Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep4 – The Broken Kingdom

“I will do whatever it takes to fix things.”

“The Broken Kingdom” finally delves deep into Arthur’s back story, and shows us highlights of his life and the path he took to become the great king of Camelot. Unfortunately, Once Upon a Time‘s take on Arthurian legend is less than compelling and in their desire to put a twist on a familiar story by making Arthur villainous, the writers fail to give us an interesting or relatable character. Simply put, Arthur is just the worst.

Most of the episode is set in Camelot in various time periods, from Arthur and Guinevere’s childhood to going back and forth between Camelot “five years ago” and Camelot “five years later”. That is to say “six weeks before” present-day Storybrooke. But let’s not focus on timelines on this show. Suffice to say that we spend a lot of time in Camelot, watching as Arthur’s obsession with finding the Dark One dagger leads to the disintegration of his marriage to Guinevere, the destruction of his friendship with Lancelot, and also to his making a series of terrible decisions with regard to the use (or misuse, I’d say) of magical sand from Avalon.

Dark One Inc. needs to update their password.

Dark One Inc. needs to update their password.

Arthur grew up believing that he was destined to repair the “broken kingdom” of Camelot by pulling Excalibur out of a stone and becoming a great king. And all this was because of Merlin’s vague prophecies which Arthur never thinks to question. We don’t even know what exactly was “broken” about his village before he magically transformed it into Camelot, other than it was a relatively poor and ordinary looking village compared to the CGI Medieval Times theme park it became after the magic dust was sprinkled all over it. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Arthur found Excalibur but it was incomplete, so he spends all his time not ruling a kingdom and not paying attention to his wife so that he could do research on the Dark One dagger.

Guinevere is dismayed by his behavior and in an attempt to put an end to his madness, she goes on her own quest to find the dagger using Merlin’s gauntlet. Because apparently, Arthur would never think to use it because he didn’t consider the dagger his weakness. Lancelot helps her and they share some sweet moments, but their legendary affair in Once Upon a Time is more like a minor lapse in judgment brought upon by Arthur’s neglect of Guinevere. Lancelot clearly loves her but is not willing to pursue anything that would ruin her marriage. She gives in for a moment because at least Lancelot remembered her birthday and even planned a little party for her, while Arthur mostly forgets she exists except when he thinks she’s having an affair.

Don't do it, girl.

Don’t do it, girl.

She easily finds the dagger in the Dark One’s vault, but good old sparkly Rumple won’t give it to her. Instead he (of course) offers her a deal. The gauntlet for a vial of sand from Avalon, a sort of magical fix-it that will make Arthur believe that he has united the dagger and the sword and thus end her problems. She takes the deal but when the moment comes to use the sand, she changes her mind, wisely preferring a life of truth, no matter how painful, than a happy illusion. A prudent decision, which is not the one Arthur (ugh) made.

Arthur commits the mistake I hate the most, which is depriving his wife of all agency by sprinkling the magical sand in her face and making her agree with and support him without question. In that moment he went from bad husband to terrible person. And there I was believing that Guinevere’s supportiveness in the previous episodes was a sign that she was as sinister and conniving as Arthur, a Lady Macbeth-type figure. But as it turns out, she was a good woman who had her free will taken from her by a selfish husband. Guinevere deserves so much better than this.

Insta-kingdom!

Insta-kingdom!

Arthur then goes to splash more magical sand out his window, and the simple village is instantly transformed into a CGI monstrosity with castles and banners and probably some form of indoor plumbing. Voila, Camelot! Again, this doesn’t say much about his abilities as king since it turns out, for all his good intentions, he didn’t really build his own kingdom but let it grow from some sand.

Speaking of which, just how much sand was in that vial anyway? It looked like a very limited supply but apparently Arthur made the most of it, having enough to sprinkle on Guinevere, Camelot, and even on Snow and Charming in order to win their compliance with his plans. He sure knows how to make the most of a deal with Rumple, though I’m pretty sure this will all backfire on him in a major way. I’m really looking forward to that.

Once Upon a Time, S5 Ep4 - The Broken KingdomWith regard to the Charming’s, while they initially disagreed on whether Arthur was to be trusted (with Snow calling David out on his need to be relevant again), I’m glad to see that they worked things out somehow. Their double-cross of Arthur was clever and  well executed, but too bad they’ve been given the magical sand treatment.

I wonder why Arthur didn’t just sprinkle sand on Lancelot as well but instead threw him into the dungeons where he is befriended by Merida, who as it turns out is also an enemy of Arthur. Again, why didn’t Arthur just sprinkle magic sand on everyone who opposed him? Keeps things simple. Anyway.

Emma looks concerned while Hook looks so proud.

Emma looks concerned while Hook looks so proud.

Elsewhere, Hook and Emma shared some sweet moments as the pirate tried to distract his lady love by taking her on a ride through a forest and into a field of flowers. Cheesy. But at least this kept ManifestationofDarkness!Rumple away from Emma for a while. The girl deserves a break. It was also funny to see her and Hook’s reactions to Henry’s lady love, with Emma just realizing that her son is growing up so fast.

 

Do I want to know?

Do I want to know?

Back in present day Storybrooke, the Dark Swan is determined to make Rumple a hero despite his warnings and protests. So she chained Merida to her car (why?) and took out her heart out. Emma intends to control Merida so that the latter will teach the human Rumple how to be Brave (ba dum tss!). This feels a bit random, but I’m still looking forward to those training sessions. Part of me thinks it’s just an excuse to have scenes between two Scottish actors. But I’m not complaining. Watching that would certainly be more fascinating that witnessing more of Arthur’s machinations.