So far this season, our heroes and villains have been to Camelot and back. Emma remains the Dark One, while her friends and family try desperately to regain their memories and help her turn away from the path of Darkness. In a twist of fate, Regina and Rumple are the heroes they never thought they would be, while the former savior and the famed King of Camelot have both fallen to evil and conniving thoughts. Merida is kicking ass and taking names, while the fate of the town may yet rest again on Henry’s young shoulders.
Spoilers ahead, dearies.
1000 years before the Age of Arthur
If we pretend for a moment that I’m not getting tired of hopping between timelines, this is an interesting look at how Merlin got his start. A millennium before the time of Arthur, Merlin and a companion stumble through the desert, on the brink of death. They come across the Holy Grail standing on a pedestal. This contains the only water for miles, and the companion rushes to drink it. In his haste, he does not ask for heavenly permission, and turns to dust. Merlin is just as thirsty, but looks towards the heavens before partaking of the water. The Grail not only heals him, but gives him both magic and immortality.
How Merlin learns to use his magic, we do not know. But 800 years later, he is still around, using his powers to heal the sick and help the poor (*cough* Jesus? *cough*). He is approached by a young woman named Nimue who is the sole survivor of a brutal attack on her village by a warlord named Vortigern. Merlin and Nimue fall for each other fast (can you blame her? Merlin’s got game), but he is reluctant to ask for her hand in marriage, as it means he would have to lose her thanks to her mortality. She pressures him to let her drink from the Grail, but he refuses to give the burden of immortality to another. Instead, he decides to change the purpose of the Grail by forging it into a magical sword that can extinguish immortality—he is convinced that by doing this, they can live a normal lifespan together.
Things go awry at the Flame of Prometheus, where Vortigern attacks Nimue to get his hands on the Grail (now Excalibur). But Nimue does not die, since she sneakily drank from the Grail while unobserved by Merlin. She kills Vortigern, despite Merlin’s warnings not to let her new magic turn dark from violent acts. She takes up the mask Vortigern wore, and becomes the first Dark One. She breaks Excalibur and disappears. Merlin puts the broken sword in the stone for safekeeping, before binding Nimue’s spirit to what is now the Dagger of the Dark One. He hopes that this will grant him control over her, but as we know, that backfires once she turns him into a tree.
The Scooby Gang is hiding out at the transplanted Granny’s Diner. Merlin urges them to steal Excalibur from Arthur while he goes with Emma to locate the last existing spark of the Flame of Prometheus. Arriving at the place where Excalibur was forged, Merlin gives Emma the dagger and tells her summon the first Dark One. The spirit of Nimue appears, and tries to convince Emma to kill Merlin. At the last moment, Emma is able to resist, and steals the spark from Nimue.
Meanwhile, the others break into the castle, but are betrayed by Zelena. Held captive at the Round Table, they are forced to watch while Zelena uses her newly regained powers to tether Merlin’s soul to Excalibur, giving power over him to the wielder. Arthur summons Merlin and commands him to render the others powerless. Merlin must do as he is commanded, but tries to plead with Arthur, explaining that he has what is needed to unite the dagger and the sword. Arthur is so far gone in his anger and need to have complete control over Camelot that he doesn’t listen, and orders Merlin to send the others away.
In her super creepy basement, Emma uses the spark from Nimue to reunite the dagger and the sword. The spirits of all the previous Dark Ones watch her as she performs the ritual. When Excalibur is whole, she ignores Merlin’s repeated warnings to leave the blade alone, and grabs it by the hilt. She is now the most powerful Dark One ever. Dun, dun, dunnnn.
1.) The Holy Grail. This is obviously an integral part of Arthurian legend, but what an interesting twist they’ve given it. If the Holy Grail could provide life, and its “child” Excalibur can extinguish both light and dark magic, what else can it do? I predict that other religious mythology will eventually make its way to Storybrooke.
2.) Vortigern. For anyone familiar with modern Arthurian fiction (aka anything written or filmed in the last 100 years), this was a nod to just that. While Vortigern was indeed a real historical figure from the Dark Ages of Britain, you may remember him from the 1998 Merlin miniseries, or Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave. With each bit of Arthurian lore the writers throw at us, I wonder what else they have in store. Will we encounter other knights of the round table? The stories of Tristan and Isolde, or Elaine? Is it sad that I am far more interested in these little storytelling nuggets than I am in the actual plot?
3.) The flame of Prometheus. Another nod to Greek mythology. I’m not saying Hercules, but I’m saying Hercules.
4.) But in all seriousness—how long until shit hits the fan? Why hasn’t Emma’s skin changed color, like the other Dark Ones? Is it because she still has love for those around her? At what point will she stop resisting the Darkness and give in? And for the last time, can we have more Regina, and less time hopping?
Until next Sunday, dearies.
-The Collected Mutineer