The Broken Kingdom Review | Once Upon a Time Season 5 Episode 4

Stop trying to mend that sword or your marriage and your kingdom will be broken forever.


Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, Sean Maguire, and Robert Carlyle.

Season 5
Episode 4: The Broken Kingdom

So early into the season, I was slightly disarmed to have such an uneventful episode. Still, the twists and the journey throughout was quite compelling, especially when Snow and Charming were at loggerheads.

The main revelations of this episode hinge around Arthur’s true nature. While we already knew from the previous episode that he wasn’t a good guy, this instalment really shone a light on the extent of his villainy. As it transpires, Arthur built Camelot using the Sands of Avalon, crafting it more upon an illusion instead of actual leadership skill: an interesting subversion considering the high esteem Camelot is held in as an almost ideal society by contemporary standards.

The flashbacks also really sold Lancelot and Guinevere’s connection. Though it was quite speedy, it’s definitely preferable to spending more than one episode away from the main characters. Having Arthur absorbed in his quest to unite Excalibur out of his obsession with fulfilling Merlin’s prophecy really helped explain and justify why Guinevere would grow closer to Lancelot. It also nicely built upon what we discovered about Arthur last episode through his conversation with David: he is clearly driven to live up to the image of his heroism from the prophecy, and is convinced that this all comes from Excalibur instead of him personally.

Elsewhere, Snow and Charming took an engaging turn this week. Firstly, it’s nice for their storyline to not revolve around Emma – normally this is all that they talk about, and their argument felt organic. Snow pulling Charming up on his reasoning for being on the Round Table and feeling like he needed it was quite vicious, and it was nice to see the two behaving with something less than a nauseating sense of self righteousness.

I suppose that Snow actually having a fake Dark One dagger was a good twist, but I was slightly disappointed that David and her were actually in cahoots. It would have been so much more captivating if he had been under Arthur’s thumb – it would have made Arthur seem more of a credible adversary, instead of somebody who just relies upon mystical sands.

The Hook and Emma elements of the episode were also successful, but since we know how that storyline ends it makes the whole plot bittersweet in a way. It was good to see Hook being so supportive of Emma and her light side in the same way that she saw the lightness within him as a villain.

This episode is mainly helpful for us understanding Arthur and how he works. Clearly, his solution to everything is just to mask the problem, and having Snow and Charming on his side in Camelot is bound to be interesting, though it is only a matter of time before Regina figures out that something is seriously amiss. It’s telling that Arthur concedes that Camelot is broken if he is using the sands to make it appear as if it isn’t. Is he actually content with this illusion? Is he aware of what things need to change to make it fixed? Or is he relying upon Excalibur to make the illusion real? I can’t help but feel that if Arthur had actually set his mind to being a credible ruler, instead of placing all of his self worth onto the sword then Camelot would have been successful for real. I suppose that’s the point.

This feels like quite a short review, but also, there’s not terribly much to say about this episode. It was nice, we learnt a bit more, and then it was over. A relatively unremarkable instalment. It was nice for the episode not to stick too rigidly to the usual format, too, so that we didn’t have to sit through a tenuous Camelot-Storybrooke link where Arthur gets between Snow and Charming in the present day. That would have been far too much.

Once Upon an Additional Brainthought

  • Nice to see our flame-haired Scot again this week, both in Camelot and in the present day.
  • I am slightly confused as to why the Dark One swirled around Lancelot in the same way it did to Emma, as I thought that was how it behaved without a host, but here it was already contained within Rumple.
  • How long did Rumple actually hold the dagger in that place? How often did we even see Rumple with the Dark One dagger in the Enchanted Forest? Why would there even be a way of getting to the dagger from Camelot?
  • I really want to know in what respect Camelot was “broken”? I mean, sure, but how much is an actual issue and how much is it just Arthur thinking it should be legendary because of the prophecy?
  • What even is Guinevere’s accent? I always had it in my head that she would be French. Not sure if that’s accurate, but that’s what I thought. Also, if she was raised in the same place as Arthur, surely her accent would gave lessened somewhat over the years?

You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Serena says:

    I am confused as to how Arthur was a pure enough hero to pull Excalibur from the stone, but became so evil that he would enslave his wife and murder his squire. I didn’t think that Merlin, the greatest sorcerer of all time, would be so inept as to create an enchantment that could be circumvented by a deluded control freak. Am I missing something?

    Hook’s delight in Henry’s crush was great fun. And the visual of Hook and Emma in the field of “middlemist” flowers was beautiful. On a superficial level, Hook is having another great hair day.

    The fact that Hook was successful in helping Emma push away hallucination Rumple makes it even more of a mystery as to why Dark Swan accused everyone of failing her in the season premiere. Or was she just referring to her parents, who are now under Arthur’s control? Because that’s not their fault!

    I found it true to character that Snow and Charming worked together to help their daughter, no matter their differences of opinion. It would not have made sense for Charming to be so completely taken in by Arthur after going on a single adventure with him, that he would suddenly trust Arthur over Snow. I was quite upset that they were overpowered by magic in the end (Rumple’s fault, of course) — just how much of the Sands of Avalon does Arthur have left after building all of Camelot from its magic?

    But I agree that what Guinevere and Lancelot encountered in the depths of the Dark One Vault makes no sense. As you said, the dark tendrils should have been contained within Rumple at this time. Worse, if all it takes is poking the darkness with a torch to chase it away for good, then Emma sacrificed herself for nothing! A few torches around Storybrooke would have protected everyone.

    The final scene with Dark Swan and Gold is interesting, in that Gold tells her she does not have to give in to the darkness. So he is culpable for his actions as the Dark One after all! Not likely that the writers will notice their own slip-up. And making Gold “brave” (if that’s even possible) won’t make him a “hero”.

    Then again, Arthur fooled Merlin’s stone to get Excalibur out the first time, so maybe Emma will be able to fool the stone as well?

    There were lots of funny lines in this episode, but I think my favourite was when Charming was examining Excalibur:
    “Finally a blade that can stand up to Granny’s meatloaf!”


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