This review contains spoilers! Proceed with caution.
‘The Broken Kingdom’ strayed from the traditional Once Upon a Time format in that it was set almost entirely in one realm – a great move in my opinion. The focus on Camelot gave us a huge amount of backstory which was essential to fill in some of those glaring blanks.
Last week’s Charming-centric storyline helped to make him a more sympathetic character. However all of that positive development was seemingly undone when he ignored Snow’s warnings about Arthur being untrustworthy. I spent most of the episode alternately annoyed and disappointed by his actions. The fact that he was putting his faith in some guy he had just met instead of in Snow White (his wife, True Love, mother of his children…the list goes on) was beyond ridiculous. Thankfully, it was later revealed that David had actually tricked Arthur and was on Mary Margaret’s side the entire time. We learned before the premiere that their relationship will be strained this season. If Mary Margaret’s admission that ‘we put aside our differences and thought of Emma’s well-being first’ is any indication, they’re doing just fine so far.
We finally got a glimpse at the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot love triangle, and Once’s spin on it went quite differently to the legend. Arthur’s obsession with finding Excalibur’s missing piece drove a metaphorical dagger into their marriage (see what I did there?). Guinevere and Lancelot’s romance was a little hasty, but it’s understandable that they fell for each other. And if you didn’t think Arthur was a slimeball already, it turns out he put Guinevere under a spell to keep her from leaving him. The fact that she is essentially a docile slave whose only function is to support her husband is worrying to me. We’ve also seen that Arthur views her as something to be possessed rather than an actual person (‘She is the most precious thing I have’ in this episode; ‘The loveliest creature in all of Camelot’ in episode two). This relationship is all kinds of abusive. While it hurts to watch it, I’m glad the writers are addressing that not every marriage ends with a Happily Ever After. Now that we’ve established Arthur is a truly despicable human being, let’s hope he meets the worst fate imaginable.
Having gotten all this information, it’s frustrating that the memory-loss curse has brought everyone back to square one. We as viewers know that Arthur is the true villain, but the heroes have yet to realise that. On a more positive note, I’m delighted that Merida is back! Her fleeting appearance in the season premiere left me disappointed, and it’s great to learn she’ll be playing a major role in coming episodes.