Once Upon a Time Sword Reunited

Once Upon a Time Recap: Something Wicked This Nimue Comes

This Sunday on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, we and Emma learned the identity of the very first Dark One, while the heroes’ plan to pinch Excalibur was waylaid by a real witch.

At the crux of this week’s exposition-heavy hour was the original love story between Merlin, who lonnnnnnng ago had been gifted with magic by the Holy Grail, and Nimue, a young Evangeline Lily woman whose village had been ravaged by a man named Vortigan. Merlin and Nimue fell in love, which proved to be a problem when the wizard pointed out that, as an immortal, he will assuredly outlive her. His fix: to turn the grail into a sword, with which he can “cut away” his magic, putting him and his love on equal footing.

Just as Merlin forges Excalibur, Vortigan shows up and grabs Nimue. She attempts to fight her way free, only to get critically stabbed. Then, as Merlin confronts Vortigan, Nimue sneaks up on the baddie and rips his heart out — having herself obtained magic by secretly sipping from the grail, against Merlin’s earlier wishes. Worse, despite Merlin’s strong advisory, Nimue proceeds to crush the man’s heart, thus turning her into the very first Dark One, having used her magic to kill.

Five hundred or so years later….

Merlin brings Emma to the site of that fateful encounter, so that she can summon the original Dark One, who is the keeper of the ember that can fuse Excalibur and the dagger back together. There are two possible outcomes here, Merlin said: Emma fends off the Darkness, or she succumbs and thusly kills him. Nimue, to be sure, does her sniveling best to urge Emma to whack the wizard, saying they have no choice but to destory this threat. Nimue, though, goes one babbling step too far by suggesting that without Darkness, Emma is “nothing.” Never tell a woman she is nothing, dearie. “I am not nothing! I was never nothing” a triumphant Emma roars back at her taunter. “The power you have, I don’t need!” Emma plucks the ember away from Nimue, who then disappears, and heads back to Camleot with Merlin — until he mysteriously vanishes mid-conversation.

Because…. groan

Zelena helped Regina, Robin, Hook and the Charming sneak into Arthur’s castle for the purpose of stealing Excalibur. Left behind, Z got the drop on her “guard,” Snow White, by apparently felling the once-fierce bandit with a kick to the tummy. When the others later arrive at the Round Table and Regina “freezes” Arthur, Zelena emerges from the shows, with a bound-and-gagged Snow in tow, to free Arthur and help him “tether” Merlin to Excalibur — turning his sadly truncated (ahem) sword into basically a bigger version of the Dark One’s dagger, but to control the mighty wizard.

Arthur summons Merlin away from Emma and commands him to ward off the Storybrookers’ attack. Merlin does his best to convince Arthur that his prophecy is still in the course of playing out — that in vanquishing the Darkness with a restored Excalibur, Arthur will be remembered as a great king. Artie, though, just wants glory, and fast, and has Merlin magic the unwanted guests away.

Back in Storybrooke, Emma retrieves the ember she took from Nimue and uses it to reunite broken Excalibur and the dagger, while Rumple, Nimue and every other Jawa Dark One looks on. As the sword is forged, Emma recalls Merlin’s warning from years ago in the movie theater, to “not text during the movie” “leave the sword alone” — which she considers doing, for a moment, even as the Dark Many urge her to seize the power. Butas the episode draws to a close, Emma does reach for and wields the restored Excalibur — but to what end, we now wonder more than ever?

What did you think of the episode “Nimue”?

Want scoop on Once, or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. jj says:

    Sir Castic lol great line.

  2. madhatter360 says:

    Nimue became the first Dark One about 500 years ago. Rumple became the Dark One 300 years ago. We saw a cave full of past Dark Ones when Emma reunited the pieces of the sword. Was Rumple just really really good at the being the Dark One or was something else going on to get the rest killed off so quickly?

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      The benefit plan sucks.

    • Cornelius says:

      Yea the timing of the Dark One’s is really weird but can be overlooked. I doubt we will learn anything about any more dark ones and seeing them in the cave was just to show there has been many of them over the years but who knows.

    • Lia says:

      Maybe people always thought that they should just fight and kill the Dark One without being aware that if you do that you take the power for yourself.

    • Erica says:

      I want to know who killed Nimue and became the next Dark One. Could we have a whole episode on the history of the Dark Ones?

    • Yes Rumple was that good. And yes it seems many died fast. The question that should bother you is how did some one kill Nimue being as she is immortal to begin with? seems the weapon not only can free you from your magic and immortality but it kills you with certainty. Odd that Merlin would make the dagger such.

      • PL says:

        It was probably an unintended result. If Excalibur was forged to strip away magic, it follows to some extent that physically stabbing someone with the dagger whose power also originated from the Holy Grail would: (1) strip away their magic/immortality and (2) result in death. The way characters die on this show is a little over the top anyway (basically if you’re stabbed anywhere, or at all, you’re going to die (Regina in the Heroes & Villains storyline, Charming in the pilot, countless others).

      • But the Dagger is an enchanted blade, made from the Holy Grail. Using the Dagger to kill the Dark One follows the tenets set forth by the show — if you kill in vengeance (or greed), you become dark, and because because the Dagger is an enchanted blade, that magic passes to you. I’m sure at some point, Nimue lost the Dagger and was killed, resulting in a new Dark One. As for the timeline — eh….whatever. It took place eons ago, and that’s that.

    • Raven says:

      I’m thinking maybe at some point (or even multiple points) there were multiple people fighting over the dark one power at once, leading to multiple dark ones coming and going within the course of a single battle until one was left standing.

  3. Rrm998 says:

    A 1000 years, 500 years, 200 years? I’m so confused!

  4. Vari says:

    Really enjoyed this episode. I expected Nimue to be the Dark One, and Merlin loving her, and can see who the Dark One is and who the woman he loves is. Much like Hook sees Emma and Dark Swan.
    Beautiful Emma/Hook scene, The i love yous, the ring. The faith and love.
    Paralllels/contrasts and so on were their with Emma/Hook and Merlin/Nimue. I do think Emma/Hook will rise where Merlin/Nimue failed.
    Hook could stop Emma crushing a heart whilst Merlin couldnt stop Nimue.

    What is Emma’s plan really…. we still dont know.

  5. Cornelius says:

    One of the better episodes this season. Still want to know how Emma embraced the darkness fully back in Camelot though, should be next week we learn that though.. I hope :l

    • Matt Webb Mitovich says:

      Emma seemed curious to attain the Darkness but use it to protect loved ones. So maybe that’s what she is doing….

      • Cornelius says:

        If so and the rumours of the Underworld coming to Storybrooke are true how does that protect her loved ones? Get rid of Emma’s darkness and in place bring on the Devil.

        • DarkDefender says:

          I don’t think I have heard definitively that the Underworld arc is actually connected to the Dark Swan arc (directly). I’m guessing there will be some transition between the main stories, but I’m not sure the hell stuff has to be directly related to the Dark One. Unless the banished Dark One becomes the devil.

        • Naoyusimi says:

          Do not conflate the Christian ideas of Hell with the Greek gods and the Underworld. It’s not the same. Or it shouldn’t be. Knowing OUAT, they’ll scramble it all up in a meat-grinder and we’ll get some weird new blend.

          • ninergrl6 says:

            I was thinkng the same thing. The Underworld ISN’T Hell, at least in traditional mythology. It’s the place where all souls go after death, not a “bad” place ruled by the devil. With OUAT, who knows.

      • prish says:

        Cool, maybe her heart was pure…doesn’t that bring to mind some legend/tale, somewhere? We haven’t seen the episode, yet, here in the Northwest, but it is always so cool to read recaps and fan responses, before. Part of the perks of west coast living, folks!

      • Naoyusimi says:

        So did Rumpelstiltskin, but all it took was someone threatening Bae, and he was full-on badass, killing five soldiers. Perhaps Emma reacted to a threat to Henry.

  6. laurelnev says:

    Forgive me, as it’s been a couple of decades since I read Mallory, but I’m NOT liking what they’re doing to Nimue. Merlin’s horniness was the source of his downfall. Nimue was really the first STRONG Arthurian female, but IIRC, she was MUCH more about the light than the darkness, even becoming Arthur’s mentor and advisor after Merlin’s lust caused his own downfall. In the legend, Merlin fell hard for Nymue, but she did not return those feelings. She basically made him promise he wouldn’t use Magic to get into her petticoats, and only disabled/treed/killed Merlin (depending on the version) after he broke that promise. I’m not liking the fact they took the STRONGEST female, one who very much resembled how they USED to write Emma, and once again made her the lunatic evil witch. And that whole Zelena casting a spell so the sword became a controller, like the Dagger? Big thumbs down!

    That being said, I LOVED that glimpse of the old, bailbondswoman, kick-ass Emma: “I was NEVER nobody!” I’m hoping that she’ll ultimately resist the darkness like she resisted Nimue’s attempts to make Emma strangle Merlin. I’m hoping she wants to reunite the sword to save Merlin from that ahole Arthur, (still hating what they’re doing to THAT legend), and ultimately, result in them BOTH being able to be gray, instead of the totally dark/totally light dichotomy they’ve written themselves into a corner with. And in doing so, ultimately return to the glory of those 1st 2 seasons.And maybe along the way, Snow can find her brain again so she is not the biggest, most defenseless patsy on our screens. At least Regina, the only true shades of gray character on the canvas right now, seems to have retained her intelligence, to some degree.

    • Cornelius says:

      “Snow can find her brain again so she is not the biggest, most defenseless patsy on our screens. ”

      I totally agree. I want the kick ass bow wielding Snow we had back in season 1-2. I get why she was so worried about Zelena since she was just pregnant but it’s Zelena, she should have known better.

  7. laurelnev says:

    PS: Don’t forget, it’s the 2 hour “mid season finale” next Sunday! Adjust recording devices and schedules accordingly!

    • madhatter360 says:

      It’s not the mid season finale. There are 2 more episodes after the 2 hour event. No idea why they’re doing a 2 hour event when it’s not the winter finale but hey, more episodes is more episodes.

      • laurelnev says:

        Thanks for the correction. I assumed the 2 hour thing was due to Christmas Specials starting the week before Thanksgiving these days. Timing is perfect for the Holiday Hiatus. Hopefully, it’s the end of this arc then.

      • Jennifer says:

        I thought the 2 hour episode was due to the AMA the following weekend?? that would make sense.

      • powerturtle90sdudemon says:

        It’s this season’s Smash the Mirror

    • Cornelius says:

      Episodes are on until December 13th (episode 12) but there is a week break after the 2 hour episode.

  8. Aisha says:

    I don’t know if anyone else noticed but Emma seemed to start using her dark one voice after she got the spark.
    I’m so excited to finally learn her reasoning.

  9. Boiler says:

    Another great episode. Liking this season a lot so far

  10. Leejay says:

    Bored now.

  11. amicam says:

    I’m in cringe-awe of the title pun :-D had to mention it. Love Matt’s article titles.

  12. Jon says:

    Flashback to 1,000 years ago. Then flashback to 200 years and have Merlin say he’s 500 years old.


    Is this some form of fairy math?

    • mika02 says:

      I am pretty sure it’s

      1000 years before present day
      500 years after is 200 years before Camelot time and Camelot time is 300 years before present day.

      Great episode one of my favorite so far I wonder why Emma is not scaly perhaps because she hasn’t killed yet.

      • LDMRNJ says:

        I think (but could be wrong) that ‘scaly’ comes with fully embracing the darkness an going all out Dark One. As long as Emma is fighting (and occasionally winning) to retain some of her light magic-self perhaps the scales stay at bay. And then in ‘present day’ Storybrooke – Rumple was only scaly and creepy looking in the enchanted forest, not Storybrooke.

    • DarkDefender says:

      Probably the original common core.

    • Kay says:

      Nah, it’s common core math.

  13. len84 says:

    Enjoyed the episode.
    Merlin backstory. And Nimue.
    Jennifer Morrison is awesome.
    I love Emma and Hook scene so much. The ring is her strength and the faith in their love.

  14. LindseyF says:

    Oh my god, she DOES look like Evangeline Lily! The whole time I was watching this, I was like, “I’m pretty she’s an unknown…..but she looks REALLY familiar.” Thanks! Haha.

  15. ninergrl6 says:

    Overall I really liked this episode because THINGS. HAPPENED. We learned the origin of Merlin’s powers, Excalibur, the dagger, and the Dark One, though the Nimue “reveal” was hardly a surprise. What *was* a surprise, however, was Emma resisting the Darkness and saving Merlin. I assumed she would succumb to DarkNimue’s urging and that would be what pushed Emma over the edge to become how she is in present-day Storybrooke. That piece of the puzzle is still missing, but it’s encouraging that Emma *can* successfully fight back against the Darkness. Tonight’s flashbacks actually helped the plot progress rather than being a seemingly irrelevant tangent like last week. I also like that we didn’t jump back & forth to present-day Storybrooke, where frankly nothing is happening. I really wish this season took place ALL in Camelot with only flashbacks to the past. The “time jump/no memory” curse adds nothing to the plot or character development.

    As a hardcore CaptainSwan shipper, my favorite scene was obviously the ring/ILY exchange. The look on Emma’s face when Hook said he wasn’t going to propose was PRICELESS, as was his “piercing-eyed, smoldering pirate” line. It makes me sad that they don’t (or at least he doesn’t) remember this conversation in present-day Storybrooke. The foreshadowing is clearly ominous: Hook gave Emma the ring which he thinks/assumes is “the reason I’m alive,” so obviously something bad is going to happen to him (resulting in him ending up in the Underworld for 5B?).

    • LDMRNJ says:

      My theory (and it’s totally made up in my own head) is that Emma and Merlin have a plan that requires everyone to think she’s totally sold out dark in Storybrooke. Remember, at the end of this week’s episode back in Camelot, Merlin is tied to the sword and can be controlled by whoever wields it – even if he’s being commanded to do not-so-wonderful things. BUT, if everyone were to, say, lose their memories and forget that little bit, than there’s a little wiggle room. If Merlin were to whisk the Charmings et al to Maine and erase their memories….and then eventually ship the rest of the gang off with them, there’s hope. If Emma can get the sword in present day and combine it – there’s hope. Right? I’m still holding out that even with the final moments of this week, Emma is going to emerge as being in on some Merlin-esque plan all along that required her to have this distance from those that love and care about her in order to be able to reunite Excalibur and banish the dark without compromising Merlin in the process because he too is bound to the sword now. Both Emma and Merlin being controlled by the two halves…

  16. prish says:

    The husband says, “I like the people of Storybrooke. Why don’t they keep it simple? I’d rather wash dishes.” And that’s where he is now, washing dishes during the episode. “It’s not that dark. You just didn’t like his date. Lots of parents do that. They have to write better plots, here. And Merlin was too into his magic to have time for women.” Sometimes, a family member becomes more entertaining than an episode.

  17. prish says:

    The sword coming together at the end was very, very cool. It pulled the episode together, making it fun. The husband just shrugged, but I was dazzled.

  18. DG says:

    I’m probably alone in this, but I am so tired — and dare I say bored — of this story line. I just want it to hurry and get on with something else.

  19. robandco says:

    The origin story of the Dark One was very well done but the casting was poor. I mean she’s the original evil that created dark magic… she was nowhere dark enough.
    Once again they are vague with the timeline because they have no idea what they are doing and where they are going. That’s sad.
    I can’t wait for this mess to be over so we can have a chronologically told 5B.

    Also with Prometheus’ fire, it’s almost sure they are foreshadowing Hades and hell for 5B. I hope we meet Hercules!

  20. I finger faulted away my last response but it comes down to this: yet another lets steal from Star Wars moment in the series and while we are at it lets insult the Christians repeatedly, and lets hope nobody does math again.

    short and sweet, i will be glad when this arc is over as it is both blasphemous and repetitive, making the title to the series a joke, as nothing in this show ever happens but once.

  21. Allison says:

    Thank you, Matt for the Evangeline Lily comment. Caroline Ford’s resemblance to her is so striking! When I first saw her I screamed and said she looks just like someone I have seen before and I tried unsuccessfully to recall the name of the actress and eventually I just gave up and went to bed. So thanks a million for jogging my memory! Now, I can go on about my day now that that mystery has been solved.

  22. ChellemaBelle says:

    Maybe I missed it, but did we see any writing on the sword once they were back in Storybrooke? (Not the dagger, but the actual sword where “Merlin” had been?). I don’t remember seeing it. If not, what happened to that? And the most likely next question… where is Merlin? Is he Emma’s new platinum-loving hairdresser?

  23. CK says:

    So, Emma was still seeing Rumple and all the other dark ones when she took Excalibur. & she had said earlier in the episode they would disappear if she embraced the darkness. So, if she’s still seeing them, does that mean she hasn’t fully embraced it yet?