I am not nothing! I was never nothing! The power you have I don’t need!Emma
Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Emilie de Ravin, Colin O’Donoghue, Jared S. Gilmore, Rebecca Mader, Sean Maguire, and Robert Carlyle.
This episode takes us back to the origin of the Dark One, in an interesting origin tale. The question “How was dark magic created?” wasn’t actually one that I expected Once Upon a Time to ever answer, but it was a pleasurable tale nonetheless, twisting the story of Merlin and Nimue as well as including some of our existing knowledge of the Dark One imbued with classic mythology like the Holy Grail.
Merlin can often seem like an untouchable figure. He’s almost a deity in a way, so to see his own origins was wonderful and nicely achieved. Elliot Knight plays the part wonderfully. In the present, you really get a sense of an ancient figure who is slightly wearied by it all. His face and expressions tell a story all their own. To humanise him through his relationship with Nimue is definitely a sage move, and it helps to contextualise his attempts to help Emma seeing as he has experience with somebody losing themselves to the darkness.
Nimue (Caroline Ford) is also a nice addition. Her descent into darkness is entirely understandable. She gives into her desire for vengeance over the prospect of a life eternal with Merlin. Having said that, it’s not as if her fate is entirely unexpected. The signs are there from the beginning, not to mention those who are familiar with the tale of Merlin and Nimue in the first place. The fact that Nimue’s first instinct is not to strip Merlin of his powers and make him mortal but to make herself immortal is telling, and her entire journey is defined by her anger.
It’s interesting that the act that created the Dark One in the first place was a very human and relatable concept: that of anger, hurt and vengeance. When looking objectively at Nimue’s actions, it’s almost difficult to say that she was wrong. Sure, killing isn’t necessarily the right avenue to take, but it’s difficult to blame her. If somebody had destroyed my entire village, leaving nothing but a handful of Middlemist flowers, which look suspiciously enough like pink roses, I’d probably want to get my own back too.
In the present, it was nice to see Emma stand up to the darkness and remain resolute in the face of Nimue trying to tell her that she needed what she was being offered. The only slight undercutting of her speech is the fact that, no, Emma was never nothing. She was born as the Saviour, and she has powerful magic of her own. There’s practically nothing that the Dark One can offer her, other than the absence of morality. If another character were to have an outburst asserting that they weren’t nothing, it perhaps would be more impactful, but there’s never been any question that Emma wasn’t nothing.
In Camelot, Arthur is every bit the irritating villain. He’s so petulant, it just remains frustrating to watch. His reasons for going down a dark path aren’t entirely well realised. He’s obsessed with making Camelot the best that it can be, but he’s more interested in controlling Merlin than he is actually achieving this goal in a just manner.
Zelena allying herself with Arthur wasn’t at all surprising, and it’s nice for Rebecca Mader to be given something meaningful to do. Snow falling for her ploy was uncharacteristically dim of her, but that seems to be Snow these days. I am worried for what this could mean for Zelena in the present-day storyline, however, as I’d hoped that she could at least attempt a redemption. As soon as everybody regains their memories, I worry that Zelena isn’t long for the story.
This episode was a bit of a departure from the main thrust of the adventure. It was instructive to peel back the curtain on the origin of the Dark One, as well as how it is intrinsically linked to Merlin and to good magic. While it was nice to see Emma stay resolute in the face of complete darkness, I wonder what happened to her after this point to make her succumb. I also hope that the show plans to answer what exactly Emma plans to do in the present now that Excalibur is finally united.
Once Upon an Additional Brainthought
- I’m presuming that Belle is with Merida in DunBroch at this point in the story, but it was strange that nobody even mentioned the fact that she’d mysteriously disappeared with no trace and they didn’t know where she had gone. You’re bad friends, all of you.
You can watch Once Upon a Time Seasons 1 – 7 on Netflix. It is also available on home media and other digital platforms for purchase or rent.