Dec 29, 2015

Camelot meets Storybrooke in Season 5a of Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time started out based on the characters in the fairy tale of Snow White, then episode by episode expanded the cast to include other stories, sometimes even letting us visit those other lands. But through the first four seasons to only reference to Camelot was in passing, a land of legend mentioned by an exiled Lancelot when he meets Snow White and Prince Charming in the Enchanted Forest. That ends now as a magical twister drops Grannie's dinner and our heroes in the Kingdom of Camelot!

WARNING! Spoilers ahead for season 5a of Once Upon a Time.

The first half of season 5 of OUAT takes place between Camelot and Storybrooke, with the Camelot stories taking place 6 weeks before the "present time" in Storybrooke. I won't go into all the story details of each episode, since the point of this blog isn't OUAT. We'll just look into our favorite Arthurian characters and see what they're like in their fairytale world, and how they adapt to our modern world.

In Camelot

First off, this Camelot is definitely a fairytale-medieval version of Camelot! Gorgeous castle with turrets and pennants etc, you can definitely see the Disney influence. They of course throw a gorgeous ball (to welcome our heroes to their land, and to celebrate Merlin's prophesied imminent release from the tree).

Because yes, Merlin is trapped in a tree! This is straight from Arthurian Legend, where the sorceress Nimüe bewitched him, stealing his magic and trapping him in a tree.

Guinevere is of course as beautiful as always.

And the Round Table is built around the stone Excalibur was once in.

Arthur has been obsessed with finding the missing piece of Excalibur, the Dark One's dagger, to the point that it ruined his marriage to Guinevere. This makes him an untrustworthy ally for the Storybrooke gang in Camelot, a fact they eventually discover (after suffering a few mishaps at his hand).

Apparently Camelot isn't that far from DunBroch (which I guess makes sense since one is supposed to be in a fictional England and the other in a fictional Scotland), resulting in Merida being an active player in these episodes! (particularly in episodes 506 "The Bear and the Bow" and 509 "The Bear King"). This gives us the crazy sight of the King of Camelot in a sword fight against the Queen of DunBroch:

And strangely enough it also brings Mulan and Ruby/Red back into the party as well! :o)

Things don't end well for anyone in Camelot, which results to them all ending up in...

In Storybrooke

Arthur, Guinevere and the rest of the inhabitants from Camelot find themselves in Storybrooke with no idea of how they got there, and no memory of the 6 weeks spent with our heroes in Camelot. They have to adapt to this new world, and Arthur even plans for them to take it over and rebuild Camelot there, since he doesn't think they can ever go home, and he will do anything to protect his people, even if it means hurting the people in Storybrooke who are trying to help them.
"We can never get back. That is why we must be a new Camelot here, in Storybrooke."
While this is going on Dark Emma is up to her own tricks (c.f. below), while the others (Snow, Charming, Regina, Hook, Henry etc.) are trying to figure out (a) what happened during the 6 weeks in Camelot, and (b) how to save Emma and (c) how to save themselves from Emma. Little do they know she isn't the only Evil in their midst...


Excalibur is a key element in this story. In Camelot Arthur has it (he pulled it out from the stone in the 1st episode), and he needs them to defeat the Dark One so he can get hold of the Dark One's dagger, the missing piece to make Excalibur whole.
"If I don't make Excalibur whole again, we'll lose everything we worked so hard to build.(Arthur to Guinevere)

Back in Storybrooke - 6 weeks later - Emma is the one who has Excalibur, and her Dark-Rumple spirit guide tells her she has to join it with the Dark One's dagger in order to leave behind any hint of light in her (represented by the loved ones she became "dark" to protect) and becoming pure darkness.
"You can do what no Dark One before you has ever done. You can make that weapon whole again, and use it to snuff out the Light. Forever.(Vision Dark Rumple to Emma)
Only problem is Excalibur is back in the stone, and Emma isn't a hero anymore so she can't pull it out! So she heals Rumplestiltskin (in a coma since being rid of the Darkness at the end of s4) and sets out to transform him into a true hero so he can draw Excalibur from the stone!

"You are not dark, you are also not light. You are nothing. Your heart is a blank slate. And that little man, makes you useful. Because now I can make you into the last thing you ever thought you would be: a hero. And not just any hero, the purest that ever lived. And then, and then I have a job for you." (Emma to newly awakened Rumple)

In episodes 505 & 506 ("Dreamcatcher" and "The Bear and the Bow") Emma tasks Merida to transform a cowardly Rumple into a brave hero so he can pull Excalibur from the stone.
"Now take him to the woods and make me a hero." (Emma to Merida)
By forcing him to defend Belle it works, he faces his fears, defeats Merida... and is able to pull Excalibur from the stone.

 "You may have Excalibur, but you've made a mistake in all of this, one terrible mistake in all of this, you've turned me into a hero. (Rumple to Emma)"

In the meantime, Regina, Hook and the others finally discover that Emma has Excalibur and upon examining it realize it looks an awful lot like the Dark One dagger! Arthur finally fills them in on the fact that the two were originally forged as a single weapon, and he's spent years searching for the dagger as the restored weapon can destroy all Dark magic forever. Unfortunately it can also destroy all Light magic, if it's in the wrong hands.

In episode 7 we get Excalibur's (and Merlin's) Origin Story: it was originally the Holy Grail!!! Merlin used the fire of Prometheus to melt it down magically and forge it into a sword that could cut away his magic so he could live a mortal life with his love Nimüe.

But tragedy strikes, Nimüe becomes the first Dark One and breaks the sword in two so it cannot be used against her. Merlin then plunges Excalibur into the Stone to protect it, and transforms the broken tip into the Dark One dagger to control Nimüe. The same Nimüe, accompanied by all the other Dark Ones, appear to Emma in Storybrooke as she uses the last remaining ember of Prometheus' flame to reunite the dagger and Excalibur.

Unfortunately the rest of Emma's plan to save the day goes awry (with a little green help from Zelena) and although Excalibur does eventually fulfill its purpose, it does so incompletely and not without a huge personal sacrifice in episode 511 "Swan Song".

The Arthur-Charming bromance

In both worlds King Arthur and Prince Charming team up to go on a quest. In Camelot to go look for the Crimson Crown, a magic toadstool that will allow them to communicate through magical barriers, and thus talk to Merlin in his tree. In Storybrooke they go in search of the thief who broke into a locked box containing magical relics collected by the Knights of the Roundtable.

They bond over the fact that they are both originally "the common man", Charming a shepherd and Arthur a peasant. They bond over the losses they have overcome. And Arthur dubs Charming a Knight of the Round Table, granting him the Siege Perilous (reserved for those with the purest heart, once was Lancelot's).
"I dub thee Sir David of the Enchanted Forest, now of the Round Table."
As a knight of the Round Table he shares with him the secret of Excalibur and its missing tip. He asks him to help him find to Dark One's dagger and reforge Excalibur to vanquish the darkness forever. Charming starts to help him, causing him to fight with Snow who believes Lancelot's warning about Arthur, but then helps her set a trap for Arthur in order to get their hands on Excalibur. It doesn't work and Arthur magically "fixes" things to restore their friendship and make them willing to give him the dagger. However this "fixing" is undone later by Merlin. In Storybrooke after a while they also discover his deceptions (see below).

Who is this Arthur?

Well, a bit of a jerk really! And definitely not a good guy. He goes way too far in his mission to protect Camelot, crossing lines that shouldn't be crossed. 

Lancelot  (turns out he's not dead like we thought!) even goes so far as to warn Snow about him back in Camelot.
"There is a terrible villain in Camelot. (...) Arthur. Trust me, Camelot is not the place it seems."
When Charming retrieves the Crimson Crown on their Quest, Arthur steals it while saving Charming from some mystical knights. But like most villains on this show, it's not all straight up black and white. It seems he truly believes he is doing what is necessary to protect his kingdom and his people, showing remorse for having had to trick Charming for example. 
"I must think of my Kingdom first. That is always the burden of a king."
Even in Storybrooke he plays manipulative games, having his squire Griff kill himself in jail (in the name of protecting Camelot), so he won't be magicked into telling everyone how he stole the magical relics on Arthur's order.
"They trust me now. I must use their trust to protect my kingdom. These people may seem friendly but they threaten everything we hold dear. David likes to imagine his Quest a noble one, but his daughter is the Dark One."
And when in episode 506 Regina conjures up a potion to contact Merlin using the Crimson Crown (which they've found "again" in Storybrooke), which only Arthur could use, Arthur burned the mushroom instead and told them it didn't work. Unfortunately for him he didn't realize it wouldn't fully burn so when the others find it they realize he isn't to be trusted...

As the half season ends we're left wondering how he (and the other Camelot inhabitants) ended up since they don't appear in the final two episodes... We'll have to wait and see.

Where did he come from?

In episode 504 "The Broken Kingdom" we get a flashback to a boy-Arthur, in a poor village (with a big tree in it) who tells a girl-Guinevere:
"Look round. Someday this village will be the great kingdom of Camelot. And I will be king. (...) This tree, a man is trapped inside it. A great sorcerer known as Merlin. He spoke to me one night. He gave me a prophecy, told me I would pull a sword from a stone and become king of Camelot. King Arthur, and you would be Queen Guinevere."
"They call Camelot the broken kingdom because we have no king and never will." (says Kay as he bullies the boy Arthur)
Guinevere tells Arthur:
"He's wrong. All you have to do is follow your heart."
Switch to the scene from episode 501, where he pulls the sword from the stone, then shows it to the cheering people... taking care NOT to pull it completely from the scabbard so they don't see the broken tip.

"Camelot is no longer the broken kingdom. I give you Excalibur, the sword pulled from the stone."
But he tells Guinevere that Merlin speaks in half-truths and that his quest has just begun. The rest of episode 504 shows that Arthur becomes so obsessed with this quest that he pretty much abandons his wife in favor of his search, resulting in her finding comfort with Lancelot.

Elements from Arthurian Legend

  • Arthur - he seems to be a bit of an idiot or a jerk. Like in the original Arthurian legends, he was a simple boy who became King, but instead of having been King Uther's hidden son, here he truly was a common peasant. He isn't a true hero, he goes too far in protecting his kingdom, caring more about glory than doing the right thing. Trapped in Storybrooke he believes they can never get back to Camelot and decides to rebuild Camelot in Storybrooke.
  • Guinevere - fell out of love with Arthur due to his ignoring her in favor of his obsession with Excalibur, and fell in love with Lancelot. Only to have Arthur magically "fix" their marriage, resulting in her turning on Lancelot when he returns to Camelot.
  • Lancelot - the truly noble knight of legend... with that slight issue of a dalliance with his best friend's wife.
  • Merlin - immortal sorcerer trapped in a tree!
  • Nimüe - Merlin's love, who betrayed him and trapped him in the tree.
  • Sir Percival - Apparently once a native of the Enchanted Forest, saw his village get burnt to ashes by a smiling Evil Queen Regina, tries to kill her in revenge (but almost finishes off Robin instead), gets killed by Charming.
  • Excalibur - Magical sword whose wounds are always mortal.

Other fun (non-Arthurian) characters

  • Merida 
Who throughout the season fights to prove herself worthy to be Queen of the Clans, and from time to time is caught up in Dark Swan's plans...

  • Mulan 
A little lost and broken-hearted, finds herself again by helping Merida.
  • Ruby/Red a.k.a. Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf 
Left the others in Storybrooke at the end of season 4b to return to the Enchanted Forest to find the rest of her pack, here held prisoner by the witch in DunBroch! Helps out Merida and Mulan in episode 509.

  • Zelena a.k.a. the Wicked Witch of the West 
Teams up with Arthur in Camelot (another sign of how much he isn't a hero!) against the gang from Storybrooke.

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