TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.04

For future reference, I’ve decided to start referring to Hook by his real name (Killian) in these posts. It feels right to stop calling him by his more villainous moniker now that it couldn’t be clearer that he’s the romantic hero of this arc. In the same way I refuse to call Snow “Mary Margaret” and I tend to favor “Charming” over “David,” I want to use “Killian” to reflect who I think this character is at his core. But feel free to call him whatever name you feel most comfortable using in the comments!

Source: avclub.com

Source: avclub.com

Title Broken Kingdom

Two-Sentence Summary In flashbacks to Camelot’s past, the truth of the legendary Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot love triangle is revealed, shedding more light on Arthur’s obsession with finding the Dark One’s dagger. In the more recent past, Snow and Charming face a challenge when they don’t know who to trust, and Emma and Killian work to fight the darkness in her together.

Favorite Line “You tried to trick me with a catchy title and a comfy chair.” (Charming, to Arthur)

My Thoughts “True love isn’t easy, but it must be fought for. Because once you find it, it can never be replaced.”

Those words from Charming all the way back in Season One of Once Upon a Time were on my mind throughout much of “Broken Kingdom.” Once Upon a Time has always focused on the “true” part of “true love.” It’s something that cannot be faked; it must be chosen by both parties from a place of trust, hope, and belief. Love is a choice, and the truest love is chosen and fought for even when it’s hard—especially when it’s hard. That concept—fighting for love instead of taking the easy way out, accepting the imperfect realities of love instead of living with a façade of perfection—was at the heart of “Broken Kingdom,” which was my favorite episode so far in this stellar fifth season.

I’ll get this out of the way now: Yes, the timeline was ridiculously confusing in this week’s episode, and I hope one of the writers decides to address it at some point to clear things up. How could the Dark One appear to Guinevere and Lancelot when Rumplestiltskin was in Storybrooke five years ago? And even stranger, how could he just get possession of the gauntlet five years ago when he had it in flashbacks with Belle over 30 years ago? My explanation is that Camelot has always been considered a land outside of time, so maybe the passage of time is different there. But it would be nice to have an official word on that. However, I am more than willing to forgive inconsistencies like that if the story keeps me emotionally engaged, which this one definitely did.

This episode told the story of four romantic relationships: Arthur/Guinevere, Lancelot/Guinevere, Charming/Snow, and Killian/Emma. The way the writers created parallels and direct foils between those relationships was brilliant. It seems that one of the major themes of this season is “Love is a weapon,” and it’s clear that love is a weapon for good when the love is pure, true, and healthy. But it can be used as a weapon for evil when it’s twisted by darkness and manipulated by a desire to control rather than truly love. The same can be said of Excalibur, I think. It seems the Dark One wants to wield it for evil purposes—to snuff out the light and free itself from any ability to love. But there’s also the idea that Excalibur could defeat the darkness once and for all, which is a truly heroic goal.

Excalibur has always been associated with a worthy hero, and it was clear in this episode that Arthur is not worthy of wielding the re-forged sword. In order for the sword to become whole again, light and dark have to be combined, which I think is an interesting metaphor for heroism. A true hero is someone who understands darkness and light and knows that both exist in every person. A true hero chooses to be their best self and not their worst with full knowledge of both. While Arthur seems obsessed with maintaining the façade of perfect heroism and the Dark One seems to believe it can create a hero with Rumplestiltskin, I think Excalibur will only be able to be re-forged and wielded by someone who accepts their own capacity for good and evil and wants to wield the weapon for the right reason—as a weapon of love and light and not one of darkness and destruction.

The desire to re-forge Excalibur was a central part of this episode. It’s clear that Arthur has seen the sword as his birthright from the time he was a child—an orphan, as so many of the characters on this show are. Arthur’s story reminded me in certain ways of Rumplestiltskin’s backstory: He seemed to be a good kid who was pushed around and wanted the power to not be anyone’s punching bag anymore. And he found that power with one half of Excalibur, while Rumplestiltskin found it with the other half.

I appreciated the parallels between the Dark One and the man obsessed with trying to find its dagger, because they were unexpectedly clear and incredibly well done. Liam Garrigan did an amazing job of showing Arthur’s descent into a crazed kind of desperation for the power and legitimacy the dagger would give him. It became the focus of his life—so much so that it drove him to push away the woman he once loved so purely (The little glimpse we got of young Arthur and Guinevere was adorable.) and ultimately led him to commit terrible acts in the name of finding and using the dagger. Now who else does that sound like?

It broke my heart to watch Guinevere plead with her husband to take a moment away from his obsession to simply spend time with her on her birthday. It reminded me of Belle trying time and again to reach Rumplestiltskin at the height of his darkness and Killian trying to give Emma True Love’s Kiss after she embraced the darkness. I knew she would fail, because power is seductive. And that’s why it warmed my heart to see Lancelot give Guinevere a moment to feel loved, appreciated, and swept up in romance—because she deserved that. Guinevere isn’t just a queen; she’s a woman who deserves to feel wanted and chosen, much like I’ve always felt about Belle.

I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see Guinevere really fleshed out as a character this week (before her story broke my heart, of course). Her adventure with Lancelot was a reminder that this show does two things really well: developing female characters who are active participants in their own stories and developing male characters who love them for being take-charge leaders. And I found it very telling that Guinevere was able to save Lancelot from the darkness using the torch—the physical embodiment of the warmth and light of the love for him she was just starting to realize. (Confession time: I have always adored the forbidden love story of Lancelot and Guinevere, and I thought this retelling of it was wonderful.)

However, that love never got the chance to bloom. Both Lancelot and Guinevere made a choice—her to try to work on her marriage and him to leave Camelot. But their story isn’t over yet. I loved that Lancelot could tell that Guinevere wasn’t herself at the end of the episode. We’ve seen time and again that love can see through magical manipulations (Charming and the siren, Robin and Zelena disguised as Regina, Killian knowing Emma would say the things she’s been saying without the influence of the darkness), and I hope that Lancelot’s enduring love for Guinevere will help her break free of the magic keeping her from exerting her free will.

Choice is such an important part of Once Upon a Time, and taking away a person’s agency has been associated with darkness from the show’s earliest days. Regina casting the curse that made everyone live a life she chose for them; Zelena controlling Rumplestiltskin; Rumplestiltskin working with the Author to create a new story that robbed everyone of their sense of self; every instance of taking a heart (including Emma taking Merida’s heart at the end of the episode); and even Snow and Charming’s decision to remove Emma’s ability to choose darkness before she was born—these are all considered dark actions. But I’m not sure any of these examples upset me the way Arthur using the sands of Avalon to “fix” Guinevere upset me.

For as deplorable an action as it was for Arthur to strip Guinevere of her thoughts and feelings for his own selfish desires, it was one of the most impressive moments of the episode because of the way it brought so many pieces together. I have to give kudos to Joana Metrass for always playing the character as if something wasn’t quite right with her—as if she was always holding something back. At one point during this episode, I wondered if Arthur had taken her heart because her performance reminded me of characters who’ve had their hearts taken, and I wasn’t too far off. But even more than highlighting Metrass’s subtly impressive work so far this season, that excellent twist provided a clear look at all the ways Arthur has failed when it comes to being a hero.

On Once Upon a Time, heroes don’t take the easy way out. That’s the path of darkness, trying to find shortcuts and ways to manipulate people into thinking you’re something you’re not. But Arthur chose to use magic to fix his problems instead of putting in the hard work and taking the honest path in both his role as a leader and a husband. His kingdom is a sham because it has no real foundation, but the real crime is what he did to his wife. Instead of trying to work through their problems together and trusting that love could be enough, he chose to “fix” her with magic, when what she needed wasn’t someone to fix her but someone to love her and choose her.

Love isn’t about fixing another person; it’s about encouraging the person you love to be their best self. Love isn’t about not having any problems; it’s about facing problems together, as a team. No couple on this show represents that concept better and Snow and Charming. This was the best episode for those two characters in quite some time, and part of it was because their marriage provided such a neat foil for the Arthur/Guinevere “marriage.” I loved that this episode made Snow and Charming feel like a real married couple dealing with something very difficult: a child who, as Charming put it “is sick” and could hurt herself or others if they can’t get her help soon. Just like last week, there was a sense of desperation in Josh Dallas’s performance in Snow and Charming’s big fight scene that really worked for me. It was contrasted by the strongest, fiercest work we’ve seen from Ginnifer Goodwin in ages. It’s always hard to watch one of your favorite fictional couples fighting, but it’s a lot easier when it’s handled as well as that scene was handled.

As I watched this episode unfold, I found myself beyond aggravated with Charming and not exactly loving the parallel of Snow going behind his back with Lancelot just like Guinevere did in the flashbacks. But that made the reveal of Snow and Charming’s con even better. I was so proud of smart, savvy Snow when Arthur held up the dagger and she matter-of-factly told him, “She’s not coming.” (Excellent line delivery by Goodwin on that one.) And I was even prouder when Charming showed up, revealing that his supposed choice of Arthur over Snow was a ruse. “Broken Kingdom” was an episode in which nothing was as it appeared, and I loved how that was reflected in Snow and Charming’s victory—even if it was just a momentary one.

My favorite part of that scene was Snow and Charming admitting that their fight was very real. (Goodwin and Dallas’s perfect facial expressions in that moment spoke to how great it is to have a real married couple bringing this fictional marriage to life.) That’s what makes them different from Arthur and Guinevere; they disagree and face huge challenges all the time, but they choose to always put their love and their family above everything else. They work to fight for their love and the family it created every day; that’s what makes their love true, and that’s what makes them heroes. They’re teammates and partners, which is such a stark contrast from what the relationship between Arthur and Guinevere has become.

Snow and Charming fought together as heroes for their daughter, and that’s why it was so painful to see them fail her—not because they did something wrong but because Arthur and Guinevere’s “love” became a weapon of evil, turning Snow and Charming into another part of Arthur’s plan that needs “fixing.” It broke my heart to think that Emma believes her parents failed her, when they were fighting for her with all they had. It just wasn’t enough in the moment.

I’m very intrigued to see how Regina handles her interactions with this version of Snow and Charming. It was clear that she and Robin were uncomfortable with their initial request for the dagger. And what will their relationship with Emma be like when she gets back to the castle?

Speaking of Emma, her story in this episode also offered a plethora of direct comparisons to Arthur’s story. Arthur kept himself locked away as his connection to the darkness grew through his obsession with the dagger. In the same vein, Emma was locked away in her own mind, not telling anyone about the dark voice that never left her alone. It was just her and her dream catchers, her collection of “flypaper for nightmares.” However, Emma is living a nightmare that no dream catcher can save her from. I’m sure those dream catchers will also serve a greater purpose beyond being symbols of Emma’s inner torment. We’ve seen that they can be used to hold memories, which are conveniently missing in all the people Emma loves in the present-day Storybrooke timeline.

Arthur chose to work alone, but, in “Broken Kingdom,” Emma chose to let someone in to help her battle the demons inside her. In an episode that focused so strongly on someone wanting to fix a relationship they saw as broken by taking away a woman’s agency, I loved seeing the complete opposite of that with Emma and Killian. Instead of hiding her demons from Killian, Emma trusted him with her burdens. And she did so because she knew he wasn’t looking to fix her; he was looking to work through those burdens with her as partners.

At the beginning of the episode, we saw Emma referred to as a “patient” who could be set off by anything. (Was it just me, or did it seem like a connecting scene was missing that explained how Emma went from Killian’s arms to the state she was in later on?) While that may be true, it’s not easy to be surrounded by people who look at you with a mixture of fear and pity while you’re dealing with your own fears of your inner darkness. That’s why Killian’s attitude toward Emma in this episode was so important. He didn’t see as the Dark One or a patient. He sees Emma—his princess. He treated her like he always does, and for a few moments, that made her feel like herself again.

That included being able to feel like herself as a mother, which we got to see in that adorable scene in which Killian and Emma learned about Henry’s crush on Violet. That scene was wonderful because it felt like a real moment between a protective mom, a nervous teenage boy, and a proud future stepdad who is both sincerely happy for Henry and also happy to tease him about it a little. Killian is such a romantic, and I loved seeing that extended toward an appreciation for Henry’s first love. It was a moment of happiness (and excellent facial expressions/eyebrow wiggling from Colin O’Donoghue), and happiness was something Emma (and the audience) needed to counteract the darkness swirling around her. It seemed fitting that Henry and Killian would be the two people to provide her with some levity in her life’s darkest period.

That darkness was something Emma trusted Killian with, and it was clear that her trust wasn’t something he took for granted. For someone like Emma—who grew up handling everything from skinned knees to pregnancy on her own—to be able to admit to Killian that she’s not okay says a lot about how much she trusts him. And what I loved most about that moment of confession was that he didn’t even flinch; he simply told her that he understood what she was going through because he also battled demons in his head during his struggle with his own darkness. He empathized rather than going straight to pity or fear, and that’s exactly what Emma needed.

True love can only exist where there is true honesty. By taking away Guinevere’s ability to be her true self, Arthur destroyed any chance of true love existing between them. However, Killian has always accepted Emma for exactly who she is, and she’s learning to be more open about exactly who she is with him. Now, that includes the fact that she is burdened with terrible darkness. But Killian is not a man who gives up easily; he’s always been one of the most devoted and determined characters on Once Upon a Time. And now that devotion and determination are being used for the purest cause imaginable: helping Emma fight the darkness so they can have a happy future together, picket fences and all. It’s not going to be easy; Killian knows that better than anyone, but he believes it’s worth the effort. Their future is worth the hard work; their love is worth fighting for. And his sincere belief in their future (No one does sincerely romantic line readings like O’Donoghue) inspired Emma to believe in it, too. That’s what will defeat the darkness—not a plan built on lies and manipulative magic—but true, sincere love.

As Emma and Killian rode away on a horse in pretty much the most stereotypically romantic fashion imaginable, I was struck by the idea that this show is creating a new fairytale for these two characters, and it’s turning into something truly beautiful. And so much of its beauty comes from its emphasis on choice. Emma chose to believe that Killian could be her own personal dream catcher, keeping the nightmares away for even a moment. And it worked. They both put their faith in their love, and it was rewarded. They believed their love could be enough, which was something Arthur could never do.

Jennifer Morrison’s face upon realizing that the voices in her head had stopped was the picture of awestruck love and light. There was a glow about her that contrasted so well with both the exhaustion she’s shown in Camelot and the hard edges she’s shown in Storybrooke. For one moment, love was enough to bring light into the dark spaces in her mind. (How beautiful was the soft, ethereal lighting in that scene, too?) And that gave the characters and the audience hope (especially upon seeing Emma in her full Dark One glory still gently holding the rose he gave her). Killian’s determination, belief, and ability to reach the woman underneath the Dark One are the heroic traits needed to help her find her true self again—just like he helped her find a respite from the darkness in that field of flowers.

For one sweepingly romantic moment, Emma Swan wasn’t living in a nightmare. Instead, she was living in the peace of being loved for exactly who she was and in the comfort of knowing she had someone willing to fight for her and beside her, to be the light in her darkness the way she was for him. That final overhead shot of Emma and Hook kissing in the middle of the flowers was gorgeous. The cinematography and direction were the stuff of epic romances, and they highlighted the fact that Emma and Killian are becoming the hero and heroine of a brand-new fairytale romance, which is every bit as beautiful as the ones we all know and love.

“Broken Kingdom” showed us characters who want to take the easy way out, as well as characters who know that the only things worth having are things you have to fight for. It showed us relationships that are nothing but facades and others built on the truest kinds of love. The hero’s path is the path of hard work, honesty, and love. Arthur strayed from that path because he was obsessed with keeping up the appearance of being a hero. And Emma strayed from that path for reasons still unknown to us. But she still has heroes willing to fight for her to find the hero inside herself again. I can’t wait to watch those who love her continue to fight for her—because true love must be fought for. And we all know true love will win in the end.

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36 thoughts on “TV Time: Once Upon a Time 5.04

  1. Thank you for this. I am constantly amazed at how this show can tell a love story that continues to be compelling and fun to watch while not being boring or contrived. And my absolute favorite thing about this show is how the characters are consistent. I never have to yell at the TV “NO, Killian would NEVER say that!” Ever. And I agree…I’ve started calling him Killian too when talking about him in this season. 🙂

    • Thank YOU for this comment! As someone who’s watched her fair share of TV love stories get boring and contrived over the years, I really do appreciate how this show manages to write so many love stories in a way that still feels fresh and engaging.

  2. Great recap. Who doesn’t love to analyze foils? 🙂

    Oddly enough, the timeline issues flew right past me. It was the scope of Camelot that bothered me. (Really? Does it even qualify as a village?Shouldn’t Camelot — even “broken kingdom” Camelot — feel a little more epic?) Later I realized they must have blown the budget on the time machine to cast the younger Guinevere and Arthur.

    Initially, I assumed that Arthur saw Excalibur as some type of charm — that without it, he could not rule. I saw his obsession with Excalibur as an obsession with being a worthy ruler. I sympathized. He seemed like someone who kept chasing the pain after one bad choice. Then he used the dust on Guinevere. At that point, Arthur was dead to me. (I may have yelled something to that effect at my TV.) His willingness to engage in such wholesale deception was just sickening — he’d willingly trade the appearance for reality. Creating the reality would be hard . . . the appearance just takes a little magic. I cannot WAIT until it comes crashing down around him.

    With Lancelot, we see someone willing to sacrifice for love. He gave Guinevere her birthday party and did it Arthur’s name. He gave up the possibility for a future relationship because it wouldn’t be right. He was willing to sacrifice his happiness. I also loved that Lancelot seemed to have a better grip on Guinevere’s character than Arthur did. He knew she’d try to sneak out of the village. He knew she was capable of finding the dagger. He knew she was capable of ruling.

    I, too, LOVED that Snow and Charming’s fight was real. Real couples fight. They have disagreements. I also LOVED how they handled it — they put Emma first . . . and then worked as a team to address the problem. And then to have that cleverness taken away by Arthur? You are DEAD to me!

    Oh, mischievous Killian. How I have missed you. His utter glee at Henry’s crush (and Emma’s response to Henry) was a joy to behold. I think I may have missed a few lines because I was laughing so hard. It’s just another great example at how good Killian is at enjoying the small moments. That grin . . .

    I’m not sure I can put together coherent thoughts on the Emma/Killian scenes right now. For now, I’ll simply point out that it’s wonderful to see the focus on trust. Trusting him left no room for the darkness. He’s there to help her work through the darkness herself.

    I am curious about Merlin in the tree . . .how long has he been there? Is he really even in the tree? Did Arthur hear Merlin or someone else? Could Arthur be making it up? Given some of the specific prophecies, probably not, but still . . . .

    • Analyzing foils has been one of my favorite things to do since my Shakespeare units back in high school. Glad to know I’m not alone! 😉

      I’m also glad I’m not the only one who screamed things at Arthur when he used the sand on Guinevere. Although I think mine might have had more than a couple of profanities in there. 😉 Like you, I am so excited to see him get his comeuppance and to watch the kingdom he built on a false foundation crumble around him. I have so many ideas for who I’d want running Camelot after he’s defeated, but right now, Lancelot and Guinevere reunited as an epic team top my list.

      I loved everything you had to say about Lancelot and sacrifice. Arthur thought he could have everything he wanted, and that was contrasted perfectly with Lancelot being willing to sacrifice so much for Guinevere. And then to think about him carrying that love with him away from Camelot and marrying Snow and Charming all while knowing he’ll never have that with the woman he loves…It’s a lot to think about, and it’s making me very emotional. 😉

    • I am looking forward to learning more about Merlin as well! I am not a big fan of prophecies myself (I get super defensive when terms like fate and destiny get thrown around because I am such a huge defender of free will), and it didn’t seem like much good came from Rumple being able to see parts of the future. One of my favorite parts of Arthur’s descent was him yelling that Merlin speaks in half-truths. I wonder if we will ever get to know if Arthur was mislead on purpose, if Arthur interpreted the prophecy wrong, or Merlin himself misread the future. Or, maybe even better, it was in fact Arthur’s free will that ended with the prophecy not coming true. He had the potential, but he squandered it by choosing power over love, and now a new champion must be found.

      I am such a huge fan of this Henry has a crush story and the fact that essentially 6 parents (Regina/Emma/Hook/Robin/Charming/Snow) have feelings about it. Poor Henry, being a teenager is hard enough without having 6 adults hovering over you (maybe even more if Belle gets involved!). Are they all going to fight over who is going to give Henry “the talk”?!

      • I’m interested to see what approach they take to Merlin. His “prophecies” are slightly difference since (in many versions) he’s living backwards in time. He isn’t predicting what will happen, he’s simply relating what, for him, already has happened. For Merlin, it’s history not prophecy.

        However, given OUAT’s emphasis on choice, I imagine there’s free will involved in this version of Merlin and his prophecies. For instance, when Merlin confronted Emma, he gave her advice — a choice: Don’t pull Excalibur from the stone. He didn’t predict what she would do, but warned her against a dangerous path. I wonder if Merlin did the same with Arthur — if he predicted the opportunity. We’ve only had Arthur’s word for what Merlin said to him. I’ve been going on the theory that Arthur misinterpreted Merlin, but I also really like your idea that Arthur squandered his potential. Either way, Arthur (who is currently dead to me) is responsible for his actions.

        Oh, and poor Henry. I still giggle thinking about Killian’s glee and Regina’s “who is that girl with my son?” I’m having fun imagining the scene about who does (or doesn’t) give Henry “the talk.”

  3. Love your reviews! Although they are often longer than usual, I take it as an opportunity to exercise my English 🙂
    About the timeline, I was trying to keep in mind that the entirety of Enchanted Forest kept frozen for 28 years, so that means they could go both ways, “5 years ago” or “35 years ago” (considering it’s been over a couple years since the curse was broken), so… I guess they’ve made a choice, not a fan of it, but I kinda get it.
    Well, that’s what I think, and it holds if you think of all that stuff with Rumple, the Gauntlet and Lancelot meeting the Charmings happenning more or less around the same year.

    Makes sense?

    • Thank you! After seeing a tweet from Adam Horowitz yesterday, your explanation about the timeline appears to be the right one—so nice work interpreting something that had the rest of us super confused!

    • I thought the same thing about the 5 years, especially if you consider they were n stasis for 28 years and Camelot probably doesn’t even realize it. So for Camelot, it probably was 5 years ago.

  4. I agree with all of this post. I have to say as well that I really love that one of the themes that they keep reinforcing is that if you put your lust for power above everything else, it will destroy you in the end. That quest corrupts everything and it never, ever pays off in the long run – even if ‘the long run’ is hundreds of years (looking at you, Rumple). But I also like that the show will often make sure to show you HOW that happens – with Rumple, Regina, Hook, even Arthur, you can easily see how they ended up where they were and just how easy it is to slip down a very dark path until you don’t even recognize yourself anymore.

    And then they offset it with the message that love can save you from that. Whether it’s you yourself fighting for love making you into a better person or someone you love fighting for you, the message is always that even though it’s hard and might seem like it’s not worth it compared to the immediate gratification of having a lot of power or controlling a lot of people, in the end, the only way to true happiness is through some type of love. And it’s not restricted to romantic love, it can be parental or love between friends, but it’s always the answer.

    • I loved the way you broke down the defining theme of the series: selfish power vs. selfless love. And you’re right; this show does a great job of showing exactly how lusting after power and choosing that over love will take you down a dark path. And it also shows how making the choice to put love first will help you make your way out of the darkness.

      And I totally agree about different types of love being the answer. That’s what so important about Emma’s story right now—it includes every kind of love: parental love, love between friends, and romantic love.

  5. I’m glad you’ve decided to start calling him Killian…I’ve been calling him that for a long time, and so has Emma. I actually bristle a little when people call him Hook, because he’s self identified from day one as Killian, and he’s asked Emma a few times to call him by his real name. I think it’s really important to him to be recognized as the good man that he is, and not to be thought of as the ruthless villain that he used to be.

    • I’m glad the change in my wording works for you. To be honest, though, I don’t really mind too much when fans still call him Hook. It’s what all the characters called him for such a long time that it became the default, and I know I called him Hook for so long because that’s what most people were familiar with. It had less to do with how I actually interpreted the character and more about using the name most people used for him. So I get both sides: why fans only want him to be called Killian and why fans are still more comfortable calling him Hook.

  6. While I was a bit frustrated at the lack of progress on the present day Storybrooke side of things (there are downsides to the Season 5 plot being so dang interesting!), I can also appreciate how well this story works as a stand-alone fairytale. It’s the dramatic contrast between all the couples that really makes this story successful even within the larger framework of the season. And really, it was just so nice to see Charming and Snow kicking butt as a team again.

    “But Arthur chose to use magic to fix his problems instead of putting in the hard work and taking the honest path in both his role as a leader and a husband.” I love this lesson, and I don’t really care how many times OUAT uses it. We might not have magic in our world, but there are plenty of people that try to cheat their way to the top. At least in OUAT they never win.

    There were a lot of little moments I loved in this one, most of which you covered. Killian (I find it much harder for me to call him Killian when he is in that very pirate-y Camelot outfit) and Emma in the barn with Henry was my favorite. I just kinda want to re-watch Killian say “Is there in-deed?” with that giddy grin on his face over and over forever. Emma questioning her mother side being scarier than the Dark One. Snow’s “Oh, the fight was real”. Even Regina’s “I get antsy when I don’t know who to hate”. Also, this episode reminded me the word “masonry” is not used enough IMO.

    During this episode I kept being reminded of other fairytales and Disney movies. When Gwen is pleading with Arthur to come to her birthday, I couldn’t help but think of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and Scooge’s obsession with his money losing him his fiancé. And when Killian was asking Emma to trust him and join him on the horse, I couldn’t help but think of the magic carpet ride from Aladdin (which is one of my all-time favorites). I also got a flashback to Emma and Hook’s Neverland exchange “You really think so?”/”Ive yet to see you fail” when Emma was asking if they could get back to a white picket fence life. But unlike Neverland, now it’s not just about Killian believing in Emma, its about him believing in them as a couple, and it makes me a tad emotional (ok a lot emotional).

    I co-sign your praise of the woman playing Gwen. These past few episodes I have felt a major “zombie” quality about her, and it all makes much more sense now. I enjoyed the Gwen we got to see go on a quest with Lancelot. I still cant tell if they meant to have Lancelot/Gwen parallel to Hook and Milah on some level (although Gwen/Lancelot are higher on the nobility scale for sure). Rumple told Gwen that he knows what happens when a woman’s heart is “torn between duty and desire”…”believe me, it never ends well”. I assumed he was talking about Milah there, and I like to think Rumple uses the term “desire” instead of “love” because he is bitter and trying to make her feel guilty. But on the other hand, I do think when Gwen tells Arthur she is going to follow her heart, she wasn’t necessarily talking about running off with Lancelot either (Milah running off with Hook wasn’t really about Hook either at the time). I think Gwen was just tired of living a life built on lies. Either way, Rumple and Arthur both did not take kindly to being rejected, and ugh, Arthur couldn’t have done a worse thing to Gwen.

    A part of me was hoping that Arthur actually had a more noble motivation for protecting Camelot, but I suppose we are just supposed to accept that he just kinda “snapped” and ruling is just an obsession he cannot let go of. I am still processing if I find that a satisfying plot development (but it does pair nicely with the Dark One’s need for power and control). I think I need to see how it all plays out. Even if Merlin does turn out to be on the side of good, he seems like kind of a jerk to place such a large burden on a kid. Perhaps Merlin did believe Arthur was meant to fulfill the prophecy at the beginning, and at some point in the journey he just went astray. (side note: if some 12 year old kid told me that he was given a prophecy that we were going to be married someday, I would have been majorly freaked out. Not cool Merlin/Arthur).

    Questions:

    -Is the stone inside of the round table the stone that they pulled Excalibur from? I believe you can see when they return to the village from the sword quest that they brought the stone back with them.

    -The timeline doesn’t really bother me, but what confused me the most is how the swirly vortex of evil was inside the vault, but also inside of Rumple at the same time? And why was there what looked to be a nameless dagger when Rumple was the dark one? Please tell me there isn’t more than one of these things running around!

    • Side note, I assumed Rumole was talking about Milah (duty vs desire), but perhaps he meant Cora? Both? Everyone on this show at some point? Ugh it’s going to bug me.

      • I also thought Arthur’s motivations were going to be a bit more noble — I thought (or hoped because I thought it would be interesting) it would be the desperation of a good man. Evidently, the writers are going more for Dark One parallels.

        Did not catch the Aladdin allusion. So, glad you pointed that out. Great catch on a Christmas Carol, too.

        I loved all the little moments you mentioned — they were some of my favs, too. I could completely sympathize with Regina’s desire to identify the bad guy.

        I’m also curious about exactly who Rumple was referring to regarding duty v desire (himself?). I don’t have an answer, but I will be your partner in confusion.

    • There is a lot about this comment that I love. I was also missing more of the present day Storybrooke story but Snow and Charming kicking butt as team was wonderful to see.

      I now love the horseback riding scene even more now that you pointed out the similarities to Aladdin’s “do you trust me” before the magic carpet ride.

    • Your Aladdin parallel is currently making me very emotional. As is your comment about the similarities between the scene with the horse and the “I’ve yet to see you fail” moment (which is still one of my all-time favorites—yes, the “When I win your heart” part was great, but it was “I’ve yet to see you fail” that really made that whole scene for me). It’s incredible to think that those two characters have come far enough to openly talk about, want, and hope for a “white picket fence life” together. And don’t even get me started on the fact that Dark One Emma actually has a white picket fence…

      I also really liked what you had to say about Merlin putting a lot of pressure on a little kid. That’s a running theme on this show—the ridiculous responsibilities kids are put under because of prophecies/magic/etc. And many of them deal directly with Merlin: Arthur, Lily, and Emma were all burdened with the weight of his words about them when they were far too young to deal with them (or unborn, in the case of Emma and Lily). Magical beings are always super shady in this universe (Blue, Grand Pabby the troll, etc.), so I’m very intrigued to see what OUAT will make of Merlin.

      • I agree that the responsibilities of prophecies do put pressure on people, but It seems to me that it’s the way people keep interpreting these prophecies that makes it worse. I’m curious to know what Merlin actually said to Arthur. I’m wondering if the prophecy was something designed to give Arthur hope, and Arthur is the one who twisted it to an obsession. We know Merlin told Emma what she should when given the opportunity. He still left the choice open to her. Snow and Charming were told about Emma’s capacity for darkness . . .not that it was guaranteed. They were the ones who panicked (and seemed to miss the part about the need to guide her as she grew). Lily kept claiming that all her choices turned about bad (no matter what she did), but she was making a lot of bad choices to begin with. Emma’s original role was end the curse, not to necessarily save everyone from everything all the time.

        I’m curious to hear other views, though.

        • You make excellent points, here. I’m still so baffled by why Emma still has to be the “savior” after breaking the curse (which I know we’ve talked about here at length), and why there’s even still a “savior” role without a curse to break (and with other people who have broken curses since then). I get why Emma personally feels responsible for bringing back happy endings for everyone (I think that’s more about who she is and her desire to help others than her “title”), but why does everyone else still buy into the “savior” thing?

          I think that’s another reason why Hook is so perfect for Emma—he wasn’t “saved” by her breaking the curse, so he’s never treated her by that role. She helped him save himself by simply being herself, and I’ve always loved that about their relationship; she—Emma, not the savior—is his happy ending, and he tells her that.

          (Sorry about the tangent…I still have a lot of feelings about all this, apparently.)

          • Ohhh, good point. I hadn’t thought about the fact that Killian wasn’t someone Emma saved from the original curse and the implications for their dynamic . . .

            Tangent? That was a tangent? Seemed like a logical progression to me. 🙂 Plus don’t you get unlimited tangents since it’s your blog? (Just do like Melville . . . “And now, dear Reader, let us depart from the path . . .” I’m pretty sure it’s Billy Budd he does that in.)

        • I think my issue with prophecies is that by simply stating something might happen, it changes the decisions people make. They panic and make stupid decisions they wouldn’t have even thought to make otherwise if you had left them alone. Rumple had it right in the 3B finale when he told Emma he didn’t want to know anything about the future because he succeeded not knowing, and then he erased his memories at the end to be sure. Same with Regina forgetting Emma’s name so she wouldnt let her paranoia impact her ability to raise Henry. Nothing good ever comes from knowing the future, and Meriln appearing to young Emma is still one of the most frustrating parts of the season so far for me, becuase I just don’t see how telling someone they shouldn’t do something in the future would ever turn out to be a smart thing to do. We haven’t even offically met Merlin yet and I kinda want to give him a piece of my mind. Stop screwing with people’s lives man!!

  7. So glad I found your blog. I’ve been reading straight recaps…and funny but not really insightful ones about OUAT. Thanks for reminding me of the bigger themes behind the show that drew me to it in the first place.

    • I’m glad you found us, too! I always strive to make these post different from any other you’ll find about OUAT on the Internet, and I’m so glad there are other people out there who also want to look at and talk about the show the way I do. 🙂

  8. Loved your review as always, and agree completely. I’d definitely be curious what you think of the post I wrote, since I also contrasted the various love stories. http://www.loladrake.com/FangirlForum Your insights into Killian and Emma are spot on, as always – and I agree with you, it makes sense to call him Killian from now on. It’s interesting to wonder if Arthur really did hear Merlin, or if someone else could be misleading him? His use of the sands is a poignant counter to the power of choice that, as you rightly pointed out, has always been a crucial element of this show – and is a theme that will most likely continue since he wants to use the dagger to control Emma if he does get his hands on it. I also love that Killian gave Emma the choice to confide in him rather than trying to force a confession out of her before she was ready. Their love story is epic, and better than so many of our childhood fairytales. If only love stories like that existed in the real world! Wouldn’t we all love a guy like Killian? Guyliner and all 😉

    • I think I speak for many of us when I say, of course we would all love a guy like Killian—especially with the guyliner. 😉

      Your post was great, Laura—I feel like this episode brought a lot of strong writing out of my fellow OUAT fangirls who also love to write about the show.

  9. Arthur is terrible. Not only is he unwilling to put in the hard work to actually be a worthwhile leader because he feels the throne is owed to him, but he’s manipulative and gross on top of that. I haven’t had a very strong opinion watching him so far this season, other than an impression that they shouldn’t trust him but I have an opinion now and it’s that he’s the worst.

    Seeing Snow and Charming under his control at the end hurt after the wonderful episode they have. I had forgotten how much I love these two and love seeing Josh and Ginny work together. Their fight, right down to Snow asking Regina to give them some privacy, felt like a fight real people would have. It wasn’t a fight where they talked around each other or were trying to hide something from their spouse. It was a fight you have when you both feel passionately about something and just happen to see different ways to accomplish the same goal. When Charming went to Arthur, I was amused at the similarities between his actions and Killian’s back in Storybrooke. Even after you told me to keep watching, I wasn’t prepared for the perfection that was their reveal to Arthur.

    Snows’s “She’s not coming” was one of my favorite line readings by Ginny and I could not wipe the smile off my face at their partnership and how strong these two are together. This is the kind of marriage I love to see on TV. They still clearly adore each other, as we saw last week, and when they work together, nothing can stand in their way. They reminded me of Ben and Leslie in their teamwork and in Snow’s determination. This is the version of the couple and these two characters that I love the most and I’m so happy this arc is giving it to us.

    In other things I loved, how cute was Killian’s face at the idea of Henry’s crush? This less tormented version of Killian is fantastic. He spent 300 years being dark and broody and now he’s getting giddy over his future stepson’s first crush and taking his love on horseback rides. He is exactly what Emma needs right now. He had to overcome his own darkness to get to a point where he is able to help her through hers. And sometimes that comes from lending a supportive ear and sometimes that comes from just getting her out of her own head and he did that in a big way for Emma in this episode.

    • You know that bringing Ben and Leslie up in a comment is an instant way to my heart. 😉 And, of course, I totally agree with the comparison. When Snow and Charming work together and feel strongly about what they’re fighting for, no one in all the realms gets the job done like they can.

      I also really liked the point you brought up about their fight—it wasn’t the cliched TV drama where spouses hide things from each other; it felt like a real fight between two married people who are at wits’ end about how to approach an impossible situation and can’t seem to come together about how to deal with it. That’s the kind of drama and conflict I’m here for, and I love that this show gives it to us.

      Your thoughts on Killian were perfect, too. I really like that he’s become so much lighter and less tormented in Camelot to contrast Emma’s struggle with her darkness. While everyone else is stressing out and walking on eggshells around her, he’s just trying to find reasons to be happy and to make her happy—because he knows that’s what she needs. He’s putting aside his own worries about her to be exactly the kind of person she needs, which is someone who still treats her the way he always did and always will—as Emma, his princess, and the person he’s at his happiest being around. And that’s such a stark contrast to the way we saw him deal with the Dark One last week (because he knows the Emma that existed in Camelot—his Emma—wouldn’t want him to treat the Dark One the way he treated her), which is a testament to both the writing of Killian as a character and Colin O’Donoghue’s performance.

  10. I thought Colin put it nicely in the season 2 bluray, Hook is calculating while Killian lives in the moment and I feel like that’s been a fairly consistent description of him still.

    I love it when we have these small moments in the episode where Killian takes aside and comforts her. He did it in Mother and did it again in this past episode.

    It makes me more and convinced that true love’s kiss will ultimately save Emma but she has to choose it over the darkness.

    I also loved seeing the contrast of Arthur and Guinevere’s relationship. That’s a miserable and lonely marriage for her, to feel unloved and neglected for so long. I think Arthur really does love her but as you pointed out, it’s not a healthy love at all because he took away her free will with magic dust. That’s not how to fix a relationship and I hope at some point, Gwen is freed and she rips into Arthur for taking that away from her.

    I also think it highlights beautifully the importance of free will in a relationship. Killian loves Emma so much that he respects her free will and values it, never taking it for granted. For Emma, you know that has to be one of the things she truly loves about him.

    As much as I couldn’t stand parts of 4B, Charming and Snow never violated each other’s free will. They didn’t have too because they respect and love each other. Arthur loves Gwen but I don’t think he respects her.

    I also think it’s starting to become a little more clear about why Emma thinks her parents failed her.

    • I definitely agree with your points about free will being so important in relationships. The healthiest relationships on the show are all ones in which free will is valued, respected, and honored.

      I’m not so sure Arthur really does love Guinevere anymore. I think he did love her when they were kids and he did love her as they grew up together, but I don’t think he used the sand because he loved her and didn’t want to lose her—I think he used the sand because he needed a queen by his side to complete his ideal image of himself as a ruler. But that’s just my absolute disgust with him coming through. (Can you tell I think he’s THE WORST??)

      • That’s possible too. Arthur is totally obsessed with making his claim as King legitimate. He needs the sword whole and he needs a Queen too. But I think he really loves her too. It’s been said in different articles that he has an eternal love for her.

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