Season 5, Episode 7
Nimue Once Upon a Time
Airdate November 8, 2015
Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by Romeo Tirone
Episode Guide
The Bear and the Bow
Nimue is the seventh episode of the fifth season of the American fantasy drama series Once Upon a Time, which aired on November 8, 2015.

In this episode, Merlin helps Emma, while Regina, Mary Margaret, David, Hook, and Robin are tricked by Zelena. In Camelot's past, Merlin falls in love with the woman who becomes the first Dark One.

View the Nimue Gallery.


Opening sequence

Middlemist flowers are scattered in the forest.

Event chronology

The first Camelot flashback about Merlin take place 1000 years before Arthur becomes king in "The Broken Kingdom" and the rest of Camelot flashbacks about Merlin take place 500 years later, before "Dreamcatcher" and 533 years before Emma comes to Camelot in "The Dark Swan". 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". The Enchanted Forest events take place after "The Bear and the Bow". The Storybrooke events take place after "The Bear and the Bow".

In the Characters' Past

1,000 years earlier before "the Age of Arthur" (approximately 1,800 years before the Present Day), Merlin and a friend, Adda, were deserters from an army and were trekking through a desert, desperate for water. Merlin saw a light and ran after it, revealed to be the Holy Grail, on top of a stone. Thinking that it was sacred, Merlin initially refuses to touch it, but his friend, Abbas, disregards his warnings and decides to drink from it anyway. When his friend grabbed it, he turned to ashes. Merlin then grabbed the grail after praying to God for permission, and was able to drink from it. When he put his hand down, he realized he had magic. The desert was no more — only lush greenery and forests. 500 years later, Merlin is at a village healing people, where his apprentice informs him of a woman who escaped a burning village. Merlin meets the woman, who introduces herself as Nimue. She wants revenge on Vortigan, the masked man responsible. She also had Middlemist flowers to offer, as their survival will guarantee a form of revenge. Merlin agrees to help her and places the seeds in a planter, and he uses his magic to grow them instantly. Over the course of the next several months, they fall in love, and Merlin reveals the truth about the Grail and how he acquired magic. He expresses a wish to reforge the grail into a sword that can destroy his immortality, so that he can live a normal mortal life with Nimue as his wife. However, as they start their quest, it turns out that Vortigan has been watching them.

Nimue takes Merlin to her burnt village, Oxleigh, where they learn that Vortigan has been after the Holy Grail. They trek to the Flame of Prometheus, where Merlin uses a portion of the flame to reforge the Grail into Excalibur. Vortigan followed them in his quest for the Grail, and when he sees Excalibur, he attacks Nimue, apparently killing her, before taking Excalibur for himself. Merlin believes Nimue to be dead, and is racked by grief as Vortigan turns to him. Unexpectedly, at this point, a healthy Nimue rips out Vortigan's heart and reveals that she had drunk from the Holy Grail, desiring power and immortality like Merlin's, and thirsty for vengeance against Vortigan. Despite Merlin's pleas and warning, Nimue crushes Vortigan's heart, killing him. This allows the darkness from within Vortigan's heart to infect her, transforming Nimue into the very first "Dark One". The Promethean Flame is extinguished to an ember, and Nimue goes on to shatter Excalibur into two pieces, in order to prevent Merlin from ending the immortality of both of them. Then, Nimue apologizes to him for her actions, but Merlin says no, that he is the one who is sorry.

In Camelot

Three weeks before the Present, Hook thinks that Merlin is not helping Emma at all, as Hook sees her making Dreamcatchers instead of sleeping now. But Merlin tells Hook that he is doing his best to help her, as he knows what it means to lose a loved one to the Dark One. Merlin tells the residents they need to acquire Excalibur from Arthur, while he takes Emma with him to the site of the Promethean Flame to acquire the spark needed to reunite Excalibur's halves. Before they go on their mission, Hook gives Emma a necklace with a ring as reminder of their love, and as a keepsake. As Emma embarks on this quest, Merlin tells her that the quest will force her to choose between the light and darkness, which could have dire consequences for the two of them. As they reached the ruins of Oxleigh, the site of the Flame, Merlin had brought the dagger with him and gives it to Emma, in order for her to summon the oldest and darkest of the Dark Ones to obtain the Spark. As Emma looked into the dagger, its display rolls back the names of the previous Dark Ones, until they saw Nimue, who appeared to them, as she was the original Dark One. Then Nimue attacks Merlin through Emma. Nimue forces Emma's hand to choke Merlin’s throat, with Nimue telling her to finish him off. Nimue urges Emma to kill Merlin, telling her that Merlin wants to destroy them and make her go back to being powerless, while Merlin counters by telling Emma to fight the darkness and to "let the light win." However, Emma fights it off by telling Nimue, "I’m not nothing! I was never nothing! The power you have I don’t need!" Then, she uses the Dagger to scroll back to her name, giving her control of Nimue, before removing the Promethean Spark from Nimue's chest. However, Nimue warns Emma that it isn't over yet, that the reforged Excalibur "has more than one purpose," and adds that she is still inside her head, before disappearing.

Meanwhile, the residents are coming up with plans to get into the castle and steal Excalibur, but Zelena already knew a way in, having studied the place, on the condition that her powers were restored. As Regina, Hook, David, and Robin sneak their way into the castle, Regina asked Mary Margaret to watch Zelena, with her cuff still on. At the same time, Arthur had other plans for the residents, as he showed Guinevere a potion that melts anything that it touches. It also turns out that Zelena had double crossed her fellow Storybrookers by tricking Mary Margaret with fake contractions, before knocking her out and tying her up. When they reached the Round Table, Regina freezes Arthur, and they are ready to take the sword from Arthur, only to discover that Zelena was working with Arthur and tethered Merlin to Excalibur, which now bears an inscription of his name. (This spell introduced Dark Magic into Merlin's body.) Despite David's pleas, Arthur uses the sword to summon Merlin. As Merlin and Emma are returning to Camelot, Emma discovers that Merlin is missing, even as he appears in front of Arthur. Arthur forces Merlin to disarm the others, but Merlin informs him that Emma had passed her test, and that he had what he needed to unite Excalibur. However, Arthur refuses to give Merlin the sword, in hopes of obtaining more glory, before ordering Merlin to make the "intruders" disappear.

In Storybrooke

In the basement, Emma has both the dagger and the sword, as the manifestations of both Rumplstiltskin, Nimue, and previous Dark Ones appear. She then uses the Promethean Spark she took from Nimue and fuses the dagger and the Excalibur fragment together, making the sword whole once again. Despite remembering Merlin's warning not to touch Excalibur, Emma gives in to the temptation from Nimue and the other Dark One manifestations to "take the power," and she takes control of the sword, cementing her title as the most powerful Dark One ever.


Jared S. Gilmore and Emile de Ravin were listed in the credits but were not featured in this episode.


  • Nimue has been known in Arthur/Merlin stories as one of the names of the Lady of the Lake. She gave King Arthur his sword Excalibur, enchanted Merlin, and raised Lancelot after the death of his father. Nimue has been a love interest for Merlin in other shows/films.
  • In the scene where Merlin meets Nimue by the well, Merlin's apprentice is wearing the same clothes as Mickey wears in Fantasia.
  • The caption says that the flashbacks take place 200 years ago. Adam Horowitz (one of the creators of the series) has revealed that this is a mistake and that those events actually happened 500 years ago.
  • When Merlin and Nimue visit the ruins of Nimue's destroyed village, Merlin says "Sometimes the sole survivor of a tragedy can feel guilty. In the future they'll call it -" But he's interrupted by Nimue. He was most likely going to say "Survivor's Guilt" before he was cut off. Survivor's Guilt is exactly what Merlin says. It's the sensation that can sometimes happen when only one person (or a very small group of people) survive a horrible tragedy. This happens especially in cases when the victims of the tragedy are the survivor's loved ones.
  • The object/animal/person in this episode is a field of Middlemist Flowers.
  • Nimue is the first Dark One. She's the one who broke Excalibur. Merlin enchanted the dagger to have her name on it to control her.
  • Adam Horowitz has stated that while the captions state that the events portrayed happened 200 years ago, they actually happened 500 years ago. Which means that if there were 12 Dark Ones before Emma, there was a new Dark One approximately every 42 years. Rumple has been The Dark One much longer than most but if the others were anything like the one before Rumple none of them wanted to be The Dark One and sought someone to take over the curse.
  • The first Dark One was 200 years ago. The last one before Emma was Rumplestiltskin, aka Mr. Gold. During one of the final scenes, all the previous Dark Ones mystically gather with Emma in the cave. Besides the first Dark One and Rumple, there are 10 others in the back of the cave, which implies there was a new Dark One every 17 years or so, on average. Although, based on Adam Horowitz saying that actually happened 500 years ago, there was a new Dark One every 47 years or so.
  • The first Dark One was supposed to have lived 200 years ago and there have been many Dark Ones since the original. And yet, Rumple was the Dark One for at least a century.
Season 1
PilotThe Thing You Love MostSnow FallsThe Price of GoldThat Still Small VoiceThe ShepherdThe Heart Is a Lonely HunterDesperate SoulsTrue North7:15 A.M.Fruit of the Poisonous TreeSkin DeepWhat Happened to FrederickDreamyRed-HandedHeart of DarknessHat TrickThe Stable BoyThe ReturnThe StrangerAn Apple Red as BloodA Land Without Magic
Season 2
BrokenWe Are BothLady of the LakeThe CrocodileThe DoctorTallahasseeChild of the MoonInto the DeepQueen of HeartsThe Cricket GameThe OutsiderIn the Name of the BrotherTinyManhattanThe Queen Is DeadThe Miller's DaughterWelcome to StorybrookeSelfless, Brave and TrueLaceyThe Evil QueenSecond Star to the RightAnd Straight On 'til Morning
Season 3
The Heart of the Truest BelieverLost GirlQuite a Common FairyNasty HabitsGood FormAriel (Episode)Dark HollowThink Lovely ThoughtsSave HenryThe New NeverlandGoing HomeNew York City SerenadeWitch HuntThe TowerQuiet MindsIt's Not Easy Being GreenThe Jolly RogerBleeding ThroughA Curious ThingKansasSnow DriftsThere's No Place Like Home
Season 4
A Tale of Two SistersWhite OutRocky RoadThe ApprenticeBreaking GlassFamily BusinessThe Snow QueenSmash the MirrorFallShattered SightHeroes and VillainsDarkness on the Edge of TownUnforgivenEnter the DragonPoor Unfortunate SoulBest Laid PlansHeart of GoldSympathy for the De VilLilyMotherOperation Mongoose
Season 5
The Dark SwanThe PriceSiege PerilousThe Broken KingdomDreamcatcherThe Bear and the BowNimueBirthThe Bear KingBroken HeartSwan SongSouls of the DepartedLabor of LoveDevil's DueThe Brothers JonesOur DecayHer Handsome HeroRuby SlippersSistersFirebirdLast RitesOnly YouAn Untold Story
Season 6
The SaviorA Bitter DraughtThe Other ShoeStrange CaseStreet RatsDark WatersHeartlessI'll Be Your MirrorChangelingsWish You Were HereTougher Than the RestMurder Most FoulIll-Boding PatternsPage 23A Wondrous PlaceMother's Little HelperAwakeWhere Bluebirds FlyThe Black FairyThe Song in Your HeartThe Final Battle
Season 7
Hyperion HeightsA Pirate's LifeThe Garden of Forking PathsBeautyGreenbacksWake Up CallEloise GardenerPretty in BlueOne Little TearThe Eighth WitchSecret GardenA Taste of the HeightsKnightfallThe Girl in the TowerSisterhoodBreadcrumbsChosenThe GuardianFlower ChildIs This Henry Mills?HomecomingLeaving Storybrooke
Down the Rabbit HoleTrust MeForget Me NotThe SerpentHeart of StoneWho's AliceBad BloodHomeNothing to FearDirty Little SecretsHeart of the MatterTo Catch a ThiefAnd They Lived...
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