Once Upon a Time Recap: You Guin' Some, You Lose Some

This week on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, we learned a whole lot about Camelot, the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot triangle and how the king was consumed with completing Excalibur. Our heroes meanwhile either got sandbagged by a spell or, if lucky, got to make out in a meadow.

As I look over my notes here for “The Broken Kingdom,” I am not surprised to see that a good 80 percent of them are about characters other than those from Storybrooke. And that was a problem. Basically, they needed to deliver the backstory behind Arthur’s obsession with Excalibur in order to service the “current” Camelot tale, but in doing so, the characters we know were off screen for massive chunks of time. Which is never a good thing.

Especially when I can sum it up this succinctly: So mad had Arthur become in his quest for the Dark One’s dagger, it drove a wedge between him and Guinevere — to the point that one day she decided to seek out the dagger herself, with Lancelot at her side. But upon butting heads with Rumplestiltskin, all they got for their trouble was a vial of the Sands of Olivia Pope Avalon, which can “fix” anything.

Upon returning home and seeing Arthur’s mania — now amplified by his jealousy of Lancelot — displayed anew, Guinevere elected not to use the sands on Excalibur. Instead, Arthur grabbed the vial and used the sands to cast a spell on Guin, creating a Stepford Wife of sorts. He then used more sand (the vial is bigger on the inside?) to make the kingdom of Camelot “whole.”

In the “current” Camelot timeline…

Emma had a moment of weakness, goaded by Rumple to steal the dagger from Regina — but she held back, after which Hook soothed her. As Regina and the Charmings gathered around weak Emma, Charming explained how Arthur wants to make Excalibur whole, to vanquish the Darkness, while Snow White reported that Lancelot is alive and says Arthur is not to be trusted. In private, the Charmings quarrel some — she says he’s “starstruck” by the king and needs “to feel like a hero again.” Afterward, David confides in Arthur that they’ve been lying about daughter Emma, and he’s ready to reunite the dagger with Excalibur… except the box is empty. Turns out, Snow has the dagger and, with Lacnelot, plans to hide it beyond the door at the bottom of the Dark One’s vault. Arthur shows up to steal the dagger from the two of them, but when he uses it to summon Emma, he realizes it’s a fake. Charming then shows up to get the drop on Arthur, revealing that, yes, he and Snow fought, but they put their differences aside to focus on Emma’s well-being and thus set this sting in motion.

Alas… the Charmings don’t get to be clever for the entire episode.

For no sooner have they detained Arthur inside Granny’s than Stepford Guinevere shows up with the troops, to rescue the king and enlist the Charmings in their cause, by using more Sands of Avalon on the marrieds. The spellbound Charmings then lie to Regina about “Arthur good! Lancelot bad!” and say they need to marry the dagger with Excalibur. Meanwhile, imprisoned Lancelot makes the acquaintance of a spunky cellmate — Merida — who’s all too happy to take on Arthur.

As for the Dark One herself, Once-Upon-a-Time-Emma-Hook-kissEmma keeps seeing visions of Rumple, so Hook suggests they go for a horseback ride through the countryside (after they spy on lovelorn Henry meeting up with Violet at her family’s stables). Upon arriving at an idyllic meadow rife with flowers, Emma indeed is no longer haunted, as she and Hook fall into a long, passionate and gorgeously directed kiss.

It is only then that we finally return to present-day Storybrooke, where Dark Emma has Rumple strapped to a gate. He insists, “I can’t be the hero you want,” but she sees him as a “dull knife” that simply needs sharpening — via her “secret weapon,” Merida, who has been tied to the Bug’s front fender. Dark Emma gives the sassy Scot her mission: to make a coward “brave.”

What did you think of “The Broken Kingdom”?

Want more scoop on Once, or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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53 Comments
  1. disneydave2005 says:

    When they went to the vault of The Dark One five years ago, how was Rumple there with the dagger while Mr. Gold was in Storybrooke? I’d imagine this part takes place before Lancelot went on his journey when he met with Emma and Snow

    • Kate says:

      I found the whole ‘past’ Camelot timeline confusing. Remember Snow and Charming were ‘cursed’ and in Storybrooke for 28 years.. they met Lancelot and were married by him long before the events in ‘past’ Camelot. In that timeline he told Charming he left Camelot because of his love for a woman. So this five year thing is really confusing. And it wasn’t Lancelot that met Emma and Snow in the Enchanted Forest, but Cora disguised as Lancelot. Agree about Rumple and Gold.. how can he be in two places? And I can understand the need to tell the Camelot story, but not to the detriment of the main characters. Arthur is definitely a ‘mad’ King. as in completely off his rocker.

      • Teresa says:

        I just think that the five years are not including the 28 years that time was still. If they did want to include the 28 years, it probably would’ve said 33 years in the past. So let’s say that present Camelot takes place two years after the dark curse was broken ( honestly I don’t know how much time has passed since the curse broke, so I’m just making up a number), that means past Camelot takes place three years before the dark curse was enacted.

        • disneydave2005 says:

          Time didn’t stand still though. They were in the enchanted forest assumingly under Cora’s spell too for the entire 30 some odd years

          • murley says:

            But nobody in the enchanted forest aged in all that time, right? Same as storybrook. So I think in that sense those 28 years don’t count and that past Camelot is five years prior to the current time line and effectively 3 or whatever years before the curse.

      • laurelnev says:

        Cough–can you say RETCON? –cough, cough :D

    • robandco says:

      Didn’t they established that every realm is on its own different timeline? I am not sure if Camelot is in a different magical realm than the enchanted forest (because the vault was accessible without crossing through the realms with a portal) but when it comes to OUAT timeline, I learned not to ask many questions or the magic falls apart (pun intended).

      • disneydave2005 says:

        As far as I know this is the same chamber/vault area that Neal and Belle went to trying to resurrect Rumple last time. Emma also specifically stated that she was in the enchanted forest when she got there in the premiere. Camelot would have been in the same realm just like Arendelle

        • robandco says:

          It makes sense. I didn’t watched the first episodes properly so I wasn’t quite sure of where it was. But the writers have some explaining to do because knowing that the timeline is indeed a bit weird.
          But I think it hasn’t been 5 years in our world since the curse was broken. The first 2 seasons happened during a short period of time I believe, and then we had several arcs that didn’t expand on 6 months each.
          It only makes sense if when they were stuck in SB time completely froze for them (which is the case I believe) and since they were on a different realm, time passed differently. So, even if around 3 years have passed since Emma broke the cruse, it adds up (but in a very twisted way).

  2. Vari says:

    BEAUTIFUL SHOT of Emma and Hook with the pink rose and field. Wow.

  3. Amy says:

    I actually really loving this episode (and arc)and even though it was weighted a lot in past Camelot I felt the setup was worth it. I loved the Charming& Snow scenes along with the Hook and Emma ones….and am loving watching the mystery unfold. I’m curious if even though she’s under a spell if Gwen couldn’t have used Lancelots heart for the curse?

  4. Jackie says:

    I enjoyed the episode! Normally I hate when the regulars are sidelined for guest characters, too, but it didn’t bother me in this ep for some reason. Maybe because the regulars we did get are the ones I enjoy the most, and the ones most sidelined are the ones I least enjoy. And I found myself curious about what was going on with Arthur, Lance & Gwen, so that kept my interest. Now that we know their history, we can get back to the regulars next week.

    I loved the Hook and Emma scenes — the beautiful meadow kiss, and the fun scene with them spying on Henry and Violet. Their romance is my favorite on TV in years.

    And I’m so glad that Snowing weren’t being complete idiots like it looked for awhile there. Arthur has gone mad over his obsession with restoring Excalibur.

  5. Ann J says:

    I loved the episode! The Camelot stuff I think was needed to see how obsessed Arthur was and is even now. It somehow didn’t bother me as much as the Frozen arc. Great episode!

  6. abz says:

    Not a fan of the Camelot characters. Maybe its because I’m just not all that familiar with the mythology. I was a bit bored.
    Loved the Hook/Henry/Emma moments though.

  7. Lex Roberts says:

    Another episode in which I was bored out of my mind. UGH!

    This is supposed to be the DarkSwan arc and there is so little of DarkSwan that it’s just not working for me. I do not care about their Camelot fanfiction. I care about Emma, Henry, Regina & the Charmings. Less focus on boring backstory and more an actual DarkSwan.

    I liked 2 parts of this episode: The Charmings’ ruse and Emma’s reaction to Henry in the stables. That’s it.

    I was SO excited for this arc and so far, it’s terribly uninteresting and that is unfortunate because Morrison is doing her finest work since Season 1. She should be the focus. DARKSWAN.

  8. I’m having a hard time viewing Arthur as a conflicted hero. I think he’s power crazed and desparate, like Cora, Zelina or Regina (Rumplestilskin was just desparate before he took the dark dagger).
    I forgot that Granny’s was sent to Camelot, so I thought the scene with Guin and the knights took place in Storybrooke. Thank you for clarifying that.
    I had the same reaction as you to the “Endless Dust of Avalon” magic item.

  9. laurelnev says:

    Thank you Matt, for putting your finger on what has been WRONG with this season. They’re too busy filling in details for the too many new characters than showing us anything, and the characters we know and love are pushed to the side. Did we really NEED Camelot? King George and King Midas were established baddies…couldn’t one of THEM have entrapped the Sorcerer, so they could develop THEIR stories without trashing beloved legends? We het 35 minutes of plot-driven scenes, and like 8 minutes of what we love about the show. Tonight, that was the barn scene and Hook&Emma on the horse. I want 35 minutes of character driven story, with like 8 minutes of plot driven stuff to fill in what we need to know. SHOW us; don’t tell us.

    • ninergrl6 says:

      I think they’re trying to “show” us why Arthur is working against our heroes. The problem is, it doesn’t matter nor do I care. In fact, I was more interested in Arthur when I knew less about him, when he seemed like a king trying to do right by his kingdom even if it meant going against the Storybrooke folks. He was dynamic and garnered some sympathy. Now that I know he’s just a manipulative, power-hungry jerk, he sunk to Cora/Zelena status for me. I have no interest to learn more about him nor do I have any sympathy for his cause. Rather than furthering his character, tonight’s ep turned him into a one-dimensional villain.

  10. ninergrl6 says:

    Yeah too much 5-years-ago Camelot, not enough Storybrooke-residents-we-care-about. Even worse, the actors playing Guinevere & Lancelot have absolutely no chemistry, which made the “love triangle” completely unbelievable. Good job setting up Arthur as truly a bad guy (last ep his sneaky ways seemed more altruistic than selfish) but the rest of the Camelot stuff was pretty snooze-worthy.

    My absolute favorite scene was Henry bringing Emma & Hook to the stable. The looks that Hook gave Henry were HILARIOUS. Colin O’Donaghue can say more with an eye brown and a smirk than with a whole page of dialogue. Such a cute, light moment amidst all the angst.

    I actually liked Snow & Charming’s fight too. She totally called him on his hero complex, which was the perfect call-back to last week’s episode. I kind of wish they were at odds longer and the dispute over whom to trust, Arthur or Lancelot, was more of a mystery. There had to have been a way to NOT lay all the Camelot cards out on the table so soon, advance the plot of trying to save Emma past and present, and not overload us with so much Camelot backstory all at once. I liked the uncertainty of Arthur vs. Lancelot and having Snow and Charming in opposite sides. Now it’s obvious who is good and who is bad and that’s less interesting IMO. And apparently all of Camelot is a magic-dust-induced figment of the imagination? What the heck?

  11. prish says:

    The husband says, “Where are our Storybrooke characters? It emphasizes too much about the Camelot…what the heck?” Myself, I am so bored with the Camelot thing, but I never got into the musical, either. It is too confusing with too many characters packed into too little storytelling. Violet and Henry were a zinger, though.

  12. Laurie says:

    I have a random in left field question. Was the scene in Granny’s Diner filmed in ‘Luke’s Diner’ from Gilmore Girls? It looks eerily similar

  13. This episode’s cinematography was truly gorgeous from start to finish, that shot of Captain Swan kissing in a rose meadow… you really can’t get more fairy tale.like than that!
    I also liked that the pieces to the puzzle are slowly coming into place, I can’t wait to find out where all of this Camelot being a basically phony kingdom will lead to.

  14. Datya says:

    I think I’ve made sense of the timeline. Matt, can you confirm?
    We now know how Rumple came to possess Merlin’s weakness detecting gauntlet (which the Queens of Darkness later attempted to get him to trade for Belle). Do I understand correctly that Camelot is in the realm of the Enchanted Forest? So Lancelot leaves Camelot, becomes a trusted knight of King George,, befriends Snow, marries Snow and Charming and gives Snow the magic water so she can have Emma. Assuming Emma arrived in Storybrook around 3 years ago – including the 6 month jump in Season 3, this all has to happen within about a year, then Snow is pregnant for 9 months, the curse hits, and everything, including Camelot is frozen for 28 years.
    (And within that year is also when Belle is taken by the Queens…)
    Does that make sense Matt?

    • Anthony says:

      Thank you. I’ve been struggling since last night with the amount of time that has passed since Emma arrived in Storybrooke at the start of season 1. When I tweeted last night “How can Rumple be there if five years ago he was in Storybrooke and still amnesiac,” Adam Horowitz responded that if I looked at the timeline carefully, it all fits — but I couldn’t wrap my head around character time vs. series time. I keep feeling, largely based on how much obviously older Henry is, that 1 season = roughly 1 year of storybrooke character time (assuming there’s swatches of time we just don’t see represented in the episodes), and that’s clearly not the case. Your explanation made that click for me, so thanks again.

  15. Aly says:

    I personally found the episode very boring…Too much focus on Camelot characters, and not enough on the core group. Also, I wish there was more focus on internal struggles, especially in this arc where Emma is the Dark One and all, and not so much ‘plot plot plot’.

    I’m most interested in next week. Does anyone else have the concern that poor Violet is going to be murdered by Emma? Stable girl and all…would be a strong parallel between Henry/Violet and Regina/Daniel.

  16. Patrick Maloney says:

    “You Guin’ Some, You Lose Some”. Why, Matt? I don’t know if I should be frustrated with the pun in this recap’s title or laugh hysterically.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    I actually really enjoyed this episode. I like the character of King Arthur. Remember that this show needs a bad guy now for the Camelot time period and Emma isn’t bad enough yet to fill that role. Every season they add new characters and have to fill backstory. I happen to prefer King Arthur to the Frozen storyline.

    • CbinJ says:

      Even though I ended up liking the Frozen arc, I found the the Frozen flashbacks to be too frequent and extremely boring. I think they have found the right balance with regards to structure this season (so far anyway). I actually found the Camelot flashbacks interesting. I think one reason for that is there is an immediacy to understand what exactly is up with Camelot–overwhelming shadiness potentially dangerous to our mains equals real stakes (yet we don’t/ didn’t know what or why). Frozen really had no high stakes until “Fall” and the QOD arc was supposed to feel high stakes, but fell flat in my opinion.

  18. Michelle says:

    That picture looks like it was taken in Luke’s Diner from Gilmore Girls! Just pointing that out. Have not seen this episode yet just started watching the show on Amazon and Netflix to catch up. Great show!!

  19. Bedaine says:

    I liked the episode alright. Yeah the balance was tipped heavily in favor of the Camelot characters, but I find them a lot more interesting as guest stars than say Frozen last year. The Guinevere twist was good. I like Henry and Violet even though I think it will end in tragedy. I can’t be bothered a single bit with the Emma and Hook relationship, but they’re so devoid of any actual relevance and meaning that it’s easy to just skip those scenes so whatever.

  20. Datya says:

    Also, Guienevere has the (everlasting) bottle of enchanted sand, knows what it does, but doesn’t realize it has been used on her?!? Do we think this enchantment can be broken by True Love’s Kiss? Maybe if Lancelot kisses Guin’… But then the next time Snow ans Charming kiss the enchantment over them should break… So maybe not…

  21. buttercupscarlett95 says:

    I really enjoyed this episode, although I sympathize with the desire for more focus on the regular characters. I felt like what we got from the regulars, though, was superb. Captain Swan and Snowing are my favorite couples on the show, and they really made this episode. The scene with Henry hiding Hook and Emma from Violet was adorable, and the looks on their faces were priceless. The way Hook understands Emma so well and was able to give her a respite from the darkness was beautiful and, like Matt, I was blown away by the breathtaking cinematography in the kiss scene.

    I was pleasantly surprised that the Snowing split was resolved so quickly. I expected it to drag on for several episodes, with Charming trusting Arthur over his wife. I’m glad he sided with Snow, and I loved seeing them turn the tables on Arthur in the vault. It’s too bad they didn’t anticipate Guinevere’s move when they got back to Camelot. Now I’m curious as to whether Snowing are still under Arthur’s spell in present-day Storybrooke.

    • wendie says:

      ok I am so confused. Aren’t the Charmings put under the spell in present day Storybrooke? They’re in the diner when it happens. Charming told Arthur about the dagger in the old Camelot time line and Arthur is tied up in the present one? And Lance is in prison with Merida but she’s tied to Emma’s bumper? Where is that prison as well, looks like Camelot but Lance was arrested in Storybrooke. And I thought the dagger was missing in present day Storybrooke, when they returned without their memories Regina went to get it from her pocket and it was gone. This whole episode I found hard to follow

      • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

        You’ve misinterpreted many scenes/locations. Anyone care to help out here…?

      • CbinJ says:

        This should help…the biggest thing you are missing is that Granny’s Diner is in Camelot. There were only two scenes that took place in Present Day Storybrooke in this episode and they were both in the final mintues: 1) The Dark Swan and Mr. Gold in Emma’s basement 2) Merida and the Dark Swan in the tunnel with the yellow bug. Everything else happens in Camelot 6 weeks ago or Camelot many years ago. Also, Emma has the dagger in Present Day Storybrooke. (We don’t yet know how she came to acquire it from Regina or if Regina even maintained ownership of it in Camelot by the end of the 6 weeks.)

        • wendie says:

          thank you! somehow I missed that the diner exists in Camelot. I need to go back and watch the first episode, I thought they portaled to somewhere in another realm when they went to Camelot

  22. CbinJ says:

    Surprisingly, I actually found the Camelot characters compelling enough to not miss the mains too much. I was expecting to find the young Arthur/Guin flashback boring/ cringe-worthy, but it was compact while really establishing an emotional foundation. Also, I usually don’t like the villains, but I really like Arthur–I think he is the most interesting villian to date. I actually feel sorry for him whereas I could never sympathize with the Snow Queen, the QODs, Pan, Zelena, etc. I do think the Guin/ Lancelot thing could have been done better–it was a bit rushed and leaves me to have to make more assumptions than I would like.
    I also liked a lot of the little comedic moments–Hook lagging behind and smirking at Henry when Henry tells him to go hide; “I get antsy when I don’t know who to hate.” –Regina; “Oh, the fight was real.” –Snow “Very real.” –Charming I found the delivery of this exchange hilarious for some reason.
    I really liked the development of Emma and Hook here, too. The way he just authoritatively dismisses “the demons” haunting Emma and tells her to get on the horse–it illustrates his confidence in her ability and strength to overcome the darkness herself even as he offers his support.

  23. Nan says:

    Am I the only one who is kinda bored with this show? I actually gave this show my full attention this week and I’m just not feeling the direction this season….and I don’t like Emma as the dark one…character wise or the acting….

  24. Pat says:

    Holy cow, after reading all of the comments my head is spinning. I watched last nights episode and yes, I will agree that to much time was spent in Camelot. I did take away, that Arthur is bonkers and power crazy, Lancelot is a good guy in love with Guinevere, Guinevere loves Arthur and has major feelings for Lancelot, so basically what I realized after watching this, is that it just had somewhat of a medieval soap opera.

  25. robandco says:

    This episode was very good, much better than the rest of the season IMO, but they are doing exactly what drives people away. The big majority of the episode was focused on guest character than no one care about. I mean in about 8 episode they’ll all be gone and the whole story will be forgotten and yet we spend 40+ minutes on this. This is Neverland/Frozen all over again. Part A of OUAT seasons are usually a mess so I can’t wait for 5B.
    Can’t tell I am surprised OUAT is bleeding viewers…

  26. Cate53 says:

    I enjoyed the episode, but with minimal Emma, Regina and Hook, the show is banking on fans being invested in characters we don’t know. However, for me, I really liked Arthur as an obsessive driven a bit mad by the quest for the dagger. Liked the actress playing Guinivere a lot – and those kids playing the young Arthur and Guinivere were great lookalikes!
    At least Arthur’s wicked plan is a bit of a change from some of the previous bad guys. Brainwashing with that magic potion is an effective way to win without ‘I’ll kill you ALL!!!!! Again from a big bad.

    More dark Swan please. We need to see some evil from Emma!

  27. Megan says:

    I’ve enjoyed every episode this season except this one. I think Matt’s right in that this was more about other characters I really dislike. I thought the Charmings displayed their usual plot line of being the dumbest characters on the show. I’m not sure why they had to tell Arthur about Emma at all. They put Emma and everyone else in automatic danger. Figure out another way to settle who you trust or, better yet, operate by trusting only people you’ve known for years. Worst parenting job ever. I did enjoy the Hook and Emma stuff even though I’m not a shipper. Weirdly, it’s the first time I actually thought they were really good together.i also liked the Henry scene with them. Other than that, I just hope Arthur dies and Regina keeps that dagger in her possession as long as possible. Next week looks better.

  28. Angie says:

    Frankly all the back and forth between timelines is way too confusing. I don’t see much future for this

  29. Macrina says:

    I don’t get it how is Emma in chamelot when she’s in storybrook