By Joanne Denney
How far will a man go to save his people? In this episode of Once Upon a Time, King Arthur is faced with the dilemma of a broken sword and a broken kingdom. A king’s got to do what a king’s to do to win at all costs. David is also facing the dilemma of trying to save his daughter, Emma, from Dark forces. Does he sacrifice his hero’s glory for his child’s sake? Each man’s decision on how to face the problem is a drastic contrast to the other.
The episode begins in Camelot many years ago when Arthur and Guinevere are childhood playmates. Arthur tells a secret to Guinevere that Merlin is trapped in a tree, and that Merlin spoke to him, giving him a prophecy that he would pull a sword from a stone and become king of Camelot.
Years later, we see Arthur pulling the sword from the stone only to find that it is broken. What would he tell his people? We witness Arthur's first act of deception as he only shows his people a glimpse of Excalibur, keeping the broken end sheathed. He declares to the people that Camelot will no longer be a broken kingdom. He confesses to Guinevere that Merlin only spoken half truths and his quest had just begun to mend the broken sword and broken kingdom.
Rather than building his kingdom, Arthur becomes so obsessed with mending the sword and the kingdom, that he neglects everything else, including his marriage. He becomes a workaholic, pouring over ancient texts and Merlin’s notes, while his wife sits alone at her own birthday party. Arthur discovers that Excalibur can be re-forged with its missing half, the Dark One’s dagger. Lancelot, seeing his queen alone and lonely, arranged the birthday party in her honor, telling her that it was Arthur’s idea. Guinevere wasn’t fooled.
When Arthur decides to ride off the next day to find the Dark One’s vault and the dagger, she goes off on her own quest with Lancelot at her side to protect her. Using Merlin’s Gauntlet, which will guide her to Arthur’s greatest weakness, the Dark One’s dagger, they find the vault and gain entrance. Once inside, Lancelot is attacked by the Dark Gooey Tar monster. (I’m not sure where it came from because the Darkness was currently in pre-curse Rumple). Guinevere drives away the monster, saving Lancelot. They confess their love for each other, but stay true to their course of supporting Arthur.
They gain entrance to Rumple’s hiding place for the dagger, a jungle that seems oddly familiar. Guinevere and Lancelot are not able to retrieve the dagger, and set of a defensive spell that brings pre-curse Rumple to them. He makes them a deal and, instead of giving the dagger, gives them the Sands of Avalon which will create the appearance of fixing what is broken. (Sounds like a shady deal as usual).
Guinevere rushes back to Excalibur to sprinkle Avalon dust on it, but Arthur is there. She at first tries to lie to Arthur, but then confesses her purpose. In an unexpected move, Arthur decides to fix his broken marriage (he saw how Guinevere and Lancelot looked at each other) by blowing the dust onto Guinevere, who suddenly becomes a supportive wife. Seeing how well that worked, he then uses the dust on Camelot itself. Camelot was a complete illusion!
Fast forward five years later, Emma has found herself a new hobby making dream catchers. Hearing a strange noise, she is lead by Apparition Rumple leads her to the dagger in Regina's room and tempts her into trying to take it, but it is protected by a spell. He tells her that it's calling for its other half and that she is the savior and she should save herself before it's too late. Weary of his constant badgering, Emma lashes out, nearly hitting Hook with the spell. She confesses to Hook that she is seeing Rumple in her head and he is always there. (Carlyle is very menacing without even saying a word.)
The Charmings are worried about Emma being over taken by the Darkness. They decide to have Hook and Henry take her away to a quiet spot where she canrest. David and Mary Margaret get into an argument about whether or not they can trust Arthur because of what Lancelot said. Regina guesses that Emma was trying to get the dagger and decides to hide it someplace else.
Hook and Emma have a romantic interlude after horseback riding. Hook helps her by driving Apparition Rumple from her mind. They have a Twilight moment in a meadow full of Middlemist roses.
Meanwhile, Arthur has confessed to David, Knight of the Round Table, that Excalibur is broken. He tells David that to make the sword whole he needs the dagger of the dark one. He asks David to help him in the quest to find the dagger. This causes an argument between Snow and Charming. David trusts Arthur and Snow does not.
Against his family’s wishes, David tells Arthur that he has the dagger and that his daughter, Emma, is the Dark One. He goes to show the dagger to Arthur only to find it missing.
Snow and Lancelot have taken the dagger back to the Dark One’s vault to hide it. They are followed by Arthur, who threatens to kill them. Snow hands over the dagger. Arthur then reveals his true purpose for hunting for the dagger; he would use the dagger to summon the Dark One to kill Merlin, re-forge Excalibur, destroy the Darkness with it and rule over Camelot. When he tries to summon Emma, it doesn’t work. Snow tricked him with a fake dagger. David takes Arthur prisoner by surprise. They take Arthur back to Granny’s only to be met by Guinevere and the other knights.
Lancelot is happy to see his lost love, but it is not the Guinevere he remembers. Guinevere, under Arthur’s command, blows the Sands of Avalon onto Snow and Charming who immediately fall under the spell. We next see them telling Regina that they are giving the dagger to Arthur and Lancelot is thrown into the dungeon. In the dungeon, Lancelot meets fiery, red-haired lass, Merida, who is on his side. (I was wondering what happened to her!)
Fast forward again to current day Storybrooke where Emma has Mr. Gold tied up. She informs Gold of her plans to turn him into a hero. He tries to talk her out of it. (It was great seeing Carlyle and Morrison’s interactions.) He has always been and will always be a coward. Emma then visits her other prisoner. She has Merida tied to the bumper of her VW bug. She rips out Merida’s heart and commands her to take Gold to the woods to train him to be BRAVE. (Nice movie name dropping, Disney.)
I liked the idea that Camelot was purely illusion and a dream that Arthur was always chasing. Arthur has proven himself a jerk, putting his wants and desires above everyone else’s. He could have been a good king and husband without mending Excalibur, but instead he became obsessed with his quest and took a dark turn when he decided to kill Merlin out of vengeance.
Now that he has the upper hand on the Charmings, I’m sure that he is the reason that Emma goes to the dark side. He will probably force her to free Merlin from the tree and then to kill Merlin. I’m hoping that Regina will try to step in tand stop it.
I’m also very interested to see Merida’s training of Gold. I’m not sure that even the bravest of the Brave can change Gold’s lifelong cowardice, but it will be interesting to watch. She is not going to take any of his excuses. Hopefully, they can learn to work together and find common ground.