The Broken Kingdom 5×04
The Broken Kingdom: unlike any other episode of Once and marvelous. Does it seem to anyone else that Once is getting serious? Taking itself more seriously and putting its money where it’s mouth is? How can I reward this enough? They broke from the usual mold and hauled us by our hair into their story. The best writers write what the audience needs, not what audience wants. This is what I mean by getting paid for our patience and suspending our ids.
I was so swept along by this episode that by the time I thought we had reached the midpoint in the episode, we had actually nearly reached the end. Not the structural midpoint of the story, but the temporal one. I was that immersed.
Performance of the week goes to: Colin O’Donoghue for heartthrob worthy work as a romantic lead. We want to trust our dashing pirate. This was a close race here, though, and I probably only gave it to O’Donoghue due to compelling thematic material. Otherwise, Robert Carlyle’s work creeping me out is certainly noteworthy, as is his effective exposition-arguably harder to pull off than romance. But I’m a softy and follow my heart, so, by a hair, the ten points are for Hook.
Overall Rating: 9/10 for a little itty-bitty chicken out at the end which I will discuss below the spoiler line.
Here endeth the spoiler-free overview. Below there be dragons!
Scene 1: Follow your heart
The kids in this scene do a great job and this is a solid piece of back story for Arthur. We now know that Arthur grew up bullied but had a genuine friendship with Guinevere. Kay might have been a jerk, but we still don’t know much about how young Arthur conducted himself with his peers.
Theories: Maybe Arthur began letting his future grandeur go to his head the moment Merlin told him of Excalibur and thus began his later habit of not treating others well.
Theory: I’m just curious… We only think Merlin is trapped in a tree because Arthur says he is. Arthur says Merlin spoke to him from the tree, giving him the prophecy. How do we know Merlin is really in that tree and that it wasn’t someone posing as Merlin to corrupt Arthur who spoke to him? Merlin could be anywhere and the sword in the stone could have been designed to drive Arthur away from the light by way of obsession.
Scene 2: In which Arthur takes office based on deceit.
Did Merlin speak half the truth or is Arthur too ambitious/greedy to understand that a sword does not make a leader? The broken sword could have been presented as an emblem of the new Camelot and the people would have been proud of a past that no longer plagued them. The broken sword would have just been a figurehead of what they had achieved. But Arthur couldn’t see that.
I am already deeply engaged at this point with the episode because I want to know how and when Arthur got corrupted. I was expecting to cut away to Storybrooke in scene 2, but that didn’t happen. The first structural surprise!
Theories: Did hearing the prophecy as a child start a life-long obsession that twisted his mind away from actually being a good leader, a good person? It is tough to believe that child Arthur, upon hearing the prophecy was already so single-mindedly selfish and determined. For me at least, a few bullies wouldn’t tip over that applecart believably, there had to be something more.
Merlin’s motivations (if Merlin is the voice from the tree) are growing more and more suspect.
Scene 3: Camelot’s dirty little secret- which is only dirty because Arthur is obsessed.
A brooding Arthur summoned David to enlist his help with his obsession. I smell manipulation. David is afraid here because he doesn’t want to spill the beans, but he still trusts Arthur. Poor David. Arthur either really thinks he can destroy the darkness with a whole Excalibur, or he has other plans for Excalibur but figures he can rope David in with this.
I suspect that Arthur can sense the darkness swirling around him, but not that it IS him. Maybe subconsciously Arthur knows his obsession is darkness but is going about excising it the wrong way.
Scene 4: Sweet Sound
And now we know what Emma does all night as a sleepless Dark One. Does she think she can perhaps snare Rumple, DO (Dark One) in one of those?
I get the feeling that Rumple, DO is doing more to Emma in this scene than suggest they investigate the whispers. I think he is beginning to assert control. Her eyes widen after he speaks and she moves almost like a puppet when she gets out of her chair.
Am I the only one who thinks Rumple, DO is only getting creepier as time goes by? Carlyle just keeps pushing him toward being truly frightening. I wonder if he feels he can go further with Rumple, DO because he has Rumple to contrast with. He has rightly said that a good villain doesn’t truly alienate the audience from the actor, or move them toward disliking the character so intensely that they no longer want to see that character. But the risks with Rumple, DO being creepy and terrifying are just not the same as if this was the Rumple we all love, or if we had lost Rumple entirely.
We have a certain affection for Rumple which we don’t have for Rumple, DO which perhaps frees Carlyle to push the evil envelope. Rumple, DO gives me chills in this scene. He very nearly looks directly into the camera and it feels like he’s looking into my living room. Carlyle is seriously intense. We feel the pressure on Emma’s mind and start squirming ourselves.
Emma is having a tough time resisting him and I just love his giggle when she goes so far as to try to blast him with magic.
And nearly took out Hook.
I have to say I am not a fan of convenience artificial tensions like these. This is a much used, by Once, deus ex machina. Hook had no reason that we know of to be there and the scene could have maintained its momentum focused on Emma’s being rattled by Rumple, DO.
But, since they didn’t go that route, we get to see Rumple, DO lurking like only Carlyle can lurk.
Scene 5: Star Struck.
Emma looks like she’s going to barf and Hook wasn’t listening. Yes Emma told him exactly what was wrong seconds ago…
I have a particular fondness for Caring-Hook. His line, “Come on love, let’s sail away,” is tender and well delivered.
Credit were credit is due. Ms. Goodwin does shrill and pissed off nicely. David giving Mary Margaret a lecture on not believing everything she hears is just rich. Goodwin and Dallas get into it here and it is delightful.
But more delightful is when they notice that Regina is still there. Again, nobody does comic relief like Parrilla does. She turns away into her cloud of purple smoke… don’t mind me.
Nothing deals with thematic material quite like a believable fight. I wasn’t sure that this would really work, but it did. We get at David’s feelings of inadequacy and his gullibility in one fell swoop while dealing with Mary Margaret’s tendency to trust her gut more than she should. This scene is well executed.
Scene 6: Arthur is an awful husband
Here Arthur acts like an addict those closest to him are left to pick up the pieces and make excuses for him.
Whomever is doing choreography work for Once has a habit of doing a nice job. These dances are foreign to us and yet also familiar.
We really feel for Guinevere here because Arthur lies to her face about her being the most precious thing he has.
Scene 7: We need to talk
Words to never write into a script. Ever, no matter how tempting. Just no.
And David defies Mary Margaret. Gullible David…
Glad you told me…
Scene 8: I will finish this damned quest
This scene could have been cheesy, but because of Joana Metrass’s performance, it had immediacy instead.
Scene 9: Guinevere has a potty mouth!
Icky, black, oily goo! And then a beautiful spiral staircase
And then the appearance of the Darkness. But wait, I thought it was in Rumple at this time?
What doesn’t make sense about this scene is that the Vault of the Dark One is lined with torches which can vanquish its guard dog. What? You’d think this would be the darkest place in all the realms, but no, it looks borderline cozy with all those torches and soft light.
It would have been more believable had they brought, say the Unquenchable Flame with them to light their way and that banished the Darkness.
For my money, I am glad to see Guinevere initiate mischief.
Scene 10: Don’t tell my wife
What did Lancelot do other than get kissed by a queen?
Ha ha! Nice try David.
Scene 11: Something to hide
Mary Margaret defied David too. Some fight!
Scene 12: There’s this girl…
Way to ask for a date Henry. Nicodemus? Nice name for a horse. Hmm. Nicodemus fills my heart with dread due to the Dresden Files. This may or may not be a Dresden Files reference depending on the disposition of the horse… But, Nicodemus could be another reference entirely.
Great line: he straight up lied to my face and I’m the Dark One.
Ands Rumple, DO lurks. Like a pro.
Also: too bad you don’t have the Jolly Roger shrunk in your pocket right now? That might be the best take-me-now line I have ever heard.
Scene 13: It does if you still love her.
Please stop using vocal fry, Ms. Goodwin…
Scene 14: A portal in the Vault of the Dark One
Merlin’s gauntlet. Now Rumple has told us he thinks Merlin is stuck in a tree. That probably means he is. We also now know that the Isle of Avalon exists in this world.
Of note, the sculptural structure holding the dagger is a nice representation of the Darkness. I’d have that in my living room.
Rumple’s perceptions? Or his ability to see the future? Either way, Carlyle executes this exposition handily as always.
Scene 15: Where does that portal lead??
Why should Snow let Lancelot deal with the the dagger?
Oh and by the way, Arthur just admitted to being an evil schmuck.
Scene 16: Fond and Evil Farewells
That guy is lost to obsession. Poor Guinevere!
The spare use of music in this scene is VERY effective.
Here is the magic of this episode and the writing up till this point. We don’t know Arthur and Guinevere very well yet but this scene is deeply compelling anyway. Our patience has been hugely paid off. After the title card, I had forgotten entirely that we had not jumped into Storybrooke once in this entire episode until it surprised me at the very end. Staying in the past was a brilliant move and assertive. This as what we needed to sink into the story they are telling us. No coaxing here, a clenched fisted drag by the hair into the story we NEEDED to hear instead of what we are anxiously waiting for in Storybrooke present.
We will get paid for all of this exposition. We just received our down payment with the revelation of the depth of Arthur’s corruption. There is little more evil in this world or the realms of imagination than abrogating the free will of another. And Arthur just did that for convenience, greed, obsession and fear. He just effectively killed his wife, what made her special, and he feels he’s just won.
A reveal like this one is so worth the price of admission. This deed seems something darker than even Rumple would do. Yes he manipulated Regina into cursing everyone to forget themselves and live in misery -and has countless murders to his name-, but this is a step beyond that slight of hand and into mind magic which somehow even seems worse than taking a heart. Though, it is a definite thought experiment to figure out which acts are more evil… Is an evil-off in order?
Regardless, Arthur just entered the same circle as some of the darkest villains we have known to date. And his motives are my book, are far less noble. Regina wanted revenge, not noble, but at least she had actually been wronged by someone if her reaction was misdirected. Rumple made a mistake and was trying to find his son, for love. Noble, if his means were undeniably evil. But Arthur? He’s pissed off because the sword he was promised is only half a sword. That’s not even close to a justification for the evil we just witnessed.
Scene 17: Here.
And we know that Arthur plans on killing and controlling with a lust for power perhaps rivaling Rumple’s own. Nice guy.
Snow and Charming actually double crossed Arthur.
And Arthur is actually shocked that David would side with his wife over Arthur. Sad, sad man. He’s confused the good of Camelot with his own ambitions and greed.
The fight was real.
Scene 18: The pony is smarter than the pirate…
Well, yes…. but.
Stop talking to the demon in your head. Get on the horse.
Oh thank you O’Donoghue for that. Well delivered. Of note, Morrison had mentioned that she was the only one who hadn’t managed to ride a horse yet and she really wanted to. Now she gets paid too.
Scene 19: Granny’s meatloaf cutting tool
I love Arthur’s smirk here. But then Ms. Goodwin falls back on her unfortunate standby: vocal fry… please, find something else.
Hoping you can help?
Scene 20: The cell the rats prefer…
Now we know Merida also had a mishap with Arthur.
Scene 21: Outlive a cockroach
And the line of the night goes to!! Regina. Again.
Does Regina smell a rat here?
Scene 22: pay day!!!
In a field of flowers we get paid for all our heartache for the entire first chunk of the season with regards to these two. And Emma get’s what she asked Hook for a few scenes back.
What a beautiful scene.
Here’s the deal folks. Those scenes are only beautiful and touching and wonderful and warm and fuzzy and, and, and, IF and only IF you have paid in advance.
Magic ALWAYS comes with a price. Emotional magic is no different. If we had this scene every week, there would be no show due to eye-rolling and gagging on sweetness.
But, because we have paid our emotional dues, this is satisfying in a very deep way. We have missed these two and getting to see them here gives us hope. What this show is all about.
Scene 23: Now we come back to Storybrooke in the last two minutes and thirty seconds
Emma is remembering the scene we just saw, nice link with the flower.
Now we know something important about Rumple: he can be held, trussed up by rope. No magic.
Nice reversal here, how many people begged him to stop being such a bastard? How many, including his wife, did he listen to when he had his own agenda in mind? Poor Rumple.
Theory: and the thing to sharpen him up is… Belle? Threaten what he cares about. I stick to my long game theory here that Emma will eventually sic Rumple on Arthur, but in the mean time, she needs him to have a change of heart.
Scene 24: Turns out she’ll use Merida to get there.
Merida will make Rumple brave.
I’d pay to see that.
Oh wait. That’s exactly what I am doing with my iTunes season pass. Perfect.
Now, the one little issue might not even be one but… I wonder if they could have kept us in the past and given us a similar cliff hanger in the past to truly maintain cohesion with this episode and make it truly unique. I haven’t figured out how yet and I’m not even convinced it would have been better if they had. It’s just a thought.
This episode is what we have been waiting for from Once. A sit down, shut up and buckle your seatbelt episode with major pay days. I’m still waiting for my Rumbelle kiss though… Poor Belle and Rumple have been on the receiving end of the stick for quite a while. Maybe they will get paid next week? I hope so!