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Once Upon a Time: Nimue

“It’s easier to live with the darkness if you can dress it as vengeance.”

As we dive into the origin story of the Dark One, we’re faced with some interesting moral complexities concerning what drives good people to do bad things. ‘Nimue’ is a wonderful exploration of that concept that’s incredibly heartbreaking, though not all that surprising.

Merlin has been such an untouchable, omniscient force for so long that it’s become almost a necessity for us to learn more about him. Here we find out that his immortality, gifted to him over a thousand years ago by the Holy Grail, has been a bit of a burden on him. He’s facing eternity alone, when he first meets the beautiful refugee, Nimue.

Though she initially agrees with Merlin’s plan to live a human life together, seeing the destruction of her village and her people forces her to choose a different path. Because of her desire for revenge, Nimue succumbs to temptation, and jumps at the opportunity to become like Merlin: powerful and immortal. Unfortunately, this transforms her into the first Dark One and she uses her newfound power to kill the man responsible for the eradication of her home and her family. It was obvious from the start that this was where Nimue ended up, but I think the cause was more absorbing than the effect in this case.

There’s an interesting idea here that the Dark One didn’t start out all that dark. It was just one woman giving into her own weakness that transformed her into what is now a legacy of evil. That similar scenarios are playing out in Camelot in more recent times is quite telling of Merlin’s motivation to stop Emma from heading down the same path. It doesn’t seem like it will happen soon, though. She’s fought the darkness every step of the way so far and was able to retain her sense of self in the face of overwhelming odds. It’s going to take something serious for her to turn into the woman who gave in to the whispers from the past Dark Ones and took the power of Excalibur for herself in the present.


Zelena managed to manipulate her way to freedom by playing Team Charming and siding with Arthur. I’m glad, because she’s much more fun on the loose than cooped up in some cellar.

Arthur has his hands on Excalibur in Camelot. What happens for him to lose it in the present, where Emma now wields the power of the re-forged sword?

He Said, She Said

Emma: “If I dig deep down, the darkness is winning.”

Nimue: “He's just a man! You could kill him with one magical word.”
Merlin: “If I use magic to kill, darkness will take root inside of me. Nothing... nothing is worth risking that.”

Emma: "I am not nothing! I was never nothing! The power you have I don't need!"

‘Nimue’ succeeds in giving the Dark One’s history, and Merlin himself, some much needed emotional gravitas by tying the wizard’s struggles to protect Nimue from her desire for vengeance in the past with Emma’s pull to the dark side in Camelot. If only we could get a firmer grasp on what’s driving the Dark Swan’s quest in the present, everything she’s doing would finally make sense, and we wouldn’t feel quite so confused by all of this cloak and dagger stuff she’s been involving herself in for the last few weeks.

4 out of 5 middlemist flowers

Originally posted at PandaTV.


  1. I just wanted to see if anyone noticed where the name “Nimue” may have come from?? 😁

  2. I’m rewatching the series and reading your reviews as I go. Quite fun, really!! I’m not even sure anyone is reading these still but I couldn’t resist a comment on this one this time!!

  3. shirlWEBgirl, comments on anything are always welcome. :)

  4. Hi, Billie!! I’m such a fan of yours!! I read every episode of your reviews for Lost and they helped me keep my head together. I imagined that you had white boards covering your walls trying keep all of the plot lines and characters straight. So thanks for all the hard work!!! 😁

    Anyway: my comment is that I’m pretty sure they got Nimue’s name from Lion King’s “In the Jungle”. You all may have figured that out but nobody said it. So I’m saying it. ❤️

  5. shirlWEBgirl, that's so sweet! Thanks! No, no white boards. Just my tortured brain. :)


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