Once Upon a Time Season 5 Episode 4 – TV Review
It’s only the very next episode after a David episode, and here we go again, except this time with Snow taking charge, too.
Well, actually, it’s a more of a Guinevere and Lancelot episode. With deus ex machina magic.
I can’t tell. Is that better or worse than a David and Snow episode?
TL;DR We see flashbacks to how Arthur’s earlier attempts to restore Excalibur led to the brainwashing of Guinevere and the exile of Lancelot; Snow and David, during the more recent flashbacks to Camelot, figure Arthur’s shit out, but he brainwashes them, too; Hook takes Emma horse riding to waste screentime; Merida is back.
Good God, no.
So it’s an all-Camelot episode this week. In flashbacks to a bit further back, Arthur removes Excalibur from its stone, but is horrified to find it incomplete. He ignores Guinevere in his obsession to restore it, which moves Guinevere to go behind Arthur’s back and seek out the Dark One dagger herself. Lancelot tags along, and they of course have sexual tension. They do find the dagger, but Rumple won’t give it up. He offers, instead, some magic sand that can fix anything, which should be good enough. But things go pear shaped when Arthur witnesses Guinevere and Lancelot being too friendly, so he uses the sand to “fix” Guinevere back to loving him, and fix Camelot back to its former glory. I don’t know why he didn’t try using any on Excalibur. Unless I missed that part when I went into a boredom-induced haze. Back in the present, David and Snow cleverly (rare for them, right?) enact a scheme where they appear to be torn in their loyalty to Arthur, which allows them to uncover Arthur’s selfish motives. But it turns out having a brainwashed wife can come in handy, as Guinevere uses some remaining sand to brainwash Snow and David into forgetting all that, and proclaiming to Regina and co that Arthur is totes trustworthy. And in our one shot back to Storybrooke, Emma reveals to Gold her secret weapon in ensuring his evolution into the hero she needs: Merida.
Gee, Emma really didn’t watch Brave very closely, did she? Merida is an irresponsible turd. At best.
This is essentially a necessary exposition episode. Which, given the endless stream of exposition that is the meat of Once Upon a Time, isn’t much to write home about.
It’s a shame that the exposition is wrapped up in a shallow romance between two characters we haven’t had much time to care about.
You know? Snow and David?
Why I hate this episode:
Just kidding. It’s Guinevere and Lancelot. But rest assured, I also don’t care about Snow and David. I must make that clear.
The subplot about how Guinevere feels neglected and so tumbles ever so easily into Lancelot’s arms is unoriginal. And, while Once Upon a Time isn’t the bastion of modern gender role portrayals, I think that’s pretty insulting towards women. “Oh, the man that I love and married is busy. Thank goodness his best buddy is around to set my vagina sights on.” Even though she doesn’t follow through with it, this is Soap Opera 101 at its worst.
And Arthur’s reaction to finding all of this out is to use the magic sand that he should be using to fix Excalibur, which is his primary mission, to brainwash his wife into loving him again.
I think the reason Arthur doesn’t use it on Excalibur is because he wants to restore Excalibur the proper way so he can release Merlin from the tree (which has been there a long time. Another flashback to Arthur’s childhood shows it already there) so he can kill him or something. But, like, what?
Guinevere and Lancelot are attacked by a darkness tornado thing while raiding Rumple’s vault, and Guinevere scares it off with a fucking regular-ass torch. Gosh, if only our heroes had known it was so easy back in last season’s finale.
David and Snow somehow manage to fool Arthur and Lancelot with the reveal that their apparently separate allegiances (David to Arthur, Snow to Lancelot) were all a ruse to jerk the truth out of Arthur. I don’t like it when Snow and David succeed, you know?
But then they don’t, because there’s still some magic sand lying around to brainwash them. I like that the super sand (that can restore entire fucking castles and kingdoms with one little sprinkle. Jesus) that impedes every plot development this episode isn’t just some bullshit weasel introduced just this second. I like how Once Upon a Time respects its audience like that.
Regina gets sidelined from all the scheming. Way to leave your most valuable player on the bench.
Merida is back. And there’s nothing good about that. Unless she ends up dying.
Oh, and going for a single horse ride is all Emma needs to believe she is mentally strong enough to banish Humple away. With heroes this willingly gullible, no wonder the darkness ends up winning.
But it’s not all bad:
Emma’s one positive contribution to the episode is a fantastic groaner of a title drop when she tells a tied-up Merida in Storybrooke that she needs her to make Gold “brave.” In most shows, that would earn you a worst line. But it’s just audacious enough to work for Once Upon a Time: The Show With Absolutely No Standards.
More exposition on Arthur’s evil is welcome. He seems like a garden variety obsessive as he pursues his quest to restore Excalibur and improve Camelot. But then he tips the scales all the way to Complete Monster when he reveals his plans to kill Merlin, and uses magic, “fix anything” sand to brainwash his wife, banish his best friend, and not restore Excalibur. You let your villain flag fly, baby. With Regina more light than dark these days, and Gold literally having a moral reset button, someone’s gotta do it.
We get an answer for how Rumple came to possess Merlin’s “find yo’ weakness” gauntlet: Guinevere used it to find the vault, and then traded it to Rumple for the magic sand.
After Arthur brainwashes Snow and David, he throws Lancelot into a dungeon. Merida is in a nearby cell, too. Any pain or inconvenience caused to Merida is reason to celebrate.
During the part of their disagreement that is genuine, Snow accuses David of enjoying Arthur’s attention because it makes him feel heroic again. She’s got you there, buddy.
Oh, and a smug Snow and David is one of the worst images Once Upon a Time could conjure. So I’m glad they are promptly brainwashed off their high ground.