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Recap / Once Upon A Time S 5 E 4 The Broken Kingdom

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Season 5, Episode 4:

The Broken Kingdom

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Mary Margaret is unable to convince David that Arthur poses a threat to them and takes her own steps. In the present, Emma begins a new plan to free Excalibur from the Stone. And in Camelot's past, Guinevere travels with Lancelot into the heart of darkness to save Arthur from his obsessive quest.

Tropes

  • Bait-and-Switch: Because Snow and Charming are divided over whether to trust Arthur or Lancelot, much of the episode's flashbacks are spent planting seeds to keep the viewer guessing too, particularly over how much of the legend of Lancelot and Guinevere is true, what may have been left out, and who was to blame. (Ironically, it turns out it was Arthur, first by being so obsessed with his quest he drove his wife away, then by using the Sands of Avalon on her to make her believe Lancelot put the moves on her.) But one of the biggest is the scene where Lancelot gets attacked by the Darkness in the past, implying he might have been put under the Dark One's influence in some way, thus explaining all his dark actions past and present, why he would lie about Arthur, and why he wanted the dagger. But it all turned out to be a Red Herring.
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  • Batman Gambit: Snow and Charming pull off a good one. Realizing that fighting over who to trust is a waste of time, they fake a big argument with David telling Arthur about the dagger but Snow stealing it to go find Lancelot. They track the Dagger's hiding place with Arthur showing up, taking the Dagger and boasting of how he'll use it to kill Merlin and become a great king. At which point, Snow reveals the dagger is a fake, Charming arrives to reveal he overheard Arthur's entire rant, and they now know exactly who to trust.
  • Brandishment Bluff: When he first draws Excalibur, Arthur only shows the majority of it in its scabbard to the villagers to hide how the tip is broken off.
  • Cliffhanger: Two, past and present. In the past Guinevere uses the Sands of Avalon on Snow and Charming, getting them under her and Arthur's control and lying to the others, while Lancelot is locked in the dungeon...only to find Merida there too as a possible ally. In the present, Emma wants Gold made into a hero to remove Excalibur from the stone for her, and she also has Merida as a prisoner (and under heart-control) to do it.
  • Continuity Nod:
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    • The fake dagger Snow and Charming use to fool Arthur is almost surely the one Gold used on Belle, who is right there with them in Camelot.
    • Emma has dreamcatchers hanging by her desk at Camelot to try and keep the nightmares (in this case of the Dark One) away.
    • It's revealed how Rumple ended up with the magical gauntlet.
    • When Rumple makes the exchange with Guinevere, he observes that he knows what happens when "a woman's heart is torn between duty and desire"—yet another reference to the Love Triangle between himself, Hook, and Milah (and her duty as Bae's mother).
    • The magic door inside the Vault of the Dark One that leads to where the dagger is kept opens into the same plot of tropical jungle which Snow White saw in her vision of Emma taking and crushing her heart back in "Best Laid Plans". Snow takes this to mean that she misinterpreted it, and it was about Emma being destined to become the Dark One all along.
  • Enemy Mine: Referenced by Merida when she encounters Lancelot in the dungeon of Camelot (although she and Lancelot are clearly not enemies): "You've just made a friend, then. Because anyone who's an enemy of Arthur is probably a friend of mine."
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The horse Hook tries to take Emma riding on can sense she is the Dark One. Hook gets around this by getting her on its back anyway.
  • Evil Plan: More of Emma's is revealed—she plans to use Merida's heart to force her to train Gold in the ways of being a hero.
  • Exact Words: The sands of Avalon can make anything broken seem whole again.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In a way, Gold's situation. This episode reveals that in order to get the gauntlet, he made a deal with Guinevere for the Sands of Avalon. But those Sands ended up being used first on Guinevere, then Camelot, which contributed strongly to Arthur's fall into villainy, something that eventually will lead to what happens to Hook and Emma's choice to give in to the Darkness...which means the subsequent curse, and Emma now holding both him and Excalibur beneath her house, is his own fault.
    • Even better, the gauntlet is what Belle used to foil his plan in "Heroes and Villains" which is what started the arc that turned Emma into the Dark One in the first place.
  • A House Divided: Charming and Snow disagree over who to trust, Arthur or Lancelot. Although it starts off as a true argument, it ends up becoming fake once they come up with the plan to lure Arthur out so he will reveal his true colors.
  • Internal Reveal: At least in the past anyway, David (and through him the others) finds out from Arthur that the Dark One's dagger is the other half of Excalibur.
  • Irony:
    • Because of Cora having impersonated Lancelot before, and then her claiming to have killed him, his reappearance now after all this time makes David suspicious of him. While this isn't helped by him refusing to tell Snow exactly how he survived or where he has been (which could suggest his appearance and actions now are something she somehow set up or corrupted him into), it's quite ironic that the actions and words of a long-dead villain are still dogging Lancelot even now.
    • Everything about Arthur's fall from grace—that the very prophecy which proclaimed he would become a great and noble king so drives him to obsession (because of his belief he needs to reforge Excalibur before the people can accept him and it can become true) that he ends up putting his wife (and all of Camelot!) under Mind Control, in the process changing her memories so that she and everyone believes Lancelot tried to steal her from him (as legend tells us today); has now come to hate Merlin so much for his "half-truths" that he plans to make Emma release him from the tree, reforge Excalibur, and then use it to kill him; and yet he somehow believes after this he can still destroy the Darkness and be a great and noble king!
    • Guinevere came this close to using the Sands on Excalibur without Arthur knowing...but instead she chose to confront him with the truth about the dagger, their marriage, and the kingdom, and then offers the Sands as the way to save them all. Not only does he do so (but in a horrific way she never could have imagined), if she had gone with her first intention, so many things would have been different. (While a glamoured Excalibur would still have been revealed by Merlin as needed to be rejoined to the dagger so as to save Emma, and Arthur would likely not have taken this well, at least he would not have fallen into villainy and neither their marriage nor Camelot would have built on a lie. Though he probably would have turned on her and Lancelot anyway.)
    • So many levels of this in Gold pleading with Emma not to give in to the Dark One's powers now, when he was the one trying to corrupt her before, while her intentions for him are to...turn him into a hero.
    • Minor example: Arthur spends years working to translate a scroll from Merlin's library telling him where to find the Dark One's dagger. He's able to do so after painstaking work piecing it together from multiple languages...except for three pictograms he can't identify. It turns out they're just symbols carved on the Dark One's vault, listed in the order you need to depress to open it.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: It's here it is revealed exactly how and why Arthur fell into evil—his obsession with fulfilling Merlin's prophecy by finding the dagger and making Excalibur whole proves him unworthy to fulfill it, and his determination to do this as well as his jealousy of Lancelot leads him to force Guinevere into a sham marriage, create an illusion of a restored Camelot, and do anything and everything to defeat the Darkness.
  • Kicking Ass in All Her Finery: Guinevere proves herself capable of handling a dark force attacking Lancelot.
  • Love Potion: Arthur uses the Sands of Avalon to get Guinevere to love him and also to turn Camelot into the "perfect" kingdom. He later uses it to turn Snow and Charming to his side.
  • Mama Bear: Emma is thrown when she realizes Henry has a crush on Violet. When Hook points out she's his mother and the Dark One, Emma notes that being his mother is scarier.
  • Mind Control: Essentially what happens when Arthur uses the Sands of Avalon on Guinevere (and later she uses it on Snow and Charming), "fixing" what is broken by making her/them loyal and obedient.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • When Emma makes her demand of Merida: "I need you to make him brave."
    • When Charming tells Arthur of Lancelot's return, and Guinevere reveals she already knows, Charming speaks to her of what the legend says of Lancelot's betrayal and her part in it. Guinevere claims the legend is "only the beginning of the story". Ironically, she has no way of knowing how true that is, thanks to the Sands of Avalon; it turns out the story known in the modern day does not tell the whole truth, but neither do she and Arthur since it was actually the latter who betrayed them all (after driving Guinevere away with his obsession with Merlin's prophecy).
  • No-Sell: On Arthur using the dagger to summon Emma, since it was fake.
  • Out-Gambitted: Snow and Charming believe they've got the upper hand capturing Arthur. However, Arthur has arranged for his soldiers to capture them and then uses the Sands of Avalon to get Snow and Charming to agree with whatever his plans are, telling Regina and Robin to trust Arthur.
  • Prophetic Fallacy: Arthur notes how Merlin speaks in half-truths and thus his predictions have to be taken with a grain of salt.
  • Secret Test of Character: Snow and Charming give Arthur one to see if he can be trusted; he failed.
  • Symbolism: Camelot is called the Broken Kingdom, and when Excalibur is drawn, it too is broken. Arthur lampshades this, but misses Merlin's true point—that by breaking the sword so as to have a means to control the Darkness, he is also saying the true ruler of Camelot is one who is "broken" but can overcome his flaws and imperfections. The fact Arthur has subverted his queen, lied to his whole kingdom through illusion, and is now controlling Snow and Charming too to get what he wants shows he has failed Merlin's test, and is giving in to his own darkness. Confirmed by Guinevere when she uses the gauntlet to find the Dark One's dagger because "it is not Arthur's strength, but his weakness."
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: We never see Snow and Charming finish their fight and come up with the plan to fool Arthur, only the results of Charming coming clean to the king and Snow going off with Lancelot to hide the dagger, and thus it's pulled off without a hitch. However, they didn't count on him having back-up with Guinevere and his soldiers, or her having the Sands of Avalon.
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