When does a quest turn into an obsession? Probably around the time you’re locked in your study as your lonely wife celebrates her birthday with your best bro. Oh, Arthur, you should’ve seen this coming.
We open this episode of Once Upon a Time “many years ago,” with a wee bitty Arthur telling a wee bitty Guinevere that the magician trapped in the village tree told him he would be king of Camelot. But the village boys scoff that Camelot’s called “the broken kingdom” because they have no king and never will — and it certainly won’t be the orphan who cleans the stables.
Aaaand cut to grown Arthur pulling the broken sword from the stone. In your face, bullies! But of course, the sword is missing its tip, which sends the new king into an increasingly obsessed search for the Dark One’s dagger to complete the sword and fix his broken kingdom
Now, we’re back to six weeks ago, when Emma hears the dagger calling to her and tries to magic-blast Rumpelstiltskin. But she almost takes out Hook instead, prompting her to confess that Rumple’s always whispering in her head.
But Snow’s got bigger news: Lancelot’s back and warns them not to trust Arthur. Charming doesn’t believe this about his new best bro.
“He married us. He’s our friend,” an exasperated Snow says, and then she and Charming yell at each other. Like, really yell. It’s unpleasant, and they finally ask Regina to please vacate what seems to be her own room. She quirks an eyebrow and obliges.
Snow accuses Charming of wanting to feel like a hero again, and Charming can’t understand why his old lady is harshing his bro-vibe. Bros before ladies, amirite?
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Now we skip back five years, and Arthur seems to have spent every one of those 1,825 days translating scrolls to find the dagger. A heartsick Gwen begs him to come outside and dance with her, just this once. Naturally, she ends up as a wallflower until Lancelot shows up, and we learn that it’s her birthday. Oh, Arthur, you didn’t! Scrolls before bros and birthday wives, apparently.
Back to six weeks ago, Charming tells Arthur that he knows exactly where the dagger and the Dark One are because it’s his daughter. Oh, and also, Snow doesn’t trust him. Arthur wants to know why, and we flash back five years to Gwen sneaking out to find the dagger herself by using the magic gauntlet that leads you to a person’s true weakness. (You remember the gauntlet, right? Rumple traded it to the trio of villainesses to free Belle; then Belle used it to prove that her marriage was a sham. Good times.) Anyway, Lancelot joins her, and I’ve got to say, fancy ladies trading their elaborate court gowns for trousers and fur-trimmed leather vests may be my favorite thing about Once Upon a Time.
NEXT: Hide yo wife, Arthur [pagebreak]
Anyway, the gauntlet leads them to the vault of the Dark One, which spews Supernatural-ish black demon tendrils before revealing a set of spiral stairs. Guys, no. Don’t go down there. Did you not see the demon tendrils just now?
But they venture into the depths, and bam! More inky oil/smoke tentacles surge out, just like the swarm that almost killed Regina before Emma called it into herself. It envelops Lancelot, and Gwen stabs it with a torch and scares it off. Gwen is so relieved that Lance is okay that she attacks him with her mouth. Then she apologizes and says it’ll never happen again. Even though Lancelot agrees with her, his eyes say, “Actually, it will happen again.” Bro’s wives before bros!
Lance and Gwen now step through a vault door into a jungle, where the dagger sits inside a gnarled tree. Oh, but Rumple’s there, and he’s delighted to learn that they have the weakness-finding gauntlet. In exchange, he offers magical sand that will fix any broken thing, including Excalibur. That would give Gwen her husband back — if that’s what she really want, he says, cutting his eyes to Lance. Lance begs Gwen not to listen, but she accepts. Rumple, this dagger is going to end your marriage. You’ll regret this, pudding pop.
Now it’s six weeks ago, and Snow and Lancelot are in the same vault-jungle, having swiped the dagger to return it for safekeeping. Snow is shocked to realize this is the setting for the vision she had of young Emma crushing her heart. That is not auspicious. As she and Lance debate about who’s going to put the dagger back in the tree, Arthur shows up and reveals the depths of his crazy obsession.
Here’s the truth: Five years ago, Arthur observed a lengthy goodbye between his wife and his Bro-celot, and Gwen fesses up that she was going to use the magic sand on Excalibur, but seeing how gone her husband is, she realizes she doesn’t want any of this anymore. So she gives him an ultimatum: the dagger or his marriage and his kingdom. Arthur chooses poorly and throws the magic dust on Guinevere, fixing what was broken inside of her.
Woof. I did not anticipate Arthur pulling a Willow on poor Gwen, who immediately apologizes for not being supportive enough. Magic sand-brainwashed wives before mean ol’ non-brainwashed wives! Then Arthur stands at the lone Camelot tower window and tosses the sand over his broken kingdom. Everything’s fixed but the sword.
NEXT: Hook on a horse [pagebreak]
Back to six weeks ago, Arthur forces Snow to hand over the dagger. He calls Emma, hoping to make her fix the sword so he can free Merlin, kill Merlin, snuff out the darkness and be the greatest king in all the realms
But Emma doesn’t appear because the dagger’s not real, and when Charming appears, Arthur realizes it was a trap. His feelings are wounded at the bro-trayal of the sacred trust of the Round Table. See, the Snow/Charming spat was real, but unlike certain legendary kings who rely on magic, they pulled together for the good of their daughter. When they reconvene at Granny’s to decide what to do with Arthur, Guinevere shows up with Arthur’s knights. Lancelot breathes her name, but she goes straight to Arthur. “I love him,” she says.
Lancelot, the smart cookie, immediately realizes that Arthur magic-sanded her. Gwen orders Lance to the dungeon — but not before she makes out with Arthur in front of him. Magic-abusing husband before loyal sidepieces!
And now the first couple of Camelot magic-sand the Charmings. First, how big is that bottle of sand? And second, are the Charmings really broken? I’d argue it’s more a difference of opinion than actual brokenness. But the sand does its brainwashing job, and Charming and Snow confuse the heck out of Regina and Robin when they return to the castle firmly Team Arthur.
Lancelot, meanwhile, is tossed into a cell, and a voice calls out to him. Hey, Merida! I’d recognize that accent anywhere. “An enemy of King Arthur is probably a friend of mine,” she tells him from the adjacent cell. Hey, Lance, she’s not married, sooo…probably not your type.
And what’s Emma been up to this episode, you ask? Her besotted good angel, Hook, is helping her shake bad angel Rumple. They’re both surprised when young Henry shows them to a secluded stable and admits he knows about it because he’s been making time with young Violet. At this, Hook can barely contain his glee. It’s adorable and paternal, and you can tell he desperately wants to high hook-five the little guy.
After Henry disappears to ride horses with Violet, Hook realizes he can banish the Rumple-voice by making Emma’s heart race. And he’ll do that by getting her astride…a horse. Curse you, ABC family hour! Hook urges Emma to approach the horse, which shies when she gets near. “I guess the pony’s smarter than the pirate,” head-Rumple snips.
Hook’s on to her now and tells her to block out the demon in her head. He asks her to put her faith in him and their future, promising, “I’ll never stop fighting for us.” And how heartbreaking is it to compare this scene to Hook telling Emma last week that he loved her, past tense? No doubt Hook’s still fighting to get his old Emma back.
Finally, Hook and Emma arrive in a clearing awash in pink roses, with head-Rumple nowhere to be found. They kiss, and we all swoon — even though we know that the Dark Swan will destroy this lovely relationship over the next six weeks
And speaking of: In present day Storybrooke, Dark Emma studies a pink rose as the real Rumple, now a revived blank slate, begs to be set free. “I can’t be the hero you want,” he pleads.
Emma disagrees. He’s going to get her Excalibur, and she’s got the tool to shape him: Merida, who’s been transported to Storybrooke. Emma snatches Merida’s heart from her chest and tells her to pick up her bow. “I need you to make him brave,” Emma commands. Welp, she’s picked the right lady for the job, that’s for sure.
Stray Odds & Ends:
- Emma seemed to be winning the fight with her darkness this week, thanks to Hook. What’s going to tip her over the edge?
- Even though Merlin’s already appeared in an episode, wouldn’t you love to see him come out of the tree as Titus Welliver. Let’s get some Man in Black up in here.
- It’s odd to see a seafarer like Hook so comfortable on a horse. He’s truly a man who only exists in fairy tales.
- How does Merida keep those curls from frizzing in what’s surely a humid dungeon?