Once Upon A Time writers always know how to give viewers a fantastic episode, and we’d say this has been the best one all season. Although we’re sure it’ll probably, definitely be topped next week.
Episode Summary: In flashbacks, we learn about how Merlin came to all his powers and the choice he made to only use them for good. We also got a glimpse into his relationship with Nimue and how anger fueled her more than the promise of a great and honorable future. In Camelot, Emma and Merlin seek out Nimue in order to retrieve the spark that’ll unite the two swords, but Zelena unsurprisingly betrays the team giving Arthur power over Merlin. And lastly, in Storybrooke, Emma succeeds in uniting the two blades but what she’ll do with them is the great big mystery we’re yet to see.
Review | Analysis: “Nimue” was not only full of exceptional performances left and right, but the episode contained some interesting references to Arthurian legends and the Bible. Most importantly, however, it once again illuminated the significance of our choices along with the great strength that’s found in forgiveness and love. Immortality and a life without troubles sound lovely, but if there were no struggles to overcome, the unparalleled happiness we feel in times of beautiful moments wouldn’t be as valuable. The presence of darkness is perhaps something that’ll always be found in our world, but whether or not a person gives into it is something we’re fully in control of. At any rate, there’s still an enormous part of us that believes Emma’s choice to embrace the darkness wasn’t due to a moment of weakness, but rather a sacrificial act of some sort.
On Merlin’s “voicemail” he states that Nimue is the only one who could help now that he’s dead, hence, the question we’re now asking is whether or not this was recorded before her days as the dark one. Something tells us Merlin is wise a man and would change his “answering machine” after such a drastic turn of events. This then leaves us wondering if there’s a part of Nimue that’s still good and still fighting for light. Any thoughts or theories on the matter are welcomed, as we must now get into discussing how beautiful their story was prior to the catastrophic end. First things first, where do we sign a petition to keep Elliot Knight and Caroline Ford?! They’re so delightful as Merlin and Nimue — we were completely smitten watching them fall into a state of utter bliss.
Merlin’s truly such an incredible being and we’re thrilled the series has honored the fact that he’s the greatest wizard in all the realms. Upon finding the Holy Grail, he looks up essentially asking for permission to drink the water from it and when the gift of the grail is granted to him, Merlin sees it as an honor. He chooses to use the powers and immortality it’s granted him for noble tasks in order to help people. He essentially promises himself that the gifts will only be used to perform only acts of kindness reminding us of a Christ-like/savior figure. It isn’t until he meets Nimue and falls madly in love with her that he decides that he’d forge the Holy Grail into Excalibur in order to take the immortality out of him because the kind of life he imagines involves growing old with Nimue.
However, during their quest to rid Merlin of his immortality, what Nimue doesn’t tell him is that she’s already taken a drink from the Holy Grail and thus has experienced the powers it holds. She momentarily fakes her death in order to show Merlin what it’s like to feel the ache of losing the battle with life, and while all that can be understood, her choice to crush the dark one’s heart for revenge can’t. Wanting revenge for the deaths of an entire village is completely fathomable, but at the end of the day, killing and tarnishing your own soul isn’t right. There are other ways to get justice and instead of choosing to use their resources in order to find a better solution, Nimue chose the path that’d lead her towards becoming the dark one. It wasn’t a sacrificial act like Emma’s. It was a decision made from anger as opposed to forgiveness.
Knight’s performance was nothing short of extraordinary this week. When Merlin exclaims he isn’t fighting for the dark one’s life, he’s fighting for Nimue’s soul, Knight delivered the scene with a full range of emotions allowing the audience to really see the turmoil he’s in. The kind of woman he’s fallen in love with would never do such a thing and when you love someone, you constantly fight to bring out the best in them. It’s essentially why Killian refuses to give in to the Dark Swan, he knows who the real Emma is, and he knows that version of her deserves to be fought for.
Forgiveness is anything but easy, it takes great courage to look beyond the horrors someone’s committed and trust that they’ll change for the better. It’s the hardest thing to do, but it’s without a doubt the right thing. Nimue then becomes the very first dark one as the act she commits wasn’t led by noble intentions. As the brilliant Lexi pointed out: she used her gifts wrongfully by crushing his heart while she was a magical immortal. “Merlin used his immortality and magic for good while Nimue used it for revenge. She creates the first Dark One like Cain creates the sin of murder.” The thing with life in whatever realm we look at, whatever faith we choose to bring into the equation: right and wrong, are clear. There are exceptions of course such as the murder of some sort when it’s in self-defense, but acts of revenge do more damage than good. Intentional killing especially when someone’s defenseless isn’t right. We can all see how well Regina’s life turned out since she wanted to punish a 10-year-old, but ultimately, forgiveness is what does the trick. Sometimes, seeing the good in a person is what allows them to see it in themselves. Nimue and Merlin were in possession of an extremely powerful object with abilities to snuff out darkness at once — with careful thought, they could’ve punished the dark one rightfully, but instead, she chose to let her anger do the thinking. She gave in to the voices in her head that only intend to tarnish the being.
Elliot Knight and Caroline Ford did remarkably well in the scene above as they both make it clear what their character’s deepest struggle is. And when Nimue’s skin begins to turn scaly like a crocodile’s, there’s a sudden change in Ford’s expression that allows viewers to see the sweet soul we’d met earlier is completely gone. Ford showcases the embrace of the darkness wonderfully as even when Merlin’s crying for her, she doesn’t once reveal an ounce of regret from her decisions.
We were so stunned by Elliot Knight’s performances this week, but the childlike heartbreak he wore in his expressiveness as he saw Nimue again crushed us. It was so clear at that moment that he not only hasn’t stopped loving her but the wounds her choice left behind have continued to ache him all these years. They’ve left him broken and incomplete with the disbelief that this could’ve happened to the woman he would’ve given up everything for. Knight projects plenty of emotions through his posture and the weariness in his eyes — if anyone knows the struggle, it’s Merlin and throughout the episode, we were able to see the terrors that have seized him from the moment Nimue took on the darkness for good.
There are versions of the future and understandably, Merlin’s a bit on edge because of what Emma could potentially do. He tells Emma that there are two things that can occur on their quest: she could either pass the test with nobility or she’d give in to the darkness and kill him. And Emma’s struggles this week were perhaps what required the most work from Jennifer Morrison. Morrison was at her best, but at this point, we should probably stop staying this because it’s no longer a surprise that she will constantly outdo herself with exceptional performances.
When Merlin tells Emma that they’ll need to summon the first dark one on their journey, the heartbreak Morrison wears on her face as she realizes she’ll once again have to see figures she’s tried so desperately to remove from her head were brilliantly done. These are the precise hints the audience needs to understand that embracing the darkness isn’t something Emma wants. No matter how much she grows fond of the power, deep down, her heart’s in a stronger place. She’s somebody special without the powers. It’s also what allows us to believe she didn’t choose the darkness but was rather forced to embrace it for the greater good?! Fundamentally, the fears and uncertainties Morrison conveys on their journey make Emma’s confrontation with Nimue so phenomenal.
Emma Swan has seen her fair share of struggles, but time and time again she’s continuously chosen the righteous path. She’s chosen kindness and nobility. She’s chosen to help people. She’s chosen to forgive. We aren’t trying to say that everyone else’s trials haven’t been difficult, but no one’s known the pain Emma has — the only person who comes remotely close is Zelena, but she’s chosen darkness instead. For 28 years, all Emma Swan has known is loneliness and abandonment, but she’s made the choice to be the type of person that restores happiness in others even when she couldn’t find it herself.
If there’s one thing Emma’s taught us, it’s that when the world tries to tell you who you are, you fight back with the truth. The confrontation with Nimue paid beautiful homage to Emma’s most noted quote: “People are gonna tell you who you are your whole life. You just gotta punch back and say, “No, this is who I am”. You want people to look at you differently? Make them! You want to change things, you’re gonna have to go out there and change them yourself, because there are no fairy godmothers in this world.” Although Emma’s learned that there are indeed fairy godmothers in the world, it doesn’t change the fact that she’s continuously made the right choices even when they were difficult to. And that’s not nothing. Emma Swan is the Storybrooke savior, the sheriff, a daughter, a mother, a lover, and a hot chocolate + cinnamon fan. However, beyond that, she’s a being the world’s tried to constantly break, and she’s risen above fighting for what she rightfully deserves. Power is nothing but empty promises and contentment — it’s a need to control everything around you in a cowardly attempt not to fight through battles honorably.
The greatest power is the courage to be kind, and Emma’s been the prime paradigm of the conception to date. As we’ve always said, she’s had enough terrors in her past that could’ve easily turned her into a villain, and even though her parents think they got rid of all the darkness inside of her, it’s partially untrue because we’ve seen Emma partake in careless behavior. The woman we’ve grown to love has had a lot of deeply rooted anger in her, but even with all the pain she’s been in, she’s chosen the right path. She’s forgiven the woman who’s responsible for separating her from her parents. She’s forgiven the man who let her go to prison because of the crimes he’s committed. She’s forgiven. And the real Emma Swan, much like Christ in the Bible, is an example of what nobility should be like.
You resist the temptation to give in to dark magic because that kind of power brings nothing but anguish. It’s nothing compared to the love and purity that overcomes a person when they’ve committed a noble act. Selflessness is a kind of magic even those without special powers can experience the beauty of it. There’s something indescribable about doing good, and Emma’s an example of someone who’s done it because it’s something she would’ve wanted when she was a child. She has reunited families. She’s brought happiness back into the lives of people who never knew they could experience something so marvelous. The greatest strength is found in the choice to give back when all the world’s done is taken from you. The strongest and most noble figures in literature have always been the ones who’ve seen the most heartbreaking troubles — they are the same people who’d give everything they’ve got just to make another’s life easier.
There’s no justifiable way to properly describe Jennifer Morrison’s groundbreaking performance during Emma’s confrontation with Nimue. Unfortunately, dkfajlsfjasdfadakjsdf won’t do because that’s not an actual word so here’s a proposal: someone invent a new word to use strictly for Morrison’s outstanding performances. And now that we’ve done our gushing — Morrison does an excellent job of revealing Emma’s innermost struggles in that moment of ‘dark one possession’, but the moment Nimue says “don’t go back to being nothing,” the look in her eyes changes most evocatively. Emma’s fought so hard to create a life for herself where she was happy and honorable, thereby having someone say she’s nothing when she herself knows she’s so much more was the trigger that’d ignite all the light within her to strike.
As human beings we’re susceptible to every emotion, it isn’t feeling them that’s wrong, it’s what we do with them that determines our strength and nobility. It’s okay to feel anger, in fact sometimes it’s exactly what’s needed to stand up and fight for yourself. It isn’t okay, however, to let anger perpetually take control of your being. The anger in Emma as Nimue says she’s nothing is exactly what Emma needed in order to remember who she is. She’s fought so hard to come this far, and if there’s one thing she won’t do, it allows another person to take away her agency. This is a moment that required baring it all, it called for conclusive rage and Morrison delivered it with the right amount of vehemence that’d reveal the inmost battle Emma’s having within. She’s at a war unlike anything she’s experienced before and sometimes, situations like this require pouring everything out.
This wasn’t Emma’s war against Nimue, this was Emma’s war against the darkness that’s tethered itself onto her. This was Emma reminding viewers that the woman we know isn’t just a mere body that can serve as a puppet to some force attempting to seize her being. This was Emma Swan taking back her agency. After succeeding, Emma’s poise and cataclysmic anger are then exchanged with a wearied vulnerability that showcases immense strength and goodness. Emma states that it feels “damn good” to take the right path, and Morrison delivers the scene with a poignancy in her expression complimented by both exhaustion and relief in her posture.
Jane Espenson is one of our favorite writers when it comes to Once Upon A Time, and this may have been the most beautiful episode she’s ever written. We don’t know what could’ve caused Emma to turn dark. We also don’t know what she’ll do with the dagger now that she’s reunited the two pieces together, but we do know that if there’s still a war going on in her head, she’ll fight through it. She’ll save herself. It’s interesting that when Nimue states she’s not dead yet, she points to Emma’s head and says she can always find her there. The clear distinction that the episode made with the head and the heart are perhaps one of the most profound messages the series has ever shared. A person is at their best in their heart, there’s a great amount of love that resides in there, and it’s why we’re able to forgive and do good. It’s why righteous paths are chosen more often than not. However, the mind is a constant battlefield — when one war’s over, another one begins. Sometimes it’s difficult to control it, but it’s not impossible; it’s our own personal game of chess up there, and we have the strength within us to call the shots.
The darkness that’s present this season pretty much equates to the negative voices we all hear on a daily basis: not good enough, not smart enough, not pretty enough, etc. Emma’s story shows viewers all we need is the courage to choose: courage that’s already been gifted to us and waits for us to make the choice to take a risk. Negativity is a kind of darkness with immeasurable power over our beings, and if we lose ourselves by giving in to what we’re told, we lose the light that tells us who we are. It’s inspiring to see such a riveting character fight so hard to prove that she’s somebody. Emma’s battle with darkness brilliantly revolutionizes the idea that it’s important to fight for the little girl/boy inside of us. We’ve all fought so hard to become the person we are today and there will always be people attempting to diminish that. Negativity will always tempt us to take the easy way out and succumb to whatever battles we face, but if we remember who we are and continue pushing back, it’ll one day be easier to face our demons. What’s so brilliantly beautiful about Emma’s story is that she grew up believing she was unloved and unwanted, and if a little girl like that can flourish into a woman with sheer selflessness and a desire to be good to people, then so can anyone else. T
here’s hope. We are not who the negative voices say we are — we are who we choose to be. Villains or rather bad guys in the real world seem to believe that their choice to be vile and impassive makes them powerful, but the reality is it takes more strength to feel and be vulnerable. It takes more strength to choose to forgive and see the good in someone rather than to seek revenge and darkness. And thankfully, Emma Swan’s character is a beacon of hope that continuously reminds viewers of how much bravery resides in even the most broken souls who know their true value.
Just as we were given a glimpse into Nimue and Merlin’s life together, we were given a similar storyline to Killian and Emma. Although in different ways, both men gave up a survival trinket of theirs in order to insure a future with the woman they love. However, we’re hoping they don’t parallel one another too closely because no one wants to see Emma lose her battle with darkness completely. It may look as though she has, but thankfully, there’s still hope. When Nimue would kill, her skin instantly transformed, and perhaps it’s because we’re now in Storybrooke, but it’s plausible to make the assumption that Emma hasn’t killed anyone to fully embrace the darkness? We still feel there’s a lot more to this story.
Killian’s patience is wearing thin but at the end of the day, he’ll stop at nothing to bring the woman he loves back. Colin O’Donoghue always puts on riveting performances, and the best part about them is how often they give us glimpses into the very emotions within Killian’s being. We’ve seen him in a state of agonizing frustration, but the rage we see in him as his patience wears thin and fears grow because of the darkness that’s consuming Emma is unlike anything before. O’Donoghue makes sure the audience understands that Killian’s number one priority is Emma — and though he’s often shown his inability to trust others, this is a matter where no risks can be taken thereby, the fears and frustration he projects are not only completely appropriate but so fitting that he’d react this way.
What follows Killian’s rage is such a pure moment for he and Emma because it doesn’t matter what he’s feeling on the inside, he’ll make sure he gives her hope. He’ll do everything in his power to bring love and light into her soul — the place that’s weighed down heavily by darkness at the moment.
It’s always adorable to watch Killian and Emma melt around each other. It doesn’t matter that he was yelling a few minutes ago because when he’s with her, it’s easier to be at peace. It doesn’t matter that fears weigh them both down at the moment because they’ll find ways to exhibit just how much they treasure each other. Emma throwing around modern phrases and references Killian doesn’t understand is an absolute delight to witness especially now that she’s revealed she does it purposely to see his reaction. And even though he doesn’t understand it, the fact that he never judges her for it is so telling. Perfection is a nonexistent concept, but the reality is, when you love someone completely, they’re as immaculate as can be. You cherish the little things they do, you let them have it their way, and you can’t help but constantly see the best in them. When you truly love someone, you let their love inspire you and fuel you. When it’s everything, love is enough.
Whether or not the ring actually possesses magical abilities to keep a person alive, Killian’s choice to give it to Emma is a selflessly beautiful gesture. He knows the dark one is immortal, but the woman he loves isn’t. At the end of the day, Emma’s well-being is his priority. Essentially, although he makes it very clear he’s not proposing, the ring is still a symbolic representation of the fact that she’s got a smoldering pirate who loves her. It’s a representation of the fact that she’s his home and he’ll be there to remind her of the fact that she’s deeply loved while always seeing the best in her. She’s more vital to him than his own life thereby authenticating that the love he feels for her is the strongest thing he’s ever known. And it’s the strongest thing she’s ever known too. Jennifer Morrison wears pure elation in her expressions most beautifully, and it was gorgeous to see the outpouring of light in Emma as she told Killian she loved him too.
It’s interesting to note that even though Emma wears Graham’s shoelace around her wrist because he was a significant part of her life, Killian’s ring around her neck is what ultimately showcases she’s found a home. Graham, other than Snow, was the first person who’d made Emma feel welcomed. And when Emma’s heart was broken by Neal, she kept the keychain he had given her in order to remind herself never to trust again, but we can argue that wearing Graham’s shoelace around her wrist was to remind herself that there’s hope. She can trust someone again. She can bring her walls down. Someone somewhere will one day prove that their love is not only eternal, but their intentions with her are pure. And that’s exactly what Killian’s done. He’s brought her walls down, he’s healed the wounds that have been left in her heart, and he’s played a role in making Storybrooke her home. He’s inspired her to understand that there’s no need to run anymore because no matter what she goes through, Killian, Henry, and her parents anchor her heart to a place that’s safe. A place where the lost little girl isn’t alone but rather ceaselessly cherished and fought for. True love is what’s shown Emma the meaning of home. No matter where she winds up in the world, she knows a safe place she can always run to.
It was gorgeous to see Emma clench onto Killian’s ring as she was summoning the dark one because it was a sign of her embracing love. Nimue made the mistake of drinking from the cup when Merlin was willing to give it all up for her, but what Emma does is allows Killian’s love to give her strength. And the kind of strength that comes from love is incomparable to anything else in the world. Although he wasn’t by her, the fact that he believed the ring possessed some sort of magical qualities gave Emma the will to seek it for the sake of survival. She held onto it for dear life because she wanted to believe it’d help her return home to him — to her family. Most importantly, for Emma, Killian’s love is enough. Love is enough to guide her and give her unparalleled happiness that power never could. True love anchors the soul most effectively — Killian and Emma are their best selves with each other, they’re safe and treasured, and when they’re home, the love that’s inspired them is enough to free them from the battles within.
Ultimately, when you know your value and you fight for the person you want to be, no form of immortality or power seems pleasing: love on the other hand, is everything. When you love and are loved, there’s no great power in the world than the gift of deeply cherishing someone until your final breath. At the end of the day, where there’s love, there’s great strength. It always wins no matter what direction we look at it from.
Some people never change but they’re still hysterical to watch, and Zelena was a shining example of that this week as she double-crossed the heroes in order to free herself. Rebecca Mader is truly so delightful to watch even though Zelena is wickedly crazy. Whether it was her overdramatic outcry only Snow would fall for or the over-and-done expressions she wore at the diner, Mader makes it so clear she has an absolute ball with this role. And though we want Zelena to stop screwing things up, we want to keep her forever.
Arthur’s still pretty insane and the sheer madness Liam Garrigan has been projecting is riveting on all levels. He’s lost himself so much that even the opportunity to be an honorable king by reuniting the blades for good is of no use to him. His pleasure now comes from a dark force he’s essentially embraced called the negative voices in his head. It’s all about glory to him and the desire to rule in a way that’s so completely different than what Merlin’s called him for. It appeared as though Guinevere wasn’t entirely onboard his games this week which makes us wonder if she’s somehow regained proper consciousness. Lancelot’s been freed and perhaps there’s a way Merlin was able to get to her. Maybe she’ll be their helping hand from the inside because Metrass wore a lot of anguish in her expressions, and if we are to judge by that, then something tells us Guinevere’s not so morphed by her husband’s tricks after all.
Just to appreciate a little moment with Robin and Regina because we’re always such fans of the way direction focuses on hands. In the midst of stressful times, sometimes all we need to do is hold the hand of the person we love most for there’s inexplainable serenity in what a simple touch can do. It was sweet to see Robin and Regina find a bit of solace in each other for it’s what says a great deal about how intertwined their hearts are.
“Nimue” is an exceptionally written episode that highlights the importance of self-awareness — the understanding that once you’ve learned who you are, no one can alter any part of it without your permission. The absence of magical powers doesn’t equate to nothingness for it’s worthless compared to the love we continue to carry in our hearts even though the world’s attempted to strip us from it.
While we don’t usually theorize on here, the mention of Prometheus only hints towards exploring the Underworld in 5B more, and we couldn’t be more excited for the look into Greek Mythology even if we tried.
If you are on Tumblr or if you’re just looking to geek out over some phenomenal writing, Lexi is your girl. She’s a dear friend who’s so wise in her craft and writes beautiful analyses based off of history. History is everything, y’all. She’s just written a piece on the Holy Grail and we suggest reading it.
What are your thoughts on this week’s episode!?
This meta is amazing…it’s all over tumblr and everyone is loving it 🙂 Love the CS/Nimlin parallels.
This is BEAUTIFUL. Every part of this was moving and thoughtful and written with so much love. Bravo, friend. <3