ONCE UPON A TIME Review: “Nimue” Sheds Light on the Dark One’s Origins
By Meredith Loftus
We’ve hit the midway mark in Once Upon a Time’s Camelot/Dark Swan arc, and the latest installment “Nimue” is by far the best episode to date.
Excalibur is now in one piece, and Dark Swan can put her plans into motion in Storybrooke.
Meanwhile in Camelot, Arthur makes an alliance with Zelena and turns Excalibur into the same manipulative weapon as the dagger, except now it controls Merlin.
The origins of the Dark One also become known, as well as the tragic love story between Merlin and Nimue. The players are finally in motion, and rest of this arc will see that action played out.
In the middle of all of this, however, hope continues to stay alive as Emma fights off the darkness, showing a strength that will be powerful enough to win the war for good.
Merlin’s help or not, Emma is still her own savior.
The Dark One’s Origins
In a series of flashbacks we learn that originally Merlin was deemed worthy of the powers of the Holy Grail when he asked a higher power for permission to drink from the chalice. With one drink, he gained magic, which we learn is the first time magic is introduced into the world of Once Upon A Time. With his great power, Merlin continues to prove his worthiness by using his new gift to wisely help the people around him, and never giving in to the temptation to use it for darkness.
However, his power comes at the price of losing the gift of mortality and growing old with the woman he loves, Nimue, a woman who survived a horrific attack on her village. Their love was born out of the pink middle mist flower, the same flowers that were in the garden Emma and Hook found on their getaway together. However this love begins to wither when Merlin learns Nimue still harbors anger — and a vendetta — against Vortigan, the man responsible for destroying her village. As it turns out, Nimue also desires power and immortality like Merlin, but does not understand the cost that comes with such magic.
Tragically, Nimue chooses power over love and takes a taste of the magical water from the Holy Grail. Then, when given the opportunity to exact her revenge, she takes it by crushing Vortigan’s heart and becoming the Dark One. It was this dark act that created the original division of light and dark magic, and one that created major consequences rippling through to current events.
Anchored By Love
While we saw love not being enough for Nimue to resist darkness, it continues to be strength and a driving force of action for Emma and Hook. Hook wants nothing more than for the woman he loves to no longer be burdened with darkness. He sees the darkness continuing to pull Emma down into its depths and it pains him to watch her make dreamcatchers in place of sleep. Because of this, he expresses his frustrations to Merlin and the others. He’s tired of planning; they need to act. He made a promise to Emma that he would never give up on them and their future together, and being proactive is his way of honoring that promise.
Love also is an anchor of hope. Before they both depart on their separate missions, Hook gives Emma his ring. It is essentially him giving her a piece of himself. He’s given up something that has helped him be the survivor he is for the assurance of his Emma, not the darkness inside of her, finding her way back to him. No matter how far apart they are physically or how dark Emma gets, she will have a reminder of him, a good-looking pirate who loves her, and everything he’s come to mean to her: light, hope, love.
Emma’s smile in response to his love for her is so joyful in that moment; she is so in love with the man standing before her and she expresses that by kissing and telling him that she loves him too. Keep in mind, this is the first time since Emma sacrificed herself to save Storybrooke that she has told Hook she loves him, and this is the first time he has used “love” in front of her without it being a pet name. Like the beautiful pink middle mist flower Hook gave Emma a few episodes ago, their love has bloomed into something beautiful, and now that their love for each other is out in the open, it can’t be contained or stopped. In fact, Emma physically grips Hook’s ring around her neck when she agrees to summon the original Dark One. Even during the process of summoning the Dark One, Emma recites to herself the same words Hook told her before about the darkness: “it’s all in her head.” It’s her way of anchoring herself to the light in her that Hook continually fights for. It’s this strength Emma draws on during another of her battles against the darkness.