Review: Once Upon a Time 5.04

Summary: Arthur reveals his villainous side, Hook helps Emma keep Rumple at bay, and Merida returns, appearing in both Camelot and Storybrooke.

Best Scene: Hook takes Emma on the world’s most romantic horseback ride, which ends with a swoon worthy kiss in a flower-filled meadow.

Best Line: “I’ll never stop fighting for us.” But really, anything that came out of Hook’s mouth

My Review: This was another strong episode in a season I’ve enjoyed quite a bit so far. The structure was a little different, set almost entirely in the past, but the stories told there were enthralling enough that I hardly missed present-day Storybrooke.

The most unexpected thing about this episode for me was that it clearly established Arthur as a villain, rather than just a good guy doing the wrong thing for the right reason, as I thought he may be after last week’s episode. I understood his obsession with making the sword whole (and loved the irony of him not realizing that he could fix his broken kingdom without it if he bothered to lead), so his focus on that wasn’t what made him a true villain. Nor did neglecting his dear Guin, despite how much it hurt her. No, in my book, what made him go from obsessive and misguided to truly evil was using the sand on Guinevere. It takes a real villain to manipulate a person that you claim to love in that way, especially because it means you’re willing to live with knowing that the person closest to you isn’t there by choice. Unfortunately, it reminded me of the way Rumple has manipulated Belle in the past, as I see that as a similarly unforgivable move. But, with any luck, as Belle did, Guinevere will realize on her own what her husband has done and hopefully find a way back to her true self.

We learned a lot about the history between the Camelot characters before the sand came into play though, to the point where I almost wish their stories had been spread out over two episodes. Arthur’s manipulation had a big impact, but it would have had an even bigger one if we’d had more time to understand his relationship with Guinevere, his friendship with Lancelot, and how the love between the two people he was closest to developed in his absence. It would have made the betrayal Arthur felt after seeing them together that much more believable, and would have made Lancelot’s heartbreak when Guinevere sent him to the dungeon that much more affecting. However, one of my biggest issues with last season’s B arc was how slowly it moved, so I do appreciate the amount of story they’ve covered this season so far. Plus, there’s always a chance we’ll see more of the Camelot backstory as the season progresses.

Switching gears, it’s no secret that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Snow and Charming last season, as I think they made several questionable decisions and didn’t always do right by Emma. Luckily, I’ve liked them much more this year, especially in the last couple episodes. Their fight in this one was refreshingly realistic, with its unseen conclusion showing their intelligence and ability to outwit, traits that they so often showed in the past, particularly in the first couple of seasons. When David told Arthur the truth about everything, I had a sneaking suspicion that it was part of a larger plan, so I was happy when that was proven to be the case. Snow and Charming working together on it also showed the stability of their relationship; they’ll fight, sure, but when push comes to shove, they have each other’s backs and know how to do what’s best for their daughter.

Of course, unfortunately no one will know about their grand plan or what they discovered, since now they’re under the influence of the sands of Avalon. This is going to be one of those plot points that’s incredibly frustrating to watch, but will hopefully have a great payoff at the end, as their friends and family discover the truth. I’m hopeful that Regina and Emma especially will be able to tell that something is off, since they arguably know Snow and Charming the best. I just hope it’s sooner rather than later. It does make sense now that dark Emma believes that her parents betrayed her, because there’s a good chance that they did so while under the power of the sand and not of their own accord. Though I’m sure convincing Storybrooke Emma of that is going to be a challenge, especially since no one remembers what actually happened.

With the Camelot flashbacks, a few characters took a backseat in this episode, including Regina (which makes sense; she played a big role in the first couple), but she did have a few sweet/funny scenes where she showed how protective she is of Emma (suggesting they take her some place to rest), how hilariously annoyed she gets with the Charmings (rolling her eyes and poofing away as they fought), and telling Robin how antsy she gets when she doesn’t know who to hate. Her bit with Emma was especially nice, not only because of the concern she showed, but also because her suggestion led to some of the best scenes of the episode.

First, the moment in the stables where Hook and Emma learn of Henry’s crush. Hook’s giddiness was adorable, as was Emma’s kind of joking disappointment at not finding out before, either as the Dark One or Henry’s mom. The writers have done a great job of subtly making Hook a father figure for Henry, and this scene was a great example of that. Henry has a lot of people that care about him and consider themselves family, and this moment also showed that, while he likes that most of the time, it can probably sometimes be a little annoying. Poor guy is going to have to endure teasing and hilarious spying from a whole slew of other people before his time in Camelot is through.

Second, Regina’s suggestion also led to a couple of truly great Hook and Emma scenes, with Hook taking Emma horseback riding to help her escape from Rumple. I can’t say enough about how happy I am that Emma trusted Hook enough to tell him the truth about her visions; she trusted that he would not only believe her and not think she was crazy, but also that he would know exactly how to help her. Before their ride, I love that Hook mentioned their future, because it showed his confidence that Emma will get through this, as well as his commitment to their relationship. He’s come a long way from that wayward pirate who would have recoiled at the idea of settling down, and it’s great that the events of this season are making that so clear. And that kiss in the field of flowers is going to go down as one of my favorites for Hook and Emma; it was visually stunning (that above shot, swoon!), and I loved the callback to Hook giving her a flower on their first date.

Honestly, that last shot was so gorgeous, I almost wish that we hadn’t cut to dark Emma afterwards, but I did like the juxtaposition of good Emma and dark Emma holding the flower. It reminded me of evil Rumple and comatose Rumple at the end of last week’s episode quite a bit. I also think that Emma keeping the flower is another in a long list of signs that the real Emma is still in there and that she is capable of love and emotion, just as Rumple was as the Dark One. Emma forcing Merida and Rumple to team up is unexpected, and should lead to some interesting moments, since those two characters don’t seem to have much in common. Lancelot and Merida, however, do seem like fairly similar characters, so their team up should be equally entertaining, albeit in a different way.

What are your thoughts on this episode and what’s to come? Let me know in the comments!

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