a prophecy. This isn’t necessarily a good thing, he’s put too much stock in Merlin’s words, but it doesn’t make him a villain.
Jennifer Morrison looks absolutely astonishing next, as we get a close up of Emma. Hallucination!Rumple is there, being a pain in the ass as always, pushing her towards the dagger that Regina conveniently left in her room. Which, go Regina, trusting Emma and everything, but no, Regina. You should know better. Even if you put a spell on it.
Killian appears just as Emma is getting fed up of the voice in her head, and even if he promises that it’s just the two of us, he’s lying. Hallucination!Rumple is always there.
Everyone reconvenes around a suddenly unmoving Emma, and this is, of course, the perfect time for Snow and Charming to go at it while they try to come to a common ground in the who should we trust sweepstakes. Snow wants to trust Lancelot. Charming says they should give the dagger to Arthur. Regina, the voice of common sense (how many times have I said THAT?), chides them about fighting in front of Emma. But that’s all good. Henry and Killian are taking her away. The two loves of her life have got this. Snow and Charming can continue to fight.
Oh, and fight they do.
I’ve been very vocal about how much I think Mary Margaret’s arc as a mother has been mishandled, in complete contrast to David, who’s always done the father thing right, but this time, she’s the one who’s right. David does seem a bit star-struck. He’s got no reason to trust Arthur, and yet he does.
To the point of idiocy.
But that’s a story for another time. First we have to learn all about what happened with Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. It all starts with Arthur obsessing over the dagger and ignoring his wife, even on her birthday. Lancelot isn’t ignoring her, though. He’s not only paying attention, he’s willing to go with her on an ill-advised journey to find the dagger. Even if it’s a bad idea.
It’s clear that Guinevere, at this point, really and truly cares about Arthur and Arthur alone. She wants the dagger for him – but mostly, she wants her husband back. She’s so desperate to make him happy that she broke into Merlin’s tower and procured that fancy gauntlet that we know Rumple will one day come to possess. The one that shows you your heart’s desire.
While all of this is happening, Charming is being as stupid as it’s possible to be on this show. Confessing to Arthur that Emma is the Dark One, they have the dagger and Lancelot is alive is right up there with the worst decisions a character has ever made on this show, and even if Charming is doing it from a place of good, at the moment I’m too mad at him to do anything but throw stuff at the screen.
Stuff like my shoe. A book. A bag of chips.
In the not so distant past, Guinevere finds the Dark One’s vault, and once inside it, turns into a bad-ass (maybe she always was one?) to save Lancelot from the darkness. That’s all good and all, but the kiss she gives him afterwards still seems to come out of nowhere. I get adrenaline and everything, but there were literally no vibes from her before this, and then, bam, she kisses him? Makes no sense.
Charming is busy betraying everything and everyone, as a distinctly different Guinevere than the one we just saw in the past appears. Except Charming doesn’t have the dagger. He just thought she did. Snow is, apparently, smarter than all of them.
Can I take a moment to say I’ve missed Take-Charge-Snow? I have. She was the main bad-ass when this show started, and yet, for the past few years we’ve been treated to kind and diplomatic Mary Margaret. I’ve missed this side of her.
Had you forgotten that Henry and Killian were taking Emma to a quiet spot? I wouldn’t have blamed you if you had; so much has passed since we last saw them. When we get to them, they’re at the stables, which, good spot if you want a quick romp, not a good place to spend time with your mom and her boyfriend, but whatever you say, Henry.
Killian’s reaction to Henry saying there’s a girl is five times more amusing than Emma’s, and it sets the stage for what I hope is a fun family dynamic to come. Because Emma is all typical mother, concerned/curious, while Killian is just bursting with glee. It’s like he can’t decide if he wants to congratulate Henry or make fun of him, so he ends up doing a bit of both. Even when the aforementioned girl appears and Henry bids them to hide, the two of them behave exactly like parents watching their kid go on their first date. It’s heartwarming, and hilarious.
The tone quickly changes when Henry leaves, though. Killian wants to know what Emma is hiding, and here, with just the two of them, she readily confesses that she’s been seeing Hallucination!Rumple. It’s not a big moment, but it’s a very important one. Killian, as always, is the most equipped of the characters to understand what Emma is going through, and she knows it. He’s battled demons of his own.
Back to Guinevere and Lancelot, they get to the dagger, but, it’s, of course, not as easy as it sounds. Rumple obviously can’t let them have the dagger. For the gauntlet, however, he will trade them this magical dust that will make everything appear…whole. Lancelot, all nobility, doesn’t want to agree, but Guinevere does.
In the exact same place, five years later, Snow and Lancelot are looking to hide the dagger, when Arthur appears, and like a typical villain, confesses all his plans as soon as he thinks he’s won. Except he hasn’t. The dagger is not real. The Charmings were actually on this together. They’ve tricked him. Tricked everyone. Tricked me.
Well done, Once Upon a Time. Well done. And thank you, for not making Charming Too Stupid to Live.
Arthur, who’s gone from shady to outright villain, is not only power-hungry, he actually used Guinevere’s nobility against her. Remember the magical dust Rumple gave her? She wouldn’t use it on the sword, but he had no qualms using it on her. And on the whole of Camelot.
I knew that place was shady, shady, shady.
Best line of the episode goes to Killian, when we finally get back to his escapade with Emma. Stop talking to the demon in your head, he says. Come with me. Trust me. I’m here. I won’t stop fighting for us.
And she does.
Trust is not an easy thing for Emma Swan. Trust is not an easy thing for Dark Ones. And yet this woman trusts Killian Jones, wants him, loves him. In every incantation.
Let that sink in.
Snow and Charming, for all their planning, get outsmarted by all the shady people. (Do I have to keep calling Guinevere shady is she’s under the effect of the magical dust?). I guess the answer to that is no, because when the scene ends, Snow and Charming are also under the effects of the dust that never ends (the vial was not that large) and Lancelot is throw in the dungeons. Luckily for him, dungeons are perfect places to make friends. Like Merida.
Fake!Snow and Fake!Charming show up to talk to a frankly antsy Regina and tell her that Arthur is all good and noble and they should help him and all of that crap, and though we only get a line of sass from her, I’m really hoping next episode she’s going to see through all of this …well, fakeness.
Emma and Killian stand in a field of roses next, she dressed in white, he dressed in black, and they kiss as she holds a rose that he picked out for her. It’s a beautiful scene, not just for the setting and the cinematography, but because of the anvil-sized clues being dropped on us. I’m not saying wedding, not yet, but I am saying endgame.
Just in case you had any doubts, we cut back to Storybrooke for the first time this episode, where the Dark Swan is holding the very same rose that Killian gave her in Camelot as she tries to talk Rumple into believing he can be a hero. He doesn’t seem all that convinced, but Emma isn’t worried. She’s got an ace up her sleeve.
She’s got Merida. And if anyone can make someone brave, well, the Dark Swan better hope she can.
Once Upon a Time airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.