This week's episode of Once Upon a Time takes us through the history of King Arthur and his legendary love for Guinevere. In customary OUAT fashion, this tale of Camelot has a twist and it does not paint the typically noble King Arthur in a pretty light. I, however, am really enjoying this Arthur. He's different and a bit mad. It's the perfect combo. I am completely okay with my suspect taste in television characters, y'all.
The beginning of "The Broken Kingdom" shows us just that, a broken kingdom. A young Arthur is just a commoner as he walks through his village with a young Guinevere. It is here that we discover Merlin is already a tree and has already told Arthur of his prophecy. Young Arthur has stars in his eyes as he tells Guinevere that he is meant to find Excalibur and that she is to be his Queen of Camelot. He hands her a pretty pink flower, her favorite, and promises to shower her with them every moment of their blissfully happy lives.
His current life is far from blissful, however. A few village bullies know about Arthur's belief in Merlin's prophecy and they poke fun at the poor kid. They tell him that he will never be King of Camelot because Camelot is the land with no King. They clearly think Merlin's prophecy is a farce and honestly it seems that way because Arthur has basically been talking to a tree this whole time. They don't need to be so mean though. Kids can be cruel in all worlds I suppose.
Arthur sets to prove his bullies wrong and he spends the majority of his life searching for Excalibur. When he discovers the broken sword he devises a clever way to show it to the Camelot people and they accept him as their rightful King. He is honest with Guinevere, though, and tells her that he has to continue his quest to find the missing piece.
Guinevere supports King Arthur, now her husband, over the years in his quest to make Excalibur whole again. She begins to grow resentful, however, when Arthur becomes obsessed with his quest. Like, Arthur is reaching Gollum/one ring levels of obsessed at this point. He knows that the missing piece is the Dark One's dagger and he spends Guinevere's birthday locked up in a house trying to decipher scrolls.
Outside, at Guinevere's birthday celebration, Sir Lancelot tries to be a true bro and makes excuses for Arthur. He also set up the entire party for Guinevere and managed to incorporate her favorite flowers. He tries to pretend as if they are a gift from her husband. Guinevere is a smart cookie and sees right through Lancelot. As she thanks him for giving her this birthday gift, Arthur bursts out of his hole and claims that he knows where to find the dagger. He asks Lancelot to stay to protect Guinevere and rides off without ever wishing her a Happy Birthday. Arthur is so oblivious to everything but himself. Why am I rooting for him?
Guinevere refuses to lose Arthur and hopes that she can help him reclaim his sanity by finding the dagger for him. Lancelot sees her trying to sneak off and decides to join her on her mission. They use Arthur's gauntlet, a piece of his armor, because it leads someone to their greatest weakness. Maybe I missed something here or maybe this show is getting SUPER lenient with their rules of magic.
The gauntlet leads the duo to the Dark One's lair. They make their way into the maze of caves where the black goop that often accompanies a Dark One attacks Lancelot. I know it's trying to harm him but it looks really pretty. At least it's a beautiful way to die. Of course he doesn't die. Gwen sets fire to the black goop and it retreats. She seems to be overwhelmed with both happiness and worry for Lancelot and this leads to her kissing him.
Things get real tense and a bit high school angsty when the two acknowledge that a kiss will never happen again. They find a door and proceed to go through where they find the Dark One's dagger sitting in a sweet cage. Guinevere, rather recklessly, tries to grab it and is blasted back. C'mon, Gwen. This thing is clearly being guarded. She's used quite a bit of common sense up until this point.
The Dark One himself, Rumplestiltskin, shows up and gleefully reprimands the duo for trying to take his dagger. Gwen pleads with Rumple and he finds his moment to sucker her into a deal. Rumple wants to give them enchanted sand from the mystical island of Avalon.
This sand can make broken things appear to be fixed. Or actually fixed? However it works, Guinevere can use it on Excalibur to make it appear whole and Rumple will never have to part with his dagger. Guinevere wants the sand and agrees to Rumple's deal with isn't super clear. Rumple just seems happy that Gwen using the sand will cause a riff in her relationship with Arthur. He thinks that love is the greatest weapon of all and he's speaking from experience. Maybe he knows that all of this is probably going to turn out badly. Maybe I just didn't pay enough attention.
At the return of their journey, Guinevere and Lancelot share a special moment as Lancelot decides to leave Camelot. Arthur is reaching creeper levels now and spies on them from his tower. He confronts Guinevere about it but she is adamant that nothing is going on. She tells Arthur that she has the dagger and as he frantically searches her bag for it she considers using the sand on Excalibur.
She ultimately decides against it, however, and tells Arthur the truth about her quest and the sand. Whatever weird relationship these two are in now, we can't say they were ever dishonest with each other. Guinevere doesn't want to fix Arthur or any of their problems unless it's real, not manipulated by magic. Arthur, however, thinks that "fixing" the sword will fix all of their problems and the Kingdom and probably the voices I am assuming he is hearing in his head. Dude is cray.
To prove his craziness, or really just how obsessed he is with fulfilling Merlin's prophecy, Arthur takes the sand and uses it to "fix" Gwen. Guinevere gave him an ultimatum, her or the Kingdom, but Arthur wants both. He doesn't want to lose her to Lancelot and he wants his Kingdom. Really, though, it's hard to say if he ever actually loved her for who she is. Merlin apparently included her in his prophecy so somewhere along the way Arthur may have just started viewing her as another piece of this destiny that he was to fulfill. Poor Gwen.
The enchanted sand "fixes" her attitude towards Arthur and now she is determined to support him 100%. They then use the sand on the Kingdom, because why not make it happy and fun until Arthur can reunite Excalibur's pieces? It's a shady thing to do, but it's a nice shady thing to do? Like, at least his people won't be living in the Dark Ages while they unknowingly wait for Arthur to get his life together.
The other timeline in this episode was almost exclusively set in Camelot of six weeks ago where our Storybrooke gang is currently winning favor with King Arthur. Newly knighted Prince Charming is let in on some state secrets when Arthur tells him that Excalibur is broken. When Arthur tells him that he knows that the missing piece is the Dark One's dagger, Charming tries not to have a heart attack.
Emma is hearing and seeing her inner Rumple more and more. THAT has to be the worst side effect of becoming the Dark One. She is also hearing other voices as she sits and makes like a thousand dream catchers. Way to be creepy, Emma.
All of the voices lead her to the Dark One's dagger which is being held with Regina's stuff. Inner Rumple tries to persuade her to take it but she has had enough of his meddling and shoots some magic his way. It almost hits Hook who is standing at the door and clearly realizing that his girlfriend is dealing with some serious issues right now.
This leads to the Storybook group all awkwardly standing around Emma as she lays down looking quite ill. Regina wants her to get some rest and Henry knows the perfect place to take her. Henry and Hook take Emma away as Charming comes in and tells Snow that he thinks he can help save Emma.
He wants to give the dagger to Arthur but Snow is hesitant. Previously dead Lancelot told her not to trust Arthur so this leads to a very loud Snow and Charming fight. Charming asks all of the right questions. How is Lancelot back? Cora lied about killing him. Okay, well why would he WANT to come back? Doesn't Arthur hate him for trying to steal his girl? Maybe he has a death wish? Nobody knows! Snow just thinks that Charming is starstruck by King Arthur and instead of wanting to help Emma for the right reasons, he just wants to be a hero again. Whatever, let him help Emma AND have his moment, Snow.
Who knows if anything is actually resolved because we switch over to Henry and Hook who take Emma to a nice little stable so she can rest. When Hook asks Henry how he knows about the stable, Henry tells them about (his almost girlfriend, lets be real) Violet and how it belongs to her family. Hook is positively giddy that Henry has a love interest and Emma is...well, Emma is the Dark One AND a mother. She asks which one is worse in this situation. Ha.
Violet shows up and takes Henry out on a horse ride because it can get his heart a-racing! Girl's got game. Hook realizes that maybe he can do the same for Emma because if her mind is on something else then maybe it can block out her inner Rumple and giver her a little peace.
Hook wants Emma to introduce herself to the horse because she needs the horse to trust her first. The horse is privy to Emma's darkness though and freaks out. Emma is letting inner Rumple consume her thoughts again when Hook asks her to put her faith in him and their future. She does. I die a little inside, in the best possible way.
At the end of their ride they end up in a field of the pink flowers that Queen Guinevere loves. Emma realizes that she doesn't hear or see her inner Rumple and is finally free if only for a bit. Then she and Hook just make out in the flowers because why not?
Back in the castle, Charming goes against his wife's wishes and tells Arthur that they have the Dark One's dagger. When he opens its box though, the dagger is gone! Dun Dun Dun.
Turns out, Snow took it first! Ugh. Mom and Dad are fighting. This may not end well. Snow takes the dagger to Granny's which is where we discover Lancelot is hiding. They begin their own quest to hide the dagger back in the place where Lancelot and Gwen found it all those years ago. When they arrive, Lancelot gets a little weird and asks Snow if he can put it back. Snow is hesitant but before she can decide if she in fact trusts the newly returned Lancelot, King Arthur shows up and pulls a sword on them!
Arthur demands the dagger from her or he'll kill Lancelot. Snow, apparently trusting that Lancelot is still good, goes to trade the dagger for his life. Arthur proceeds to give a villain-y monologue where he divulges all of his plan. Once he reunites Excalibur's pieces, he will transform Merlin, snuff out all of the darkness and then become the greatest ruler in all of the Kingdoms. Somewhere in there I heard him say, "Kill Merlin" and all of my dreams for them being best friends just completely blew up. I don't know why I was still holding onto that hope anyway. Fine, Arthur. Just kill my dreams too!
Arthur uses the dagger to call for Emma but it doesn't work because the dagger is a fake. Where in the world do you get a fake dagger on such short notice? I guess Regina could magic one up but shouldn't they be super careful now to not get the two mixed up? What is their contingency plan?
After Arthur finds out that the dagger is a fake, he finds out that his friendship with Charming is as well! Oh snap. You're getting all kinds of double-crossed today, Arthur.
Charming and Snow had previously decided that fighting wasn't going to solve anything so they set out to create a test to see whether or not they could trust Arthur. Charming told him about the dagger and then waited to see what Arthur would do when he thought Snow and Lancelot had taken it. Arthur failed the test and they take him back to Granny's diner in shackles.
Arthur appreciates a good double-cross and sets up one himself when his Knights and Gunivere come to the diner to free him. I guess he didn't trust Charming either. Guinevere releases her husband. Lancelot knows that she is under the influence of the enchanted sand but Guinevere basically says that she doesn't care and awkwardly kisses Arthur right in front of him. This is seriously some high school level payback right now.
Arthur and Gwen send Lancelot to the dungeons. Before they peace out, they use the enchanted sand on Snow and Charming because they need them for their nefarious plans. How much sand do they have? It seems like they should have run out back when they used it to enchant the ENTIRE Kingdom.
Newly enchanted Snow and Charming run back to Regina and tell her that they can trust Arthur and that the best hope they have to save Emma is to give him the dagger. I thought Regina would be a little more skeptical but she just seems to be rolling with it these days.
Down in the dungeons, Lancelot is thrown into a cell and is super pissed. You know who else is super pissed? MERIDA! She's in the cell across from Lancelot and she says that anyone who is against King Arthur is a friend to her. YAY. Love her.
The final scene is set in present day Storybrooke where Dark Emma looks at the flower Hook gave her back in Camelot. Gold is behind her, chained to a fence. He tells her that there is no way he can be made into a hero but Emma has an ace up her sleeve. She walks out and heads to her yellow bug where MERIDA is tied to the front. Sorry for putting her name in caps all the time. I'm just very excited that she's back and ALSO in Storybrooke. What is not exciting is that Dark Emma takes Merida's heart and commands her to get her bow and arrow. Dark Emma needs Merida's help with Gold. She needs her to make Gold Brave. I see what you did there.
Overall, this was an interesting episode. I enjoy prophecy-obsessed Arthur because I've never personally seen this character portrayed this way. He's rather ruthless but also charming. It's a dangerous combo that I'm intrigued by. I've also never been a fan of Gold but I'm a little curious as to how they plan on making him a hero or if that idea will even come to fruition. If this show can making me even slightly interested in Gold, then it's probably doing something right in my book. Four for you, Once Upon a Time.