"The Broken Kingdom" is the 92nd episode of Once Upon a Time.
After receiving a cryptic warning from Lancelot about Arthur's intentions, Mary Margaret realizes that Camelot's faithful leader may in fact be the heroes' biggest threat; however, when she is unable to convince David of the danger his new friend poses, she is forced to take matters into her own hands. Meanwhile, Hook's unwavering love for Emma provides a glimmer of hope in her struggle against the unrelenting voice of Rumplestiltskin and, through further flashbacks, Guinevere senses that her husband is losing his way - consumed by his obsession with making Excalibur whole - and so she sets out with Lancelot on her own quest into the heart of darkness. In Storybrooke, the Dark Swan unleashes a secret weapon in the next phase of her plan to find the brave soul she needs to draw sword from the stone.
Previously on Once Upon a Time...
David approaches the Round Table in golden armor as his wife watches, proceeding to be knighted by King Arthur. ("Siege Perilous") The vision of Rumplestiltskin tells Emma that he's the voice inside her head; the Dark One's power inside her. ("The Dark Swan") The vision is later convincing Emma, who's grasping Merida's heart, that the warrior princess has to die. Emma repeats his words, but Hook convinces her not to listen, assuring her that they can find another way to stop the darkness together. She returns Merida's heart. ("The Dark Swan") Arthur refers to Merlin's prophecy in that it speaks of a savior who will free the Sorcerer from the tree he's trapped in; Regina lies and says that it's her, so as to protect Emma. ("The Price")
Many Years Ago
Arthur tells Guinevere of Merlin's prophecies.
We are treated to a shot of a small, poor village in the Enchanted Forest, inhabited mainly by peasants, as a young Arthur and Guinevere make their way through it, apparently childhood friends. The former tells his companion to look around, for one day this village will be the great kingdom of Camelot, and he will be its King. Guinevere giggles, saying that Arthur has some very strange dreams, but he assures her that they're more than that, then inviting the girl to follow him as he runs toward a large tree at the heart of the village. It's the same one that Merlin's said to be trapped inside in the present day, and, touching its bark, Arthur decides to trust Guinevere with this great secret, explaining that Merlin is a great Sorcerer who, one night, gave him a prophecy. The prophecy foretold that he would pull a sword from a stone and become King of Camelot. "King... Arthur?" Guinevere questions, the title not quite sounding right to her, and her friend confirms this, adding that she would be "Queen Guinevere". She is slightly taken aback, but touched, even more so when he goes on to say that, on every one of her birthdays, he will fill the kingdom with flowers. This leads to him pulling a pink rose - known as a middlemist - from his satchel and giving it to her.
The future King is mocked.
She compliments his beauty and he promises that there's more where that came from, then offering to show her. The two children run around the other side of the large tree, where a miniature sword has been stood up in a pile of small stones - seemingly a mock-up of Excalibur. Guinevere asks if that's supposed to be the sword in the stone, but Arthur, indignant, says that it's not, then suggesting that they leave. However, a brutish boy backed up by two others suddenly pushes the future King to the ground, making fun of his predictions and telling him to go and pull the fake sword. Guinevere fiercely insists that they leave her friend alone, addressing the lead boy as Kay, and Kay theorizes that Arthur's mother must have dropped him on his head when he was young before she took off and now he thinks he's the orphan King. "They call Camelot the broken kingdom because we have no King, and we never will," Kay insists, adding that nobody in Camelot is ever going to kneel to the boy who cleans the stables. He then pushes past the two smaller children and pulls the mock-Excalibur from its bed of pebbles, fleeing thereafter. Disheartened, Arthur wonders if maybe Kay is right, but Guinevere assures that he's not - "And you will find that sword. All you have to do now... is follow your heart." The boy smiles.
The mighty sword Excalibur is revealed to the people of Camelot... quite discretely.
Many years later, Arthur dismounts his horse and it isn't long before he's seen approaching Excalibur along with two of his most trusted associates: Lancelot and Percival, who soon watch as their about-to-be King finally pulls the sword from the stone. However, Arthur and the others are shocked to discover that it's missing its tip; Lancelot asks where the rest of it is while Percival wonders how his comrade can take the throne with only half the sword. Arthur ponders this greatly (see "The Dark Swan").
The three of them are later seen riding quickly back to Camelot, where the words "All hail King Arthur!" are exclaimed by one of the villagers. Arthur watches as his new subjects all kneel down to him, with Guinevere smiling in admiration nearby. It isn't long before the new King gives a short speech, declaring: "Camelot is no longer the broken kingdom! I give you Excalibur; the sword pulled from the stone!" The people are interested as he raises the sheathed weapon, and he proceeds to unsheathe it only halfway, so as to not show its missing end. It's met with cheers from villagers who assume they're looking at a complete sword, and Arthur takes these cheers with gratitude while Guinevere appears even more proud of her husband. Before long, he runs into her arms, and the people continue to clap as their King and Queen embrace. "I see you followed your heart, King Arthur," Guinevere beams, to which he replies, "And it led me back to you, Queen Guinevere." They kiss and she senses that something's wrong. With the people having dispersed, he's able to tell her covertly that his journey wasn't all he'd hoped for. He stares at the same tree the stood beneath as children, stating that Merlin speaks in half-truths and that his quest has only just begun.
ONCE UPON A TIME
David is clued in on Camelot's greatest secret.
Arthur stares earnestly out at those in his kingdom while resigned in the Round Table's designated room. David soon enters, apparently having been summoned, and the King quickly informs the new knight that they have something serious to discuss. "Now that you're a member of the Round Table, it's time to share Camelot's greatest secret." With that, he pulls Excalibur from its sheath, revealing that the sword that made him King is broken and that for years he's searched for its missing piece, which is something known as the Dark One's dagger. This makes David uncomfortable, for he knows full well what and where this artifact is, but he downplays his reaction for Arthur, merely saying that he's "heard tales" of it. The King believes that David is the man to help him find it; after all, he's the only one who needs it just as bad since he's desperate to destroy the power of the Dark One. David recalls that only Merlin can do that, but Arthur suggests otherwise, telling the prince that it's hard to tell what Merlin really wants but, with that dagger, he wouldn't be needed - "I could reforge Excalibur into the sword it once was, with the power to destroy the Darkness once and for all." This interests David, whom Arthur asks to help in this quest.
Emma is haunted by the demons in her head.
Elsewhere in the castle, Emma is using a sharpened knife to whittle a stick when suddenly she's disturbed by the sound of whispers. The vision of Rumplestiltskin asks her if she can hear it, referring to it as a sweet and strange sound before suggesting that they go and have a look. The new Dark One gets to her feet, allowing us to see that she's surrounded herself by homemade dreamcatchers which she then abandons so that she can follow the whispers. She finds herself led to a closet wherein her dagger lies, and the vision points out that that's where the noise is coming from. He goes on to say that the fact that Regina just left it in her room means that the "finders keepers" rule should apply, and Emma slowly begins to reach out and grab it... However, a sudden blast of magic prevents her from being able to do so, meaning that a protection spell has been cast. Rumple questions the meaning of this, since Emma could break it with ease, but she refuses to do as he wishes. He iterates that the dagger is calling to its other half - her - but all she wants is for him to leave her alone. He doesn't, taunting her by saying that her friends cannot protect her. "You're the savior. Save yourself. Before it's too late." "Get out of my head!" she finally whimpers, blasting a beam of yellow magic in his direction. Of course, with him lacking corporeal form, it does nothing but skim Hook, who's out in the hallway looking for her. He tells her to calm down for there's no one there but them, and gives her a comforting hug. Emma still appears aggrieved though, telling her boyfriend that "he's" inside her head and she can't get him out. She then looks to see Rumple standing leaning up against the doorway, saying that he's there... "He's always here."
What to do with the Dark One...
A catatonic Emma a laid down on a bed by Hook with Regina, Henry and Mary Margaret all gathered around; the latter asks what happened to her daughter, but Hook says that he has no idea, revealing that she hasn't said a word. "It's getting worse, isn't it?" David asks upon entering the room, and Mary Margaret is relieved to see him, approaching her husband and exclaiming through whisper that she was looking all over the castle for him. David replies in a similar tone that he was with Arthur, who might have a way to help Emma if they give him the dagger, but Mary Margaret tells him that they can't trust Arthur, to his confusion. He wonders who told her this and she reveals that it was Lancelot. David is confused even further, having thought that Lancelot was dead, and Mary Margaret explains that that's what he wanted Cora to think, but he outwitted her (see "Lady of the Lake"). Regina walks up to the married couple and requests that they not have this discussion in front of "the patient" - Emma - since, given the state she's in, anything could set her off. She goes on to say that she needs rest, somewhere quiet and away from prying eyes, and Henry states that he knows the perfect place.
Charming refutes his wife's claims.
Hook suggests that he and the boy take her there together, and the two of them proceed to leave the room with a zombie-like Emma in tow. This leaves just Regina and the Charmings, the former of which theorizes that, whatever's happening to Emma, she thinks she was there for the dagger, meaning it should probably be moved somewhere safer. David tells her to hold on a second because Arthur has a way to use it to help Emma, at which an annoyed Mary Margaret again insists that they are not giving it to Arthur as Lancelot said he can't be trusted. Her husband points out in turn that Cora said Lancelot was dead, meaning you can't believe everything you hear, and Snow takes this to mean that Charming really doesn't trust Lancelot; she tries reminding him that he married them and that he's their friend, but he points out that that was a long time ago, then asking where the disgraced knight has been all these years. "He didn't say," Snow admits, and David asks further where he is now; she reveals that he's hiding, since it's not like he's welcome in Camelot, and David exclaims that it's because he went after Arthur's wife - "And he's back. Why? Why's he back?"
Snow questions her husband's intentions.
"I don't know, David! I don't have all the answers!" Mary Margaret yells defensively. She then notices that Regina is still in the room, watching as this all unfolds, and politely requests that her stepmother give them a moment. With little hesitation, Regina teleports out in a flurry of purple smoke, leaving the royal couple alone to settle their differences. David tells Mary Margaret to listen, saying that Arthur is already looking for the dagger and insisting that if they come clean now then he can still help them. "So that's what this is about..." the princess realizes, "You haven't met a King in a while and you're starstruck." David assures that that's not what this is about; their daughter is sick and they have to help her. Mary Margaret wonders how becoming a Knight of the Round Table is helping their daughter exactly; "Or is that you need to feel like a hero again?" David says that maybe the Round Table is exactly where he should be, while Mary Margaret says that they aren't telling Arthur anything until they know he can be trusted. A coldness exists between the pair.
Five Years Earlier
Guinevere tries pleading with a strung out Arthur.
Arthur is going through a multitude of prophecies written across dozens of scrolls, trying to find the secret behind the whereabouts of the Dark One's dagger. He flicks through the books that also litter his table, scratching out sentences in others with his quill as he does so; he appears to be very strung out. Suddenly, the door to the tower opens, and the King of Camelot instantly grabs Excalibur in response, needing to sheathe it in case someone who's not in the know might glance upon it and see that it's broken. Luckily, it's just Guinevere, who tells him not to worry. He is glad to see her, revealing that he's almost translated the command on the scroll, which required taking language fragments from a dozen different books; "Can you believe how close we are to the other half?" He holds up a scroll, sure that he's right in thinking that in his hands are directions to the Dark One's dagger, clear as day. There's just the three symbols on the scroll he can't figure out - a star, an eye and a sun - and he asks her what she thinks they mean. "It means... come to the party; dance with your wife," she begs, but he insists that he can't until he's finished this translation, wondering if she doesn't understand. He states that this is Merlin's test, not knowing why else the Sorcerer would have led him to this.
Lancelot asks the Queen for a dance.
He points out that a broken sword being used to rule the broken kingdom must be some cruel joke, the world's most maddening riddle, and Guin knows this... but this one night, she needs him. He concedes that she's right, requesting that she give him five minutes and they shall dance until dawn. This pleases her and she proceeds to head back outside to the party where a dance circle has begun. She sits out on the festivities however, instead waiting for her husband to come dance with her, and soon enough she's joined by Sir Lancelot, who's sure that the King will be out shortly. "I'm sure he will," Guinevere agrees sullenly, and the knight proceeds to wish his Queen a happy birthday, to her gratitude. "In the meantime, perhaps you'll allow this knight a dance?" he requests, standing up and extending his arm, and Guinevere soon takes it, stepping out onto the dance floor as new, slower music begins to play.
Could a triangle be forming?
While dancing with her husband's closest ally, she reveals that he's getting worse, always locked up in that room all day instead of actually building the kingdom they dreamed of. Lancelot says that Arthur may have much on his mind, but tells Guinevere to look around, pointing out that he still managed to throw her quite a party. One of the villagers soon announces a birthday gift from the King to his Queen - middlemist petals, which are scattered over the guests. Guinevere is delighted as her subjects continue to shower her in her favorite flower, but she soon grows sad, knowing that Arthur didn't plan any of this himself. "The fact that you won't deny it tells me all." She thanks Lancelot for all he's organized, but soon stops dancing with him when Arthur comes outside, demanding to know where his wife is. At first, she is happy that he made it... but the only reason he did so is because he's completed the translation, and wanted to be able to tell her that the dagger is only a day's ride from where they are; by this time the next day, he plans to be holding it in his hand. Guinevere is disappointed, while Lancelot offers to fetch his horse, so as to accompany the King on this journey. However, Arthur stops him, deciding that he must have his best knight stay there and protect the Queen; after all, she is the most precious thing he has. He gives her a kiss and walks away, not noticing how despondent she is.
Five Years Later
David has something important to say.
David approaches the Round Table room with a satchel strapped to his back, proceeding to enter cautiously. Inside, Arthur is lamenting over the broken Excalibur, looking up to see the newest Knight of the Round Table and wondering what it is he wants. David says that they need to talk, to the King's concern, and he soon reveals that, ever since he and the others came to Camelot, they've been lying to him about why they're really there. "That stops right now," he declares, going on to say that it's not easy for him to be there, for people he cares about told him not to, but the Darkness is threatening someone he loves and he will do anything to destroy it. "So..." he announces, "We're going to restore Excalibur tonight." Arthur doesn't quite know what to how to respond to the clearly determined prince.
Arthur learns of Lancelot's return.
"I'm glad you told me about your daughter," Arthur says, sitting down after having just been informed by David on his people's true reason on coming to Camelot. The latter remains standing while the King, getting up, goes on to say that of course he will help in the his quest to defeat the darkness inside of Emma, to the prince's relief. Charming admits that his own wife thought that coming to him was a bad idea. Arthur wonders what put her off of him - "It's the beard, isn't it?" - and David reveals that it was something a bit more serious than what the King suggests: it was Lancelot; he's back. Arthur, adopting a much more stern facial expression, is clearly less than pleased with this shocking revelation...
Five Years Earlier
Guinevere has a way to find the dagger.
Having cloaked herself, Guinevere is seen trying to sneak out of Camelot in flashbacks; however, Lancelot soon appears from behind, assuming aloud that the Queen must not think much of him if she thought she could leave without him noticing. He wonders what he would tell Arthur if his wife ran off on his watch, to which she replies that he should tell him she's going to find the dagger herself. Taking out a familiar magic gauntlet, she reveals that she broke into Merlin's tower and stole it, and it has shown her the true location of the dagger, assuring that Arthur has it all wrong. Skeptical, Lancelot asks why the King himself never came across this remarkable magical object in all his years of looking, and Guinevere explains that he would never have thought to use it because he believes the dagger to be his strength, while the gauntlet in her hand leads to a person's greatest weakness. So, she's going to finish this "damned quest" and get back the man she loves, and Lancelot cannot stop her. "Stop you?" he questions, "I'm joining you." The Queen appears intrigued.
The Vault of the Dark One is opened.
We are treated to a shot of the Vault of the Dark One before Guinevere, bearing Merlin's gauntlet, is seen approaching along with Lancelot, gloating to the knight that she told him this would work and that this is it. Lancelot knows the seal in the ground to be the Vault of the Dark One, while Guinevere recognizes its symbols to be the same ones Arthur showed her on that "damned scroll" of his. Remembering the order that said scroll placed them in, Guinevere touches down on the star, and then the eye, and finally the sun in the center. They glow as she does so, and with the final tap the entire seal lights up and descends, spilling black sludge as it does so. Guinevere takes a step back as the darkness overflows, filling the rivets around the edge. Soon enough, it swirls and clears to reveal that a spiral staircase lies within the vault, going downward, to which Lancelot asks, "Shall we?" Guinevere approaches them, determined.
After being saved from the Darkness, Lancelot covets a kiss from a Queen.
The two of them are next seen having walked down the stairs, and Merlin's gauntlet continues to point the way to the Dark One's dagger. Guinevere and Lancelot follow its glow through the dark, underground tunnels, with the latter taking extra caution to ensure the safety of his Queen. Turning a corner, they suddenly hear a sharp wind coming from behind, and it isn't long before a swirl of living darkness comes flying out from behind a set of bars in the wall. It snakes itself through the air, creating a whirlwind of black, and quickly finds Lancelot and begins spinning circles around him. Guinevere calls out for her friend, who drops his sword in submission, continuing to be enveloped by this evil creature. He looks sadly at Guinevere as the darkness swirls; however, she refuses to let it have him, grabbing one of the torches from the brackets on the wall and plunging it into the inky black tornado. It appears hurt by the flames and soon relinquishes its grip on Lancelot, flying through the tunnels to somewhere else and allowing the knight to drop to the floor, alive. Guinevere crouches down to make sure he's okay, having thought that he was dead. "I was sure I had lost you," she adds with a smile, before planting a passionate kiss on his lips. It goes on for a while, with a mutual attraction and love stemming between the two. When the kiss finally ends, she says she's sorry and that that will never happen again, which he seems disappointed by. The two of them get to their feet and Lancelot agrees; "No... never." Guinevere goes on to say that they need to remember why they're there: for their King... for Arthur.
Five Years Later
Guinevere wants Lancelot found.
Arthur remains disconcerted by the news that Lancelot's both alive and in Camelot, requesting that he and David keep this to themselves. David agrees, and Arthur adds that sometimes a husband has to go on the defensive; he doesn't want his wife to learn that her former lover's there. "She already has," announces Guinevere as she enters the room, having heard. She demands to know where Lancelot is, but Arthur assures his love that David doesn't know, and so she demands instead that the prince tell her how to find him so that she can make him pay for what he did. "From what I heard, you both had some culpability in that," says Charming, and Guinevere takes this to mean that he heard the old story; "Believe me, the legend is only the beginning. Lancelot coveted far more than a kiss from a Queen." Arthur is afraid to admit his wife his right, for he didn't want to speak ill of a former knight and friend, but if Lancelot is in Camelot then the Dark One's dagger isn't safe anywhere. "Then it's a good thing I brought it with me," David reveals, proceeding to remove his satchel and empty its contents, to the excitement of Arthur and Guinevere. However, when he opens the box that's supposed to contain the dagger, there's nothing there. It's empty. David is confused, and Arthur demands to know where the dagger is.
"There's something we must hide."
Carrying a lantern to cut through the dark of night, Mary Margaret is seen approaching Granny's Diner as it stands out in the woods of the Enchanted Forest, then heading inside and telling a certain hiding someone that they can come out, for it's only her. Lancelot then shows himself, appearing from the back room, and, putting the lantern down on the nearest table, Snow says that it turns out she needs his help. She digs under her shoulder cloak as she says, "There's something we must hide," and proceeds to pull out the Dark One's dagger, which she apparently stole. Emma's name shines in the moonlight, and Lancelot appears intrigued by the ancient magical weapon. Snow nods to him, assuring that he must help.
Henry denies having a crush.
Henry is seen leading Hook and Emma through the woods of Camelot, seeing a horse nearby and telling the latter that they're almost there. The three of them are next seen entering a stable, and Henry points out that it's a nice place to rest, assuring his mother that she'll feel better in no time. Hook says that they're in quite an isolated little nook and asks the lad how he turned up such refuge, to which he replies, "Well... there's this girl..." Emma has an immediate reaction while Hook appears amused, responding with, "Is there indeed? Well I like this tale already!" Henry assures him that it's not like that, explaining that the girl's name is Violet and she brought him there; the stable belongs to her family. Emma wonders if the two of them are getting close, which Henry denies, saying that they're just "hanging out". "Hello? Who's in there?" asks Violet's voice from outside, and Henry tells his mother and Hook that that's her, ordering them through whisper to hide.
Nicodemus, tell me what's wrong.
They oblige, proceeding to crouch behind some equipment and support beams, while Violet comes rushing in with a pitch fork in tow, surprised yet relieved to see that it's only Henry in her family's stable. She asks what he's doing there and he says that he was wondering if she'd be interested in taking him riding. She says in turn that she'd love to, offering to introduce him to Nicodemus. Worried, he asks if that's her dad, but she assures him otherwise, clarifying that Nicodemus is her horse. "Hope you're ready to get your heart racing," she says, to Emma's concern, before exiting the stable along with Henry, who seems excited. He gives one last glance to his mother and Hook as he leaves, and the two of them proceed to step out from hiding; the latter says that the boy has quite the winning poker hand, but that one can't hide the bloom of first love, and Emma replies, "Yes, he has a crush and he straight-up lied to my face and I'm the Dark One." Hook points out that she's also his mother, and she wonders which is scarier to her son, which the pirate says is up to debate.
Hook decides to take Emma riding.
Speaking of her "Dark One-ness", he believes it's time she told him what happened, and finally she admits that she's been seeing Rumplestiltskin - or at least something that looks like him - in her head ever since she got there. Hook realizes that he must have been there when he and the others first found her, when she was about to kill the "flame-haired Scot" (see "The Dark Swan"), and Emma admits that she was about the crush the princess' heart because of the voice of the darkness. She then looks past Hook and sees the vision of Rumple standing by the stable door, looking bored. Hook looks where she's looking and sees nothing, telling her that he's spent many years battling demons in his head and that he was able to purge them on the prow of the Jolly Roger, riding the ocean's waves. As he says this, he notices a horse's saddle nearby, while Emma comments that it's too bad he doesn't have his ship shrunken in his pocket right now. However, he says that he might not need it, recalling that Violet promised to get Henry's heart racing by riding a horse; "And we're gonna do the same." They both eye up the saddle.
Lancelot is stoic.
While they're both trekking through the woods of the Enchanted Forest to hide the Dark One's dagger out of Arthur's reach, Snow points out that Lancelot never told her what happened between he and Camelot's Queen, Guinevere, and the former Knight of the Round Table replies that it's complicated. He assures his friend that what happened is in the past and therefore it no longer matters, but Mary Margaret says that it does if he still loves her. She proceeds to ask if he does and, for a moment, he is silent... but then he finally answers: "Yes." Continuing to trek, he adds that he'll forever love Guinevere, a statement which appears to provoke Snow White's compassion.
The dagger rejects Guinevere.
Merlin's gauntlet continues to glow as it points Guinevere in the direction of Arthur's greatest weakness in flashback. She and Lancelot are led to a door in the underground tunnels beneath the Vault of the Dark One, and she arrives at the conclusion that the dagger is behind it. Lancelot warns her to stand back, for they have no idea what trap remains, and she proceeds to draw her sword. With caution, the knight opens the door and the two of them step on through some sort of swirling void, into the small and nonsensical jungle clearing that lies beyond. There, right in front of them, is a surface shrouded in odd black solid swirls, housing the Dark One's dagger in plain sight. Guinevere is overjoyed that Excalibur will once again be complete and goes to grab it; however, a blast of magic suddenly sends she and Lancelot flying backwards, the two of them landing flat on their backs. "Not exactly a sword in a stone," says Rumplestiltskin, looking at the dagger as it rests on its surface, "But it still does the trick."
Rumplestiltskin makes an offer...
Frightened by his sudden appearance, Lancelot and Guinevere quickly rise and aim their weapons at the imp, who giggles maniacally and uses his magic to make their swords disappear in respective flurries of smoke. Because he does this, he's able to spot the gauntlet that adorns Guinevere's hand, concluding that that's how she found this place. He says that it's quite a powerful object for a wizard stuck in a tree, but Guinevere ignores him, exclaiming that that dagger is Arthur's birthright and that the Dark One will surrender it to them. However, he takes that to mean that the dagger is King Arthur's weakness, "And that makes you Guinevere," he figures out. Sadly, he cannot give her what she wants, although he might be willing to give her the next-best thing - assuming she's willing to make a deal for the gauntlet. Lancelot wants to know what the next best thing to completing a magical sword is, to which Rumple replies, "Making it appear as though it's been completed, with this." He makes a vial of red sand appear in his hand with magic, explaining that it's enchanted sand from the mystical isle of Avalon. One pinch of it can fix anything, even Excalibur, and Guinevere's husband need never know; after all, what's one little secret if it means getting her husband back?
...that Guinevere doesn't refuse.
"Assuming of course that's, uh, still what you want..." he clarifies, looking to Lancelot. The Queen and knight exchange an awkward silence before the former asks the Dark One how they know they can trust him, and he informs her that he knows what it's like when a woman's heart is torn between duty and desire - and it never ends well. Lancelot begs Guinevere not to listen to this demon, but she decides to ignore him, telling Rumplestiltskin, to his delight, that she will accept his deal. "Good girl," he says, "But be careful. Love is a weapon, dearie - the most dangerous weapon of all - which means the pain you should worry about isn't the kind that comes from a broken sword, but the kind that comes from a broken heart." With her having removed the gauntlet, he holds the Sands of Avalon up for them to see, and the both of them appear deeply uncomfortable.
Snow recognizes the locale.
Snow and Lancelot are seen approaching something in the woods, with the latter announcing, "We're here." The shot then reveals that they're standing outside the Vault of the Dark One, which Mary Margaret names aloud as the former Knight of the Round Table crouches down to tap the necessary symbols needed to open the seal - star, eye and sun. Snow watches curiously as the whole thing starts to glow and open up.
The two of them are next seen having descended the spiral staircase that lies within, now making their way through the series of underground tunnels. It isn't long before they come to the hallway with the door at the end, and we are shown a view from the other side as they open it and step on through the swirling void. The altar - the surface shrouded in solid black twists - is there to greet them, now baring nothing, but Snow is too distracted by the mysterious jungle clearing that surrounds it. "This place," she recalls, "I've been here before..."
We see a sudden flash of young Emma, staring ominously at her mother within the same setting.
"I had a vision," Mary Margaret explains, "I thought I understood what it meant, but... maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was always about Emma becoming the Dark One." As she steps with caution, Lancelot wonders aloud what it is she saw.
Arthur demands to be given the dagger.
We flash again to young Emma as she plunges her hand into Snow White's chest and rips her heart out. Snow cries as she watches it about to be crushed to dust (see "Best Laid Plans").
Mary Margaret reveals that Emma crushed her heart in the vision, then declaring that they have no time to waste; she takes out the dagger and says that they can't let Arthur get his hands on it. Lancelot assures her that the altar is secure, but there's a nasty protection spell around it, and Snow theorizes that if it's meant to keep the dagger safe then maybe the person holding it is allowed past. "Wait," Lancelot says as she goes to do it, "It should be me." Snow guarantees that he's done enough, but he insists that she needs to let him do this, to her apparent suspicion. He asks if she doesn't trust him, and she lingers. "Apparently not," Arthur answers for her, having just stepped through the door, "And that's a decision she's gonna regret." He holds a sword up to the princess and knight; Lancelot goes to grab his own but Arthur warns him not to, commenting that Excalibur's blade might be broken but the one he's holding now works just fine. Mary Margaret realizes that the King followed them, meaning she was right, and Arthur says it's a pity her husband didn't listen when she tried to warn him. "Where is he?" Snow wonders, afraid, and Arthur reveals that he's searching for her - in the wrong place. He aims the sword at her throat and says that if she ever wants to see David again then she's going to hand over the dagger.
Lancelot leaves Camelot.
Up in Merlin's tower back in time, Arthur can be seen looking out the window through a telescope, honing in on Guinevere and Lancelot as they make their return to Camelot. They seem very close, touching foreheads before taking one another's hand; a tearful goodbye seems to be taking place, cemented when Lancelot walks away. While Guinevere appears heartbroken, Arthur lowers his telescope and seems furious.
Guinevere soon enters the tower with the Sands of Avalon in tow, and is surprised to be met by her husband, hiding the vial of sand behind her back so that he doesn't see. He asks where she was and she reveals that she and Lancelot went to find the Dark One's dagger, to which he asks, almost sarcastically, if she was able to find it. She answers affirmatively, saying that it was where Arthur said it would be in the Vault of the Dark One, and he grows confused, wondering if she means to say she truly found it. She nods and he grows excited, requesting to know where it is.
Guinevere decides not to use the sand.
It isn't long before he yells for her to give it to him, snatching the satchel from her shoulder and rifling through it manically. With his back turned, Guinevere removes the cork to the sand vial, thinking about using it on Excalibur. However, hearing her husband's rampage in the background, she decides not to do so; she re-corks the vial as he turns around and screams that the dagger isn't in the satchel, demanding to know where she's hiding it from him. "The only thing I'm hiding... is this," she says, holding up the sand and explaining that she couldn't get the dagger so she got this instead. "Enchanted sand that can make something broken appear whole again." Arthur angrily asks if that's why she came back - to use magic to trick him - and she, equally angry, admits to it, yelling that she wanted him back; to be the man she loved; her King... but now she realizes she doesn't want any of it; not unless it's real. Arthur assures her that it can be - that she can have him back, that she can have it all - but first he needs her to tell him where the vault is.
So instead, Arthur uses it on her.
She asks if he doesn't understand - he has to make a choice: stop trying to mend that sword or his marriage and his kingdom will be broken forever. "And what if I can't?" he responds tearfully, to which she replies, "Then I'll follow my heart... to where it belongs." "With Lancelot?" he questions, having seen them, but she promises that it's not what he thinks - Lancelot was merely saying goodbye because he's leaving Camelot. Arthur wonders if he's expected to believe that, refusing to lose his wife to his friend and assuring that he'll do whatever it takes to fix things. As he makes this assertion, he snatches the vial of enchanted sand from out of her grip; she asks him what he's doing and he apologizes, explaining that he has to complete his quest and, with this magic, he can ensure that she remains by his side until the end. He proceeds to sprinkle her with the sand and its magic is worked over her; she is now carrying a bouquet of middlemist flowers. Arthur asks her how she is now, and she tells him that she thinks she's better, in a state of hypnotic confusion.
The broken kingdom appears fixed.
She smiles upon seeing the pink roses in her hand, complimenting their beauty as she did as a child, and Arthur wonders if she remembers the first time he gave one to her. She does, adding that it was the day he told her about Merlin's prophecy, "A prophecy you have yet to complete and I... have not been supportive enough. I know how much getting that dagger means to you, so you can prove yourself to Merlin." "Yes, my Queen," Arthur replies, ecstatic that the sand has taken effect, "But until then I don't see why you can't live in the kingdom you deserve. I think it's time to fix this broken kingdom, don't you?" Guinevere nods in agreement as he grips the vial of sand. The two of them approach the window, hand-in-hand, and Arthur proceeds to poor out some of the magic. His Queen watches joyously as he throws it out the window, mesmerized as it makes pink swirls in the air, expanding upon Merlin's tower and proceeding to construct a whole castle around it. Before long, the magnificent palace we've come to know in the missing six weeks is fully-formed, and Arthur stares out proud at his broken kingdom as it now appears to be fixed.
The Dark One can't be summoned.
Arthur continues to threaten Snow, demanding that she give him the dagger or else he will put his sword through his oldest friend like he should have done years ago. As he says this, he moves the aim of his weapon to Lancelot, expressing his anger that he tried to steal his wife and now he won't give him the dagger after all he's done for him. With Arthur about the stab the former Knight of the Round Table, Mary Margaret steps forward and exclaims, "Please don't hurt him!" She holds out the dagger and drops it into Arthur's outstretched hand, defeated. The King smiles and steps back, dropping his sword and saying that he's waited a lifetime for this; now that he controls Snow's daughter, he can command her to make the sword whole again and free Merlin, and then Excalibur's blade will be the last thing the Sorcerer sees before Arthur runs him through. He will then be able to use it to snuff out the Darkness for good, and he will become what no one thought he could be: the greatest King in all the realms. He proceeds to hold up the dagger and command the Dark One to appear. Nothing happens, and he commands her again, at which Mary Margaret reveals that Emma's not coming. Arthur wonders why not, thinking the princess has maybe done something to the dagger, but she tells him that it's not real, to his confusion.
The Charmings get the drop on Arthur.
"You knew he would follow us," Lancelot figures out, and a sword can be heard being drawn. "She wasn't the only one," says David, aiming said sword at Arthur from behind. Snow, picking up the King's dropped weapon, tells her husband that she was wondering when he was going to show up, and he points out that he needed to keep his distance or else Arthur would have seen him trailing him. Snow stands at Charming's side as Arthur expresses shock that his newest knight betrayed him, having broken the sacred trust of the Round Table. "You tried to trick me with a catchy title and a comfy chair," David accuses, but Arthur assures him that he earned his place at that table and that every choice he's made has been for the good of Camelot. He's trying to destroy the Darkness. David, advancing with the sword, reminds him that the Darkness is in his daughter, and so every choice he makes is for the good of his family. Lancelot, who's now also aiming his sword at Arthur, questions if the two of them were even really fighting if this was all a show, and Snow reveals that the fight was real, but, they quickly realized that fighting wasn't going to solve their problems so they put aside their differences and thought of Emma's well-being first.
Horsies no likey Emma.
Emma can be found strolling through the woods with Hook who, at his side, has the horse that was earlier standing outside the stable; it has now been kitted out with the saddle he and Emma were last seen staring at. He comments upon the beauty of the animal, stating it to be the finest horse in all of Camelot... or at least the finest he could borrow without anyone noticing. Emma recalls the plan being to ride the horse, whereas what they're doing right now feels a lot like walking, and Hook tells her that this isn't like driving that "yellow contraption" of hers because she can't just turn a key; a horse has to trust you. As such, he comes to a stop and urges her to introduce herself, to her worry. She slowly moves her hand toward the horse and it grows spooked, whinnying almost out of control and trying its best to get away from the Dark One. Hook keeps the thing grounded, and the vision of Rumplestiltskin jokes upon appearing that the pony is smarter than the pirate; "She knows what you are, dearie." Emma orders him to go away and Hook, now on the horse, tells his girlfriend to stop talking to the demon in her head and get on with him. She insists that this is pointless - she is the Dark One and can't see how this will help with that - but Hook tells her that this isn't about the horse, it's about her putting her faith in him and their future. She asks if he really believes they can make it back there, to Storybrooke, and have some sort of "white picket fence life", and he confirms that he does, promising to never stop fighting for them. All she has to do is trust him. "This'll work." Reassured, she takes his arm and makes her away onto the horse with him, but quickly spots Rumple standing behind her, looking judgmental. She proceeds to start riding with her boyfriend, but there Rumple is again, always in her line of sight. He stands there, blank, and she appears weary as the horseback ride continues.
Arthur gets the drop on the Charmings.
Back in Granny's Diner, Mary Margaret pulls Excalibur from its sheathe, revealing its broken end. David takes it and comments that they finally have a blade that can stand up to Granny's meatloaf, while his wife merely wonders what they're going to do with it. Charming says that Arthur, who's currently handcuffed and sitting down, wanted to reunite it with the dagger and use it for evil, but that doesn't mean that it couldn't also be used for good. It occurs to Snow that it could actually help Emma, and David says that they can worry about that as soon as they get back to Camelot and put someone worthy in charge. Lancelot chimes in, saying that he spent a lifetime putting his faith in a false King and that Camelot's true leader is its Queen, Guinevere. Arthur smiles at this, and Snow asks if it's just her or if he's unusually quiet. A horse is suddenly heard neighing outside, and David realizes that Arthur knows something, rushing to the window to see a multitude of Camelot's knights gathered around the diner, wanting to rescue their King. The back door is heard being broken into and two of the knights enter, prompting Charming, Snow and Lancelot to draw their swords in unison. Queen Guinevere steps out from in between her soldiers, to the surprise and subsequent joy of Lancelot, but she just looks to Arthur, who stands up in his cuffs, and frees him.
Guinevere uses the Sands of Avalon.
Lancelot asks what's going on, wanting to know why his true love is doing this, and Guinevere reveals that she loves Arthur, to the former knight's surprise. He is quick to deduce that Arthur used the Sands of Avalon on his Queen and promises that they can break the spell, but she approaches him and assures that she's not interested, taking Excalibur from him and returning it to Arthur. She orders the knights to take Lancelot to the dungeons where he belongs, and they proceed to seize him. As he's taken away, he's forced to watch, devastated, as the woman he loves kisses the man he now hates more than anyone. When the kiss ends and Lancelot is gone, Arthur turns to the Charmings and says that they're not the only couple whose hearts beat as one (see "A Curious Thing"). David points out that the second the King locks them up, their friends will know what's wrong and then his secret's out. Guinevere wonders who said anything about locking them up, for in fact they were hoping that the Charmings would help. Snow refuses, but Arthur is optimistic that she and her husband will conform, then allowing Guinevere to step forward, taking the Sands of Avalon from betwixt her bosom as she does so. "Fix this, my love," orders the King, and the Queen promptly pours some of the sand onto her hand and blows it in the direction of Mary Margaret and David.
Lancelot makes a new friend.
Lancelot is thrown roughly into one of the dungeon cells by a jailer, who locks him in before vacating. "Someone doesn't like ya'," says a familiar voice in the cell opposite, and Lancelot looks up in surprise as said voice goes on to say that his cell is the one the rats take a fancy to. The knight stands up and explains that he had a disagreement with the King, and it didn't make him a lot of friends. The source of the voice - the brave and beautiful warrior princess Merida - then steps out of the shadows and corrects her new cellmate, saying that it made him one, because an enemy of King Arthur is probably a friend of hers. She then introduces herself by name, and Lancelot extends the same courtesy. Merida nods to him in a welcoming manner.
Snow and Charming lie to Regina and Robin, the latter of which is totes needed.
We are taken past a bouquet of roses and Robin tells an anxious Regina that she's going to wear out the room's masonry if she keeps pacing, assuring her that David and Mary Margaret are fine. Regina assures him in turn that she's not worried about them, for those two could outlive a cockroach, she merely wants to know how their test went because she gets antsy when she doesn't know who she should hate. The Charmings then enter the room and Snow says that she thinks they can help with that. Regina demands to know what took so long and her stepdaughter says that it turns out David was right - they can trust Arthur. Robin asks about Lancelot, and Charming reveals that he's safely in the dungeon, having been lying. Their best move now is to give Arthur the real dagger. Regina points out that she just spent all day hiding it, like they agreed upon, but Snow points out in turn that plans change, and making Excalibur whole is their best chance to help Emma. The Queen remains weary of the royal couple, who are under the effects of the Sands of Avalon.
Romance blooms like middlemist.
Emma, meanwhile, is galloping on the back of a horse which is being led by Hook, the two of them smiling to one another while the latter beckons the creature to move faster. They stop in the middle of a meadow and dismount, with Emma telling her boyfriend that that was amazing and thanking him. He says he had a feeling she'd like it, then requesting that she look at her surroundings and tell him what she sees. "Lots of flowers," she comments, realizing that the meadow is full of middlemist roses, and Hook picks her one. As he hands it to her, he asks what she doesn't see, to which she replies, "Rumplestiltskin... he's gone." Hook had hoped he might be, explaining that, by trusting him with her body, Emma left no room for the vision in that head of hers. "Well," she says, "Now that we're alone..." Hook appears tantalized and the two of them go on to kiss. The shot gives us a bird's eye view of them as they do, allowing us to see the extent of middlemist growth in the meadow. Truly a romantic sight to behold.
Gold wants to be set free.
We are treated to an outside view of Emma's house in Storybrooke before being taken down into the secret underground room, where the Dark Swan herself is caressing a middlemist flower. We see that Mr. Gold is tied, standing up, to a gate behind her and Excalibur, and he says that he remembers how the Darkness feels, but that she doesn't have to give in to it; instead, she could just set him free. She turns to him at this, reminding the former Dark One that he's the only one who can get the sword out of the stone, but he assures her that he can't be the hero she wants. This statement leads to her approaching him, clutching the gate and getting up in his face; she says that of course he can, comparing him to a dull knife sitting in a drawer, "But don't worry. I have just the thing to sharpen you up." He asks what this is, and she suggests that he call it her secret weapon.
"I need you to make him Brave™."
Emma is next seen walking through a tunnel in one of the more covert parts of town, in which she has parked her yellow bug. As she walks around the other side of it, we see that Merida is tied to the front, struggling to get free. The flame-haired Scot exclaims that she should have trusted her gut when she first met Emma, for she is a witch, and Emma responds that she should have trusted her own gut and kept the princess' heart. With that, she leans down and plunges her hand into her chest - again - and rips out her heart - again - and the pained Merida asks the Dark Swan if she plans on killing her, calling her a coward. Emma waves her hands and causes her prisoner's ropes to relinquish, ordering that she talk no more and go pick up the bow. Merida does as told, because she has no choice but to do so, and retrieves her bow and arrows from inside the car. As she does this, Emma tells her that there's this guy she knows who she wouldn't like because he's a real coward. But, for her to get what she wants, that has to change - "I need you to make him just like you... I need you to make him brave."
- The title card of this episode features Merlin's tower, before it was transformed by Arthur into a whole castle.
- Although credited, Emilie de Ravin (Belle French/Belle) and Rebecca Mader (Zelena/Wicked Witch) are absent from this episode.
- The captions reading "Five Years Later" and "Five Years Earlier" don't include the 28 years of the curse.
- The dress Guinevere wears when she becomes Queen is the same dress Milah wore when he husband returned home from war in "Manhattan"; the dress she wears during her birthday party is the same dress sported by Rapunzel in "The Tower"; finally, the outfit she wears during her quest with Lancelot is the same one sported by Jack in "Tiny".
- This episode details Rumplestiltskin's trip to Camelot where he receives the magic gauntlet, mentioned in "Heroes and Villains"; however, when he does get Merlin's gauntlet, he isn't actually in Camelot, and isn't seen there at any point in the farther flashbacks.
- The title of this episode was officially confirmed by executive producer/co-creator Adam Horowitz, via his Twitter account, on August 11, 2015.
- This is the seventeenth episode to be written by David H. Goodman, and the fifth to be co-written by both he and Jerome Schwartz, as well as Schartz's fifth episode overall. It's also the second episode to be directed by Alrick Riley.
The episode's numbers remained steady for a third week with a 1.6/5 among 18-49s with 4.92 million viewers tuning in, experiencing another slight drop from the previous episode, while once again winning its timeslot.
The episode received good reviews even though they left some mixed feelings about how it was executed.
- Hillary Busis of Entertainment Weekly said, "Even though Merlin’s already appeared in an episode, wouldn’t you love to see him come out of the tree as Titus Welliver. Let’s get some Man in Black up in here."
- Amy Ratcliffe of IGN said of the episode, "Though the Camelot arc isn't the most compelling yet, the Storybrooke crew is fitting into it nicely. Arthur's story isn't taking over, and the Excalibur and Dark One's dagger connection means Emma and co. are thoroughly involved. The introduction of the sand from Avalon and seeing Arthur's true nature is opening the door to understanding why Emma embraced evil. They're doing a suitable job of planting those seeds; there's just enough information to start theorizing about Emma's decision." Ratcliffe gave the episode a 6.6 rating out of 10.
- Gwen Ihnat of The A.V. Club gave the episode a slightly positive review, giving it a C. She notes "I was hoping against hope for Morgan Le Fay to show up, because outside of Guinevere, Camelot is pretty much a dudefest. But Adam Horowitz recently pointed out at a Comic Con that she will not be appearing, that they just didn’t have room for everyone, which is too bad. The knights are fun, but the earthy witches and sorcery of the women of Camelot (Morgan, Morgause, and Vivian) add a deeper dimension to the story. At least in between we get Snow and Charming having another real relationship talk (well, fight, but even that was refreshing), along with a simple example of trickery with a fake dagger that enables them to reveal Arthur’s menace. But it’s not a lot to pin a whole episode on, unless we all start sniffing the pink stuff."
Gallery of photographic stills released to promote the episode.
- ↑ Adam Horowitz tweet.
- ↑ Sunday final ratings: 'The Good Wife,' 'Madam Secretary' and 'The Simpsons' adjusted up, plus final NFL numbers, by Rick Porter, TV by the Numbers (October 20, 2015)
- ↑ "Once Upon a Time recap: The Broken Kingdom", by Hilary Busis, Entertainment Weekly (October 18, 2015)
- ↑ Once Upon a Time: "The Broken Kingdom" Review, by Amy Ratcliffe, IGN (October 19, 2015)
- ↑ Once Upon A Time: "the Broken Kingdom", by Gwen Ihnat, The A.V. Club (October 18, 2015)