This episode of Once Upon a Time once again has renewed my faith. It’s one of the greatest episodes in the show’s history. During my reviews I always try to go as chronologically as I can but I’m afraid I won’t be completely able to do that this time. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so emotional about an episode of Once Upon a Time and I’m so thankful to Jane Espenson for writing this beauty of an episode.
Storming the Castle….or not
I know what it’s like to loose someone you love to the dark one. This is sadly something Killian Jones knows very well seeing as he’s been through it twice I did enjoy him loosing his chill and questioning the things Merlin has told them. I do trust Merlin but we’re talking about Emma here and the rest were just acting way too calm.
“Her kind of power for good or evil, it is a weight on the soul.”
Emma is the savior and she’s probably the most powerful being after Merlin. She’s always been powerful and she’s always carried the weight of the world on her shoulders, it was about time someone other than Killian Jones recognized that. Power is a responsibility that not many can carry, especially not the right way. After all with great power comes great responsibility.
It was great to see everyone working together with a common goal. There weren’t any petty or insulting remarks passed off as “sass” and they were all actually working together. It only took them seven episodes, but that’s alright. Of course as things happen their good intentions didn’t exactly work out for them in the end. I wonder if this is the way Emma claims they failed her? Because everything was on the right track until this happened.
It’s hard to believe they trusted Zelena again, but we’ll let it slide because the episode was amazing.
I’d spend forever with you
The first image we see is Merlin and another man escaping, we don’t know what they’re running from, but they are tired and can’t go any longer. They come upon a cup. The first man drinks and turns to dust, then Merlin asks for permission and drinks from it. This gives him magic and eternal life. Merlin has found the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail is a magical object; it’s been presented in literature, film and legend. (Click here to learn more about how the Grail fits Once Upon a Time.).
Merlin and Nimue were an adorable couple. They were very sweet and they helped us realize how the middlemist flowers ended up in Camelot. They were the last reminder of Nimue’s fallen village. We see them fall in love and we see them plan for their life together. Merlin plans to transform the grail into an object, that way he can forgo immortality and grow old with the woman he loved. “I would rather share a life with you to the end than go on without you.” He’s willing to risk it all for her. Elliot Knight gives an incredible performance as a man in love. Unfortunately, Nimue is too tempted by the idea of revenge to let go of her anger. When Merlin’s back is turned she drinks from the cup and seals her fate. They forge Excalibur from the melted Grail and that’s when Vortigan appears chaos reigns supreme.
After faking her death, Nimue takes Vortigan’s heart and is about to crush it. No matter how much Merlin pleads for her not to do this, insisting that doing so would turn her magic dark, she still does. Knight portrays Merlin’s pure anguish perfectly and it’s a heartbreaking sight to see. No matter what he said he still wasn’t enough to turn her away from the darkness. The moment she crushes the heart we see her body turn into scales.
Strength from Love
“Love is a great help, if you can find it.”
These are the words Merlin speaks to Killian when he is worried about Emma. This is a theme that follows both of them throughout the episode. We only got one Captain Swan scene during this episode but it has the worth of a thousand beautiful scenes. It starts out fun with a joke about her quoting something to him and him never knowing what it is. She tells him the plan and he asks her to be careful and they kiss. Then comes the most meaningful part of the scene–he pulls out a ring on the chain.
As we’ve seen in previous episodes, this show isn’t subtle with it’s foreshadowing (especially when you consider that right after this we get the flashback scene of Merlin proposing to Nimue). Killian tells her he’s not actually proposing and she looks momentarily bummed but that’s a question for another day,
Merlin tells Nimue this is the ring that has helped him survive all this years, or at least that’s what he believes. You see pure love on the expression in Colin O’Donoghue’s face and the same is reflected in Jennifer Morrison’s face. She knows what this ring must mean to him if he values it as the reason for his survival.
“The dark one is immortal, Emma isn’t, bring her home to me.”
Killian Jones would do anything for Emma. He wants her to stay the Emma that he loves. She cannot die but she can change, something he knows all too well. This gives Emma something to fight for..she knows she cannot succumb to the darkness. We finally get Killian Jones saying “I love you” we knew he loved her, he’d proven that on many occasions but it was a great joy to hear him say the words. Especially since they gave us the biggest smile we’ve ever seen on Emma’s face. Jennifer Morrison just exudes so much joy in that particular moment that you can’t help but smile.
From that moment on that ring becomes an important part of Emma. We see her clutching it while she calls on the first dark one. We see her drawing strength from it and trusting in her love with Killian to get her through this. We remember Merlin’s words of love being a great help, and we realize how true they are for Emma and Killian. She uses the ring as a lifeline and a reminder to bring Emma home.
Merlin and Nimue were always meant to parallel Captain Swan but in this case they diverged. While Merlin wasn’t able to talk Nimue off the brink of darkness, we’ve already seen that with Killian and Emma. Killian didn’t let Emma succumb to darkness in the premiere and squeeze Merida’s heart. Merlin and Nimue’s love was strong but it couldn’t fight against the darkness.
Emma is stronger than that and sooner or later her love will be the thing that saves her.
I am not Nothing
If you’ve been following my reviews since last season you’ll know of how much Emma Swan truly means to me. In Killian Jones’ words “I’d go to the end of the world for her, or time.” This scene shows how gratifying it can be to identify so closely with a fictional character, few are as proud of Emma as I was in this moment.
Emma’s mental state in fighting the darkness in Camelot in some ways parallels how people often have to fight against that ebb and flow of self doubt that says “you’re not good enough”. While this voice of self doubt may not take the form of Rumplestiltskin or have powers attached to it, self doubt can do just as much damage. Seeing Emma Swan not only struggle with but overcome the darkness is deeply gratifying.
“I’m not nothing I was never nothing, the power you have I don’t need.”
It can be hard to find the right words to express how powerful this statement is. I am not nothing, I was never nothing is a bold statement for Emma Swan. For a character who as struggled so much to find who she is, these words hold their weight. This calls to mind two very important scenes. The first is during season 1 where she tells Ashley “People are gonna tell you who you are your whole life. You just gotta punch back and say, No, this is who I am.” Here we have Nimue and the rest of the Dark Ones whispering in her ear, telling her she’s nothing without the power and true to her word Emma fights back and says no this is who I am. I don’t need your power.
The other scene is during Lost Girl in Season 3. Emma manages to open the map by calling herself a lost girl, she had found her parents but she still felt like an orphan. Emma describes feeling like a little girl who didn’t matter and didn’t think she ever would. That little girl who always believed she didn’t matter, that believed no one truly cared for her is the one saying she’s not nothing. She believes in herself now, her actions are her own and she’s proud of them. She knows people care for her, she knows she is loved and she knows her value. She managed to fight back against the voice in her head that was trying to bring her down. It’s much easier to just follow along with what the voice says but Emma chose to fight back, as hard as that was. It’s a big change from the broken woman we met during the pilot. She has grown a lot. The way she has struggled has only made her stronger and it’s quite a sight to see. After all what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and that definitely rings true for Emma Swan.
Jennifer Morrison needs to be commended for this performance. I would say to just give her the Emmy right away. The conviction in her words and the little things she adds like Emma holding the ring are all her. She brings so much life and character to Emma Swan. OUAT is extremely lucky to have her. No one else could portray Emma Swan’s pure joy at hearing Killian’s I love you, or her anguish and conviction when she’s screaming at the darkness that no she is not nothing. She is Emma Swan and she’s quite the force to behold.
“To be honest Merlin, it feels damn good”
Emma is the savior, it’s in her soul. It doesn’t matter if she seems to be the Dark One we know sooner or later Emma will prevail again. There’s a reason that Emma is never going to be fully controlled by the darkness as Nimue or Rumple were, Emma is stronger than that. Even at her darkest there are still hints of the Savior fighting their way out. All of this makes the idea that Emma might not be as dark as we think more convincing than ever. She might still be working to destroy the darkness. If anything there’s got to be a reason why she’s the only Dark One who’s skin hasn’t turned into scales. There’s something there we just don’t know what it is.
Killian Jones: A piercing eyed smoldering pirate who loves you
Merlin: Everyone and everything you love will be at the mercy of the most powerful dark one ever, yourself…. No Pressure
Emma: I am not nothing! I was never nothing
*I did love that Merlin told us something we already knew but were glad to get confirmation; Emma would be the most powerful Dark One ever.
*I really hope Merlin is still alive but I’m worried about him.
*You can tell the writers love their Star Wars, there was a lot of Star Wars imagery in this episode.
*Arthur is getting creepier by the second and he is definitely being compared to how Rumple is when he is obsessed with something.
*Even under a spell Guinevere looked terrified of Arthur. Where exactly is Lancelot? Wouldn’t he have been perfect to break into the castle?
*We got a Flame of Prometheus mention! We are getting more and more mythology mentions, very interesting indeed.