The burn may be slow, but we are finally getting a feel for the overarching themes and underlying motivations for season 5 of Once Upon a Time. The fourth episode spent the majority of its screen time in Camelot, providing the much-awaited backstories we need in order to continue.
Spoilers ahead, dearies.
Many years ago
We get our first glimpse of what Camelot was like before the discovery of Excalibur—basically, a collection of sad little houses. As a young stable hand, Arthur is already ambitious about uniting his land, known as The Broken Kingdom for lack of a rightful king. Arthur and Guinevere are already sweet on each other, and he is grateful to her for not making light of his enthusiasm for mending Camelot.
Later, we see the grown man Arthur after he has pulled Excalibur from the stone. He declares himself king, and takes the magical sword home to Camelot. He is careful not to let any of the citizens see that the sword is broken, and they accept his claim to rule. Although Camelot does improve, the kingdom remains a far cry from what it should be, thanks to Arthur’s quick obsession with locating the missing piece of Excalibur. The kingdom is not the only thing that goes neglected—Guinevere finds herself missing the man who had become her husband. She and Lancelot, Arthur’s most trusted knight, realize that they have feelings for each other, but out of loyalty to their king, try their best to ignore it. Instead, they attempt to locate the missing piece for him by using Merlin’s gauntlet. The magical piece of armor leads them to Rumplestiltskin, who refuses to give up his dagger. Instead, he offers Guinevere a trade. In exchange for the gauntlet, he gives her a vial containing the sands of Avalon, which have the power to make broken things appear whole.
Guinevere takes the sand back to Arthur, not knowing that he has guessed she is in love with Lancelot. Instead of repairing Excalibur, as his wife had intended, he uses the sand to make their broken marriage appear whole. She forgets that she loved Lancelot, instead believing that the good knight had base intentions. Arthur then uses more of the sand to build Camelot up into the realm it should be.
Currently—or…6 weeks before Storybrooke? Take your pick.
David learns what Arthur is searching so frantically for, and realizes what the search for the dagger of the Dark One could mean for his daughter. After David argues with Mary Margaret about Arthur and Lancelot’s varying degrees of trustworthiness, they come up with a plan to test the king. David pretends to take the dagger to Arthur, only to be surprised when the case is empty. Meanwhile, Mary Margaret and Lancelot take the dagger to the Dark One’s secret lair that had been discovered all those years ago thanks to Merlin’s gauntlet. As predicted, Arthur follows them and demands that they hand over the dagger. Mary Margaret complies, but Arthur quickly realizes that the dagger is a fake, and that David never intended on giving him the real one. The three of them take Arthur prisoner, but he is rescued by Guinevere and his knights. Guinevere uses the remaining sands of Avalon on the Charmings, putting the pair under the influence of Arthur. As Lancelot is tossed in the prison, where we learn Merida has been languishing, the Charmings go to Regina and insist that making Excalibur whole is the best way to help Emma. Regina has no way of knowing of Arthur’s deceit, or his plan to use the sword to extinguish the Darkness (aka Emma and all her powers and God knows what else).
In the interim, Hook has been trying to help Emma learn how to ignore the vision of Rumple she keeps seeing everywhere he goes. He takes her riding to help her put her trust in him, and they end up in a field of beautiful roses.
In the lone glimpse we receive of Storybrooke, we learn that Emma still has a rose from the field where she and Hook went riding. Despite her apparent sentimentality, she is still set on molding the newly awakened Mr. Gold into the perfect hero who can pull the sword from the stone in order to help her extinguish the Light. When it appears that Mr. Gold isn’t inclined to help her, Emma goes to where she has been keeping Merida prisoner. She takes Merida’s heart in order to have complete control over the young queen, and commands her to make Mr. Gold “brave.”
This is like a medieval soap opera, isn’t it?
1.) Ah, the big theme of the season is finally revealed. The story isn’t just about good versus evil anymore—no, that’s too easy. The true motivations of Arthur and Emma are at complete odds with each other. One wants to extinguish the Darkness, while the other wants to extinguish the Light, and Excalibur seems to be the only way to do it. What I’d like to know is, how did Excalibur end up back in the stone?
2.) Ah, my favorite part. What more Arthurian lore do the writers have up their sleeves? In this episode alone, we heard the words Carmarthen and Avalon, both of which are vital in the old stories. According to legend, Carmarthen is where Merlin was born, and to this day the modern city is associated with the wizard. I’m not kidding. They’ve got Merlin’s Hill and Merlin’s Oak, and plenty of poems go to along with both. Avalon is the mystical island where Arthur was taken to recover from his mortal wounds, and where he supposedly sleeps, waiting for Britain to need him again. Avalon is also closely associated with Morgana (or Morgan le Fay, depending on what you read). Are we going to get a glimpse of Arthur’s half-sister, the powerful sorceress? I certainly hope so.
3.) Um, can we have more Regina? Please and thank you.
Until next Sunday, dearies.
-The Collected Mutineer