Once Upon a Time: Siege Perilous Review


By: Marianne Paluso (Marianne_P81)


What I love so much about Season 5 of Once Upon a Time is the way new and previous themes are being showcased as well as the way character development is being further explored, calling back to movements from the entire series. “Siege Perilous,” written by Jane Espenson, exemplified these aspects beautifully and was an episode filled with misleading moments and emotional truths, as well as the themes of true heroism and love, never giving up, and that love can be used as a weapon seen especially with the characters of David, Arthur, Killian, Emma, and Rumple. In Camelot, David sets out on a quest with Arthur to find the Crimson Crown, a toadstool that can help you communicate through magical barriers and could possibly allow them to speak with Merlin. In Storybrooke, the two set off on a similar quest to track down the thief of Camelot’s magical relics, believing a magic bean could be among them. Meanwhile, Emma, after a failed attempt to break Excalibur from the stone with Happy’s pick axe, seeks out Killian on his ship for a lunch date like old times. She claims she only wants his trust, but he can see through the Dark One’s manipulations. She leaves in tears after he says he “loved her” but she got what she wanted: a sword that touched Rumple when he was still a man, that allowed her to wake him up from his coma so she can mold him into the hero she needs for her plan.
Before we examine the heart of the episode, I must mention some interesting moments for Regina and Robin, together and apart. I love seeing their sweet, shared moments and how much Robin believes in and wants to comfort her, and the solace she finds with him. It is lovely. But in a tense scene between Regina and Zelena, there is a definite shade of hypocrisy when Regina tells her sister she has used up her chances at reformation, and that it’s absurd to paint herself as a victim. Regina has grown and changed for the better, but her past actions were not that different than Zelena’s. Does Zelena deserves a chance? Perhaps not. But to deny her even the opportunity felt hypocritical, especially because it would come from a good place: the love of a child. After all, Regina was able to change because of her love for Henry. Regina is most likely reacting to the personal nature of the situation but there is definitely still room to learn. For Robin, despite the pain in the situation, he also cannot help but feel happy at the thought of his child, as he tells Killian when he shows him a sonogram on his phone. I will never grow tired of seeing these characters react to modern technology and I laughed out loud when he spoke about the picture from “up inside Zelena” and Killian looked horrified. I also love the natural ease and trust between the two men. There is no sense of derision or judgment between the two, which is most refreshing. You can sense a friendship forming when Killian asks for Robin’s help to break into the mysterious door in Emma’s house. Speaking of trust and friendship, the moment Lancelot surprisingly appeared to Snow in Camelot reminded us of their connection. But is this truly Lancelot? And can we trust him when he says Camelot is not what it appears to be and that Arthur is a villain?

The quests in both Camelot and Storybrooke between David and Arthur were by their very nature complex, being both misleading and emotionally and thematically honest. In both adventures, Arthur seems kind, brave, and a genuine and a noble leader. He displayed a sincere sorrow to hear about Lancelot’s death and acknowledged his nobility. He and David also related to each other being both of common birth with wives who are kind but fierce. Most especially, after David acquires the mushroom but loses it in a fight with the phantom knights protecting it, both men have a beautiful and honest talk about true bravery and heroism. It is the losses and failures that bring out our courage where we learn that it’s the never giving up that makes us heroes. If there is anyone who understands never giving up, it’s David and one can’t help but be touched when Arthur not only bestows Knighthood upon the Prince but also the seat of the “Siege Perilous,” an honor only given to the knight with the most noble and pure heart. There is a deep and profound honesty in their discussion of heroics and Arthur’s honor given to David, but as we learn, things are not what they appear to be. David didn’t lose the mushroom; Arthur stole it from him. But Arthur is trying to gain their trust to protect his kingdom. Why is uncertain, but in Storybrooke his motivations are more clear. He wants to create a new Camelot in this town, and concocts an elaborate ruse with his squire who “steals” the relics and lets himself get caught. It is difficult to see Arthur’s true nature. Is he a vicious villain as Lancelot called him? Is he a good man who has lost his way much like Ingrid? Whatever the truth, it is fascinating to watch the complexities and contradictory aspects of his character, especially in a scene where he tells his squire to drink poison in order to preserve their secret. As Arthur watches the man die in front of him, whispering “For Camelot,” Liam Garrigan displays a chilling sense of belief in the honor and truth of his actions that was absolutely chilling. What was also fascinating were the ways in which the scenes between David and Arthur were so layered in meaning and purpose. These moments were not just to reveal Arthur’s deceptions and David’s nobility. The latter we already know emphatically. The deeper meaning here was to examine the heroics of many characters. It was heartbreaking to see David so defeated in the scene in which he tells Snow he feels paralyzed to help Emma, and like he once again failed to protect his daughter. This was a pristine example of the way in which Once explores real emotions in fantastical situations. Take away the magical aspect and we simply have especially a father terrified of not only losing his daughter, but also feeling completely helpless. Imagine, seeing your child going down a dark path and being powerless to stop it. It is like witnessing your worst nightmares brought to life through a glass window. He can see it but cannot reach through and stop it. The glass will not break and his screams are silent. This is how David feels and Josh Dallas impeccably displayed David’s frustration, sadness, and fierce desire to protect his daughter that any parent can relate to. It brimmed with potent honesty and brevity. It was also touching to see Snow be strong for him, saying that he is always her hero, and when he began to regain that confidence and heroic spirit of never giving up that David always exemplifies, we see that despite their fears, Emma’s parents will never give up on her.

If there was another character who beautifully demonstrated pain but also heroism in this episode, it was Killian. In one of the most intense scenes ever between he and Emma, the gravity to which love can be wielded as a weapon was illuminated with great poignancy. While we can still see glimpses of the real Emma, it is clear the darkness has taken a hold of her. She is after something and tries to use Killian’s love for her as a way of obtaining it, trying to recreate special moments between them such as their first date and the time she taught him to swordplay. She even dons the soft pink dress she wore on their beautiful night out. What was heart-wrenching was beneath her manipulations, there were flickers of her gentleness because she does love him and wants him by her side. But those flickers are faint and her motivations are selfish. And Killian knows this. He knows this is not the real Emma speaking to him, evading questions, asking for trust, and most especially content with being the Dark One, wanting them to be together like Belle and Gold. Killian’s disbelief and anger at this comparison showcased how much he has grown as he recognizes that he was the villain when Rumple and he first met. Rumple was a good man trying to keep his family together, but the darkness changed him into an evil manipulative killer. This recognition of himself, Rumple, and indeed Emma is deeply profound as it demonstrates a self-awareness and understanding of how darkness, magical or otherwise, can affect someone. Moreover, in many ways this scene, while heart wrenching, only further showcased the depth of his love and valor. Emma tells him that as the Dark One she is indeed different – that she is better. No longer guarded and closed off, able to see things clearly and no longer be afraid. She is an open book and wants Killian beside her. What is poignant is that it is no coincidence this comes after a season where Emma learned to accept herself, open her heart, and be truly vulnerable. Importantly, these moments of self-acceptance and embracing love did not mean becoming a perfect or fearless person. Being truly vulnerable is a scary thing, and fear is a very natural, even necessary part of life. These fears help us to understand ourselves in profound ways, and what matters is finding the courage to overcome them. That is when our true strength is revealed – not from being fearless, but by facing what scares us head on. Killian not only understands this, but understands Emma, perhaps better than anyone. What was truly moving and beautiful was the moment Killian tells her he liked her the way she was. He liked her walls and liked being the one to break them down. She says she is now an open book to him; well, Emma has always been an open book to him ever since they first climbed that beanstalk together. He recognized and empathized with her guarded heart and fell in love with her all the more for it. When he says he liked her walls, what he truly means is that he fell in love with her, the real her, scars and all. He loves Emma; prickly and stubborn, gentle and compassionate, and loving and brave, all these qualities make Emma who she is. To quote a John Legend song he, “Loves all her curves and all her edges. All her perfection imperfections.” And Killian loves that she was finding the courage to let him break through those walls, as it means that she not only was accepting his love, but returning it, allowing the deep scars on both of their hearts to begin to heal. Becoming the Dark One is not what made her an open book and helped her learn to let go of her fears and heal her scars. The love between her and Killian did. And Colin O’Donoghue delivered these lines with such heart-wrenching realism that you could feel the depth of his words with perfect clarity. It is what makes his declaration of “I loved you” even more significant. The last thing Killian remembers about Camelot is walking hand-in-hand together, full of hope with Emma who desperately wanted to rid herself of the darkness and never hurt her loved ones. Now seeing her having embraced this darkness is utterly painful. But there is no reason to despair. Seeing the pain in both of their eyes was heartbreaking, and that brief flicker of the real Emma as her eyes fill with tears and she tries to force a smile was performed with poignancy by Jennifer Morrison. The subtle nuances between the two sides to her persona are not only amazing to watch, but show that all hope is not lost. Killian telling Emma he loved her does not mean his feelings for her have vanished and their relationship broken. On the contrary, these 3 words illuminates how much he deeply loves the real Emma, and not the Dark One, and perfectly demonstrates his heroism and determination to save her. For it is not about accepting her as the Dark One, enabling or condoning her actions, or blindly standing by her. He will fight for her. In embracing the darkness, she gave up hope, so now he must be strong for the both of them. The Emma he loves is lost right now, but just as David and Arthur implored, it is the losses that require us to be brave and never give up. Killian’s “I loved you” is about fighting for the woman she truly is, even if it is painful. That is true love. That is heroic. He vowed to protect her heart and that is exactly what he shall do.

The lovely display of heroism in this episode by David and Killian is what makes Emma’s belief that she can mold newly awakened Mr. Gold into the hero she needs because he is a “blank slate” so perplexing. Heroism cannot be formed by outside forces, especially dark ones. It must come from within. That theme of heroism and the way love can be used as a weapon is what made this episode so moving. Emma tried to exploit Killian’s love, but it is an undeniable truth that love can be wielded as a weapon heroically. The love that Killian and her parents have for Emma is sure to be exactly the kind of weapon that can fight the demon inside her and triumph over that evil. And even more meaningful will be the moment the love that Emma feels is wielded against that dark struggle within herself. She has overcome so many demons and Emma Swan is strong enough to overcome even the darkest of forces once she remembers that the illusion of fearlessness and desire for power pales in comparison to the beauty and joy of true love.

Favorite Moments:

Prince Charming has always been one of my favorite characters on Once Upon a Time and this episode perfectly epitomizes why as he showcases not only an admirable heroism, but even more movingly, a deeply relatable sense of doubt and fear that he cannot protect his family the way a father should. This is realistic, potent, and demonstrates what a beautiful character he is. Equally touching is the moment Killian tells Emma he liked her walls and liked being the one to break them down as we see how much he truly loves Emma for all of her scars and imperfections because she has found the courage to not only let him in, but let herself love him in return. That vulnerability is more courageous than any “clarity” the darkness gives her. Letting love in is heroic and so is being able stand up and fight for the one you love, even if it means your own suffering. Killian’s actions were also heroic and moving and showcase the strength of his resolve and indeed his character. Seeing David declared a knight was touching and the moment he transform his truck into a method of taking down the squire like a jousting match was absolutely fantastic! Witnessing contradictions in Arthur’s character was also so enthralling. Lastly, the sweet, light moments from the Dwarves whistling “Whistle While You Work” to Killian and Robin’s natural, new friendship, to a reference to Doc’s birthday were a delight.

Favorite Lines:
Killian: I liked you the way you were. I liked your walls. I liked being the one to break them down.

Arthur: I’ve had victories and I’ve had losses. And I’ve learned it’s the losses that require us to be brave. So if anything will make us heroes…
David: It’s the never giving up, even after a loss.

Belle: (referring to a stein) It’s not magic though, just a souvenir from Doc’s birthday party. It says Doctoberfest on it.

Snow: (to David): In any world, you are my hero.

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