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Once Upon A Time - Siege Perilous - Review

Normally I’m not a fan of the third episode in most Once Upon a Time seasons. For some reason it always smacks of filler to me and is lacking compared to the premiere and second episode. However, “Siege Perilous” is neither of those things. While the plot may not have been as direct and obviously tied to the main conflict as the past two episodes have been, the strength in this episode lies in the fact that the flashbacks we are getting are directly tied to the plot. They aren’t simply present to parallel the main story; they are that story and are giving the audience more insight into the missing timeframe, something that I wish would have happened in season three. While I’m not completely invested in the residents of Camelot, their antagonistic intentions are remarkably interesting, providing something more than just another villain. And it goes without saying that the Dark Swan is stealing the show. Her performance in this episode is my favorite so far.

The episode begins with the dwarfs whistling while they work. All is well until the Dark Swan makes her presence known, lounging on a pile of rocks in the corner. I love the way she moves in this scene, especially when she whispers in Happy’s ear. It’s as if she is coiled and waiting to strike, only reacting unless she has to but watching all the while. The Dark Swan isn’t after fairy dust in the mines. She, for reasons only know to her and perhaps that Rumple-y voice in her head, is after a dwarf pick ax. She grabs Happy’s then poofs away in a cloud of black smoke.

Flashback to Camelot, where our hero brigade is rooting through Merlin’s tower, looking for ways to cure the wizard. It may be the case that Merlin is actually the tree instead of being trapped inside it, but a sample can’t be claimed without fear of lopping off part of the greatest sorcerer in the realms. However, Snow White has the idea that perhaps they only need to talk to Merlin then he’ll tell them how to reverse the spell. Using Merlin’s own books they reveal the Crimson Crown, a toadstool of legend said to allow one to speak across barriers. Arthur, who has just arrived, has heard of this fungus and Charming jumps at the chance to quest in search for it. Our heroes are still being very closed lipped when it comes to giving information to the king of Camelot, which is wise. Also, it should be noted that Emma did not seem too pleased when Regina talked about continuing her ruse as savior.

Charming is stopped on his way to prepare for the quest by Arthur, who wishes to join the prince on this journey. The king even goes so far as to suggest they “quest together as brothers”. While I understand the Round Table is fraternal in nature, I am still quite suspicious of Arthur and any of his intentions, particularly his desire to get so close to one of our heroes.

In present day Storybrooke, Regina reveals the bookmark she placed in the book telling of the Crimson Crown, but no one can remember the significance or why they were seeking the mushroom. The Seven Dwarves burst in, complaining that Emma is out of control. Grumpy chides Charming that he is being more of a worried parent than a protector of their town, which frustrates the prince. Charming feels as though his hands are tied, that he’s helpless since their greatest threat is also his greatest joy. Snow is there to offer support, reminding her price that he is doing the best he can to lead their people. I love that the line where Snow tells Charming that in any world he is her hero. Despite the fairy tale nature of their current predicament, there are some very real adult fears at play here. Snow and Charming have lost and found their daughter so many times and now she is right in front of them but the most distant she has ever been. Arthur once again drops by, he seems to have a habit of doing so, only this time it is to report a theft from Camp Camelot. Their reliquary, the chest that holds all their magical trinkets and items, is missing and with it a magic bean, the very thing that would transport everyone home.

At the Dark Swan’s digs, Emma tries unsuccessfully to break Excalibur out of the stone with the dwarf ax, as dwarf axes are said to be able to break anything. The vision of Rumpelstiltskin is there to taunt her, reminding her that a hero is needed to remove the sword from the stone. So all the Dark Swan has to do is find a hero to do the task for her. There is no shortage of heroes in the town of Storybrooke, the only question is who will it be and how will she get them to help her? Both Emma and her subconscious seem to already know who that is.

In Camelot, Regina is frustrated that she hasn’t found the answers they need yet and even Robin Hood’s reassuring words aren’t enough to make her feel better. What’s not helping is Zelena sitting in the corner, rolling her eyes at her sister. Regina is keeping an eye on the Wicked Witch but feels the need to clear the air. Regina reprimands Zelena for trying to take the unborn child back to Oz, and more specifically away from Robin. The Wicked Witch reiterates that the child is her only chance for someone to love her unconditionally, her second chance. But the Evil Queen reminds Zelena that she has had more than enough second chances. Regina threatens her sister and promises the safety of the baby all in the same breath. It is remarkable how quickly Zelena can go from comedic to frightening in a few sentences and if her silent glare at the end of this scene is anything to go by, the Wicked Witch is plotting something.

Elsewhere, Arthur and Charming are suiting up for their quest when the prince asks about the Round Table. Arthur explains about the Siege Perilous, the seat left empty for a knight who is worthy enough for only the greatest of tasks. It used to belong to Lancelot, who betrayed Arthur by having an affair with Guinevere. The back story of the Round Table and Lancelot’s betrayal are all taken from common legends that surround Arthur and his knights. Charming reveals that he and Snow White had met Lancelot, but learned he had died. This upsets Arthur, who did leave on good terms with his knight. The reliquary is brought in, filled to the brim with magical items. They will use the Unquenchable Flame to light their path.

In Storybrooke, the reliquary is once again brought to Arthur and Charming by the same squire, only this time is it practically bare. The squire reluctantly suggests that the Dark One is to blame. There are definitely some significant glances going on between Arthur and this squire. This only adds to the shadiness of the king of Camelot, who is currently giving the Blue Fairy a run for her money.

At Granny’s, Robin is brooding over his phone when Hook enters. Despite some hilarious misunderstanding as to what a picture of “up inside Zelena” would entail, it turns out that Robin is looking at a sonogram of the unborn baby. This version of Robin Hood is first and foremost a family man, so it’s interesting to see him so excited about a new addition to his family while at the same time being so conflicted as to how that addition came to be. Robin makes a crack at Hook’s “simple” love life and before the pirate can elaborate on the door he found, he is invited via lunch delivery to meet Emma on his ship.

Jump to the Jolly Roger, when the Dark Swan suddenly appears at her lover’s shoulder. She speaks more as Emma than the Dark One, but it’s not quite clear if her intentions are pure and Hook is naturally suspicious, so Emma changes her appearance to be more welcoming. Hook is still uneasy. He wants to trust Emma, but the secrets she’s keeping and the games she is playing are making the pirate believe that the woman he loves is lost. He even goes as far to say that he “loved” Emma. Emma claims that she is different, that she is no longer afraid. She even sites the fact that Belle and Rumple loved each other despite one of them being the Dark One and that Rumple changed too. Hook is upset by this, reminding Emma that he was the villain in that story, that he held his sword to Rumple’s throat in that instant. It must pain Hook to see Emma right in front of him and yet not have her present, at least not the version he knows.

There is loss here, just as these two were growing closer than they had ever been. It brings back the theme of last season, that villains don’t get their happy endings. With Emma being his happy ending, for Hook to see that woman disappearing those words must be echoing in his head. Emma tries to be playful, taking the sword in an effort to remind Hook of happier times like when she taught him to sword fight, but the pirate has had enough and calls Emma out on how she’s changed. Faced with the fact that Hook cannot trust her as the Dark One, Emma poofs away.

In Camelot, Charming and Arthur are tromping through the woods, bonding over how they grew up poor and how great of archers their wives are. The bromance is strong between these too, a friendship that has blossomed fast. Arthur seems to be the one who is engaging with Charming more than the other way around. Charming just wanted to get out and establish himself as a hero but has really latched on to Arthur. The prince also remarks on Arthur’s competitiveness. While not a bad trait, this does signify someone who would not be willing to let go of things quickly. I think we will find that the king of Camelot is capable of holding a grudge and we know we will soon find that he is willing to go to extreme lengths to complete a task.

Soon the pair come across a rickety, waterlogged bridge leading them across a pond to the Crimson Crown. The bridge will only hold one, so Charming volunteers to fetch the mushroom. After a bit of peril, the prince succeeds, but danger lurks in the waters as empty suits of armor spring to life, attacking Charming. They succeed in dragging the prince underwater and at first Arthur is nowhere to be seen, when suddenly the king comes to Charming’s aid, saving his new found brother at arms. Unfortunate for them, the Crimson Crown is lost in the struggle. For a moment I really though Arthur would have left Charming to drown, but the king proved that he valued Charming as a peer and a knight. This is a validation that Charming needs as he doesn’t want to be known solely as the prince who woke Snow White. It’s nice to see Charming finally getting more to do and being the focus of a story on Once Upon a Time.

In Storybrooke, Charming and Arthur pay a visit to Belle, who is concerned by the rose petals falling from Rumple’s enchanted rose. In her research she’s found a healing spell, only one ingredient is missing; an object that touched Rumpelstiltskin as a man. Belle declines outside help as she is the only one who knows the pawn shop and its contents. It’s nice to see Belle take on a bigger role this episode as well. Taking advantage of Belle’s knowledge, Charming inquires if anyone has come by to pawn magical items, but the answer is no. Disappointed, Charming doesn’t give up and grabs a souvenir from “Doc-toberfest” as a means of smoking out their culprit. This is a rather clever solution on Charming’s part, as he soon returns to the Camp Camelot and addresses the crowd, telling them that the chalice he holds will reveal the thief. Not taking any chances, Arthur’s squire retreats from the crowd, clearly the guilty party. Charming and Arthur give chase in a great action scene as they pursue the squire, who is now on horseback, in Charming’s truck. The squire almost gives them the slip, but is finally taken out by a bit of automobile jousting. It’s a cool as it sounds.

Apprehended, the squire claims he never saw a bean in the reliquary, that he wanted to hurt the king because of how he and the rest of the kingdom were being treated, breaking their backs for Camelot. Charming goes to lock the squire away, but in the mess of the reliquary uncovers the Crimson Crown, thought to be lost six weeks ago in Camelot. He brings the mushroom to Regina and Snow and they figure out they were trying to communicate with Merlin. How will our heroes try to use the mushroom now that they are back in Storybrooke?

In Camelot, Arthur has knighted Charming as a member of the Round Table and gives him the honor of sitting in the Siege Perilous. Charming has on some splendid armor here and it’s quite heartwarming to see everyone cheering and celebrating the prince. I think what I like most about the Camelot scenes is that our heroes are a blending of their Storybrooke and Enchanted Forest selves, a combination of worlds. As everyone cheers for Charming, Baby Neal grows fussy, so Snow White exits the hall. She hears a noise and Lancelot reveals himself, alive and well. So Cora is a lying liar who lies. Lancelot warns of a villain in Camelot and names him to be Arthur. The knight also claims that Camelot is not as it seems. Can we trust Lancelot to be who he says he is?

At least we know for certain that Arthur is up to no good, for in a later scene he is alone with Guinevere and reveals it was he who took the Crimson Crown, lying to Charming. Arthur seems conflicted at his actions, having great respect for Charming but putting his kingdom above all else. I thing that Charming’s inclusion in the Round Table is a case of Arthur keeping his friends close and his enemies closer. I also feel as if Guinevere is not as she seems either, that perhaps she has some sway over Arthur and is the one really calling the shots.

As our focus returns to Storybrooke we see how far Arthur is willing to go. The king visits his squire in jail and the squire blurts out their whole plan in an effort to understand his situation. Arthur coached the squire in what lies to tell and actions to take. Arthur knows Emma is the Dark One, and believes that the citizens of Storybrooke are not honest in their quest. The king wishes to build a new Camelot in Storybrooke since they were ripped away from their home by the Dark One. And in order to maintain his trust with our heroes, Arthur tells his squire that they must not find out the truth of the day’s actions. He produces a vial of poison from Agrabah vipers and coaxes the squire to drink it for king and country, calling it a noble task even though it is deceitful. As conflicted as Arthur seems he is also paranoid and it is frightening to see the lengths he is willing to go for his kingdom. We have to find out soon why it is so important that Excalibur be restored and what it is about Camelot that has Arthur so worried. The squire takes the poison, “for Camelot”, covering Arthur’s subterfuge.

At Granny’s, Hook is asking Robin Hood to help him break into the secret door in Emma’s house when Belle rushes in to grab a bite. She is quickly distracted by the rose she is carrying. At first it looks to be wilting for good, then it suddenly reassembles itself. This can only mean one thing, that Rumpelstiltskin is awake. Belle rushes back to the pawn shop, but Rumple is nowhere to be found.

It turns out that the person who healed Rumpelstiltskin was none other than the Dark Swan. Using the sword she nabbed from Hook, Emma woke the former Dark One, who seems terrified to be in her presence. I love this scene even though it’s so short. I really wish that these two had more screen time alone together. The reversal of their roles is a nice parallel. The Dark Swan proclaims that Rumple is a blank slate, going along with the idea of his white heart, that he is neither dark nor light. But Emma, like all good Dark Ones, is willing to strike a deal and lead Rumple to become the hero he always wanted to be. And then she has a job for him.

And that’s it for “Siege Perilous”! Leave a comment with your thoughts below!

I wonder how much of the Dark Swan is Emma and how much if the darkness consuming her. The best example of not quite knowing this ration is the fact that Emma retrieved the sword that touched Rumple from Hook. Was that always her intention when she invited the pirate to meet her or was it something she needed that she discovered along the way? How does Emma plan on making Rumple the lightest hero of all time and what will happen when she joins the dagger to Excalibur?

What I’m really enjoying this season is how Arthur is not straight up evil. His priorities and goals are different than our hero brigade and if the point of view was switched we might even be rooting for the king of Camelot. The fact that Arthur is an antagonist, the hero of his own story who is doing all the wrong things for the right reasons is going to make it very hard for our heroes to go up against him since they also have all done questionable things in their respective pasts. Also the fact that the king is gaining their trust, when the final conflict arises in Storybrooke it is going to be messy for sure.

Tune in next Sunday for a Camelot back story with “The Broken Kingdom”.

About the Author – Ashley B
Ashley is as serious as a sleeping curse when she says television is her life. Professional event planner, avid movie viewer, convention enthusiast, and resident sass master, Ashley writes reviews for ABC's Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, and Galavant, as well as Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. She looks forward each week to the weird and wonderful world her favorite television programs provide.
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