Television & Film

ONCE UPON A TIME Everyone Schemed Against Everyone Else


Episode 504 “The Broken Kingdom”

In this week’s episode, there were deceptions, a surprise return, and more backstabbing than on the Ides of March.


In a way-back flashback, a young Arthur and Guinevere were walking through a village with no castle which would one day be Camelot. Arthur said he was going to be king one day. Guinevere thought he had some weird dreams. So he took her to the Merlin tree and told her that Merlin was trapped inside. Wait … wha–? So Merlin has been trapped since Arthur was a kid? Or has Arthur been pulling people’s legs since he was young? Anyway, he said Merlin gave him a prophesy one night that he would pull a sword from a stone and become king. Then he would fill the kingdom with flowers on every one of her birthdays. And he pulled out a pink rose to give to her.

Pink flowers seemed to be a running thing throughout the episode. I haven’t quite figured out what the deal was with that.

Then the two found a sword sticking up out of a pile of rocks, and a teenage Kay came up to mock him. It was called the Broken Kingdom because it has no king and never would, especially for a king to be Arthur. He left and Guinevere told him to follow his heart.

Flash forward to a replay of Arthur pulling Excalibur from the stone and finding no tip. Lancelot said wondered how he could be accepted as king with only a partial sword. So Arthur showed the sword in the sheath and pulled it out enough to show a blade, just not that it was incomplete. Thus began the first deception of the episode.

Five years later in Camelot (a little more than a tower), Arthur was obsessed with finding the other half of the blade. He was studying books and manuscripts with a star (pentagram), eye, and sun symbols while everyone else celebrated Guinevere’s birthday. So Lancelot danced with her instead. And then pink petals were thrown in her honor (nope, still don’t know the symbolism). She figured out that Lancelot planned the party for her, not Arthur. Arthur said he deciphered the text and was off to find the dagger while leaving Lancelot to protect her. Not exactly a candidate for Husband of the Year.

And Arthur trusted him with his wife ... (ABC/Jack Rowand) SINQUA WALLS
And Arthur trusted him with his wife … (ABC/Jack Rowand)

Guinevere found a magic gauntlet in Merlin’s workshop and it was leading her in another direction than Arthur was heading. So she decided to go after the dagger herself. Lancelot agreed to tag along. It led them to the Dark One’s vault which had a bunch of symbols on the entrance. By touching the star, eye, and sun in that order, the vault opened up with a bunch of black goo. The two went down into the vault. There, Lancelot was attacked by a black blob of cassette tape (or something that looked like it). Guinevere saved him by stabbing it with a torch. Please tell me there will be an explanation for what the %*&@ that was. It just seemed so … convenient. Then the two of them kissed. And then they promised each other that they wouldn’t do that ever again.

The gauntlet led them through a magic doorway to … a tropical jungle? They found the dagger, but were blown back when they tried to touch it. Rumpelstiltskin appeared and offered a trade, the gauntlet for some enchanted sand from Avalon that would make Arthur think that Excalibur was complete. Despite Lancelot’s warning to the contrary, Guinevere took the deal.

Back at Camelot, Arthur saw Guinevere and Lancelot saying their goodbyes. He confronted her about it and she said it was nothing, he was just saying goodbye since he was leaving Camelot. She then confessed that they found the dagger, but she didn’t have it. Instead, she showed him the sand and decided not to use it. She wanted their love to be real, and he had to choose between his obsession and her. Arthur took the sand from her and used it on her instead. She became compliant and even saw a bouquet of pink flowers in her hands (there it is again). Then the two used the sand and sent some out the window into Camelot, causing everyone to see a completed castle.

A new unholy alliance. (ABC/Jack Rowand) LIAM GARRIGAN, JOANA METRASS
A new unholy alliance. (ABC/Jack Rowand)

Forward even further to when our intrepid heroes are in Camelot (and there appeared to actually be a castle there). Arthur shared the secret with David that Excalibur was incomplete and needed to be finished off with the dagger of the Dark One. Then they wouldn’t need Merlin to destroy the Dark power.

Led by noises in her head and the voice of Rumpelstiltskin, Emma made off to where Regina had the dagger. She couldn’t touch it due to a spell. Imaginary Rumpel coaxed her to destroy the dagger. She resisted temptation, and nearly blasted Killian in the process. He tried to comfort her, but she could still see Rumpel.

In a room with our intrepid heroes, Emma was laying down, apparently not having said a word since. Regina suggested moving the dagger somewhere else since that’s what she was clearly after. David and Snow began to argue about who to trust, Arthur or Lancelot. Regina stopped them and said it was a bad idea to argue in front of Emma in the condition she was in. Henry suggested he knew a place to move her to. He left with Killian and Emma, and David and Emma asked Regina to leave them alone so they could continue arguing. David said Lancelot couldn’t be trusted since he was pretending to be dead. Snow suggested that David hadn’t seen a king in a while and was merely being a fanboy. Ouch. Low blow.

So David went to Arthur and confessed everything. He said that the Darkness was consuming someone he cared about. So they would restore Excalibur that night. Arthur said that he was more than willing to help. And David revealed that Lancelot was back. (Back stabbing is more like it.) Arthur was surprised. Guinevere entered and said she was looking forward to getting back at him since he copped more than a kiss from her (even though it was she that kissed him). So David said he had the dagger with him. He pulled out the box, opened it, and found it to be empty. Snow showed up at Granny’s Diner (in the Enchanted Forest) where she met Lancelot. She said that she needed his help to hide the dagger, which she had.

Henry took Emma and Killian to a stable that belonged to Violet’s family. He had them hide when Violet showed up. She asked Henry what he was doing there. He quickly improvised that he wanted her to take him on a horseback ride, and she promised it would get his heart racing. Kids trading innuendos — does it make anyone else feel a bit uncomfortable? So they left, and Emma and Killian noted that Henry clearly had a crush on the girl. Then Emma opened up about seeing Rumpel everywhere. And then they decided to head off on a horse themselves.

Snow and Lancelot went into the vault and through the magic door to the tropical jungle in order to return the dagger to the altar that it was on before. Snow had flashbacks to a vision she had before in that place when a young Emma removed and crushed her heart. As Snow was going to put the dagger on the altar, Lancelot said there was a powerful protection spell on the altar and that she should give him the dagger to put on the altar. Then Arthur showed up and demanded the dagger. He said that David was off looking for her … in the wrong place.

When Arthur threatened Lancelot’s life, Snow handed over the dagger. Then, in true James Bond villain form, Arthur spewed his entire plan. He would call forth the Dark One and command her to reunite the sword, then have her release Merlin. Then he would kill Merlin with the sword and become the greatest king in all the realms. Then when he summoned Emma, he found out the dagger wasn’t real. Then David showed up having followed Arthur there from a distance. Their argument was real, but short lived since they decided to put Emma’s well being first.

Back at Granny’s Diner, David, Snow, and Lancelot had Excalibur while Arthur was in handcuffs. They figured that although Arthur intended it for evil, they could use the sword for good by putting somebody worthy in charge. Lancelot suggested Guinevere. Just then, she showed up with a bunch of knights and freed Arthur and ordered Lancelot be put into the dungeon. Then she used the Sands of Avalon on David and Snow to get them on their side.

Lancelot was put into a cell. He met a woman who was in another cell. Holy ginger-haired archer, Batman! IT’S MERIDA!!! I thought she was just a throwaway character! But it looks like they have more plans for her. It sure took them long enough to get around to it. Anyway, the two of them formed an alliance.

She's back! Let me wipe this egg off my face. (ABC/Jack Rowand) AMY MANSON
She’s back! Let me wipe this egg off my face. (ABC/Jack Rowand)

David and Snow went and told Regina and Robin that it turns out they actually could trust Arthur, Lancelot was locked safely in the dungeon, and their best bet was to make Excalibur whole again. Regina objected since she spent the whole day hiding the dagger. According to Snow, plans change.

Killian took Emma to a field of pink flowers. Emma didn’t have any illusions of Rumpel there. Seriously, what is it with all the pink flowers? I hope they explain this. At this point, it just seems like a repetitive device. Without explanation of the significance, it’s getting very old very fast.

And just so we don’t have an episode that’s Storybrooke-free, there was Emma in her dungeon basement holding … wait for it … a pink rose! Mr. Gold asked to be set free since he can’t become the hero she needs. Instead, Emma ripped the heart out of Merida and told her to make him brave.

So Regina is a hero, Rumpelstiltskin is to be a hero in training, Arthur is a villain, he’s controlling Guinevere, Lancelot is a hero, Emma is the Dark One, she’s controlling Merida, cold is hot, hot is cold, down is up, up is down, and I’m still waiting for an explanation of why pink flowers are so significant.

My head is now spinning.


Daniel C. Handley

Dan Handley was raised a Trekkie, fell in love with "Star Wars" at an early age, and became obsessed with comic book superheroes. He spent his youth dreaming of how to get real superpowers, starships, and so on.

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