"Nimue" is the seventh episode of Season Five of ABC's Once Upon a Time. It was written by Jane Espenson, and directed by Romeo Tirone. It is the ninety-fifth episode of the series overall, and premiered on November 8, 2015.
In Camelot, Merlin spearheads a mission to reunite the dagger with Excalibur so he can use the weapon to save Emma from the darkness threatening her soul. With Zelena in tow, Hook, Mary Margaret, David, Regina and Robin steal into Arthur’s castle to take the broken sword from the maniacal king. Meanwhile, Merlin brings Emma along on a journey to confront his ancient nemesis and retrieve the sacred spark he’ll need to reforge Excalibur. Both parties are tested, but one suffers a blow that could derail the entire operation. In a flashback to long before the Age of Arthur, young Merlin finds purpose after he is blessed with magic and immortality, but when he falls in love with a young refugee named Nimue, everything changes for Merlin, as their romance starts a chain of events that touches every one of our present day heroes.
In the Swan house basement, Emma walks towards the broken Exacilbur, and then places the Dark One's Dagger next to it. An excited Rumplestilskin appears, stating that the sword represents so much history, but Emma can only see power. Rumple then says that the sword's purpose, when reunited with the Dagger, will be fulfilled.
A thousand years before the Age of Arthur, Merlin and a companion are seen struggling across a desert. Merlin spots a flash of light in the distance, but his companion thinks it is a mirage. The flash is revealed to be the Holy Grail, and when Merlin's companion touches it, he is vaporized. Merlin looks skyward and asks for permission to drink from the Grail. When he stops drinking and puts his hand down, the desert is transformed into a forest and Merlin then realizes that he was granted magic and immortality from the Grail.
Back in Camelot, the group from Storybrooke and Merlin are seen talking in Granny's diner. Merlin reveals that the only way to free Emma from the Darkness is to reunite the Dagger and Excalibur, but also to retrieve the first flame of mankind. Merlin suggests for the heroes to retrieve Excalibur from Arthur while he and Emma go on a quest to retrieve the first flame. Hook begins to reject this idea, but is eventually talked into it by Merlin.
Several centuries after Merlin drinks from the Holy Grail, he is seen healing people in a village. He sees a young female refugee, but is somehow unable to see her future. She explains that a man named Vortigan burned her village down and killed everyone there, but she survived by fleeing into the woods. She also wants to plant the remaining middlemist flowers, only able to grow near her village, but can not since her village is now gone. Merlin assists her by magically blooming the flowers, and tells her to come back any time she likes. The refugee reveals her name to be Nimue.
Back in Camelot, Merlin tells Emma the plan to retrieve the first flame. The first flame of Prometheus was used to forge Excalibur, and is the only way to reunite the sword with the Dagger. But Merlin also says they need to confront the first Dark One, the original and most powerful, in order to successfully obtain the flame. Merlin then reveals he might die from this quest, and Emma reluctantly agrees in order to get rid of the darkness forever.
Before going on the quest, Hook catches up with Emma to say his goodbyes. Hook gives Emma a ring on a necklace which he says has kept him alive for all these years. Hook and Emma share a goodbye kiss and say a last "I love you" before going their separate ways.
Back in the past, Merlin and Nimue are now in a relationship and in love. Merlin tells Nimue of the source of his power and immortality, the Holy Grail. Nimue, excited and confused by this revelation, questions about the location of the Grail. Merlin says that he hid the Grail in her living room, but does not want her to drink from it because he thinks immortality is a curse. Merlin then suggests forging the Grail into a sword in order to cut away his magic and live a normal life with Nimue. Nimue asks Merlin if he really wants to give up his magic for her, and he replies by giving her a grass ring that transforms into gold when she puts it on. They share a heartfelt kiss, and Nimue agrees to Merlin's idea.
Back in Camelot, the group from Storybrooke tries to come up with a way to sneak into Arthur's castle and steal Excalibur. Zelena reveals she was plotting an escape during their time in the castle, and that she has found a way out. She also says since she has found a way out, she has found a way in, but will only help the group if Regina gives her her magic back.
They then arrive at the secret tunnel Zelena mentioned, and she insists for Regina to give her her magic back. Regina says she might consider it if they complete the mission successfully, but until then, Mary Margaret is charged with keeping watch of Zelena at the entrance of the secret tunnel. Regina then magically removes the gate to the tunnel and the group begins the journey towards Arthur's castle.
At the same time, Arthur is brewing a potion in Merlin's tower that when poured on a piece of armor, it will magically melt the metal. Arthur exclaims "This is War", saying that he wants to take back his kingdom.
Elsewhere, Merlin and Emma are on their quest to retrieve the first flame. Emma reveals to Merlin that she has committed a dark deed towards her son, and thinks the darkness is beginning to win. But she then asks Merlin if there is still hope, and Merlin says there is.
Back in the past, Merlin and Nimue travel to the village that Vortigan has destroyed. Nimue is saddened by the sight and says everyone that she knew and loved has died. A distraught Nimue says she would use Merlin's power to get revenge on Vortigan, but Merlin quickly soothes her dark thoughts. Merlin then realizes that Vortigan was searching for the Holy Grail, and that he has followed them to the village. Nimue asks Merlin why he just can't kill Vortigan with one magical word, but he replies that darkness will take root in his soul if he ever uses magic for evil.
Regina, Robin, Hook, and David continue their journey to retrieve Excalibur. The group sneaks in to the castle, but they notice the potion Arthur made is being carried by the guards. They begin to realize Arthur may have made it to use it on them.
Outside of the secret tunnel, Zelena begins to cry over the thought of Regina taking her baby. Mary Margaret believes Zelena is crying because of all the pregnancy hormones, but begins to thinks her pain is real. Mary Margaret leans in to comfort Zelena, but she has untied the rope and knocks Mary Margaret unconscious. Zelena ties Mary Margaret up then says "There's no rest for the wicked!".
Now back in the past, Merlin and Nimue walk up to the first flame of mankind. Nimue hands Merlin the Holy Grail, and Merlin uses the flame to magically forge a sword. This sword, known as Excalibur, has the ability to destroy all dark magic, and even light magic in the wrong hands. Merlin grasps the floating sword, but in this moment, Vortigan sneaks up behind Nimue. He then forcibly takes Nimue, but she attempts to fight back. In the midst of the chaos, Vortigan stabs Nimue, seemingly killing her.
Back in Camelot, at the same place where Vortigan killed Nimue, Emma and Merlin arrive to retrieve the first flame. Merlin tells Emma how the first Dark One killed Nimue, but now the Dark One has the last ember of the flame inside of them. Emma calls on the spirits of the previous Dark Ones in an attempt the summon the original. She says she hears a buzzing in her ear, but then many names being to flash on the Dagger, and the first Dark One appears before them. Emma looks down at the Dagger and sees a familiar name inscribed on it, Nimue, she was the first Dark One.
After Nimue's death, Vortigan takes the sword and attempts to kill Merlin. However, he stops in mid stance, and a living Nimue can be seen clutching Vortigan's heart. Nimue tells Merlin that she secretly drank from the Grail, revealing she only truly wanted revenge. Merlin begins to plead with Nimue to spare Vortigan, warning her that darkness will stain her soul. Nimue does not listen to Merlin, then crushes Vortigan's heart, killing him. After this act, Nimue's skin begins to turn a dark silvery green, the darkness has taken over her soul. After the transformation, she exclaims she does not want to lose her power, then she breaks Excalibur in two.
The flashback ends, and Nimue, Emma, and Merlin are seen standing before the fire forge. Emma realizes that Nimue killed the person she used to be when she crushed Vortigan's heart and let the darkness take over. Merlin, overcome with guilt and sadness, begins to become teary from the thought of seeing Nimue after 200+ years. But Nimue does not care as she takes control of Emma and attempts to kill Merlin. When Emma is about to unintentionally kill Merlin, she suddenly overcomes Nimue's influence and shouts, "I am not nothing I was never nothing! The power you have I don't need!" and raises the Dagger towards Nimue. Emma rips the ember of the first flame out of Nimue's body, then Nimue fizzles out. Nimue tells Emma she will always be in her head and she will always know when to find her. Merlin begins to recover, he stands up, and they reminisce about Emma being able to take the right path.
The duo begins walking back towards Granny's, while Merlin tells Emma about how he and his Apprentice hid the sword in stone then tethered the Dagger to Nimue's soul in order to control her. However, Nimue was able to take back the Dagger, and trap Merlin inside the tree. Emma then tells Merlin that Nimue still loved him, even in how twisted the situation is. She then asks Merlin is it's possible for the Dark One to use their power for good, to which Merlin replies someone in the future might be strong enough to wield to power while also not succumbing to the darkness.
At the castle, Arthur places Excalibur on the round table, but Robin, Regina, Hook, and David burst into the room. Regina freezes Arthur and tells the group the Excalibur is on the table. But before anyone can act, Zelena walks in with a restrained Mary Margaret. Shen then reveals that Arthur has taken off the magic wristband, and now she has her magic back. Regina tries to battle Zelena, but Robin stops this thinking she will hurt the baby. The group is powerless, but Zelena uses grimoire to tether the broken half Excalibur to Merlin's soul. Arthur now has complete control over the most powerful wizard in the all the realms.
Arthur summons Merlin and forces him to transport the group of heroes away. Merlin pleads with Arthur to stop this madness, but Arthur has other plans in mind. He does not care about fixing the kingdom, he just wants all the glory and fame.
Back in Storybrooke, Emma begins to repair Excalibur. All of the previous Dark Ones, even Nimue, are present for the event. When the sword is repaired, Emma is hesitant to take it since Merlin warned her not to mess with the sword. However, Nimue states that she is no longer a child, which causes the Dark Swan to gain the courage she needed in order to take the floating Excalibur for herself.
"Fork in the Past"
*Only in archive footage.
- The title card features a field of middlemist flowers.
- The title of this episode was announced by Adam Horowitz via his Twitter account on September 15, 2015.
- In the Arthurian Legend, Nimue was one of the names of Viviane, better known as the Lady of the Lake. In the Lancelot-Grail Cycle, Viviane learns her magic from Merlin, who becomes enamored of her. She refuses to give him her love until he has taught her all his secrets, after which she uses her power to trap him either in the trunk of a tree or beneath a stone, depending on the story and author.
- In the Arthurian Legend, Vortigan is known as Vortigern. The name was altered for the show, "for its breezy easy sound".
- The Storybrooke events take place after "The Bear and the Bow"and before "Birth". (For more details, see the Land Without Magic timeline)
- The Camelot events take place after "The Bear and the Bow" and before "Birth". (For more details, see the Camelot timeline)
- The first Camelot flashback about Merlin take place 1000 years before Arthur becomes king in "The Broken Kingdom".
- The rest of Camelot flashbacks about Merlin take place 500 years later, before "Dreamcatcher", and 500 years before Emma comes to Camelot in "The Dark Swan".
- The Enchanted Forest events take place after "The Bear and the Bow" and before "Birth". (For more details, see the Enchanted Forest timeline)
- The Enchanted Forest flashbacks with Merlin and Nimue at the site of the Flame of Prometheus take place before the scene with Zoso and the Apprentice in "The Apprentice".
- Mr. Gold removed Excalibur in "The Bear and the Bow".
- The middlemist flower was introduced in "The Broken Kingdom".
- Hook eventually proposes to Emma for real in "Ill-Boding Patterns".
- The ring that Hook gives to Emma, was given to him by his brother Liam, something that is described in "Birth", and shown in "The Brothers Jones".
- Emma recounted to Merlin about seeing Rumplestiltskin's manifestation, which was first established in "The Dark Swan".
- Emma tells Merlin about the dark things she did, like breaking Henry's heart, which happened in "Dreamcatcher".
- Merlin forged the Excalibur blade, which was first mentioned in "Lost Girl".
- The masked figure was first seen in "Dreamcatcher".
- Merlin tethered Nimue's spirit to the dagger, which was mentioned in "Operation Mongoose Part 2".
- The tethering spell Zelena put on Excalibur, is used for further purposes in "Birth", and undone in "Broken Heart".
- The young Apprentice is wearing red robes similar to the ones worn by Mickey Mouse, who is the Sorcerer's Apprentice in Disney's Fantasia. His clothes also resemble the robes worn by young Arthur in The Sword in the Stone.
- Merlin says, "not all wizards have long, white beards", referencing the Disney film.
Fairytales and Folklore
- This episode is a rendition of the Arthurian Legend, featuring the origins of Merlin and Nimue. Also features King Arthur, Guinevere, Excalibur, and the Holy Grail from the legend.
- Vortigan is based on Vortigern, a 5th-century warlord in Britain, who ultimately became incorporated into the Arthurian Legend. In the legend, Vortigern attempted to build a tower which would not stand. He was advised to sprinkle the site with the blood of a child with no father. This child was Merlin. The boy saved himself by revealing the true cause of the tower's collapse: Two dragons fighting beneath the foundation.
- The episode also features Rumplestiltskin from the Rumpelstiltskin fairytale, Captain Hook from the Peter Pan story, Robin Hood from the ballad, the Wicked Witch of the West from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz story and the Apprentice from "The Sorcerer's Apprentice".
- Merlin asks the apprentice to check on the brooms; a reference to the enchanted broom from "The Sorcerer's Apprentice".
- Also featured is Prometheus' fire from Greek Mythology.
- When Emma says goodbye to Hook, she quotes a lyric from the song "Working My Way Back To You" by The Four Seasons.
- The Holy Grail, an object from Arthurian Legend and Christian lore, is decorated with cross pattées. The same symbol is on the shrine where Prometheus' fire burns.
- Adda refers to the Grail as a gift from the gods. Polytheism refers to the worship of or belief in multiple deities. Before Merlin drinks from the grail, he looks up into the sky and asks for permission. The sky has important religious significance, and most polytheistic religions have a deity associated with the sky.
- After Zelena tricks Mary Margaret, she says, "There's no rest for the wicked". "No rest for the wicked" is a phrase originating from the Book of Isaiah in the Bible.
- During the first airing of the episode, a writing card says the Camelot flashbacks about Merlin and Nimue take place 200 years before Emma comes to Camelot. However, Adam Horowitz confirmed it was a mistake, because the scenes take place 500 years before.
- After Nimue became the Dark One, a dead Vortigan can be seen breathing.
- The skull of a saber-toothed cat is lying on the table in Merlin's tower. The same skull can be seen in the tower when Regina and her family are looking for a way to free Merlin hundreds of years later, in "Siege Perilous".
- Merlin's recipe for a tethering spell reads:
conformity with my will
So must it be!
The first requisite for being the
arbiter of physical transformation is
thorough qualitative and
quantitative understanding of the
consternation of the blade, the
This must be repeated in
honor of the second, sentient party.
Once this has been achieved these
subtle energies may be entwined.
To bind two disparate phenomena.
To make them one in an act of
Speaketh the following incantation:
this dread blade
Shall be fast held to it its purpose.
The kind who cleft thee so
in twain I held in thrall,
their name be graven.'
- The ellipse with strange symbols, is taken from an illustration in an eighteenth century demonology book called Compendium rarissimum totius Artis Magicae sistematisatae per celeberrimos Artis hujus Magistros, which roughly translates as A rare summary of the entire Magical Art by the most famous Masters of this Art. The book is dated to around 1775 and is written in German and Latin by an unknown author. Note that the ellipse illustration has been modified for the show, as all but one of the symbols have been replaced or altered.
- The Camelot village scenes and the scenes at the entrance to the abandoned tunnel outside the castle, were filmed in Burnaby's Central Park.
- The scenes at the Temple of Prometheus were filmed in Lynn Canyon Park in the District of North Vancouver.