Flashback time – to Camelot (a very silly place) many years ago when it was just a village and a child Arthur tells child Guinevere how he’s totally going to be king because a tree told him so. Local bullies, of course, disagree so it falls to Guinevere to be inspiration.
He does find his sword – well half of it – and they carefully hide that it’s broken to the people.
We get flashbacks showing Arthur becoming increasingly obsessed with putting the sword back together – neglecting his kingdom and Guinevere even her birthday party. Which is when she and Lancelot get close.
Arthur decides to go looking for dagger, while Guinevere decides to go herself to find the dagger, using the magic gauntlet of weakness finding which Arthur hasn’t found yet because he’s too busy looking for the dagger to look for things that can help him find it. They enter the Dark One’s tomb and Guinevere is kind of action-y and nifty and in a life-or-death moment she kisses Lancelot.
They do find the dagger, but Rumplestiltskin would rather keep it, thanks all the same. He does, however, trade them something that will make it LOOK like Excalibur is complete in exchange for the Gauntlet - in between warning her about the dangers of true love (Lancelot doesn’t like the deal but Guinevere goes for it)
They return home and Arthur is both jealous and rather worryingly angry and desperate for the dagger. She doesn’t give him the illusion sand because she’s tired of the lies and obsession – she tells him he’ll lose her and the kingdom if he keeps obsessing over the damn sword. He refuses to give up – and refuses to lose Guinevere to Lancelot and uses magic dust to compel her. He also uses her sand-of-making-broken-things-seem-whole on the kingdom of Camelot (hey, it is only a model!)
To a slightly-more-modern-flashback, Arthur reveals the truth to David about the broken sword – and how he needs the Dagger of the Dark One to finish the sword. Arthur also thinks that with it he can totally skip the whole freeing Merlin part of the mission if they just have the dagger
Emma is still fighting her inner Dark One and nearly fries Killian. She all upset and losing the battle with her inner evil when David suggests Arthur’s plan – but Mary Margaret, newly warned by Lancelot, isn’t willing to trust Arthur. But David doesn’t trust Arthur – and the two argue. It’s like watching a duel between a lettuce and a cucumber. So very sad and dull and soggy. She accuses David of becoming a knight et al to feel like a hero again
“Again”? Wouldn’t that require him to have been a hero already?
Regina leaves them to it, her quirked eyebrow says everything. Mary Margaret lays down the law – they’re not going to tell Arthur anything – and David (who has now pulled ahead of his wife in the competition to be The Worst, decides to tell Arthur everything. Neither of them feel the need to consult Emma). He even exposes Lancelot
David, you are the worst – not that I had a high opinion of the man who SACRIFICED A BABY (still not over that).
Guinevere overhears and she wants to know where Lancelot is for VENGEANCE. Apparently, Lancelot has done terribad things way beyond merely kissing Guinevere. Of course David believes everything (and he sacrifices babies) and hands over the dagger box – without the dagger inside.
Mary Margaret has taken is and given the dagger to Lancelot. And, no, she hasn’t consulted Emma either. (She also sacrifices babies). She could ask about so many thing but, being Her Sogginess, she asks if Lancelot still loves Guinevere. He does.
They go to the Vault of the Dark One which Mary Margaret recognises from her vision of Emma crushing Mary Margaret’s heart (oh, Once Upon a Time, don’t tease me like that, it’s mean). They plan to put the dagger in the shrine for safekeeping –but Arthur has followed them and holds them at sword point, demanding the dagger.
Mary Margaret hands over the dagger. Which is fake – which is when David appears because they decided that Arthur was all nefarious and planned for this. Arthur is horrified at his betrayal, David hits back with “you tried to trick me with a catchy title and a fancy chair.” My gods who is this man and what did you do to David?
They take him back to Granny’s diner and plan to give the sword to someone worthy to lead. Lancelot nominates Guinevere – but all the other knights attack the diner, led by the magically compelled Guinevere. Lancelot realises he has been compelled, but he is arrested and thrown in the dungeons anyway. They don’t lock up the Charmings though – and use the magical sand on them as well (this is REALLY stretching the definition of what is “broken”).
The newly enchanted Charmings then go to get the dagger from Regina where she’s been hiding it.
In the dungeon Lancelot finds Merida is also locked up. She’s not a fan of King Arthur
Henry, with some input from Violet, leads Emma and Killian to a stable where they can rest without people around for Emma to cook (Killian’s grin over Henry’s explanation of Violet is fun and so cruel). Emma is very concerned about this but Killian is much more blasé about the normalness and instead wants to know more about Emma’s inner-darkness.
They go riding – or plan to. But the horse is scared of her. Killian keeps pushing though and has some really awesome lines. And it’s all romantic
Then to the present day, with Gold trying to convince Emma not to go evil. She still plans to make him a hero using her secret weapon: Merida. Emma has her imprisoned and pulls out her heart to compel her. She’s going to use Merida to make Gold brave.
Oh my gods, the Charmings actually did something (beyond sacrificing babies), something useful! Something sensible! And something that is entirely soggy?! I am in shock!
This episode made me impressed and respect the Charmings! Aaargh I feel unclean!
And now any awful things they do will be blamed on the magic so I can’t hate them. Boooooo!
Of course, Arthur and his enslaved wife is completely awful – and an increased shame because I quite like Guinevere, she was active and powerful and a classic Once Upon a Time subversion of the damsel trope. I do like he whole twist of Arthur being obsessed with the sword – after all, if kingship rests on Excalibur then Excalibur becomes everything, the be all and end all, the (perceived) solution to every problem which can inflict a kingdom – far eclipsing actually ruling