TV Review: Once Upon A Time (5×04) ‘The Broken Kingdom’

Today’s episode was all about Arthur vs. Lancelot, and their various supporters – more notably Mary Margaret and David, who took opposite sides in this ship war, causing a rift in their relationship. This is also the first episode this season that took place mostly in Camelot with only one side trip to modern day Storybrooke, so we’ll say this entire episode was a flashback or a flashback within a flashback. Let’s get to the episode before I get too confused:

The episode begins with a flashback to when Arthur (Webb Hayes) and Guinevere (Dalila Bela) were village children and he takes her to the Merlin tree, only to tell her that the sorcerer trapped in the tree gave him a prophecy that he will one day be king. But of course because they are kids, a bunch of oafs bully Arthur for thinking he will be the king that will mend the ‘broken kingdom’ when he’s only a stable boy, but Guinevere believes him and tells him to ‘follow his heart.’

Flash forward to a couple of years in the future and older Arthur (Liam Garrigan) is pulling the incomplete sword out of the stone, as we saw in episode one of this season. Arthur, Lancelot (Sinqua Walls) and Percival (Andrew Jenkins) go back to Camelot, show them part of Excalibur and Arthur declares that he is their rightful king, before being reunited with Guinevere (Joana Metrass) so that she might become his queen. He also tells her that Merlin always speaks in half truths, so their quest has only just begun.

Back to the ‘six weeks ago’ modern Camelot (see this gets confusing) where Arthur is chatting to his new buddy, and fellow round table knight, David (Josh Dallas). He tells David that he needs the Dark One dagger in order to complete Excalibur and extinguish the darkness once and for all, and he asks David to help him. David looks really chuffed and honored and seems as if he’s seriously considering complying.

Somewhere else in the castle, Emma (Jennifer Morrison) hears voices calling to her, the Rumplestiltskin in her head reveals to her that it’s the Dark One dagger calling to her. She follows the voices to Regina’s room where she finds where Regina kept the dagger, however it’s under protective spells, and Head!Rumple tries to convince Emma to use her dark magic to remove the protection spells, but instead she attempts to blast away Head!Rumple and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) walks in. She admits to Hook that she’s been hearing Rumple in her head, and he comforts her, telling her he’s all too familiar with dark voices in one’s head. 

As Emma is trying to recover, David tries to encourage everyone to join Team Arthur because he is pretty sure Arthur can save Emma, Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) however, is not too keen, and she tells him that Lancelot told her that Arthur cannot be trusted. David is shocked because (1) Lancelot is alive, (2) Who dares to threaten his best bro Arthur, (3) When did Mary Margaret discover all of this? The two of them have a full out Team Arthur, Team Lancelot argument – like ugly, very married argument – she accused him of wanting to be a hero, he accuses her of trusting too easily. And it gets super awkward for Regina (Lana Parrilla) who’s just third-wheeling all of this.  

Back to post-pulling-the-sword-out-of-the-stone-Camelot we see Arthur furiously trying to translate a bajilion scrolls so that he might be able to find the dagger and complete Excalibur. Guinevere comes in and tries to coerce him to come and join the party outside and dance with her. He agrees, but once again she’s sitting all alone while everyone else is enjoying themselves, until Lancelot approaches her, with a ‘happy birthday’. And then we come to realize how intense Arthur’s obsession has gotten that he is willing to put his studies over his wife’s birthday. Guinevere and Lancelot dance, and we all know the legend so we know where that relationship is going. Arthur does however come rushing out of the study, searching for Guinevere, only to tell her he has a new clue and that he has to leave that very night to follow it. And the entire audience shakes their heads in disapproval at Arthur.

Back to ‘modern’ Camelot, and we discover just how serious David is about his bromances when he goes to Arthur and tells him everything – that they have the Dark One dagger, that Emma is the Dark One, that Lancelot is alive and Mary Margaret does not trust Arthur.

In a flash back to five years ago, Guinevere and Lancelot sneak out while Arthur is away with Merlin’s gauntlet in order to find the Dark One dagger. Merlin’s gauntlet has been used in previous seasons – Rumpelstiltskin used it to barter for Belle’s freedom, and she in turn used it to prove that Rumple was lying to her. However, this time it lead Guinevere and Lancelot to the Dark One vault (where Emma appeared on in the first episode of this season). Some weird black lashes of evil (the ones that went into Emma at the end of last season) surround Lancelot and Guinevere fights them off with fire, she reveals to Lancelot that she thought she lost him before she kisses him. And swiftly tells him that that can never happen again, they are there to find the dagger for Arthur, and they cannot forget that.

Flash forward and Guinevere overhears their conversation and says she wants Lancelot to pay for what he did to them. and David looks all confused being like ‘girl, as far as I know what happened between the two of you was the fault of both of you’ and Guinevere responds that he only knows the legend not the full story, making us become suspicious, if Lancelot is really who we think he is. David however tries to give Arthur the dagger but when he opens the box where it is kept, it is empty.

Mary Margaret enters an empty Granny’s, and Lancelot comes out of the shadows. She reveals she took the dagger and asks for Lancelot’s help to hide it and keep it away from Arthur so she can protect Emma.


 (ABC/Jack Rowand)

(ABC/Jack Rowland)

In a happier place, Hook and Henry (Jared Gilmore) take Emma to a stable where she can rest in peace and quiet and not be bothered by other people. When Hook asks Henry how he knows about the stable, he reveals this is where he meets up with a girl he met, and Hook seems delighted, teasing him about his young love. It’s an adorable, light moment, in an episode where everything is usually so dark and serious. Hook takes Emma horse riding in order to get her adrenaline up and allow her to be distracted from the voices in her head.

As Mary Margaret and Lancelot are traipsing through the Camelot forest, she asks him if he’s still in love with Guinevere and he says yes, he’ll always be in love with Guinevere. He seems awfully sincere as he says this, which makes us wonder that whatever transpired between him and good ole Guin, clearly wasn’t ended at his behest.

Flashback again, and Guinevere and Lancelot walk through a door that they find in the Dark One’s vault. They see the dagger in a tree type thing, but as Guinevere reaches to take it out, the magic repels her, and Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) is waiting for them there. He offers to trade Merlin’s gauntlet for magical sand from the mists of Avalon that can fix anything, and would give off the allusion that Excalibur is fixed so that Arthur can stop his obsession and be Guin’s husband again.


(ABC/Jack Rowland)

(ABC/Jack Rowland)


(ABC/Jack Rowland)

(ABC/Jack Rowland)

Lancelot takes Mary Margaret through the same route in hopes that the weird tree can protect the dagger again like it did against Guinevere. When she’s through the door, Mary Margaret remembers a vision she had last season where teenage Emma crushes her heart, and she fears that might be a clue as to what would happen once Emma has truly given in to the darkness. As Lancelot and Mary Margaret squabble about who should put the dagger in the tree, Arthur comes out of the magic door, sword in hand, demanding the dagger.

We learn that once Guinevere returned to the castle, after her mini quest aka love fest with Lancelot, she confessed to Arthur after the magical sand that she was going to use on Excalibur etc. Arthur also confessed that he witnessed the very touching goodbye between her and Lancelot before he left the kingdom. Awks. She tells him to choose – her or the sword – because she refuses to live like this, however he decides he isn’t one for choosing so he takes the magical sand and tosses it on Guin, making her a dutiful wife. They then toss some sand (there seems to be endless amounts of sand in this tiny bottle) on Camelot and it is no more the broken kingdom.

Crazy, obsessive Arthur however threatens to kill Lancelot if Mary Margaret doesn’t give him the dagger, which she does, because really you can only watch a friend die so many times. And then Arthur pulls the classic evil villain routine by revealing his entire evil plan before it is over *cue eye roll* tells them that he will use the dagger to command Emma to put Excalibur back together, will extinguish the darkness, get Merlin out of the tree and then kill Merlin (he’s had a lot of time to think about all of this). He tries to command Emma but it doesn’t work, and Mary Margaret tells him that the dagger isn’t real, and she and David (who appears by the door next) set up the whole thing so that Arthur could follow her and Lancelot and reveal his true intentions (dumb move Arthur though).

Mary Margaret, David, and Lancelot are deciding what to do with Arthur when Guinevere appears with Arthur’s knights to free him. Lancelot is first shocked by Guin’s actions before he realizes that Arthur must have used the magic Avalon sand on her to make her support his crazy man plans. She orders Lancelot to be thrown into the dungeons but not before first making him watch her make out with Arthur – well that wasn’t nice.


(ABC/Jack Rowland)

(ABC/Jack Rowland)

Mary Margaret and David are then alone with the crazy royal pair, where they smartly point out that if they are thrown into the dungeon their very resourceful friends with magic will come looking for them; they did arrive with a very large troop in Granny’s. But Guin and Arthur reveal that all they want is their help, and she reaches (AGAIN) in the light bottle and throws the magic sand at the Charmings as well. There has been a lot of magic sanding this episode.


(ABC/Jack Rowland)

(ABC/Jack Rowland)

Meanwhile, Lancelot is being tossed into the Camelot dungeons. His cellmate is revealed to be Merida (Amy Manson) who says to him ‘An enemy of King Arthur is probably a friend of mine” teasing a Lancelot/Merida team up. And yes, I ship it. Ship names? Merelot? Lancida? Brave Knight?

Regina and Robin (Sean Maguire) are waiting for the Charmings to return and when they ask them how the ruse went with Arthur, they say that Arthur was right all along, Lancelot was lying to them and they have to give the dagger to Arthur because he is the only one that can save Emma. Sigh. I’m starting to understand now why Dark One Emma is saying that they all let her down back in Camelot.

Captain Swan has a sweet moment after all the horse riding when she realized that Hook’s tricks worked and Head!Rumple was nowhere to be found. Hook said earlier that he would not give up on them (all the tears over last week’s break up). They kiss amongst a meadow of beautiful pink flowers (which is apparently Arthur and Guinevere’s signature flower).

The episode ends in present day Storybrooke (finally) when Emma is fingering the flower that she and Hook kissed amongst while real Rumple (who is chained up) tells her that she does not have to give in to the allure of darkness, he knows the temptation, and he says he can never be the hero that she wants him to be. Emma, however, reveals that she has a secret weapon to convince him.

We see Emma walking to her car and tied up to the front of the car is Merida, who is making all the surprise appearances this week. Emma takes Merida’s heart and tells her that she needs her to make Rumple…brave. Of course, throwing in the title of her film like she’s in an episode of CSI or something.

I enjoyed this episode, it was a good twist on the King Arthur legend without completely changing what we know – like they did with Peter Pan. It also helped to fill in some gaps with regards to the Camelot/Dark One plotline, and also some other plots in previous seasons such as with Merlin’s gauntlet, and why Lancelot left Camelot. I wasn’t too fond of them using the magic sand for everrrything, and there’s still lots I’m confused about regarding the missing three weeks but I’m hoping the next episodes will fill that.

Episode rating: 8/10

Caryn is a 26-year-old journalist from Cape Town, South Africa. She believes people will be more tolerable if they just watched more TV. Otherwise she's obsessed with movies, literally any book, comedy, Marvel, Harry Potter, and Halsey. Her dream is to one day marry Tom Hiddleston, or take over the world, whatever comes first.