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REVIEW: Once Upon a Time 5×04 “The Broken Kingdom”

Finally, Once Upon a Time didn’t try to trip us up by traveling to a billion different time periods and locations in one episode! Well, we did have to watch the story unfold in Past-Camelot and Way-Past-Camelot, but at least we weren’t venturing back to Storybrooke as well! It was just pure Camelot for the full hour, except for that last few minutes, but more on that later. Overall, “The Broken Kingdom” was a damn good time that gave us a little more background on some of the more under-developed characters. (spoilers ahead!)

In Way-Way-Past-Camelot, we see little Arthur telling little Guinevere about how Merlin, now trapped in a magical tree, predicted that he would one day be a great ruler and pull Excalibur from the stone. It’s here that we find out how far back Arthur and Guinevere’s relationship goes. In the past couple of episodes, we discovered that Arthur banished Lancelot because he made a move on the queen. Now we realize just how much of an impact it had made on Arthur, and why he absolutely despises Lancelot for his treachery.

Now we head to Past-Camelot, during the Storybrookers’ visit to the kingdom. Arthur wants to obtain the Dagger of the Dark One, and he’s willing to do whatever he can to get it. David succumbs to the guilt of keeping the Dark One a secret from Arthur and reveals that he knows where the dagger is hidden. Meanwhile, Mary Margaret is meeting with Lancelot, who claims that the dagger must not fall into Arthur’s hands and that he is not to be trusted. At first, I got rather frustrated because I was tired of the entire “he said, she said” shtick with Lancelot and Arthur. Don’t keep doing this. It’s tedious. I get that both of them want to save their own hides, but we as viewers don’t want to sit through that. Just cut through all that and get to the good part.

Jumping back into the Way-Past Camelot, we see Arthur pull the sword from the stone, but he discovers that the blade isn’t whole. He needs the dagger to complete it. This causes him to spiral into a deep obsession that forces him to neglect Guinevere. Feeling neglected and unloved, Guinevere turns to Lancelot, who has gone out of his way to make her happy. Together, they decide that they must find the dagger so that the old Arthur will come back.

During their journey to find the dagger, they have a slight fling. I get why they kissed, but that doesn’t make it entirely okay. I kinda felt bad for Arthur. His obsession was taking over his life, and while his wife definitely tried to support him, she ended up betraying him. It’s not fair to anybody involved.

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At the end of their journey, instead of obtaining the dagger, Lancelot and Guinevere are given a special powder called the Sands of Avalon, which will let them make something broken become whole again. Once again, we have an incredibly specific substance that just happens to work in favor of our protagonists. How many times is the show going to pull this concept? We’ve seen it before with Merlin’s Gauntlet, the Blue Fairy’s Wand, the Sorcerer’s Hat, etc. I can’t complain about the powers of items in a show based around magic, but enough with the specific abilities! It almost seems like lazy writing at this point. “We need a way for the characters to accomplish this specific task. I got it! We’ll turn an arbitrary item into a magical tool that does EXACTLY what they need. Genius!”

The Sands of Avalon were intended to repair the broken blade of Excalibur, but instead, Arthur uses it to mend the broken relationship between him and Guinevere, and then uses it to repair his broken kingdom. Later on, he uses it as a way to make David and Mary Margaret forget about their alliance with Lancelot and instead trust him. What exactly was the sand supposed to be fixing in that situation? Broken trust? Did I miss something? See what I mean about the lazy writing and the items doing exactly what is needed?

At the end of the episode, Lancelot gets thrown in the dungeon by Arthur and a brain-washed Guinevere. In the dungeon, Lancelot sees that he’s not alone. Merida is back! Good ol’ Merida! It looks like they’re going to be teaming up in future episodes. Yes! Maybe we can get a little background on both of them since they haven’t been exactly fleshed out thus far in the series.

Merida isn’t just back in Past-Camelot, though. Traveling to present-day Storybrooke, we find Emma holding Merida as her temporary prisoner. The Dark Swan rips Merida’s heart out and commands her to help Rumplestiltskin be brave. Like, she literally says “I need you to make him brave.” I don’t care if it’s cheesy; that line was awesome!

So it looks like next episode of Once Upon a Time may heavily revolve around Merida, and I’m okay with that. I’m interested to learn more about her background as well as Lancelot’s, and I’m also really excited to see how exactly she intends to make Rumpel brave.

Final Grade: B

+ Merida is back!

+ “I need you to make him brave.” – Ahhhh they did the thing!

+ I’m glad we were in Camelot for a majority of the episode; I was worried that we’d be constantly switching between Storybrooke, past-Camelot, and way-past-Camelot.

+ It was refreshing to find out exactly why Arthur has a grudge against Lancelot, and why Guinevere seems so loyal to Arthur.

– More incredibly specific objects! This time, we have the Sands of Avalon.

– I’m not thrilled with Joana Metrass as Guinevere; her performance is rather lackluster.

– Lancelot feels like a hollow character; it’s like he’s just… there? I think he needs a little more background.

Extra Thoughts:

– Arthur mentioned that he intends to kill Merlin in order to eliminate the darkness. I think this may confirm my earlier suspicions that Merlin was the first Dark One.

What do you think Merida and Lancelot will do to escape the dungeon? What happened in Camelot to truly turn Emma over to the dark side? Tell us what you think in the comments or on Twitter!

About the author

Alex Reale

From a young age, Alex knew he was destined to be a writer. He also harbored a deep infatuation with superheroes and comics. Luckily, he was able to combine these two passions through his role with A Place to Hang Your Cape, where he works as Junior Sidekick and Social Media Hero.

When he’s not writing for AP2HYC or working full-time as a content manager for a small business website, Alex is diligently at work on other creative projects including a fantasy novel collection and an independent comic series.

You can find Alex's first book, Dodger's Doorway, on Amazon!