Summary: Emma fights her hardest battle yet against the darkness within her, Merlin’s history with the original Dark One is revealed, and Zelena chooses a side in Arthur’s war with the heroes.
Best Scene: Hook and Emma say goodbye before she departs with Merlin.
Best Line: “I am not nothing! I was never nothing!”
My Review: This was another strong episode in an arc that’s quickly becoming one of my favorites. Until now, I’ve mostly appreciated this half of the season for how much character development it’s led to in Once‘s regular players. I’ve enjoyed meeting the new faces, but their stories have felt less connected than say, the Frozen characters’ last season. As a result, their adventures haven’t felt nearly as compelling as the main characters’ this season, at least for me. However, in this episode, I was swept up in Merlin and Nimue’s story almost immediately, and found it even more meaningful than what the heroes (minus Emma) experienced.
As expected, both Excalibur and the dagger played a huge role in Merlin and Nimue’s relationship, and I loved that both instruments were forged from a place of love, not a desire for power. Merlin created the sword for the most romantic purpose possible: to rid himself of magic and immortality so he could spend a natural life with his love. Meanwhile, Nimue broke the sword after choosing darkness, but Merlin turned even that into an object of love, using the dagger to protect the woman he still loved from herself.
From their first meeting, it was clear that Merlin and Nimue brought each other comfort at a time when they both desperately needed it. However, it was also clear that, even while Nimue spoke of revenge in terms of flowers, there was a hint of something darker in her eyes, planting the seed for her eventual turn to darkness. I also think it was important that she started out in this place of wanting to do right by her village, because it provided a heartbreaking, but apt parallel to what Emma is experiencing, and where she will eventually end up herself (though hopefully under less permanent circumstances). And similar to Nimue, Emma also has a man who will always love her, no matter how much the darkness tempts her.
Hook showed that commitment to Emma beautifully, first in the scene at Granny’s. His impassioned concern was lovely, and, now knowing the whole story, his conversation with Merlin makes even more sense than it did at the time. Merlin spoke from a place of warning, of heartbreak, of understanding what Hook was experiencing and not wanting to watch another man go through what he did.
And if his conversation with Emma afterwards is any indication, Hook won’t have to. There was a whole heck of a lot to love about that scene, and I have no doubt that it’s going to go down as one of my favorites for them. For one, I loved that it showed how confident they are in their love now. Exchanging “I love you”s so casually would be a big deal for any couple, but it means even more when it comes from two people previously so hesitant to trust, to open their hearts. Despite the uncertainty that surrounds them right now, they feel secure in what they have and that speaks volumes about how much they’ve grown as both a couple and as individuals.
The ring was a wonderful gesture and symbol of their love, something that Emma later used to remain anchored to her true self, to remind herself of the people who love her. They were there in spirit, helping her make the right choice because she knew she had their support. But, importantly, she made that choice, she resisted that darkness on her own. She did it for herself, because she deserves love, friendship, happiness, everything that she has found in Storybrooke. That’s why her declaration “I am not nothing! I was never nothing!” was so important. The first exclamation spoke to how she feels about herself now, what her family and friends have helped her see, while the second was even more important, a revising of the painful history that she somehow felt she deserved. Now, Emma realizes that she didn’t deserve any of that; she was always something, even as a child shuffled from home to home, a young pregnant woman in jail, and a bail bondsman terrified of letting anyone in. She is not nothing, which is exactly why I know she’s going to make it through the obstacle she’s facing this season.
That moment was especially powerful in contrast to the only Storybrooke scene, where Emma reunited Excalibur and the dagger. The presence of Rumple, Nimue, and all of the past Dark Ones gave the scene the eerie, dramatic tone it needed, though I had to laugh about how it must have looked in “real life”, since everyone in the cave was in Emma’s head. It also made me very curious about what’s to come, especially since Emma asked Merlin about one person holding both good and evil. She wouldn’t be the Savior if she didn’t try, right?
As I mentioned earlier, the other scenes in Camelot weren’t quite as interesting as everything else that happened in the episode. Everyone fighting over whose plan was best was entertaining enough, but I knew as soon as they followed Zelena’s that it wasn’t going to end well for them. Pro tip: don’t leave the most compassionate hero in charge of the prisoner! That being said, Zelena and Arthur working together makes so much sense that I feel dumb for not predicting it sooner, and I’m excited to see if that will be a continued partnership, or a one time thing.
There was also that kind of interesting moment where Regina thought of revenge on Zelena before the baby she’s carrying and, while I definitely think Regina would have realized her mistake before doing anything, I am curious if it’s a hint of tension to come between she and Robin. Or it could have just been a passing moment that I’m reading way too much into…
One little quibble before I sign off: Am I the only one who feels like the Camelot timeline is getting kind of ridiculous? It’s becoming impossible to remember when different events took place, to the point where I almost wish they would just slap the generic “many years ago” in front of every flashback scene instead of specifying a certain number of years for some.
Thoughts on this episode? Have a handy Camelot timeline you can direct me to? Let me know in the comments!