Our foray into Arthurian legend continues with Prince Charming embarking on a quest while Lancelot makes a surprising return. In the present day, Dark Emma reveals that her plan to pull the sword from the stone involves using Merida to train the disenchanted Rumplestiltskin into a valiant hero. I have to admit that after a long absence, it was a refreshing bit of continuity for Dark Emma to rip out Merida’s heart to control her. Without even realising it, Dark Emma has become truly villainous – perhaps worse than her predecessors because she believes that she is still on a righteous path. She has been the hero before. Like all of us, she still thinks that she is the hero of the story. Noble intentions justify ignoble methods. Rumplestiltskin knows all too well that being the Dark One is not heroic and can never be so, but there is little that he can do to stop her. He is even too cowardly to kill himself.
Back in Camelot (I can’t help but think of the musical), Prince Charming has an identity crisis and appears to be easily conned into friendship with King Arthur. While he and Snow are eventually convinced by Lancelot that the King is not trustworthy, Arthur, Guinevere, and their loyal guards outwit them. At the end of the fourth episode, Lancelot and Merida are in Camelot’s dungeon (nothing like the song), the Charmings are under a spell, and gullible Regina is virtually ready to hand over the dagger of the Dark One to Arthur to use for his own nefarious purpose.
Initially, it seems that Arthur truly cares for his kingdom. In some respects, he does. However, it becomes clear that his attention stems from a personal obsession with proving himself worthy of Excalibur and the throne of Camelot. Even though he pulled out the sword, he is driven mad by the desire to make the sword whole again by reattaching the Dark One’s dagger to it. His kingdom is neglected. Only a deal with Rumplestiltskin (brokered by Guinevere, who exhibits more love for her subjects than her husband) makes him realise that he can have his perfect kingdom and marriage while still hunting the dagger. All of Camelot is thus built on illusions and lies – and Arthur will kill anyone to keep it that way. Thus the fate of the dagger rests currently with Regina, who once killed to hang on to power much like Arthur does. Arthur is arguably more evil than she ever was in the past, because like Dark Emma, he is still convinced that he is a hero.
Most poignantly, Hook is primarily focused on keeping Emma from slipping into the darkness. He knows about dealing with inner demons, although none apparently quite this powerful. The scenes of Hook and Emma together in Camelot remind us that darkness can be fought. The light can still get in. It is important not to give up on our loved ones as soon as obstacles appear. Emma is not beyond redemption. Yet, she fully embraces the darkness of her own choosing. It is not the darkness that consumes her. Light has to be chosen, and power is incredibly seductive.